As with so many things, point of view matters so much. There are indigenous populations I've seen pictures of that live in homes on stilts out on the water. I'm sure those homes require frequent patching jobs, but it's all done with renewable resources and the people aren't trying to do so as well as work 40 hour work-weeks away from home.
It seems to me that it's a high input/high maintenance/unnatural system to start with, and I wonder if it could be done well permaculture style.
Jay Angler wrote:
I've also read about some of the floating garden systems, some version of which the indigenous Mexicans used to feed large populations using shallow lakes. It seemed more sustainable than the damage done to areas of Europe and the Middle East through their forms of farming.
I think the trade off is sometimes - short life but easy to fix with materials growing happily nearby vs long life but more energy intensive to start with vs current approaches using a lot of energy, money, unsustainable practices etc, but it *still* only lasts 70 years (that latter is a quote about typical current North American housing - and I've heard of some that's not even lasting that long!)
So I guess my short answer is that I think Seasteading - or "Lakesteading" has great potential for a permaculture approach. To me it's sort of the difference between hydroponics vs aquaponics vs a sustainably scaled system where water is the base medium rather than land.
I soooo... hear you. My spouse did the same on the electrical system in our last house. Our current house was owner built and there are issues in *all* the electrical bits we've had to interact with, which doesn't give me confidence in what they call "inspections".
And don't get me started on housing, I'm building a home and having wars with codes because I'm doing it "non-standard" so far above their code they don't understand it.
Personally I agree. I also recognize that some of the severe dead zones are close to shore. Getting carbon out of the ocean would really help the ocean recover from human activities and "farming" kelp would get carbon and nitrogen out and oxygen and critter habitat created, even if all that it is used for is composting to build soil on shore or for the floating community. Think "coppicing" using kelp.
I would want to be within sight of the shoreline so I could stay under the protection of my country - even if that means having to obey their rules - and being within sight of shore means it's easier to get help when things go wrong.
Chris Kott wrote:I have, since I first started learning about permaculture, been captivated by the idea of growing artificial floating islands. I see that there is literal flotsam being used for building, which is awesome, if it isn't going to progressively drop plastic into the environment.
I did say grow, didn't I? That's precisely what I mean, though. I would take two or three hulls and join them to form a stable configuration, and use them as a base for the production of electricity, probably from solar. I would use whatever conductive framework I could scavenge, form it to shape, and then run electricity through it to accrete Biorock.
In this way, the island would grow. The overall shape and configuration would resemble an iceberg, with ninety percent of its mass under the water line. I would cover the sub-surface biorock with coral seedlings, as biorock is known to nurture coral in conditions otherwise inhospitable to them. Thus, I would have the base of a floating open-ocean mariculture, an island atop a floating coral reef.
To this I would add mycobooms around the periphery, which I would seed with salt marsh and mangrove swamp species as they grew. I would encourage the growth of biomass for harvest and composting, vermiculture and other methods of rapidly building soil.
Ideally, the first island would be placed adjacent to a garbage gyre, from which garbage could be separated, useful bits repurposed, and all else combusted under the highest temperatures safely attainable in a high-heat incinerator. I am thinking that encapsulation inside voids in the biorock might be used advantageously for buoyancy might be explored, but in reality, I doubt that plastic garbage is going to offer more buoyancy than a void space filled with air.
A maximum practical size would need to be determined, but after that, I think that we would end up with a first island whose primary purpose after proof-of-concept and embodied call-to-action would be to build and grow the seeds for more islands, who might have other, more specific mission statements, perhaps ones that alter their specific forms to fit those functions.
For instance, a scoop-shaped arm or cove in the peripheral mangrove/salt marsh barrier designed specifically to more effectively gather garbage out of gyres in a passive fashion would be advantageous either where garbage that can be recycled or repurposed to an economic benefit is present, or in situations where the removal of the garbage and its incineration, probably to generate energy to accelerate the growth of the island, where they might benefit from some form of carbon credits. They might also act to intercept toxic algal blooms, to convert that biomass to soil through on-island soil-building.
One iteration might include methods to mechanically oxygenate the ocean up-current of dead zones, or to engage in careful seeding of oxygen-rich areas devoid of life or nutrients with the absent nutrients and minerals. This function might stack with that of food production in a sea-floor connected maricultural enterprise designed to produce a surplus of food, not just for human consumption, but down to the smallest trophic level, to offer support to the wildlife most-affected by industrial depredations.
There might even be mobile island configurations that travel, perhaps in fleets, to set up and power biorock reef, seawall, and subsurface hurricane controls.
The limits are those of the human mind and imagination.
