Sydney’s footprint is growing despite more efficient resource use

By Environment Editor

"Rebound effect" ... experts say our footprint is growing as a direct result of increased consumption. Photo: Domino

“Rebound effect” … experts say our footprint is growing as a direct result of increased consumption. Photo: Domino

WHILE Sydneysiders are saving more water, cutting energy use and recycling more rubbish than they were a decade ago, their environmental footprints could actually be bigger.

The release of the State of the Environment 2012 paints a picture of a cleaner, greener society evolving across NSW, with measurable improvements in most categories of sustainable living.

But the truth is likely to be less heartening. Experts point to a phenomena known as ”the rebound effect” under which people use resources more efficiently, then eliminate most of the benefits by consuming more.

”For example, people are saving more water because they’ve got more efficient shower heads, but at the same time we’ve also got a desalination plant that’s really energy intensive, so the energy intensity of everybody’s cup of tea goes up,” said Associate Professor Damien Giurco, a director at the Institute for Sustainable Futures at the University of Technology Sydney.

Since 1990, household spending has risen by an average of 82 per cent, even as many consumption practices became less wasteful, the report said.

While fossil fuel use has dropped 3 per cent since 2006, it still makes up 94 per cent of all the state’s energy use, partly because car ownership has gone up, meaning more petrol is burned. People are also buying more imported goods, which exports the environmental cost of creating them.

”The value of the dollar has gone up, so people are filling their homes with lots of stuff, including a lot of electronic stuff made in China,” Professor Giurco said.

”We might only use one, highly-efficient phone charger, but we’ve got 10 old phone chargers lying around unused in cupboards, which is not a great outcome … Basically, I think it means we think we are getting more efficient by having more efficient processes, but overall we’re not having a lower impact.”

A CSIRO report into resources use, Resource Efficiency: Economics and Outlook for Asia and the Pacific, identified the disconnect between some improvements in sustainability and the overall pressures on the environment.

The average Australian consumes about 45 tonnes of resources per year – including biomass, fossil fuels, metals, industrial, and construction materials – compared with an average across Asia of 8.6 tonnes.

”This modelling indicates that potential efficiency gains will not reach far enough and will not keep pace with growth in population and per-capita demand sufficiently to avoid significant resource depletion and emissions consequences,” the report said.

Part of the problem is developing an accounting system that draws an accurate picture of the total environmental impact of the decisions we make, said the director of the Wentworth Group of concerned scientists, Peter Cosier.

”To some extent, we’ve spent hundreds of millions of dollars collecting environmental data, but not a lot of it can actually be used to assess the condition of the whole environment, and the impact you make,” Mr Cosier said.

”Just because someone uses water more efficiently on the central coast, it doesn’t make any difference to the Murray-Darling Basin, and we need to account for that disconnection.”

The Wentworth Group is attempting to do so as part of holistic water management trial that spans 10 of Australia’s 56 water catchment management areas. The results, to be released later this year, will try to refine a more intelligent and sustainable method of managing water resources.

”We want to provide policymakers and everyone else with the best accounting tools, so they can make informed decisions about total environmental impacts,” Mr Cosier said.

How climate change will affect where you live

The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change spells out how climate change will affect each part of the world, and what can be done about it. For many regions the IPCC only makes vague predictions, and in some cases the impacts are deeply uncertain.

Here is our rough guide to the main impacts this century, and some tips for coping with them. It is partly based on draft versions of the report’s many chapters, the final text of which will be released within the next two days.

Europe: The south will fry

The Mediterranean looks to be the most threatened part of Europe, because the IPCC expects “multiple stresses and systemic failures due to climate change”.

Energy demand will drop in the rest of Europe, but the increased need for cooling around the Mediterranean will drive up energy costs. Tourism, a key industry, will take a hit from 2050, when holidaymakers are expected to choose northern destinations. Forest fires and heatwaves will increase, crops and vineyards will become less productive, fishery production will decrease and rising seas pose a growing threat.

To adapt, people will need to use energy-efficient cooling technologies to reduce energy demands; insure their assets; plant more diverse crops; and build early warning systems and hard walls to defend against floods.

North America: Shifting water

Rain and storms will move northwards, flooding areas north of New YorkMovie Camera and leaving southern areas short of water. Mexicans will have to do everything they can to preserve water and escape the heat.

Adapting to water deficits is not too hard: the key is increased efficiency. But extra flooding is more problematic, with total costs expected to increase tenfold this century.

The US has the capacity to adapt, but is struggling with misinformation and a lack of political will. Nevertheless, New York is on the right path, raising infrastructure like boilers out of the way of expected floods and trying to capture flood water before it reaches sewers.

