Aeroponics

Aeroponic farming is growing plants in air without any substrate or other growing medium. The plants are sustained in place and their roots are sprayed with a  “mist” to provide them with the necessary nutrients. The support enters in minimal contact with the plant holding it at the stem with the leaves and crown growing above and the roots hanging free in the air below. If the environment is kept free from pathologies the plants can grow quicker and healthier than they do in soil as the roots are better oxygenated having direct contact with the air.

There are many cases in nature where plants grow like this with air roots under humid conditions, for example orchids have a natural tendency of aerial roots and cling onto other plants and get their nutrients from them. Recent research has shown that a great number of plants can be used to grow in this way and not only the ones with a natural tendency for it.

Potato plants are grown using aeroponics as a means of getting more and same-sized tubers for planting. The method improves productivity as one plant hanging in the air yields up to 20 small potatoes instead of 3 or 4 for with the traditional soil-based method. The roots are normally kept in darkness but are accessible and can easily be harvested in the right moment without moving the plant. The method saves water, not because an aeroponic plant need less of of it, but because all excess water is recycled back to the plants again.

One part of the ongoing preparations and investigation for future space travel to planet Mars is looking into aeroponic growing as part of the survival strategies. The red planet has very adverse conditions indeed with the highest temperatures around -25 °C and the lowest below  -100°C and very little water, why growing plants naturally seems out of the question. In one experiment at the Czech University of Life Sciences, the scientists are experimentally growing lettuce, mustard, radishes and herbs using aeroponics, proving that they can survive almost without water.

On the Spanish island of Ibiza one of the first vertical gardens in Europe using aeroponic towers to grow food naturally while saving 95% water in comparison to conventional organic farming. Besides saving water the method also save space and improves crop yields. The tower structures have a separate slot for every plant where the mineral bases nutrients are circulated internally. A great variety of plants are being grown, like tomatoes, cabbage, lettuce and even melons.

Critics to aeroponics argue that, as the plants are fed with artificial nutrients, they don’t have access to the microbiology of healthy soil. In that sense aeroponic farming can be compared to feeding humans directly through an intravenous solution. In that sense, the role of soil is as important as the role of the stomach, to break down organic matter and provide micronutrients and other things that are associated with organic food production. Still, if we want to make a living in such a hostile environment as the red planet, the method seems rather promising.

 

Preppers & Survivalists

What do you think will happen when a really big crisis occurs? Like for example extreme weather situations, pandemics, environmental disaster, a major supply shortage or some kind of conflict or unrest that gravely affect the normal societal functions. Will the society be able to cope with extreme stress situations, and care for the citizens needs, or will it break down and leave everyone having to rely completely on their selves.

Preppers are the ones that have decided that they can’t just rely on society for taking care of the crisis management for them, but that they will have to prepare (”prep”) for those situations themselves. So preppers stockpile food and water in their homes, and normally go around with a small bag, like an urgency kit, full of a lot of useful tools for when “the shit hits the fan” (when everything goes wrong) as they tend to call it.

They also prepare their homes to be safe, resilient and defendable strongholds and rely on backup plans to be able to sneak away safely to another and more durable location when the situation around them seems to be too unstable.

While some people just prepare to endure a threatening situation, hoarding up provisions, practical utensils and an escape route from it all to a safe haven, others, the survivalists, have decided they must be ready for maintaining themselves for a much longer time period, since all stored provisions will in the end be finished if you can’t produce new ones yourself.

So being a survivalist, you would want to secure your own stable food production, collecting rainwater, growing food on land or in water, raising hen, fish and smaller animals to maintain a constant flow of nutrition. Another issue is having access to energy for cooking and keeping warm without an electrical grid or fossil fuels to provide that service, using durable energy resources like the sun, wind of perhaps just having access to enough fire wood.

Most survivalists prefer a discrete hide-away place in a rural context with enough space to be self-sufficient; yet others some have created a complete ecosystem in their urban backyard to able to generate enough food and energy.

While preppers and survivalists often are looked upon by others as raving mad bunker builders and hoarders, waiting forever for the soon-to-come doomsday, those people see the rest of the world as naïve fools that will just panic and not last a day without water and electricity.

In the end it seems a bit like the classic tale about the ant and the grasshopper, where some work hard all day to prepare for an uncertain future while others go happily about their life unknowing about the perils to come. I do agree on that, even if you can find rather extreme examples of people that have become obsessed with storing stuff, doing weapon drills and planning for a complete breakdown of the world as we know it, realizing just how fragile our society really can be, is rather healthy.

Permaculture / Permacultura

The concept of Permaculture was created as a set of holistic design principles to provide for a resilient and resource efficient integration of man in nature, to create withstanding systems of a “permanent agriculture”, that later also took on social aspects to be redefined as also standing for “permanent culture”.

