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Urban Permaculture for the Austin Permaculture Guild

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Overview of Urban Permaculture as presented to the Intensive Permaculture Course June 2014 at the Whole Life Learning Center in Austin, TX

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Urban Permaculture for the Austin Permaculture Guild

  1. 1. Urban Permaculture By Selwyn Polit Austin, TX USA
  2. 2. The problem with cities is that we don't know how to think about them. Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of the American City .
  3. 3. Scientific thinking – 3 waves  Simplicity, 2-variable (x & y)  Disorganized complexity - billions of variables, probability, averages, chaos theory  Organized complexity - many factors interrelated into an organic whole
  4. 4. Living Systems & Cities Tactics for understanding both are similar Organized differently Both: Organized complexity
  5. 5. Understanding Cities Great consumption organism with end product of great waste problem Think of: Processes Energy & Material flow
  6. 6. Understanding Cities Work inductively: From particulars to the general (real examples to theory)
  7. 7. Understanding Cities Seek “unaverage” clues: Check out the small stuff to reveal the much larger. Principle: observation
  8. 8. Understanding Cities The edge is where the action is. (buildings, covered/not covered, concrete, roads, chopped up, jumbled up)
  9. 9. Urban Ecology  More hard surface than soft landscape – Climate – Heat – Run-off – Wind tunneling & turbulence
  10. 10. Urban Ecology  High dependence on fossil fuels – Cars – Electricity – Increased pollution and heat
  11. 11. Urban Ecology  High dependence on large support systems – Electricity – Gas – Water – sewage
  12. 12. Urban Ecology  Low levels of self-sufficiency – Food – Imports – Flow through (very few loops) – Social dislocation
  13. 13. Principles • Observation of Nature • Focus on Natural Patterns & Edge • Diversity • Each element performs multiple functions • Relative Location • Each critical function supported by many elements • Energy Efficient Planning • Biological Resources • Energy Cycling • Appropriate Technology • Small Scale Intensive Systems • Stocking • Stacking & Packing
  14. 14. Health Start at Zone 0 Clean drinking water
  15. 15.  Clean indoor air  Spider plants are one of the best air cleaners among houseplants
  16. 16.  Grow some food - sprouts, mushrooms, greens, espaliered fruits  Organically grown food - as local as possible
  17. 17. Meet Your Neighbors  Buying/barter clubs (Austin freecycle, more local freecycle)  Coops  Playgrounds  Community gardens  Block parties  Creek watch
  18. 18. Get some chickens
  19. 19. Get a Project  Cohousing  Ecovillage  Political and social action  Environmental action
  20. 20. Design Strategies in Cities  Analyze – Yields: social edges, resources (waste?), information – Needs: security, self- reliance
  21. 21. Inner Cities  Increase Biomass  Vertical Planting  Rooftop gardens  Balcony and window box gardens  Pollution tolerant species (Gingko, London Plane, Acacia Longifolia, Black Locust
  22. 22. High Density Residential  Food Parks  Food trees  Home gardening education – square foot gardens  Vertical planting  Community gardens  School gardens  Children community plantings  Warehouse – live/work communities
  23. 23. High Density Residential Urban Patchwork - Paige hill - Urbanpatchwork.org
  24. 24. Med-Low Density Residential  Food Parks  Community Orchards  City Farms (chickens, bees, livestock)  Home Food Production  Food trees on quiet streets
  25. 25. Med-Low Density Residential
  26. 26. Design Strategies in Cities  Manage local wastes as a nutrient resource, while maintaining public health.
  27. 27. Design Strategies in Cities Redesign storm water & wastewater systems to prevent erosion, catch nutrients, and provide for plant growth. Gabion
  28. 28. Build soil
  29. 29. Build soil
  30. 30. Catch water
  31. 31. Design Strategies in Cities  Identify & use local energy sources - solar, wind, water, and methane.  Support home retrofit, and new- homes, using passive solar design and green building materials and techniques.
  32. 32. Design Strategies in Cities  Encourage small farms and community gardens throughout the city.  Encourage edible landscaping, both public and private.
  33. 33. Design Strategies in Cities  Nurture local celebrations - culture, history, nature, art, music, dance, education, barter/trade fairs, seasons, harvests.  Build sense of community - coops, local pubs, sidewalk art, gardens, block parties, creek watch  Support local businesses.
  34. 34. Design Strategies in Cities  Minimize the need for transportation: – Design for mixed-use urban neighborhoods – Design suburban areas with shops, schools, parks in walking distance – Provide public transportation
  35. 35. City Swale
  36. 36. Food  Buying – Local trading feeds your community several times for each dollar, whereas the $ goes away when you buy from a national company – Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) – Buying clubs
  37. 37. Food  Growing without a garden – Balconies, trellises, windowfarms window boxes, window sill, sprouts, mushrooms, planter boxes Community gardens, vacant lots, friends/neighbors/relatives with garden space – Trees in large planter boxes, city streets
  38. 38. Food  Windowfarms.org
  39. 39. Building Community  Community sizes – 30-40 people - minimal number of people to cover most human functions – 200-300 people minimum for genetic variability, smallest village – 600-1000 people can know each other by name, optimum village size
  40. 40. Building Community  Community sizes – Over 250 households in community/over 3000 people in a school = dysfunction (cliques, theft & cheating, hierarchies) – 1000-5000 max for federation of tribes, bioregional group, maximum village size
  41. 41. Building Community  Community sizes – 7000-40,000 people in towns; not workable unless broken into smaller cooperatives/villages – 50,000 = optimum city size – Regions of the world = 10 million optimum
