Alternatives to Political Systems, Biodiversity, Deforestation, Economics, Global Warming/Climate Change, People Systems, Society, Soil Erosion & Contamination, Water Contaminaton & Loss — by Marcin Gerwin April 18, 2013
The disappearing Amazon rainforest
Marcin Gerwin: You propose introducing a new international law of ecocide as an amendment to the Rome Statute. Ecocide is defined as “an extensive damage to, destruction of or loss of ecosystem(s) of a given territory, whether by human agency or by other causes, to such an extent that peaceful enjoyment by the inhabitants of that territory has been or will be severely diminished.” Why do we need the new law to protect the planet? Aren’t current regulations enough?Comments (2)
Building, Eco-Villages, Energy Systems, Land, Retrofitting, Village Development, Waste Systems & Recycling — by Marcin Gerwin January 30, 2013
Marcin Gerwin: In many cities there are problems with traffic jams. The streets are clogged with cars and as a response mayors build new roads or widen the streets. Old buildings are demolished to make way for new lanes so that a highway running through the middle of the city could be built. Would you say that this is the right way forward?Comments (0)
Building, Society, Village Development — by Marcin Gerwin May 15, 2012
Piazza del Campo in Siena, Italy. Photo: Edgar Barany/Flickr
I was recently struck by photographs of energy-efficient houses that were described as ’sustainable’ — built mostly with natural or recycled materials and even finished with environmentally friendly paint — however, they looked like regular modernist buildings. Can modernist architecture be called sustainable, if only ecological techniques are used? Or, is there still something missing?Comments (15)
Alternatives to Political Systems, Community Projects, Economics, People Systems, Society, Urban Projects, Village Development — by Marcin Gerwin May 10, 2011
On the 6th of May the city council of Sopot in Poland has passed a landmark resolution that starts the process of participatory budgeting in our city. It means that the citizens of Sopot will have a direct say in what the public funds are spent on. We’re beginning with a modest amount of 1.1 million USD – I say “modest”, because it’s less than 1% of the total budget expenditure. Nevertheless, in the city of 37,000 residents many small projects can be funded with this amount.Comments (7)
Alternatives to Political Systems, Bio-regional Organisations, Community Projects, Consumerism, Developments, Eco-Villages, Economics, Financial Management, People Systems, Society, Urban Projects, Village Development, peak oil — by Marcin Gerwin December 16, 2010
Editor’s note: This is what I like to see, and hope others will emulate: concrete action to bring about organised, localised change. Some subscribe to free market magical thinking — that self-interest combined with market mechanisms will somehow automatically harmonise our social, and even environmental problems. But, permaculture is not about blind hope and trust in disorder. In contrast, it’s all about intelligent design — not just of food forests, raised beds, and passive solar natural buildings, etc., but also the ‘invisible structures’ that can be either a significant impediment to their implementation, or a positive incubator of the same. Go Marcin!
Something extraordinary happened in our city, Sopot in Poland: four out of five candidates for city mayor declared that they would like to introduce participatory budgeting. Participatory budgeting means that citizens are directly involved in deciding what the funds from the city budget are spent on. It is a great opportunity to make a turn towards sustainability, and for Transition initiatives or permaculture groups it is a tool to suggest concrete projects to achieve it. The whole process is not just about money, it is also a starting point for the residents to meet, to discuss city matters, to learn about transport policies, designing parks or harvesting rainwater, it is an opportunity to make friends and to build a sense of a real local community.Comments (4)
Alternatives to Political Systems, Bio-regional Organisations, Community Projects, Developments, Eco-Villages, Economics, Networking Sites, People Systems, Society, Urban Projects, Village Development, peak oil — by Marcin Gerwin March 23, 2010
It’s been more than a year since we’ve started our initiative in Sopot, Poland. It has the same aim as the Transition initiatives, however we have decided to focus on local democracy first. Democracy helps to eliminate the struggles of political parties and it weakens vested interests. What we have also quickly realized is that even if you come up with a great plan for improving public transport or installing a biogas digester in your city, there’s this little, tiny issue: how can you make it all happen? Where will the money come from? Who will give all permits and change the city plans? The city council may be supportive and help you with that, but what if your city council is not interested in preparing for peak oil and doesn’t care about climate change? Certainly, citizens can exchange the city council in the next elections, nevertheless, at least in Poland, members of the council don’t have to keep their promises. Their commitments are not guaranteed by law. With participatory democracy citizens are involved in decision making directly. Citizens don’t need to worry about political campaigns, they can think long-term. If most of the citizens share the vision of a sustainable city, and if they have a direct influence on budget spending, than realizing this vision becomes possible. And, what’s also important, all projects are not imposed on people by the mayor, but they are agreed upon by the majority of the population.Comments (3)
