Monday, December 28, 2009

Generating Movement and Action

Movement Generation notes that the "building ecological literacy within our movements has become a central priority – a vision for a healthy planet rooted in the needs and voices of poor people, indigenous people, and communities of color is a strategic necessity."

To build additional ecological literacy yourself, try:

Ecological Knowledge Database from U. Mich - Dayton
Seed Saving online forum, courtesy of Seed Savers
Low Income Home Energy Assistance resources to get your home weatherized

Friday, December 25, 2009

Culture and Landscape

Miwok landscape management was recently featured by TribalP2

On the food security and appropriate technology fronts, check out our calendar of upcoming events.  We are anticipating trips to the Lakota, the Nahuat, and multiple workshops in our local community over the next several months -- all highlighting how to best integrate ourselves with the landscape, wherever we are.

Saturday, December 19, 2009


Wednesday, December 9, 2009

From the UN to the US: Native Land, Air, and Water

COP15 climate negotiations in Copenhagen, the United Nations University has been working hard with partners to organize the Indigenous Voices on Climate Change film festival.

Also, IEN and a multi-generational delegation of 21 Indigenous Peoples from North America have arrived in Copenhagen, Denmark this week to advocate for the incorporation of Indigenous Peoples rights in the language of a fair, binding, and science-based global climate treaty at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Read CENSORED NEWS for more information

And some telling quotes from an Intertribal Environmental Council summit earlier this month:

"We need to water our corn, our chile, our melons, or they die off. The same for ourselves if we can't consume our water."


"We all breathe the same air and drink the same water. There are no boundaries when it comes to the environment. The sooner we learn to survive on the mother earth, the better." 

"There are those who still rely on traditional agriculture for their livelihood and for ceremonial purposes - the growing of corn, the harmonious relationship between the seasons" 

Monday, December 7, 2009

Saturday, December 5, 2009

What Is Permaculture?: Indigenous Sustainable Community Design Course

As stated by TNAFA

"Permaculture (permanent "agri" culture), is a holistic approach based on traditional practices for improving air quality, water quality, health, and ecosystems management. Permaculture is the harmonious integration of landscape and people, providing food, energy, shelter, and other needs in a sustainable way for all species. Permaculture is working with nature rather than against it; of protracted and thoughtful observation rather than thoughtless action; of looking at systems to evolve beneficially, on their own way, towards a state of maximum natural productivity and abundance."

CINTDIS is another seed-food-life-security organization on the other side of the globe that believes "all humans have the right and capability to understand the complexities of  nature and society" and that "increasing specialization of disciplines has created a privileged class of people . . .  who know details of tiny corners of the knowledge universe, but are ignorant of the social relevance and implications of their specialty"

If you're in the Bay Area, catch the latter at the Ecology Center on Dec. 17.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Backward and Forward: Planetary Limits

In looking backward, yesterday, theÊOrganic Consumers AssociationÊgave special thanks to the indigenous farmers and wildcrafters of the Western Hemisphere for cultivating and preserving our food, fiber, medicinal herbs, and biodiversity for thousands of years. Ê

Today was officially Native American Heritage Day, as declared in June 2009 decree by the Obama Adminstration.

And in looking foward,ÊNASA has identified nine planetary boundariesÊwith. . . quantifications for seven of them:

- Êclimate change: CO2 concentration in the atmosphere <350 ppm and/or a maximum change of +1 W/m2 in radiative forcing;Ê
- ocean acidification - mean surface seawater saturation state with respect to aragonite ³ 80% of pre-industrial levels;Ê
- <5% reduction in statosphere ozone concentration from pre-industrial level of 290 Dobson UnitsÊ
- limit industrial and agricultural fixation of N2 to 35 Tg N/yrÊand annual P inflow to oceans not to exceed 10 times the natural background weathering of P;Ê
- global freshwater use (<4000 km3/yr of consumptive use of runoff resources);Ê
- land system change (<15% of the ice-free land surface under cropland); andÊ
- the rate at which biological diversity is lost (annual rate of <10 extinctions per million species)."Ê

Our collective work is to keep within these limits, to honor indigenous farming, wildcrafting, and biodiversity into the future.


Sunday, November 22, 2009


We have the definition of agroecology as a whole-systems approach to agriculture and food systems development based on traditional
knowledge, alternative agriculture, and local food system experiences - which links ecology, culture, economics, and society to sustain agricultural production,
healthy environments, and viable food and farming communities.

So, this starts with the surrounding biodiversity, even before you
start preparing the soil, and extends throughout planting and
harvesting to the retail end. And the Blog from Rural America notes that local grocery stores are in trouble, yet there are viable models to keeping them.

