Change your diet ~ Change the world!

Dietary changes in High Income Countries could significantly contribute to more sustainable global water usage, land use and greenhouse gas emissions, as well as being healthier, according to a scientific review in PLOS ONE.



The review looked at 63 studies of diets which had both improved human health and reduced the impact of food production on the environment. It used agricultural land use, water use and greenhouse gas emissions as markers to assess the environmental impact of each diet.

Broadly speaking the review showed that shifting typical Western diets to more sustainable dietary patterns has the potential to produce over a 70% reduction in GHG emissions and land use and a 50% reduction in water use.

Based on all three measures, vegan diets would have the most positive impact overall, followed by vegetarian and then pescatarian diets. There was also a modest health benefit associated with all the types of sustainable diet studied.


Eating less meat is more sustainable


The authors also noted that most of the environmental impact of food is associated with the food production stage rather than the transport and delivery of food.


While local and seasonal diets have advantages such as protecting local economies and crop diversity, efforts to reduce dietary-related environmental impacts should focus on reducing animal-based foods in high-consuming societies.


For more detailed information access the original article, “The Impacts of Dietary Change on Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Land Use, Water Use, and Health: A Systematic Review” by¬†Lukasz Aleksandrowicz , Rosemary Green, Edward J. M. Joy, Pete Smith, Andy Haines in the PLOS ONE journal.

Wetlands reborn a reward in sustainability

Wetlands reborn

From the magpie geese to the mighty Barramundi and even a few crocodiles, the rehabilitation of a wetland adjacent to the Great Barrier Reef has also brought with it recognition for the traditional owners who bought back their land.

Mungalla Aboriginal Business Corporation recently won the 2016 Minister’s Award for Leadership in Sustainability as part of the Queensland Premier’s Awards. They were also finalists in the prestigious Banksia Sustainability Awards.

They’ve been responsible for restoring the Mungalla wetland, a vital ecosystem near Ingham, north of Townsville, adjacent to the Great Barrier Reef and a nursery for reef fish.

When the Nywaigi people bought Mungalla Station in 1999, they knew their battle to truly reclaim and restore the land was only just beginning.

Around one quarter of the 880 hectare station is covered by wetlands, but these wetlands were choked by invasive weeds such as water hyacinth, hymenachne and aleman grass. The waters were so starved of oxygen that they were nearly barren of fish and bird life.

It wasn’t always this way. Older members of the Nywaigi people could recall when the wetlands were so full of life that the sky was black with magpie geese. The wetlands also hold great cultural value to the Nywaigi, but when Mungulla became a cattle station in the 1940s, an earth wall was built which blocked tidal flows into the wetlands and which turned them into freshwater which allowed for ponded pastures for the cattle.

CSIRO landscape ecologist Brett Abbott and hydrological modeller Fazlul Karim said their hydrological modelling suggested that removing the earth wall ~ called a bund ~ would allow the salt water to reach around 500 metres inland on a high tide, while research by a masters student working with the team also showed that salt water immersion was likely to kill many of the weeds.

So the wall came down, and the results stunned everyone involved.

The magpie geese have returned, along with nearly 280 other species of native bird. The waters are now home to at least nine species of fish, and serve as nursery grounds for some commercially and recreationally important reef fish such as barramundi and mangrove jack.

Magpie geese

The flourishing wetlands have also attracted tourists, and there are plans for an elevated walkway through the wetlands that would help to bring in tourist dollars to be reinvested into ongoing rehabilitation efforts.

Jacob Cassady, director of the Mungalla Aboriginal Business Corporation that now owns the station, also stresses the importance of raising awareness not just about the coastal wetlands, but about the health of the Great Barrier Reef in general.

It’s possibly the first time that a bund has been removed to rehabilitate a wetland, despite the fact that there are well over a thousand similar barriers up and down the Great Barrier Reef coastline.

‚ÄúTwo-thirds of the Great Barrier Reef is under significant bleaching, and that should be alarming, every Australian should be alarmed,‚ÄĚ he says. ‚ÄúHave they forgotten that this is one of the seven wonders of the natural world and we just take what we‚Äôve got in our backyard for granted?

