Monthly Archives: October 2008

Escaping the Matrix – Lifestyles Without Limits

How many of you remember having to share the bath water with your siblings? A few baby boomers may get nostalgic here, but younger ones will laugh, or shreak “eewww!”.

For us in the North, long gone are the days of little Johnny going in last, the days of gathering wood and doing your best to make it last the winter, the days of cold mornings and dimly lit rooms. Frugality has given way to frivolity, conservation to carelessness. For decades our collective psyche has looked to infinity and beyond. We’ve lived lifestyles without limits.

Last century the phrase ‘The Great American Dream’ was coined. Our dream was to live the rags to riches story, to be whatever we wanted to be, to reach for the stars. It was a pleasant fiction, and some of us even got to live it. Just some.

The dream, however, as dreams do, missed a few elements of reality.

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Posted in Consumerism, Society

The Rise and Predictable Fall of Globalized Industrial Agriculture

Today I’d like to introduce you to a (well written and beautifully presented) report, titled – ‘The Rise and Predictable Fall of Globalized Industrial Agriculture‘ (55 page, 2.4mb PDF). The title says it all. Should you be concerned? Yes.

Your concern, however, should not be that the globalised industrial agribusiness model will collapse – this is not only inevitable, but also necessary, and, might I add, desirable – the focus should instead be on when and how it will fall.

Let me explain.

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Posted in Energy, Global Warming, Pollution, Soil

Letters from Vietnam – Ke Village

The trip to meet the Ma Lieng people at Ke Village, Vietnam, was a bit like a chapter out of a Brothers Grimm fairy tale. For starters, to reach the village I had to get ferried across a chocolate river in something resembling a dugout canoe. And, when I got there, I was met with a tribe of villagers who were almost supernaturally tiny.

The river’s chocolate hue was due to heavy rains flushing the nation’s soil to the sea – also making the river abnormally swollen and swift. Carrying expensive camera equipment in a very suspect-looking vessel, with a freeboard of only a few inches, was disconcerting to say the least – every person’s slightest movement rang alarm bells, and I had to work hard not to overcompensate in our bid to keep the canoe upright.

We made it to the other side, though, our gear dry, albeit with our nerves a little jangled.


Entryway to the Ke Village, home to the Ma Lieng people

So, whew, welcome to the Ke Village. This visit was in stark contrast to our trip to see the Black Thai, at Na Sai, only a few days earlier, as you shall see.

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Posted in Photojournalism

Letters from Vietnam – The Road to Na Sai

We catch a rare glimpse of an ancient and beautiful culture – the Black Thai people – and applaud the work of a modern day NGO who is working to help improve the lives of these noble people whilst retaining their unique identity – just as a new road threatens their natural, low-carbon existence.


Black Thai Villager in Rice Fields, Na Sai Village, Vietnam
Photos: Craig Mackintosh

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Posted in Diversity, Education, Geopolitics & Economics, Photojournalism, Society

Letters from Vietnam – Arriving to HEPA


Hanoi, Vietnam
Photos: Craig Mackintosh

Greetings from Vietnam. I landed here five days ago – aiming to continue to help develop the work of SPERI (Social Policy Ecology Research Institute), a Vietnamese NGO and sister organisation to PRI.

I am staying at HEPA (Human Ecology Preservation Area) – a fantastic SPERI/PRI project that brings people from all over Vietnam (particularly indigenous ethnic minority farmers) to train them in permaculture systems, so they can go back to demonstrate and share the knowledge with their communities, thus making their traditional efforts to sustain themselves even more efficient and productive.

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Posted in Education, Permaculture, Photojournalism

Trees Giving Up Battle, But Sustainable Farming Offers Hope

The silver bullet solution to climate change in many people’s book is to simply ‘plant a tree’. A recent study indicates that it might not be quite that simple…

The ability of forests to soak up man-made carbon dioxide is weakening, according to an analysis of two decades of data from more than 30 sites in the frozen north.

The finding published today is crucial, because it means that more of the CO2 we release will end up affecting the climate in the atmosphere rather than being safely locked away in trees or soil.

The results may partly explain recent studies suggesting that the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere is increasing faster than expected. If higher temperatures mean less carbon is soaked up by plants and microbes, global warming will accelerate.

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Posted in Global Warming, Soil