- Local ownership
- Cooperative ownership
- Youth affiliated

Of course, at Pine Ridge and Hoopa, we are giving away the produce, to support the tiospaye, the ceremonies, the elders, and the youth. But we know when the right time comes, it is important to be able to support local economies and provide an alternative to the distant and the industrial.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Living Building Challenge and Urban Agriculture

There's some good news about Responsible Building from GreenBiz.Com
in that the newest version of the Living Buildings Challenge standards unveiled at Greenbuild also aims to go beyond an individual site to address issues such as social justice and urban agriculture. For example, a minimum amount of site square footage must be used for food production and the site must provide unrestricted access to rivers, lakes and shorelines.

Also noted is the An Indigenous Response to the Challenge of climate change with NASA and tribal colleges, more than ten years after Indigenous peoples came together at the first Native Peoples/Native Homelands Climate Change Workshop.

And, finally, if you want to advance the fight for sustainable food, here are the Top Ten Ways to Get Involved

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Weekly Roundup

It's good to see the outburst of new hybrid business models to better account for business impacts, like L3Cs and B-Corporations ( L3Cs are only available in a handful of states, including VT and IL, and are expected in CA in spring 2010.

Several good films have screened at the American Indian Film Festival this week

And since this EarthTeam youth video has come to us a couple of ways, we thought we'd showcase it as an example of how our youth are connecting with the earth

Friday, November 6, 2009

Sustainable Development > Making the World In Our Image?

This in from JustMeans:

"Teaching the hungry how to more efficiently farm, can actually create new unexpected inefficiencies. The Green Revolution in India, in which farmers in the Indian state of Punjab switched from traditional methods to American-style farming - with chemicals, high-yield seeds and irrigation- was once thought to be a rousing success. However, under scrutiny the shiny label of success has lost some of its sheen: India's Green Revolution has depleted ground water, destroyed soil through salinization, locked farmers into cycles of debt and turned what was once a localized hunger problem into a structural one. It also hasn't actually solved India's hunger problem: 1/4th of the world's hungry call India home. A whopping 230 million people or 18% of India's 1.25 billion population is hungry"

Monday, November 2, 2009

Water in California

Water is the theme of the week in California.   A state-sponsored workshop today highlighted that all municipalities in CA are required to have a landscape watering efficiency ordinance by January 1, 2010, and the state Dept. of Water Resources will have to report on the status of compliance by January 1, 2011.  If no action is taken, CA has a Model Water Efficiency Landscaping Ordinance that will automatically go into effect.  Meeting highlights and technical notes include:
- "It is illegal to waste water" according to staff member of the Department's Water Use and Efficiency Branch, and California Constitution Section 2, Article X. 
- Certain landscapes are exempt from the ordinance.  
- The state has an Evapotransporation database (ETO) as guidance for regional watering needs.  ETAF of 0.7 is required for projects installed after Jan 1.  ETAF of 1.0 is permitted for edible landscapes (good -- we clearly have greater water needs when growing our own food), parks, golf courses (but let's xeriscape golf courses instead), and other landscape types.   

- use native, place-adapted plants! 
- install an irrigation controller, read the manual and learn how to adjust the settings. 
- use drip irrigation rather than spray irrigation, and deliver the water to where it is really needed (primarily edibles)
- observe for signs of irrigation problems (i.e. dry spots, ponding, and erosion).  
- if you see water running onto pavement, you're over-irrigating
- install a rain shutoff device
- check for leaks, sprinkler head misalignments, broken pipes, and blown-out irrigation devices twice per month.  Pressure regulation is key -- the pressure in water systems can often blow out irrigation fixtures (and you see this where water is bubbling out, rather than a fine spray)
- regularly clean filters in sprinkler heads and drip systems

Also, the California Tribal Water Summit takes place Wednesday, November 4, and Thursday, November 5, 2009, and is designed to get tribal water issues feedback to the state.  One concern is that it is not clear how the tribal process is integrated into other Dept. of Water Resources decision-making process (2030 Water Plan, Integrated Water Management processes, etc.).  DWR will have to be really coordinated to pull this off in a way that helps tribes.  

Friday, October 23, 2009

Net Zero Energy

A promising new movement is zero net energy (or net zero energy) buildings. Earlier this week in our area, PG&E, the electric utility, hosted a zero net energy (ZNE) building workshop with ASHRAE, an organization that has worked for decades on heating, cooling, and building ventilation standards. NREL has a group that's gathered ZNE case studies, and PG&E is currently conducting a ZNE pilot program (with details and offerings still TBD).

California has already made its recommendations: Zero Net Energy for new residential construction by 2020 and commercial by 2030. And Massachusetts is similar:

You might say this is the triumph of common sense. Clearly if we have an immense climate change challenge with our existing building stock, we cannot continue to build as we have and create additional load on the system. Get your state on the 2020 bus now!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Greywater Waves, Traditional Natives Online

Longtime partner Traditional Native American Farmers Association is now online.  Congratulations!  This helps us all keep up with their work in helping us remember our connection with the land.