‚ÄúThe wetland that we‚Äôre working in has a traditional story, and to restore the balance in that wetland is significantly important to the traditional owners,‚ÄĚ he says. ‚ÄúWhen we had our workshops, one of the traditional owners said ‚Äėhealthy country, healthy people‚Äô.‚ÄĚ

Repost ~ Wetlands reborn a reward in sustainability | ECOS

Our future isn’t all bad ~ The Good Anthropocene

High Line. Urban public park on an historic freight rail line, New York City, Manhattan.

What do New York’s Highline Park, a bike that washes carrots when you pedal, and a village that when it built four water tanks, created an increased storage capacity and increased crop yield rates from 6.83 quintals per ha in 1977 to 14.32 in 1986, have in common?

They are a number of positive stories about our future and how we are dealing well with our environment, in places all over the world.

It is rare to hear environmental scientists sounding positive about the future. But that’s exactly what’s happening now with an international group of researchers. Because over the past two years, they have been gathering examples of positive initiatives of various kinds from communities around the world. These range from projects involving community-based radiation monitoring in Japan to ones designed to create healthier school lunches in California, to puffin patrols in Newfoundland that save baby birds from traffic.

These researchers believe that there are aspects of these projects that can be used either alone, or in combination with one another to build a better, more sustainable future.

The researchers have analysed 100 of the more than 500 projects that have been contributed to the website they have created, Good Anthropocene.  As a result, they have identified some of the overarching trends in community initiatives that they believe can potentially play a role in creating a future that is both more just and more sustainable.

The researchers pulled out six main overarching themes from the projects that were submitted. They are:

1. Agroecology ~ these projects generally adopt social-ecological approaches to enhancing food-producing landscapes. One example is the Satoyama Initiative in Japan where urban residents are working with rural people to revive underused rural lands through farm stays and volunteer work along with financial support.

2. Green Urbanism ~ these are projects that focus on improving the liveability of urban areas. New York City’s Highline Park, where native species have been planted on abandoned railway lines to create urban spaces where art, education and recreation intersect and are accessible to all.

3. Future Knowledge ~ these are projects which foster new knowledge and education which can be used to transform societies. One example is Greenmatter, a program in South Africa to provide graduate-level skills for biodiversity conservation.

4. Urban Transformation ~ these projects work to create new types of social-ecological interactions around urban space. One example is the Sukhomajri village in the Himalaya’s where the community became well-known in the 1980s for coming together to stop Sukhna Lake from silting up as well as for harvesting rainwater, and in the process transforming their village.

5.¬†Fair Futures ~ these projects aim to create opportunities for more equitable decision making. One example is City of the Future¬†L√ľneburg 2030+ ~ a project that aims to envision the future city of¬†L√ľneburg,¬†Germany in a way that it turns into more sustainable, livable and fair place. The project has been jointly developed by the sustainability oriented¬†University of Leuphana, the local government of the Hanseatic City of L√ľneburg, local NGOs and business as well as citizens.

6. Sustainable Futures ~ these are social movements to build more just and sustainable futures. One example is the US based Farm Hack project that was founded in 2010 by farmers and organizers who use the internet to share new ideas about food production and innovative tools to increase the resilience of sustainable agriculture and rural economies. One example is a bicycle powered root washer.

This project is exciting ¬†because it represents a big shift for environmental scientists to start looking at things positively,‚ÄĚ says Elena Bennett, who teaches at McGill‚Äôs School of the Environment and is the lead author on a paper on the subject published today. ‚ÄúAs scientists, we tend to be very focussed on all the problems, so to look at examples of the sustainable solutions that people are coming up with ~ and to move towards asking, ‚Äėwhat do the solutions have in common‚Äô is a big change.‚ÄĚ

Bennett adds, ‚ÄúThis is also a move away from the typical academic perspective of looking at things in a top-down way, where we the scientists determine all the definitions. We have encouraged people who are involved in the projects to define what makes a project ‚Äėgood. We wanted to see a variety of ideas about what people want from the future.‚ÄĚ

The researchers invite those who are involved with sustainability projects of various kinds around the world to go to the Seeds of a Good Anthropocene website and contribute them.

