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Agroecology & Regenerative Agriculture excerpt

Agroecology & Regenerative Agriculture excerpt

The following is an excerpt from Agroecology & Regenerative Agriculture: Sustainable Solutions for Hunger, Poverty, and Climate Change by Dr. Vandana Shiva:

Biodiversity is the Foundation of Agroecology

Agroecology is the scientific paradigm for sustainable agriculture. Agriculture is and should indispensably be a life-enhancing phenomenon. Production of a variety of healthy and nutritious foods requires a productive and healthy agroecosystem reverberating with biodiversity in its forest, cropland, and livestock. Agriculture based on healthy, biodiversity-laden, and vibrant agroecosystem is naturally the agriculture rooted into its inexhaustible source of nature: the solar-powered agroecosystem.

Agroecology is the holistic study of agroecosystems, including all environmental and human elements. It focuses on the form, dynamics, and functions of their interrelationships and the processes in which they are involved (Altieri 1987; Reijntjes et al. 1992). Intercropping, agroforestry, and other traditional methods mimic natural ecological processes. The sustainability of many local practices lies in the ecological models that agroecologists follow. By designing farming systems that mimic nature, farmers can get the optimal use out of sunlight, soil nutrients, and rainfall (Reijntjes 1992).
Agroecology gives deeper meaning to agriculture. It integrates agriculture with ecology. It helps us understand the direct relationship between agriculture and ecology. It teaches us to be in tune with nature while producing a diversity of healthy, nutritious, and delicious foods using sources of nature. In essence, agroecology is the philosophy of relishing all edibles that nature produces and, at the same time, nurturing nature so that it can blossom with biodiversity.

Agroecology is now a separate discipline of agriculture and ecology. It is the central concept of many valuable ideas, philosophies, approaches, strategies, and tactics of life which include natural farming, traditional agriculture, permaculture, biodynamic farming, integrated pest management, organic agriculture, and sustainable agriculture. Agroecology uses ecological theory to study, design, manage, and evaluate food production systems. It is the concept on which sustainable agriculture—which ensures the future of agriculture—has been built. It is through applying the principles of agroecology that we protect, conserve, and augment natural resources such as forests, grasslands, livestock, soil, water resources, and farming. Agroecology appreciates and strengthens interactions among all crucial biophysical, socioeconomic and technical components of the agroecosystems. All components are regarded to be fundamental units of an integrated system.

Agroecology helps us understand and maintain vital mineral cycles, biological processes, energy transformations, and socioeconomic relationships in an integrated manner. Agricultural strategies woven around the principles of agroecology look into local geographical, socioeconomic, environmental, and cultural specificities and obey traditions, such as food habits, festivities, and ethical or aesthetic values.

In essence, agroecology is the philosophy of relishing all edibles that nature produces and, at the same time, nurturing nature so that it can blossom with biodiversity.

A one-dimensional monoculture view of conventional agriculture has no place in agroecology. An understanding of ecological and social levels of co-evolution, structure, and function is instead necessary (Altieri 2000). Rather than focusing on one particular component of the agroecosystem, agroecology emphasizes the interrelatedness of all components and the complex dynamics of ecological processes (Vandermeer 1995). Agroecology is a holistic response to agribusiness-based exploitative technologies and trade for profits, which have no room for other values of life and are not conscious of the future of the planet. Agroecology, on the other hand, does not overlook technical and economic aspects but is very much alive to social, cultural, and environmental issues, firmly standing for the present and future well-being of society.

Food production needs are central to the concept of agroecology. The performance criteria in agroecology takes into consideration vital contemporary issues, namely, ecological sustainability, food security, and climate change mitigation and adaptation. Traditional concepts of organic farming, natural farming, and ecological farming offer to resolve numerous issues from the individual family to the global level, from seed to swaraj (self-rule), from agribusiness empire to genuine socialism, from food security to food sovereignty, from ecological disaster to ecological affluence, and from climate chaos to climate order.


Dr. Vandana Shiva is an author, physicist, ecologist, and advocate of biodiversity conservation and farmer’s rights. Her pioneering work around food sovereignty, traditional agriculture, and women’s rights created fundamental cultural shifts in how the world views these issues.

Along with Jerry Mander, Edward Goldsmith, Ralph Nader, and Jeremy Rifkin, Dr. Shiva is a leader and board member of the International Forum on Globalization and a prominent figure of the global solidarity movement known as the alter-globalization movement.

Dr. Shiva founded Navdanya, an organization that promotes agroecology, seed freedom, and a vision of Earth Democracy, seeking justice for the Earth and all living beings. She has authored more than 20 books including Reclaiming the Commons: Biodiversity, Indigenous Knowledge, and the Rights of Mother Earth (Synergetic Press, 2020), Philanthrocapitalism & The Erosion of Democracy: A Global Citizens’ Report on the Corporate Control of Technology, Health, and Agriculture (Synergetic Press, 2022) and Agroecology and Regenerative Agriculture: Sustainable Solutions for Hunger, Poverty, and Climate Change (Synergetic Press, 2022).

Dr. Shiva is a member of the scientific committee of the Fundacion IDEAS, Spain’s Socialist Party’s think tank and the International Organization for a Participatory Society. She received the Right Livelihood Award in 1993, an honor known as an “Alternative Nobel Prize”. She has received numerous other awards and honors for her work including the “Save the World” award in 2009 and the Sydney Peace Prize in 2010. Dr. Shiva’s life and work is the subject of the award-winning 2021 documentary, “Seeds of Vandana Shiva.”

 

 

 

 

The Mind of Plants excerpt: Cannabis

The Mind of Plants excerpt: Cannabis

The following is an excerpt from Jeremy Narby’s essay, “Cannabis,” from The Mind of Plants: Narratives of Vegetal Intelligence:

The years skipped by, and I started working for a humanitarian organization based in Switzerland as an Amazonian projects manager, helping Indigenous Amazonian people gain land titles and access to bilingual education. So, my work kept a focus on humans. But the Ashaninca’s view of plants continued to intrigue me. Were plants really intelligent beings? Could psychoactive plants really teach things to those who consumed them? My experience with ayahuasca confirmed that this plant brew could lead to important understandings, so I knew the notion had some basis.

I decided to test the matter on a psychoactive plant that I knew I could grow in my garden, outdoors, and with sunlight: cannabis. I had used it previously for recreational purposes. While in college, I had occasionally smoked grass, usually with pleasure.

I intended to grow some organic cannabis and test it on myself to see if it worked as a “plant teacher.” I would follow Ashaninca precepts as much as possible. For starters, it had to be a natural-grown plant, not an indoor one grown with electricity. And to try to learn from this psychoactive plant, I would have to act with disciplined intent. As I am not a shaman of any sort but an anthropologist and a writer, I wanted to see if the plant could help with my thinking and writing. I wanted to enroll the plant to reach a fuller understanding of the world we live in and gain knowledge about nature and all forms of life, including people.

First, I read up on the cannabis plant and on growing techniques. I learned how to start plants from seeds, grow them with daily care, select only female plants for their resin-rich flowers, harvest them, and dry them. By 1991, at the age of thirty-one, I was producing outdoor organic cannabis for my personal research. Starting any younger would have been risky, as research indicates that heavy cannabis use disrupts learning in adolescents and young adults. But I figured I was old enough to take a risk. The point was not to take repeated doses of strong cannabis and become a “chronic heavy user,” but to use the plant for a purpose and in a disciplined way, in order to get an idea of what the Ashaninca were talking about when they said that one could learn from a plant.

I trained myself physically, running in the forest every day. I kept to a healthy diet and gave up sugar and processed foods. I knew I had to be healthy and strong to work with a plant teacher.

I spent the first part of my working days in ordinary consciousness, doing my desk job, and reading anthropology and biology on the side. And in the late afternoons, I would smoke some cannabis, go running in nature, and think about what I had just read or written. Interesting ideas tended to flow into my mind during those moments; I could consider the data from a freer, more sensorial, and side-winding perspective. To catch these fleeting ideas, I carried around a pocket notebook and a felt pen. As soon as an interesting idea came my way, I would stop running and note it down. The next morning, in sober and lucid consciousness, I would use the previous day’s insights or discard them if they did not seem relevant.

