Indigenous forest gardens still productive after 100 years

Chelsey Armstrong

…In the last few decades, archeologists have learned that perennial forest management—the creation and care of long-lived food-bearing shrubs and plants next to forests—was common among the Indigenous societies of North America’s northwestern coast. The forest gardens played a central role in the diet and stability of these cultures in the past, and now a new publication shows that they offer an example of a far more sustainable and biodiverse alternative to conventional agriculture.

This research, which was done in collaboration with the Tsm’syen and Coast Salish First Nations, shows that the gardens have become lasting hotspots of biodiversity, even 150 years after colonists forcibly removed the inhabitants from their villages. This work, combining archeology, botany, and ecology, is the first to systematically study the long-term ecological effects of Indigenous peoples’ land use in the region. The gardens offer ideas for farming practices that might restore, rather than deplete, local resources to create healthier, more resilient ecosystems…

By comparing the gardens to the neighboring forests, the researchers’ results clearly showed that the gardens had a much higher species and functional diversity. In addition, the gardens frequently showed a carefully overlapped structure, with a canopy of fruit and nut trees, a mid-layer of berries, and roots and herbs in the undergrowth. Thanks to the increased availability of fruit, nuts, and other edible plants, these places also supported local wildlife, such as moose, bears, and deer.

“There’s a kind of false dichotomy debate going on right now that biodiversity is at odds with food production, and what we see here is very clearly that it’s not,” said Armstrong. “Forest gardens are one of the examples of how you can get multiple species occupying multiple niche spaces—there are all sorts of ecological lessons there.”

We could compare cultural diversity if the Anglos moving into the region hadn’t decided it was in their best interest to remove the people who had been living there for centuries. Often by force.

That history is also part of this article.

Apple is producing so much clean solar energy, it formed a new company to sell the excess

Click to enlargeKatie Fehrenbacher
Apple’s solar farm next to its data center in Maiden, North Carolina

Apple has created a subsidiary to sell the excess electricity generated by its hundreds of megawatts of solar projects. The company, called Apple Energy LLC, filed a request with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to sell power on wholesale markets across the US.

The company has announced plans for 521 megawatts of solar projects globally. It’s using that clean energy to power all of its data centers, as well as most of its Apple Stores and corporate offices. In addition, it has other investments in hydroelectric, biogas, and geothermal power, and looks to purchase green energy off the grid when it can’t generate its own power. In all, Apple says it generates enough electricity to cover 93 percent of its energy usage worldwide.

But it’s possible that Apple is building power generation capacity that exceeds its needs in anticipation of future growth. In the meantime, selling off the excess helps recoup costs by selling to power companies at wholesale rates, which then gets sold onward to end customers.

Just in case you wondered why politicians deep into the pockets of fossil fuel thugs like the Koch Bros. also hate Apple with a passion. Like many high tech companies, Apple adopts modern solutions to basic business questions. Of course.

Geothermal project to return Newcastle to a tropical paradise

Scientists drilling deep beneath the city of Newcastle have discovered fossil evidence of exotic shells and coral.

The 300-million year old rocks were extracted from limestone 1,000 feet below the ground during a £900,000 green energy project to harness geothermal power from the earth’s crust.

Engineers watched a plume of steam gush from a borehole in Newcastle City centre when the drilling reached its target depth at dawn today. The renewable resource will be used to heat hundreds of homes and provide power to buildings near St James’ Park.

Newcastle Institute for Research on Sustainability director professor Paul Younger said: “We are trying to harness what really is about the lowest carbon form of energy there is…

There isn’t really a limit to what we might gain from this. There is a huge volume of hot water down there; we could go on adding boreholes to run systems alongside this wherever there is the opportunity…”

“It’s an incredibly exciting project. If we’re right and we pump up water at such elevated temperatures, it would mean a fully renewable energy supply for a large part of the city centre.”

Laura Armstrong is one of Newcastle University’s geology students who has been examining the 300-million year old fossils.

She told the BBC: “It is one of the most exciting things we’ve found. “These shells and corals suggest that Newcastle was once a tropical environment, like offshore Bahamas.”

Soon it will be hot enough for the Toon Army to remove more than their replica shirts.

Cripes, that’s a disgusting thought, eh?

New Orleans coastline will be submerged by 2100

Photograph by Tyrone Turner

A vast swath of the coastal lands around New Orleans will be underwater by the dawn of the next century because the rate of sediment deposit in the Mississippi delta can not keep up with rising sea levels.

Between 10,000 and 13,500 square kilometres of coastal lands will drown due to rising sea levels and subsidence by 2100, a far greater loss than previous estimates.

For New Orleans, and other low-lying areas of Louisiana whose vulnerability was exposed by hurricane Katrina, the findings could bring some hard choices about how to defend the coast against the future sea level rises that will be produced by climate change.

They also revive the debate about the long-term sustainability of New Orleans and other low-lying areas.

Scientists say New Orleans and the barrier islands to the south will be severely affected by climate change by the end of this century, with sea level rise and growing intensity of hurricanes. Much of the land mass of the barrier island chain sheltering New Orleans was lost in the 2005 storm.

