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Monday, May 29, 2017

New newsletter from the future: the carbon negative community center

Posted by steve on September 14, 2010

The community center. This newsletter visits a building where everything happens – from rain water collection to biochar and sequestration.

Imagestreamed solutions starts to become a reality in London

Posted by steve on December 6, 2009

One of the deepest insights Imagestreaming has given me is that you can often be right without knowing why. Our mental powers combine with the creative side and the intuitive side to produce stunningly simple solutions. Another insight is that you can Imagestream a solution and find it, but not truly understand its significance. I just caught a glimpse of such an insight attending a presentation of the UK’s Capital Growth project, sponsored by the Lord Mayor of London , Boris Johnson. His project, to cover London with food gardens is spookily reminiscent of the first chapter of my Imagestreamed book, “Inventing for the Sustainable Planet”.

Back in the late 90’s I started imagestreaming to find the answer to a simple question: what would a sustainable civilization look like? The first imagestream revealed a city where everyone grew food everywhere. The explanation they gave was that it was in their culture.

I never really understood at the time, but pressed on to finish and publish the book. To my delight, London of all places is coming to a stage in its development where small gardens, balcony gardens and community gardens are springing up, sponsored by the Lord Mayor himself. Read more on this admirable initiative here.

But to the next point … to truly understand its significance. Here is a list of reasons why a culture of growing food everywhere provides a sound cornerstone of the sustainable society.

It fosters a sense of control of your own destiny: if you can grow food and not be hungry, then you have the strength to address your situation. You are not at the mercy of a destructive counter sustainable consumerism.

  1. Food grown locally needs very little energy input, and with the right techniques, waste organic material produce locally makes fertilizers.
  2. It gives a feeling of security. Food security is one of the foundations of prosperity and peace. Peace costs so much less than war to run.
  3. For more insights from the book, see the collection of newsletters from the future.

Grey water recycling imagestream

Posted by steve on November 2, 2009

I have seen several experiments carried out where vegetable beds clean grey water. I was curious to see if I could imagestream a good way of doing this so I could experiment myself on the Eco-unit. <more links>

I felt I needed clues as to how I could move forward. I tried to frame my quest as “I want to see somewhere that uses grey water recycling – where each house has its own set-up. Let me see how they do it, and to get some good ideas for my experiments. I want to see the equipment and how it all fits together”

My stream started off in a large, high, glass dome that seemed to be a shopping mall or airport. A set of benches in the middle formed a square around some ornamental plants. I sat on a bench and looked over at some lifts shaped like large concrete tubes. Walking over to these lifts, I saw one with a yellow button on it saying “grey water recycling”.
I got into the lift, and noticed I was being followed by a very shy facilitator.

“The other one is on holiday,” he said.

The lift turned on its side so I had to strap myself into a seat. Safely strapped in I felt it turn horizontally and we sped off, stopping at a large greenhouse.
Inside, this greenhouse felt like an exhibition hall. I had come to some kind of ideal garden exhibition. I saw a sink, some vegetables, some beans –  I wandered around it and  saw a large transparent tank, round, holding maybe 50 litres. It’s a demo, with grey water in it and a load of see-through pipes to demonstrate its workings.

The pipe fed grey water onto a series of what looked like window boxes arranged in steps, about 1,3 meters high and the same wide. The grey water ran through the boxes down to the bottom where it collects into a pond with a water feature. The water is pumped back up again and circulates around.

grey water1
Each of the boxes contains soil, then some Leca balls then a mesh to hold it above the run-off channels in the bottom of the boxes. The boxes have holes in the bottom to drain into the next layer. The boxes are about 25cm deep and maybe 90 cm wide made of plastic or cast in concrete.

When casting, you can  use bits of plastic foam to keep the holes open. I get the feeling you can build these steps up inside of brick or stones and soil. If they are compact, the whole structure absorbs heat during the summer and releases it during the colder season, thus prolonging the growing period of the plants. Kept in a greenhouse, the structure makes the seasons even longer.

I look around for alternatives – or are these step-like constructions the only ones they use? I see you can make pyramid shapes, put them in squares or get creative against walls.

I find a flat alternative; the water just comes under a flat growing bed that is a couple of meters long and about 60 cm deep. It is made in concrete the same way, with the soil kept away from the run-off channels by nets.

Things that surprised me

  • I was surprised there was no real wall structure, as the designs I have seen already call for a wall. Maybe it’s because you can get more in a step design and that it is lower, making harvesting easier.
  • I was pleasantly surprised by the idea of casting in concrete. It seem fairly straightforward

Questions for follow-up.

  • I need to understand how the water not only flows back, but how it is cleaned further for pumping back to the house for use again.
  • More details on how to cast boxes would be good, and to understand the angles of slopes required.
  • For an apartment block, a larger version would be interesting it possible.
  • The dispenser and storage tank had a mechanism I did not really understand. More work needed there.

Things to try now.

  • I’ll try and draw a design for the boxes to be cast in concrete. If it seems to work I’ll try it out!

Ready for the next inventing session? Click here.

Leonado daVinci imagestreamed!

Posted by steve on October 6, 2009

I saw an exhibition of Leonardo daVinci’s notebooks. His sketches looked very much like he was imagestreaming. They seem to just come from nowhere. A program on TV shows how they tried to take his drawings and build full scale models. One comment was that he often got things “the wrong way round” or “purposely put mistakes in” to confound people who would steal his secrets. For me, I believe they were more like “right brain copying errors”. When I review the process for Unit of Trust, I see that I haven’t quite got the whole thing right. Parts of it do not “hang together”.