It’s true, some cannabis-inspired thinking is nebulous and requires lucid criticism. But I found that this worked both ways; cannabis thinking provided an interesting angle on normal thinking, and the converse was also true. I allowed myself to critique both equally as I went back and forth between the two. The end result of combining these two ways of thinking was that I found myself reaching a fuller understanding of the questions I considered.

Cannabis also allowed me to reread my own words with detachment as if someone else had written them. This was precious because I tended to be overly attached to my own words when I was in the process of writing. With cannabis, I found that I could detect the words that didn’t feel quite right or that lacked clarity, and I could also see what was missing—such as the things I didn’t know enough about yet and needed to look into. For me, cannabis worked as a “plant editor.”

For several years, and on a near-daily basis, I went back and forth between these two ways of thinking. Using this method, I looked into a discipline about which I knew very little, molecular biology, and ended up writing a book about its possible interface with Amazonian shamanism. The book went on to have some success and was translated into multiple languages. However, I kept the cannabis work method to myself. Using the plant was one thing, discussing it was another. At the time, in the late 1990s, cannabis was illegal almost everywhere in the world. There was still a “war on drugs,” and talking about the method would have meant confessing to a crime. Also, discussing the method could have been construed as promoting it, and it seemed obvious that consuming strong cannabis on a regular basis was not for everybody. I was fortunate to find myself in the right circumstances, living in a quiet place surrounded by nature, and knowing enough to follow Ashaninca principles of discipline and intent. What’s more, my driven temperament allowed me to handle most of the plant’s discombobulating effects. But this was certainly not the case for most people. Cannabis was just not everybody’s cup of tea. Most of the people I knew who smoked it in their teens or early twenties had stopped doing so because it made them feel paranoid or confused.

I had no interest in promoting cannabis by saying that I used it as a plant teacher. All I wanted to do was to “learn from the plant.”


Jeremy Narby is an anthropologist and writer who has worked since 1989 as Amazonian projects director for the Swiss non-profit Nouvelle Planète, backing projects for the self-determination of Amazonian indigenous peoples that involve land rights, primary education, village health, botanical knowledge, fish farms, tree nurseries, and other local initiatives.

Jeremy grew up in Canada and Switzerland, studied history at the University of Canterbury, receiving a doctorate in anthropology from Stanford University. Jeremy spent several years living with the Ashaninca tribe in the Peruvian Amazon, cataloging indigenous uses of rainforest resources.

Narby has authored several books including The Cosmic Serpent: DNA and the Origins of Knowledge (1999), Shamans Through Time: 500 Years on the Path to Knowledge (2001), Intelligence in Nature: An Inquiry into Knowledge (2005), and Psychotropic Mind: The World According to Ayahuasca, Iboga, and Shamanism (2010). He lectures worldwide and sponsors rainforest expeditions for biologists and other scientists to examine indigenous knowledge systems and the utility of ayahuasca in gaining knowledge. He was featured in the documentary “DMT: The Spirit Molecule.”

 

 

In Memoriam, Dr. Ralph Metzner (1936-2019)

In Memoriam, Dr. Ralph Metzner (1936-2019)

Ralph in 1963, photographer unknown

In Loving Memory of the Visionary Ralph Metzner

Psychologist, writer, pioneer in the field of psychedelic and consciousness research, Dr. Ralph Metzner passed away peacefully in his sleep earlier this week, March 14, 2019. He was truly an asset to this planet and will be greatly missed by us all.

Ralph was always far beyond his time and will be remembered for histories to come. He traversed the boundaries of traditional psychology through the integration of shamanic techniques that alter consciousness, and enable us a deepened awareness of the human psyche. As a graduate student in the early 1960s, Ralph worked closely with Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert (later Ram Dass) on the Harvard research into psilocybin. Beyond research, in the 1970s Ralph’s focus shifted to the intensive study and practice of yoga, incorporating a meditative system of life-energy into his work. Furthermore, he was a brilliant author, and some of his books include: Searching for the Philosophers’ Stone; Encounters with Mystics, Scientists, and Healers, Ecology of Consciousness; The Alchemy of Personal, Collective, and Planetary Transformation, Birth of a Psychedelic Culture and many more.