In California, we've been on a greywater roller coaster lately, with the state legalizing systems
with subsequent conservative San Francisco action (oxymoron?).  In our fire-prone state, disallowing us to release water back into the landscape borders on madness.  We do understand the concern for health and we hope the City takes a broader view.

This past weekend the Bioneers returned to several sites around Turtle Island. We appreciate the voice that they provide to native peoples and hope they continue to seek paths to greater involvement of people of all colors.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Traditional and New Livestock Practices

Thanks to Indian Country Today, we have this "Indian group uses modern tools to raise animals" article

"Members of the Sedillo Cattle Association at Laguna Pueblo have for decades used ancient traditions and modern practices to successfully raise livestock on 100,000 acres of wind-swept tribal land in central New Mexico.

Working as a group with delegated duties, they work to preserve pastures and scarce water resources using the traditional knowledge of elders and up to the minute range technologies that now include solar power, Global Positioning Systems and video marketing. Read More"

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Women and food sovereignty

LEISA's Farm, a blog on a range of agricultural issues, is a good resource.  A recent article on Women and Food Sovereignty outlined how women take the "main responsibility for food production, processing, storage and cooking" and  "are often experts in seed selection".  How do women fit into industrial agriculture?  Read the article and find out!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Building Community Resilience

Honor the Earth is Building Resilience in 2009 with Kalliopeia Foundation and Frances Fund, working to re-localize sustainable energy and food economies as a means to mitigate climate change and nurture cultural and spiritual restoration.

And Bay Localize has developed a Community Resilience Toolkit to help communities to weather tough times, provide resources to evaluate a community's relative strengths and vulnerabilities for economic and climate stability, and take action to build resilience in several areas
    * Food
    * Water
    * Energy
    * Transportation and Housing
    * Jobs and Economy
    * Civic Preparedness and Social Services" 

Friday, September 18, 2009

Health = Food

Reflecting the growing re-understanding that food is medicine, the Center for Disease Control has guidance to grow your own food.   Hospitals serving good food can't be far behind.  Or is already ahead, at least in Portland, where they recognize values of indigenous foods like salmon, and Chicago.

In the Bay Area, even health maintenance organizations like Kaiser Permanente are on board

The USDA apparently has developed " a database that will list the nutrient content of about 200 traditional foods".  Although what really needs to be done is restoring healthy populations of local foods for their holistic, synergistic benefits, not reducing them to nutrients, but this may be helpful for those without access to their traditional meals.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


AgroInnovations multimedia covers agricultural biodiversity and cultural significance in interviews with Dr. Suzanne Nelson, Director of conservation with Native Seeds/SEARCH

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and Emigdio Ballon, who is an experienced traditional farmer. Emigdio talks to us about Andean crops, cultural significance, and possibilities for economic sustainability.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Global Climate Change, Evo Morales, and Local Renewables

Evo Morales, indigenous Bolivian leader, hits the nail on the head, in this letter released last year outlining perhaps the clearest and most equitable climate change policy plan we've seen. And, as one emerging way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, we have algae biofuel business interest on Native lands

We've clearly got the tools we need to address climate change, from the global to the local. Let's keep at it!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Developers Get the Message?

From Regenesis Group, a cutting-edge development project advisory firm, we have:

". . . the process of development and the role of developer is, at this point, the most appropriate vehicle for transforming the way we inhabit and think about ourselves and our planet,. . . The basis for this surprising assertion lies in the power of the vital, co-creative relationship between humans and the Places they inhabit—a power that has been diminished but never totally erased. 

""Regenerative Development is grounded in a deep understanding of the integral and interdependent nature of living systems—social and biotic, and the complex and emergent process by which they co-evolve. . . . Regenerative Development of Place can begin to act like global acupuncture points, regenerating the elemental basis of life and restoring the planet's capacity to regenerate itself and humans' capacity to live in harmony with our home."

May this find all developers -- and soon!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Legalization in California: Greywater

With thanks to Laura and the Greywater Guerrillas

Begin forwarded message:

On July 30,  the Building Standards Commission voted to pass the new
California greywater code (Chapter 16 in the CA Plumbing Code).

This was passed as an emergency measure due to the drought and water
shortages faced in the state.

The code will be going through a public review process for the next 45
days. The opposition (the plumbing union, and some building officials)
will be writing in negative comments about the code. People who support
having a simple, safe, and accessible code will also need to write in
comments to help ensure the code is not changed during the comment period.

