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Artificial ecosystem: Ascension Island  RSS feed

 
Joel Hollingsworth
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A remote island on the mid-Atlantic ridge had very little life on it. Then an English botanist built an ecosystem there, drawing on species from all over the empire, for the benefit of the Royal Navy.

That ecosystem is still going strong after over a century.

I think this is an amazing case study for permaculture.

Full story
 
Emil Spoerri
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lol "By a bizarre twist, this great imperial experiment may hold the key to the future colonisation of Mars."

people are funny
 
Mekka Pakanohida
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What I want to know is:

A)  How is the surfing?

B)  How is the SCUBA Diving

C)  When can I visit it?



 
Nicholas Covey
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I would love to see a modern equivalent of this done with permaculture, not just the plant it and forget it scenario that the Royal Navy seems to have used.

 
Brice Moss
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ain't being able to plant it and forget it what we're trying for with permaculture thus giving us time to lay about and tell ourselves how wonderful we are? cause I love having time to sit back and contemplate my greatness
 
Nicholas Covey
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I understand what you mean, but there is something to be said for the DESIGN part of permaculture.
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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I think the main difference between this and permaculture might be the privilege, not the level of design or maintenance.

This was one of the world's pre-eminent botanists, with family connections to an excellent botanical garden and working within the greatest imperial navy that era had ever seen.

I think he did think in terms of system design, even if the word ecosystem hadn't been coined. Also, there was almost certainly ongoing labor to maintain the food-producing plants that had been introduced.

One of the important features of permaculture, is that it is intended to be a method that people can implement without tremendous amounts of formal education, wealth, or access to the dominant system.
 
Nicholas Covey
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Valid point Joel on the prestige...

My understanding, though I am limited to memory of a book that I checked out from the library years ago (and a book which I cannot remember the title or author sadly, I feel like such a horrible reference), was that the British planted what amounted to monoculture fields of each. They had the customary native population that Imperial Britain used as workers to tend to them. There were various different species that were attempted and simply did not make it through the rough/half-hearted/uneducated care. There were reportedly also various types of annual plants attempted (grains mostly), some with success at the times, but none of them survived the passage of time. Tea was tried several times with limited success and finally given up. Vanilla orchids were also attempted, but without their native pollinator they simply don't reproduce.

So that leads me to conclude that the experiment, which was a success of sorts, was also an abstract failure were it looked upon as a designed ecosystem. The initial design did not hold up, but nature righted itself as best it could with the best suited flora available and took hold.

Mollison says that by adding variety nature creates systems. Adding an element of design to that, you can use these natural systems to the advantage of all.

I think that in the long run this very story got me thinking about permaculture before I had ever heard of the term. I really wish I could remember the book title so I could share but it's been at least fifteen years. Its a history book mostly about St Helena. The history of Ascension was a single chapter, and the story I am summarizing made up about four pages.

At any rate, I think this story strikes a chord among us because who wouldn't want to try and start with a stark environment almost devoid of plant and animal life and create our own self-suiting garden?

Like I said earlier, Pacific atolls could be interesting with introduced species. As a matter of fact I may start a separate thread to discuss such an idea. As always, my ramblings are mostly subject to my own opinions, so I may be incorrect somewhere through that lengthy monologue. All that does not diminish my desire to see a similar experiment, using the design principles of Permaculture on an equally stark environment, which was my initial point. I firmly believe that wherever humankind is involved, there is always room for improvement.
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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Nicholas Covey wrote:Valid point Joel on the prestige...


Please don't take this as nit-picking, but I intended to use the word "privilege" in the lefty-academic, jargony sense of the word.

A privilege--etymologically "private law" or law relating to a specific individual--is a special entitlement or granted by a government or other authority to a restricted group, either by birth or on a conditional basis. (Wikipedia)


The notion of a law that applies to one family but not others is pretty central to the way I was using it. It's almost an antonym of "justice."

My social circle often uses the term "white privilege," and that is a part of what I meant here, but I was also referring to the special systems that empowered British aristocrats.
 
Nicholas Covey
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No worries, I knew pretty much what you meant...
 
                          
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Nicholas, here is a link to St. Helena history that has a book list at the bottom, perhaps one of the titles will jog your memory as to the book you could not remember. I would be interested in that.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Saint_Helena
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