Global Warming/Climate Change — by Marcin Gerwin December 22, 2009
Upsala Glacier: William L. Stefanov, NASA-JSC
It may seem that the Earth has always looked like it does now. It didn’t change much over the last centuries. How can one tell what the climate was like on Earth thousands and millions years ago? Was it hotter or cooler than now? What do the ice cores tell us? Was carbon dioxide involved in any way in shaping the climates of the past? Or, are the emissions of greenhouse gases changing the climate only now? What was driving climate change since humans were not burning fossil fuels? Where did the CO2 come from at that time?Comments (4)
Compost, Fungi, Rehabilitation, Soil Biology, Soil Composition, Soil Conservation — by Marcin Gerwin July 23, 2009
Editor’s Prelude: Peak Phosphorus barely registers alongside it’s more gregarious, attention-getting bigger brother, Peak Oil. Yet, the implications are even more dramatic. While both peaks are associated with massive food shortages, unmitigated Peak Phosphorus would easily win the award for best disaster.
The latest research tells us that Peak Phosphorus is an issue we cannot afford to ignore any more:
… a global production peak of phosphate rock is estimated to occur around 2033. While this may seem in the distant future, there are currently no alternatives on the market today that could replace phosphate rock on any significant scale. New infrastructure and institutional arrangements required could take decades to develop.
While all the world’s farmers require access to phosphorus fertilisers, the major phosphate rock reserves are under the control of a small number of countries including China, Morocco and the US. China recently imposed a 135% export tariff on phosphate rock essentially preventing any from leaving the country. Reserves in the U.S. are calculated to be depleted within 30 years. Morocco currently occupies Western Sahara and its massive phosphate rock reserves, contrary to UN resolutions. – Western Sahara Resource Watch
Marcin, the podium is yours.
Keeping Phosphorus on Farms – by Marcin Gerwin (the sequel to ‘Closing the Phosphorus Cycle‘)
Lupines. Photo: Carol Mitchell/Flickr
“Next to clean water, phosphorus will be one the inexorable limits to human occupancy on this planet” wrote Bill Mollison in Permaculture: A Designers’ Manual more than 20 years ago (1). It is that important that we design phosphorus recycling into our food systems. Phosphorus is an essential element for growing crops and no porridge, chocolate bar or cherry jam can be made without it.Comments (7)
Global Warming/Climate Change, Society, peak oil — by Marcin Gerwin April 26, 2009
When plants grow they convert CO2 and water into carbohydrates with the help of sunlight. This process is called photosynthesis. For many years scientists tried to mimic photosynthesis to produce methanol. It wasn’t easy. The main challenge was to design a catalyst that would allow the whole process to work. And it’s exactly a right catalyst that was recently discovered by professor Dobieslaw Nazimek from Poland. His team also found the way to provide the optimum conditions for production of methanol from CO2 and water. If their method was applied on a commercial scale, it could allow the production of methanol at 3 cents per liter (or US$0.11 per gallon) (1). Methanol can be used directly as a fuel for cars or it can be further processed to create regular gasoline or diesel (e.g. in the Mobil methanol-to-gasoline process). And it would be a clean fuel with no sulfur at all. Artificial photosynthesis can be also used to make fuel for electricity generation, heating or cooking. If designed with the cradle to cradle principles and introduced in a socially desirable way, it could provide a meaningful solution for the post oil future and help to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.Comments (14)
Economics, peak oil — by Marcin Gerwin April 7, 2009
As Matt Simmons points out: oil is not just another commodity. For industrial societies oil is as basic as food and water. That’s why the price of oil cannot go up very high after the production of oil peaks. Economic logic suggests that if demand is high and supply is low then prices will skyrocket. However, there are goods for which the prices cannot be set by the interplay of demand and supply, because if they were it would undermine the viability of the whole economy. Oil is one of these goods.Comments (11)
Alternatives to Political Systems, Bio-regional Organisations, Economics, People Systems, Society — by Marcin Gerwin February 19, 2009
Photo: Korean Resource Center
Political and economic systems can be designed just like gardens. We can design them in such a way that they will allow simple, harmonious living with nature, without much bureaucracy. It is not written in stone that there must even be taxes. Taxes are very practical, but, for example, Native Americans managed to do just fine without them for hundreds of years. And they did create a country, the Iroquois Confederacy can be considered as one. I’m not suggesting we get rid of taxation, my point is only that it’s not an obligatory feature of a design. Many people see governments with ministers and presidents as the only way of ruling a country, even in democratic systems. It may seem that since all countries are now ruled by some form of government – parliamentary, presidential or monarchal – it must have always been like that. Well, it wasn’t.Comments (4)
Alternatives to Political Systems, Bio-regional Organisations, Economics, Financial Management, People Systems, Society, Village Development — by Marcin Gerwin February 6, 2009
Editor’s note: Marcin’s post is very relevant as the world seeks an alternative to the current disaster of globalisation.
