How Sustainable Bamboo will Help Haiti and the World

Humanitarian and Sustainable Bamboo for Haiti and beyond!

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Hey Folks Gaia Punk here,

New Developments

I haven’t had much time to post because I’ve been working pretty much non-stop on a Permaculture Relief Corps mission call Perma Corps for Haiti, which has been getting a LOT of support from here and also here .  Which brings me to my next subject sustainable bamboo production! I absolutely love bamboo, in fact, I currently live in cozy and locally sourced bamboo framed yurt.  I wish to bring up the subject because RIGHT NOW there are currently around two million people homeless in Haiti, 1 million or so in Port Au Prince and another million scattered throughout the countryside.   It is very likely that in couple of weeks when when the seasonal rains begin in full force (not to mention Hurricanes) many of the tents  and encampments where displaced Haitians are housed will be completely washed out.  Haiti desperately needs cheap, permanent, sustainable housing that is hurricane and earthquake resistant ASAP and bamboo combined with Cob is the ideal locally sourced combination.  Below is a wonderful manual about Humanitarian Bamboo from the amazing IDEP foundation, as well as, my top 5 reasons bamboo rocks. This list comes with the best and most up to date links you could ever hope to find on the web regarding sustainable bamboo.  If you have any bamboo resources such as connections with bamboo plantations or builders or can offer help in anyway please email thejulianeffect(at)gmail.com as Perma Corps for Haiti is looking to have teams on the ground shortly and then building structures right away.

TOP 5 Reasons That Bamboo Rocks!!!

1.)  Bamboo is a very strong, very cheap, natural, quickly renewable, highly flexible and adaptable, building material.

To see just what Bamboo can do just take a peak at this link and especially these great e-books below:

2.)  Bamboo is a ideal perennial and beneficially plant for Permaculture Design applications:

3.)  Bamboo can sequester TONS of carbon while still being regularly harvested and can drastically improve soil fertility when used as biochar!

Biochar from bamboo has a unique pore structure, making it a perfect soil structure for beneficial aerobic bacteria and fungi, resulting in crop yield gains of as much as 800-percent. It is important to mix the biochar with well-prepared compost inoculated with bacteria from undisturbed (usually nearby forest) local soils.

4.) You can eat it and it tastes amazing!

How to grow edible bamboo shoots

5.)  In Permaculture there is a saying, “Unity through intergration, intergration through diversity!” and the world of Bamboo is full of diversity.  Due to bamboo’s amazing diversity of both products and species it will be a key economic factor in helping the 2/3rds (developing) world out of poverty especially in heavily deforested regions such as Haiti.

Bamboo and sustainable economic development

Update: Permaculture Relief Corps in Haiti!

Haiti 2010 earthquake: collapse of port complex

Below is a great update from Nika Boyce (@nika7k) I want to thank everyone who has expressed interest and I am inspired that this idea IS HAPPENING!  Stuart Leiderman (Lakou Permaculture) is on the ground in Haiti right now calling out for help stateside with coordinating a long term Permaculture Relief Corps effort.  People working in Haiti have asks that folks do not send goods just yet as you can see from the photos the port is a total mess!  Below is a email list of key coordinators by region:

Stuart Leiderman   —Currently in Haiti right now was working on the Lakou-Permaculture project

leiderman(at)mindspring.com

Joni Zweig  –Currently in Haiti works with AMURTEL disaster relief

info(at)amurtel.org

Cory Brenna—Currently in FL coordinating funds and people in FL works with permacultureguild.us which has a donation site up now for the creation of a Permaculture Relief Corps

cory8570(at)yahoo.com

Kevin —-Currently in Hudson Valley NY coordinating fundraising

regenerationcsa(at)gmail.com

Rhonda—- Coordinating in the Bloomington IN region

rk.baird(at)yahoo.com

Marvin Warren —Coordinating for the Ithaca Finger lakes area

greenmansinger(at)gmail.com

If your not on this list and want to be or on this list and don’t want to be….

email

Evan Schoepke (@gaiapunk) Currently coordinating for the Olympia WA and Seattle area

thejulianeffect(at)gmail.com

From Nika Boyce (nika7k):

Like you, I have been simply swept away by the brutal earthquake that has subsumed Haiti into a hell that gets worse by the day.

I have been mostly learning about it via CNN and on twitter. I have been pouring over the satellite images of the destruction as seen in Google Earth.

As I write, Reuters says that more than 200,000 people have died and as of this evening, they have buried 40,000 dead. MANY more bodies lay in the streets and under endless tons of ruined buildings.

Thank goodness for twitter and the permaculture people I have gotten to know there because that is the only thing that is keeping me from feeling utterly lost in desolation over this apocalypse.

It is through @gaiapunk, who is something of a one-man permaculture media empire, that I have begun to learn about and really love the idea of Permaculture First Responders.

He posted several links to projects already either training Permaculture First Responders or projects on the ground in Haiti and other disaster struck places.

Permaculture First Responder – Permie Disaster Relief Training Course

Cegrane Camp Permaculture Rehabilitation Project

Cuba-Australia Permaculture Exchange

I have been wondering how I might be able to help nurture this idea here, tucked away in my small part of the world without actually going to Haiti myself.

I have been chatting with Cory at Permaculture.org and am happy to share this link that is very constructive in terms of the next steps.

Help for Haiti from Permaculture

(UPDATE: @gaiapunk will also be posting a Long term Permaculture Relief Corps project on kickstarter.com a crowd funding site look for that in the next day or two)

From that site you will see:

Some of the projects which permaculturists can design and implement are:

Short Term:

Building sewage systems, composting toilets, compost and recyclying centers, rocket and solar stoves, temporary shelters (perma-yurts), water catchment and filtering, and plant nurseries.

Rocket and solar stoves are key because the major ecological problem in Haiti which causes huge hardships from many angles is deforestation for fuel. Solar stoves use no wood and rocket stoves, which can be made out of old cans and pipes laying around, use almost no fuel and can cook with twigs.

Correct diversion of sewage, human waste, and water can substantially contribute to rebuilding farm land in the area – the idea is to create the conditions for long term self-sufficiency and abundance with even our short term handlings.

Long Term:

Permanent, low cost, earthquake resistant natural buildings, water storage, earth works, renewable energy, permaculture food forests, broad-scale reforestation, farms, aquaculture systems, and community buildings such as schools and health centers.

We are currently working via a worldwide network of permaculturists to bring resources to Haiti, and several permaculturists are interested in traveling to Haiti to help with the rescue and relief efforts, but need funding to do so. We are in contact with disaster handlers in the area who they can coordinate with for maximum effectiveness. There is a permaculture project existing in Haiti that we are working to connect with as well. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact me – I am also willing to meet with potential funders to answer questions personally.

If you want to donate now, please use the “Haiti Donations – Donate” Paypal button on the right hand side of this web page. For past projects we’ve funded, please see the Pine Ridge Lakota reservation article under “Projects.” We will use initial funding to get people there on the ground and most needed resources such as equipment for building the short term items needed. Whenever possible, we use existing resources in the area that are free or very inexpensive – permaculture is very effective at getting the maximum return for energy invested, so you will know your money is going to a good cause.

I know that the idea of surviving this disaster is like a miracle and then the idea of Haiti being able to climb up from a place so dark seems too distant to contemplate.

To this end, I have been graphing out what the needs would be over time for people living through such overwhelming disasters.

I think its extremely important to do this now and for Haitians, now, because these same ideas and strategies will be needed again and again as climate change progresses.

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

In the graphic above, I try to illustrate the needs of a person immediately after surviving a catastrophe (earthquake, fire, flood, etc). The needs are pretty basic but inelastic in their being absolutely needed.

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Once the person is out of immediate danger and is left standing with nothing, no assets, nothing but other survivors around them, they need to find a way to rebuild, regenerate, and boost their resilience so that they become embedded in a community that provides current and future needs.

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

In this next graphic, I extend on the specific needs outlined in the second graphic with permaculture and no/lo-carbon and low cost strategies for coping and rebuilding.

Please take some time and explore these graphics and tell me what you think, whats missing? What would you add?

Please consider becoming involved in helping the Haitians, using permaculture or by other means, as where the Haitians are right now, that hell, could easily be ours, any of us.

We are, in many ways, their community.

We are each other’s community and it is through us banding together that we build resilience in every place.

Gaia Punks in Costa Rica II

A little Providence….

Cob Building with Sun Ray Kelly!

Just 4 days before I left for Costa Rica I casually picked up a book at my favorite local bookstore (Last Word Books) and as is my habit started flipping through it.  This book was entitled                          

Sun Ray Kelly

Sun Ray Kelly

 

Builders of the Pacific Coast      

It featured some of the most amazing natural building I had ever seen.  The work of Sun Ray apprentice of  fammed cob master Ianto Evans was esspecially amazing and I wished that I would have the opportunity to learn from such a inspiring artisan, architect, and craftsman, but then Icyni saddly thought fat chance of that happening.  Little did I know that my wish would be granted half way through my permaculture design course at True Nature Community when one evening I was walking up to the balcone and there, as if by divine providence, was a smiling and radiant Sun Ray.  Later our class was able to pitch in on amazing spiral temple/house cob dome project in the La Florida area.  Here are some pics and a short video (forgive the feet filming)….

Cob templecob temple

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

gaia punks

bamboo framing

cob goddess

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gaia Punx in Costa Rica

True nature

La Pura Vida de Permacultura

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Hola Folks,

This is Permie Boi passin’ the good word from La Florida, Costa Rica where I’m in the middle of a fabulous permaculture design course at True Nature Community instructed by Scott Pitman of the Permaculture Institute.