Importantly, the CA department of Public Health spoke in full support of
the code, citing water shortages and degrading quality of fresh water
being a much greater health concern than any potential issue with

Lastly, local jurisdictions will be allowed to make greywater more
restrictive, which many will want to do. Now is a good time to start
conversations with your cities and counties about how they can help
support safe and accessible reuse of greywater.

Summary of the new code (as it's written now)
*no permit needed for a washing machine system if the system followed
health and safety guidelines outlined in the code

*no permit for a singe fixture (one shower) if guidelines are followed

*mulch basins allowed (instead of gravel)

*other systems are separated into "simple" and "complex" depending on the
quantity of water. There are less requirements for "simple" systems.
*depth of discharge is 2 inches under mulch (it used to be 9" under dirt)

Thoughts for End of the Week: Seminal Thinkers, Part II of . . .

Chief Oren Lyons
(from Learning to Listen, 1991)
"Define for yourselves your directions. Think about it. Today belongs to us, tomorrow we'll give it to the children, but today is ours. You have the mandate, you have the responsibility."
"In our perception all life is equal, and that includes the birds, animals, things that grow, things that swim. All life is equal in our perception. It is the Creator who presents the reality, and as you read this . . . you are a manifestation of the creation.", p. 203
"Will people of all races learn? . . . Will they reach beyond feelings of racism and antagonism to see what is good for the welfare of all people? And not only people, but of all things that live." p.205

"Natural Law is very simple. You cannot change it: it prevails over all. . . . The Indians understood the Natural Laws. They built their laws to coincide with the Natural Laws. And that's how we survived."

R. Buckminster Fuller
(from Synergetics, 1974)

"since we now know that there is a sustainable abundance of life support and accommodation for all, it follows that all politics and warring are obsolete and invalid. . . ."

"We no longer need to rationalize selfishness. No one need ever again "earn a living." Further living for all humanity is all cosmically prepaid."

Monday, August 10, 2009

Seminal Thinkers

 E. F. Schumacher

". . . we . . . must begin to see the possibility of evolving a new life-style . . . the perfection of [agriculture/horticulture] production methods which are biologically sound, build up soil fertility, and produce health beauty and permanence.  . . . In industry, we can interest ourselves in the evolution of small-scale technology, relatively non-violent technology .  . so that people have a chance to enjoy themselves while they are working . . . In industry, again . . . we can interest ourselves in new forms of partnership between management and men, even forms of common ownership."

"[Land and the creature upon it] are ends-in-themselves . . . and it is therefore rationally justifiable to say, as a statement of fact, that they are in a certain sense sacred.  Man has not made them, and it is irrational for him to treat things that he has not made and cannot make and cannot recreate. . . in the same manner and spirit as . .  . things of his own making." (Small is Beautiful)

Rudolf Steiner
where he describes how a student is to develop the ability to perceive intent, or emotion, behind forms and actions and processes like growth and decay.

To begin with, the student endeavors to regulate his sequence of thought (control of thought).
An equal consistency in his actions forms the second requirement (control of actions).
The third requirement is the cultivation of endurance (perseverance).
The fourth requirement is forbearance (tolerance) toward persons, creatures, and also circumstances.
The fifth requirement is impartiality toward everything that life brings.
The sixth requirement is the cultivation of a certain inner balance (equanimity).
(Philosophy of Freedom)

R. Buckminster Fuller
"There is an inherently minimum set of essential concepts and current information, cognizance of which could lead to our operating our planet Earth to the lasting satisfaction and health of all humanity." (Synergetics)
"Humans were included in the cosmic system's design to fulfill critical functions in respect to maintenance of the integrity of eternally regenerative Scenario Universe.  To arrive full-blown and functioning in its cosmic role, humanity has been given the capability to inventory its tactical resources progressively and to reorient its functioning from an omniautomated behavior to a progressively more conscious and responsible behavior pattern."

"". . . it is eminently feasible not only to provide full life support for all humans but also to permit all humans' individual enjoyment of all the Earth without anyone profiting at the expense of another and without any individuals interfering with others."

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Perspectives on Climate Change

"Alaskan Village Copes With Real-life Impacts of Global Climate Change" interview with NARF attorney Heather Kendall-Miller on PBS last year,
For more information see the Kivalina case update.

Video at the NewsHour web site

The Forest County Potawatomi Community has an statewide effort to raise awareness of the importance of taking climate action and what you can do"

And the Indigenous Environmental Network has a multiple Energy and Climate programs

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Harvest of Films

The food film documentary industry is booming. Some we like include Food, Inc.

The Garden

and from Angelic Organics, we have the The Real Dirt on Farmer John

Further, we have films to answer the question"Is water a human right or a commodity to be bought and sold in a global marketplace?" and building a case against water privatization in Thirst and Flow.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

CIBA Gathering 2009

The maintenance and strengthening of cultural tradition was in force at this past weekend's gathering of the California Indian Basketweavers Association. It is in places like these where you see the most profound connections between ourselves and the earth.

