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Leverage in Urban Settings

 
Joshua Myrvaagnes
pollinator
Posts: 543
Location: Massachusetts, 6b, urban, nearish coast, 39'x60' minus the house, mostly shady north side, + lead.
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In a recen workshop I was fortunate to attend (thanks to help from other permies and my parents for funds!) toby hemenway suggested finding the "pressure points" in the system, the places where you make the most change with the least effort. We had a little discussion of what those were, but it's a topic that could be explored for hours.

I love knowing about creative, outside-the-box and inspiring solutions that have been created in other cities and wondering, Could that be done here?

I would like more clarity about what can be done here.

I thought maybe the yards on a street near me of the churches would be easy. They're south-facing, lawn, OMG screaming "cultivate me! grow food in me! at least grow fuel in me! but RMH's aren't exactly legal here so grow something in me but please can we move past grass already?" Or something like that.

But maybe there are even better places to intervene/act?

The library yard?--we're talking wtih the mayor's office now (by which I mean one of the assistants who didn't really understand what I was saying, it looks like it'll take some doing to get to talk with the mayor)

Invisible structures--financial permaculture?--I could move my money to a credit union, but that won't make a lot of difference, since at the moment I don't have a lot of money. But I suppose it might make enough to be worth it. I just shy away from paperwork.

Switch to a better CSA--or find out more about the one I've been getting, is it really making a net positive impact on people and planet? is it making the MOST positive impact or could it be doing better with the resources I'm contributing to it? what would sepp holzer do? what would David Blume do? what would Machaelle Small Wright do? heck, what would I do if I had that land and sun?

That's the most I'v come up with.

So, what else? I'd love to brainstorm about 90 ideas and then pick the best ones.

Also, I notice that ideas sound relaly good far away that I wouldn't feel as thrilled about up close. Context is different, but maybe I need to change my perspective? would growing in plastic here to feed the homeless make sense? do I just need to let go of my irrational anger at plastic or is it better to hold out for ceramic pots or growing in the earth? Here at my house I suppose we have options, an herb and stuf spiral, so it makes sense to get the plastic out of the garden.

What other ideas?
 
Zach Muller
gardener
Posts: 777
Location: NE Oklahoma zone 7a
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bike books chicken dog forest garden urban
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Joshua Myrvaagnes wrote:In a recen workshop I was fortunate to attend (thanks to help from other permies and my parents for funds!) Toby Hemenway suggested finding the "pressure points" in the system, the places where you make the most change with the least effort. We had a little discussion of what those were, but it's a topic that could be explored for hours.

I love knowing about creative, outside-the-box and inspiring solutions that have been created in other cities and wondering, Could that be done here?

I would like more clarity about what can be done here.

I thought maybe the yards on a street near me of the churches would be easy. They're south-facing, lawn, OMG screaming "cultivate me! grow food in me! at least grow fuel in me! but RMH's aren't exactly legal here so grow something in me but please can we move past grass already?" Or something like that.

But maybe there are even better places to intervene/act?


What other ideas?


Being a life long city dweller I have mulled this issue over and over at different times and points in my perspective. As far as clarity of what can be done, here there or anywhere... I think if you are willing to do it than it will happen. Asking what is possible is a tough one, because before someone does something, it is often thought of as impossible.

I dare think the impossible is in fact possible.
When solving a problem one way, often times you reach a point where something is directly preventing you from getting to a solution, and you see this impediment. With simple problems you can just move the impediment.
But when problems are more complex it is sometimes impossible to solve them using the method chosen, and you can observe that when you see the impediment, and there no way to move it.
A smart problem solver will go back and come from another way in order to solve the problem, and from that perspective they see the problem in a new way, and they can probably see the impediment in the other method from a different perspective as well.

I have observed that no one is here to stop me from doing what I want to do. What if it's against the law? Then no one is stopping me from finding another way to go.

I think moving your money into a credit union will maybe get you better customer service, but it's probably not really a pressure point in the economic system.

Having a net positive life is difficult and maybe too subjective to really substantiate in physical reality (at least in a society setting like urban)
Hand in hand with that is the notion of choosing where to devote your energy and time. In the city we are not here working on our land trying to be self sufficient all day. There are other resource flows like waste and community that you can choose to incorporate or ignore.

Would it be more net positive to try to infect brains with permaculture or to just plant as many trees as possible no matter what? I think the answer depends on weather you are better rooting trees, or rooting content in minds.


 
Emily Cressey
Posts: 45
Location: Lynnwood, WA. USA
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One form of leverage is convincing people who already have a "list" in marketing parlance, or a "sphere of influence," if you will.

I think the church idea is a great example. One gardener I have seen online "LDS PREPPER" is his youtube handle, speaks at Mormon churches where gardening and food storage is a value. He puts on seminars there where members are encouraged to attend and learn the skill and then apply it to their own gardens. Then, in turn, it would be very simple, I would think to have the church yard as a display or demo garden, although some of the LDS churchs are kind of strict about their properties, I think... but another denomination might have more flexiblity... and you'd have rallied all the new converts with a simple 2-hour meeting/demo.

Here in my town, I have seen volunteer groups "sponsor" a small garden at the library, at the senior center, and at the elementary school. The key there is having a group with an ongoing commitment to upkeep.

Hemenway's other example, I think was neighbors rallying around a cause - like the traffic circle/hub art and gardens in urban intersections. These seem fun, but take a lot of buy in from the neighborhood, I would think.

Look for areas that already have a lot of people who are volunteering or doing activities, but need some direction or a fresh focus. Funding/grants would also help, I would think. You could ask the townships about green initiatives.

For example, my son's preschool got a grant from the city to help fund their "wilderness playground." They took out the plastic slide and put in trees, a water feature, an all-wood play platform, giant digging pit, etc. to help kids get "back to nature." This is on the edge of the church parking lot.

Something like a rain garden, or permable sidewalk grant could turn an area into a beautiful edible landscaped mini-garden.


Emily
 
Immo Fiebrig
Posts: 8
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Dear Joshua,

I think you really have to follow your intuition and find out what is best for you.

Here is a story of "guerilla gardeners" in the southern German city of Munich (M√ľnchen). Years back these gardeners started in a rather conspirative manner planting flowers and vegetables in public spaces, sometimes in small green spaces between parking lots at night. After some years of "illegal" acts and attempts by the city administration to prosecute the offenders, guerilla gardeners and city officers met on a joint event and decided to rather work together than fighting one another. A true win-win situation emerged. Now, a local NGO called Green City takes calls from citizens wanting to be patrons of specific public green spaces. They earmark those spaces, taking a note of the responsible person and inform the city council. The city council in turn stops servicing those spaces and saves public money. All parties are happy!

Good luck!
Immo
 
2017 Appropriate Technology Course at Wheaton Labs http://richsoil.com/pdc
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