Asia: Too much water, too little water

Sea-level rise is the biggest problem facing Asia. Globally, the majority of the people directly affected will be in southern and eastern Asia.

But that is not the only problem. Water scarcity will affect most of Asia, and higher temperatures will lower rice yields in some areas by shortening the growing season. Food production in Russia is under particular threat, and the IPCC estimates that up to 139 million people could face food shortages at least once a decade by 2070.

Countries will need to manage water better: water-saving technologies in irrigation may help. Growing crops that cope with high temperatures can boost yields up to 15 per cent, offsetting much of the almost 20 per cent decline expected by 2100.

Australasia: Extreme unknowns

There is a lot of uncertainty about impacts in Australasia, but some things are clear.

More extreme rainfall and rising sea levels will increase the frequency of devastating floods like those that hit Queensland in 2011. People in some areas will have to move away.

Extreme heat will increase and threaten lives, particularly those of the sick and elderly, and also cause more wildfires.

The Great Barrier Reef will continue to degrade, with warmer and more acidic water bleaching more coral, and greater stress coming from factors like agricultural run-off.

Coping with all this requires early warning systems and response plans. But there is huge uncertainty about how rainfall patterns will change. It may be best to plan for the worst.

Africa: Struggling to cope

The big issue for Africa is food security. Crops and livestock will be affected by flooding, drought and shifts in the timing of rainfall and temperature, but where and how these impacts will be felt is uncertain. There will also be more soil erosion from storms, plus pest and disease outbreaks due to warmer temperatures.

Africa has little capacity to adapt. One of the most pressing problems is simply spreading the word about climate change so people can make informed decisions.

Central and South America: Changing norms

Northern Brazil may lose 22 per cent of its annual rainfall by 2100, while the region around Chile could get a 25 per cent increase.

The drying regions will face food shortages. In northern Brazil, that will affect some of the poorest people. Shrinking glaciers in the Andes also threaten water supplies for some people, and will increase tensions.

Climate change will also bring new diseases to many areas, including water-borne diseases like cholera.

The whole region is relatively poor so will struggle to adapt. The first step is to adapt to the current climate. That includes easing poverty and creating early warning systems for disease outbreaks and bad weather.

Small islands: Sinking and eroding

Unsurprisingly, sea-level rise is one of the biggest threats for small islands, including those in the tropics, the Mediterranean, off Africa, and in the Indian and Pacific oceans. Rising waters will swamp some areas, erode coasts and contaminate sources of fresh water.

Building sea walls can have mixed results. In Barbados, building them protected human assets but led to more erosion elsewhere on the coast. It is sometimes better to use “soft” measures like increasing coastal vegetation to reduce erosion.

If islands are near coral reefs, the inhabitants often rely on the reef ecosystems for their livelihood. Reefs are now threatened by warm seas and acidification. But reducing other pressures, like water pollution and destructive fishing, could help.

Source:  How climate change will affect where you live

Read more:Climate report 2014: Your guide to the big questionsa>”

How you pay for your neighbour’s air-con

By Sara Phillips                                                                                                           ABC Environment, 16 Jan 2014

How you pay for your neighbour’s air-con

While you’re sweating it out, you’re paying for your neighbour’s air-conditioning to be running. How? It’s because the electricity market in Australia needs changing.

Air-con

Are you one of the lucky ones with air conditioning? As we swelter through this heatwave, those that can are switching on the AC and keeping cool. Those that can’t are lying semi-naked in front of fans with a wet cloth on their heads.

In the past 20 years, Australians have embraced air conditioning. In 1994, a quarter of households had it. These days more than half do.

While it’s bliss to sprawl in front of the cold air, there is a serious downside to chilling out. The Productivity Commission last year said that air conditioners are largely responsible for putting the electricity network under strain and that strain costs us dearly.

On hot days, like today, we all turn on the air-con at the same time, creating a situation that the electricity companies call ‘peak demand’.

The Productivity Commission said “[I]n New South Wales, peak demand events occurring for less than 40 hours per year (or less than one per cent of the time) account for around 25 per cent of retail electricity bills.”

In other words, the pressure to meet peak demand has made the electricity companies over-invest in extra power stations that we rarely use. But we still wear the cost of building them on our electricity bills.

“For example,” the PC’s Electricity Network Regulatory Frameworks report continues, “a household running a two kilowatt (electrical input) reverse cycle air conditioner, and using it during peak times, receives an implicit subsidy equivalent of around $350 per year from other consumers who don’t do this.”

