Category Archives: Science

Sustainable living starts in your garden

February marks the beginning of the The National Sustainable Living Festival here in Melbourne and with the horrifying summer we have just experienced, the need for community education and change is at an all time high. 

The mission of the festival is simple: to accelerate the uptake of sustainable living and to seek solutions to global warming. It is the largest sustainability festival in Australia and has proudly been a part of our calendar for 20 years. It showcases cutting-edge solutions to ecological and social challenges, fostering and providing tools for the change we want to see and the difference we want to make in the world.

You don’t have the live in Melbourne to take action, in fact, the best place to start is in your backyard: take a look at what you’re growing. Why not make 2020 the year to start growing your own produce? We have rounded up the leading titles that are being launched on the market which all aim to educate and help us become that little more sustainable in our garden. 

Attainable Sustainable by Kris Bordessa

Whether you live in a city, suburb, or the country, this essential guide for the backyard homesteader will help you achieve a homespun life, from starting your own garden and pickling the food you grow to pressing wildflowers, baking sourdough loaves, quilting, raising chickens, and creating your own natural cleaning supplies. In these richly illustrated pages, sustainability guru Kris Bordessa offers DIY lovers an indispensable home reference for sustainability in the 21st century, with tried-and-true advice, 50 enticing recipes, and step-by-step directions for creating easy, cost-efficient projects that will bring out your inner pioneer. Filled with 340 colour photographs, this relatable, comprehensive book contains time-honored wisdom and modern know-how for getting back to basics in a beautiful, accessible package.

Small Garden Style by Isa Hendry Eaton

A stylishly photographed guide to creating lush, layered, dramatic little gardens no matter the size of your available space; an urban patio, a tiny backyard, or even just a pot by your front door. Petite gardens align with the movement to live smaller and create a life with less stuff and more room for living. But a more eco-friendly and efficient space doesn’t have to sacrifice style. In Small Garden Style, garden designer Isa Hendry Eaton and lifestyle writer Jennifer Blaise Kramer show you how to use good design to create a joyful, elegant and exciting, yet compact, outdoor living space for entertaining or relaxing. A style quiz helps you focus in on your own personal garden style, be it traditional, modern, colourful, eclectic, minimalist, or globally inspired, then utilise every inch of your yard by considering the horizontal (floor), vertical (walls), and overhead (ceiling) spaces. Eaton and Kramer recommend their favourite plants and decor for small gardens, along with lawn alternatives and inspiration for making a fire pit, front door wreath, instant mini orchard, boulder birdbath, patterned vines, perfumed wall, and faux fountain with cascading plants. You’ll learn how to design stunning planters and container gardens using succulents, grasses, vibrant-coloured pots, and more. Nothing lights up a little garden more than a well-considered planter. It’s the welcome statement at the front door, the conversation centerpiece at the outdoor dining table, and the piece that naturally softens the patio. However small your garden, Small Garden Style will transform it into a magical, modern outdoor oasis.

A Year in Flowers by Erin Benzakein

From star flower farmer and bestselling author of Floret Farm’s Cut Flower Garden, Erin Benzakein comes this gorgeous and comprehensive guide to enhancing every occasion with floral beauty. With hundreds of stunning photographs and an inviting narrative style, this book offers approachable tips for caring for and arranging cut flowers, plus how-tos for designing more than 25 seasonal arrangements including magnificent centrepieces, infinitely gift-able posies, festive wreathes, and breathtaking bridal bouquets. Plus, an A to Z flower guide provides photos and care tips for more than 200 varieties, making it easy to identify and use a wide range of beautiful ingredients. Strikingly beautiful and full of authoritative advice, this book is an invitation to live a flower-filled life and the perfect gift for anyone who loves flowers.

Nature’s Best Hope by Douglas Tallamy

Douglas W. Tallamy’s first book, Bringing Nature Home, awakened thousands of readers to an urgent situation: wildlife populations are in decline because the native plants they depend on are fast disappearing. His solution? Plant more natives. In this new book, Tallamy takes the next step and outlines his vision for a grassroots approach to conservation. Nature’s Best Hope shows how homeowners everywhere can turn their yards into conservation corridors that provide wildlife habitats. Because this approach relies on the initiatives of private individuals, it is immune from the whims of government policy. Even more important, it’s practical, effective, and easy, you will walk away with specific suggestions you can incorporate into your own yard. If you’re concerned about doing something good for the environment, Nature’s Best Hope is the blueprint you need. By acting now, you can help preserve our precious wildlife and the planet for future generations.

The Earth in Her Hands by Jennifer Jewell

In this beautiful and empowering book, Jennifer Jewell, host of public radio’s award-winning program and podcast Cultivating Place, introduces 75 inspiring women. Working in wide-reaching fields that include botany, floral design, landscape architecture, farming, herbalism, and food justice, these influencers are creating change from the ground up. Profiled women include flower farmer Erin Benzakein; co-director of Soul Fire Farm Leah Penniman; plantswoman Flora Grubb; edible and cultural landscape designer Leslie Bennett; Caribbean-American writer and gardener Jamaica Kincaid; soil scientist Elaine Ingham; landscape designer Ariella Chezar; floral designer Amy Merrick, and many more. Rich with personal stories and insights, Jewell’s portraits reveal a devotion that transcends age, locale, and background, reminding us of the profound role of green growing things in our world and our lives.

