Organic Gardening in a Hotter, Drier World

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Tropic of Chaos: Climate Change and the New Geography of Violence by Christian Parenti (Jun 28, 2011)
(Amazon.com product link shortened) 00/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid11984718&sr=1-1 (Available at a library near you.)
172 TROPIC OF CHAOS
Welcome to the hot scrublands of the Nordeste and the tiny village of Boqueirao in Brazil's Ceara Province.
The Nordeste is semiarid, receiving very little rain. Severe floods punctuate its frequent droughts.
The majority of climate models find that northeast Brazil "is expected to experience more rapid warming than the global average during the 21st century." In more concrete terms, most forecasts predict northeastern Brazil will be a region of very severe water stress by 2050.
Rio's favelas (slums) are largely populated by people from these dry lands. Despite its harsh climate, the Northeast is densely populated.43 As climate change grinds down subsistence farmers, more Nordestinos leave to search for work either in the depressed cities of their nearby coastal areas, like Fortaleza and Recife, or down south in the megacities of Sao Palo and Rio. Thus, the social dimensions of the ecological crisis in the Nordeste (a front-line region for climate change) are expressed in cities as unemployment, makeshift housing, the narcotrade and violence.
This community has twenty-seven families, most of them related to each other. In face of drought and flooding, they have begun to adapt both technologically and politically. First, they switched from mono-cropping cotton and beans, which require burning the fallow fields and using expensive chemical inputs, to a form of mixed-crop agroecological farming, agroforestry, and integrated pest management that uses few or no chemical pesticides or fertilizers. They are also using inventive forms of low-impact water-capturing and rain-harvesting technologies.
Osmar and some of his compatriots take me across the road to show me "the system" and some of their alternative water-harvesting techniques.
RIO'S AGONY 175
One method involves building "underground dams." It goes like this: First the farmers find a dry streambed or natural area of drainage. At the bottom of this feature, below and away from the slope of the hill, they dig a long ditch across the natural path of drainage. The ditch maybe one hundred or three hundred feet long and deep enough to hit solid rockhere, about five to ten feet down. Then, within the ditch, they build a cement and rock wallor damlined with heavy plastic. Then the ditch is filled in, and the wall is buried. This underground dam greatly slows the natural drainage and creates a moist and fertile field "upstream."
The agroforestry crops are a mix of fruit trees, corn, cover crops, and climbing-vine crops. The fields seem abandoned due to the tangled mix of plant species. This lush mesh captures moisture and creates a balance of competing insects, limiting or eliminating the need for chemical pesticides. During the first three to five years, yields decrease, but then they increase as soil health improves. And the produce, as organic, commands higher prices.
For individual plants that need irrigation, they attach punctured empty plastic soda bottles to stakes above the thirsty plant. With this form of low-tech drip irrigation, a farmer can feed an individual plant little bits of water, allowing the precious liquid to drip out slowly and only onto the plant that needs it. The farmers' list of ingenious methods is long and evolving, thanks in part to groups like the Catholic NGO Caritas, which works to spread knowledge of best practices among the communities.
Altogether, these agroforestry or agroecological methods, which revive and enhance old ways, are in use all over the world. The IPCC mentions them in the Fourth Assessment Report: "Agroforestry using agroecologi- cal methods offers strong possibilities for maintaining biological diversity in Latin America, given the overlap between protected areas and agricultural zones."44
"The system," as the farmers call it, preserves and enhances the land's fertility and moisture, and because the fields are never left as bare ground, it helps prevent erosion.
In the village of Bueno, I met Antonio Braga Mota. "The system is a balanced system. I was really surprised that we actually did not need fertilizer and pesticides to do this," said Antonio as we tour his vine- and tree-covered crops. "The traditional method was destructive. Burning depletes the land. Unfortunately, I did a lot of that. "He said even tapirs and rare birds are returning. He could be passionate about the system because he owned his land. He was not rich but had enough land to make the transition from main-stream methods to green farming.
--
- Billy
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Billy wrote:

...
all very interesting. in other arid climates with no severe drains/gullies you can line rocks across the ground and they will act as a water catch when it rains to slow down the water so that more soaks in. within a few years these rocks will become a line of plants and then small trees (if you can keep the goats/sheep from grazing it down). a tree line that gives shade and harbors birds/wildlife all from a simple thing like a line of rocks on the dirt.
songbird
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Standard practice in permaculture and other forms of land management but usually it's contour forming on farmland using a tractor/dozer and uses earth. They're called swales.