A planetary steward, Ralph was the founder and president of the Green Earth Foundation which strove to harmonize human understanding with the planet that we live in. In 2014, Ralph was interviewed by Michael Gosney at the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) Conference in Oakland, California regarding his views on ecology for the Eco Evolution Podcast. This podcast examines the ecological crisis that we are living through, illuminating the fact that our relationship to the divine has been severed.

“The idea that the spiritual and the natural are opposed or that spirituality must always transcend nature is a culturally relative concept not shared by non-monotheistic religions or traditional societies. In indigenous cultures around the world the natural world is regarded as the realm of spirit and the sacred; the natural is the spiritual. From this follows an attitude of respect, a desire to maintain a balanced relationship…-in short, sustainability.” Ralph Metzner, “The Psychopathology of the Human-Nature Relationship,” 1995

Listen to the podcast in full here.

A Tribute to Our Beloved Friend

Dr. Ralph Metzner and publisher, Deborah Parrish Snyder, when she visited him in his home late November 2018.

“Our beloved Ralph Metzner, pioneer in consciousness research, left the planet early this morning. His friends agree, there is no person better prepared for death than Ralph. As he makes the ultimate transition, I say so long, friend, as you transcend, know how much wisdom you have left behind, and how we treasure you.” Deborah Parrish Snyder, Synergetic Press Publisher

Global treasure Ralph Metzner, one of those on whose shoulders our evolving consciousness stands, passed over today. A quickening in the force as his human wisdom and inspiring journey informs the broader Gaiamind.

As the relatively obscure member of the “Harvard Psychedelic Club” trio, unlike Leary and Alpert he kept pushing the envelope in the field of psychology all the way until his final days, studying, researching, teaching, evolving. He held the first major conference on Ayahuasca in San Francisco in 2002 (we produced the private after party at the Anon Salon space), and was the guide of the guides one might say, in fostering the neo-shamanic movement of psychedelic Work, a culture just now making its way out of the underground as psychedelic-assisted therapy emerges as a new legal paradigm of caregiving and life enrichment, and a new respect for the spiritual and healing powers of ayahuasca, fungi and other plant teacher/healers dawns. He was a thoughtful, very kind man, and from early on saw the need for awareness and care of our planetary body while we are taking our human journey, as expressed through his Green Earth Foundation and contributions to the Eco-Psychology movement. His newest book, just released, is a wonderful biographical account “Searching for the Philosophers’ Stone: Encounters with Mystics, Scientists, and Healers”. He explored and taught us about the passage of death, making his own transition all the more poignant. As is often the case with our visionaries, his work and life’s legacy will now be more widely recognized, and we hope received, by the mainstream.

May your path bring more light, love, and life to you dear friend. Thank you from all of us.” —Michael Gosney, Synergetic Press Associate Publisher

An Exploration into Other Worlds

In 2013, Ralph collaborated with us to commemorate the publication of The Mystic Chemist, in the Collected Works Bookstore, Santa Fe, NM. In this talk, Ralph recounts personal stories of his extraordinary experiences into Other Worlds, whilst reflecting on the life of the late Albert Hoffman. 

Meditations on Mortality

After Ralph’s departure, it is comforting to have video footage from an interview taken for the revolutionary documentary, DMT: The Spirit Molecule, exposing his thoughts on the nature of death. Being avidly involved with research into psychoactive substances, Ralph discusses the ability of these mind-manifesting substances to transform our conception of death, helping us to evaporate fear in the realization that we are not our bodies, and that there is ultimately “nothing to be afraid of.”

Ralph, you were truly an inspiration and a guide to all that met you, the world has yet to digest the lessons that you spent your life teaching. 

R.I.P. Ralph Metzner (1936-2019)

 

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