Saturday, 2 May 2015

What If the World’s Soil Runs Out?

Here's an interesting article regarding top soil over on Time website. For years now we were warned about major fresh water shortages which is rapidly becoming a reality for a lot of countries rather than a crackpot conspiracy so why not take this a bit more seriously to add to your list of future worldwide doom and gloom.

Is soil really in danger of running out?
A rough calculation of current rates of soil degradation suggests we have about 60 years of topsoil left. Some 40% of soil used for agriculture around the world is classed as either degraded or seriously degraded – the latter means that 70% of the topsoil, the layer allowing plants to grow, is gone. Because of various farming methods that strip the soil of carbon and make it less robust as well as weaker in nutrients, soil is being lost at between 10 and 40 times the rate at which it can be naturally replenished. Even the well-maintained farming land in Europe, which may look idyllic, is being lost at unsustainable rates.  

Why haven’t we heard more about this?
Probably because soil isn’t sexy. People don’t always think about how it’s connected with so many other things: health, the environment, security, climate, water. For example, agriculture accounts for 70% of our fresh water use: we pour most of our water straight onto the ground. If soil is not fit for purpose, that water will be wasted, because it washes right through degraded soil and past the root system. Given the enormous potential for conflict over water in the next 20-30 years, you don’t want to exacerbate things by continuing to damage the soil, which is exactly what’s happening now.

How does soil erosion happen?
Soil is a living material: if you hold a handful of soil, there will be more microorganisms in there than the number of people who have ever lived on the planet. These microbes recycle organic material, which underpins the cycle of life on earth, and also engineer the soil on a tiny level to make it more resilient and better at holding onto water.  Microbes need carbon for food, but carbon is being lost from the soil in a number of ways. Simply put, we take too much from the soil and don’t put enough back. Whereas the classic approach would have been to leave stubble in the field after harvest, this is now often being burnt off, which can make it easier to grow the next crop, or it’s being removed and used for animal feed. Second, carbon is lost by too much disturbance of the soil by over-ploughing and by the misuse of certain fertilizers. And the third problem is overgrazing. If there are too many animals, they eat all the plant growth, and one of the most important ways of getting carbon into the soil is through photosynthesis.

What happens if this isn’t addressed?
There are two key issues. One is the loss of soil productivity. Under a business as usual scenario, degraded soil will mean that we will produce 30% less food over the next 20-50 years. This is against a background of projected demand requiring us to grow 50% more food, as the population grows and wealthier people in countries like China and India eat more meat, which takes more land to produce weight-for-weight than, say, rice.
Second, water will reach a crisis point. This issue is already causing conflicts in India, China, Pakistan and the Middle East and before climate change and food security really hit, the next wars are likely to be fought over unsustainable irrigation. Even moderately degraded soil will hold less than half of the water than healthy soil in the same location. If you’re irrigating a crop, you need water to stay in the soil close to the plant roots. However, a staggering paper was published recently indicating that nearly half of the sea level rise since 1960 is due to irrigation water flowing straight past the crops and washing out to sea.

Read the rest of the article;

Making Medicinal Herbal Fruit Leather


New postings are a coming.............

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Australian Drought Leads to First "Water Rage" Murder

In Australia's first known case of murder due to "water rage," a dispute over a suburban man's water usage led to him being beaten to death in front of his home. According to police, 66-year-old Ken Proctor was watering the lawn in front of his home in Sydney on October 31 at approximately 5:30 p.m. when a passerby made a comment to him about wasting water. Proctor then turned his hose on the other man, who knocked him to the ground and began to punch and kick him. The attacker was tackled by two bystanders, including an off-duty policeman, and an ambulance came for Proctor. Proctor later died in the hospital after experiencing a massive heart attack.

Due to a severe, nearly eight-year drought, intensive water restrictions are in place across most of Australia. Nearly all states have banned garden sprinklers and the use of hoses on cars or sidewalks.

Sydney, in addition, prohibits leaving hoses or taps unattended except to filling pools, and permits are required for pools larger than 10,000 gallons. The use of fire hoses is prohibited for any use other than firefighting. Hand watering of lawns or gardens is only allowed on Wednesdays or Sundays before 10 a.m. or after 4 p.m.

Because the incident that led to his death happened on a Wednesday, Proctor was actually complying with the city's water rules at the time.

