[permaculture] Calling for Before/After Site Photographs for Important John Liu Documentary
Wesley Roe and Santa Barbara Permaculture Network
lakinroe at silcom.com
Wed Mar 28 11:30:31 EDT 2012
Calling for Before/After Site Photographs for Important John Liu Documentary
Aid Projects, Commercial Farm Projects, Community Projects,
Demonstration Sites, Urban Projects — by Craig Mackintosh PRI Editor
March 28, 2012
Many of you know of the excellent work of the filmmaker, John Liu.
Amongst other projects, John documented, over many years, the amazing
transformation of China’s massive Loess Plateau from being a
significantly degraded, and dangerous land (the vegetation-free
landscape made for seriously destructive — even deadly — floods and soil
erosion) to the much-improved state it’s in today (see
John has also been turning his visionary eye to Africa
beyond…. For a little background on John and his work, this interview
will help. http://www.vattenfall.com/en/interview-with-john-liu.htm
Well, John is now working on an important new documentary that will
showcase the importance and potential of investing in natural capital
and working with natural laws to restore invaluable ecosystem services —
and at very large scale, as is needed at this historical juncture! Part
of this documentary will be devoted to the work of Geoff and Nadia
Lawton in Jordan
, covering projects — and aspirations for their rollout on a larger
scale — there.
John and Geoff are working together in Jordan right now to complete this
The documentary should be completed before the end of April. It will be
freely distributed, shown on national public service television stations
and also presented to some of the world’s most influential people. As an
example, it will be shown at the Rio +20 UN Conference on Sustainable
Development that runs between June 20-22, attended by "world leaders,
along with thousands of participants from governments, the private
sector, NGOs and other groups" with the purpose being to "reduce
poverty, advance social equity and ensure environmental protection on an
ever more crowded planet to get to the future we want."
This is a tremendous opportunity to present tangible solutions — in an
inspiring, engaging way — to those who have the means and influence to
help us ramp up the speed of permaculture uptake, education and
reskilling that is so desperately needed.
It’s important to keep in mind that whilst permaculturists avoid a
reductionist viewpoint when looking at world and environmental problems,
far too many people in wider society and in government and NGO bodies
have these issues segregated into isolation — they’re unable to see the
interconnectness between problems, and so are unable to strategise
holistically to create win-win-win outcomes.
Why am I telling you all this? Well, John is asking me to put a call out
to people worldwide who can contribute impressive before/after
photographs from taking degraded lands and turning them into something
quite otherwise! There are permaculturists worldwide who have been doing
great work on this front, and now we have opportunity to leverage this
work by making it universally known.
Ideally photographs will be of larger scaled transformations (i.e.
broadacre), which will be most suitable for this particular film
project, but I would personally also be keen to take the opportunity to
request excellent before/after shots of smaller sites also — as I would
post them on this site for inspiration as well.
So, please send your transformative before/after photographs to editor
(at) permaculture.org.au (JPEG please, at the best resolution you have
available), along with the following information:
Date each photograph was taken
Name and email address of key person involved in the transformation
Name of photographer
Thanks in advance to you all!
Interview with John Liu
American environmental filmmaker John Liu left conventional news
journalism to devote himself to documenting the world’s ability to
restore lands degraded by poverty and mismanagement.
When Deng Xiaoping in 1986 granted the US television news magazine 60
Minutes a historic interview opportunity, CBS entrusted John Liu to be
behind the camera. Liu’s ability to work in China under all conditions
also made him a regular contributor to several European public service
television stations, including RAI (Italy) and ZDF (Germany). But in the
mid-90s, Liu turned his back on mainstream television, choosing to
concentrate exclusively on environmental issues.
“I became allergic to formulaic news bites that give people an
understanding so superficial that it might as well be false,” says Liu.
“What interests me today is seeing whether the lessons of successful
projects to alleviate poverty and rehabilitate ecosystems can be adapted
and spread to parts of the world where the people are so poor that they
are destroying their own future. And ultimately, their future is
inseparable from ours because we all live on the same planet.”
Global climate change is already exacerbating desertification and water
shortages around the world, and the problem is likely to get worse. Poor
land management not only magnifies these effects but releases carbon
dioxide through deforestation.
The advance of the Gobi desert not only threatens Beijing, but creates
sand storms that cause economic damage in Korea and Japan. Liu believes
that desertification is the result of unsustainable human activities.
Even as the Yellow River, the cradle of Chinese civilization, sometimes
runs dry before reaching the sea, in Northern China, agriculture and
industry continue to drill ever deeper to extract ground water.
Although policy decisions of recent decades, such as planting wheat on
Inner Mongolia’s grasslands, have wrought enormous damage, Liu maintains
that the pattern of deforestation and soil erosion goes back centuries.
Restoring ecosystem function increases carbon sequestration in biomass,
such as trees and organic matter in the soil. Liu believes this is both
a natural and effective means of transfering CO2 from the atmosphere,
where the gas is thought to exacerbate the heating effects of the
greenhouse effect by reducing the re-radiation of heat from the sun.
“There will be no solution if the peasants cannot lift themselves out of
poverty,” he emphasises.
One scheme in particular has given him a sense of hope and purpose: the
Loess Plateau rehabilitation project. A section of northwest China the
size of France, the Plateau was once highly fertile and easy to farm.
The region was the base for the First Emperor of China, Qinshi Huangdi,
whose tomb is famed for an over 8,000-strong Terra Cotta army. However,
centuries of deforestation and over-grazing have destroyed the region’s
Commissioned by the World Bank to document the project, Liu remembers
standing on a barren mountain top and panning his camera 360 degrees
without seeing any hint of vegetation: “The land was horribly scarred by
barren gullies that developed because the rain water could not
infiltrate the ground, for it lacked soil capable of retaining water,”
he says, recalling his initial skepticism.
But with each successive trip Liu discovered that the project was
changing the landscape. Scientific experts had drawn up a plan: slopes
too steep for sound agriculture were zoned as ecological lands and taken
out of production; no-man’s gullies were blocked to prevent precious
rain water from running off; goats were forbidden from free ranging to
graze on vegetation needed to hold soil in place. Each of these measures
required that the peasants abandon destructive practices that delivered
short term marginal income. Especially difficult was the programme to
plant and protect trees. Liu recalls:
“At first I filmed peasants who were indignant about the tree planting
on land they wanted for crops, however poor the yields were. Gradually
as trees and vegetation improved the environment, instead of losing land
to new and deeper gullies, they found that the gullies filled with soil
that retained moisture and nutrients. If they worked with the ecosystem,
they were rewarded.”
“’Success’ is a word that I’d save for a bit later when we know even
more, but so far the outcome far exceeded expectations,” says Liu. “All
parties from the local population to the scientific community are
gathering valuable information about the extent to which rehabilitation
can take place.”
Although the project required an investment during the start-up phase,
Liu believed the money was well spent since it put a stop to the
subsidence farming that was ravaging the land. Today he sees poverty
eradication through ecosystem rehabilitation as the way forward in many
places around the world. In 2008 he completed a film, the Lessons of the
Loess Plateau, and is now working on a new longer one.
Liu does not believe that a single intervention, for example, the
reduction of carbon emissions, is going to restore ecosystems to their
original biodiversity. Slogans and posturing, he warns, deny the
complexity of nature, which is not bound to serve human interests when
inherently fragile environments are subject to unsustainable exploitation.
“We need to act as a species, not as nationalists and we need to do this
quickly,” concludes Liu.
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