I’m having a wonderful time learning, exploring, and sharing.  The landscape here is amazing but in a lot of cases in need of regeneration.  Even though true nature is a gringo (expats) community, (for now) it is very nice to see that they have intergrated themselves with in the larger community through helping to support and share with the local ticos (Costa Ricans) in multiple ways.  This is a sharp contrast from much of the negative colonialist like developments happening in many ecologically fragile areas of the country.  The people here from True Nature really practice what they preach at every level and also run a amazing educational service organization called CREER.

 

The students attending this course are from all over the world and are very excited about what they will bring back to where they live as am I.  In the morning we wake up to amazing to an amazing landscape full of colorful chirping birds (Tucans even!) and verdant plants.  We’ve been eating fresh local foods cooked with local recipies and Luna of True Nature has been kind enough to offer a free yoga class to those who enjoy it. It is amazing to see how much we’ve been able to improve the site in just a few days by building rain swales and various watercatchments.  I know that all of this rewarding work will be greatly appreciated after our departure.  I just recently saw an amazing animal locally known as  a pizote’ (super cute!) for the first time and I’m extremely excited to continue to explore the rich ecology of this area.   Much more more to come soon.

 Living la pura vida,

~evan

Pizote 

Pizote

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the porch

Liberty spikes?

Liberty spikes?

 

 

 

 

Bamboo Yurts RULE!

So I’m currently in process of constructing a locally sourced bamboo framed yurt.  Right now I’m working on the latice and hope to have the entire yurt finished by the end of Feb.  Look for upcoming instructional posts on DIY bamboo yurt construction.  I have been a fan of yurts especially bamboo framed for a while now the reasons are simple: yurts sustainable, cost effective, mobile, simple, low impact, and just plain cool.  Please check out bambitat.com for some sweet eco shelter designs and my previous post all that bamboo can do!

Sustainable shelter

Sustainable shelter

Oh and if building your house out of bamboo wasn’t cool enough for you check out the video below of some MIT folks who have ideas for living tree houses.

Vertical Farming:making history or making hype?

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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!

~Permie boi

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.

Bamboo Can Do!!!

Last months plant was Wheat Grass this months miracle plant to save the earth is Bamboo!

So I’m currently constructing a low cost, low weight, highly efficient bamboo yurt (similar to the one shown).  Incidentally, I have grown to love this incredible and lovely sounding plant called bamboo, which incidently is also native to every continent but Europe and Antarctica. 

I  just thought I would give you a little primer about the state of bamboo construction today, the newest developments, and it’s incredible aesthetics.

Some quick facts:

Strength and Durability
Bamboo is a fascinating material due to its incredible strength, regenerative properties, and its natural aesthetic beauty. In structural engineering tests, bamboo has a higher tensile strength than many alloys of steel, and a higher compressive strength than many mixtures of concrete. It even has a higher strength to weight ratio than graphite.

Bamboo has been used as the standard building material for the majority of the world for thousands of years. There are many examples of buildings constructed entirely of bamboo, which are now several hundred years old. Due to their strength, these structures have even withstood 9.0 magnitude earthquakes.
Fast Regeneration
Typically trees such as the ones used in conventional wood fencing take 30-50 years to regenerate to their full mass. In the meantime, there is less oxygen produced, less carbon dioxide consumed, and more soil runoff in the spot where that tree was harvested – all producing negative environmental effects.

Live bambooOn the other hand, bamboo is the fastest growing plant on Earth. Some species have actually been measured to grow over 4 feet in 24 hours. A pole of bamboo can regenerate to its full mass in just six months! Bamboo can be continuously re-harvested every 3 years, without causing damage to the plant system and surrounding environment. During the time it takes to regenerate, the bamboo plant’s root system stays intact so erosion is prevented. Continuous harvesting of this woody grass every 3-7 years, actually improves the overall health of the plant.

It is believed that if bamboo were planted on a mass basis it could completely reverse the effects of global warming in just 6 years, and provide a renewable source of food, building material, and erosion prevention.

New Innovations:

The key to making bamboo a viable building structure that could eliminate the need for input intensive steel and concrete buildings is joiners.  Innovations in bamboo joint technology will allow for the realization of  hybrid buildings that have steel vertical supports with all floor and roof suspended by bamboo!!

Here are two examples of the latest technology:

Bamboo tetrahedron made by german design team

Bamboo tetrahedron with specially designed joints made by a German bamboo engineering team

This joint was designed by the famous architect Renzo Piano

Be sure to read about Glubam compostite beams  another wonderful innovation that is set to make the sustainable bamboo market explode in the near future Bamboo resins and composites are also growing in demand and if all this isn’t exciting enough then just look at this bike by Calfee Designs! Damn!! I want to ride.

Wow!

Wow!

Here are some great links for you to explore:

Permaculture Bamboo Farming

1000 things made with bamboo

Bamboo, mud, and straw (how to build the worlds most renewable buildings)