The theory of permaculture was developed by the two Australian researches Bill Morrison and David Holmgren from the 1960-ties and first published in book form in 1978 by the title “Permaculture One: A Perennial Agriculture for Human Settlements”. Inspired by the lectures of Morrison and Holmgren, the ideas have spread worldwide creating many institutes where Permaculture is taught and practised.

You could say as very generic slogan to define what permaculture is about that if you take care of the earth, the earth will take of you. That can be understood as the need to work with limited and renewable resources to improve the environmental health, to create fertile and self-sufficient habitats that can sustain and cover our needs in the very long run. Said with other words: we need a self-supporting system where we never take out more than we put in.

The three base principles of permaculture are:

  • Care for the earth: Provision for all life systems to continue and multiply. This is the first principle, because without a healthy earth, humans cannot flourish.
  • Care for the people: Provision for people to access those resources necessary for their existence.
  • Fair share: By governing our own needs, we can set resources aside to further the above principles. This includes returning waste back into the system to recycle into usefulness.

El concepto de Permacultura se creó como un conjunto de principios de diseño holístico para proporcionar una integración resiliente y eficiente de los recursos del hombre en la naturaleza, para crear sistemas resistentes de una “agricultura permanente”, que más tarde también tomó aspectos sociales para ser redefinidos a también representar una “cultura permanente”.

La teoría de la permacultura fue desarrollada por los dos investigadores australianos Bill Morrison y David Holmgren a partir de los años 60 y se publicó por primera vez en forma de libro en 1978 con el título ”Permaculture One: A Perennial Agriculture for Human Settlements”. Inspirados por las conferencias de Morrison y Holmgren, las ideas se han extendido por todo el mundo creándose muchos institutos donde se enseña y practica la Permacultura.

Se podría decir como un eslogan muy genérico para definir de qué se trata la permacultura de que si cuidas la tierra, la tierra te quitará a ti. Eso puede entenderse como la necesidad de trabajar con recursos limitados y renovables para mejorar la salud ambiental, crear hábitats fértiles y autosuficientes que puedan sostener y cubrir nuestras necesidades a largo plazo. Dicho con otras palabras: necesitamos un sistema autosuficiente en cual nunca sacamos más de lo que aportamos.

Los tres principios básicos de la permacultura son:

  • Cuidado de la tierra: Provisión para que todos los sistemas de vida continúen y se multipliquen. Este es el primer principio, porque sin una tierra sana, los humanos no pueden florecer.
  • Cuidado de las personas: disposición para que las personas accedan a los recursos necesarios para su existencia.
  • Participación justa: al gobernar nuestras propias necesidades, podemos reservar recursos para promover los principios anteriores. Esto incluye devolver los desechos al sistema para reciclarlos en utilidad.

Land is power / Tierra es poder

In the dawn of agriculture, when the hunters & collectors settled down to become the first farmers there was no need for neither money nor barter as population was scarce and the sense of community and inter-dependence was strong among them. Resources were shared and goods and services was given away without expecting any service in return, knowing that at any given point they would be needing something from the others. There were also plenty of lands that could be used as a great pantry for hunting and fishing and for taking fruits, seeds, nuts and wood from nature’s abundance just like their ancestor had always done. Great care was kept not take out more from those resources than what was produced to keep the natures balance.

As the population increased and the societies grew more complex, social hierarchies took form, giving birth to trade, with marketplaces turning into the first cities. When population became more dense, farmers started to create more defined common lands for the shared functions (like where wood could be taken or where the animals would pasture) and gave more definition to the lands that was cultivated individually, even if there was no such thing as private property.

With the growing power of the city-states, their need for resources augmented, and hungry eyes were now posed on the farmer’s abundant food production and the farmers became obliged to pay direct tribute, in the form of their produce, to their rulers for protection or simply to escape from violent punishment. The city-states soon came into conflict with each other and money as we know it was invented to pay for the costly military expeditions and the population was now obliged to hand in their taxes in monetary form, which forced them into doing trade with and give services to the soldiers. Trade flourished and the cities soon filled with people specialised in different occupations without any land of their own to cultivate.

It was in the cities that the density first forged the concept of private property. The rulers now started to take interest in the surrounding countryside that up until now had been commonly managed, and laws were created to tax the farmers much harder and to transfer common lands into private property in the name of productivity, as farmers often was seen as lazy, not working hard enough to produce more. The idea was now to make farmers work even harder to provide for the cities increasing needs.

This led to a growing number of land conflicts, with numerous farmer revolts that mostly ended violently to the rulers advantage, followed by great concentrations of woods and farmlands into the hands of nobility, changing the scale of agriculture into ever growing extensions. And on the verge of the industrial revolution most small farmers had become a landless workforce, leaving the big farms where they laboured under harsh conditions, on their way to become cheap workforce in the cities. With this the producers soon became consumers and nature was seen, rather than a resource, as an enemy that had to be dominated and controlled.

