Sunday, July 29, 2007

Grape Expectations

It's mid-winter in Aotearoa, and the pruning for grape growers is well under way. The two main types of pruning the vines are finding healthy canes with sufficient number of buds and laying them down on the wires for shoots in the spring(left); or leaving spurs with a sufficient number of buds on last years canes as shown in the picture on the right.
Both methods work well, and depend upon variety, terrain, labour and growing styles. The essential purpose being to have new shoots burst through in the spring from last years growth and produce canes healthy enough to flower and fruit. Viticulture experts will have any number of reasons for using either method. In the end, the production of quality fruit will have to start with an appropriate number of buds, and from there, it all begins, as with most plants. Note the heavy under planting of a winter cover crop on the left and lower shots as opposed to the right. This will be due to a simple timing issue effecting the strike rate of the seed put down (the row on the right picture was sown a week later, after the soil temp had dropped), as well as the bird population catching on!

Heavy rain is falling at the moment, and July has had a number of moist warmer low pressure systems dropping copious amounts (100mm+) of rain on several different days. Needless to say, it is pretty soggy out in the fields. We keep all the equipment off until it is dry to avoid further compaction. 100mm= approx 4 inches in N American terms. About what Southern California gets all year!

I thought Auckland might rate as one of the 15 greenest cities on the planet, but not so, according to this poll from online magazine Grist, as reprinted in Alternet. West Coast USA cities Portland, Vancouver and San Francisco came as no surprise, having lived in each of them. But places like Sydney and Bangkok were eye openers for me. See for yourself why the initiatives these cities have taken are putting them at the forefront of urban environments making a difference. Still, Bangkok? I could hardly breathe last time I was there. Apparently recycling residents' cooking oil for biodiesel fuel is a winner. Whatever.

For Jack Kerouac fans, the legendary scroll on which he typed non-stop the book On the Road, is a priceless piece of literary history. The truth, according to this NPR article citing the curator for the famous piece of paper, is that he worked through many drafts over the period of 1947-49, but the actual typing only took about 3 weeks, as he typed 100 words a minute. He thought it wasted too much time replacing sheet after sheet, as his mind raced along, reportedly aided by any number of substances that eventually killed him not long after. Great book nonetheless.

If you have the funny feeling that the gap between rich and poor in whatever measure makes sense is getting wider, this article in the U.K.'s Observer is a real eye opener. Welcome to Richistan, USA, gives some sobering statistics. Just a few lest you are in any doubt about what is happening in the Land of Plenty:

"In 1985 there were just 13 US billionaires. Now there are more than 1,000. In 2005 the US saw 227,000 new millionaires being created. One survey showed that the wealth of all US millionaires was $30 trillion, more than the GDPs of China, Japan, Brazil, Russia and the EU combined".

Pretty cool. Especially if you are one of the 227,000 every year(presumably many from the emerging online industries and dot com booms) - was there a bust? Doesn't sound like it. That is only one year! It is an interesting article about how new economies are building around the super-rich and all the social implications of that (can it be called a sub?) culture. Apparently net worth needs to be in the $100 million region even to be considered part of the club.

Hope they're all happy.

In the end, we all come into this world and depart it with the same amount.

On the health front:

A great article here on the famous Dr Bronner and his soap empire (ever read those labels?)

And of course nothing would be complete without a quick update on the latest research around Soy and all its related products. It would appear the fermented variety (such as tempeh), as noted earlier on this blog, has less of the adverse effects present in normal soy.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Blessed Unrest

"Ideologies exclude openness, diversity, resiliency and multiplicity, the very qualities that nourish life in any system, be it ecosystem, immune system, or social system...Ideas are living things; they can be changed and adapted, and can grow. Ideas do not belong to anyone, and require no approval. History demonstrates all to eloquently that no ideology has ever amounted to more than a palliative for any dire condition. The immune system is the most complex system in the body, just as the body is the most complex organism on earth, and the most complicated assembly of organisms is human civilization. The hundreds of thousands of organizations that make up the movement are social antibodies attaching themselves to the pathology of is what the earth is producing to protect itself".

-Paul Hawken
Blessed Unrest

Paul Hawken's latest contribution to the increasingly complex dialogue on social and environmental justice movements is more like a resource encyclopedia. While he meticulously outlines the urgent nature of many imminent global crises, he is at pains to steer clear of languishing in blame and recrimination. Instead, in one important chapter, he takes the example of the human immune system as proof that living things will respond to potential threats in a complicated, yet efficient way. That is not to say all is well, and we can sit back and watch as things work themselves out. He devotes nearly half the book, as well as his latest project Wiser Earth, as an opportunity to catalogue and celebrate the action and interconnectedness of the thousands of NGO's, civil society organisations and groups that are filling the leadership vacuum left by governments and politicians. The website is a truly global resource centre and portal for those whom action on issues as pressing as global warming, real food production, AIDS, poverty, and all aspects of sustainable living are given tools for "solving as pattern", as Wendell Berry termed addressing multiple and interconnected issues.

How the Largest Movement in the World Came into Being and Why no One Saw it Coming is the appropriate subtitle.

One such example in wht he terms "the movement" is The Center For Food Safety, informing consumers what really is in their food, what they can do about it, and how to eat real food. They have pulbished a new book called Your Right to Know, Genetic Engineering and the Secret Changes in Your Food, by Andrew Kimbrell. It might be useful to know that over half the processed foods in the grocery shelves of the U.S. contained genetically modified ingredients.

A good place to start this journey of discovery is to be aware of what we are putting into our bodies. Food is not what it seems in many cases, and many large corporations, in the name of increased productivity and "feeding the world", are indeed toying with an unproven and highly unstable area of science, now selling at your local shop!

As Hawken points out, " Ecology is about how living organisms interact with one another and their environment. Sustainability is about stabilizing the currently disruptive relationship between earth's two most complex systems - human culture and the living world".

Having children often puts a different perspective on some of these matters, as we ponder what they and their children and grandchildren will face in coming years in dealing with the living world, which they are a part of.

If the issue of sustainability is really about ensuring adequate resources for future generations, it becomes quite personal and relevant once some of those "generations" start staring you in the face, wondering WTF you did to leave something to live on for others, like well, them.

If we continue to consume in the same way, there will not be enough, and ways of living will alter dramatically. This is already starting to happen with many, but life as we know it will not be the same...

Consuming is part of the process of living of course, and then there is hyper-consuming, a mode of living made famous in the U.S., and spreading like a virus throughout the world, thanks to the marketing saavy of our best persuaders, that teach us how to want things we don't need.

Like perhaps 66 hot dogs at one sitting. A perfectly normal activity to celebrate Independence Day...Or whatever.

Good luck with that gut, buddy.

If you are not familiar with Google's newest controversial toy, Street Video, apparently one can get even closer to the neighborhood than with its famous maps, which by the way, did not even get Waiheke Island in the picture, not that I am disappointed in the least. I don't need people trying to locate and zoom in on my home. Mark Morford's column in SF Chronicle gives it a review to remember, in "I can see your thong from here". Pretty funny if it weren't actually happening. Wasn't there something by George Orwell about Big Brother and all that around 1984?

Well, it's here.