Category: Science

Climate Change AdaptationEcological ethicsEcologyScience

Podcast 7. Charlie Gray – Urban community farming & the connection of nature.

charlie-farm-2016

Charlie Gray at the Horton Community Farm 2016. Picture by Laura Buston.

Number 7 of the Sentient Seas podcast series is an interview conducted with the English permaculturist and community grower Charlie Gray. She has an academic background in ethnobotany as well as community work overseas and is one of the co-founders of Horton Community Farm Co-operative Ltd after joining a group of people who as part of Transition Bradford decided to act upon a permaculture design which had been created as part of a permaculture design course. She is interested in finding new paths for organic food production systems in urban areas and the need for influencing planning and design to incorporate food growing into the fabric of cities as we move into the era of climate change and fossil fuel depletion.

Our conversation includes: discussing her experiences in post Contra-war Nicaragua in the 1990’s, the model of Horton Community Farm, food production as part of a broader system, providing a place to be and connect with nature for asylum seekers and refugees, working with forest school sessions, permaculture design as a tool, the palette of produce from the farm, the function of the margins, the usage of porous walkways, networks, the Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens, the Permaculture LAND project, LILAC self build co-housing, planning keeping the 7th future generation in mind, alienated youth and manifested behaviour, the nature connection work of Jon Young, instinctual capacities/the implicit powers of deep connection, the cultural emergence work of Jon Young and Looby Macnamara, and a practice of gratitude.

The music break of this episode is a demo of a new Mass Spectrometer song called ‘The Liquor Well’. Partially written in response to seeing the residual after effects of 19th Century industrialisation on two sites in 2014 and 2015. If you dig the tune and want to hear more of their work go to https://massspectrometer.bandcamp.com where you can support the artists by purchasing their music and t-shirts, or https://soundcloud.com/mass-spectrometer where some of their soundtrack material can be heard.

Contact links for the Horton Community Farm are: http://www.hcf.org.uk https://www.facebook.co/hortoncommunityfarm @HortonComFarm https://twitter.com/HortonComFarm

The header photograph of the Horton Community Farm was taken by http://thepollengardens.com and published with kind permission.

Ecological ethicsEnergyPhilosophyScience

Podcast 5. Dr Mike Joy – The ecological realities of New Zealand.

MIke Joy (WQNZ)Episode 5 of the Sentient Seas podcast series is an interview conducted with the New Zealand ecologist and author Dr Mike Joy. For some brief background New Zealand currently has some serious problems with water pollution in rivers and lakes, particularly nitrate and phosphate leaching and effluent runoff, as well as other ecological problems like biodiversity loss. Mike Joy’s work is at the forefront of understanding the depth of these problems and in understanding what new pathways could help address them. Our conversation includes discussion on: ecologists cataloguing biodiversity decline, flawed legal tools in protecting landscapes, changes in land use in agriculture, the lack of awareness of cumulative effects, problems of intensification and nitrate pollution, fossil fuel linkages/calorific deficits and the challenges to future food production, the current opportunity for diversification, the outdated precepts of non-ecological economics i.e. GDP, ecosystem services assessments, integration/worldview and cosmology, and that humans and their systemic harnessing of the natural world now actually make our species the ecology of the planet.

For further information on Mike Joy’s work go to https://waterqualitynz.info

The music on the podcast is a tune called ‘Anchorite’ by Mass Spectrometer and can be found here, https://massspectrometer.bandcamp.com/track/anchorite-3

 

EnergyHistoryScience

Alice Friedemann – When Trucks Stop Running

Editor: Charles A.S. Hall; Springer Briefs in Energy, Springer 2016

21st June 2016  

A book review by Michael Canning

Friedemann AJ - When trucks stop running

In chapter 20 Friedemann quotes the late Randy Udall, a co-founder of ASPO-USA: “We have been living like gods. Our task now is to learn how to live like humans. Our descent
will not be easy”. A key component to that descent will be a renewed understanding of transport, which underpins industrialised existence. America’s economy runs on the grace of some 10 million trucks that run on fossil fuel to keep the every-day movement of fossil fuel engrained goods and food happening. Oil to industrialized countries is like water to fish; we’re so embedded within it, and its touch in everything we do and depend on, its invisible – until the supply stutters. We have become acculturated to enormous and continual energy use, quite unlike any culture before us.

Sadly though, and perhaps because of its existential nature, which prompts deeper questioning of the socioeconomic structures and policies that reign at present, the notion of the finitude of fossil fuel depletion is a troublesome political hot potato; just like population growth, climate change, and biodiversity loss. To enable further denial of the depth of these interlinked problems and biophysical realities would be an appalling cultural immaturity, and we would be effectively shortchanging and disrespecting our descendants. As Friedemann notes, “few people appreciate how limited the options will be once our premium abundant fossil fuels are gone – just when we need them to build very energy-intensive replacements”.

Energy education on a societal basis needs a major kick up the backside and so it is with pleasure that I commend Springer and editor Charles Hall for bringing about their Briefs in Energy series and specifically this publication. This concise 132-page book is a highly welcome addition to the critical thinking on the enormous issues and choices involved in transportation and its relationship to fossil fuels and climatic disruption. While its focus is mostly on the choices facing the different modes of transportation in the USA its intent and scenario exploration is just as relevant to non-American audiences and it includes various fascinating facts on European infrastructure i.e. the failed Spanish state investment model for photo-voltaic energy generation.