The drought is Australia's worst in at least 100 years. Combined with over-extraction of water, the drought has caused the flows of the country's two largest southeast rivers, the Murray and Darling, to dwindle. More than three-quarters of New South Wales is experiencing a drought, and Victoria has announced that 100 percent of its farmland has been hit.

While a number of suburban disputes, arguments and calls to police have risen from water restrictions, Proctor's is believed to be the first death cause by such a water dispute.

Global Food Production Plummets in 2009

Global food production is expected to plummet between 20 and 40 percent in 2009, due to widespread drought and other stresses on agricultural production

Two-thirds of the world's food is produced in countries currently in the grip of droughts. The extent of this crisis can easily be seen by a chart on the Web site of the Center for Research on Globalization:

Much media attention has focused on a severe drought in Northern China, one of the wheat producing capitals of the world. There, the worst drought in 50 years has already resulted in damage to 161 million mu (26.5 million acres) of crops. In Australia, suffering its worst drought in 117 years, 41 percent of crops have been harmed, farmers have begun abandoning land, rivers have run dry and lakes have evaporated to such an extent that they have turned toxic.

In the United States, Texas and the Southeast remains in the throes of a severe drought. California's drought is the worst in recorded history, with thousands of acres already fallow and worse likely to come -- the Northern Sierra snowpack, which provides much of the state's water as it melts, only reached 49 percent of its average thickness this winter.

Less well-publicized but equally devastating droughts have also gripped other agricultural areas of the world. In Latin America, agricultural emergencies have been declared in six countries, including soy-, corn- and cattle-producing giants Argentina and Brazil. The La Nina weather pattern is expected to make the situation worse in both Pacific South America and the southern United States.

Eastern and southern Africa, and western and central Asia are also facing severe droughts. The wheat harvest in eastern South Africa is expected to be the lowest in 30 years. In Central Asia and the Middle East, wheat harvests have dropped an average of 22 percent, reaching as high as 98 percent in northern Iraq.

Farmers have also been hurt by a lack of credit due to the financial crisis, making it harder to buy fertilizer or seed. Even in Europe, which has been relatively untouched by drought, unusual climate conditions and degraded soil have led to a projected 10 to 15 percent drop in crop output.

Indigenous ‘genocide’ in battle for oilfields

It has been called the world’s second “oil war” but the only similarity between Iraq and events in the jungles of northern Peru over the past few weeks has been the mismatch of force. On one side have been police armed with automatic weapons, tear gas, helicopter gunships and armoured cars. On the other are several thousand Awajun and Wambis Indians, many of them in war paint and armed with bows and arrows, and spears.

In some of the worst violence in Peru in 20 years, the Indians warned Latin America what could happen if companies are given free access to the Amazonian forests to exploit an estimated 6billion barrels of oil and take as much timber as they like.

After months of peaceful protests, the police were ordered to use force to remove a roadblock near Bagua Grande.

In the fights that followed, nine police officers and at least 50 Indians were killed, with hundreds more wounded or arrested. The indigenous rights group Survival International described it as “Peru’s Tiananmen Square”.

“For thousands of years, we’ve run the Amazon forests,” said Servando Puerta, one of the protest leaders. “This is genocide. They’re killing us for defending our lives, our sovereignty, human dignity.”

As riot police broke up more demonstrations in Lima and a curfew was imposed on many Peruvian Amazonian towns, President Alan Garcia backed down in the face of condemnation of the massacre. He suspended – but only for three months – laws that would allow the forest to be exploited.

Peru is just one of many countries in open conflict with its indigenous people over natural resources. Barely reported in the international press, there have been major protests around mines, oil, logging and mineral exploitation in Africa, Latin America, Asia and North America. Hydroelectric dams, biofuel plantations as well as coal, copper, gold and bauxite mines are all at the centre of major land rights disputes.

A massive military force continued last week to raid communities opposed to oil companies’ presence on the Niger delta. The delta, which provides 90 per cent of Nigeria’s foreign earnings, has always been volatile but guns have flooded in and security has deteriorated.

Nigeria’s main militant group said yesterday it had destroyed an oil pipeline belonging to the US company Chevron.

“A major gas pipeline manifold and another major crude oil pipeline belonging to Chevron JV recently repaired at a sum of over $US56 million [$68million] were both blown up,” the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta said.

It warned that its fighters were heading to the Chevron tank farm in Escravos and urged staff to flee.

