Tag Archives: soft technology

Free From Techno-Confusion

Be Freed from Confusion About New Technologies

confusionThe brave step of supporting a new technology can be full of confusion.  Techno-confusion is mounting as more, and more technologies are invented. The world is desperately searching for technological improvement to help solve climate uncertainty.  [Permaculture is one technological and cultural solution.] Yet even as we discover healthy technologies, humanity will continuously aim to reduce inefficiencies.

Everyone wants to be part of the solution. Many of understand why it is good to search for clean and efficient technologies. But most of us are confused about ‘how to tell what is best’

Joy_Of_Understanding_Permaculture_Visions

How can we rid ourselves of confusion, build our confidence; make informed decisions; remain unswayed by emotion; ignore slick sales pressures and side-step [or lead] new fashion trends?

At PermacultureVisions we created a decision tool to help you determine your own values and priorities. It may also lead you to consider environmental aspects.  The least it can do is help save you time and money.

Master the Art of Decision Making

get an apLectures are useful to get up to speed on facts and figures. Tutoring helps you understand the factors in those decisions. Mentoring guides you as you tailor the choices to suit your individual needs. The table  below is part of our mentorship and teaching program.  Instead of telling you what to buy, like a sales team, we would rather help you make technological choices.

How Can I Compare All the Different Technologies Available?

We can evaluate new technologies and compare like products when we consider each feature and cost. Here is a guide to help you compare technologies or products with similar purpose. This evaluation tool was developed with our students Morgan Stephens, Tessha Mearing, and Penny Cross.

home-grown-teasThe aim of this tool is to equip permaculture designers with a means to evaluate a new technology themselves rather than being told what is best. Technologies change rapidly, so advise can get conflicting and the technology efficiency is dependent on the context of the user.

You can set your own rating value. This will reflect how important this aspect or feature is in your choice. Sit back with a cuppa, set the priorities and enjoy!

GO TO THE COMPARISON TABLE HERE

Be An Innovator

My_Car_Future-top-slice

The consumer can become the leader.  The consumer can test, adapt, and develop techniques and strategies. We can give informed feedback to the product-developers. If the product has modular parts, we often find new uses and by-products . Further inventions can be lead by the grass-roots users.

Be mentored in Your Permaculture Journey

Do a permaculture course with us today.

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More Women Than Men Grow Food

Feminine Faces Farming

April milking a cow whilst researching house cowsBruce French likes to remind us all.  “More women than men grow food“.  His experience is vast. He and his family have worked internationally to research and document a huge library of rare food plants and their uses.

Most food today is produced by industrialised farms run by economists. State-of-the-art production uses robotic tractors and drones.

Aranya supports hundreds of Permaculture farming widows in India

Farmers have a broader knowledge of the land, water, native animals and the history of pests and disease. Farmers know soil biota, fungi, plants, animals and have a keen eye on the weather. The real farmer is grounded and deeply connected to the land.

Worldwide, most farmers work on small holdings close to home. They are closely connected to their extended family. When we visualise farmers – do we see their saris, beads, skirts and loose flowing pants?

https://www.grain.org

Trending: Saris, Aprons and Straw Hats

paint-fasterIn permaculture, most of the designers, diggers, inventors, illustrators, organisers and promoters, educators and activists are women. But most of the public faces are male. Curious?

Robyn Francis and Geoff Lawton are two permaculture leaders around the same age with same start time, similar training, both dedicated, full of know-how, work and self confidence.

Yet these two world leaders enjoy very different lifestyles. Geoff travels extensively. He has set up a global team with lots of people working for him and has spent well the hard earned permaculture money on educational videos. Robin is still very much in charge of her home-site, travels to teach in poor countries and blogs about her pet pig, Polly. They both look very comfortable with their permaculture choices. The difference is huge.  Publicly, we encounter Geoff a lot more.

Systemic Differences

lisa_wormfarm

Professor Stuart Hill notes: Men will set up systems. Traditionally, women will maintain them. Permaculture teacher Chris Evans of Nepan witnessed the ability of the women in the patriarchal Himalayan society to rebuild, modify and improve on a wall that was originally built by the men.

