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A How-To Book for Everything From Water Filters to Fly Traps

Donald G. McNeil, New York Times
A new guide to public health has just been published by the same foundation that 30 years ago issued “Where There Is No Doctor,” a simple but comprehensive how-to medical book endorsed by the World Health Organization and used by hundreds of Peace Corps volunteers.

The book, “A Community Guide to Environmental Health,” took eight years and $1.6 million to put together, said Jeff Conant, one of the authors. It is published by the Hesperian Foundation in Berkeley, Calif., and goes on sale Tuesday for $28.

The 600-page book is written in simple English and has hundreds of drawings showing, for example, how to disinfect water with boiling, bleach, sunlight or lime juice and how to make filters from sand, clay and charcoal. It has numerous designs for stoves that use less fuel; it has schematic drawings of simple fly and roach traps and bicycle-powered grinders and blenders. It devotes almost 40 pages just to toilets.
(1 July 2008)
The book is downloadable, as are other books, at the Hesperian website.

Abundant Skies: 8 Principles for Successful Rainwater Harvesting

Brad Lancaster, The Oil Drum
TOD Editor Jeff Vail writes:
The following is a guest post by Brad Lancaster on rainwater harvesting. Energy scarcity and water scarcity are closely related phenomena, especially in certain parts of the world. While rainwater harvesting is no panacea for our water or energy problems, it may be a critical component in many regions for dealing with issues of scarcity. It is also an excellent example of a scale-free tool: it can be implemented by individuals, communities, or nations.

Brad Lancaster is a permaculture expert and consultant based in Tucson. …

… My interest in water -harvesting arose from a desire both to reduce my cost of living and to be part of the solution rather than the problem in my desert city of Tucson, Arizona. One of Tucson’s biggest problems is its mismanagement of water resources, pulling more each year from the water table than nature can replace. This is a practice that has dried out the Santa Cruz river, killed countless springs and wells, and severely depleted available groundwater resources.

Living in the desert has put a special emphasis on water -harvesting for me, but it’s a valuable strategy for non-desert environments, too. Rainwater harvesting is effective for reducing or preventing erosion and downstream flooding while improving stormwater quality. Thus, Portland and Seattle have embraced water-harvesting to protect salmon populations, and Maryland is doing the same to protect the Chesapeake Bay. And anywhere in the world, water -harvesting is a smart strategy for helping to recharge groundwater tables, springs, wells, and rivers.
(5 July 2008)

Converging Crises, Policy Responses – Feasta Seminar Series
(audio and video)
FEASTA (Ireland)
You can now watch multimedia presentations of the first three seminars in Feasta’s ongoing seminar series. These seminars were presented by David Korowitz, Bruce Darrell and Richard Douthwaite, and were entitled “The Future’s Not What It Used To Be”, “Planning For Food Security” and “The Need For Benign Inflation”. You can also watch an introduction and launch by Richard Douthwaite and Eamon Ryan, the Irish minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources.
(28 June 2008)

Edible Edges: a walk around Totnes with Patrick Whitefield

Rob Hopkins, Transition Culture
‘Edible Edges’ was a 3 hour walk around Totnes on Saturday 28th June which looked at the food growing potential of our urban corners and unloved spaces, attended by over 20 participants. The walk was in the company of Patrick Whitefield, one of the UK’s leading permaculture teachers and writers, and author of, among other things, the seminal Earth Care Manual. The day raised a number of important questions about the practicalities of growing food in urban areas, the possibilities and the challenges.

… We looked at the tension between growing vegetables or growing fruit.

Vegetables take a lot more attention, a lot more input and are more prone to being vandalised. Fruit takes a lot less looking after, is ideal for just having a few work days through the year, and, as Bob Flowerdew

… As a rule, generally the best places to start, both in terms of having any chance of producing useful yields and in terms of sustaining the energy of those involved, are those where crops are safe and protected, as opposed to the opposite.

…What became clear was that creating food gardens in urban spaces is fraught with difficulties although it is not impossible. Patrick summed it up very well, when he said that what we are trying to do is to put food producing systems in place in one paradigm, one that places no value on food growing and sees it often as an easy target for a spot of vandalism, in order that they are in place for a different paradigm, one that sees urban agriculture as an integral and necessary element of the urban landscape. This is like many aspects of Transition, trying to put systems in place now before most people even realise there is a problem that needs responding to.
(7 July 2008)

Les mycorhizes
La nouvelle révolution verte

J. André Fortin, Christian Plenchette, Yves Piché, PUB
Les mycorhizes sont formées par des champignons microscopiques qui font merveille en horticulture en travaillant en symbiose avec les racines des plantes. Les champignons aident les plantes à puiser des éléments nutritifs dans le sol et à s’adapter au milieu. En échange, les plantes fournissent aux champignons l’énergie qu’ils sont incapables de tirer eux-mêmes du soleil.

Au cours des dernières années, une multitude de travaux ont clairement démontré l’intérêt scientifique et pratique de ces symbioses pour l’ensemble des végétaux du monde entier, que ce soit dans les écosystèmes naturels ou ceux aménagés par l’homme. Pourtant, en dépit de ces preuves répétées et irréfutables, un grand nombre de praticiens en horticulture, en agriculture, en foresterie et en environnement comprennent encore mal l’importance concrète de ce phénomène. Les pratiques durables dans ces domaines d’application ont pourtant tout à gagner d’une utilisation judicieuse des symbioses mycorhiziennes.

C’est dans cet esprit que les auteurs – des sommités en matière de mycorhizes – ont préparé ce volume qui vise à la fois à faire comprendre la biologie des mycorhizes dans ce qu’elle a de plus fascinant et à montrer comment en tirer profit dans de très nombreux aspects de la culture des plantes et de leur protection, tout en assurant le maintien des équilibres naturels.
(April or August 2008)
Contributor Patrick Déry wries:
Some scientists in Quebec Province and France worked for about 50 years on myccorrhiza. They published a book recently about that subject and peak phosphorus (our article Peak phosphorus) is in the references at the end of the book).

Myccorrhiza can help but never replace the fact that we must recycle all organic refuses (including humanure) to be able to continue to do agriculture.

Canadian clean energy training portal launches

Randyn Seibold, Clean Energy Classroom
When Christina James decided what type of schooling she wanted to pursue, she knew it was to help protect the environment and build a more sustainable society. But finding practical programs in this area was difficult. Fortunately, speaking with an instructor at Northern Lights College, in Dawson Creek BC, she found out about that school’s upcoming Energy House development, which offers technical courses in different forms or renewable energy.

Similarly, In Ontario, David Price wasn’t sure how to build upon his engineering background, until uncovering the Energy Systems Technologies program at St Lawrence College. It is the first advanced diploma program for renewable energy and energy efficiency in Canada. “Finding this program was almost by chance, but I’m glad I now have the training to participate in the clean energy industry, which is really hot,” says Price.

Now, the search for Canada’s renewable energy schooling has just become much easier. Clean Energy Classrooms is a project of the BC Sustainable Energy Association (BCSEA), managed by Renewable Recruits, a green energy promotions and recruiting firm. It is a two part directory to all of the country’s currently available training and education options in renewable energy. It includes an online portal,, featuring post-secondary, industry, First Nations, and non-profit-based training options. The project’s second phase is a print edition that compliments the website, by Hemlock Printers, a company that has won awards for its leadership in sustainability practices. Due for release in October 2008, it will be distributed at no cost to secondary schools and other key locations.

Randyn Seibold, who runs Renewable Recruits, felt the project was an important early step in the drive to build a human resource base for this emerging sector.
(2 July 2008)