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FarmI wrote:

...
ah, the usage i'm familiar with for those is a sometimes marshy ground, not a particularly made structure -- though i can see how the term would be adapted/adopted for them too. the made structures i would call dams.
here i call places seeps are catches where i gather water from a harder rain. i wouldn't call them swales because they are not marshy.
songbird
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Absolutley not a dam. They are just earthwork contour gutters (for want of a better word to describe them).

But swales don't have to be marshy and in fact I don't think I've ever seen one that could be called marshy.
The function of swales is to slow down rain run off and let the water soak in and recharge the soil with moisture. Thus swales work well in both arid and dry temperate zones where the rainfall can come in fast and furious bursts (like from passing storms) but where the rain is not sustainedfor a long time. They probably also work in high rainfall areas to slow the flow of water across a clandscape but where they arent' necesarrily needed to give much needed soil moisture.
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FarmI wrote:

*nods* yes, i know of what you speak, i was just nattering about how the usage is different.

likely a climate/country related shift in usage (i'm assuming it's much drier there so there may not be as much of the marshy aspect going on). the usage of the word here is about an area that is sometimes marshy. the erosion control or over flow water control aspects are not even mentioned in the definition (Middle English origin should give you a better way of seeing how the usage has shifted).

yes, i'm aware of the function of them, sorry to have confused you to think i wasn't.
songbird
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???? Your dams are used differently or swales are used differently?

:-)) Well now youv'e got me wondering about dams and swales and diffeirng usage etc.
I'm off travelling for a few weeks so will be mute from today for a while.
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Bon voyage. Gute reise. Hasta luego.
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FarmI wrote:

usage of the word "swales" to describe...

haha, i hope the above makes it clearer.

safe journeys.
songbird
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What a poorly written piece you present as evidence of organic best practices. Do you really know about the hydrology or even the geology of the area in this cherry picked book writers sociologist article? Seems to me you know even less about the anthropology of the region. So plastic coke bottles with holes in them are organic best practices? Sure glad the Catholic relief groups helped in the translation of this organic wonderment so as to better help us understand what your trying to say, It sounds so, I don't know...like so much gringo speak, further translated into something resembling your organic rants.
How about telling us about the many droughts in that area, should man keep trying to build in that environment just because " He was not rich but had enough land to make the transition from main-stream methods to green farming". What was his main stream methods prior ? Slash and burn? I feel you need a better understand of the sciences.
You really think green farming and some dam idea is going to keep him from starving in the next drought? Perhaps you really think that the dam idea is somehow unique to your book writer's organo POV on that area and that give them some special advantage? Do you even know some of the many other areas in the world that technique is used? The author neglects to mention that it is the surface dams that allow the many tribes to live in the region today. Bet ya didn't even know that there is a vast river under the Amazon a little further south, just as large at a depth of ~4000 ft? Also not a lot of nutrients going into that poor soil, which is worse than the soils in the Colorado and American River basins. The fate of these folks reads very similar to the Anasazi and the Maya. Do you know how many died in the last big drought there and when was it?
Like your BS rants about C. Mann and his discovery of biochar that never was. You know nothing about the area, the people, or the land, much less the hydrology. Sure seem like your buying into this writer's book marketing scheme in the same way. Cherry picked doom and gloom , being oppressed by the " Man", escaping a world of violence and depression through the enlightenment of the world of Organic Superiority. ( cue the harps! down the lights, main spot center stage on coke bottles dripping water!).
This one is a pathetic leap to organo is best, even for you billy boy. .
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Gunner wrote:

do you?