Permaculture women in wealthy sub-cultures enjoy planting and nurturing trees, pick fruit, dig swales, fix leaky downpipes, repair steps, replace the oven light, screw a hinge back into place, retrofit stuff, sew, nurse sick animals, saw and bring in the wood.  Although it is frustrating that women have not yet earned their right for equal pay, they have earned some flexibility.

Women value variety and flexibility. They are creative and innovative.
Women will nurture systems and develop incremental improvements.
When given an education they can enjoy a huge range of successes.

Women have the perfect nature to live ‘the ethical dream’. They dream of self-reliance, empowerment, being capable and feeling a little challenged. It is not a perfect dream. Life is not perfect. And they know it.

Give A Woman Your Support

Women get injured more when they ‘hit their shoulder with the shovel’. This is not just  because they are new to it. It is often because they lack mentors and training. They will stubbornly learn the ‘traditionally’ male skills by looking over a shoulder or reading books or by just trying to follow a practical post on the internet.

Join the communal effort to give women equal financial and emotional support to do courses, ask questions, build their skill base and become empowered. We at Permaculture Visions offer a 40% discount so you and your partner can study happily together.

 

Solar Energy – The Oldest Power On Earth

Years of Power In Just One Day

There is more solar energy striking the earth’s surface in one and a half hours (480 EJ) than worldwide energy consumption in the year from all sources combined (430 EJ).solar-power-cut

“The question I ask myself is: what do I want to achieve? and what are all my options to get the task done? For example: when I buy a drill I am really wanting something to make a hole. Essentially, we need to
Keep the endpoint in focus and the options wide
Green Technology Engineer – Paul Kelly, Research Support at Permaculture Visions.

Wide Spectrum of Solar Opportunities

solar-rays

Solar power is abundant, free and the oldest power source known to humanity. The Sun beams a broad variety of energy waves to us.  For thousands of years humanity has used the heat, light and UV for our daily tasks.  We are enjoying an explosion of research and development as we near peak pollution and warming targets.  Along with the rise in Solar technology a number of female engineers are leading research and many mature women are able to contribute to installation and maintenance.

Boston Herald 1948 re: Dover Sun House invented by female engineer Maria Telkes.

Developing Technologies Include:

www.oorja.in

diagram: www.oorja.in
Different Solar hot water systems – bathroom water and room heating

What is the Environmental Cost of Solar Panels?

To calculate the full cost of any gadget we can do a whole of life analysis. This works out the energy cost from the time we dig the materials up to the time we dispose or recycle the materials. Research shows that a solar panels generate more energy that it took to create and many panels are lasting much longer than originally expected.

With recent developments including organic solar cells, the environmental cost is coming down. Durability and effeciency is constantly rising.

Can I Use Solar Energy Without Buying More Stuff?

Some great passive solar options include:

sustainability workshop
  • attach a conservatory or Greenhouse (made with recycled windows) to the sun-side of your home to create warm air. the trick is to keep it small to reduce the cooling air movement.
  • place mirrors in the garden to reflect light into the home. You can make sculptures out of recycled stainless steel instead of glass.
  • create a solar oven made out of reclaimed picture frames and a thickwalled box.
  • make your own light-shelves, install a waterbottle light in a dark shed
  • experiment with drying food
  • incorporate simple heat banks [like Trombe walls] into your home and office
  • hang herbs to dry in your kitchen or a simple solar dryer
  • hang your clothes to dry
  • if you live in a cold climate – build a cozy outdoor nook in the sunny corner of a tiny greenhouse. Incorporate lots of thermal mass (ie. mud-brick benches and pillars) and you can sunbathe in it on sunny days in winter.  Install a shower with a rocketstove water heater in another corner and you could spend most of your winters daytime happily in there as do many on Carraig Dulra permaculture farm in Ireland!

Here is a great list of DIY projects – Enjoy!

Learn how to integrate Solar into a Permaculture Lifestyle in a Permaculture Design Course with us Online.

Or immerse yourself in a full time two-week Permaculture design class this June at Permaculture Sydney with world-class teachers.

