Sunday, 31 January 2010

Important influences to Organic Farming, Permaculture, Self-sufficiency and Environmentalism

Henry David Thoreau (USA, 1817-1862)

"Live at home like a traveler"

horeau was an American philosopher, poet, historian and naturalist. Thoreau is best known for his book Walden, a reflection in simple living in a natural environment, and self-sufficiency in the woods. Walden is a declaration of independence, self-reliance and spiritual discovery. Thoreau describes his two year stay in a cabbine, in a forest on a edge of a town, living a simplified life, and discussing his needs of shelter, food, clothing and money.
Thoreau was a leading Transcentalist philosopher, with a core belief that there is a spiritual state that transcends physical reality and can only be realized through the invidual's intuition rather than religious doctrines. He was also one of the founders of modern Ecology and the environmentalist movement, studying the growing patterns in fields and woodlots. He was also greatly interested in the accounts of travellers of that time, such as Cook, Magellan and Darwin.
Thoreau is also well known to have introduced Civil Disobedience as a method of non-violent protest and resistance, that later influenced Gandhi and Martin Luther King.
During a time of a great industrial revolution and urbanization, Thoreau was one of the first ones to call for a return to nature, and to a more simplified, liberating and natural way of living.

Rudolf Steiner (Austria, 1861-1925)
“A healthy social life is found only, when in the mirror of each soul the whole community finds its reflection, and when in the whole community the virtue of each one is living”

Steiner was an Austrian philosopher, social thinker, architect and esotericist. He founded the spiritual movement of Anthrosophy, which is a continuation of the European Transcendentalism. Steiner attempted to find a synthesis between science and mysticism. He provided a bridge between the cognitive thinking of western civilization with the inner and spiritual needs of the human being. He created a revolution in many fields, such as architecture and visual arts, performing arts, (Waldorf) education, medicine and also agriculture.
Steiner invented the concept of biodynamic farming and gardening, which is one of the first sustainable forms of agriculture. He was concerned about the impact of chemical agriculture on the environment and the loss of nutrients on the soil. Steiner encouraged organic practices such as the use of manure, composting, and achieving the right balance between the different species of plants and animals on a farm. He stated that the use of chemicals on agriculture was very detrimental. He also analysed the spiritual energies underlying the growth of plants, influenced by the planets, and the life energy elements on the soil, which were recorded in a serie of his lectures. This marks not only a natural approach to agriculture, but also a spiritual and hollistic one, where all the life forms are respected and in the proper balance.

Sir Albert Hobert (UK, 1873-1947)
"The health of soil, plant, animal and man is one and indivisible"

Hobert was a Botanist and considered the father of organic farming. He travelled to India to teach western conventional farming but came convinced about the importance of healthy organic and natural practices of farming to the health of local populations.

Masanobu Fukuoka (Japan, 1913-2008)
"If we throw mother nature out the window, she comes back in the door with a pitchfork."

Fukuoka was trained as a microbiologist and a soil and plant scientist. At the age of 25 he began (like me) to doubt the wisdom of modern agricultural science. He eventually quit his job after having a moment of great insight in one night, returned to his family farm and developed a pioneering no-till form of organic agriculture. Although he practiced organic agriculture, he took a step farther in not only growing without any pesticides, herbicides, but also without any significant weeding or tilling.
Fukuoka asserted that there is a great difference between organic farming and natural farming; in that organic farming was still scientific in approach like conventional farming, and could still damage the environment. Fukuoka wished to reproduce natural conditions as close as possible. He emphasizes on mainting diversity. On his method with no plowing, the seeds germinated when the provided conditions were right. Ground covers of clover provided nitrogen; weeds considered part of the ecosystem but periodically cut (not weeded) to allow the nutrients to return to the soil without disturbing it; the crops are grown one after the other, but the ground is always covered (therefore allowing the retention of humidity and life beneath it); straw is used as mulching. He detailed his findings in his famous book "The one-straw revolution".
Fukuoka was also a pioneer in the development of seed balls: the seeds are mixed with clay, water and compost and thrown into the soil, allowing germination without tilling.

John Seymour (UK, 1914-2004)

Seymour was a leading figure of the self-sufficiency movement during the sixties and seventies. At the age of 20, he went to South Africa and live through a sucession of jobs. There, we also contacted with the self-reliant life of bushmen tribes, where we spend some time and created a friendship with them, and learn about their life as hunter-gatherers. Later, he was living aboard a sailing boat where he felt he needed to settle down in a land-based life as his first daughter was growing older. He then began living and writting his experiences while living a self-sufficient life with his family on rural smallholdings, in many books on the subject. Seymour was also an opponent to genetic modified food and industrialization, and an environment activist.

Bill Mollison (Australia, 1928-)

"Though the problems of the world are increasingly complex, the solutions remain embarrassingly simple."

Bill Mollison is a researcher, ecologist, naturalist and teacher, and the father of Permaculture. Permaculture is a system of permanent and sustainable agriculture, and also an integrated system of economics, self-sufficiency for local communities, human interaction and ecology. His legacy resulted on the creation of many permaculture farms and communities all around the world, adapted to many different climates.

Mike Reynolds

Reynolds is a architect based in New Mexico and a radical proponent of sustainable living and self-sufficiency. He developed a completely new self-reliant and ecologically friendly system of houses, called Earthships. These houses are made from natural materials, recycled materials, and can mantain a confortable indoords temperature even in very cold or very hot climates. The house collects and recycles water, allows food production and is equipped with solar and other alternative methods for independent production of energy.

More people will be added in the future. Suggestions are welcome!

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Update - The end of a one-year garden....

Unfortunely, we change place, and now we don't own a garden.
The garden experiences of 2007, 2008 and 2009 were very positive!
We are looking to rent a new space for this year, but the prices are very expensive.
Urban Permaculture is a big challenge!
This year we should write more about ecological daily practices.
Our last harvest are shown above.