the obvious trouble in many drought stricken areas is that the soil is being stripped bare by animal over grazing and then the winds remove the fertile topsoil and there goes their fertility.
my readings over the years see the same cycle repeat in many areas (both historical and some evidence available for prehistoric events too).
if you can keep the ground covered then it retains water, stays cooler. if you have a variety of covers then that increases diversity.
are you arguing against either of these approaches being good things for any land?

if he can make enough in the wetter years then perhaps he can get through a drought. if he keeps the land covered then the soil will not be stripped by the winds in the next drought, so that when the rains return his land will be in much better shape than those who farm their land down to bare soil and leave it vacant (as they do here quite often all winter).

the advantage was stated plainly. they get more moisture retention and a higher water table for the area upslope from the dam. likely making for better crops and thus more production. also it likely keeps erosion in check a lot better than letting the gullies run at full torrent.

thousands to hundreds of thousands, but even more likely many more were killed by diseases than by drought (millions more).

your rants miss the target quite often so Gunner i'd wish you'd sharpen it up too.
talking about an underground river by the Amazon does nothing for the drought stricken parts of Africa.
oh well, better luck next time,
songbird
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Derald wrote:

i dunno, the benefits seem pretty obvious to me. keeps the ground covered more and holds the water better. reduces the temperature as there is more shading. provides a variety of habitats instead of just the one.
what are you seeing that is religious here? this is all basic multicropping that used to be done on small scale farms before. it's not particularly new it is more a return to what used to work just fine that was disrupted.
i can imagine a few drawbacks, but nothing that cannot be mitigated. the more growth that is about during the wet years means there will be more fuel for wildfires in the dry years. a good design of the homestead using a big enough open space and materials that won't ignite could mitigate that problem. sure the dead stuff burns, but otherwise the ground is protected the rest of the time. selectively cutting and burying the dead stuff to increase the organic content of the soil (to hold moisture better and insulate the soil from the heat even further) could also go a long ways towards dealing with the fire hazard. as it is i think a lot of burning that is currently done is sending a lot of material into the air that could be more useful if buried and burned and turned into charcoal (however, the darker the soil the hotter it will get when exposed to the sun so that's going to be a trade off of sorts in places).
unintended consequence of diversity or keeping water from running off too quickly? sure, the downstream folks aren't going to get as much runoff all at once, but they might get a smaller amount over a longer period of time. this is the same sort of effect that forests and prairies provide.
invasive species? perhaps some dangers there, but we are talking semi-arid places aren't we? so i can't imagine this being a huge risk as compared to what the wetter areas of the world contend with (kudzu!).
songbird
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I do agree.
It astounds me that so many people can be so narrow minded and remain so ignorant when faced with a world full of easily accessible information.
Sadly most of the most vocal of those ignorant and uninformed seem to be your own fellow countrymen. Their comments often make me wonder why it is that many Americans know so little of the world outside their own borders. I guess when they face the same sorts of problems as little countries like Tuvalu and The Maldives they might open their eyes and/or use their brains.
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Gunner writes

To which the Birds reply:

