An expedition to Kazakhstan in the immediate aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union
The joint Anglo-Kazak expedition, Aral 96, was a journey into the hinterland of the recently collapsed Soviet Empire, bearing witness to one of the greatest of all environmental disasters. Aral 96 involved massive physical and mental stress, testing all involved to their limits. Despite near misses, no-one died. With the passage of time, the traumatic memories have dissolved to be replaced by nostalgia for past adventures and an appreciation for the chutzpah of youth.
In 1996, when the world was still mostly analogue…
“The soil is the great connector of our lives, the source and destination of us all” — Wendell Berry
History’s brightest minds are not always our modern day heroes, and as decades pass, the consequences of ingenious discoveries unfold. This is especially true in the history of agriculture.
Take Fritz Haber for example: a German chemist awarded the Nobel prize for his invention of a process that converts atmospheric nitrogen into ammonia, used to make the fertilisers that now feed half the world. Haber’s invention transformed farming, enabled a six-fold increase in human and livestock population. …
“Seek truth from facts”
- Book of Han
In the medieval period, practical technology from China such as the compass, gunpowder, papermaking, and printing travelled along the Silk Road to Europe. These important technologies would support the flourishing of European culture, exploration and state-building.
In the 16th and 17th century, knowledge flowed back to China in the form of insights and techniques from Europe’s ‘scientific revolution’, providing a set of mental tools, for example Euclidean geometry and the ‘scientific method’, that would help Chinese scholars understand the physical universe.
Later on, trains, electricity, internal combustion engines, the microprocessor and other…
In 2001, as part of a contemporary art project called Break Down, 37-year old British artist Michael Landy undertook a detailed audit of all his belongings. The final count ran to 7227 individual items with an overall weight of 5.75 tonnes.
Compared to a typical US household, which contains on average 300,000 items, Michael Landy’s possessions seem quite frugal. Many of these items are quite idle — 80% are used less than once a month and in fact some are used for only a few minutes in their whole life. The remaining time they are stored away, gathering dust. From…
Has food shopping become more complicated? Whether it’s meat or vegetables, traditional or organic, local or global, industrial or smallholder, even experts disagree on what is ‘better’. The answers are not one rather than the other, but more nuanced and context dependent. It’s hardly surprising then that the global food system has been described as the “the mother of all complex systems”. Whilst agreeing on some of the basic facts is challenging, there is at least fairly universal consensus on one thing — the system is not working at the moment, and needs to change. …
Mary is one of the earliest adopters of the Sunflower pump, she bought one last year in August, so I was looking forward to seeing the fruits of her purchase.
Her boma (living compound) is laid out like a prison camp, everything in neat rectangular blocks surrounded by barbed wire. Outside of the garden blocks, everywhere is immaculate compacted dirt, devoid of vegetation. She is clearly a very industrious and organized farmer. There is even a small shop at the entrance to the boma, accessible by a hefty gate between several strands of barbed wire.
As is often the case…
Waste is an error of imagination