Al Loria

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This may be of some interest.

This article appeared in AM Cost Rica, today, April 12th, 2012. AMCR is an Internet news daily providing news in English about Costa Rica.

Before European settlers arrived, farmers on the rainforest savanna grew crops in raised beds, a practice which would be forgotten for 500 years.

Pre-Columbian raised beds
may save vanishing Amazon

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The Amazon region of South America, the largest tropical rainforest and river basin on Earth, is disappearing at a rate of around 800,000 hectares a year, but a new study finds one possible strategy for reversing this trend in ancient Amazonian farming methods.

Analysis of a 1,000-year-old ecological record in the Amazon provides a rare glimpse at early farming practices before European explorers began arriving in the Americas more than 500 years ago.

The study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, finds the ancient farming methods could slow the destruction of the Amazon rainforest.

The rapid expansion of agriculture and cattle ranching, road and dam construction, and illegal logging are the biggest drivers of this massive deforestation. 

Lead author Jose Iriarte, a paleoethnobotonist at the University of Exeter in England, focused on a coastal wetland savanna in present-day French Guyana, on South America’s northeastern coast, where ancient farm beds and canals remain, unaltered, on the landscape.  In pre-colonial history, Iriarte says, this was a period when farmers reclaimed these seasonally flooded savannas into raised-field agricultural landscapes.

A sediment core from the site provided the team with an unusually intact archive of how farmers farmed these fields. It shows pollen, plant species and charcoal before and after the European colonization in the late 15th and 16th centuries.

Geographer Mitchell Power, curator of the Natural History Museum at the University of Utah, studied charcoal in the core. He says while evidence shows that naturally-occurring fires began decreasing globally around 1500 — a period of documented climate cooling — that’s not what they saw in the Amazonian record.

“When we went to the French Guyana site to try to understand the record, the most surprising thing to me was that it was the opposite trend.  Fire was very low and then after 1500, fire increased," he said. "That was contrary to what 90 percent of the rest of the records around the world are telling us.”

Iriarte says the native farmers understood how fire could harm the land and agricultural production.

“We know that fire results in the loss of crucial nutrients for crops, fallows without fires are most effective in restoring soil organic matter and preserving soil structure," he said. "So we interpreted that they were limiting fires because it was better to grow crops in these raised field systems.”

Iriarte says use of this fire-free method by the pre-Columbian farmers helped them transform the seasonally-flooded savanna into productive cropland.

“Raised fields provided better drainage, soil aeration, and also moisture retention during the dry season. These raised fields were constructed mainly with the muck from these seasonally flooded savannas," he said. "So they are really fertile and they can be recycled every season.”

Mitchell Power says this labor-intensive approach ended abruptly when as much as 95 percent of the native population died from a variety of Old-World diseases brought by the European settlers.

“Once the Columbian encounter happens, we don’t see that type of agriculture any more," he said. "We start to see increased burning and a shift toward dry land farming. So people were then clearing forests and making their raised beds in the forests. And what we think is happening was a huge demographic collapse in this region.”

Slash-and-burn agriculture — introduced to the Amazon not by the native farmers but by European colonizers — remains today a major threat to the rainforest. Experts say if such practices continue at the current rate, more than half of the Amazon’s tropical rainforest could be gone by 2030.

Iriarte says pre-Columbian farming methods offer a tried-and-true alternative.

“It has the capability to help curb carbon emissions and at the same time provide food security for the more vulnerable and poorest rural populations of rural Amazonia,” he said.

The authors say bringing back these labor-intensive but productive farming systems to serve today’s and tomorrow’s  food needs will require extensive farmer re-training and the political will of the region’s governments. And they believe that if the Amazon’s current stewards can reclaim the wisdom of their ancestors, the damage to the world’s greatest rainforest can be slowed.

6 years ago
And, they need to use energy to dispose of the used up CFL. No winner I can see in this technology.
6 years ago

paul wheaton wrote:From a frugality perspective, my lightbulb junk boils down to this:

1) I currently spend about $12 per year on electricity for lighting with incandescent. If I buy one CFL for $3 (instead of 50 cents for an incandescent) and try to put it where it could be the most efficient, then that would have to be to use it on the one light that I have on the most often. In that spot, it should last about two years and save me about $3 per year. So I spent $2.50 more and got $6 back. For all other lights in the house, I think CFLs would not save money because the bulb would burn out faster.

