Saturday, October 18, 2014

A Short Residency at Food Connect Brisbane





This week I had the pleasure of spending my days with a Brisbane Social Enterprise FOOD CONNECT whose mission is supplying 'Local. Seasonal. Ecological Food Direct From Your Farmer'.



Text from Food Connect website ~


'Food Connect works to encourage a fair, healthy and flourishing food culture where food and the work of those who grow, produce, process, transport, pack and distribute (that’s the value chain) are recognised and rewarded fairly. Food Connect Brisbane was established as a social enterprise in 2005 by ex-dairy farmer, Robert Pekin, who when forced off his dairy farm in the late 1990’s vowed to create a fairer food system for everyone.  We are now achieving this by delivering seasonal, ecological food direct from local farmers to our community of appreciative customers in South East Queensland. '




Partners Robert Pekin and Emma-Kate Rose are also involved in the Fair Food movement, through the Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance 


From the AFSA website:
The AUSTRALIAN FOOD SOVEREIGNTY ALLIANCE (AFSA) is a collaboration of organisations and individuals working together towards a food system in which people have the opportunity to choose, create and manage their food supply from paddock to plate. OUR PURPOSE is to cooperate, to create an equitable, sustainable and resilient food system for all Australians.
This week the AFSA held a national promotion called Fair Food Week which is the reason I spent the week on residency with Food Connect. 



  





















I've a few more images to add, one of a giant collage I made from Fruit and Veg boxes... and further notes to add to document this busy and fascinating week.  Back soon!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

REBLOGGED ARTICLE: Ancient life forms fed through fractal arms - life - 11 August 2014 - New Scientist

Ancient life forms fed through fractal arms - life - 11 August 2014 - New Scientist


PLEASE NOTE THIS ARTICLE IS REBLOGGED from the Hyperlink above!

(Image: University of Cambridge)


Is it a tree? Is it a fern? No, it's a rangeomorph, one of the first complex organisms to evolve on Earth. A new analysis of their fossils suggests that rangeomorphs' strange bodies evolved to absorb as much food as possible from the surrounding water.
Rangeomorphs ruled the oceans for around 40 million years, beginning 575 million years ago, in a period called the Ediacaran. Before them, life was microscopic. They grew on the sea bed, far too deep to harvest sunlight for photosynthesis. Up to 2 metres long, they had no organs, mouths or means of moving, so they had to passively absorb nutrients from the surrounding water.
"Geometrically, they were perfectly organised for doing that, creating the greatest possible surface area for absorption in whatever space they occupied," says Jennifer Hoyal Cuthill of the University of Cambridge. WithSimon Conway Morris, she studied how the anatomy of 11 types of rangeomorph evolved, using fossils to create computer replicas of each one.
Hoyal Cuthill found three main types. Some were tall and slender, like fir trees, projecting fronds at regular intervals from a central stem. Others had longer fronds that stuck out more to the side, like many deciduous trees. The last group were sponge-like, sprawling over the sea floor.
Each rangeomorph body plan was a fractal, so it looked the same at different scales. That maximised their outer surface area, boosting food absorption. One of the sponge-like rangeomorphs had a surface area of 58 square metres, almost the same as the interior of a human lung.
Rangeomorphs vanish from the fossil record around 542 million years ago during the Cambrian explosion, a sudden profusion of new life forms that could move and hunt, and had exoskeletons. The rangeomorphs were outmatched. "They were both being deprived of food and probably becoming food themselves," says Hoyal Cuthill.





Monday, August 11, 2014

Art in support of crop preservation at the Global Crop Diversity Trust


When the Global Crop Diversity Trust approached me late last year about using an image of one of my seed artworks for their Festive Season greeting card I was delighted to share an image. This Not-for-profit organisation's role is so central in the global preservation of seeds for food ... they partner on critical projects with Govts, foundations and Institutions such as the Millennium Seedbank at Kew Garden's West Sussex site where I spent a fascinating 3 weeks on residency in 2011. 


This image was used on the card and last week included in the Annual Report of the Crop Trust.

I've followed their work since late 2010... gaining a considerable education by reading the Agricultural Biodiversity Weblog by Luigi Guarino & Jeremy Cherfas where they discuss the diversity of crops, livestock, microbes and food ways. Their blog was a launch-pad to all kinds of information in this vast realm... so it was a cross-roads ... a place to learn of the broadest spectrum of issues around this central theme.

