Wednesday, October 17, 2018

New thinking needed for a sustainable city

Christopher Nyerges via Pasadena Weekly; Dhr. Seven, Crystal Q. (eds.), Wisdom Quarterly
Learn from Native people: "Turn in your arms: The government will take care of you."

Guide to Wild Foods and Useful Plants
Growing up in Pasadena I did not have an immediate knowledge of where our food and water came from.

I turned on faucets for water, plugged in cords for electricity, and went to stores for food. My city had been engineered for me. And I was mindlessly playing my role.

At a young age I felt that there was something wrong about my ignorance. But no one else seemed to be aware of our collective lack of awareness.

How will we survive this?
Everything here came to us from somewhere else. One salvation for me was that my mother grew up on a farm and would tell me tales of the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl when many people had no food. Some starved to death.

Her family was poor, by the standards of her time, but they had 51 acres in rural Ohio. They fed themselves and many others. My mother’s stories inspired me to become an ethnobotanist to learn about how plants were used in the past.

I did not pursue the path of “urban planning.” I realized I had many choices within the framework of a suburban existence to ecologically engineer my life.
Personal choices
Teaching food workshop, Hahamongna Park
My first teenage experiences were in the backyard, gardening and raising chickens in a tiny space. I wanted freedom from dependence on commercial chemical fertilizers and deadly bug sprays. But how?

I learned age old methods of agriculture, methods people today have taken to calling “organic” or “permaculture.”

I learned that, indeed, anyone can produce at least some of his/her food in a small city space.

By my late teens I had critics who told me it was impractical to grow food without artificial fertilizers and pesticides. "Really?" I dared to ask. I followed the ancient path of Masanobu Fukuoka* and his Japanese “One Straw Revolution.” I followed the Rodale Family, who insisted on growing everything with nothing artificial.
  • *Fuk Uoka: farmer-philosopher celebrated for natural farming and re-vegetation of desertified lands; proponent of traditional no-till, no-herbicide grain cultivation farming methods from many indigenous cultures; created a particular method of farming commonly referred to as "natural farming" or "do-nothing farming"...More
What about nuclear farming? Scorched earth
I learned to keep down the bug population by natural methods practiced worldwide for millennia.

I knew that any so-called "Green Revolution" based on petroleum-based fertilizers and chemical pesticides was partly a fraud and completely unsustainable.

Learning the hard way
Learn the hard way: Treatment of Native people proves government must be distrusted.
I learned the uses of wild plants from Native American sources. To my surprise I found that all of the food used by the indigenous people of Los Angeles [the Tongva or Kizh called "Gabrielenos" by Spanish invaders] can still be found throughout the land.

But to find it it is now necessary to search a bit more because of all the houses, roads, and impractical landscaping that have taken over the land. The engineering of the concrete city destroyed much of the terrain where these native foods once grew in abundance. But they were not entirely gone.

I began to eat wild plants, which have sustained people for more than ten thousand years. I incorporated them into my regular diet. I began to share my excitement of these treasures with others. But I faced apathy in response, sometimes scorn, sometimes pity. I was amazed.

Re-engineering my own mind
In the mid-1970s in Los Angeles County, I began publicly teaching and writing about the practical skills of self-reliance and urban survival. I was not engineering the city; I was working to engineer a new mindset: We can live ecologically (and economically) in the city. More
What's an "invasive" species?
Angel fish, devil fish, invasive species (Illustration by Kelsey Dake)
What happens when humans fall in love with an invasive species?

On a rocky strip of Lake Superior beachfront, the rites of spring begin at dusk and involve fish. Lots and lots of fish.

Every year, like clockwork, slender, silvery rainbow smelt, each no longer than a hand, return from deeper waters.

They arrive just as the crust of winter ice on the water breaks apart, looking to spawn in the frigid creeks that run out of the hills north of Duluth, Minnesota. For three or four nights, maybe a week, thousands of smelt jostle their way out of the lake.
And that’s where [killer] humans are waiting. On this night in early May, on the narrow mouth of the Lester River, there are only about a couple dozen people present.

They stand around, bundled in hooded sweatshirts layered under thick rubber overalls that cover their bodies from toe to nipple. The smelt have not yet arrived and the beach is quiet. Waves lap the shore. Someone kicks a rock.
But 40 years ago, smelt fishing on the Lester River was something else entirely. “There were people all over the place, bumper to bumper on London Road,” said Don Schreiner, fisheries... More

No comments: