I’m really excited to see this film and debute it in my community. It has a great cast of main characters:
Jamie Lee Curtis | Bill Logan | Andy Lipkis | Vandana Shiva | Wangari Maathai | Wes Jackson | Sebastiao Salgado | Lelia Deluiz Wanick Salgado | Paul Stamets | Miguel Altieri| Pierre Rabhi | David Orr | Majora Carter | James Jiler | Fritjof Capra | Peter Girguis |Alice Waters | Gary Vaynerchuk | Janine Benyus | John Todd
but it also stars my most favorite environmental super-celebrity DIRT!
Here is some completely heretical news in for the world of eco-capitalist dreamers; no silly white multi-million dollar media men will ever solve the worlds ecological or social problems. Yeah I know what your thinking blasphemous right? Specifically, I am referring to the uber opportunistic and freshly greenwashed faces of Al gore, Warren Buffet, Richard Branson, Bill Gates, Richard Rainwater, and now John Hantz. Hantz, a big time financial investor and longtime Detroit resident is proposing to put 30 million down of his own money to build a high tech farming operation that will be coupled with “green” estates. In Fortune Magazine’s limited interview Hantz said that Detroit is suffering from a lack of scarcity and that the only way to save housing prices is by taking as much property off the market as possible, hence the massive farm and real estate combo. But, couple this seemingly benign idea with a one track profit motive and instead of community revitalization one gets rampant community gentrification that pushes out the very people (the poorer residents of Detroit) that one is purporting to be “helping”. The team Hantz has assembled thus far is glaringly white in a city that is over 80% black which is highly suspicious to say the least not to mention naming the entire operation Hantz Farm doesn’t inspire thoughts of “community”. Rather than going to the folks who have already spent immense amounts of effort to bring local organic food to their communities and bring jobs in their neighborhoods, and then offer to assist financially in their efforts, thus far Hantz is developing a hierarchal strategy that may put those very folks out of business. Hantz’s preliminary proposals have garnered lots of unwarranted media attention even though very few details have emerged about how this farming project will be managed and who exactly will manage it.
The Hantz Farm site is just a collection of stock photos that to me seem as hollow as their message. Okay perhaps I’m being too cynical but right now important questions remain around what exact types of technology the farm will employ (already energy expensive technologies like hydroponics and large scale harvesters have been mentioned) , if there is even a viable market in the region, and most importantly, who will this for profit enterprize benefit the most. “I’m concerned about the corporate takeover of the urban agriculture movement in Detroit,” says Malik Yakini, a charter school principal and founder of the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network, which operates D-Town Farm on Detroit’s west side. (from CNN)
Organic farming is enjoying a nice trendy resurgence as a solution to urban, rural, and ecological ills. Unfortunately, farming no mattter how popular can only do so much. It is well known that various economic events some deliberate and some unexpected have cost the United States and urban manufacturing centers like Detroit obscene amounts of jobs. What is not well known, is that neither local organic farming, or any green high tech green wizardry, is likely to bring these jobs back in the near future. But, never fear, there are three simple solutions to this whole mess we’re all in along with Detroit.
Detroit honestly doesn’t need anymore scarcity (though real estate barons may see it differently) it desperately needs abundance, and permaculture is a complete system that designs for abundance. If the polluted landscape of Detroit is going to be regenerated then organic farming is just not enough.
The entire history of Detroit is one of total abandonment by the world of capital and a complete lack of responsibility or loyalty to the local community. Cooperatives by their very nature encourage horizontal investment, diversity, democracy, and local responsibility.
THREE: Community Land Trusts
Community Land Trusts are set up in such a way as to encourage low income buyers into positions of ownership and avoid volatility in housing prices. There are few communities in the the US that have suffered worse volatility in housing prices than Detroit. What Hantz is proposing is just green veiled gentrification while the real solution for the people of Detroit lies in Community Land Trusts. Burlington VT has many successful examples of how and why CLT’s can close the gaps of classism.