In effect, your sweaty neighbours without air-con are helping to pay for your comfort.

The solution, says the PC, is something called ‘demand management’. It’s about finding ways to reduce overall demand for electricity, but particularly during peak times so that huge sums of money are not invested in new power plants that are hardly ever switched on.

It’s basically the electricity equivalent of water restrictions during a drought so a new dam doesn’t need to be built.

CSIRO published a post yesterday about some demand management ideas that have been given a run. It includes an idea they call ‘cost reflective pricing’, which is also known as ‘time of use pricing’ or ‘flexible pricing’. In essence, your electricity company charges you more for electricity at peak times of demand, thereby encouraging you to save your energy-intensive activities for a cheaper time of day.

Some energy retailers in Australia offer such a service, but it tends to be something that customers need to ring up and request, rather than being automatic.

I spoke with Gilles Walgenwitz, a consultant with energy efficiency firm Energetics about some other ideas too. He nominated ‘voluntary curtailment’ in which customers (usually commercial customers) enter into an agreement with their energy company to shut down a piece of equipment on request when peak demand hits.

There’s also ‘direct load control’ where energy companies are given the power by customers to switch off power to various appliances during periods of peak demand.

All of these ideas have been piloted in Australia. All of them have been shown to work. However implementing them has been slower in coming. This is primarily because of the way energy companies make their money.

Energy companies either make money by charging customers for electricity or by building new infrastructure. The more electricity you use, the more likely it is that electricity companies will receive income from either of these sources.

They have very little incentive to help you save electricity.

Coupled with the popularity of solar panels, electricity companies’ business models are looking unprepared for life in the 21st century.

The Productivity Commission was called in to try to suggest some ways that the energy companies of Australia could organise themselves to be better prepared for the changing market conditions.

The government at the time enthusiastically embraced the PC’s recommendations, but said that a lot of them were already under consideration by Standing Council on Energy and Resources, the committee made up of Australian state energy ministers.

At the latest SCER meeting, in December 2013, the ministers announced that “While continuing to recognise the value of demand side reform, ministers agreed to request the Australian Energy Market Operator to defer lodgement of the rule change proposal and requested officials to undertake further work on DRM, including a cost benefit study, and report back to ministers at their first meeting in 2014.” Which is government-ese for watch this space.

In the meantime the government launched a new look at energy policy via its white paper on energy. The paper is due in September.

As the PC report itself drily noted: “[T]he National Electricity Market has too often proved to be a graveyard for reform proposals, which then remain as inert words in dead documents.”

The risk is that if the latest proposals to reform the energy market get tangled in bureaucracy the elderly, the young and the infirm will be at risk as the electricity grid struggles to cope. And the rest of us will cop higher electricity bills.

An Introduction to Community Garden ‘A Place for Cultivating Healthy Food and Communities’

Community Garden Photo

Growing population and rapid urbanisation have increased demand for food in the urban areas which has led to the global issues of food safety, availability and affordability.  This demand has on the one hand been fulfilled by growth in industrial agriculture where as on other hand limited our connectedness with nature and detached ourselves form the pleasure of growing our own food. In addition, climate change, food miles and footprint are also becoming the major concerns. Hence currently, in the urban society, the community garden has emerged to bridge this gap and connect people with the nature not only to produce food but also to cultivate healthy community and enhance community harmony and resilience. Community gardens are gaining popularity all over the world as an alternate source of urban food.

What is community garden?

Community garden is a common area where people form diverse communities come together to grow their food, share skills and make new friends. The garden is managed by a group of like- minded people who shares the same passion for gardening. People living in apartments or units have limited space for gardening. However, the increased development of community garden in the urban society has left city dwellers with no choices but to connect with nature and grow the favourite fruits, vegetables and herbs.

The essence of community garden lies in more than being just a place to grow food and vegetables.  The community garden has successfully served as a place that enhances healthy lifestyles, reduces social isolation, improves local food security and develop new green spaces and open spaces for community to enjoy  and encourages strong community relationship through gardening and food production.

Community Garden Pic 2

Benefits of community garden

Community garden holds lots of benefits. Here are some of the benefits-

  • Provides access to land to grow fruits and vegetables
  • Provides access to fresh and nutritious food that helps to enhance health and wellbeing.  Gardening also provides a physical activity that provides positive impact on heath.
  • Enhances social life by increasing social cohesion and connectedness among people from different ethnic and cultural background.
  • Develop and use public space to increase the productivity. It also manages and protects the open space to add value to the land and increase the functional green space in urban area.
  • Provides an opportunity to learn and share new skills from each other. Community members also learn from various educational and capacity building programs in the garden such as sustainable gardening, horticulture, composting, healthy cooking etc.
  • Provides access to locally grown, nutritious food that reduces household cost on food.  Some gardens producing surplus are able to sell their produce to the nearby market thus helping earn extra income.
  • Encourages sustainable gardening which benefits environment on many ways. Organic farming, natural pest control, composting, using rainwater for irrigation etc. helps to maintain environmental sustainability.