2) The CFL is subsidized. If there were no subsidy, then the light would cost about $11. So I would be paying $11 to get $6. Therefore, the CFL does not actually earn it's keep.

3) With the subsidy, the light is even more expensive because of all the red tape for all the subsidies.

4) When the light is running, it contributes to sickness. Sickness costs.

5) When the light is dead, it contributes to pollution which contributes to sickness. Sickness costs.

And, the CFL costs us more because it is we who pick up the tab for the subsidy. No free lunch...
6 years ago
"Unfortunately we cant control people's behavior very easily."

"Because coal is so cheap, there is not much motivation to change peoples behavior. Thank you US govt for picking the lowest hanging fruit to address this countries big energy problems."

I'm taking these quotes somewhat out of context, but, it still remains that we don't want to be told how we should behave. We'd be going down the path of the former Soviet Union. And, we all know how that turned out. Being green might be great, but some just don't see it that way, and they do have a right to their opinion.

Coal is cheap because there is so much of it. It just happens to be dirty. If there was a true groundswell of concern for clean energy, then we would already have clean coal burning equipment.

I'm not criticizing you in any way. Just wanted to bring up a point that I think is relevant to the conversation.

6 years ago

duane McCoy wrote:
It is what Capitalism is about
there is no "free lunch" and there is no "free market capitalism"

Excellent article.
6 years ago
Interesting topic. Is the conspiracy created specifically to benefit a few, or is it an outgrowth of the capitalist system itself?

Competition has always been the engine that drives better prices for the consumer. It seems like since we are not manufacturing as much within our own country, then there is no incentive for innovation to create cheaper and better products. When the major source of manufacture becomes one country ( in this case china), and the stateside companies become just sales companies, then the consumer gets dumbed down into buying whatever gets marketed to them. And all this gets done under the auspices of a government that can be lobbied.

It's kind of like moonshine. You can't legally make it on your own, so you have to pay the taxes on booze to the government and the consumer pays that in the end pricing of the product. The lightbulbs can't be manufactured here anymore because they are illegal. The price goes up for a CFL, and consequently, so does the taxes paid in the purchase price. Big business wins, and so does the government.

Somewhere along the line, capitalism morphed from a private free enterprise system to a government sponsored one. They can lobby for subsidies, laws, and whatever else they need to make the bottom line larger. They win, we lose.

Now, we have seed that can be legally protected, so the food chain becomes part of the federally protected system. This is no longer a free enterprise system, but something far more sinister.
6 years ago

Living Wind wrote:My dad passed with a combination I suggested to him.. Lemon/Lime juice + extra virgin olive oil.. Citrus for the high vitamin C content and virgin olive oil for a smoother dispersal through the urethra.

I tried this for my last kidney stone, and the stone passed the next day. It had been problematic for weeks before. Don't know how or why it works, but it did in my case.
6 years ago

paul wheaton wrote:
I think a lot of it is, unfortunately, gonna be all the spammers we've been nailed with recently.  So it is sort of an empty win.

Yeah, I did hear 6000 a day in the podcast, but now that the numbers of them are being whittled down you should see more accurate results.

I still think the interest and increase in traffic will be on the upside, month to month.

paul wheaton wrote:
oct:  469,366 visits  3,418,732 pageviews

total through october:  2,517,852 visits 18,495,962 pageviews

alexa: 49,708

Damn! Now that's an impressive increase.
Just inserting my nosey self in here, but what did not find here? Was it practical uses of permaculture for you own specific needs, or something else?  I was new to this, once, and do not have the acres of property to grow all the things I want to but was able to get help and adapt the small piece of land to, what for me, has been an exciting new way of doing things.

I really think this place is very relevant for those who want to go beyond organic and are willing to put a little sweat equity to arrive there. This site has a brain trust that is second to none when it comes to permaculture. Just ask the right questions in the right places and I know you will enjoy being here.