Note, I did not mention 30 million dollars from some rich white guy! Now if that 30 million was invested in those 3 things I would surely change my tune, but if it’s invested in anything else, I really wouldn’t get my hopes up. Currently, Detroit will likely be the venue for the 2010 US social forum and I plan on being there purposing real solutions based on living permaculture and cooperative principals not on selfish, dead, capitalist oriented ones.
Organizations doing the real work in Detroit:
Evolve Detroit http://detroitevolution.com/
Detroit Agriculture Network http://www.detroitagriculture.org/
Detroit Summer http://www.detroitsummer.org/
Midwest Permaculture http://www.midwestpermaculture.com/
Hey Gaia Punk here,
So I was just recently accepted for a 3 month Advance Permaculture Design internship with Ethan Roland of Appleseed Permaculture in the Hudson Valley area of New York. I am very excited for this opportunity to deepen my skills and I’m dedicated to the helping make permaculture design accessible to even more people than ever before. Ethan is such an awesome force in the world of permaculture and vital mentor to so many wonderful folks that I decided I would take a moment to highlight some of his work.
Ethan is a full time Permaculture designer and teacher and expert in the areas of large scale perennial polyculture systems and ecological community design. See slideshow:
Ethan studied at Haverford College and later obtained a M.S. in Collaborative eco-social design from Gaia University a innovative and global growing university through which he now occasionally teaches courses. Ethan is the principal of Appleseed Permaculuture which collaborates with permaculture and ecological designers from all over the world. Ethan currently sits on the board of Permaculture Across Boarders which assists permaculture projects in the developing or 2/3 rds world. His work has brought him all over world (Thailand, Azerbaijan, Kazakastan, the Virgin Islands,) with direct learning experience and mentoring from folks like Geoff Lawton and Dave Jacke. Ethan is directly involved with the Carbon Farming and Financial Permaculture movements. He supports and promotes sustainable community based cooperative enterprises like the innovative cocao CSA Booyacacao. Ethan contributes contents and expertise for Earth Activist Mentor a amazing site and service for up and coming designer like myself, folks looking for detailed in depth resources, or distance mentoring for permaculture diplomas. Well, I hope to do a video interview shortly with Ethan and Nicolas Roberts from Permaculture.tv but until then enjoy this inspiring lecture Ethan presented to a group of UMASS architecture students and Greg Landua presentation of Booyacocao “Theobroma” production.
It seems as though Pittsburgh is either the De facto capital of the rust belt or a city in the midst of a revolutionary transformation. In recent years Pittsburgh has become a epicenter for green building, bike paths, solar composites, and one of the professed launching pads of the new “green economy”. This is fascinating because Pittsburgh could also be considered one of the many coal capitals of the world, and anyone who has studied the issue knows that there is absolutely no way to make coal “clean” as long as your using mining techniques such as “mountaintop removal”. There is nothing like synthetic stench of two faced liberalism to hide the odious fact that the root of some very serious issues like housing, poverty, gentrification, and classism are not being addressed. The city of Pittsburgh’s role during the current wholly undemocratic G20 summit is to act as a PR spin machine to distract the public from the main show of global power grabs behind the scenes and behind closed doors.
While the media is very focused on equating anarchists with terrorists, they’re also wholly ignoring the police harassment and abuse that has already taken place even before the summit. The Seeds of Peace collective has been repeatedly attacked by the police solely because of the fact by that by bringing a bus to act as kitchen and medical support for the g20 resistance they’ve been made an obvious target. Yesterday, the Landslide Community Farm and the Cyberpunk Apocalypse Writers Guild house were raided for no plausible reasons by swarms of cops trespassing without warrants or accurate justification. The Landslide Community Farm and the Cyberpunk Apocalypse house are centers of different type transformation happening in Pittsburgh, that of radical culture.