Organic Gardening Pic 1

Different models of community garden

There is no one set rule for gardening and hence the garden model might differ according to its location and community needs and desires. The garden occupies both public and privately owned land. Some garden are based on allotment approach where as some might be shared and some might be the combination of both. In allotment approach the garden space is divided into plots that are assigned to each member to grow their own food where as in the shared garden all the members collectively contribute their effort and share the harvest. In general, the gardens have combination of both types and are more multifunctional.

The long term viability of the garden depends upon the motivation and commitment of the stakeholders involved, the type of gardening practices adopted and other environmental and social factors. Aligning with the objective of producing healthy and organic food, the community garden also focus on adopting environmental conservation and sustainability where applicable.

Permaculture system of agriculture is becoming popular among community garden. This is a low impact and resource intensive gardening system designed to be environmentally, socially and economically sustainable. Permaculture integrates the principle of caring for the earth, caring for the people and equitable share of the produce. It is a well-established system that is easy to understand and apply in the community garden. Community garden also holds diverse opportunities for social interaction and some include community education and capacity building programs that helps in holistic development of garden and gardeners.

Community Garden

Getting involved in community garden

One can get involved in community garden in different ways. Depending on who own the garden land and who manages the garden, the involvement of garden members might vary. Community gardens can be initiated and managed by the local community members or groups such as schools, churches, not for profit organisation etc. on a voluntary basis or managed or assisted by local council or might be run by a bigger community groups and have someone employed to look after the garden.  It would be appropriate to get in touch with your local council as they usually have the updated information, if you would like to have any information or get involved in the community garden in your area.

See the video below to learn more on community garden and identify different benefits community garden can provide

Community gardens are getting widely popular and successful in the area where people with low socio- economic background resides and where apartment and units are predominated. The garden also provides new migrants and disadvantaged group to get connected with the community and food that helps to enhance skills and knowledge and confidence. The idea of creating community gardens originated in the United Kingdom during the 18th century to fulfil the need of low income labourers to supplement their food sources.  The first community garden in Australia was established in 1977 in Nunawading, Victoria. Today the principles of community garden has been widely adopted in all the states of Australia and continue growing in numbers. Considering what it takes to develop one, there is no limit to what community garden can offer to the community and environment that has made it widely accepted in different parts of the world.

Please do share if you have any interesting stories on community garden..!!

Growing medicinal herbs at home

By Penny Woodward on 20 September 2013. Posted by WellBeing Natural Health & Living News

Growing medicinal herbs at home

medicinal_herbs

Gardening is the world’s most popular pastime and there’s very clear evidence that gardeners are healthier than non-gardeners. I believe gardening’s contribution to feeling good can be even more powerful when you use your garden to produce remedies for a wide range of health problems.

Herbal medicine in history

Using plants to promote good health is not a new idea. The ancient Greeks used common herbs such as parsley and thyme for a range of complaints, while French peasants collected plants from the forests and hedgerows to treat common ailments and mediaeval monks cultivated huge gardens of herbs for both medicinal and culinary purposes. At the start of this new century, herbs and herb gardens are regaining popularity as many more people realise the rewards of a lifestyle that includes herbs.

About 70 per cent of the world’s population still depends on traditional herbal remedies, and even in Australia at the beginning of the 20th century, most medicines were still based on herbs. As recently as 1940, up to 50 per cent of prescriptions contained herbal ingredients.

Herbs today

Today, people have forgotten, or were never taught, the simple remedies known to their grandparents. Herbs are not the answer to every problem, but there are numerous common ailments that respond well to herbal treatments.

Herbs have a rightful place in the promotion of a healthy, natural life. If you grow and make remedies from your own herbs, you can be sure of their purity and that the active constituents will be present. Using what’s in your garden is more convenient and much cheaper then jumping into the car and driving to a chemist or healthfood shop. It makes sense to make them a part of your regular diet as well as the source of remedies. Fresh herbs eaten every day improve not only the flavour of your food but also the general health of your family.

When I started using herbal remedies I began with one of the simplest — a peppermint infusion for indigestion. Now, every morning, I begin the day with a cup of peppermint or spearmint tea. Sage tea with honey and lemon is my answer to the first signs of a cold. Rosemary tea is my salvation when I need to write late into the night and maintain concentration.