The escalation of violence came in the week that Shell agreed to pay £9.7million ($19.7million) to ethnic Ogoni families – whose homeland is in the delta – who had led a peaceful uprising against it and other oil companies in the 1990s, and who had taken the company to court in New York accusing it of complicity in writer Ken Saro-Wiwa’s execution in 1995.

In West Papua, Indonesian forces protecting some of the world’s largest mines have been accused of human rights violations. Hundreds of tribesmen have been killed in the past few years in clashes between the army and people with bows and arrows.

“An aggressive drive is taking place to extract the last remaining resources from indigenous territories,” said Victoria Tauli-Corpus, chairwoman of the UN permanent forum on indigenous issues. “There is a crisis of human rights. There are more and more arrests, killings and abuses.

“This is happening in Russia, Canada, the Philippines, Cambodia, Mongolia, Nigeria, the Amazon, all over Latin America, Papua New Guinea and Africa,” MsTauli-Corpus said. “It is global. We are seeing a human rights emergency. A battle is taking place for natural resources everywhere. Much of the world’s natural capital – oil, gas, timber, minerals – lies on or beneath lands occupied by indigenous people.”

Source: Global Research

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Ipod apps of interest

If you own an iphone or ipod touch then here's a selection apps that may be of some interest to the outdoor enthusiast.

First up is Chirp! and Chirp! USA. I highly recommend these apps from ispiny, here's the marketing from their website:

The Chirp! family of apps for iPhone and iPod Touch feature the songs of the most common birds of backyards, gardens, parks and woodland, in north-west Europe and the USA. Tap the name of the bird to hear its song, tap again to stop the song. If you need extra help in learning the songs, simply tap the bird photo to flip it over and reveal helpful tips. After listening, try the quiz to test your memory. Answer fast to earn a score multiplier and get on the high score table!

A very special feature of Chirp! is that birds are arranged in order of commonness - no more searching through rare birds to find the one singing on your lawn.
Other key features include:

* Your location is checked on first start-up to load the correct bird data
* A map screen allows birds from different areas to be compared
* High quality sounds and stunning photos (male birds)
* Links to Wikipedia and (USA only) Cornell Lab of Ornithology
* Quiz with three levels of difficulty - suitable for all the family
* Frequent updates, adding extra birds

Chirp! USA features birds from across continental USA (excl Alaska). More birds will be added, with priority given to user's suggestions. We already have a variety of Chickadees, Grosbeaks, Woodpeckers, Sparrows, Bluebirds and many more, so let us know if your favorite is missing.

Chirp! Europe features birds of north-west Europe. It is available in English, German, French, Dutch, Swedish and Norwegian and also partially translated into Danish and Irish Gaelic. The app runs in the main language of your iPod/iPhone but to see the bird names and song comments on another language, go to the main settings of your device, scroll down until you see the Chirp! settings and choose a language from the list.

Cheap Chirp! is a free ad-supported cut-down version of Chirp! It does not include all the birds and does not include a map screen for changing location, but does give you a taste of the full version.

The chirp series are updated regulary, you can download the free lite version or if you have jailbroken your phone/touch and are a cheap bastard then try out the full versions via the installous app.


Next up is Butterflies of Britain & Ireland from
I only had a vague interest in butterflies before but this app gives you more than the usual identifying info. Each of the many butterflies have photos for the upperside, underside, colour varients, larva, egg, pupa, male/female, larvae etc it also gives details on which plants they commonly lay or feed on along with a map of distribution and phenogram.
A lot of work and detail went into this app and you will never fail to learn something new each time you look at it. (Did you know the Red Admiral likes to get drunk on over ripe orchard fruit or fermenting tree sap, the guy who wrote this info found over forty of them at one time lying totally drunk , some on their backs waving their legs feebly in the air, under a damaged tree).
This app is £9.99 or to see if it's worth it then you can find it via installous.


Next up is the north woods field guides which can be found seperately or in a all in one app. It covers 7 subjects: fish, flowers, fly fishing, garden insects, scat, tracks and trees.
Each subject has very little to choose from, some have a little info on the subject and some don't but all have hand drawn colour pictures which lack detail and even worse not a single sample includes the Latin name, it's local common names in America.
The one good thing going for this i the quiz which will give a picture and you have a choice of 4 answers but the whole app looks and feels like it's still in it's alpha stage, it has a lot of potential so much so i wish i could improve it myself. At the moment this app is just a basic idea and not worth paying anything for it even if it is only 59p each or £2.99 for the lot, one for installous only.

More apps tomorrow