The Family Garden Plan by Melissa Norris

Do something good for your family by learning how to plant a garden that will yield healthy, wholesome food throughout the year. Melissa K. Norris, fifth generation homesteader and host of the popular Pioneering Today podcast, will walk you through each step of the process, from planning your food crops and garden space to harvesting and preserving the food you grow. Even intermediate to experienced gardeners will discover dozens of new ideas.

This book is more than just practical advice, you’ll learn how gardening can contribute to a sustainable lifestyle and give you a sense of accomplishment, peace of mind, and overall joy. Make the Family Garden Plan your “grow-to” guide for good eating and greater well-being for you and your loved ones.      

Enjoy!

A forgotten space-aged technology could change how we grow food.

We’re heading for a world population of 10 billion people but what will we all eat? Lisa Dyson has rediscovered an idea developed by NASA in the 1960s for deep-space travel, and it could be a key to reinventing how we grow food.

How we can eat our landscapes

What should a community do with its unused land?

Perhaps plant food.

With energy and humour, Pam Warhurst shares the story of how she and a growing team of volunteers came together to turn plots of unused land into communal vegetable gardens, and to change the narrative of food in their community.

The Best Science Books of 2019 (so far)

I love Popular Science as a genre – having a science background myself, I am passionate about encouraging everyone to have a better understanding of science, and of becoming more aware of its place in everyday life.  I also love anything that shows off the quirky nerdy humour that I know many scientists and engineers have!  The best science books often combine in-depth research, stranger-than-fiction facts and a cracking narrative  – here’s the pick of the recent crop:

Humble Pi: a Comedy of Maths Errors by Matt Parker
Matt Parker is a mathematician and a comedian, and he uses both skillsets to great effect in Humble Pi, a book about the maths that is all around us – and what happens when you get it wrong. The stories range from trivial and quirky (such as posters where the cogs won’t turn) to potentially deadly (wobbling bridges and NASA disasters); and Matt manages to highlight the funny and entertaining side in all of them. Humble Pi subtly celebrates the importance of maths to science and engineering, without depressing readers about being “not good at maths”.

When the Dogs Don’t Bark: a Forensic Scientist’s Search for the Truth by Angela Gallop
Angela Gallop has had an extraordinary career as a forensic scientist. In over 40 years, she has worked on a string of high profile cases that made significant advances to forensics and criminal law.  When the Dogs Don’t Bark is her memoir of how science has helped to uncover the truth behind some shocking crimes.  While the sensational details showcase her amazingly analytical mind, Angela is also keen to educate her readers about the risks of relying on forensic evidence too heavily.  When the Dogs Don’t Bark will appeal to fans of True Crime and police procedurals, while its level of technical detail should engage science buffs. The Guardian newspaper also considers it an essential resource for aspiring crime writers!

The Wisdom of Wolves: How Wolves can Teach Us to be More Human by Elli H. Radinger
Wolves get pretty bad press in many cultures, and Elli Radinger is out to show everyone that they are not as Big & Bad as we’ve previously heard.  Drawing on 25 years’ of observations, The Wisdom of Wolves describes the social structures and behaviours of wolf packs and shows how similar they are to human societies.  The stories of how the entire pack helps to care for their young and their elderly; how the grownups teach their young to play; and how key decisions are made by females and the elderly, are heartwarming and offer surprising insights into kinship and parenting.  


Why Can’t We Sleep? by Darian Leader
Sleep.  It is a human necessity that has become a luxury in our busy world – so much so that there is an ever-growing industry helping us get the quantity and quality of sleep we want/need.  Why Can’t We Sleep? is a timely examination of this hot topic – weaving together a history and critique of sleep research, with neuroscience, psychology, and the social, cultural and economic significance of sleep.  This is psychoanalyst Darian Leader’s complex, intelligent, yet highly readable story on how and why humans sleep.

Guns, Germs and Steel: the Fates of Human Societies by Jared Diamond
Guns, Germs and Steel is a hugely influential book that helped to establish Popular Science as a genre.  Jared Diamond examines why some civilisations are more successful than others, in terms of wealth and political power, despite no inherent advantage in genetics or intelligence.  He theorises that the tools of success are guns (superior weapons for military might); germs (Eurasian diseases weakening local populations, making them easier to conquer) and steel (advanced technology facilitating imperialism) – and that they all arose from environmental conditions that allowed early adoption of agriculture. Drawing together ideas from history, geography, economics and anthropology, Guns, Germs and Steel offers compelling theories and surprising insights into the development of societies.

Influenza: the Quest to Cure the Deadliest Disease in History by Dr Jeremy Brown
The deadliest disease in recorded history was the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918, which killed up to 100 million people worldwide.  A century later, scientists are still searching for a cure – and an understanding of why this strain disproportionately affects young, apparently-healthy people.  Dr Jeremy Brown uses the Spanish flu pandemic as the starting point of his history of our fight against this ubiquitous yet still deadly virus.  Readers are swept along by this tense mystery/thriller as we begin to understand the high stakes involved – the ‘flu’s ability to spread widely and mutate repeatedly still cause thousands of deaths each year, with widespread social, political and economic consequences, and yet there is still no “bullet-proof” cure or vaccine in sight.