Since launching the Homage to the Seed project in 2010 I've pursued both Agricultural Biodiversity and Habitat Biodiversity in equal measure ... covering seed stories from remote, pristine habitats to what's on our tables and everything in between. Ive realised how unusual this approach is from the fact some attack me now and then over the fact I don't take one single view of seeds and stay neatly in that niche.

I learnt in the first year into this project how easy it was to be misinformed. I posted something here
that brought massive attention from people, bloggers I'd never heard of... so that was the last time I ever posted a story that I had no background or context for.

Even when I did post that controversial story I'd written to a number of individuals asking if they'd heard the story... so it wasn't that I'd been completely naive. I was very grateful for that incident because it gave me the conviction to dig much deeper with my own research and track stories over a long time to see what could be learned in the attempt to sort fact from fiction.  

Last week's ANNUAL REPORT from the Crop Trust featured my artwork on Page 21 



To read about a 4 min video the Crop Trust made on my work go to my Studio Archive Blog : 


I'll close with this piece I added to the post sharing the Annual Report Story on my Facebook page. After the two paragraph overview I'd added some personal thoughts... however ... this morning it occurred to me it was better to post the additional part on this blog so moved that content to this forum. 

Time permitting,  read on:

Thank you to the Global Crop Diversity Trust in Bonn, Germany for featuring Homage to the seed artwork in their visually stunning and informative Annual Report :http://www.croptrust.org/sites/default/files/documents/files/Annual%20Report%202013_Desktop.pdf

This important Not-for-profit was set up in 2004 to help create a global system for the conservation and availability of crop diversity. At this FB page I focus frequently on inspiring work happening to counter Biodiversity loss or gene erosion thus supporting every kind of SMALL LOCAL INITIATIVE as well as STATE + NATIONAL organisations contributing to the increasingly critical task of safe-guarding and preserving seeds and with them food cultures, natural resources and eco-systems.

I've added some personal notes below for you to read, time permitting! 

In the past 5 years I've researched + connected with some key International initiatives and hard-working individuals through my growing understanding of the complex layers of work going on around seeds. 

Profoundly impressed at the diligence and passion many bring to this work... every residency I undertake only serves to strengthen the belief I'm meeting fine people who's commitment extends far beyond self-interest and feathering of nests .... whether they be volunteers at a local habitat nursery or community garden, educators or scientists at esteemed Institutions. 

Passion is powerful YET when research and knowledge are ignored one-track thinking can + does close down crucial public discourse and everyday conversations. 

My third day on recent PLANTBANK residency at the Australian Botanic Garden Mount Annan I received an email on my iPhone from a stranger attacking me for accepting money from transnational corporation Syngenta and a host of other sins. 

NOT HAPPY on this occasion for a number of reasons it wasn't the first and won't be the last foolish email or comment aimed at me... but given my funding comes through patronage of an octogenarian mother who grew up on a farm and understands the importance of this project and a wonderful array of art collectors, academics, schools and organisations who approach me with freelance work I was not amused. A large part of my year I see no income as I am simply way too busy producing content and researching to run an online shop or monetise my solo work. I ADORE the people who support my project... support that includes FB likes, comments and shares, Art sales and work offers... it all counts and I never take it for granted. But no ... Syngenta has not put me on their payroll! 

Its simply NOT GOOD ENOUGH to fail to look more deeply. Asking deeper, broader questions is not just polite but its critical! 

I've spent 5 years digging into the questions around seeds and started to realise in 2011 what the general public misses about seeds is extraordinary. One story is discussed ... do I have to mention which story? That is an important story but after 4 years evaluating all that I've been coming across the story of Biodiversity and gene loss is still so ignored, so remote from most people ... yet i'm convinced the biggest risk to the Global Seed inheritance is what is not understood about how species are lost and what small and big things we can do about it. 

What if it wasn't a company that was failing to take care of plant species but our own actions? A story from a fascinating old hippy in Vermont got me thinking. Despite being infamous in the US for his personal seed-saving mission and alternative methods he feels its the easiest thing in the world for people to blame Monsanto and puts genetic erosion down to sometime back in the early C20th when individuals began outsourcing for seeds creating a vacuum that left it to the vagaries of the market-place to supply seeds.