Where do you start?

Herbs can be grown anywhere in the garden, but it’s a good idea to have some growing close to the kitchen so there’s no excuse not to pick them. Try establishing some small boxed beds or pots as close as possible to the door and planting them with the herbs you use most often.

Plant the rest in the most appropriate spots in the main garden, either in their own section, scattered among other plants (in pots or in the ground) or in the vegetable garden. If they are scattered around the garden, the strongly scented herbs will protect more vulnerable plants from insect attack.

What do they need?

As a general rule, herbs prefer plenty of sun, well-drained soil and adequate water during dry weather. Sunlight provides the energy plants use to make nutrients, and most herbs like plenty of sun. Watch your garden for a few days and see which parts get sun for the whole day and which are shaded in the morning or afternoon.

Remember that in winter the sun is low in the sky and in summer it is high, so shading will be different at different times of the year. Plant those herbs that like lots of sun in the more open positions and those that like some shade in positions where full sun is broken with some shade.

Plants also need nutrients from the soil, the most important being nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. Others (known as trace elements) are needed in only tiny amounts. Work on improving the soil by adding manure and compost, both of which contain nutrients and at the same time encourage worms, insects and soil bacteria to live happily in your soil, creating a balanced and sustainable environment.

Worm castings and worm juice are great for herbs, especially those in pots. Herbs don’t need to be fed as often as other plants and, in fact, over feeding can make the leaves sappy and floppy and the flavour less intense.

Most herbs are fairly tough and will put up with being dry for quite a long time. Some of the toughest, such as rosemary, lavender, thyme, oregano and sage, are from the Mediterranean. Once you get to know your herbs, you’ll be able to tell when they need water. Often, there are one or two (such as marigolds) that will begin to droop before the others and they can act as a guide to when the rest of the garden needs watering.

The amount of water and the number of times it’s needed depend on the soil, the position of your garden, the mulch used and the weather. Working out what applies in your garden is all part of the fun. My favourite mulches are pea or lucerne straw and sugar cane mulch.

Keep their feet dry

Good drainage is essential to healthy garden soil and strong plants because most herbs don’t like to have their roots actually sitting in water. You can improve drainage and provide nutrients by adding humus to soil. In heavy soils, humus opens up the structure and increases drainage, while in sandy conditions it will help to slow drainage.

Drainage is also improved by raising the height of the garden bed above the surrounding ground. You can do this by using bricks or timber for the outside of the bed and filling with compost and soil. Where this can’t be done, grow your herbs in pots or other containers. More herbs are killed by bad drainage and wet roots than not enough water.

Organic protection

Once your herbs are growing happily, caring for them organically is the same as for other plants. There are lots of simple ways to protect them from pests. Get to know your plants so you notice as soon as something starts to eat them. Pick off anything that eats the leaves, such as caterpillars, and either squash them or drop them into a bucket of soapy water.

A ring of sawdust or wood ash sprinkled around young herbs protects them from snails and slugs or you can protect very young herbs by placing a jar over them at night and removing it in the morning.

Cutworms are small grubs that often bite through the stems of young herbs, but if you cutting the base out of small yoghurt containers and place one around each small plant it will protect them. Push them into the soil for a couple of centimetres.

Birds, especially blackbirds, will dig up young herbs while scratching for insects or worms in the soil. Cut the bottoms out of plastic plant pots and put them around plants until they are well-established.

Potting

Herbs do particularly well in pots. Quality potting mix is essential for good growth. You can make your own by combining sandy loam soil, coarse river sand and finely cut coir in equal amounts. Then, before planting, mix in fertiliser in the form of compost, well-rotted manures, blood-and-bone or fish emulsion. Then top dress with these every couple of months during the growing season.

Plants also benefit from an occasional watering with liquid seaweed fertiliser and top dressing with worm castings. If you don’t want to make your own mix, buy a good potting mix that has no added fertilisers and add your own to ensure your mix is organic.

Mulching

Reduce the need for watering during hot, dry weather by mulching the top of the soil. I like to use organic mulches that will break down and add to the nutrients in the mix. If these are applied in spring, by the following autumn they will have mostly broken down and more can then be added again as the weather warms up next spring. In tropical regions, add mulch in autumn to help during the dry winter months. Things like pea or lucerne straw are great for bigger pots, and lucerne pellets or coir work well for smaller pots.

Best backyard herbs

The following are some popular, easy-to-grow herbs. There is a great feeling of satisfaction when you get relief from a cold, a burn or a rash from plants you have grown yourself and turned into a remedy. Experiment and see what works for you.