These centers are the works of truly earnest folks, that divide up what free time they can muster into making art, hosting cultural gatherings, giving out free food, planting permaculture food forests, building bike co-ops, fighting all forms of oppression, and re-envisioning all that has been abandoned in the shadows of steel that is the forlorn rusty spine of Pittsburgh. Some of them are even proud to be called anarchists. These groups and many, many, others like them are true community builders something the G20 aristocrats will most likely never understand. Perhaps the new face of Pittsburgh is not the gilded “green” skyline for the rich but the rainbow of diversity in an urban farm for everyone.
For more info about the Landslide Community Farm visit: www.punkrockpermaculture.com
For real time updates on the G20 resistance visit: pittsburgh G-finity
Hey folks Gaia punk here back on the attack,
Today I wanted to focus a bit on the news. It has come to my attention that a real hero of mine Van Jones has been forced to resign from his position in the Obama administration as a special advisor to the Department of Environmental Quality because of right wing attacks of by the ignorant likes of Glenn Beck
and his Army 0f misguided Screwballs. I am both pissed off and in some weird way excited about this news. I’m pissed off because it show the ineptness of Obama by not defending a pragmatic and dare I say radical leader like Van Jones from obvious bullshit red baiting, but I’m also happy because knowing Jones adversity will only make him stronger. Van Jones is one a few folks in the mainstream environmental movement making the links between classism, racism, and environmental degradation and offering genuine solutions to all three. There is a war on common sense going on, a war against new ideas, and folks involved in permaculture need to step up their efforts of building community resilience and promoting real ecological alternatives. I promise as the faithful editor of prp e-zine to fight and fight hard! Are you with me?
In other news permaculture is hitting many college campuses including Evergreen State College in Olympia, WA, Warren Wilson College in Ashville, NC, and the USC in South Carolina. All three campuses have installed some form of permaculture garden or edible landscaping and are in some way increasing permaculture education with in the mainstream academic sphere, and that’s good news. Below are some nice photos…
One of my favorite little Permie maxims is, ” Unity Through Integration and Integration Through Diversity”. There are many different possible configurations of garden beds each with different advantages so here is a brief bit about some different types and terminology.
- A garden bed that has been raise off the ground and in which the soil is held in a framed box of some sort. These can also be made as table beds for easy access for folks with physical challenges. Raised box beds work well for climates with lots of moisture and appeal to those of us with tidy sensibilities
- A garden bed that has different layers raised up without a frame. The advantage of not having a frame is that you actually get more space for plants because the bed is a parabolic curve.
- This innovative bed is made by piling wood, newspapers, rubbish and compost up, and then covering that pile with dirt, mulch, and vegetation. These beds are usually raised but could be sunken too. The wood and rubbish act to attract water as well as aid mycelia (fungal) growth which is beneficial for your plants.
- Mandalas are beautiful circular and sometimes spiral patterns that may also incorporate forms from sacred geometry. The advantage of a mandala bed is it’s unique beauty and also that they’re non-linear which can mean significant space savings. Some mandala designs have seed start beds in the center and more established plants on the outside which is a super convenient way of organizing your plants.
Raised Bed (Boxed):
Raised Bed (unboxed):
A sunken bed is a bed that has been dug down in order to gather more moisture and works very well in dry-land settings.
Mandala Bed :
Please enjoy and share these two manuals on how to make a raised bed as well as a hugelkulture bed…
What would the permaculture approach to vertical farming look like?
Most permaculturalist agree that we must grow more food with in our cities, but does that mean inside the buildings of the city itself? Vertical farming has been making some big headlines lately and so I’ve decided to approach some of the latest ideas and innovations and examine them through the lens of permaculture principals. This idea has been around for a while (think terraces in Asia) and has some very strong merits. Bill Mollison remarked that “95 of the cost of food in a city like New York comes from it’s transportation, storage, and packaging.” Growing in a high density fashion has the potential to save ample land and resources if done correctly. But, as a permaculturalist I have some serious reservations about vertical farms. Most of the skyscraper type designs would grow food hydroponically This requires considerable energy and maintenance the trade off being a year long growing season; that is if your not dealing with constant “technical difficulties”. Dickson Despommier the leading proponent of the vertical farming idea had this say, “You can control nothing outdoors, and you can control everything indoors. That means no floods, wildfires, hailstorms, tornadoes, or droughts. Plant diseases and pests are more easily controlled, too, meaning less need for herbicides and pesticides.”