Tiger’s nest in Bhutan
Photo: Thomas Wanhoff
In 1994 the government of Haiti lifted tariffs and allowed imports of cheap, subsidized rice and other crops from abroad. This policy was recommended by the International Monetary Fund and urged by the U.S. government (1). Over the years this tiny change in policy led to an estimated 830,000 job losses, it damaged food security and rural livelihoods, and eventually led to food riots and hunger in 2008 (2). If people in Haiti were to decide by themselves on their country policy, would they choose the recommendations of the IMF that brought them into starvation? Would people of Ecuador allow toxic pollution in the Amazon for the sake of Chevron Texaco profits? Would people in India accept genetically modified seeds of cotton that caused crop failures, spiral of debt and hundreds of farmer suicides? And would people in the USA support bailing out banks with their own money in a way that is not transparent and does not lead to the recovery of the financial system? They wouldn’t. These things happen around the world because we still don’t have true democracy, where people set the rules for themselves.Comments (5)
Compost, Food Shortages, Soil Composition, Soil Conservation, Soil Erosion & Contamination — by Marcin Gerwin January 14, 2009
Part One: Closing the Phosphorus Cycle
It might sound ridiculous, but for every container of bananas, coffee, tea or cocoa imported, we should send back a shipment of a fluffy, earth-like smelling compost. Why is that? With each container of food we import nutrients taken up by plants from the soil. We import calcium, potassium, magnesium, boron, iron, zinc, molybdenum, copper and many others. One of the essential elements imported in food is phosphorus. For every ton of bananas we import 0.3 kg of phosphorus, for every ton of cocoa it’s 5 kg and for ton of coffee it’s 3.3 kg of phosphorus. Tea is a bit more complicated, because the amount of phosphorus depends on the origin of tea – for example in 1 ton of tea leaves harvested in Sri Lanka there are some 3.5 kg of phosphorus, while tea from South India contains 6.6 kg of phosphorus (1).Comments (6)
Alternatives to Political Systems, Consumerism, Economics, People Systems, Village Development — by Marcin Gerwin November 4, 2008
by Marcin Gerwin, Sopot, Poland. Marcin graduated with a Ph.D. in political studies, from the University of Gdansk, Poland, with his thesis: “The idea and practice of sustainable development in the context of global challenges”.
Photo, Gerry Thomasen
Let’s imagine a green and responsible consumer. Let’s call him George. George lives in a sleepy town, near the center and the park where he often goes for a walk with his dog. George built his house with his friends two years ago. It is a very small house, only 320 square feet and it was made with cob – clay mixed with straw and aggregate. The clay for construction was extracted from George’s land behind the house – now you can see a nice pond there with water lilies. George was fortunate enough to find some recycled timber for the roof from the old garage that his neighbors were demolishing. He considered making a turf roof with wild flowers and herbs, but eventually he decided that a slate roof will be more practical because he will be able to collect rainwater from it and use it for watering his garden during warm summer days.Comments (10)