I was doing a google image search for 'abundance' for an article I am writing. To my amazement, I came across this
picture . Apart from a photo of the Canadian tar sands, I can't think of a more terrible picture. Obviously there is no real landscape covered in coins as far as the eye can see. But the metaphor of the image is clear enough. Abundance is seen as the accumulation of money whether in paper notes, digital currencies, gold, or old-fashioned coins as seen here. All are utterly worthless in real terms. Their value is only in the meaning we give to them. A landscape covered in coins, as in the picture, is denuded of any living vegetation or creature and so is utterly worthless. This image was lifted from a site about Anthony Robbins  of 'Awaken the Giant Within' fame, beloved by start-up business schools and get-rich-quick mentors of the 90's and beyond. I  bought this book myself and found many of the personal development tools and techniques useful but not as a goal towards mega-riches-- this was never in my wish-list.
     The picture of the coins is an iconic image, representative of what is now seen to be a flawed paradigm which values money and economic growth above other human needs, as well as ecological perspectives. We are now reaping the unpleasant consequences of this in so many ways.
   I am also reading parts of Mark Boyle's The Moneyless Manifesto . Mark lived for 3 years in the UK without money and it was this experience which made him question deeply the assumptions we have been brought up with. His book has received excellent reviews from notable people.
Double-click this video for full-screen option
You can read his book, for free, here
Most of us stand somewhere between these two extremes - the compulsive  drive for ever more $$ or ££, on the one hand and the attempt to live without money altogether, on the other.
But these examples highlight the changing perspectives. The wake-up call came in 2008. Our money system is now recognised as deeply flawed structure which favours only the very rich. And unlimited economic growth, believed to be almost an inviolate law, is now seen by many, to be impossible, given the finite resources of the planet.
Things have to change and there are many people from all walks of life - from activists who know what they don't want or like but do not understand the complexities, to far-sighted economists, permaculturists, writers and business people who are conceiving and devising radical new alternatives. These alternatives need to stand the test of not only time, but the validity of their implementation before they become the new norm, the new paradigm.
 Still, we need to be looking at them, testing them out in our minds, our personal lives and perhaps in our communities.
I would recommend Charles Eisenstein's Sacred Economics.
(Start video then double-click for full screen
and his Gift Economy as a good starting point.
   Meanwhile, I am  continuing my search for pictures of 'abundance'.   Google images produced nothing.
Can you do better? Can you send me pictures of what you perceive as abundance? I see abundance everywhere now I have started looking.
You can solve all the world's problems in a garden”  
                                                             Geoff Lawton
Geoff uses a wider interpretation of the word garden, more akin to it's original meaning of 'enclosure' - for the growing of plants for beauty, food and pleasure.
His version of a garden would include a farm, a restoration project, a food forest as well as the garden as we generally use the term
Geoff Lawton is not the only person to make such bold claims.
Hans Herren ( who has been credited with saving millions of lives by enabling African people to produce the food they need,) declares that
sustainable agriculture,” can not only nourish a world population of some 9 to 10 billion people, but are the only approaches that will be able to do it in the face of climate change, natural resource scarcity, and growing demand challenges. "
 Martin Crawford assures us that a Forest Garden designed for maximum yield can supply the calorific needs of 10 people on one acre
Sepp Holzer says his method of organic farming produces a much higher quality of crops than conventional farming, and at a fraction of the cost and effort.
David Blume  tells us that
On approximately two acres— half of which was on a terraced 35 degree slope—I produced enough food to feed more than 300 people (with a peak of 450 people at one point), 49 weeks a year in my fully organic CSA on the edge of Silicon Valley  ...................  My yields were often 8 times what the USDA claims are possible per square foot.
Olivier De Schutter
"To date, agroecological projects have shown an average crop yield increase of 80% in 57 developing countries, with an average increase of 116% for all African projects, Recent projects conducted in 20 African countries demonstrated a doubling of crop yields over a period of 3-10 years.”
In 1999, 35 million small family plots produced 90% of Russia’s potatoes, 77% of vegetables, 87% of fruits, 59% of meat, 49% of milk “

(This is widely quoted but I cannot find the original source for this.
Can anyone help?)

