It’s all about design

Our modern society is designed predicated upon abundant cheap energy that we use to move food, durable goods, and ourselves around the planet. We have on demand internet, electricity, water, gas, news, entertainment, and information all readily available as a result. I can provide information, humor, art and poetry for you on this blog because of all this seemingly abundant energy. There are flaws inherent in the societal design however. Some of these flaws can start as annoyances before becoming a glaring problem while there is a huge flaw that is almost always glossed over. This latter flaw is the lie that policy makers both private sector and governmental always perpetuate to the the public-that we can maintain a perpetual growth economy on a planet with limited resources. The logic is fundamentally flawed and sooner than many realize, we may come face to face with that reality.

The other types of flaws become apparent the moment the optimal dynamics of the system change–i.e when the fertilizer hits the ventilator. The interstate highways are great (supposedly) when all is well,but  throw a wreck into the mix at rush hour, or any hour for that matter and things change in a hurry. Ratchet that up to a major storm event and those flaws are even more apparent and lead us to see even more flaws like concentrating millions of people into such a small space? The systems were all designed seemingly with only ideal scenarios in mind and never a wrench in the works. Permaculturist design for resilience with all types of energy in mind from those once in a  100 year type storms to making use of the prevailing wind, solar, and water generated energy on the site. Our policy makers (which is really you and me et al) should take notice!

On the home scale level design flaws abound as well in most homes. Energy is wasted in various ways because of bad design be it thermal energy, water, bio-mass, or human. I am being made more aware of that at the moment as I attempt to negotiate the confines of our second floor apartment on crutches. There is only one way to get down to the yard and that is via the stairs which are rather difficult to navigate at the moment. That means the garden has been left pretty well untended save for harvesting for almost two weeks.

Fortunately, I did design the garden well enough for it to withstand some neglect and still be fairly productive. Given the challenges of the low soil ph that I have had to deal with, I am surprised at the yields I have been getting from the garden beds . Along with adding bio-dynamic and organic composts,  I planted poly-cultures of plants that work well together under most conditions and planted more in a smaller space than most conventional gardeners would. I’ve been getting regular harvest of kale and collards for quite a while now.  Recently, the jalapeno peppers, cucumbers, green beans and lettuce have been coming in strong.  Lettuce will typically bolt in the heat. Mine was purposefully planted near taller plants that would shade it from the harshest afternoon sun. So far it has yet to bolt despite the withering heat wave we had earlier. Some of the plants are suffering from the soil conditions and now the neglect of not getting watered or tended for a while. There are so many of them though that I am still getting a yield (thanks to my wife’s harvesting efforts) and  am doing it all while BUILDING soil by fostering microbial life and attracting earth worms instead of killing everything in site for a short term gain in this year’s yield. I get REAL food now while creating better soil for next year. Sounds like a wining situation to me!

We must all remain aware that all things being equal it takes clean air, water, and soil to live. Period. Yes we do have to live now while also caring deeply for the future. We can do that through better design from the micro level to the macro level. It starts with getting involved in our communities and demanding that the places where our children play, learn, and live are free of toxic industries or practices that pollute the systems we all depend upon. It starts with our own homes and choices we make in them. Do we really need to “feed our lawn, just feed it” to create an unnatural mono-cropped system or do we need to spray RoundUp on dandelions, one of the most beneficial plants around? No. We need to change the way we do things from the ground up and ditch the lawn and the RoundUp. We may not be able to completely re-design our communities but we can certainly retro-fit them.

Some quick tips to start a community retrofit:

1) Demand your municipality ban RoundUp and all similar herbicides on municipal property including parks. Ensure that your friends and neighbors know why this is important.

2) Dig up a good portion of your lawn if you have one. Plant organic fruits, veggies, and flowers. Invite others.  Stop using synthetic fertilizers and eco-cides on any remaining lawn. These often leech into the local water ways creating pollution.

3) Demand locally available organic foods to supplement what you cannot grow. It’s imperative that farmers local to you are using methods that are non-toxic to the soil, plants, and water. If they aren’t, you and your family are getting those toxins.

4) Learn your watershed. Get to know it intimately. Water is life. What’s in your watershed? Intimate knowledge of your water shed will empower you to make the necessary changes within your watershed to make it healthy again (chances are it is in need of your help).

5) Find out about your communities recycling program and make use of it. Recycling is the absolute BARE MINIMUM we can do to prevent waste.

6)  Supply and demand– make it work for you and your community.  Shop locally owned stores. Let the local shops know you want a non-toxic community.

7) Write letters to the editor of community newspapers informing people about local environmental issues.

8) Go barefoot. 🙂


Real fast food. No drive through needed.


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