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This site has not been updated since 2014 and is being maintained as an archive for now. As time allows we'll be weeding out the dated material and presenting the many useful articles in a new format. We'd appreciate any feedback on what you find most useful on this site via our contact page.

Guest Writers

Biochar for Environmental Management

Book Review by Ed Sears

edited by Johannes Lehmann and Stephen Joseph

(2009), Earthscan Books.

Biochar is an idea that has recently gained prominence as it holds out the possibility of tackling soil improvement, energy production, mitigation of climate change, and disposal of organic waste.  Biochar is organic material which has been heated (to between 350 and 700 degrees C) in the absence or restricted supply of oxygen.  It is therefore similar to charcoal, although intended specifically for application to farmland for environmental improvement.

Biochar for Environmental Management, edited by Johannes Lehmann and Stephen Joseph, two biochar researchers from Cornell University in the USA and the University of New South Wales, Australia, is a summary of the current state of scientific knowledge on this technology.  There has been localised interest in charred woody material or plant waste for some time, but it was the growing awareness triggered by the discovery of pockets of dark, carbon-rich, fertile soils known as Terra Pretta de Indio in the Amazon and the realization that these soils were the result of human activity hundreds or thousands of years ago, that has led to increased interest in its properties and potential.

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Quick links to guest articles in the archive:

Maybe you missed some of these first time round: don’t worry – you can still find them in our site archive. Simply click on the link.


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Lean Logic: book review

Lean Logic: a dictionary for the future and how to survive it.

by David Fleming, 2011

Reviewed by Chris Dixon

Dr. David Fleming, born in 1940, was an independent thinker and writer on environmental issues, based in London, England. He was one of the whistle blowers on the possibility of peak oil's approach and the inventor of the influential Tradable Energy Quotas (TEQs) scheme, designed to address this and climate change. He was also a significant figure in the development of the UK Green Party, the Transition Towns movement and the New Economics Foundation, as well as a Chairman of the Soil Association. Fleming worked on the Dictionary for some 30 years and died in November 2010; Lean Logic was published posthumously by his estate in July 2011.

This is a substantial book, in more ways than one. At just over two inches thick, with some 720 pages, printed on recycled paper and with a reassuringly solid cardboard, cloth bound cover, it is made to last, reflecting the principles of the Lean perspective that the dictionary contains.

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Access to healthy local food for disadvantaged communities

Wiltshire & Swindon Food Champions

Food Champions is an innovative three-year project in Wiltshire and Swindon to empower predominantly disadvantaged communities to learn about and access healthy local food.

The teaching of horticultural skills combined with the creation of allotments and orchards will be supplemented by a network of voluntary Food Champions across Wiltshire and Swindon.

We seek to achieve the following through the three-year life of the project

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Sleeping with the enemy - can rats and rabbits be a solution?

Sleeping with the enemy (1) : The joy of rats

Many people have what appears to be an innate fear of snakes and spiders that may be engrained in poisonous encounters in the evolutionary past, but the widespread horror of rats seems to be entirely cultural.  Plague, Weil's disease, contamination - the 'dirty rat'...   Although you clearly don't want rats eating their way through your food store, what harm did rats ever do you ? - I thought not.  They've even been exonerated recently for the Black Death.  And in some parts of the country they are favourite cage pets - the self-same evil denizens of the imagination and the compost heap.

It's the compost heap I want to talk about.  I have two compost bins and a heap in my urban garden, which produce compost very slowly, such that it tends to build up out of control, as I never send anything rottable to the council's collections.  Every now and again there's a noticeable increase in rats, and in the past, if the cats didn't act quickly, out came the warfarin.  However in recent years I'd begun to notice that if the bins had active rats, the composting went a lot quicker and was very thoroughly and regularly turned.  So I stayed my hand on the poison and waited to see if any problems arose.  And waited.  Well, I did have to improve overnight security in the chicken run, as they seem to think my tolerance gives them the right to sample the layers' pellets, despite their inability to make the intended eggs.

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