  42. 42. Building Community  Sharing utilities – 4-5 families share 1 washer – 5-10 people share 1 shower, Zone 1 garden – 15-35 families share kitchen, gardens, food processing (2- 3 people shop, prep, cleanup for each meal)
  43. 43. Building Community  Projects – Coops - food buying, child care, automobile – Barter, banks, etc. – Farm Links - Bulletin board with NEED LAND/HAVE LAND listings
  44. 44. Strathcona Community Gardens – Vancouver, BC Canada  Community Gardens  Began in 1985 when local residents saw gardening potential in an abandoned 3- acre industrial dump site, got a one-year lease from the parks board  Tested soil for metals- OK, but very poor soil, so began composting - Now composting a ton of garbage a week from local restaurants
  45. 45. From this…
  46. 46. To this…
  47. 47. And this
  48. 48. and
  49. 49. 200 individual plots Vine walk & espaliered orchard Apple trees & meadow Wild Area Nursery beds Kids area
  50. 50. Strathcona  No fence – open to all people to sit on a bench, help, connect with nature & other people - Surplus-produce table - free  Learned that gardening is political  Some members of city govt. want to use garden for playing field or park; gardeners must keep area clean, though it is used by prostitutes, drug-users & the homeless.
  51. 51. Strathcona  It's growing - gardening on some unused land adjacent to Community gardens  Created connection with the larger community: coalition to stop an environmentally unfriendly garbage processing plant- and stopped spraying herbicides in Vancouver parks
  52. 52. Greening Cities  Create lots of symbiotic relationships
  53. 53. Greening Cities  Create city-country fingers, so all have easy access to country  Break into villages/pods with community-bonding activities: – neighborhood-size facilities – block parties – local markets & night-life – ecological projects
  54. 54. Greening Cities  Human scale buildings & activities  Create safety  Create a stable biological base: – Soil – Water – species protection.
  55. 55. Greening Cities  Increase biomass (Green:other-l:2 minimum) – Green belts not just around traffic, but for walking trails, etc. – Texture hard surfaces (biotexturing)  Create negative ion generator sites (plants, splashing/falling water)
  56. 56. Greening Cities  Create people- friendly economic system – Recycling is main source of raw materials for industry. – Barter systems/new currency with no advantage to hoarding – Business in homes – Reduce social tensions, by reducing gap between rich & poor
  57. 57. Greening Cities  Energy systems based on solar & wind – Decentralize energy production – With PV, homeowners become producers of electricity
  58. 58. Greening Cities  Transportation – Mostly rail & bus, bicycles; people live closer to workplace – Close some streets to prevent/reduce thru traffic roads = traffic Big Roads = Big Traffic as population increases, roads widen so less space for humans & wider gulfs to traverse urban sprawl = more roads and so on.
  59. 59. Greening Cities  Goals – Value systems emphasizing quantity, expansion, competition, domination will be replaced by quality, conservation, cooperation, partnership – Measure of success is sustainability, not growth
  60. 60. Greening Cities  Some city examples: – L.A. dedicates 70 % of its space to automobiles - roads, parking lots, garages, etc. – Hong Kong raises 45 % of its vegetables – Cuba is creating the first post-fossil fuel economy – Norway's gov't is investing in farms – Vietnam - PC is the official agricultural policy
  61. 61. Hopi Villages The oldest cities in North America.  The village is an entity, the plaza its heart  Many homes built by women-like giving birth  Built by the people, for the people  Apartments were created as extended family units  Building was art instead of science  face to face society instead of back to back."
  62. 62. Curitaba - Brazil  Capital  City of 2.4 million people ,  Changes began in 1971, when Jaime Lerner was elected mayor
  63. 63. Curitaba - Brazil  PRIORITIES  Decrease the number of vehicles – many roads designated for the sole use of collective vehicles – increased public transportation - buses  Increase ratio of green areas to inhabitants – in 1970, .5 sq. meters/person – in 1992, 50 sq. meters/person – 1.5 million trees have planted in 20 years
  64. 64. Curitaba - Brazil  "GARBAGE THAT ISN'T GARBAGE" Began as an education program, now almost 90% are separating garbage in home Special collection van for recyclables " Paper recycling alone spares 1200 trees daily! Profit is reinvested in social programs
  65. 65. Curitaba - Brazil  "GARBAGE THAT ISN'T GARBAGE" – Landfill is spared – Garbage Purchase where no access for vans – pay people to bring garbage to vans instead of paying garbage collection company – pay with transport vouchers or surplus produce (gov't buys surplus produce at low price instead of having it thrown in river or burned)
  66. 66. Curitaba - Brazil  LOCAL DISTRICT EMPOWERMENT – Local districts belong more to the people than to the city (Polish Woods, Italian district, etc.) – The people who live in a district knows best what its needs are
  67. 67. Curitaba - Brazil  CITY GOV'T DUTY: ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION – Environmental education is not a separate course, but is inserted into the curriculum. – Free University for the Environment - short courses designed for the people - energy efficiency, recycling, gardening, planting trees, etc. – Green Guard - police who work in parks and teach people about the environment
  68. 68. Curitaba - Brazil  LESSONS: – Search for the simplest possible solution – Work with local people - people who know and like the city – Changes should be done on the broadest scale possible – Although started with traditional top- down legislation, now recognize the importance of involving the people in every initiative
  69. 69. A sustainable society is one which satisfies its needs without diminishing the prospects of future generations.
  70. 70. Thanks for your kind attention Questions?

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