And the best part, the part that theoretically should work exactly this way, based on the information available, is that generating large quantities of biorock should act, at least locally and down-current of the biorock, to reverse ocean acidification. Also, in areas that are overly mineralised, it should act to remove those minerals, including from brines at concentrations dangerous to life, sequestering them as part of its structure.
I would love to see more discussion and action on seasteading. Having permies on the waves is the only real oversight I can think of, and giant, intensive, and environmentally beneficial maricultural operations would be a great way to not only replace the practice of raping the oceans with the current state of the art of commercial fishing, but to house and employ people, so that they are fulfilled in purpose and substance.
Chris Kott wrote:If we wanted to go further with a safe, replicable sea-sourced way of achieving energy independence, I would probably think about a solar incinerator for plastics.
I think I would use mirrors, possibly constructed from salvaged and reclaimed chip/crisp bags, you know the ones with the shiny interior, to direct light gathered over a large area to a single fresnel lens, that would heat a sealed retort within a refractory furnace.
The island itself could be its own sun tracker, changing its orientation to follow the sun. The array could, then, be massive, literally the size of the whole island, a distributed series of mirrors directing sunlight to pyrolise plastics at high-temperature in a sealed retort, with a cogeneration setup after the incineration stage, such that volatiles would be used as fuel. The pyrolysis chamber could be switched out for biochar generation, or even cremation. Lower-temperature processes, like kiln-drying bamboo and other biomass for non-biochar-related uses, could operate concurrently. With a high-temperature mirror and lens assembly, one could even create a Solar Death Ray for island defense that Archimedes would giggle over.
And it would also be possible to use that same array to direct light to photovoltaic arrays, with bonus points if they are made to operate at high-heat, or be cooled, with the heat energy captured and put to use somehow. At the end of the day, we need electricity to run through the biorock and forms to continue to succor embattled corals, and to continue to grow the island.
Chris Kott wrote: This idea is really growing on me, actually. I wish there were a place where those of us so-inclined could just do this, perhaps with some financial support. I mean, why couldn't sun-tracking, growing islands parked on artificial, mobile coral reefs be a thing?
We could have dedicated plastic-straining and incinerator islands, which would operate and grow in the same permaculturally-aligned manner as all the others, save that they would actively remove plastics from the water column and either turn it into energy to power island expansion, or use that energy to recycle the more durable plastics into a more longer-wearing and useful purpose, the exhaust from which could be funneled into mangrove and salt marsh starter barge greenhouses, to help accelerate their establishment and sequester the CO2; we could have oxygenating and biomass-generating islands, that simply pop more kelp frames into the water, or perhaps seed sea grasslands in appropriate spots, for carbon sequestration, marine habitat, and for soil generation on-island; some could be specifically engineered to nurture phytoplankton populations, thereby succorring everything up the food-web from them, from krill to blue whales; some could be engineered to produce open-ocean, island-anchored vertical maricultural operations, to provide food for humans and likewise nurture failing fisheries into recovery.
Hell, we could have sun-tracking solar thermal array-packing islands parked off hostile waters, doing sentry duty and removing hostiles, be they nationals of whatever stripe, or pirates. Those same arrays, in times of peace, could be directed to land-based generation stations, to provide power to recovering areas, until they get their own collectors up-and-running (which might be an item produced by the recycling islands). Coastal areas experiencing drought could be aided by having large artificial forest islands parked offshore and upwind, such that the forests increase the humidity of the arid areas downwind of them.
And building self-growing, almost self-replicating islands on this scale would not only give us far more productive land and food protein generating capacity per square foot of occupied planet surface, it would shade out the oceans to prevent further ocean warming, much as a closed-canopy riparian area can shade out the shallows of a watercourse, preventing an increase in heat that decreases oxygen carrying capacity.
We would end up with not simply floating villages, but floating micro-continents.
Chris Kott wrote: Coastal areas experiencing drought could be aided by having large artificial forest islands parked offshore and upwind, such that the forests increase the humidity of the arid areas downwind of them.
Alder Burns wrote:There is a company recently formed, Sierra Energy, which offers installation of a gasifier/incinerator that processes garbage at 4000F in a self-sustaining reaction with steam and enriched oxygen, and produces electricity or diesel or ammonia at choice! Fascinating website to read through (sierraenergy.com)
Jay Angler wrote:@Chris Kott: That biorock link was very interesting - thanks. It made me wonder if there were any chemicals in fresh water that could respond to similar treatment. Does anyone know whether fresh water is higher in carbon than it used to be? I'm near salt water now, and I've read of the buffering effect of oceans, but I'm a bit loose with my definitions - seasteading would be great, but I'd accept lakesteading just fine if it helps the planet!