This is not to say that the insights are not deep:, they are. I met a standard methodology, based on what can be done today, using pre-committed resources, maximizing effect through cooperation – the whole thing seems to be extremely powerful. And definitely a good tool for communities who have decided to go down the energy reduction/sustainable development path.

What you need to do is to work hard on verification, and recreate every detail, then test it and try again. Just like they are doing with daVinci’s models.

Self-pick woodland gardening

Posted by steve on August 12, 2009

I can’t remember where I heard about it, but there is this idea that you can grow all you need in a Forest. Agriculture as we know it – huge areas of monoculture using a lot of fossil fuel – could be mostly replaced by people just going into the forest and getting what they needed. This is what they used to do, before agriculture was invented.

Not everything, though, if I remember correctly, some things like root vegetables and cereals fared best on open land because of the amount of sun needed.

The other thing I liked about the idea was where the forest was rather like a supermarket. So instead of doing the food shopping you would go and harvest what you needed for the next day or two. That sounds more natural. There are a lot of benefits to this that I’ll discuss later. Let me take you through my imagestream first.

Framing the assignment

I wanted to explore a place that had housing close to a woodland garden where residents went and picked their food. I want to find out the techniques of implementing this in a climate like the place where I live. I wanted to know everything, like how to implement such a system, the techniques, how you plant the growing, take care of it, harvest etc.

The stream

I was shown around this world by an earlier “friend” – the facilitator – who took me to a center of relocalization. This is a place I had encountered earlier, designed to be a center of learning and excellence, to help communities and individuals relocalize.

He took me to a garden where small seedlings were growing close to the residence. These are seedlings that are propagated, raised and taken care of to be planted out in the forest later.

He then took me to an area where people were cutting trees down and putting them into a wood chipper. The chips are left on the forest floor, to make soil.

I gathered that the trees in the forest are thinned to 20 feet (6 metres) between them. Between them they were planting berry bushes in triangles. I had a lot of difficulty with the idea of planting things in triangles in the forest, but they explained that the triangle planting confuses animals and keeps them off what is inside the triangles – vegetables.

The vegetables are grown in circle inside the triangles. They dig a small circular pit into which they throw organic material. They cover it then with earth, so it makes a mound on which to grow vegetables.

Sidev_woodlandg

This makes up the three layers of the woodland garden: trees, bushes and vegetables and herbs.

I saw it as “cells” about 12 meters wide, made up of triangles of 6 meters. See the illustration below.

woodland garden pattern

woodland garden pattern

I must say at this point I wasn’t really sure I had kind of “got it”. I asked to see more, and they showed me an area that had been fenced off, it was a garden where you could go and sit. They were growing herbs in it. Further down the slope (this was the south side) they were growing fruit trees and nut trees and even further down, they had terraces where they were growing crops on raised beds.

The area was designed so you could walk around it, and pick what you needed. It dawned on me that I was being shown a demonstration area.

I must say I thought it all looked rather ugly, but conceded that I had never asked for anything pleasing to the eye – only functional.

I asked to see the planning and they took me back to the office. They make a plan of the forest, ensuring that which is needed most frequently and is heaviest is closest to the houses. The north side of a hill is just or growing timber for houses etc.

Path design: deer are kept away by the triangular bush layout. The heart of the garden has to be simply fenced off. They make “cells” from seven trees each, and fence off from the animals that they need to protect from.

For dimensioning, they grow what they can in these low-maintenance areas, but need to complement with other kinds of gardening.

To summarize what I learned:

Self-pick woodland gardening serves a number of houses, something like 50 for a 10 hectare woodland. The south side is thinned into “cells” for various uses, the North side is managed for timber for building (the North side grows slower and denser).

To make a woodland garden you use rather brutal methods to get started, like chipping all felled trees.

Harvesting is one of the most labour intensive parts of agriculture. By having people do their own harvesting, food production is made more efficient. Plus there seems to be something eminently human about gathering.

Questions the stream raises

  • What about fairness? How do you make sure people do not take more than they need, or “hog” the best bits?
  • What kind of “cells” can you have in a temperate climate? I would like more details.
  • Watering: do they use any methods to ensure the cells get water?
  • Patterns: Was it hexagonal or was it pentagonal or did I miss this?
  • Seeds: where do they get these? Do they let things go to seed so they self seed – perennials?
  • Protein: where do people get protein?
  • Storage: do they need root cellars or freezers or do they preserve?

Our own experiments

One triangular sub-cell with fruit bushes and vegetable mound

One triangular sub-cell with fruit bushes and vegetable mound

Our Eco-unit is just planting a fruit forest. We have not created a sort of a triangle of berry bushes between the trees (just about visible in this picture). The dimensions given in the imagestream seem to work out, as the central mound is less than 1,5 meters in diameter, meaning you can reach from all sides without having to step on the soil.

New series of Newsletters

Posted by steve on January 31, 2009

As readers may well have understood, I have been using the techniques of Imagestreaming to envision a sustainable future.

To make the inventions more accessible I am offering a series of newsletters that offer stories depicting the inventions.

Some recent inventions, from after the book was published are also available in newsletter form.