Basketweaving is core to the culture of many tribes between the Sierras and the Pacific Ocean, and helps provide a sense of identity and pride connection to the earth. What we need to remember is the value of basketweaving as a skill that helped people survive through centuries -- taking reeds, roots, branches, and inner bark to create any manner of containers (even water-tight!), fish traps, ceremonial hats, and more.

It's not too late to learn! See you in 2010?

Monday, June 22, 2009

Individual Myth and Reconnection to Place

We see that many people come to the United States to make a new way of life. The power of this country is that it allows the individual to take initiative, and the belief is that you succeed or fail based on personal merit. Countless individuals have come to this country and excelled in an array of personal, financial, social, and environmental spheres.

However, this concept of individual initiative ignores the social, economic, political, technical, and ecological support systems around those individuals which make their success or failure possible. It is a myth that has taken us away from our roots and the place to where we need to return.

Our indigenous worldview(s) (cosmovision) stand in marked contrast to the myth of the individual. This understanding respects the vital need for collaboration and cooperation in order to survive. This understanding knows the need for balance and the paramount importance of the web of life. This worldview comes from many centuries of observation of how our natural world works, and in figuring out how to survive in a place.

“. . . we see that the cycles of life continue. We have been given the duty to live in balance and harmony with each other and all living things."
-- Thanksgiving Address, Haudenosaunee (Iroquois)

"Honor and respect water as a sacred and life-giving gift from the Creator of Life. Water, the first living spirit on Earth . . . When water is threatened, all living things are threatened."
-- Statement, Hopi Hisot Navoti Gathering

It’s not that we in modern times are somehow ignorant of the crucial value of healthy air, water, and food. But we don’t have an economy and politics that on a day-to-day basis respects our interconnectedness, and promotes our living in place. For example, the prices we pay at the supermarket don't reflect hidden and true costs of food, so we often don't make the right decisions. We know groups working on Food and Justice policies and wish them well in fixing these issues

In being truly “place-based”, it is not possible to act in a way that systematically compromises the interconnected nature of the universe. Else, you deplete the vitality of your water, your sources of shelter, and your food (fish, animals, berries, plants), and leading to two possible options: 1) move off the depleted ancestral lands due to lack of food and into potential conflict with other tribes, or 2) go extinct. Since in indigenous times people largely maintained balance, it meant that vast forests, healthy soils, clean water, and mineral deposits were readily available to fuel modern society. We must return to respect, understand that these things cannot be liquidated, and use the appropriate building, energy, and water technology to support ourselves.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Local Resources News Round-Up: June 2009

The greenroofs in Portland are encouraging, even including one on the Native American Student Center at Portand State. In Milwaukee, they're even looking at greenhouses in the cemetery.

Baltimore community gardens are hoping to sell to Whole Foods. Laramie County, WY is stealing people away from the SF Bay Area to help them learn about wind energy.

As for our biodiversity, the continued mystery and decline of bats due to a white fungus is a concern. Their insect control and even pollination services are badly needed, and we need to figure this out soon. At least the UN recommends investing in ecosystems rather than carbon control technology, admitting that nature can manage nature better than we can.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Food for Thought and Action: Food Sovereignty

We haven't yet done a full review of the Food Sovereignty Curriculum, but it sounds promising. It includes a set of modules to work through, including one for Small Farmers and as well as factsheets.

Its Six Sovereignty Principles bring us back to where we started with agriculture/agroecology thousands of years ago -- focusing on people, localizing food systems, building skills and knowledge, and working with nature.

Friday, May 22, 2009

The Sun Shines in the Hoopa Valley (Part 1 of 2)

The Trinity River valley. It is said that the Hoopa (Hupa) people came into being here. This past weekend marked yet another step back toward Hoopa community self-sufficiency with the launching of small organic farm.

Working together made for quick work -- and the passage of 24 hours saw soil preparation, raised bed creation, stick planting, vegetable starts and watering all take place on a two acre plot. This builds on our rainwater catchment workshop last year, and the solid work done by the Klamath-Trinity Resource Conservation District to highlight techniques and tools for everything from canning to irrigation to Holistic Management and more.

The power of people-connected-to-land cannot be overstated. It makes for a firm commitment to place and improvement of the community, which we too often lack in more transient (usually urban) settings. And commitment creates real possibilities for long-term self-sufficiency -- "clothing security" with sheep ranches producing local wool, "building security" through sustainable forestry, strawbale building and earth plaster skills, and "energy security" in passive energies, investing in solar hot water and careful design.

