Vale The ‘Green Revolution’

A busy day in the garden…rain was forecast, so I cut and spread dolomite on George’s Sustainable Lawn, hoping it would wash it in. It didn’t, so I ended up rinsing it in with recycled water. I want it looking OK for this Sunday’s National Sustainable House Day.

I knocked up a temporary bamboo screen around the rainwater tank covering it with a section of drift net sent to me by the Gulf of Carpentaria Ghost Nets Project. I’m training a Panama Red passionfruit around it and have sown some Snake Beans to grow up it. This quick fix is more permaculture than organic gardening – the third example at our place.

The original permaculture patch is to the south of the house where I’ll be growing on some banana suckers (canopy), cocoyam and celery stem taro (ground story) with a sweet potato groundcover. Easy care, low maintenance crops that blend and grow well together. The second spot is the nature strip by the Hibiscus hedge where I’ve replaced turf with Damo’s Aloe vera border. At $30 per 500ml bottle, Aloe vera juice is a useful medicinal crop. Growing that instead of grass, saves both electrical power and puff.

Elsewhere in the garden the mandarin and blood orange are flowering, the last of my citrus to do so. Watered the bamboo for the first time in over a year as the rainwater tank is almost full and the soil in the vegetable garden is moist from the recent rain. Gave half of my Codiaeum collection to two of my gardening neighbours for planting in their nature strip. We’re feeling buoyant after the rain. Their tanks are also almost full, so we laughed about being able to have long showers – whilst remaining reluctant to ‘waste’ our own water.

Took cuttings of the ground-covering succulents Stapelia and Huernia. The cuttings’ wounds will need a couple of days to heal and seal before inserting into rooting mix. The fence lizard that hides in a gap in the wall near a tap is active once more. Waiting there to ambush unsuspecting prey all you can see is its head poking out. It’s far too skittish to let me take a photograph.

At sunset I harvested broad beans, zucchini, a mangelwurzel for curry-making, radish (just right for eating raw) and a third of a bucket of mulberries from where another neighbours tree overhangs our garden. One hour and a half’s drive south of here is the Seed Savers’ Byron Bay HQ, where the mulberries have another ten to fourteen days before being ready for eating. The first mosquitoes are active too – time to keep a bottle of water, sunblock, a hat and some tea-tree oil-based mosquito repellent in the car.

Jeff forwarded an article to me from The New Zealand Herald entitled: “Hungry world set to become hungrier as our larder empties” by Geoffrey Lean (4.9.06). It reports that for several years the world hasn’t been producing enough food to feed our population. We haven’t heard many reports because we’ve been using up stored food to meet the shortfall, whllst assuming that good harvests and ‘normal’ weather will return. Now Australia and the USA, leading food exporters, are experiencing declining harvests people are slowly waking up to the fact that the world food surplus is melting away like polar ice caps.

If you’re really keen to understand fully why the world’s best scientists are frightened about what’s around the corner, read The United Nation’s Environment Programme’s report ‘Global Biodiversity Assessment’ (GBA) published by Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0-521-56403-4 (1995). This is what prompted me to put the Threatened crop biodiversity theme in the centre of ‘The Rare & Threatened Plants Garden’ which I curated at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney (1998).

The GBA explains that for many years the rate of desertification of agricultural land has been equal to the rate at which fresh agricultural land is being cleared – the world is treading water. Now Climate Change and the accumulating damage that global agribusiness is doing to the environment are hastening our ability to feed us. Global agribusiness is also suffering terminal rot as the cost of oil rises: fossil fuels are important for making cheap chemical fertilisers and pesticides providing cheap supermarket food.

The promise of food security for all, promoted by global industrial farming and badged as the ‘The Green Revolution’ – is over and people are going to starve.

Vale The Green Revolution: humanity has now passed Peak Food.

Jerry Coleby-Williams

Pictured: The Seed Saver’s Foundation at work – spring newsletter mail out.






The Seed Savers’ Foundation:

  • Conserves threatened crops;
  • Offers members varieties better suited to our changing climate;
  •  Educates the world’s poorest about how to produce their own food in a way that builds community;
  • Educates the world’s wealthy about appreciating and using traditional crops for global food security;
  • Respects and works with traditional cultures; and
  • Protects the environment;
  • Is fun, it’s safe and it works…

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