I'm sure that could be argued over endlessly ... but I'm convinced that this the work and knowledge on stalling species loss must be shared ... and it will take effort and initiative at every level of community very much including agencies like the Global Crop Diversity Trust who store the seeds of the country or organisation for that very same country and organisation. What Australia sends to Svarlbad in the Arctic Circle remains the property of the Australian Govt. When the Syrian Genebank was disrupted by war a couple of years ago seed material was sent to Svarlbad and the operation moved to a nearby country. Already extreme weather events have destroyed gene banks around the planet. If you don't know about these matters I urge you to read websites like http://www.croptrust.org/http://www.seedpartnership.org.au/http://www.plantbank.org.au/ to name a few!

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Seeds of Time | Global Crop Diversity Trust

Watch the trailer for this important new film Seeds of Time. I'm attempting to find out when and where in Australia in might be shown.



Seeds of Time | Global Crop Diversity Trust



http://vimeo.com/73726895

Monday, June 2, 2014

Killing species at 1000 times the natural rate: 29 May 2014 - New Scientist

This post comes directly from New Scientist ENVIRONMENT Page

ONLINE:



We are killing species at 1000 times the natural rate - environment - 29 May 2014 - New Scientist



First the bad news. Humans are driving species to extinction at around 1000 times the natural rate, at the top of the range of an earlier estimate. We also don't know how many species we can afford to lose.
Now the good news. Armed with your smartphone, you can help conservationists save them.
Birds from Brazil: let get more threatened species in the red zone <i>(Image: Clinton Jenkins)</i>

The new estimate of the global rate of extinction comes from Stuart Pimm of Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, and colleagues. It updates a calculation Pimm's team released in 1995, that human activities were driving species out of existence at 100 to 1000 times the background rate (Science, doi.org/fq2sfs).
It turns out that Pimm's earlier calculations both underestimated the rate at which species are now disappearing, and overestimated the background rate over the past 10 to 20 million years.

Gone gone gone

The Red List assessments of endangered species, conducted by theInternational Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), are key to Pimm's analysis. They have evolved from patchy lists of threatened species into comprehensive surveys of animal groups and regions.
"Twenty years ago we simply didn't have the breadth of underlying data with 70,000 species assessments in hand," says team member Thomas Brooks of the IUCN in Gland, Switzerland.
By studying animals' DNA, biologists have also created family trees for many groups of animals, allowing them to calculate when new species emerged. On average, it seems each vertebrate species gives rise to a new species once every 10 million years.
It's hard to measure the natural rate of extinction, but there is a workaround. Before we started destroying habitats, new species seem to have been appearing faster than old ones disappeared. That means the natural extinction rate cannot be higher than the rate at which they were forming, says Pimm.
For the most part, the higher estimate of the modern extinction rate is not caused by any acceleration in extinctions since 1995. One exception is an increase in threats to amphibians, partly due to the global spread of the killer chytrid fungus.

Save everything

The big unknown is what the high current extinction rate means for the health of entire ecosystems. Some researchers have suggested "sustainable" targets for species' loss, but there's still no scientific way to predict at what point cumulative extinctions cause an ecosystem to collapse. "People who say that are pulling numbers out of the air," says Pimm.
Still, it seems unlikely that extinctions running at 1000 times the background rate can be sustained for long. "You can be sure that there will be a price to be paid," says Brooks.
Pimm's team has also compiled detailed global maps of biodiversity, showing the numbers of threatened species and total species richness in a global grid consisting of squares 10 kilometres across.
Such maps can help conservationists decide what to do.
For instance, Pimm and his colleague Clinton Jenkins of the Institute for Ecological Research in Nazaré Paulista, Brazil, noticed high numbers of threatened species on Brazil's Atlantic coast. Local forests were being cleared for cattle ranching. So they are working with a Brazilian group, the Golden Lion Tamarin Association, to buy land and reconnect isolated forest fragments.
But conservationists need more data, and you can help, through projects likeiNaturalist. Users share photos of the creatures they see via iPhone andAndroid apps, and experts identify them. "Right now, someone is posting an observation about every 30 seconds," says co-director Scott Loarie of the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco.
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