 

Is Chicken Threatened by Climate Change?

The Chicken Companion

chick_eggThe Chicken is one of the most successful species on the planet.  The chicken has traveled the world, exhibited in shows and been pampered affectionately.  For centuries they have enjoyed the best seats, fully catered free rides on ships, planes, trains, buses, canoes and rafts. Contrary to recent reports, Chickens are likely to adapt faster to climate change than humans. They have adapted twice already during their companionship with humanity. They are set to stay.

Chickens Process Waste and Provide Perfect Protein

egg-n-sprouts

Over Ten Thousand years ago, the chicken became the first domesticated animal.  What attracted the chicken to people was the abundance of waste. Chickens don’t mind eating slightly off-meat and love maggots and other distasteful horrors. Chickens rarely compete with humans for food. They eat a wide range of food and grit. People probably decided to keep the persistent chickens because they are relatively easy to catch at night and have highly nutritious eggs. They would have seen how quick and efficient chickens are to clean the waste.

What do Chickens have that we don’t?

silkie chick

Chickens often have carers. Chickens are also opportunistic eaters and learn to adapt to dietary changes. They are persistent parents. In good conditions they will breed every year. The chicks learn quickly and are independent within a few short months. Quite often, if things go poorly in the mothering house, a chicken will simply take a short break, fraternise with her favourite rooster then start laying and sitting again. Each generation provides a chance to genetically adapt. Even old hens [ie. our 9-year-old chicken, ‘Ginger’] suddenly started laying again if the conditions are right.

Chickens wake up with purpose and sleep well.

Chickens have been bred to be docile. Many domestic animals can die from stupidity. Chickens are highly unlikely to cause themselves harm.  Chickens have been known to accidentally drown or get trapped. Nor are Chickens so gallant that they choose to die. However, Roosters have been known to nobly defend the flock.

rooster-defend-chick-300x118

Fast Movers

Chickens come originally from the dense forests of the Tropics. Scientific evidence has demonstrated that they have already adapted twice before to enable them to grow obese anchickens-weedingd to breed all year round. They can adapt again, if they are given the r. Dr Carl-Johan Rubin of Uppsala University. 

When we provide chickens with the chance to shelter in the cool sections of a food forest, they help to control the weeds, fertilise the trees and clean up fallen fruit. Their tendency to get fat makes it easy for us to catch them when we need to.

Creative Chickens Train Their Keepers

It is us, the keepers that need to adapt if we wish to continue enjoying the company of Chickens. We can devise solar passive chicken houses, give the chickens some self-determination about where to lay or hang out during the day and take time out to observe them.

chook_small_facebookDon’t just dream about it – do a permaculture course and enjoy the change.

 

 

Cooking and Fermenting – Ancient Pleasures

Peachy Reasons To Cook

from: Australian Museum

Why did our ancients invent fire and start cooking?
Here are three old and solid prongs in the hot debate about raw foods and cooking:

  1. Food Security
  2. Enhanced Nutritional Value
  3. Food Safety

1. Cooking for Food Security

Storing food makes life comfortable and dependable. It is really handy to be able to store your surplus foods, send some to a distant relative, trade some or have the weekend off from farming and mend some clothes. The farming of grains changed humanity and shaped the landscape. Suddenly, communities had long-term food storage of grains, tubers and dried pulses.  From this food revolution shaped our culture. Towns were founded, cities grew and supplies for adventures and wars were fueled.

The traditional methods of preserving food were:

April and the Pizza oven
Garden Prunings used for fuel at Silk Farm

Cooking foods to a temperature of 100°C for a minimum of 5 minutes will kill many food-borne disease microorganisms (ie. salmonella, e coli, campylobacter, listeria). This enables us to keep foods for longer because they do not decay as quickly.

2. Cooking for Enhanced Nutrition

The nutritional value of foods are often enhanced by cooking.