Watch the movie of highlights!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Biodiversity and the Quest for Balance (II)

The trends we see at the first post in:
- amphibians
- bats
- songbirds
- general ecosystems

are a clear call for greater understanding and action

However, ultimately, these issues are not simply an issue of forging better environmental policies or implementing better practices. At their core, the issues we are dealing with are issues of values, mindset, and spirit, requiring a fundamental shift in how we relate to, and act in, the world. Perhaps the key defining moral failure of our times is the failure to recognize the right of other species and ecosystems to exist.

In not recognizing the rights and value of biodiversity, we create the many bizarre situations in which we currently find ourselves. For instance, rather than ban toxic substances outright in the shared recognition of the paramount importance of the protection of life, we instead permit them to be legal, and subsequently spend tremendous time, resources, and energy toward using as little of them as possible. How much easier would it be to simply ban them outright? How many toxic products do we really need? Even more importantly, how often do we really need the short-term beneficial results these toxic products produce?

Yet, countless efforts are put forth to show how we can't shift away from toxic substance use, or cut our energy use in half, and the excuses are endless. Doing what's right isn't feasible. It's too expensive. We can't get by with less resource use. We can't survive into the indefinite future in a sustainable way, never mind the fact that we as a species have been doing so for millennia.

Our mindset is _so_ key. In nations where basic needs are already met, the mindset that humans have the right to do as we please, and take as much as we want, is at the core of many of our most basic problems -- habitat destruction, loss of species, obesity, energy wars, and water shortages. The bottom line in these five issues is . . . hunger . . . and with this mindset, hunger is never satiated. It ignores responsibility. It drives an incessant collection of things, and keeps us so attached to those things that we spend significant resources on property insurance, storage, and security systems for their protection. It exacerbates the very real global hunger of those who cannot meet their basic needs, by artificially inflating our demands on the earth. And, the mindset maintains the fiction that we cannot afford to live sustainably (i.e. live with less resource consumption and maintain the same quality of life).

With a simple shift in mindset, suddenly "never enough" becomes "more than enough". The food that we have is enough, the property we own is enough, and the energy to which we have local access is enough. It’s simply a common sense approach to life. If certain things are non-negotiable, then you organize your life to get those things done. If the kids need to get picked up at 4 PM, then you figure out some way to make that happen. So too is a goal like 80% greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction by 2050 -- it's a pragmatic goal to manage against the impacts and risks of climate change. Thus, we need to make it a reality.

We need a worldview that respects the need for balance, shares resources with our fellow beings, and acts to maintain the web of life that supports us all. We in the developed world who have the basics of food, clothing, shelter, and water need to recognize that we always have enough. And we need to allow other peoples and species to have their share.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Local Food: Gathering Strength

Climate change concerns call us all to seriously analyze our way of life, and look for ways to improve business as usual.  It has helped also bring a wave of interest in eating locally -- purchasing foods grown and processed within a one hundred fifty miles of where we live.  It's no wonder why.

According to the WorldWatch Institute, food transportation is among the biggest and fastest-growing sources of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide.  A basic diet of imported ingredients can easily require four times the energy and emissions of a domestically-based source.   Though, note that one of the leading researchers on this topic, A. Carlsson-Kanyama, found that the actual greenhouse gas benefits of local production is limited for commodities where the amount of resources required for local production dwarf the shipping impacts.   And one of the better ways to reduce the carbon impact of your diet is by shifting away from meat to a vegetable, seed, and legume-based diet.     However, the fact still remains that the eating seasonally and shifting toward higher percentages of local foods appropriate to your region will support your community and the planet.

You can all join the effort, enjoy local, organic meals to the greatest extent you can, celebrate your local farmers, and grow your own food.  Support local food efforts through many resources, including: 

Indigenous Permaculture -- provides Certificate Trainings to enable participants to sustainably grow their own food, and  delivers community food security resources and tools to low-income and indigenous grassroots groups. (

Community Alliance for Family Farmers --  provides policy analysis and advocacy for sustaining family-scale agriculture (

Community Food Security Coalition --  provides networking, technical assistance, and program evaluation to support grassroots groups (

Local Harvest -- links to local food sources of all types throughout the U.S. (

Monday, April 27, 2009

Indigenous Strength at Food and Society

The W.K. Kellogg Foundation hosted its Food and Society conference once again this past week, from April 21-23 in San Jose. In showcasing many inspiring projects across the country, participants both learned from presentations in traditional panels and keynotes, as well as from a very rich day of open space sessions, where attendees proposed topics and held small group discussions.