Re-post ~ Our future doesn’t have to be dismall| McGill

See more ~ Good Anthropocene

Can we feed 10 billion people on organic farming alone?

Organic plant

Critics of organic agriculture have argued for years that organic agriculture is inefficient, requiring more land than conventional agriculture to yield the same amount of food. Proponents have countered that increasing research could reduce the yield gap, and organic agriculture generates environmental, health and socio-economic benefits that can’t be found with conventional farming.

Organic agriculture occupies only 1% of global agricultural land, making it a relatively untapped resource for one of the greatest challenges facing humanity: producing enough food for a population that could reach 10 billion by 2050, without the extensive deforestation and harm to the wider environment.

That’s the conclusion doctoral student Jonathan Wachter and John Reganold reached in reviewing 40 years of science and hundreds of scientific studies comparing the long term prospects of organic and conventional farming. The study, Organic Agriculture in the 21st Century, published in Nature Plants, is the first to compare organic and conventional agriculture across the four main metrics of sustainability identified by the US National Academy of Sciences: be productive, economically profitable, environmentally sound and socially just.

They found that although organic farming systems produce yields that average 10-20% less than conventional agriculture, they are more profitable and environmentally friendly. Historically, conventional agriculture has focused on increasing yields at the expense of the other three sustainability metrics. In addition, organic farming delivers equally or more nutritious foods that contain less or no pesticide residues, and provide greater social benefits than their conventional counterparts.

Conventional and organic farming graph

With organic agriculture, environmental costs tend to be lower and the benefits greater.

Biodiversity loss, environmental degradation and severe impacts on ecosystem services ~ which refer to nature’s support of wildlife habitat, crop pollination, soil health and other benefits ~ have not only accompanied conventional farming systems, but have often extended well beyond the boundaries of their fields, such as fertilizer run-off into rivers.

Organic farming can help to both feed the world and preserve bushland. In a study published this year, researchers modelled 500 food production scenarios to see if we can feed an estimated world population of 9.6 billion people in 2050 without expanding the area of farmland we already use. They found that enough food could be produced with lower-yielding organic farming, if people become vegetarians or eat a more plant-based diet with lower meat consumption.

The existing farmland can feed that many people if they are all vegan, a 94% success rate if they are vegetarian, 39% with a completely organic diet, and 15% with the Western-style diet based on meat. Realistically, we can’t expect everyone to forgo meat.

Organic isn’t the only sustainable option to conventional farming either. Other viable types of farming exist, such as integrated farming where you blend organic with conventional practices or grass-fed livestock systems.

How we farm for food has massive implications for biodiversity. A recent analysis of the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List has found agriculture to be the second largest threat to, and killer of, global biodiversity.

The ravages of guns, nets and bulldozers 1 1 A U G U S T 2 0 1 6 | V O L 5 3 6 | N A T U R E | 1 4 3 © 2016 Macmillan Publishers Limited, part of Springer Nature.

The ravages of guns, nets and bulldozers
1 1 A U G U S T 2 0 1 6 | V O L 5 3 6 | N A T U R E | 1 4 3
© 2016 Macmillan Publishers Limited, part of Springer Nature.

Sales of organic foods and beverages are rapidly growing in the world, increasing almost five-fold between 1999 and 2013 to $72bn. This 2013 figure is projected to double by 2018.  Organic food and beverage sales in 2015 represented almost 5% of US food and beverage sales, up from 0.8% in 1997.  Australian sales are equally robust.

Scaling up organic agriculture with appropriate public policies and private investment is an important step for global food and ecosystem security. The challenge facing policymakers is to develop government policies that support conventional farmers converting to organic systems. For the private business sector, investing in organics offers a lot of entrepreneurial opportunities and is an area of budding growth that will likely continue for years to come.

In a time of increasing population growth, climate change and environmental degradation, we need agricultural systems that come with a more balanced portfolio of sustainability benefits. Organic farming is one of the healthiest and strongest sectors in agriculture today and will continue to grow and play a larger part in feeding the world. It produces adequate yields and better unites human health, environment and socio-economic objectives than conventional farming.