But the extent of the land that will be lost is far greater than earlier forecasts suggest, said Dr Michael Blum and Prof Harry Roberts, the authors of the study. “When you look at the numbers you come to the conclusion that the resources are just not there to restore all the coast, and that is one of the major points of this paper,” said Roberts, a professor emeritus of marine geology at Louisiana State University.

Professional skeptics and pundits who pander to know-nothings need not worry. They’ll be dead and gone by then – and the effect of their carelessness will only be visited upon their children’s children. BTW – Blum and Roberts do suggest solutions.

Those who try to develop political and social standards based upon science will keep on with the good fight. Here in the GOUSA, it’s a given that superstition and fear produce more votes than reason and study. The battle with opportunist politicians is still the focus – not wasting time blathering with fools.

Poo Power to the people

The gasworks is at the other end!

A German town will become the first in the world to be powered by animal waste when it launches a biogas network this year.

Lünen, north of Dortmund, will use cow and horse manure as well as other organic material from local farms to provide cheap and sustainable electricity for its 90,000 residents.

Biogas is already used around the world – it will power buses in Oslo from September – but Lünen claims to be the only town to build a dedicated biogas network.

Material such as animal slurry and spoiled crops from local farms will be fed into heated tanks, where natural fermentation will break it down into methane and carbon dioxide – the same basic ingredients as natural gas. This biogas can then be burned to generate electricity and heat in a combined heat and power plant (CHP) before the heat is distributed across the town through a new biogas pipeline, which is being built underground…

The benefits of biogas are clear, say its developers. “This sustainable technology allows local production of local power, reducing reliance on fossil fuels and fuel imports,” said Kindt.

Using everything to completion instead of burying “waste” is what most human beings used to do. Between conspicuous consumption, planned obsolescence, fast food and diminishing education standards – we managed to give up on most lifetsyles based upon efficiency and good sense.

We have too many politicians who never had to live day-to-day through a war or recession. They sit around and pontificate from their country clubs and talk shows. The rest of us are out here surviving on what we earn.

V-wing turbine one of four alternative energy pilot projects

The Energy Technologies Institute, an energy research consortium with a potential funding pot of $1.6 billion, has today announced the first four projects in which it will be investing.

The projects, which will receive a total amount of £20 million in funding from both the Energy Technology Institute (ETI) itself and the government, focus on offshore wind and tidal power technology.

Led by OTM Consulting, E.ON Engineering and Blue H Technologies respectively, Projects Nova, Helm Wind and Deepwater Turbine are all concerned with offshore wind technologies.

Project Nova aims to assess the feasibility of a unique wind turbine with a pair of giant vertical wings, which developers say has the benefit of ruggedness, stability and simple maintenance when compared to conventional horizontal axis turbines…

Lord Hunt, Minister for Sustainable Development and Energy Innovation, said: “Today’s announcement is a key milestone for the Energy Technologies Institute. The UK has pledged to increased…our use of renewable energy to further secure our energy supplies and help fight the damaging effects of climate change.

“In order to meet these challenge we need to turn the best innovative ideas in wind and marine power in to reality. The Energy Technologies Institute is an excellent example of Government working with the private sector to achieve a quantum leap forward in these vital low-carbon technologies,” he added.

Rock on, Lord!

BTW – look back sometime and give credit to Brian Wilson who got y’all started down this path.

Abandoned farmlands are another key to sustainable bioenergy

Pongamia plantation photo from Tree Oils India Limited

Biofuels can be a sustainable part of the world’s energy future, especially if bioenergy agriculture is developed on currently abandoned or degraded agricultural lands. Using these lands for energy crops, instead of converting existing croplands or clearing new land, avoids competition with food production and preserves carbon-storing forests needed to mitigate climate change. Sustainable bioenergy is likely to satisfy no more than 10% of the demand in the energy-intensive economies of North America, Europe, and Asia. But for some developing countries, notably in Sub-Saharan Africa, the potential exists to supply many times their current energy needs without compromising food supply or destroying forests.

Researchers…estimated the global extent of abandoned crop and pastureland and calculated their potential for sustainable bioenergy production from historical land-use data, satellite imaging, and ecosystem models. Agricultural areas that have been converted to urban areas or have reverted to forests were not included in the assessment…

“At the national scale, the bioenergy potential is largest in the United States, Brazil, and Australia,” says lead author Campbell. “These countries have the most extensive areas of abandoned crop and pasture lands. Eastern North America has the largest area of abandoned croplands, and the Midwest has the biggest expanse of abandoned pastureland. Even so, if 100% of these lands were used for bioenergy, they would still only yield enough for about 6% of our national energy needs.”

The study revealed larger opportunities in other parts of the world. In some African countries, where grassland ecosystems are very productive and current fossil fuel demand is low, biomass could provide up to 37 times the energy currently used.

No reasonable researcher is looking for a single answer to our energy questions. But, here’s another piece of the puzzle identified and offered to a world seeking economic sense.