  • Heat makes many foods tastier (the sugars are released, flavours enhanced, and the fibers become more digestible.)

    cooking well geothermal copy
    Geothermal cooking well Rotorua NZ
  • Many vegetable fibers are naturally indigestible and heating and pounding helps to make them suited to human consumption.
  • The beneficial phytochemicals produced by plants such as peas and tomatoes are more readily available when cooked (but not to be cooked in carbon steel pans).
  • Most plant toxins are destroyed. Early varieties of plants such as beans originally contained lectin phytohaemagglutinin which is destroyed by cooking and fermenting.
  • Some cooking methods are more nutritious than others. Slow and sealed cooking locks in the nutrients.
  • Cooking can also destroy nutrients especially in oils and fats, making them harmful.

Not all Apples are Apples – What?

Malay Apple - Syzygium malaccense
Malay Apple

Identical apples of the same variety will rarely have the same nutritional value. Their richness of nutrients depends on the quality of the soil that the apple tree grows in.

As for nutritional value of meats, the animal’s exercise, stress levels and diet will affect the type fats and fibers in the meat. (Freely ranging animals have more nutrients and better quality fats. “Wild-animal fats are different from both farm-animal fats and processed fats, says Dewailly. Farm animals, cooped up and stuffed with agricultural grains (carbohydrates) typically have lots of solid, highly saturated fat.”

3. Cooking for Food Safety

cherub-chicago-museum_art_chicago

Many bacteria, viruses, some poisons and harmful micro-organisms lurk in our foods. This includes liver fluke (which can be transmitted by snails). Most of these threats can be killed by cooking. But not all.

Bacteria [ie. Salmonella] usually dies when cooked. Some by-products (ie.  the botulinum toxin) can be destroyed by heat but other toxins from moulds, micro-organisms, viruses or bacterial growth can still make us sick.

Good health is not so much about which foods are best to eat, or how to prepare them or what hazards to avoid. The ‘proof is in the pudding’ as long as it is a healthy mix of nutrients.

Enrol to learn more with us about Permaculture Living
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Hard and Soft Technologies

Can’t Live Without You

help-meTechnologies can be soft or hard and everything in between. Soft technologies are those enacted by people, e.g. knitting needles are a soft technology – they need people to be of any use. Hard technologies are the ‘physical stuff’. A fridge is a hard technology – it can function without being enacted on by people.

We use hard technologies to make things easier and faster, by reducing the number of choices for users. Hard technologies are brittle and stifle creativity. They prevent us from doing things and that is why we use them.  They are complete. Hard technologies act as filters – they structure our spaces and limit what we can do.” Jenny Mackness

Soft and Pliable Technologies

396861_10150473893378180_777400348_n-300x200
Ferrocement – a fun soft technology

Soft technologies are flexible and empower creativity. The user has to plan and orchestrate processes, which is more difficult. Soft technologies may seem simple  to produce (in retrospect) but require time, skills and observation to be used.

Evolution

bikeMixed technologies can be an intelligent conversion or enhancement of technologies. A bicycle is the perfect mixed technology. It is the most efficient form of transport known to man. It requires human energy, skill and observation to operate it. And so we Segway to the Motor car. The common car is a mixed technology.  The self-powered, self-driving car will be a hardened technology.

chicken-weeds-worms-tower

A Chicken-Worm-Tower is a mix of simple animal housing technology with good flow-management strategies (the waste from the upper level becomes food for the lower levels).  A simple pit Toilet (the old hole in the ground) is a hard technology whereas a good composting toilet is an evolved mixed technology.

Modifying Hard Technologies

A building is traditionally a hard technology but with observation and adaptations it can become a mixed technology, we can learn adapt and drive the structure by opening windows to allow breezes through, installing heavy curtains prevent air circulation and heat loss, reduce heat through window panes by applying reflective foil, or plugging drafts.

Does a Technology have to cost the Earth?

Choosing a technology requires a little bit of cost analysis beyond the financial cost.

  1. technology-save-us?What is the embedded energy in the product,
  2. how long will it last,
  3. is it able to adapt with my needs?
  4. Can it be repaired?
  5. How much waste will be generated when it breaks?
  6. Can it be dis-assembled for recycling?