Many groups in attendance were working for sustainability and better relationship with their lands, including:
Mvskoke Food Sovereignty Initiative

New Mexico Acequias Association

Tohono O’odham Community Action

One open space session focused on identifying the solutions that we're missing from 10,000 years of place-based living and understanding of right relationship to our lands. The thoughts that came up included: understanding and documenting our history; use of permaculture techniques like observation of the patterns of sun, wind, and water across a landscape; and using story to communicate concepts and values. We hope to further highlight the outcomes of that session in a future post.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

People on the Edge

The shootings that have gripped our country over the past several weeks is an unfortunate alarm.  We think it's no coincidence that this is a time of economic uncertainty and recession -- problems typically come to the fore during times of stress.  

Part of our challenge is that we have become over-vested in the economy.  We have designed our lives on the assumption of plentiful money, working in whatever profession we choose.  What we've given up is resilience and managing against the risks of not having the ability to provide the basics of life -- food, clothing, shelter -- forgetting that we cannot eat money.  When we can't provide these basics, we necessarily are under undue stress and react on a primal basis.

Rather than pursue earning as much money as possible, perhaps it is time to return to the basics.  We can learn how to grow our own food, and make our own clothes and shelter.  These are skills that characterize true community resilience, security, and sustainability, rather than high income.  

"Through [the new paradigm], we see reality so structured that all life-forms affect and sustain each other in a web of radical interdependence.

. . . . We turn to this radical interdependence . . . because it can serve the healing of our world, and its very survival."
                                                --- Joanna Macy

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Biodiversity and the Quest for Balance

There was a pause in the breeze, on one of those crisp fall days that foretell colder days to come.  Yellowed dogwood and aspen leaves already littered the swampy forest floor, providing temporary cover for tree frogs and field voles.  As the breeze picked back up, a lone hiker emerged out of the mist, studiously watching the ground as he moved through the trees.  Hearing a slow trill, he bent down, looking intently, and spied what he was looking for – Hyla chrysoscelis, the gray treefrog.  As it turned slightly, he noticed the leg.  A fifth leg, sprouting from the middle of an otherwise-normal back limb.  He stood straight sharply, taken aback.  This was the sixth deformed frog he had found this season.

Although the story above is fictitious, the essence of the passage is a very real story that gripped the scientific world between 2000 and 2004.  Reports from all over the world document both a general decline in amphibians and the alarming increases in deformities and unnatural growths.  Was it some odd fungal infection?  Was it a legacy of the decades of pesticides, fungicides, herbicides and other synthetic chemicals that had been dispersed throughout the environment?  No one was sure, to believe the report in the 2003 Scientific American, which hypothesized several possible causes: contaminated water, ultraviolet radiation, or a parasite.[1] And an article in the March-April American Scientist of 2004 linked many of the amphibian problems to human-induced climate change.[2] 

What was clear was simply that something was wrong.  Amphibians, with their highly permeable skin, act as canaries in the coal mine, and signal that something is amiss in the world's living systems.   And it was highly probable that human activity was culpable in some way.

In how many other areas have we seen significant detrimental impacts in our lack of balance with Mother Earth?  And perhaps more importantly, why do we so often fail to restore balance, once we see what we are doing?  

All life is sacred, and our fellow beings are key threads of the web of life, yet our actions too often do not make this recognition.  As we see, amphibians are not the only threads in danger.  

- Bats under Siege.  Similar, to the frog decline, 2008 and 2009 found tens of thousands of bats killed, in relation to a white fungus which is somehow involved, and has had a 50-90% fatality rate in infected bats.  The ultimate cause is not known.[3]

- State of the Songbirds (Aububon Report).   The Aububon Society in 2007 reported on the population changes of several common bird species in North America, and found twenty species had declined at least 50, and in some cases, 80 percent.[4]  The critical factor is the loss of habitat – i.e. the grasslands, wetlands, and healthy forests that have been taken through development.  This largely tracks the 50-80%% of wetlands that have been lost throughout the U.S., according to the U.S. Geological Service.[5]

- The UN Millennium Ecosystem Assessment.  This project of the United Nations  looked at the services provided to humankind by nature.  The report's scientists found that "approximately 60% (15 out of 24) of the ecosystem services examined in this assessment are being degraded or used unsustainably".[6]

We clearly have our work to do.  Of this, more to be said later.

[1] Bustein, A. R. and P. T. J. Johnson. 2003b. Explaining frog deformities. Scientific American 288: 60-65.
[2] Kiesecker, J. M., L. K. Belden, K. Shea, and M. J. Rubbo. 2004. Amphibian decline and emerging disease. American Scientist 92:138-147.
[3] "Bats Perish, and No One Knows Why", Tina Kelly of the New York Times, March 25, 2008.
[4] Common Birds In Decline, The Audubon Society,
[5] Loss of Wetlands in the Southwestern United States, Roberta Yuhas of the U.S. Geological Service, 1996.
[6] Ecosystems and Human Wellbeing: Opportunities and Challenges for Business and Industry, The United Nations, 2005, p. 6.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Community Leaders

Jesus Leon Santos was awarded a 2008 Goldman Environmental Prize, as an indigenous farmer who works with Mixteca traditions, and has conserved more than 4,000 acres of farmland while creating more economic growth.  And the Hopi Tutskwa PermaCulture program has a community tree-planting project, where volunteers planted 320 trees in five community orchards.

