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Sustainability? What IS it??
  Sustainability includes....
.... just trying to live within the means of our planet
Can humanity achieve sustainable civilisations that balance the supply of resources of Earth with our demands? The only way we can extend our supply or reuse many of them is with the additional energy input from the sun. Can we work effectively to achieve this essential goal
and also...
Light Switch: Dr Barry Manor, Sustainability Consultant, outlines some of the ways to achieve energy efficiency. One quick and easy way to save energy in the home is to convert lighting to the latest technology, LED lighting. Also known as solid state lighting, LED is a major advance in illumination. These lights are one of the reasons Australia’s energy use went down four or five years in a row. One advantage of upgrading lighting to LEDs is that they produce less waste heat, meaning less air conditioning power to keep your home comfortable. Saving energy is a win/win solution so it really is time to make a light switch.
Reversing resource debt....
A Bad Debt: Nick Radford, Director of Ecoliving Design, talks about what sustainability really means, referring to resource accounting and human hunter gatherer history. . Nick argues that humans evolved a few million years ago and were hunter gatherers until relatively recently – some 12,000 years ago in Jordan/ Syria and 3,000 - 4,000 years ago in Britain.  Hunter gatherers evolved in times of almost chronic scarcity. They are biologically driven to consume foods high in salts, sugars, fats, protein and calories, and any glut of such foods was short lived. Modern humans have not adjusted to the relatively recent abundance of food, and tend to over consume. Over consumption applies to all resources. The result is a steady, unsustainable depletion of soil, water flow and quality, forest cover, biodiversity, fisheries and increased pollution. Sustainability can be considered an accounting exercise where there is no net loss of resources over the lifetime of a system. As economic activity doesn’t properly account for environmental cost, then economic activity more or less equals environmental degradation and economic debt roughly equals environmental debt. The logical conclusion is extinction, demonstrated many times by past experience such as on Easter Island. There is no law of nature that says humans must live on earth, but plenty that say we will be evicted if we don’t behave.
Our Future is Now
The community is not really well informed about sustainability and the issue of climate change illustrates the problem. Professor Graham Pyke, from the School of Life Sciences at the University of Technology Sydney, has worked for years with Professor Paul Ehrlich at Stanford University and created the website Sustainability Central. Professor Pyke has just published online a paper that gets to the nub of this concept. Sustainability is doing things today in such a way that future generations can continue doing them as well as we are doing them now. The health of the planet affects the health of all of us so it is beneficial to promote sustainability.
Regenerative Agriculture: growth industry
Nick Radford, Director of Ecoliving Design, digs into regenerative agriculture. Agriculture is defined here as deliberate growing of human food in any sized growing space, including farms, market gardens, community gardens, home gardens and urban terraces. Organic matter content of soil is a crucial measure of fertility and a soil that drops to 2-3% organic matter is no longer viable for agriculture. Regenerative refers to an increase in soil organic matter. This can only be achieved by increasing vegetation cover on site. Nick Radford discusses two concepts in regenerative agriculture. The first is what sort of agriculture would you like to spend time lying around in?  The second is to learn specific lessons and techniques that can be applied to our constructed, manipulated edible ecosystem. If you live in an urban area and want to make a start, try a kitchen garden of a few square metres. Fill it with closely spaced greens and herbs in a thick mulch. Much of the crop, like lettuce, spinach, garlic chives, capsicum, cherry tomato is plucked daily rather than harvested annually. Vertical space can be exploited by using trellis at the edges supporting beans, tomato, peas, cucumber. Perennial greens (spinach, Sorrel) can be grown around shady paths and leaky downpipes. Warrigal greens can be grown in tough conditions in deep woodchip mulch.
The long shadow of the livestock industry
Professor Graeme Martin, from the University of Western Australia’s Institute of Agriculture, looks at the issues associated with the global livestock industry. In 2006, the United Nations FAO published a document called Livestock's Long Shadow about the environmental issues associated with ruminant livestock. It was a serious wake-up call reminding us that ruminants in particular produce 15% of total greenhouse gas emissions (in carbon dioxide equivalents). Ruminants are also responsible for large amounts of erosion, sedimentation of waterways, pesticide and antibiotic use, as well nitrogen and phosphorus pollution. However, there will be 50% more people on the planet by 2050, accompanied by increasing urbanisation of agricultural land and increasing demand for animal protein as the middle class expands. Can ruminant industries help us feed the world without destroying the planet? Professor Graeme Martin looks at the seven major issues we need to deal with that are associated with the global livestock industry and discusses why he is optimistic about the future. Such a stock exchange would be good for the planet.
Drought proofing
Farm drought proofing: Peter Andrews vs Keyline vs Permaculture There’s plenty of talk about drought lately but is anyone in the media talking about Peter Andrews, Keyline or Permaculture? They should be, because these are all proven approaches to drought proofing farms.  Peter Andrews has been the subject of documentaries on ABC TV Australian Story, author of the book “Back from the Brink” and a controversial figure in Australian farming. One example is the way he rehabilitated a dry gully into a thriving watercourse at a horse breeding farm in the upper Hunter Valley.