“And indoor agriculture is more efficient. One indoor acre of strawberries can produce as much as 30 outdoor acres can. In general, indoor acreage is four to six times more productive, in part because of the year-round growing season. Outdoors, you might get one crop [per year]; indoors, you might get four or five crops per year,”
Now, I might disagree about his use of the word “efficient” because it may not account for the imbued impute energy of a large hydroponic system not to mention large steel and concrete building. His emphasis on control is also a little unsettling too, simply because it was a disproportionate emphasis on control, instead of more flexible whole systems design based on relationships, that got us into the current food crisis mess in the first place. Now I wouldn’t throw out the idea of vertical farming entirely I just think there may be a better use of our energy and resources. Skyscrapers alone use ample amounts of energy in their construction let alone ones potentially holding complex hydroponics systems. Some of these designs incorporate aspects of passive and active solar, wind, housing, rainwater harvesting, methane digestion for energy, composting, aquaculture, and other generally cool features you would expect from the sustainably minded. But, here is what my friend Richard Register author of Ecocities: rebuilding cities in balance with nature had to say about it, “the notion of filling a building [with plants] and artificially supplying the light for the plants … from any kind of energy system is one of the weirdest ideas I’ve ever heard of. It’s not serious agriculture. It’s just not…. It’s an intellectual plaything.”
“A better answer is to develop, over time, more compact, energy-efficient cities along the European model, he says. That would free up land near urban areas for conventional agriculture with “100-percent-free solar energy” falling on it. Urban community gardens and high-intensity conventional commercial gardens could also supply part of the need.”
I echo Richards sentiments; it seems to me that before we consider growning food in farmscrapers in the future we should reclaim what is already available to us now. New York City alone has 1700 unused and vacant lots! If space is the issue well I’d rather get rid of some streets. Mo Town in Detroit is starting to turn into one large urban farm and should’t we encourage ideas from the bottom up, as in from the community, versus developers first. This doesn’t mean I think vertical farming is a absolute dead end. Like I said I still think that it is an idea with good merits but it needs to be more scalable and less impute intensive. If vertical farming becomes a euphemism for taking the industrialized petrol based monoculture outside and then reconfiguring that inside (which is what some designs looked like) then I say no way! Recently, one design called Sky Vegetables caught my eye. This design was developed by 22 year old Keith Agoada, a University of Wisconsin business student, and took home a 10000$ first place prize in a competition for creative start ups. Sky Vegetables is basically a big box remix with vegetables being grown on the grocery store roof (in greenhouses), complete with rainwater harvesting, solar panels, compost, oh and large unsightly asphalt parking lot too of course. I believe if you were to add affordable housing and office space to a idea like this, scale it down a bit, build most of the building with Glubam or with recycled wood, and of course take out the parking lot, well then I might sign on to vertical farming. Until then, when I hear the word vertical farming used I’m going to think of a forest garden.
Take care and fair share!
P.S. Check out my next post on this subject when I examine arcologies and the way in which they aproach vertical farming. Oh, and sorry about the typos I have to stop typing so late.
It’s time to get retro….
retrofit that is
Hey everyone I really wanted to share this great video about my good friend Jan Spencer’s suburban permaculture retrofit house in Eugene, OR. Jan is a extremely knowledgeable permaculturalist, a awesome mural painter, and all around upbeat and very friendly guy. We first met two years ago during his west coast permaculture bike tour and we had a great time together coming back with some friends from the Ecocity World Summit in San Francisco. He showed us around his place which was such a cool retrofit I thought I would share it with you here.
Grow your own food!
This is an inspiring little video from the folks at the Lama Foundation in New Mexico.