Friday, June 26, 2009

Where's Water?

On Maui, mainly upcountry Maui, we all know the importance of water. Summer is upon us, and we have regular droughts this time of year. We are compelled to lessen water usage, keeping to essential functions such as showering, sewage, and cooking.

In a perfect world, here is a multi-pronged solution to this problem.

1. Explore the viability of humanure and greywater use. This would drastically reduce the use of fresh water needed, alleviating the drought problem not to mention the infrastructure costs, treatment, chemicals, effluent, pollution, etc. associated with sewage treatment; additionally, the importing of fertilizers in an unsustainble method . If people are wary of using humanure, use it on non-edible crops.

2. Promote rainwater catchment systems. If we used our roofs, natural rain collectors, and stored the water in the rainy season, we would lessen the demand on the reservoirs during the dry months. Another option: green roofs.

3. Get rid of lawns. Those ever-needy plants that give back nothing. If you have no grass, you have no need to water it. I would say that the lawn is the #1 consumer of water, outside of showering, sewage, and cooking/drinking.

A thought on Permaculture

"A person of courage today is a person of peace. The courage we need is to refuse authority and to accept only personally responsible decisions. Like war, growth at any cost is an outmoded and discredited concept. It is our lives which are being laid to waste. What is worse, it is our children's world which is being destroyed. It is therefore our only possible decision to withhold all support for destructive systems, and to cease to invest our lives in our own annihilation." - Bill Mollison (Permaculture a Designers Manual 1988, Ch. 1)

Although this was written over 20 years ago, it is relevant more than ever. Since then, it seems we have only worsened our situation. This statement is too broad to address all points in a short post. What I take away from it is that we should be responsible to smaller groups: family, friends, church, etc. rather than states or nations. For the majority of us, we can have an influence on these areas only, few can command the attention of an entire (nation) state. And what being responsible means is thinking long term about our well being. It means thinking beyond tomorrow or next week, or next year even. It means thinking in terms of decades and generations, and further.
If we adopted this mindset, it seems we would have much better planning, less activity based on short term profits, more thoughfulness, less waste, in whole, a better system of economics and mode of living.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Maui Master Gardeners 2009

Today was the culmination of the Master Gardener class. I had planned to write an entry for each class, but that lasted for about three classes. It has come to an end, the last day finishing off with a final exam.
Overall, I would rate the class a "very good." I was able to spend the past 13 Wednesdays with a group of (somewhat) like-minded people, listening to great speakers, and sharing thoughts of Maui's future. I learned much that would have otherwise been spent alone in front of a computer. I encourage all to take the class, or a similar one. All states, or most states offer the Master Gardener program, put on by the state university. You can learn about gardening for a minimal fee.
I think the best part of the entire process was meeting all the other students. From them, I have established a network of friends and professionals.
As with all good things that come to an end, it was kinda sad to leave the classroom for the last time. But I know this is just the beginning. We are now obligated to give back 45hrs. of volunteer time to the program in the first year. Only then are we qualified to be called Master Gardeners. We will be reaching into the community, working with seniors, students and community members, to spread the joys and benefits of gardening. This is where we will really flex our gardening muscle, disseminating all that we learned in class and sharing it with all who are willing (and probably a few of the unwilling).

Friday, June 5, 2009

Spare Some Change? Here's Two Sense

If you're like me, you sometimes feel overwhelmed when thinking of how to solve global warming. You feel like it is on your shoulders to fix the problem. However, if we really want to change the course of global warming, like Michael Jackson said, we have to start with the wo/man in the mirror. If you aren't like me, but still are concerned with global warming, there are many things you can do.

We must start with ourselves and at home. A large paradigm shift change must be made on a foundational level, and that means person by person. It may be a little uncomfortable for some to alter the way they live. Some don't want to give up air conditioning. Others will drive to the store that would have taken a 5 minute walk to get to. But if we are serious about the care of the environment, we must make these small changes first. Only then we can go on systemically attacking big business and industry to make changes. However, until we show that we as individuals can change, how can we expect anyone else to?
I can offer an endless list of what you can do to save here and there. Instead I will hit a few major points, ones that can have a great effect, with minimal sacrifice. Then after these baby steps, you will be able to create your own steps of change. They are ranked from least uncomfortable to down right scratchy wool sweater in African mid-summer uncomfortable.

Beginner
1. Walk more. It's good for you, free, and uses nothing.
2. Turn off lights appliances when you aren't using them. Although this seems like common sense, it is far from commonplace.
3. Use a fan instead of A/C. Or rather open a window and let nature cool you.
4. Wear a sweater when it gets warm rather than turning up/on the heat.
5. Be conscious of the amount of resources you use and follow the three r's: reduce (most important), reuse, and recycle. You'd be surprised at how many uses you can find for a bag or a Starbucks coffee cup.
6. Turn off the TV, computer (I should say), video game, and find a better hobby.
7. Use the sun to dry your clothes.

Intermediate
1. Ride a bike or take public transport to work/play.
2. Carpool with coworkers or others going in the same direction.
3. Grow some of your own food. Buy local, then buy organic, then buy conventional.
4. Be a conscious consumer, which means to consume less, and to make explicit decisions based on criteria important to you (ie. business ethics, product life, product necessity, packaging, recyclability, etc.)

Advanced
1. Use your voice to petition/boycott companies that have a history of environmental destruction. Pick your battles wisely as there are so many causes, you may get distracted if you aren't focused.
2. Grow alot of your own food. Share surplus with others.
3. If you are a homeowner, take steps to green-ify your house. Better insulation, solar panels, better windows, etc. If remodeling, use environmentally responsible materials and methods.
4. Volunteer for habitat/environment rebuilding and restoration. Plant trees, restore wild areas.
5. Join a community program related to sustainability and environmental issues. Saving the Amazon is a great and noble cause, but usually it is the local problems that you can actually influence for the better (or worse).
6. Make others aware of your concerns, either by action or by talking.

Master
1. Teach others to garden, live, and be sustainable. In short, make clones of yourself.

I classify myself as mid to low intermediate. I hope to someday attain mastery of change. Until then, I will work my way up and continue to blog.