The most important challenge of our generation will be to regenerate the earth back to health and abundance from the degraded and polluted state that it's in now. The Abundant Edge podcast is here to show you how you can make changes in your life that will create a regenerative future for you, your family and community, and for the earth we all call home. Join host Oliver Goshey every Friday as he interviews innovators and leaders on the cutting edge of regenerative movements in business, land management, ecosystem restoration and much more.
The massive potential in marine permaculture, with Brian Von Herzen
Continuing today with this ongoing series on waterway regeneration and a deep dive into marine ecosystems, I had the pleasure of speaking with Brian Von Herzen.
Brian is an ocean scientist, engineer and entrepreneur, though much of his career has been in Silicon Valley where he developed innovative technical solutions for companies like Pixar, Dolby and Microsoft. Brian is also the founder and Executive Director of the non-profit The Climate Foundation, an institute working to regenerate life in the world’s oceans and reverse global warming within our lifetimes.
Through Brian’s work with the Climate Foundation, he’s been promoting the concept of marine permaculture through ocean seaweed and kelp farming in a way that could potentially revitalize areas of degraded coastline as well as spark a whole new economy around marine ecosystem stewardship.
In this interview, Brian starts by explaining just how immense and important the kelp forests of the world are by describing the impact that they've had on the ecology of the west coast of the United States. I think it’s so important to regain reference to what our healthy and intact biosphere used to be, because all of us alive today have almost no reference to what our natural world even looked like before humans started to alter and degrade it so severely.
Brian also breaks down what it could mean for the economy and health of the west if these underwater forests could be regenerated and cared for.
We also explore some of the challenges in getting sea farming and ocean permaculture projects started and especially funded, since the initial costs are often much higher than land based initiatives.
We cover a lot of ground in this talk and even touch on topics like how marine farming fits into a regenerative economy and what those of you listening can do to support and even start your own marine permaculture projects, so be sure to stick around for some great action steps by the end.
Diving deep into ocean farming,with Joost Wouters of the Seaweed Company
Over the last month, I’ve been focusing on interviews with people who are pioneering the repair and regeneration of the water cycle as it pertains to landscapes. We’ve explored the installation of ponds and dams, permaculture earthworks and water retention landscapes as well as keyline design and planting the rain in drylands. These are all great interventions at the beginning of the water cycle’s journey, but today I want to start a deeper dive, literally, by going to the furthest point downstream, where water enters the ocean.
Marine ecosystems are much less understood by the general public for a variety of reasons, but our actions on land have a direct effect on the health of our oceans too. Luckily there are incredible teams of people looking to address these issues with promising new solutions and over the next couple of episodes I’ll be highlighting a few of them.
To get things started I spoke to Joost Wouters, an entrepreneur, speaker, author and the ‘Sea’EO of the Seaweed Company. I got to know Joost first as a co-instructor with me on the Ecosystem restoration design course through Gaia Education. I was fascinated with his presentation and the compelling data on the potential regenerative effects that seaweed and kelp can have in bringing back the health of coastal areas. In his role with the Seaweed Company, he and his team aim to implement CO2-reducing seaweed-based business models at large scale.
It turns out that seaweed is the fastest growing biomass in the world. Seaweed farming itself, if done responsibly, has the power to address many of the ecological challenges we face today, without the use of land, fertilizer, or freshwater. It reduces ocean acidification, promotes marine biodiversity, and even absorbs vast quantities of CO2 from the atmosphere.
Seaweed can also create highly valuable end products. It is a nutritious food source for both people and animals and can be used as an environmentally friendly alternative to petroleum-based fertilisers and plastics. At the moment it's a unique untapped resource, and the goal of the Seaweed Company is to unlock the potential of this wondrous resource to benefit both people and the planet.
In this episode Joost starts by explaining some of the urgent issues facing marine environments and how seaweed farming can help to address them. We go over the advantages that growing seaweed has over terrestrial agriculture, the high value products that can be made from different types of seaweed, the many pilot projects around the world that his company has helped to start and much more.
Towards the end we also examine the roadblocks that are holding this solution back from being more widely adopted and how those of you listening can learn more and get involved.
I’ve personally been learning a lot about marine ecosystems through these interviews and truly hope that a greater awareness will begin to be built around just how essential the health of our oceans is to the health of all life, even to ecosystems that are far inland and away from any saltwater. I’m really excited for this and the next few episodes for this reason.
How to plant the rain in drylands and beyond, with Brad Lancaster, author of the Rainwater Harvesting books
In the last handful of episodes we’ve explored permaculture earthworks for water harvesting landscapes and keyline design on large scales. As a complement to those topics I got in touch with Brad Lancaster, the author Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond, volumes one and two which have recently been re-released as expanded new editions.Brad is an expert in the field of rainwater harvesting and water management whose work I’ve been following for a long time. He is also a permaculture teacher, designer, consultant and co-founder of the non-profit Desert Harvesters, which teaches the public how to identify, harvest, and process many of the native-food plants people are propagating in their areas. He’s also been instrumental in helping to change water management policy and government incentives in the City of Tucson to help others implement water wise catchment and reuse features on their properties.
In this interview we cover a wide range of topics from the difference between active and passive harvesting technology and reading the landscape to determine how to work with the natural surroundings, to the increasing importance for water stewardship in non-arid climates and why it’s so important to connect and invest in the place you already live rather than thinking that moving to another place will solve your environmental worries.