Repost ~ Can we feed 10 billion people on organic farming alone? | The Guardian Australia
Additional reading ~ Commentary: The ravages of guns, nets and bulldozers | Nature

Global map reveals ‘unsafe levels’ of biodiversity across 58% of Earth’s surface

‘Beaufront’ grazing property near Ross, Tasmania | Source: ABC News

Biodiversity has dropped below the “safe limit” across 58% of the Earth’s surface according to the most comprehensive analysis of global data to date.

The international study, published recently in the journal¬†Science, suggests that the degree of lost biodiversity across more than half of the world’s surface is substantial enough to question the ability of many ecosystems to support human societies.

“We’ve found that across most of the world, biodiversity loss is no longer within the safe limit suggested by ecologists,” said lead researcher Dr Tim Newbold of University College London.
“We know biodiversity loss affects ecosystem function but how it does this is not entirely clear.

“What we do know is that in many parts of the world we are approaching a situation where human intervention might be needed to sustain ecosystem function.”

Other environmental experts said the research was impressive in its scope. But they said it is too soon to say we are on the verge of an ecological disaster and more work is needed at a local level.
Previous work has proposed a threshold whereby continued loss of biodiversity may impair an ecosystem’s ability to function.

“The main implication of crossing the safe limit of biodiversity intactness is that the ability of biodiversity to support important ecosystem functions ~ things like food production, nutrient cycling and pollination ~ becomes uncertain,” said Dr Newbold.

To assess the extent to which these limits had been crossed, Dr Newbold and a team of international researchers analysed a database of some 2.3 million records covering more than 39,100 species living in 18,600 sites.

Global map of biodiversity intactness

Global map of biodiversity intactness

Their global map (above) reveals that the average abundance of original species in much of the world has fallen to 84.6%.

The analysis suggested at least seven of the 14 terrestrial ecosystem types ~ or biomes ~ have crossed the suggested safe limit for biodiversity. Grasslands, savannahs and shrublands were most affected by biodiversity loss.

“This is where a lot of the world’s farmland is currently,” explained Dr Newbold.

Tundra and boreal forests were the least affected.

According to the global map, much of Australia is below the safe limit.

“Generally the most change in biodiversity has occurred in places where there are more people, but this isn’t always so,” said Dr Newbold. “In the case of Australia, the maps of the different land uses ‚Ķ suggest that a lot of Australia’s area is used for grazing livestock. This probably reflects reality to some extent, but is perhaps an overestimate [as] the extent of grazing land has proven difficult to estimate by global models.”

Professor Hugh Possingham, director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions at the University of Queensland, said the link between biodiversity and species abundance within ecosystems is still not well understood.

“I wouldn’t like to think because we’ve crossed these safe operating boundaries it’s a disaster” he said, adding that many ecosystems around the world had experienced significant losses of original species but had not collapsed.

Professor Possingham said it was important to quantify biodiversity loss, but the question is what to do about it.

He said conservation decisions needed to be based on factors such as what actions could be taken to restore the abundance and richness of species; how much those actions were likely to cost; were they likely to succeed; and whether or not there is a net benefit.

Repost ~ Global map reveals ‘unsafe levels’ of biodiversity across 58pc of Earth’s surface¬†|ABC News
See also ~ Has land use pushed terrestia biodiversity beyond the planetary boundary? | Science

Queensland rural business increases diversity, and profits

Kalresh carrots

Kalfresh is a multi-million-dollar business at Kalbar, an hour out of Brisbane in the fertile Scenic Rim. It grows, packs and markets carrots, pumpkins, onions and beans for domestic and export markets.

Managing director Richard Gorman changed hiring practices and the business culture after some questions about the diversity of his management team made him realise the company was being held back because of the lack of women at the senior level.

“Our management team, all men. Our board, all men. Anyone who had any say in anything, it was all men,” he said.

To address the problem he tapped into a pool of labour he had never considered; the tertiary-educated women married to Kalfresh’s managers and growers.

“We had some of the most talented people we could possibly ever hope for who in their professional world would be on enormous wages. We had it all right in front of us.”

Five wives agreed to work part time for the company on a special project. The team, which had decades of experience in corporate and government jobs, included a business consultant, a banker, a Walkley award-winning journalist, an events manager and a teacher.

