These are some of the basic skills we look for in Nauhaus employees.
Archive for December, 2009
Conventional wisdom says that overgrazing causes desertification of rangelands. Allan Savory says that’s dead wrong.
Plants have external digestive systems. We animals have microorganisms in our guts to break down food and make it useful to our cells, but plants don’t have that luxury. Their digestive bacteria and fungi live in the soil.
Savory divides the world into two areas:
In areas with a year-round high humidity, dead organism decay rapidly, and bare ground is quickly covered with vegetation. These areas cover about 1/3 of the planet’s land area.
The other 2/3 of land area has prolonged dry seasons. During the dry season, plant matter dies, but the microorganisms that the plants need to digest that organic matter also die off. Instead of being digested, dead organic matter is standing. Since it doesn’t mulch the ground, the bare soil doesn’t retain moisture. New plants dry out before they get established.
In brittle environments, the bacteria in animal digestive tracks stays moist and alive during the dry season. Brittle environments require animals to build healthy soil. Before we humans screwed it up, massive buffalo herds in the US midwest would decimate the plant life in an area. However, at the same time they fertilized that area, and they moved on quickly allowing the plant life to recover. This cycle resulted in some of the thickest, richest top soil in the world in a semi-brittle environment.
Savory says overgrazing isn’t what’s turning brittle grass lands into deserts. A lack of animals is. In the US, the natural grazing animals are long gone, and for the most part our domesticated grazers don’t even live on the grasslands anymore. Our corporate industrial farming system has relegated grazing animals to hellish feed lots. Vast tracts of range land are left fallow, which most people would expect to be a good thing, but the plant life isn’t recovering. It’s digestive system is missing.
Smart land management in brittle environments mimics those natural buffalo herds and restores the land by intensely grazing it and moving the animals to new pastures often.
In this 1 hour presentation Savory goes into more detail and shows some convincing photographic evidence. He also argues that humans have been causing climate change because of this misunderstanding for a very long time.
For more information:
And his books:
Once again, Democracy Now! brings us the news corporate media won’t. Amy Goodman and her team have been covering the COP 15 climate summit in Copenhagen. I am not proud to say that the U.S.A. has been identified (by essentially the rest of the world ) as “obstructionist” on issues of climate change. The 100,000 (!) people that showed up to have their voices heard as citizens of this earth have been “pre-emptively detained” (habeus corpus is such a quaint idea, don’t you think?) and it appears that the men and women behind the curtain have no wish to hear the concerns of the people. Oh, woe unto them. more at :
The following article was published on on the website www.commondreams.org. It looks like something’s happening there, Mr. Jones. “There” being Copenhagen, where the attention of the world is turned right now. This may indeed be a tipping point, in several ways.
Published on Sunday, December 13, 2009 by IPS/TerraViva
December 12th Was a Tipping Point
by Saleemul Huq
COPENHAGEN – I have been working on climate change for many years, first as a researcher in my native Bangladesh and later as head of the climate change group at the International Institute for Environment and Development, and as a member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.I have seen first-hand the threats climate change poses in places such as the drylands of Africa, the mountains of the Himalayas and the vast low-lying deltas of Asia. I have observed years of inaction at UN climate change summits that have failed to deliver the response needed because negotiators have chosen to protect narrow national and economic interests instead of rising to the challenge of protecting future generations.
I have jousted verbally with climate-change deniers who have strong links to polluting industries and who have never set foot in the vulnerable villages and urban communities where climate change is already having impacts. If they did they would realise the damage their ideology does to the people who have contributed least to this global threat.
And now, in Copenhagen in December 2009, I believe we have reached a tipping point. I truly believe that Copenhagen will be remembered in years to come, not for what happens on 18 December when world leaders meet here, but for what just happened on 12 December.
This marked the day that people from all walks of life all over the world seized the initiative from our so-called leaders. Regardless of the words these presidents and prime ministers decide in a “protocol” or “agreement” next week, it is the people of the world who have put the writing on the wall!
The leaders who choose to read those words will take us forward. Those who ignore them will be swept away by the tide of history.
Yesterday marked the point when a large part of the world rose up as one to tackle a truly global challenge. Although there may be temporary setbacks (like a less-than-ambitious deal next week) the tide has already turned. It cannot be turned back.
Regardless of how much we achieve next week – and I remain optimistic in spite of the political manoeuvrings last week – we are set on a new and inexorable path. The leaders who understand that may come from the most unexpected of quarters. Keep your eye, for instance, on President Mohamed Nasheed of tiny Maldives.
In a few months I shall be moving back to Bangladesh to fight real climate change, as opposed to fighting against bad (or inadequate) climate change policies. My ambition over the coming years is to help the people of one of the poorest and most vulnerable – and yet resilient and innovative – countries transform itself from being the world’s iconic “vulnerable” country to being recognised as perhaps its most “adaptive” country.
I am going home to set up a new International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD) where we aim to ramp up the capacity of governments, civil society organisations, researchers, academics, journalists and many others from developing countries to respond to the challenges that climate change poses.
The new centre will provide training and share knowledge on how to survive (and indeed even thrive) in a globally warmed world. It will focus primarily on adaptation to climate change in the least developed nations but will not stop there.
Indeed we are planning to provide capacity building for industrialised countries on how to face adverse climatic impacts. Ironically, unlike most of the world’s poorest countries, the rich world that has caused this problem has not done detailed planning on how to adapt.