There is also the Dervais Family who
produce 6000lbs of food annually on one tenth of an acre in an American suburban garden.
( feeding 4 people on 1/10 acre - scale it up to 40 people on one acre!) Very intensive crop growing
I have included this site to show the quite stunning results from as small as 1/10 acre to the large  66 acres at Geoff Lawton's Zaytuna farm

There are many examples of sustainable farming outdoing conventional agriculture in terms of yields. (I will be adding a new post on the concept of yields soon)    Please add to the Comments if you know of any...


The Garden of forking paths

  Long, long ago, people lived in the forest or by the sea and for generation after generation they lived on Nature's bounty - leafy greens, nuts, seeds, shellfish, fish, wild free ranging meat, eggs, roots, berries and seasonal fruits. These people were hunters and gatherers.
This was how we lived for about 150,000 years. An incredible 90% of human existence on this planet!

Around 10,000 years ago we began to learn the art, science, trials and toils of farming. Animals were domesticated and used to plough large tracts of land which could be sown with annual grass seed. This was harvested, threshed, baked or stored. This meant that the supply of food was less haphazard and uncertain than before but the diet had fewer proteins and vitamins. The people had full bellies but were actually malnourished ( much like many today!)
And they shrank! Before farming men were on average 5'9”, with the adoption of agriculture the average dropped to 5'3”
Still, they were fit enough and fertile – the people prospered and grew in numbers. Hamlets became villages, which became towns, which became cities. Those who weren't toiling laboriously in the fields were free to create the artifacts and knowledge systems of civilisation.

Can this really have been “the worst mistake in the history of the human race” as Jared Diamond claims?   Was the hunter-gatherer life really better?
In some ways it was – wild foods were more nutritious, they had more leisure - for instance, the average time devoted each week to obtaining food for modern hunter-gatherer is only 12 to 19 hours (the Kalahari Bushmen,) 14 hours ( the Hadza nomads of Tanzania), there is no elite class, no slave or peasant labour.
However hunter-gathering only works where the population is small – it cannot exceed the locality's carrying capacity.
And is impossible now for the vast majority of the global population.
Enter the era of industrial agriculture
Farming practices grew, focussing mainly on annual plants - wheat, corn, rye, rice, potatoes, chickpeas which have provided calories but reduced the intake of proteins and vitamins of the hunter-gatherer life.  Farming methods expanded and improved until we reached the 19th century. The use of fossil fuels for mechanisation and synthetic fertilizers changed everything. From this point and on throughout the 20th century, yields increased, less labour was required, and there was plenty of food (though fair distribution was another matter).

Vast acres of land were ploughed and planted with single crops. Herbicides and pesticides solved the farmer's perennial problems. Huge, efficient machines were designed to till, seed, spray, harvest and process.
They were so successful that food mountains were created. And the global population just grew and grew and grew.....
But it all came with a price.
There is now clear and undisputed evidence of
- Vast areas of degraded land
- Usable water is likely to become a scarce resource
- Weeds have become resistant to herbicides and superweeds are crippling the livelihoods of farmers (especially in the USA)
- Severe and chronic biodiversity loss. We are witnessing the 6th Great Extinction
- Opportunistic corporations have trapped farmers into buying patented seeds causing widespread misery and loss of livelihoods.
- Bees - ( especially in the USA) have been disappearing
- Centuries-old cultures and languages have disappeared
-Aggressive land-grabs are taking place in Africa and South        American countries, displacing and denying the rights of peasants and small farmers.
So if hunter-gatherering is off the menu and industrial agriculture is causing us more problems than benefits, what do we do?
Currently there are two opposing schools of thoughts and modes of action.
This suggestion from the Economist that we "can now look forward with confidence to feeding 10 billion on less land using synthetic nitrogen, genetically high-yield crops and tractors".
is typical of more-of-the-same industrial, large-scale agriculture
    The other states that we already have viable approaches to producing the food we need.
Agroecological, eco-efficient, and organic agriculture, can not only nourish a world population of some 9 to 10 billion people, but are the only approaches that will be able to do it in the face of climate change, natural resource scarcity, and growing demand challenges.

This is the subject of the next post
"You can solve all the world's problems in a garden"


    Marianne Winfield

    For a more organised (not date sequenced) collection of the
    posts please go to Articles




    January 2013
    November 2012