They were asked to solve one of the company’s most vexing problems: vegetable waste.

“It’s extremely frustrating, you’re looking at a perfectly good item that might have been 10mm too short or it’s bent,” said Mr Gorman. Kalfresh grower Ed Windley said it was “not uncommon for the bottom 15 to 30 per cent of your crop at times to get the chop, and that just kills the whole economics of what you’re doing”.

“Feeding it to cows, which is worth just $50 a tonne, is the last resort so for us, so to be able to value add any of that is a big plus for the company. As a grower it means more money in your pocket,” said Kalfresh’s agricultural director Rob Hinrichsen.

The women proposed investing in a $3 million processing line to value add the seconds for the pre-cut bagged vegetable market. They researched consumer trends, designed the packaging, planned an advertising campaign and signed Woolworths up for a trial.

The trial was a success and Woolworths now stocks the Just Veg range¬†of carrot shred, circles and sticks in QLD, NSW and Victoria, with plans to expand to other states.”The emergence of pre-packaged fruit and veg in the last five years has been phenomenal,” said Woolworths’ head of produce Scott Davidson.

Tracey Rieck, who runs a vegetable farm with her husband Mick, said many farmers would be surprised how much value can be added to what the industry now calls “ugly veg”.

“It’s a smaller part of our whole crop but the return is insane,” she said. The seconds, which were worth between $50 and $100 a tonne as stock food, are now worth $5,000 a tonne, five times more than the premium bagged carrots which are worth $1000 a tonne.

Mr Gorman’s wife Alice said the pre-cut vegetable market was booming. “15 per cent of Australians buy a ready-to-go meal twice a week,” she said. “They use the supermarket as their fridge so they have less stuff at home, and they shop for what they require on a daily basis.

“They don’t like waste so they buy smaller amounts, and they’re time poor so often they’re looking for an easy but healthy option.”

Rob Hinrichsen said he’d been involved in the company for over 20 years and ‚ÄúI’ve never actually seen that sort of smooth transition over a 6 or 8 month period. It’s been sensational.”

Mr Gorman said: “It’s just another way diversity fixes problems.”

Re-post ~ Kalfresh: Qld rural business turns carrot problem into profit by increasing diversity | ABC

See more ~ Landline | ABC

Sacred mountains celebrate decade back under Aboriginal management

Sacred mountain handback

What began as a bold experiment ~ handing over control of two national parks in New South Wales to traditional Aboriginal owners a decade ago ~ is today being hailed as a landmark act of reconciliation.

In 2006 the NSW Government formally handed back Gulaga and Biamanga National Parks on the far south coast to the Yuin people, because of the significant cultural sites they contain and the living links to local Indigenous groups.

Gulaga, which was previously formally known as Mount Dromedary, is an imposing 823-metre mountain rising near the coastal town of Narooma. Biamanga National Park includes Mumbulla Mountain, further south in the Bega valley.

To the Yuin people, Gulaga is known as the Mother Mountain, and has always been a woman’s place. It includes sacred sites where Aboriginal women would retreat for storytelling, ceremony and childbirth.

Meanwhile Mumbulla was a traditional men’s mountain, and contains initiation sites where boys would become men of the Yuin tribe.

The Board of Management Chair for Gulaga, Iris White, said the park was a “beautiful” and “spiritual” place.

The energy the Yuin people have harnessed from Gulaga mountain took a very practical form when they successfully lobbied the NSW Government for traditional ownership back in 2006. Biamanga Board chair Paul Stewart said it was the culmination of decades of struggle for legal recognition of Indigenous links to their land.

“I’m just so happy to put something back,” Mr Stewart said. “Something 10 years ago that we used to drive past and say to our kids, ‘that’s ours’ … now we have got the chance to manage it.”

Traditional ownership of the national parks areas means they are managed in very different ways to other parks. For instance, a recently released Plan of Management allows Indigenous owners to close the parks to public access for cultural purposes such as initiation rites. It also allows for the possibility of traditional fire management and hunting on site.

National Parks area manager Preston Cope said those land uses required a rethink for their agency. “There are a lot of native bush tucker foods around this park,” Mr Cope said. “In a normal park, it would be illegal to collect plant material, but in this park if you’re an Aboriginal owner and you get permission from the board, then you can come and do that. “Guns cannot be used ~ they have to use traditional methods for hunting.”

