The Noah Project

Rebuilding a sustainable world.

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Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK): An Interview With Dr. Michael Hutchins

Reposted from National Geographic blog:

Posted by Jordan Carlton Schaul of University of Alaska on January 11, 2014


Inuit man eating narwhal (NGS)

The following interview is my 12th in a serieswith my esteemed colleague Dr. Michael Hutchins. Michael recently joined the American Bird Conservancy, as the organization’s National Bird Smart Wind Campaign Coordinator.

The distinguished ecologist has agreed to answer my questions about indigenous knowledge and the impact of such informational resources on the management of wildlife populations.

Jordan: In many cases, the large scale hunting of megafauna by indigenous peoples has been implicated in mass extinctions in the late Pleistocene. Is it fair to attribute the demise of some large placental and marsupial mammals to indigenous peoples?


Inuit woman (NGS)

Michael: This is an interesting question.  It is difficult to say, as what happened in prehistory must be pieced together through sketchy evidence. However, I am highly skeptical of the claims of some scientists, such as Paul Martin (Martin, P.S. 2005.Twilight of the Mammoths: Ice Age Extinctions and the Rewilding of America. Berkeley: University of California Press), who has blamed indigenous people for widespread Pleistocene extinctions.

Martin developed his theory of Pleistocene overkill, also known as the “blitzkrieg model” based on his observation that the sudden demise of large Ice Age mammal populations coincided with the arrival of humans on different continents. Martin hypothesized that as humans migrated from Africa and Eurasia to Australia, the Americas, and the Pacific islands, they rapidly hunted large animals to extinction.  But, as we all know, correlation does not imply causation. Continue reading

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Seed Saver Encouraged to “Pass Them On”

Dayna McDaniel, co-founder of Seed-Savers, KC, shares with reporter Cindy Hoedel of the Kansas City Star Magazine her reason for starting Seed-Savers, KC and the first seed she ever saved.

It was a tomato presented to me by a neighbor, back in the 1970s.
I had just moved into the neighborhood and I noticed this yard, and I was just flabbergasted. It was a paradise yard. It was one of those yards where you just want to meet whoever is gardening there.
It was hard to figure out if somebody really lived there because I never saw anybody there. But I knew somebody had to live there or there wouldn’t be this beautiful garden.
And then one weekend there was a woman outside. She was this ancient, ancient, ancient person. I thought, “Oh, my goodness gracious!” and I went up to her, and she started taking me around her yard.
The tomatoes were coming ripe, and she said, “I’m going to share these tomatoes with you that I brought from Arkansas back in the ’50s, and I have to ask you to pass them on. It’s very important.” Continue reading

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Pesticide Residue Strengthens Case for Organic Farming

My Google Alerts is ablaze with articles about pesticide residue found on organic produce.  Paul Hanley’s level-headed piece in the Star Phoenix explains why this finding “drives home the importance of expanding pesticide-free organic farming practices.”

Providing food free from chemical residues is just one goal of organic farming and perhaps not the most important.
As the CFIA and other studies show, organic food is not necessarily pesticide free, but is much more likely to be pesticide-free or have lower chemical residues because chemicals are not applied directly to organic crops. Residues come mainly from spray drift from surrounding farms.
Do some farmers who call themselves organic cheat and spray their crops? Of course there are always a few cheaters.
Still, the CFIA information confirms that consumers who buy organic, especially Canadian or locally grown options, are buying food with substantially reduced contaminants. The more important goal of organic farming, however, is to reduce the chemical load in the environment, which has negative impacts on all life forms, including people. Continue reading

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Sacred Economics

A reader recommended I look into the book Sacred Economics: Money, Gift, and Society in the Age of Transition by Charles Eisenstein.  I checked out his website and was completely blown away by this short film.

The book is also available on-line.  You can find it here.

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Earth Friendly Gardens

I stopped by my friends Fred and Deb’s house the other day and noticed they had their seed catalogs out with pages of heirloom plants already bookmarked. As early as it seems, within the next couple of months Fred will have his grow light going and his heat mats out warming spinach, kale and lettuce seedlings sprouting on long tables in the basement.  By early spring the plants will be re-potted and out in the cold frame ready for planting.

For those of you already looking forward to the planting season, here are three earth-friendly gardening techniques, adopted by the Community Unitarian Universalist Church in Plano, you may want to consider when planning your gardens.

The garden at Community Unitarian Universalist Church on East Parker Road now has a food forest, keyhole garden and hugelkultur bed.
“We were looking for something more sustainable,” says Carrie Dubberley, a landscaper who also teaches gardening classes at Collin College. She established the food forest, and fellow gardener Deb Bliss helped start the keyhole and hugelkultur projects. All are methods of permaculture, agricultural ecosystems intended to be sustainable, self-sufficient and mindful of conserving resources.
It’s about using plants and techniques that work together, says Dubberley, 57. Continue reading

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Research Shows Organic Milk Healthier

In Sandi Doughton posts information on the first large-scale study to compare milk from organic and conventional dairies across the United States

…the researchers found significantly higher levels of heart-healthy fatty acids in organic milk. The reason is that organically raised cows eat more grass and less corn and other grain-based feed than their conventional counterparts, said lead author Charles Benbrook, of the university’s Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources. Continue reading