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Dec 31, 2016

2016 12 31


This the World Organic News yearly roundup episode. And what a year its been!

I’ve identified four broad themes to 2016. Let’s get into them


Firstly, Cities. Perhaps the most unlikely place to find farming but here it is. Rooftop, vertical, empty lot and balcony/terrace farming/gardening as well as the suburban homesteader all featured this year in the blog and on the podcast.


Small areas, intensively planted and thoughtfully custodianed can produce huge amounts of food. That people are doing this is a sign of our longing for real food. That people are doing it in cities is a sign the long, fossil fueled based, supply lines may not be as safe as we are led to believe. It is also a sign people are looking for flavour. An heirloom variety of tomatoes that grows well in container on a balcony will never be capable of bulk transportation across 1000s of kilometres. It will however have flavour to balance its inability to travel.


On a more industrial scale, the Japanese plan to open a fully automated vertical farm harvesting, initially, 1000s of lettuce a day before diversifying into other leafy vegetables. As I’ve stated elsewhere, peopleless farming doesn’t sit right with me but it is an option during famines, disaster relief and so on when the need to feed people is greater than the need for human interactions with food. I just realised that argument can be extended to feeding people at anytime yet peopleless farming still doesn’t sit right with me.


The urban/suburban homesteading movement continues apace as more individuals and families see the benefits of growing their own. The homesteading side of this movement usually involves some sort of animals to add to the mix. This allows manure collection and increased soil health and productivity. I’ve seen people growing rabbits on this scale but the usual and animal is the chicken! The good thing about chooks is they will give you manure and an egg a day whether you have a rooster or not. With a rooster comes the joys of breeding but in some council areas roosters also bring noise complaints. And remember kids, chickens are the gateway stock to larger animals! It is a very small step from hens to backyard goat!


The second theme for 2016 is biotech!

This year has seen Washington State sue Monsanto for residues in the environment and the Australian High Court reject an appeal from Steve Marsh against a contamination of his land by a neighbour’s GMO canola pollen. Mixed messages! Burkina Faso has dumped BT Cotton and returned to standard types. Still chemically grown but a step in the right direction. To add to this small step against Monsanto, the World Health Organization declared Monsanto’s flagship pesticide Roundup a probable carcinogen. Probable is one step down from carcinogenic. The reason why Roundup only received a probable rating is a lack of evidence. The WHO will continue to collect data and review its rating of Roundup as it does for all the declared probable carcinogens.


Perhaps more troubling is merger between Bayer and Monsanto. Two enormous biotech, chemical and seed producers merging into a huge corporation. Could they use this market power for good or does that word not enter into the economic considerations? The point of corporations is simply profit. Sad but true. Individuals in positions of power within corporations may consider things other than profit but people come and people go. The corporation or one very much like it will continue to live for nothing but profit. So it augers not well for the biosphere from this merger. We will have more to say on this in 2017, I’m sure.


As many of us have noted and the BBC statistical radio show “More or Less” proved, 2016 was a year of high profile deaths. The one which impacted the organic movement most strongly was, off course, the passing of Bill Mollison. Bill’s passing marked the loss of the last of the triumvirate who influenced my path into and through the organic movement. The other two being John Seymour and Masanobu Fukuoka. So a particularly deep loss not just me but for many. What can I say that has not already been said? This world is a lesser place without Bill. Yet his work lives on. I have yet to find a country, even war torn one, without permaculture. The genius of Mollison’s and Holmgren’s work is the universality of the method. Across climate zones from Desert to Jungle Permaculture both has a place and is being implemented as I speak. Truly a legacy we will only truly understand with passing of time.


Despite or, if you are of that persuasion, because of, the political changes in 2016,  World Organic News still believes there is room for hope in this world. We have the tools to feed the world. Feed the world healthy food which not only does not damage the biosphere but actually heals it. We have a rising number of young farmers across the developed world for the first time in generations and they are overwhelming organic practitioners. Do we see the start of a truly grassroots movement? World Organic News hopes so.


On another positive note, the positive outcomes from Paris COP20 in 2015 to Morocco COP21 there is a path forward on climate change. Even if we weren’t facing the challenges of climate change, a move to fossil fuel free economies would still make sense. The pollution from the fossil fuel industry will take centuries to remediate and that time is continuously being pushed back as we cling to this dirty fuel.


Perovskite solar cells continue to set new efficiency records, silicon solar cells are now the cheapest form of energy production. Despite the politically based claims against climate change one thing and one thing alone will drive both believers and skeptics and that is price. As economies of scale continue to kick in this price difference will only increase. Once this gains momentum the subsidies paid to fossil fuel producers will come under increasingly strong pressure. The question before us is one of timing. Can we make the transition in time?


There is also something we can all do. The organisation Kiss the Ground ( has a great series of videos explaining how, since about World War Two, carbon has been liberated from the soil and dispersed to the atmosphere. More importantly the videos explain how to move the carbon back to the soil.


And this is what organic methods can and will do! Surely this is hope enough to take us into 2017 with heads held high, ready to face the effects of our species’ actions and to do something about it!


I’ll be back on the 9th of January 2017 with a return to the weekly roundup of news, ideas and methods from the Organic World!


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