The power of these programs is that they are rooted in the traditional ecological knowledge that spans centuries, and use the permaculture principle of looking at all physical, ecological, and social resources available -- whether traditional or modern.

Monday, March 30, 2009

The Resurgence of Native Foods

The increasing awareness of the shortcoming of the modern diet and its health impacts has been welcome. Flexible as we are in our choice of foods, nevertheless, when you take bodies that have evolved over thousands of years on whole grain, relatively-low-carb foods, and feed them refined sugars and flours, one might expect problems.

This is particularly acute in native communities, where colonial diets can be vastly different than the indigenous staple foods, and cause diabetes and other problems. 2.6 times more acute, if you believe the CDC

The growing awareness is finally beginning to benefit native communities, with a smattering of initiatives over the past seven years:
- First Nations Development Institute held two Native Food Summits in 2002 and 2004 and even created an assessment tool to guide food system development and sovereignty
- Similarly, Menonimee College held a forum through their Sustainable Development Institute
- Renewing America's Food Traditions is launched, to map out the traditional diets of North America and highlight foods at risk, including many indigenous foods.
- Native Seeds/SEARCH continues its quest to preserve heirloom seeds, and even offers discounts to Native Communities.
- Honor the Earth and the White Earth Land Recovery Project produces Food Is Medicine (unfortunately now out of print), highlighting the healing power of food. To provide Anishinaabe foods, the Land Recovery Project is still going strong with Native Harvest

The time is coming where as a society we will honor and value health and quality over expedience and quantity, and sooner rather than later. It is the indigenous way we return to, after all.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Local Food Systems

Those of you in the NE might put "Enhancing Local and Regional Food Systems" on your calendar, for May 19-20, 2009. It's research-focused, so potentially less interesting to we practitioners, but it looks very promising:

Small Farms - Yours or Others

Check out Chuck Burr's "Small Farm Renaissance" article, explaining
how "our economic crisis has a bright side; it will be the catalyst
for the rebirth of the local small farm."

And, if you can't grow your own food, you can look for your local
CSAs. PANNA makes it easy:

Other links that they've collected include:

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Water, Water Everywhere (hopefully)

(with thanks to Lil Milagro Martinez-Cornejo for the article from which this is excerpted)

Studies by Japanese scientist Masaro Emoto have proven what many of our traditional knowledges knew all along, that water is life, it is a sacred element that must be respected . . . And it is that sacredness, that right to enjoy clean water that is increasingly coming under attack from privatization and human induced global warming and drought.

The average United States citizen uses roughly 60 gallons of water a day at a typical residence, significantly more than is necessary to sustain life. Those in what we consider to be ‘developing’ countries are struggling to find five gallons a day and are often times surviving on 3 gallons per day. (Sterling and Vintinner, 2008).

The United States is also leading the world in drinking bottled water. “Three out of four Americans drink bottled water, and one out of five Americans drink only bottled
water” (Louaillier, 2008). Drinking bottled water sends the message to corporations that not only is it okay to privatize water but that we will often pay 100 times more for bottled water than for tap water, even though in a recent CBS News poll 2/3rds of participants in a blind taste test either preferred tap to the battled water brand names
or couldn’t tell the difference. And the real irony: Up to 40% of bottled water, including Aquafina and Dasani, come from the same source of tap water.

Privatization of our waters doesn’t necessarily mean that the water is any cleaner, any freer of natural containments. The only difference is that tap water falls under national governmental standards designed to protect public health.

In the drive to privatize and commodify all natural ‘resources’, we have forgotten that water is a common right for all, not just those who can afford to pay.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Traditional Native American Farmers Association

TNAFA, the New Mexico Food and Seed Alliance, and the NM Acequia Association are sponsoring the 4th annual Land, Water, and Culture Gathering (Ówîngeh Tá: Pueblos y Semillas: Celebrating Communities and Seeds) on the equinox in Española, NM

While you're at that, you may as well prep by listening to Shirley Romero-Otero, Don Bustos, and Paula Garcia discuss the struggles of land-based people to defend traditional rights to local resources (land & water) and revitalization of and land-based livelihoods.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Garden Crusader

Congratulations to Guillermo Vasquez, awarded a 2008 Feeding the Hungry award by Gardener's Catalog.

Food Security Video Links

As an example of food issues facing low-income peoples, Closer to Home portrays a Latino community in Oregon and their work with a community garden

Another is the story of Marra Farm in Seattle