Agrimony (Agrimonia eupatoria)
A tough easy herb, best grown from seed planted in spring. Drink leaves and flowers made into a tea as a gentle remedy for diarrhoea and to stem heavy bleeding during periods. Gargle to soothe a sore throat.

Aloe vera (Aloe vera)
A compact, succulent herb with fleshy, spotted leaves. Use the sap from inside the leaves to treat burns, bites, stings, rashes and other skin complaints.

Borage (Borago officinalis)

An easy-to-grow annual with lovely blue/purple star-shaped flowers that can be used in salads, soups teas and desserts. Leaves are also edible when young. Borage tea may have a mild laxative effect, calms the nerves and boosts the adrenals.

Catnip (Nepeta cataria)
Easy to grow, though it likes plenty of water, catnip is part of the mint family, said to have a sedative effect on both cats and humans. The tea may be taken as a cold remedy, fever reducer and remedy for headache and tummy trouble. A gentle herb that can be used for teething pain and as a general tonic. In the garden, it attracts bees and butterflies but repels other insects.

Chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile)
A perennial, creeping herb with apple-scented foliage and white and yellow daisy flowers. It grows easily from divided clumps in spring. A tea made from the flowers is used for a wide range of ailments, but in particular it eases stress and irritability caused by pain, as well as headaches and stomach-aches caused by tension. The flowers of annual chamomile (Matricaria recutita) can be used in the same way.

Elder (Sambucus nigra)
These trees grow so easily that they are problem weeds in some regions. Grow new plants from seed or by taking cuttings. Make the fresh or dried flowers into a tea to aid chronic ear infections and help reduce hayfever attacks.

English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)
Likes full sun and well-drained soil. It is easily grown from cuttings taken in spring. Make the fresh or dried flowers into a tea and drink to lessen bad breath, ease mild depression, calm irritability and suppress a cough.

Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium; syn. Chrysanthemum parthenium)
A perennial that’s easy to grow and will tolerate dryness, it has golden feathery foliage and white daisy flowers. Make tea with the leaves or eat fresh with other food to relieve headaches and coughs, but don’t take when pregnant or breastfeeding.

Gotu kola (Centella asiatica syn. Hydrocotyle asiatica)

Also known as pennywort or arthritis plant, gotu kola is a perennial groundcover that grows profusely and tolerates partial shade well. Its leaves have a good flavour and can be used in salads and curries to help relieve arthritis and is one of the most important rejuvenating herbs in Ayurvedic medicine. I’t recommended to chew a couple of leaves daily.

Heartsease (Viola tricolor)
An annual that grows easily from seed planted in early spring or autumn. It likes an open sunny position or partial shade and prefers well-drained sandy-loam soils that have been enriched with compost to help retain moisture. The leaves and flowers are made into a tea and drunk for a feverish cold, as a blood purifier and to tone blood vessels, especially the small vessels close to the surface of the skin.

Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis)
A delightful, lemon-scented shrub that grows happily in most positions. Eat fresh leaves or drink them as a tea to calm nerves and settle the stomach as well as soothe period pains.

Marigold (Calendula officinalis)
A cheerful annual with brightly coloured flowers that grows easily from seed sown in autumn. The fresh or dried petals made into a tea soothe an inflamed digestive tract, reduce hot flushes during menopause and used as a mouthwash will help heal ulcers. Make oils and creams from the petals to help heal bunions, fungal infections and a range of skin irritations.

Nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus)
A vigorous grower with happy, brightly coloured flowers, which are a lovely addition to salads, as are the peppery-tasting leaves, it’s valued for its antibiotic, antimicrobial and antioxidant properties. In the garden, they are a pest deterrent and an infusion of the leaves can be used to get rid of aphids. Plant between vegetable crops to discourage pests.

Peppermint (Mentha spp.)
Will grow easily in any slightly damp position. It likes a composty soil and does well in sun or shade. Make fresh leaves into a tea to relieve colic and flatulence, reduce headaches and lessen nausea associated with travel.

Red clover (Trifolim pratense)
A short-lived, sprawling perennial herb that grows best in high-rainfall areas. Grow it from seed or by dividing clumps in spring or summer. A tea made from the leaves and flowers reduces menopausal symptoms, calms a persistent cough, loosens phlegm and reduces appetite.

Teas, infusions, decoctions

You make an infusion just as you would make normal tea, using either fresh or dried leaves, stems and flowers. Steep in boiling water for several minutes, strain then drink hot or allow to cool.
Roots, bark and seeds or other hard parts of a plant, such as dried berries, are better made into a decoction. Add water and bring to a boil in a pot (ceramic is best — don’t use aluminium). Stir and allow to simmer, covered, for 10–15 minutes. Strain and drink.