Under the joint management arrangement, decisions about the running of the parks are made by the two boards, and implemented by the National Parks and Wildlife Service. “One of [the board’s] aspirations is for developing tourism on the park,” Mr Cope said. “If we were managing the park without Aboriginal owners involved, it would be a much more straight-forward business. We have to have everybody in agreeance with how the cultural heritage will be interpreted, and to do that, requires a fair bit of work that we wouldn’t normally do.”

However, all parties agree that traditional ownership of the two sacred mountains has led to a cultural revival, especially for young people who are now learning their culture.

Re-post ~ Sacred mountains celebrate decade back under Aboriginal management | ABC News

Read more ~ National Parks & Wildlife Service NSW Management Plans

Rammed earth wall keeping the top end cool

Long rammed earth wall

Composed of 230m of simple, natural materials, this earthen structure may look unassuming, yet it is actually the longest rammed earth wall in Australia. Built to accommodate cattle workers during mustering season in the scorching Western Australia outback, the eco-friendly formation represents a shift in the approach to architectural design of this sort. Built by¬†Luigi Rosselli Architects and tucked into the edge of a sand dune, this “Great Wall of Australia” is a brilliant example of simple, eco-conscious design.

The wall is constructed primarily using iron-rich, sandy clay obtained from the building site and gravel from a nearby river, which are bound together using water from a local bore.

This ancient technique forms the exterior façade, that is then built into a sand dune which forms the rear and roof of the building. Simple in theory, this results in a structure that naturally stays cool, even in the intense heat of the outback.


The continuous building contains twelve earth-covered apartments, separated by angled verandas to maintain privacy. Designer Sarah Foletta creates an interior space with a minimalistic yet liveable style, and a central hub on top of the wall provides a place for residents to meet and socialize.

Roof lght

It may seem decidedly elementary, yet this natural, energy-efficient approach towards housing development will save time, money, and resources. The design has been acknowledged by Australian Institute of Architects, and hopefully represents a shift towards similarly eco-friendly architecture in the future.

Re-post ~ Eco friendly “Great Wall of Australia” Naturally Protects Residents from Sweltering Heat¬†| My Modern Met

Floating solar solution for Lismore Community Solarfarm

In an exciting and unexpected turn of events, a floating solar solution is now going to be used for the East Lismore Community Solarfarm.

This change has been made at the sewage treatment plant to overcome the site limitations and maximise opportunities to expand the size of the solar array in the future ~ particularly given Lismore City Council’s plan for 100% renewable energy.

We think it’s wonderful that our prospective community investors can now consider what is an even more pioneering project, together of course with the high profile solarfarm planned for Goonellabah Sports & Aquatic Centre.

Here is an example of what the floating solarfarm may look like:

The two community companies for the projects ~ Lismore Community Solarfarm (Goonellabah) Pty Ltd, and, Lismore Community Solarfarm (East) Pty Ltd ~ have now been incorporated. These are the legal entities which will raise the funds for the two solarfarms, by offering shares for investors. In turn, once the investment offers are fully subscribed, each company will loan the funds to Lismore City Council to build the each of the solarfarms (Goonellabah Sports and Aquatic Centre and East Lismore Sewage Treatment Plant).

A constitution for each of the companies has been fully executed and will be available on the Farming the Sun website in due course.

For this establishment stage of the community companies, Starfish Initiatives is the sole shareholder and has appointed Executive Director, Adam Blakester, as the sole director. Starfish will surrender their share, and Adam will resign as Director, as the community investors become shareholders and in turn nominate to be directors at the each company’s first General Meeting after the investment offers are completed.

The offer documents, formally known as an Offer Information Statement, are being submitted to Norton Rose Fulbright, our legal partners, for final review and is expected for Launch by late May all going to plan.

As these community energy investments are a private offer, it will be only be made available to those parties who have signed onto the Investor Pledge. As at today, 136 people have signed the Investor Pledge. We would greatly welcome your interest as well! You can add your name to the list here.

