Penan Permaculture Project - Borneo
In addition to osteoarthritis I've had a number of other health problems including post-viral fatigue syndrome, which I was diagnosed with in 2002 after repeatedly falling asleep during the day. I had recently contracted Epstein-barr (glandular fever) for the second time but had also been infected with Hepatitis B and C, dengue fever, and tuberculosis while doing overseas aid work. About two years ago I started having episodes of breathlessness while lying in bed, so my GP had a chest x-rays done and a few other tests and informed me I have chronic bronchitis, emphysema and asthma which is collectively known as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). My GP put me on puffers and I finally gave up cigarettes and attended a couple of dozen exercise physiology sessions, and actually had built up about 6 kilo of muscle through exercise and diet.
One nasty statistic I was unaware of is that more mild to moderate COPD sufferers are more likely to die of cardiac problems than lung problems due to the strain it puts on the heart and the metabolic inflammation associated with COPD. In April of this year I noticed my heart rate seemed to be very arrhythmic so my GP finally organised an echocardiogram, a 24-hour blood pressure monitor and a 24-hour holster heart rate monitor test. This was followed up with a CT-scan of my heart and lungs and other internal organs. None of the results were good, but clearly explain the arrhythmia and chronic fatigue and breathlessness. Both the bronchitis and emphysema are more chronic and widespread than my doctor had thought and he now believes I'm Stage 3 rather than Stage 2 COPD. My heart has a number of conduction issues including a partial right bundle branch block and a left posterior fascicular block causing bradycardia, as well as sparking in the wrong places and timing leading to tachycardia. This has been causing it to miss beats and drop as low as 37 beats a minute then suddenly shoot up to over 200, making me feel weak as a kitten and giving me chest pains. There is also moderate calcification of the coronary arteries, which could be the cause of the conduction issues. I finally get in to see the cardiologist tomorrow but going by the scans I've had already the prognosis isn't good. I stopped both the gym work and taking my supplement mix when I noticed the arrhythmia and have dropped back from 72 to 66kg, with most of it being muscle loss.
The downshot is I don't know how much longer I will be doing anything except concentrating on my health, and my planned 'overseas aid' trip in November may be my last. As part of my legacy I would like to see the BioWicked Grow Box in commercial production and the BioWicked inoculate brewed up cheaply and used by rice farmers everywhere. I don't have children (except my wonderful stepson Dougie) but would like to help provide the tools to mitigate climate change as much as possible so future generations have more of a chance.
In November/December I'm planning on travelling to India to attend the International Permaculture Convergence, where I'm a guest speaker talking about the use of probiotic inoculate to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture. I haven't been to a national or international permaculture convergence before so it will be good to go to at least one before retiring, after nearly three decades as a permie. I'll be briefly stopping off in Sarawak (Borneo) to see Paulus and give him more inoculate to brew up from and some mycorrhiza powder. In addition to pulling in atmospheric carbon and nitrogen the inoculate makes phosphate more available, and phosphate is often the limiting factor in tropical soils. Through the application of guano soaked in the inoculate and mycorrhiza it may be possible to keep growing on the same area continuously rather than shifting every couple of years.
I also want to take enough inoculate to India to distribute to some of the participants and farms I'll be visiting. From just 2.5 litres it is possible to brew up 1,000 litres in just two months and so I'm hoping I can stimulate some rice field trials there. I'm also trying to raise funds to send inoculate to a number of Facebook friends in developing countries including Thailand, Malaysia, and the Philippines. I provide the inoculate for free but the postage costs are higher than I can currently afford. I'm also considering taking the plywood prototype of the BioWicked Grow Box over to take to some plastic recycling factories for feedback. I'd love to see some of the mountains of plastic waste in India converted into low-maintenance food growing boxes, providing both employment and healthy food.
Anyway I'm flat broke and too crook to do much to make money in the near future and could do with some financial help. I've paid for my airfares tickets and convergence registration but haven't the money for excess baggage to take the inoculate and grow box over or for accommodation or food etc. I usually have an emergency buffer when travelling of a couple of thousand available on my credit card but that's maxed out paying for the airfares and registration. Because of my health I can only rough it so much and am worried I may have an exacerbation due to the air quality over there, and not have the funds for either medical help or evacuation. I'll get travel insurance but you sometimes need to pay an excess or up-front. If you can help out a poor sick permie it will be greatly appreciated. I wish I had enough spare cash for a weeks Ayurvedic treatment while I'm over there, but more realistically I may see an Ayurvedic practitioner for a one hour appointment in between dragging the prototype grow box around.
Another use for the inoculate I use in the BioWicked beds came to me a few years ago when I was helping out on a Green Warrior Permaculture Aid Certificate course in the Philippines. I was looking across some wet paddy rice fields and noticed bubbles coming out of the flooded soil. I realised this was most likely methane as wet paddy rice fields are the second highest agricultural contributor to anthropogenic methane emissions, with only cattle production being higher. After some research I found that around 90% of the methane actually travels through the rice plants before being expelled to the atmosphere, so the visible bubbles were only a minor amount of the total. It suddenly came to me that by applying the 'BioWicked inoculate' to the paddy fields, either by spraying the flooded fields with a backpack sprayer or just trickling it into the channel when flooding the field, it could possibly stop the methane emissions completely. I realised this could be a 'game-changer' as far as developing a climate-friendly method of wet paddy rice production. I had just read a report from the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in the Philippines, who are the Monsanto backed group responsible for the so called 'Green Revolution' involving genetically modified crops and agrochemicals, that found organic wet paddy rice can produce more than double the methane emissions of chemically grown rice. This research could easily be used by Monsanto and others to convince governments to ban organic rice growing as a way of reducing national greenhouse gas emissions. The BioWicked inoculate is the only way I know of that could be used by traditional and contemporary organic wet paddy rice growers to cut their methane emissions to potentially zero, and produce organic rice that is also climate-friendly. Unlike agrochemicals it is safe to use in polycultural systems including ducks and fish etc. and actually provides a beneficial probiotic boost to poultry and aquatic organisms.
Earlier this year I finally managed to convince someone with a wet paddy rice field to give it a try. Anam Masur, a Facebook friend in Java (Indonesia) and a fellow permaculturist, brewed up enough inoculate from some I sent him and applied it to the field prior to planting. Amazingly he used no fertilisers whatsoever and yet got a bumper crop! The main fertiliser used in rice growing is nitrogen and so to grow a bumper crop the plants must have been receiving sufficient atmospheric nitrogen via bacterial action in the saturated soil, which both sequestrates nitrogen and converts it into a form usable by plants. Hopefully this means the beneficial purple non-sulphuric photosynthetic bacteria in the inoculate supplanted the methanogenensis microbiome completely, totally stopping methane emissions. After seeing photos of this initial trial a person working for a Balanese NGO is interested in extending the trial to a group of poor farmers he works with. It is cheaper to brew up sufficient inoculate in the village than to purchase the nitrogen fertiliser it replaces so is a very cheap and easy method of converting to organic growing. I'll try to get a local Indonesian university involved so proper gas exchange measurements can be measured.