Penny Woodward has written seven books on herbs and other useful plants, all of which are still in print. They include Grow Your Own Herbal Remedies, Herbs for Australian Gardens and Growing Easy Herbs for Beauty, Fragrance and Flavour. All are published by Hyland House.

Best backyard herbs

The following are some popular, easy-to-grow herbs. There is a great feeling of satisfaction when you get relief from a cold, a burn or a rash from plants you have grown yourself and turned into a remedy. Experiment and see what works for you.

Agrimony(Agrimonia eupatoria) A tough easy herb, best grown from seed planted in spring. Drink leaves and flowers made into a tea as a gentle remedy for diarrhoea and to stem heavy bleeding during periods. Gargle to soothe a sore throat.
Aloe veraAloe vera A compact, succulent herb with fleshy, spotted leaves. Use the sap from inside the leaves to treat burns, bites, stings, rashes and other skin complaints.
Borage Borago officinalis   An easy-to-grow annual with lovely blue/purple star-shaped flowers that can be used in salads, soups teas and desserts. Leaves are also edible when young. Borage tea may have a mild laxative effect, calms the nerves and boosts the adrenals.
CatnipNepeta cataria Easy to grow, though it likes plenty of water, catnip is part of the mint family, said to have a sedative effect on both cats and humans. The tea may be taken as a cold remedy, fever reducer and remedy for headache and tummy trouble. A gentle herb that can be used for teething pain and as a general tonic. In the garden, it attracts bees and butterflies but repels other insects.
ChamomileChamaemelum nobile A perennial, creeping herb with apple-scented foliage and white and yellow daisy flowers. It grows easily from divided clumps in spring. A tea made from the flowers is used for a wide range of ailments, but in particular it eases stress and irritability caused by pain, as well as headaches and stomach-aches caused by tension. The flowers of annual chamomile (Matricaria recutita) can be used in the same way.
ElderSambucus nigra These trees grow so easily that they are problem weeds in some regions. Grow new plants from seed or by taking cuttings. Make the fresh or dried flowers into a tea to aid chronic ear infections and help reduce hayfever attacks.
English lavenderLavandula angustifolia Likes full sun and well-drained soil. It is easily grown from cuttings taken in spring.  Make the fresh or dried flowers into a tea and drink to lessen bad breath, ease mild depression, calm irritability and suppress a cough.
FeverfewTanacetum parthenium; syn. Chrysanthemum parthenium A perennial that’s easy to grow and will tolerate dryness, it has golden feathery foliage and white daisy flowers. Make tea with the leaves or eat fresh with other food to relieve headaches and coughs, but don’t take when pregnant or breastfeeding.
Gotu kolaCentella asiatica syn. Hydrocotyle asiatica  Also known as pennywort or arthritis plant, gotu kola is a perennial groundcover that grows profusely and tolerates partial shade well. Its leaves have a good flavour and can be used in salads and curries to help relieve arthritis and is one of the most important rejuvenating herbs in Ayurvedic medicine. I’t recommended to chew a couple of leaves daily.
HeartseaseViola tricolor An annual that grows easily from seed planted in early spring or autumn. It likes an open sunny position or partial shade and prefers well-drained sandy-loam soils that have been enriched with compost to help retain moisture. The leaves and flowers are made into a tea and drunk for a feverish cold, as a blood purifier and to tone blood vessels, especially the small vessels close to the surface of the skin.
Lemon balmMelissa officinalis A delightful, lemon-scented shrub that grows happily in most positions. Eat fresh leaves or drink them as a tea to calm nerves and settle the stomach as well as soothe period pains.
MarigoldCalendula officinalis A cheerful annual with brightly coloured flowers that grows easily from seed sown in autumn. The fresh or dried petals made into a tea soothe an inflamed digestive tract, reduce hot flushes during menopause and used as a mouthwash will help heal ulcers. Make oils and creams from the petals to help heal bunions, fungal infections and a range of skin irritations.
NasturtiumTropaeolum majus A vigorous grower with happy, brightly coloured flowers, which are a lovely addition to salads, as are the peppery-tasting leaves, it’s valued for its antibiotic, antimicrobial and antioxidant properties. In the garden, they are a pest deterrent and an infusion of the leaves can be used to get rid of aphids. Plant between vegetable crops to discourage pests.
PeppermintMentha spp. Will grow easily in any slightly damp position. It likes a composty soil and does well in sun or shade. Make fresh leaves into a tea to relieve colic and flatulence, reduce headaches and lessen nausea associated with travel.
Red cloverTrifolim pratense A short-lived, sprawling perennial herb that grows best in high-rainfall areas. Grow it from seed or by dividing clumps in spring or summer. A tea made from the leaves and flowers reduces menopausal symptoms, calms a persistent cough, loosens phlegm and reduces appetite.