Better luck, Bird? You got a C- on your test questions and a D for the essay defending stupid think. You generalize but you have no clue as to the specific regional area billy's book writer is talking about. Kinda like billy BSing about Mann and Biochar.
Africa? Well if youre talking about the fact the two areas were once one? Ok. If youre talking about the effects of the Trade Winds from Africa on that region? Ok. But the two drought/people are not anywhere near similar. As for the cattle and disease problems unless you wish to just split hairs on white man's guilt not relevant.
Still you do the math; 1.2 mil people living on very eco fragile land that would realistically support 500K subsiding with assistance of a government seed and stipend program. The water used in the primitive drip irrigation the Catholic church is translating as some Organic salvation is coming from some of the 7000 dams usually filled to ~50% cap., most dry up in the many droughts they experience or some of the many wells drilled by the government. The underground damming? Yes, An old trick used in many lands for subsidence farming and basic survival of a small number of people. A basic desert survival technique I also taught . Try looking up the qanat for one such trick. Farmls one statement about her Countrys Aborigines using such a trick is most likely true in their world of living off the land but again, relevant how? I think there is a better land/people distro as well as a different societal culture there.
It is a given that area of Brazil will continue to experience more severe droughts as well as erratic dry seasons in their march to desertification. Oh another small detail, much of the water is trucked in the varying dry spells and droughts. So much for reducing the carbon footprint. As for the three sisters adaptation for ground cover? Temporary as best. Building the soil bank. Ok! Still how long will that last w/o water in that type sand, little to no clay there. I will assume youre not very familiar with desert life and primitive cultures. As Farml also inferred you can get a lot of information off of the internet these days, just how much is true. I much prefer dot.edu rather than the many book writers living off of we are the world.coms that billy pretends is organo.
As for your > do you?
Yes, I really do bird, geology/hydrology is in the family. My interest was in archaeology and anthropology but was talked out of it by a Prof before I went the military route. No regrets, all set up & retired @ 48, been enjoying life since. I've lived in in three countries and every state west of the Mississippi before I was 11 because of geology. Now days, 4 continents and 15-16 countries. My interest today in anthropology, particularly in the Amerindians and desert living stems from that. Hence my interest in hydroponics also. I really have a pretty good idea of how the hunter gatherer societies work (ed) than many and how the transition to farming takes place. This area is just delaying the inevitable. Man is but a dust speck on Nature's watch.
But for you and billy et al? You boys ever actually been anywhere, done anything or seen anything besides the day trips on the Internet to give you actual life experiences? As for the inference from the Aussie that Americans are not well schooled in worldly affairs and her continuous inference that Americans are stupid SOBs??? Well I would hope she realizes billy is but one of 380 Mil and pretty much of a Walter Mitty. You ? Don't know but I assume you have not traveled from from your nest either . Perhaps Farml is very well traveled and properly papered, yet I seriously doubt her myopic view is based on much more than her internet travels she talks about.
so Birds, I hope you also have good luck in your next time.
Gunner
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Gunner wrote:

um, i never admitted to reading the book did i? i can only base my replies upon what was quoted. :)

? cattle, disease problems? white man's guilt? do you mean the fact that millions of natives were killed by diseases brought from the old world to the new world? i don't think there's much splitting of hairs to be done there.

i'm still not seeing a negative from encouraging a system which keeps the land covered with multiple crops instead of a monoculture.

the natives are not farmers there, they are hunter-gatherers.

desertification because of what?

i believe that the droughts would be much worse when the land is monocultured and left bare as compared to a system which keeps the land covered and shaded as much as possible from different plants.
yes, any shipping of water would be a negative on the carbon footprint, but i don't think it would be better under any other method of farming either.
overall population reduction to be more in line with the area's capacity to support them is closer to sustainable agricultural principles as far as i'm concerned.

i'm not talking three sisters for ground cover i'm talking native plants that will grow if given and chance and protected from overgrazing. this is already a proven method in arid regions, but you do need the people to cooperate in keeping their animals from destroying the growth and you need the people to not hack it apart for firewood or fencing more than it can bear. if the region is stable enough (has some form of government strong enough to keep wars from breaking out and ruining longer term projects) then it can do a lot. from a simple thing like a line of rocks.

ok, and you criticize me for jumping off from points unsubstatiated? heheh, ok...

i don't mind questioning information and challenging it and talking about it to see what might make sense and what might not. what i do mind is calling people religious fanatics just because they do things differently.

> ? no idea what you mean.
when i write my gardening stuff here i write what i am actually doing. if i have a failure i admit it and keep working at it.

good deal, and i'm glad you've had a full and happy life in those many places and are now retired. i'm retired too at the same age you speak of. can't say i've lived in that many places, but i have lived in more than one region of the states and i've travelled most of the country with the car, tent and sleeping bag being my only home. i'm quite sure many others travel on vacation and see things, but i think my perspective was different from a tourist because as i travelled i was continually asking myself "is this a place i want to live?"