This tendency became even more accentuated as even agriculture was industrialised, fuelled by oil and fertilizers and cities thrived on cheap energy as the rural areas were more or less abandoned. Everything just became a commodity that could be bought, and money flowed as everyone could get cheap loans for whatever need. We were educated to consume like there were no tomorrow and the Earths abundant resources were depilated in just a couple of generations.

Now as we can see an end to cheap fossil fuel and the threat of collapse of the evermore debt burdened financial systems, together with the climate and resource crisis, the question lies if not our future might just lie in less complex societies, that mix urban and rural contexts to become more self-sustaining, more respectful to our only planet and less resource-hungry, taking inspiration from the first farmers circular economy and small-scale farming techniques.


En los albores de la agricultura, cuando los cazadores y recolectores se asentaron para convertirse en los primeros agricultores, no había ninguna necesidad ni de dinero ni trueques, ya que la población era escasa y el sentido de comunidad e interdependencia muy fuerte entre ellos. Se compartieron recursos y se entregaron bienes y servicios sin esperar ninguna contraprestación sabiendo que en algún momento necesitarían algo de los demás. También exitista una abundancia de tierras y bosques que podían usarse como una gran despensa para cazar y pescar y para coger frutas, semillas, nueces y madera, como siempre lo habían hecho su antepasados. Se tuvo mucho cuidado de no quitar más de lo que se produjo para mantener el equilibrio de la naturaleza.

A medida que la población aumentó y las sociedades se volvieron más complejas, se formaron jerarquías sociales, que dieron origen al comercio, y los lugares de mercados se convirtieron en las primeras ciudades. A medida que la población se volvió más densa, los agricultores comenzaron a crear tierras comunales más definidas para las funciones compartidas (como dónde se podía coger madera o donde los animales pastarían) y dieron más definición a las tierras que se cultivaban individualmente, aunque todavía sin el concepto de la propiedad privada.

Con el creciente poder de las ciudades-estado, su necesidad de recursos aumentó, y ojos ansiosos se posaron ahora en la abundante producción de alimentos del agricultor y los agricultores se vieron obligados a tributar directamente, en forma de sus productos, a sus gobernantes para su protección. o simplemente para escapar un castigo violento. Las ciudades-estado pronto entraron en conflicto y con el dinero, en la forma que conocemos hoy, se inventó para pagar las costosas expediciones militares y la población ahora se vio obligada a entregar sus impuestos en forma monetaria, lo que los obligó a comerciar con y prestar servicios a los soldados. El comercio floreció y las ciudades pronto se llenaron de personas especializadas en diferentes ocupaciones sin ninguna tierra propia para cultivar.

Fue en las ciudades donde la densidad forjó por primera vez el concepto de propiedad privada. Los gobernantes ahora comenzaron a interesarse por el campo circundante que hasta ahora se había administrado comúnmente, y se crearon leyes para gravar a los agricultores mucho más y transferir tierras comunes a la propiedad privada en nombre de la productividad, ya que a menudo se veía a los agricultores como perezosos, no trabajando lo suficiente como para producir más. La idea ahora era hacer que los agricultores trabajasen aún más para satisfacer las crecientes necesidades de las ciudades.

Esto condujo a un creciente número de conflictos por la tierra, con numerosas revueltas de granjeros que terminaron violentamente en beneficio de los gobernantes, seguidas de grandes concentraciones de bosques y tierras de cultivo en manos de la nobleza, cambiando la escala de la agricultura a extensiones cada vez mayores. Y al borde de la revolución industrial, la mayoría de los pequeños agricultores se habían convertido en mano de obra sin tierra dejando las grandes granjas donde trabajaban en condiciones difíciles, en su camino para convertirse en mano de obra barata en las ciudades. Con esto, los productores pronto se convirtieron en consumidores y la naturaleza fue vista como un enemigo que tenía que ser dominado y controlado.

Esta tendencia continuó acentuándose cada vez más, ya que incluso la agricultura fue industrializada, impulsada por el petróleo y fertilizantes y las ciudades prosperaron con energía barata a medida que las áreas rurales se volvieron más o menos abandonadas. Todo se convirtió en una mercancía que se podía comprar, y el dinero fluyó ya que todos podían obtener préstamos baratos para cualquier necesidad. Fuimos educados para consumir como si no hubiera mañana y los abundantes recursos de la Tierra se depilaron en solo un par de generaciones.

Ahora que podemos ver el fin del combustible fósil barato y la amenaza del colapso de los sistemas financieros cada vez más agobiados por la deuda, junto con la crisis climática y de los recursos, la pregunta es si nuestro futuro podría estar en sociedades menos complejas que mezclan lo urbano y los contextos rurales para ser más autosuficientes, más respetuosos con nuestro único planeta y menos hambrientos de recursos, inspirados en la primera economía circular de los agricultores y las técnicas de agricultura a pequeña escala.