The funds raised by private investment will be lent to Lismore City Council to build the solarfarms. In the event that there are any excess funds remaining, the terms of the loan provide that the Council may utilise these funds for other projects identified within their 100% Renewable Energy Master Plan.

The tenders to build the solarfarms are being conducted by Lismore City Council. These are now live!  These tenders will run in parallel with us releasing the investment offers to raise the funds for the two projects.

The tenders can be accessed via¬†Lismore City Council’s Tenderlink. For more information, contact Lismore City Council.

In addition to all of the above good news and progress, Starfish is incredibly pleased and grateful for confirmation of a major donation from Diversicon Environmental Foundation. Diversicon’s donation will enable us to cover the full establishment costs for the two Lismore Community Solarfarm projects ~ Australia’s first community-funded and Council-operated projects of this kind. iversicon join with our other financial partners ~ NSW Office of Environment & Heritage, Lismore City Council and The Earth Welfare Foundation.

While this cash funding is essential, it is important to also recognise the substantial pro-bono investments being made by our other partners ~ particularly Embark Australia and Norton Rose Fulbright ~ which in total value are greater than our modest cash budget.

Starfish expresses its sincere gratitude to these Project Partners for their trust and investment in our collective vision and work.

The Farming the Sun collaboration is now working on the following priorities:
1. Finalising the private share offer after legal advice is received
2. Signing the loan agreements (between the two community companies and Lismore City Council)
3. Establishing administrative and financial systems for the community companies
4. Launching the Private Investment Offers

Useful links ~

Find out more about Lismore Community Solar ~

Read more about the floating solarfarm announcement ~

Without fossil fuels, a new population puzzle


How many people can the Earth support? It’s a question that’s been asked for centuries, generating wildly divergent answers ~ from less than a billion to more than a trillion. Today, the question arises with new urgency as we contemplate life after oil.

Perhaps the best answer comes from Joel Cohen of Rockefeller University, in his aptly titled How Many People Can the Earth Support? It’s an exhaustively researched 532-page book, but his conclusion can be summarized in two words: it depends.

That is, the planet’s capacity to sustain human life depends on how resources are used and distributed and on the values and social structures that shape the way we live.

If all of the world’s people ate like carnivorous Americans ~ 1,763 pounds of grain each per year, some eaten directly, but most fed to livestock ~ then the 2-billion-ton world grain harvest would support only 2.5 billion people.

That’s a problem, since there are now 7.4 billion of us. But if we all ate like people in India ~ a mostly vegetarian diet of just 440 pounds of grain per person each year ~ then the same harvest would support a population of 10 billion.

Certainly, there is some elasticity in the planet’s carrying capacity, and better, fairer resource use could help expand it. But, in a world where fossil fuels were in short supply, that capacity would likely contract.

In recent decades, food production has more than kept pace with skyrocketing population growth, partly thanks to mechanization and cheap oil. Indeed, modern agriculture is so dependent on fossil fuels that the food we eat is practically ‚Äúmarinated in crude oil‚ÄĚ, says environmental activist Bill McKibben. The vast quantity of oil required to maintain Western consumption is at least partially to blame for its leading per capita carbon footprint. Reductions in the oil supply would curtail food production ~ at least in the short term.

Shortages of natural gas would also make it harder to synthesize nitrogen fertilizer, which has helped triple crop yields since 1950.

Climate change could dramatically reduce crop yields in many parts of the world at a time when global food production must increase by 70% to keep pace with current trajectories of growth and consumption.

So, how many people can the Earth support? The fact is, we just don’t know. But, given the uncertain supply of fossil fuels and the grim realities of climate change, it makes sense to aim for the low end of the United Nations’ population projections ~ about 9 billion people, rather than 13 billion ~ by the end of this century. The good news is that we actually know how to do this:

    • all people can make real choices about childbearing
    • ensuring access to voluntary family planning services
    • educating girls, and
    • providing opportunities for women.

We may not know how many people the Earth can support, or what will happen in a world of dwindling fossil fuels and a changing climate. But we do know this: The best means to slow population growth are also important ends in themselves. And together, they can help build a sustainable, equitable future.

Re-post ~ Without fossil fuels, a new population puzzle | Yes