The chapters feature snappy titles like ‘Why you should Love Trains’, ‘Hydrogen, the Homeopathic Energy Crisis Remedy’, and ‘The Electric Blues: Energy Storage for Calm and Cloudy Days’ and presents lucid explanations of the key issues and difficulties facing the USA. Important subjects covered include: energy return over energy invested (EROI) models and their applications; the socio-ecological linkages of food and populations; peak oil and peak coal; the enormous cost of new forms of new energy infrastructure installation; the oil wars of the last 25 years; the lack of investment into rail systems; the problem of the storage of energy from alternative sources i.e. intermittency of wind; the problems of batteries and in improving them; the aged electrical and engineered infrastructure; the current and future bogey of nuclear power; and the issues within trying to accommodate alternative energy sources into the grid and for vehicles ; the need to ditch air freight; and the urgent need to reassess quickly port infrastructure and the role of ships.

The book is well researched and the incorporation of numerous snippets of fascinating historical information about the growth and changes of transportation modes since the 19th century were one of the highlights of the book for me. Friedemann used to be a systems analyst in the shipping sector, so her time into the world of commercial transport has enabled strong and thoughtful insights. She has a lively and concise writing style in a topic area that can be somewhat dry, and another reason I like this book is its gentle sense of humour, which is often absent in technical books. And given the scale of the existential problems that the book outlines – this is a welcome additive.

There were only a few minor things that detracted from making this an excellent text. Firstly while it has a good contents section it doesn’t have an index, which makes returning to certain pertinent points a somewhat lengthy searching process. In addition there has been a slight lack of attention given to some of the coloured diagrams, which in some instances have not reproduced well from their original sources and could have done with being tidied up a bit more.

I believe this book should be required reading for all relevant national and local government employees i.e. those involved in planning, transport, and economic policy, as well as transport consultants. In my experience the latter worlds do not exhibit anywhere near the critical knowledge that is required around energy per se, let alone fossil fuel depletion, and the amount of energy illiteracy in society is something that cannot continue. Friedemann makes the important point in her conclusions that, notwithstanding the issues on boundaries, that utilizing EROI analysis “makes it possible for society and policy makers to investigate our options and make the best energy choices”.

To pretend that the fossil fueled economy and infinite economic growth will continue ad infinitum into the 21st Century and to continue with national and local planning frameworks that have the latter as their pretext is delusional, and intellectually dishonest. The innate linkages between our energy use and its wider impact on societal and hydro-ecological stability cannot be fudged anymore either. Its high time we as a species stop pretending we’re the masters of the universe, and further evolve our thinking about everything, especially energy as the fundament to existence, its use and its effects. Indeed, as Friedemann writes, “we should go into the future with our eyes wide open. We have no choices but to assess how much energy goes into all of the things we take for granted. That includes our food, our vehicles, and how we go about moving goods around the planet like gods”.

 

Ecological ethicsPhilosophyPsychologyScience

Podcast 2. Patrick Curry – Philosophy, Enchantment, and Ecological Ethics

Patrick Curry 2016

Patrick Curry

This is episode 2 of the Sentient Seas podcast series. It is an interview conducted with the London based ecological philosopher and author Dr Patrick Curry. The conversation covers: the position of philosophy in 2016 and its place in a neo-liberal world, academic philosophy and its confines, learning for its own sake, defining cognitive dissonance and its relation to the ecological crisis, the teaching of traditions and the value of having a teacher, anthropocentrism and ecocentrism defined, unexamined assumptions, our frames of reference – the long term vs the short term, human overpopulation – the unexamined topic, scientific ecology vs political ecology, objectivism vs subjectivism in science, becoming a better human being, Val Plumwood and ecofeminism,  human universalism and being top of the food chain, what is an economy actually for?, enchantment, intrinsic value vs instrumentalism, ecocentrism already implicit in human communities in the west, the commodification of life and its future, the Ecocentric Alliance, and Population Matters.

 

For further information on Patrick’s work go to http://www.patrickcurry.co.uk

PhilosophyPsychologyScience

Podcast 1. Mick Collins – The Unselfish Spirit: Human Evolution in a Time of Global Crisis

This is episode 1 of the Sentient Seas podcast series. It is an interview conducted with the author, psychologist, and holistic coach Mick Collins about the content in his 2014 book ‘The Unselfish Spirit: Human Evolution in a Time of Global Crisis’, which is available on Permanent Publications.

Mick Collins 23.3.16.crptThe podcast conversation covers key issues within Mick’s book including transpersonal psychology and its importance, as well as: spiritual emergencies; the role of archetypes in the modern world; the rich interface, power and pragmatism of dreams; the healthy ego and the transpersonal; the power of the placebo; Jung as modern shaman; Ted Kaptchuk; stress has overtaken back problems as the key health issue in the workplace; reflexivity between ones inner and outer worlds in occupational interests; teachers wanting to leave the education profession, SALT magazine; Herbert Marcuse and a renewed politics of consciousness; connecting visionary energies; Theodore Roszak; technology/robotics and estimated 15 million job losses in next 20 years in the UK; co-creation and communities of influence; interdisciplinary work for the greater work; synchronicity; a collective dream. For further information on Mick’s work go to http://www.epiczoetic.co.uk

The music on the podcast comes from Mass Spectrometer and the NDR Jazz Workshop.