Teas, infusions, decoctions

  • You make an infusion just as you would make normal tea, using either fresh or dried leaves, stems and flowers. Steep in boiling water for several minutes, strain then drink hot or allow to cool.
  • Roots, bark and seeds or other hard parts of a plant, such as dried berries, are better made into a decoction. Add water and bring to a boil in a pot (ceramic is best — don’t use aluminium). Stir and allow to simmer, covered, for 10–15 minutes. Strain and drink.

Penny Woodward has written seven books on herbs and other useful plants, all of which are still in print. They include Grow Your Own Herbal Remedies, Herbs for Australian Gardens and Growing Easy Herbs for Beauty, Fragrance and Flavour. All are published by Hyland House.

Developing countries still vulnerable in terms of food security

Developing countries still vulnerable in terms of food security
Posted Wed 16 Oct 2013, 8:14pm AEDT

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Basket of fruit and vegetables Photo: Basket of fruit and vegetables, Feb 5, 2006. (Chris Johnson: http://www.sxc.hu)

A report by an agricultural research centre has called for greater efforts to boost food and nutrition intake for poor nations.

The 2013 Global Hunger Index (GHI) published by the International Food Policy Research Institute says that developing countries are now more vulnerable to shocks and stresses in terms of food and nutrition.

Today is World Food Day and the latest hunger index indicates global hunger is decreasing.

The 2013 world GHI score has fallen by 34 per cent from the 1990 GHI score.

However, 870 million people remain chronically malnourished worldwide

The research fellow with the International Food Policy Research Institute Derek Headey told Radio Australia’s Asia Pacific poor people are more at risk of going hungry when climatic changes and conflicts happen.

“There’s good reason to think that poor people are going to be more vulnerable in the future, especially with climate change, but also (with) more volatile food prices in the next few years.”
Becoming food secure

One way to achieve food security is to carry out resilience-building efforts instead of handing out aid, according to Mr Headey.

“Traditionally, within development circles, there has always been a bifurcation between the relief sector… which is providing… short-term safety nets, preventing famines, preventing the worst kind of health disasters,” he said.

Mr Headey says developing countries have done well in preventing famine in the last 20 or 30 years.

“The relief sector has done a good job, but we don’t want to be in the business of providing relief for the next 30 years,” he said.

“We really need development investments to try and build resilience over the longer term.”
Population pressure

Countries like Bangladesh prove family planning helps stem the hunger crisis.

“They’ve reduced their fertility rate from something like seven children in the 1970s, closer to three children today, through very effective family planning programs and also investing in education for girls,” Mr Headey said.

“The country was running out of land in the 70s, 80s, even into the 90s, so they really had to do something about family planning.

“It showed that when you commit to that, you can make a big effort.”

What a beautiful way to thank one of our deepest comfort food- ‘RICE’

A little Himalayan Country Nepal celebrates National Paddy Day (locally known as Ropai Mela ) on Asad 15 of Nepali calander every year, which fall on 29 June this year. The day is celebrated as the end of the paddy planting period.

The occasion is celebrated throughout Nepal with various activities such as playing games in the mud; playing traditional musical instrument; singing songs; and serving traditional foods. The day is also popularly known as the day to eat yoghurt and rice flakes (dahi chiura khane din)

The day has secured its special palace in Nepali culture. This day used to be especially celebrated by farmers. But now more people from different walks of life including professionals, students and tourists are seen being part of this fun filled festival. Nepal government has been celebrating Paddy Day since 2004.

This time of the year is considered a rush time when the farmers keep themselves busy planting paddy seedlings in hopes of yielding harvest in the month of October. The day is celebrated as a special day as it lies in the middle of the monsoon season – the right time for farmers to plant the paddy saplings. The celebration has a special significance in Nepal where majority of people depend on agriculture for their livelihood. What a beautiful way to thank one of our deepest comfort food- ‘RICE’

Here are some interesting pictures and a video from the day.

Ropai Picture 1

Ropai Picture 2

Ropai Picture 3A farmer holds rice saplings as she walks in the paddy field at Khokana in Lalitpurropai_003THT996215A7_Asar-mahatsab-5THTB9E15188_World

 

Thanks for stopping by…!!!