Brad also gives great advice on home scale water harvesting and storage which are all topics that are covered extensively in his books. He’s done an incredible job with the help of many experts and collaborators to compile tons of resources that are available to help you get started on his website
Check out the Global Regeneration CoLab TEDx event here!
Making the most of your water on any farm, with Mark Shepard, Author of “Water for Any Farm”
Since the last two episodes focused on earthworks, specifically water retention and catchment features, I wanted to revisit one of my favorite interviews that really helped me to understand the fundamentals of keyline design and how many different configurations it could take, even on the same piece of land. The keyline system was pioneered of course by PA Yeomans in Australia back in the 1950’s and has been a guide for farmers and land restorationists ever since.
Back at the beginning of this season I spoke with Mark Shepard, right after the release of his latest book Water for Any Farm. A culmination of decades of work on his own property as well as consulting and designing for others around the US and the world. Mark’s no-nonsense approach to permaculture and restoration agriculture have been attractive to me since I first got interested in these topics more than a decade ago.
In this interview we start by talking about how the mismanagement of land and water has created the conditions we have today all over the world where topsoil is constantly eroded and water quickly becomes a destructive force rather than a rejuvenating one if it's left to run over bare landscapes. Mark goes into a lot of detail to describe how to read your landscape and identify key points that can be used as references for keylines to direct water all across your land in a way that slows it down and rehydrates it. We talk about what machinery and tools he recommends for major earthworks, the installation of different types of ponds, building soil over large acreage, and much more. I’m lucky to get sent a lot of books to look over and review before speaking with authors, and I often don’t have time to read them very thoroughly, but Mark’s latest book, Water for Any Farm is one I really took the time to understand because of the incredible potential that this system has for increasing the productivity and resilience of any landscape, not just from an agricultural perspective. Adjusting the water harvesting capacity of your terrain can have an important impact on any kind of regeneration project and help with weathering severe climate events too. It’s especially relevant to reforestation and agroforestry because the earthworks method outlined in the book is how Mark was able to regenerate a degraded farm surrounded by monoculture corn crops into the highly productive oak savannah mimicking ecosystem based around the pillars of hazelnut and chestnut orchards. I highly recommend you check it out. I’ve put links to where you can get the book and learn more about Mark and his work in the show notes for this episode on the website.
Welcome to New Forest Farm
A Permaculture guide to Earth Surgery, with David “Doc Spice” Spicer
Tying in perfectly with last week’s interview with Zach Weiss about building ponds and water harvesting features, I spoke with David Spicer, affectionately known as Doc Spice, an accomplished permaculture designer who has specialized in earthworks installation. Having taught and worked on various projects extensively within Australia and internationally, in places such as Morocco, Jordan, Palestine and New Caledonia, Doc has worked in a broad array of different soil types, topographies and climatic zones.
He’s also a valued member of the Permaculture Sustainable Consulting team headed up by Geoff Lawton and is registered Teacher #5 with the Permaculture Research Institute of Australia.
Doc is a master of practical and logical mainframe permaculture design and he's pioneered the design of water harvesting and storage earthworks which frames all regenerative farming.
In this episode we talk about why it’s so important to invest early on in a project to get your earthworks right because of what it can mean for the health of your land. Doc also shares some insights on his personal design process and what he looks for in a landscape to give him clues as to the most effective interventions on the form of the land. We also cover some of the risks of improperly installed features, the need to draw from as many sources of knowledge as possible and he also gives some valuable advice for people who are new to earthworks on how to get started.
I’ve put some pictures of the projects that Doc has done to help to illustrate some of the concepts and techniques that he talks about so don’t forget to check those out along with further links on the show notes for this episode on the website.
How to install ponds, dams, and water retention features, with Zach Weiss from Elemental Ecosystems
Welcome back to the ongoing series on waterway regeneration. Today’s interview is the second conversation I’ve had with Zach Weiss, the Protégé of revolutionary Austrian farmer Sepp Holzer and founder of Elemental Ecosystems, a company that designs and implements water harvesting landscapes and features for clients around the world. Zach is best known for blending a unique combination of systems thinking, empathy and awareness, in his projects.
In the last interview I did with him, which I’ve linked to in the show notes for this episode on the website, he introduced me to the importance of a healthy water cycle to climate regulation and how it actually plays a much larger role than just the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere.
In today’s session I wanted to focus more closely on a topic that I get a lot of questions about but have very little personal experience with, and that’s building ponds, dams, and other water storage features on the land. Zach is an expert at this and explains the difference in how sealed and unsealed ponds can have a very different effect on the ecology even if they both hold the same amount of water. He also explains his methods and techniques for reading the landscape to determine the best placement for water features that are sometimes contradictory to simple topography. Be sure to stick around until the end where Zach gives some amazing practical advice for people who are looking to get started on installing their own water retention features and landscapes.
Before we start in with the interview I also want to give you a heads up that the next two episodes will also be deep dives into permaculture earthworks, water retention landscapes and actionable information on how to optimise your land for the best use and creation of water resources, so be sure to check out the next few weeks of episodes too.
Elemental Ecosystems on Facebook
Elemental Ecosystems on Youtube
Zach Weiss’ TEDx talk
Desert or Paradise with Sepp Holzer
The Flow Partnership