I am returning to the front line of climate change where the real fight is already underway. I go there knowing that millions of people around the world share my hopes and my optimism that humanity can unite to tackle the challenge that now defines our life on Earth.
© 2009 IPS/TerraViva
Saleemul Huq, Senior fellow, International Institute for Environment and Development.
For more than a decade, 57-year-old roofer and writer Joseph Jenkins has been advocating that we flush our toilets down the drain and put a bucket in the bathroom instead. When a bucket in one of his five bathrooms is full, he empties it in the compost pile in his backyard in rural Pennsylvania. Eventually he takes the resulting soil and spreads it over his vegetable garden as fertilizer.
“It’s an alternative sanitation system,” says Jenkins, “where there is no waste.” His 255-page Humanure Handbook: A Guide to Composting Human Manure is in its third edition and has been translated into five languages, but it has only recently begun to catch on. His message? Human manure, when properly managed, is odorless. His audience? Ecologically committed city dwellers who are looking to do more for the earth than just sort their trash or ride a bike to work. (See reusable toilet wipes as one of the top 10 odd environmental ideas.)
“It’s one of those life-changing books,” says Erik Knutzen, 44, an eco-blogger in Los Angeles. “You read it, and the lightbulb just goes on.” Now he eschews his porcelain potty for a big bucket with a toilet seat. He “flushes” by tossing in a scoop of sawdust, which not only neutralizes smells but also helps speed the breakdown of material for compost. Like many back-to-basics sophisticates, he believes Jenkins’ humanure system is more sanitary and more rational than the conventional alternative. “Human waste is a perfectly good source of an important resource, nitrogen,” Knutzen observes. “Water is a valuable resource too. Why mix the two and turn all of it into a problem?”
Wastewater treatment is much more energy-intensive than composting, which needs little more than time (about a year) for complete decomposition and pathogen elimination. In Austin, Texas, a sustainably minded nonprofit called the Rhizome Collective succeeded this year in getting the city to approve what may be the first legal composting toilet in the U.S. “The hypocrisy is amazing,” says Lauren Ross, 54, a civil engineer involved in Rhizome’s four-year battle to get a permit. “The city will buy you a low-flow toilet, but they’ll fight you all the way if you want to build one that uses no water at all.”
It’s an idea that you, dear reader, might be asked to take seriously. Not long ago, Nance Klehm, 44, a self-described radical ecologist in Chicago, invited her neighbors to stop using their toilets and start saving their poop. More than half of them — 22 of the 35 households — accepted her proposal. In three months she picked up 1,500 gal. (5,700 L) of excrement, which she’ll give back to participants this spring after she and Mother Nature have transformed it into a rich bag of fertilizer. “I’ve sent a sample in for a coliform test,” Klehm says. “There is zero detectable fecal bacteria.” (Read a brief history of toilets.)
At one point, Klehm invited her “nutrient loopers” to a potluck and was surprised to see who had agreed to participate. “It was the white collar people, not the ragtag anarchists. Mostly, they were delighted that they got this wacky proposal,” she says. “They didn’t know how to connect with the earth, but they could s___ in a bucket.”
Meanwhile, over in California, the Marin Composting Portable Odorless Outhouse Project, a.k.a. MCPOOP, is doing Klehm one better. The goal of MCPOOP (which is pronounced the Irish way as opposed to the rap-star way) is to get the government into the night-soil business and put humanure toilets in county parks and town squares. The group is less than a month old but already has the support of the local environmental establishment and Marin County supervisor Steve Kinsey. “The whole thing is like a good acid flashback,” says Kinsey. “We approved several experimental permits like this in the ’70s.” He estimates that a small-scale municipal demonstration project could be under way in less than a year. (Read “Is It Time to Kill Off the Flush Toilet?”)
MCPOOP was founded by a couple in their 50s. “We’re on a mission to re–potty train America!” says John Wick, a rancher in the western part of the county. “We’re going to start by replacing those nasty blue loos,” says his wife Peggy Rathmann, referring to two chemical toilets on their town’s main square. If that goes over well, they’ll replace the chemical toilets around Tomales Bay that kayakers often use. And then, who knows? Wick and Rathmann don’t see why every home in Marin County shouldn’t be humanure equipped.
To Joe (Mr. Humanure) Jenkins, nothing could be better news. “On a small scale, my system works like a dream,” he says. “But in order to do more research and development, I need to to collect humanure on a larger scale.”
MCPOOP and other projects are eager to help on the supply side. “We’re going to have plenty,” predicts Rathmann. “Tons of tourists come to West Marin, and they all leave us their poop!”
This is an expanded version of an article that originally appeared in the Dec. 14, 2009, issue of TIME
The Hemcrete installation continued today in the freezing weather, and is up to the second floor. Ian Snider from Mountain Works dropped by yesterday to discuss some of the sustainably harvested wood he will be supplying to the project. Ian’s company uses horses to remove the trees that they selectively cull as part of a forest stewardship process.
If you’re interested in volunteering for the Nauhaus Prototype Project, please contact Billy.
Yesterday, the full-on Hemcrete installation was started. Thanks to the volunteers who continue to come out and shovel hemp in this wet, cold weather! If you’re interested in volunteering for the Nauhaus Prototype Project, please contact Billy.