*shrug* i've spent a fair amount of time in Canada and vacationed in a handful of other countries. also i have a number of friends who did time in the service or were in the peace corps and spent a lot of time talking about what the saw/did. like you some of my college interest was anthropology, but also like you i went a different route to make a living and it was good, but that didn't mean i never read a decent book about another culture since then or never looked at a peer reviewed journal.

seen all but a handful of the states (Rhode Island, Maine, Alaska, Nevada, Arizona, Louisiana, and Arkansas) and most of Canada that can be driven to other than the far North East coast.

"properly papered" makes me crack up.
peace,
songbird
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As usual, gunny has lots of opinions, but no citations to back up his wacky assertions. Poor gunny tries to justify himself, but with so many book writers (sociologists, don't ya know) disagreeing with him, all he can do is to say that he is right and everybody else is wrong. What he needs to do is to submit countervailing opinions from his own persuasion, but sadly for gunny, there are few who agree with him. Why would that be??! Could it be (gasp) that gunny is wrong? Very likely.
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I leave the wacky to you, it seems to be your forte. However, do show me anywhere that Parenti is a anything more than a writer, his bona fides read like he is a book writer. http://www.christianparenti.com/bio / Perhaps you have some other information to contradict this that you wish to share?
As for citations, here is a few to skim through since I know you dont ever read much of what you cherry pick for your BS propaganda. If you still pretend you need some more I will be visiting the PLU Library here in a few weeks and will get you some of those as well. However you will need to get either academic or paid access to those. Do note these are not the dot coms fringe political editorial references you always posting , so again, be cautious in your cherry picking to support your propaganda without actually reading, like you did recently with Mann, etc. . That pattern shows a proclivity towards lying to support your political activism agenda.
http://deepblue.lib.umich.edu/bitstream/2027.42/57432/1/Brant_thesis.pdf http://spot.colorado.edu/~carpenh/Magkos.pdf http://www.ajcn.org/content/90/3/680.full.pdf http://water.columbia.edu/?id=Brazil&navid=Ceara http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1623/hysj.51.1.157 http://iahs.info/hsj/495/hysj_49_05_0901.pdf http://www.wamis.org/agm/meetings/emndp11/S4-Brazil.pdf https://journals.uair.arizona.edu/index.php/radiocarbon/article/.../1935 https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/br.html
Just for you billy boy, I will include a googly since you avoid any .edu citations: http://books.google.com/ebooks?id=zq4_AAAAYAAJ
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In article

Did you have a specific article in mind? The name Brant seems to come up in relation to nursing homes??!

A megastudy, you should know better, gunny.

Supports Parenti's conclusions in his book, Tropic of Chaos.

Pepsi is supplying weather models, and blah, blah, blah.

Goning sedimental on me, gunny?

Not found.

Supports Parenti's conclusions in his book, Tropic of Chaos.

Not found.

CIA Factbook? Did you find that all by yourself or did you have help?
What are you trying to prove? That you've been wrong all along?
What are you trying to prove with these superficial documents?

You are a wild and wacky guy, gunny.
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merger of state and corporate power." - Benito Mussolini.
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You think this is a nursing home link? really have you checked your disability options on your computer? yours appear to be set wrong.
http://deepblue.lib.umich.edu/bitstream/2027.42/57432/1/Brant_thesis.pdf
ASSESSING VULNERABILITY TO DROUGHT IN CEAR, NORTHEAST BRAZIL by Simone Brant , A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Science (Natural Resources and Environment) University of Michigan, November 2007.
As for the CIA fact book, are you afraid of something? I used the book for area studies long before I got into the business. Still if you are afraid, you can go to some web encyclopedias and sift to get the same basic info. It really is just a fact book. trust me I worked for the government and I am here to help you.
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Why bother reading him? I can't remember him ever having written anything about gardening and if he ever did, it wasn't memorable so as far as I'm concerned there is no point in reading him and seldom bother to read any responses to him.
There are other forums where I read 'tall tales and true from the legendary past' if I feel the need to do so but this place, for me, is about gardening and chewing the fat with people who have a simialr interest. He never seemed to have any interest in anything other than being an arrogant loud mouth.
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