  Sustainable Design (Continuing Series)
A new working order Sustainable Design Part One
Nick Radford, Director of Ecoliving Design, lays the groundwork for a new way of thinking about how humans interact with the environments they create, using the sustainability of forests as a model. Wherever we live humans have an impact on the environment but what would happen if we could design those places so that they were sustainable?
 
Managing water sustainably in agriculture 
Our water management motto needs to be .... Slow and conservative
Water is appallingly managed almost everywhere in the world, with Australia no exception - but how do you do it right? The general behaviour of water management in nature, our model of sustainability is to slow water down, spread it out, sink rain into the soil and give it a complex pathway. Nick Radford discusses effective strategies that apply to humid landscapes, where annual rainfall exceeds evaporation 

Sustainable Design Part II: New Designer Genes
Nick Radford, Director of Ecoliving Design, examines the elements of good design and how design needs to become sustainable. Design is how we put together all the different elements and processes included in a plan. A house, is not just pieces of timber and roofing but also a set of processes involving different people, for example, tradespeople and owners. The finished house incorporates many different processes such as cooking and cleaning and movement and interactions between people. Designers have to think about both elements and processes but architects, for instance, don’t often include processes. The poorest people in the country live in units and state housing designed by architects who live a completely different lifestyle. Very few of such homes actually work. A better approach is iterative design where the aim is to make the design a solution to a problem. The designer must ask a lot of questions and listen to the answers to gain the information needed to understand the design problem.
Sustainable Design Part III
Permaculture is applied environmental science. Australia’s Bill Mollison (known as the founder of permaculture) published Introduction to Permaculture in the early 1980s and Permaculture: a designer’s manual which can be applied all over the world. He taught in almost every country principles that could be applied in locally appropriate ways. He pioneered sustainable design techniques using a multidisciplinary approach that involved sustainable house design, sustainable landscape design, water, forestry and animal husbandry and indigenous wisdom about the land in his quest to apply the efficiency of nature into farming systems. Nick Radford from Ecoliving Design, outlines how sustainable design techniques can be put into practice.
Sustainable Design Part IV
Sustainable design: microclimates and biodiversity
Nick Radford, Director of Ecoliving Design, continues his examination of the elements of sustainable design with a focus on microclimate and diversity. Energy is used if the climate is outside a favourable range and the main way to influence the outside microclimate (and save energy resources) is vegetation. Trees provide shade that is cooler than the shade under a tin roof. Trees also cut out wind and both cold and hot winds put a lot of stress on plants and animals. It can be really simple to have a low energy house without air conditioning. Nature is stable because it is diverse. A farm with one crop has a big problem if something goes wrong with that crop. One with a hundred crops has a small problem if something goes wrong with one of them. Monoculture agriculture is a huge problem and obviously unsustainable. We have been growing food for thousands of years in a diverse manner and today the progressive farms are diversifying, recognising the economic security of having a diverse range of crops and products. People are doing good things. The organic farming industry is growing in Australia Shops that specialise in organic food way are more accessible than in the past. It is true that we don’t have a high availability of sustainably grown food at a good price but people should either grow their own or develop a better local organic food industry. font face="arial, helvetica, sans-serif" size="1">The Philippines is a good example of diversity. A lot of people only have 10-20 m˛ of garden and they grow all their food in it. This whole backyard ecology even controls insect predators and pests. Nature is self-maintaining which is why diversity is so stable. When we try to force oversimplified solutions onto landscapes we are fighting nature and that takes an awful lot of work and energy.


  Seed banks: essential for preserving plant stock biodiversity
Globally, some 90% of the different varieties of seed have been lost to extinction. Here we report on groups of enthusiasts who are focussing on different types of plant that do not appear in the standard one size fits all food varieties we see in supermarkets. 

Bellingen Seed Savers (www.bellingenseedsavers.com) is a modern sowing circle, trying to keep their varieties of locally adapted vegies alive and providing locally grown food by encouraging interest of locals
in edible gardening. Bellingen Seed Savers is a loose network of home gardeners in the Bellingen area. Since their focus is on edible plants so their seed collection reflects this.

The Heritage Fruits Society is a not-for-profit group based in Melbourne, Australia. Their aim is to conserve heritage fruit varieties on private and public land.

The Collectors’ Plant Fair was launched in 2005 and has grown to be the largest rare plant fair in Australia. This is an exciting and informative annual event for plant lovers, seeing long lost plants, meeting and connecting with growers.



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