A young Permaculture site is a soft technology, it requires vision, care, skill and training. The user needs to be flexible and creative. But when the mature Permaculture is designed well it becomes a harder technology. There is less work to do. Once the water management and forests are established, it is harder to manipulate or damage the environmental system and when we learn to work this technology it rewards us with food and improved habitat. Within this world we can still be creative and we have more resources to play with.

 

Learn more about Permaculture Design with Us

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The Great Eco-Tech Divide

You can’t always get what you want!

What an amazing era of technology we live in! Super efficient technologies pop up daily. But when the average earth-user reaches out to adopt them, there’s no-one there to guide them.  It’s tough and expensive to yearn for new technologies. The pioneers have to be prepared to take an active role in implementing new technologies and providing constructive feedback.

A key permaculture principles is: Information and observation replaces energy use. The more we learn and observe, the less effort we will need to spend getting it to work.

Retro-fit nightmares

Are your thinking about adopting a new technology? Maybe it is solar air-conditioning. This is a great recent science invention based on adsorption (not absorption). Or perhaps you want to convert your conventional toilets to a compost system. Well, how do you go about it? who can advise you independent of the sales people of a particular brand or particular technology or method?

There are lots of teething problems and pitfalls in the commercialisation of the eco-technologies.  Consumers risk failing with the business that strives to help them. When we recognise the pitfalls for the businesses, we can assess them better and help them and others.

Each Eco-technology manufacturer needs to build their:

  1. supply chain security with distribution methods
  2. support network for parts
  3. expert after-sales service
  4. methods to listen and learn from user feedback
  5. installers – trained installers
  6. demonstration sites where people can touch and feel the gear before committing

Brave Pioneers

Info-replaces-EnergyThe early adopters of new technologies pay a lot of money for products that are usually only just at the adequately functional stage.
These consumers often have to

  1. write their own ‘operations manual’ and
  2. source after sales parts and
  3. make modifications or improvements are at their own risk
  4. be able to service the equipment themselves

At Permaculture Visions we were the first people in our region to set up a solar-hot-water radiator heating system. We took temperature measurements for 12 months to help provide feedback to the supplier and write our own user-guide. With some self-maintenance it is still working well.  Sadly the provider, along with many local manufacturing companies, has closed down.

Speeding up the Eco-technology uptake

Eco-technology uptake can be sped up on three levels: government, business and grass-roots.  Greater government leadership can:

  • provide regulating authorities who provide advise on national and international standards
  • listen to independent forward-thinking councils such as Clean Energy Australia,
  • support regional demonstration institutions such as Future world
  • limited and targeted subsidies can make big impacts.
Clean Energy Council Australia

Business can bridge the gap

There is a gnawing gap between displays of new technology (crowing about it) and honest appraisal and evaluation. The consumer has to know their own needs and be able to assess whether the new technology is appropriate.

If you have a head for technology, are people savvy and don’t have an investment (financial or emotional) in any particular type of technology, here is a good business opportunity for you. You could advise people on which technology would suit their needs best. You could set yourself up as an aggregator. There are some aggregators for individual technologies ie. solar but there are no aggregators for a range of eco-technologies. This can be done as a consultant or in software format.

Business and institutions need to SHOW,  EVALUATE, INFORM, SOURCE improvements and MAKE COMPARISONS.

Choices on the domestic front

Whenever we make a purchase, we are making a technological decision. If we choose an old technology, we might feel we are playing it safe – but are we really safe? When we reach out for an older, proven technology our choice has two impacts.

  1. It supports the current way of life that is not sustainable and governments are already acting to limit this technology.
  2. It fails to support technological advances unless there is a real improvement on the old technology.

The safest option is to adopt a mixture of safe and new technologies to serve our need. This is like wearing ‘a belt and braces’ to be sure the pants stay up.  Consider first the soft technology options. There are a lot of natural and traditional technologies that cost very little to set up (eg. planting deciduous trees on the sun-side to cool the house in summer, using double glazing to hold heat and allow natural light).

Tailor and Blend your technologies

Optimise your soft-technologies like permaculture and dabble intelligently in the cutting-edge eco-technology to build a path to a healthier future.

Nature Knows How - Soft Technology

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