Literally Speaking: Transform problems instead of burying them

The old-century question still looms: where to “throw away” all this “waste?”

Scenario one, the old method:  Dump industrial boat-loads of agriculture waste into the ocean, slowing the decomposition rate of the waste in the dark, cold, oxygen-deprived underwater environment. What is the desired effect?  Scientists say it keeps the carbon material, like corn husks, on a slowed down millennium decomposition rate, releasing the gases caused by decomposing, on a much slower speed.  Unforeseen consequences are, say what, totally unknown??

Are scientists, from University of Washington,  playing large stakes over the natural environment with simple guess and go experimentation?  It should be noted, there is no prediction, nor understanding about how such large-scale changes to marine life will affect long-term ocean life.  Many questions are not mentioned in the New York Times news report (see bottom of post).

Industrial urban agriculture waste is highly concentrated with agricultural toxins: petroleum and pesticides, to name two.  How will these toxins be absorbed into an already fragile oceanic ecosystem?  How will the waste affect the food chain in the ocean?  How will land waste alter ocean life?

This reminds me of Mushishi episode 24,”Journey to Field of Fire“, like Ginko in the story says, “I’ve got a bad feeling about this,” right before the farmers burn their mushi infested crops, an act of desperation to save themselves from the outbreak, despite having no way to know how the unknown invading mushi would respond to fire and heat.

But I’ve also got a good feeling about this, and it’s about compost.  Composting is the transformation of organic waste into Earth. My question is: Is composting being explored as an alternative to waste dumping?

images links to source, Basic Guide to Composting, www.gardengrowth.com

image links to source, Basic Guide to Composting, http://www.gardengrowth.com

Imagine something quite different, we’ll call it for now, scenario two: First, picture certain mushroom varieties, like the common and delicious Pleurotus ostreatus, are fungi that clean out the toxins from soil, without taking the toxins into the body of the mushroom.  This incredible act of ecological healing is a process called Mycoremediation, and is harnessed by humans to clean up petroleum, pesticides, and nerve gases.

Now with a mushroom working compost, imagine a highly functional urban composting system, one that is neighborhood run, and creates rich, usable soil for the residents.  Imagine if city “neighborhood” workers composting the waste (along with other large sources of organic waste, from breweries, supermarkets, markets, restaurants, flower shops), and with that soil, inner city land was turned over to residents to farm and cultivate the city.

This second scenario goes by several names, like urban agriculture, or urban farming, urban gardening, permaculture, and organoponics, and for some, this exact scenario is a daily practice.  Gaining recognition world wide, there is visionary urban agriculturist and recent MacArthur Grant Genius winner Will Allen. Allen is CEO of Growing Power, a driving force behind hands-on reinvention of urban food systems in Milwaukee and Chicago.

Growing Power  provides a diverse array of skill and service, one of which is a large scale compost pickup, which gathers up a weekly 80,000 pounds of organic matter in urban Milwaukee, making their stops at breweries and supermarkets.  The waste is then composted on-site at Growing Power, into more than 6 million pounds, yearly, of ready to seed nutrient rich soil.

Growing Power, and similar organizations, farmworkers of all ages, heirloom varieties of vegetables, fruits, herbs, redworms and a rich divesity of microbes, bees, fish, and livestock are re-writing the urban landscape. Composting, which is creating earth, and cultivating the land, which means growing food, are acts of culture (it is after all agri-culture), all the which provide a city much more then neighborhood greenery:  practicing Urban Agriculture it a long term gesture  that gives oxygen back to the city, and this tradition has the power to bring back city life, vitality, health and income where there have been resources for little or none in recent years.

photo links to TushyDs photostream and Growing Powers photo set on flickr

photo links to TushyD’s Growing Power photostream on flickr

Younger and older farmers alike could be funded with grants and scholarships, and in turn could be trained with innovative and sustainable techniques to supply their neighborhoods with a bettering of income, jobs, an of improving health, and opening access to fresh food , and has the power to transform the scourge of racist urban food systems, by bringing fresh food to former economically-isolated, industrial-fed neighborhoods of the city, where the city was once convience-store and fast food starved.

The fruition of this kind of ecological vision will bring a balanced long term boost to city populations, providing benefits of long term health and well being, reducing the need of costly expensive medical care by lowering the cases of diabetes and other diseases of malnourishment  The pay-off is woven into a long-term world where “value” and “profit” are not phrased in material terms, but measured in account to neighborhood well being. These examples of long-term solutions are congruent with viewing the Earth as a living being. “Burying” our waste by hiding it in the ocean is not congruent to this view.

President Obama, who has recognized the certain need for changing governments role in supporting ecologically sound environmental actions, should use his position of power to bring Growing Power methods of cultivation technique and alternative business strategies, providing in ways that will help local food systems reinvent themselves as cities, townships, and communities thriving all over the country and beyond borders.  These work projects could be aided by local government who can help by scooping up abandoned plots to make available as long term donations for urban farmers.  Local, and state funds could be organize to bolster widespread grants and scholarships, training and supporting a new multi-generational coalition of urban farmers and composters.

Let President Obama know–  send him a note, and send one to your state Senators and Representatives, too, about how sustainable, long term and ecologically sound solutions, guaranteeing access to fresh food for all people, is an exciting action point for transforming a whole string of connected issues and problems.

President Barack Obama and family, The White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20500

Comments: 202-456-1111

or look up your state Senator or state Representative .

Original story on waste dumping:

“A Carbon Keeper: Crop Waste Sunk to the Ocean Deep”, published February 2nd, 2009 in Science Observatory in the New York Times.

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