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Archive | Eco-Philosophy

Interview: Researcher, Writer Jim Thomas Discusses Suite of Emerging Synthetic Biology Technologies

jim thomas headshotCulture of Disruption

Interviewed by Tracy Frisch

For 20 years, Jim Thomas has been at the forefront of international policy debates and campaigns on emerging technologies with Greenpeace International and ETC Group. Steward Brand called him “the leading critic of biotech.” As a strategist and organizer working with civil society partners, Thomas has repeatedly led successful international campaigns of global importance. In the late 1990s he was one of less than a dozen leaders of a high-profile national movement to prevent the introduction of GM food and crops into the United Kingdom market. He played a major role in achieving and strengthening the United Nations moratoria on geoengineering, ocean fertilization and Terminator seeds. He also helped secure the first global UN agreement on Synthetic Biology and halt geoengineering projects in Ecuador, Philippines, UK, the United States and Canadian/Haida territory. Thomas is co-author of numerous ETC Group reports and his writing has been published in many media outlets including The Guardian, The Times UK, Slate, Huffington Post, The Ecologist, New Internationalist and RSA
Journal. He has been a featured speaker around the world for audiences as diverse as La Via Campesina (peasant movements) and grassroots activists to government ministers and CEOs. He has appeared in 10 documentary films. Thomas was born in Zambia, grew up in the UK, worked on several continents and now lives near Montreal, Canada.

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Interview: Grace Gershuny on the Past, Future of Organics

GraceGershunyReflections of a Revolutionary

Interview by Mark Keating

Grace Gershuny is widely known as an author, educator and organic consultant. A back-to-the-land Vermonter since 1973, she began her longtime involvement with the organic grassroots movement by organizing regional conferences and developing an early certification program for the Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA).
In 1994, USDA recruited Gershuny to serve as its lead organic standards specialist where over the following five years she helped lay the foundations of the National Organic Program. Co-author of The Soul of Soil, a seminal work on practical organic soil management, her new book is entitled Organic Revolutionary: A Memoir of the Movement for Real Food, Planetary Healing and Human Liberation. Still raising her own vegetables and chickens, Gershuny currently teaches in the Green Mountain College online Masters in Sustainable Food Systems program and serves on the board of the Institute for Social Ecology.

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Interview: Author, Advocate Courtney White Unites Groups at Odds through Regenerative Agriculture

Courtney-WhiteFinding Common Ground

“Courtney, the Berlin Wall fell down up here.” These were the words of a Forest Service District Ranger back in 1998. He was talking about the wall between ranchers and environmentalists in the region, and people passing out the hammers and helping with the teardown were, and still are, called the Quivira Coalition. Courtney White, the subject of this month’s interview, co-founded Quivira in 1997 because he was dismayed and disheartened by the nasty, unceasing legal and ideological dogfighting over the disposition of Western lands. He thought it might be a good idea, for example, if environmentalists heard from scientists about the importance of fire to restoring grass. Or if ranchers and farmers heard from a peer about the advantages of moving livestock around, and heard it while conservationists and environmentalists were in the room. As the ranger indicated, the simple idea of bringing people together to relax the grip around each other’s throats and learn a few things, turned out to be terrifically well-timed and apt. After 17 years as director of Quivira, White decided to concentrate full-time on writing books, of which the eminently useful Two Percent Solutions for the Planet is only the latest example. Reached at home in Santa Fe, he graciously agreed to reflect on the past two decades of building coalitions and opening eyes.

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Book Review: Miraculous Abundance: One Quarter Acre, Two French Farmers, and Enough Food to Feed the World

miraculous-abundanceby Perrine & Charles Hervé-Gruyer, book review by Chris Walters

Operation Market Garden, an unsuccessful attempt to cut off Germany with an airborne invasion of the Netherlands in late September of 1944, might have shortened World War II by six months. The market garden operation currently underway in the tiny French village of Le Bec-Hellouin, by contrast, is rated as brilliant by outside observers, stunning even those who were optimistic in the first place. If adapted to local conditions and replicated on a massive scale in various parts of the world, it could do much to shorten the terminal crisis of humanity by several decades or more. Charles Hervé-Gruyer, co-founder of the tiny farm with his wife Perrine, can prove it — he has the numbers. Microfarming the way this family does it in a remote corner of Normandy cuts undesirable inputs and raises desirable output significantly. This book tells how they created La Ferme du Bec Hellouin over the past decade. Continue Reading →

Powered by Microbials: Organic Farming, Japanese Style

Nancy Matsumoto
powered-by-microbialsUnder an azure-blue sky filled with cottony clouds, two women, Akiko Ishiguro and Michiyo Igarashi, work in a field harvesting fat, deep-orange carrots, large, cream-colored daikon and magenta-hued edible chrysanthemum blossoms. They’re members of Konohana Family, an intentional community and organic farm in Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan, where the values of a ’60s-era back-to-the-land commune, hard work and a deep respect for microbial activity and fermentation in all its forms combine to produce a vast array of top-quality produce and handmade products.

The vegetables the two women farmers are harvesting — among more than 260 different crops grown on the farm — have been treated with the farm’s own brand of organic fertilizer, the key ingredient of which is a fermented microbial brew they call Konohana-kin, or “Konohana bacterium.”

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Interview: Researcher, Author Eric Toensmeier Explores Practical, Effective Carbon Farming Strategies

Real-World Solutions

While this Eric Toensmeier_rgb (2)interview was being prepared a story surfaced on public radio about a couple of enterprising Americans who are taking advantage of changing policy to open a factory in Cuba. Their product? Tractors! The whole idea, the story helpfully explained, was to introduce “21st century farming” to the beleaguered island. By making it easier to tear up the soil. Clearly there is some distance to go before an accurate idea of 21st century farming penetrates the mainstream. It will take people like Eric Toensmeier. His new book, The Carbon Farming Solution, carries enough heft, range and detail to clear away forests of confusion. If the notion of leaving carbon in the soil is going to take its place next to that of leaving oil in the ground, this one-volume encyclopedia on the subject is exactly the kind of deeply informed work that’s required. Reached at his home in western Massachusetts, Toensmeier was exhilarated over finishing a project years in the making, and more than happy to talk about it.

This interview appears in the May 2016 issue of Acres U.S.A.

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