PIP Magazine - Issue 19: Ideas and Inspiration for a Positive Future
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Roberto pokachinni

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since Jan 21, 2014
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Just a little guy with big ideas, trying to get it done in the Canadian Rockies.
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Fraser River Headwaters, Zone3, Lat: 53N, Altitude 2750', Boreal/Temperate Rainforest-transition
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Recent posts by Roberto pokachinni

Jay Angler wrote:I've been thinking about the entire concept of Economics:
a) sustainability
b) is the whole greater than the sum of the parts
c) is it realistic to look at economics as "constant growth"

Trees grow until they die. A resource is only renewable, if it stays near where it was created. When we export a whole tree overseas (which is being done in North America) we are exporting carbon, which will return to us as air moves all over the planet. But the phosphorus, and many other minerals in that tree will only return to the valley through means such as volcanic action locally, or dust from the atmosphere. Trees, with the help of mycorrhizae,  can and do bring many minerals from deep in the earth to the surface, but reading books on coppicing, tells me that this is not necessarily a speedy process - even coppicing needs to be done with sustainability in mind.

The local people need livelihoods. Most humans given the option, will not want to live the way people did 500 years ago. So figuring out truly sustainable local employment needs to be evaluated carefully. To me, the first step is truly sustainable energy. Much of modern technology/farming/housing etc is completely dependent on fossil fuels directly or indirectly. For example, if the area develops the tourist trade, how many of those tourists will arrive by plane or car? If they arrive by electric car, where will the electricity come from to recharge those cars? Where will the energy come from to build the roads used to take tourists to the places they want to see, or hunt, or fish, etc? What are the natural resources which would allow the people to produce a net energy gain when you subtract all the embodied energy that many "green" energy sometimes seems to gloss over? I believe there are ways. Yes, some "damage" may result from installing sustainable power generation, but Nature has shown tremendous capacity to heal damage if give the support she needs to do so. But I think that an important first step is to look at the resources available and determine how energy can be captured responsibly for a very long time.

A resource can be renewable with export but I think that the modern export process is so completely out of whack in volume and in time scale with the reality of sustainabilty that your statement sadly rings very true.  And it is true that the closer a resource stays to its source location, the easier it is to close the loops of sustainability and create actual regenerative ecosystems and economies. The phosphorus issue is one that many don't discuss or don't know about, and it is serious for agricultural nutritiional crops.  I'm pretty sure that the trees will adapt with their genetics to phosphorus-poor soils, but in the end, if ecoystem health is our priority (as the provincial government says it is heading toward), then we should not be exporting anything.  Our mutual province, British Columbia, is guilty of exporting massive amounts of trees in current decades and is still doing so; this is being done completely unsustainably as far as ecology is concerned.  In most cases, it is done in areas which have hundreds of years of replacement time for the same volume in others where the climate is more conducive (like on Vancouver Island) the volume is being much more rapidly replaced but the ecology is diminishing with each harvest cycle.

Energy is going to be a huge need.  And the way those needs will be met will likely involve a lot of small-scale hydro projects, with some solar, wind, and gasification.
1 month ago

See Hes wrote:That's a challenge for many Generations by focusing first on your climate and average grow.

It will maybe even take longer than the time needed to destroy this huge habitat.

First you should get a hand in hand system where every farmer should start with alley cropping as much possible.
(Remember, the nature will always return to a forest landscape.)

With alley cropping (if all work hand in hand, and all farmers would pull the same string) you would have made a huge step ahead and many hands (all farmers and landlords) would be joining in.

Details you write down here is in my point of view completely impossible (moneywise and also see the workloads)...

Then reintroduce animals on small areas, where they can live their habits and let them do restauration works by expanding.
Look at Allan Savory's projects where he supports holistic regenerative management by using animals- even domestic ones, where the roaming big herds are lost...  

Absolute too big for my little 8 acre retirement food forest mindset, but I would think this way:
What can be done in 8 acres can be done in millions of acres, as long the whole population builds and the will and the interest is there.
(which is in my case only the family needed)

Imagine, just every household would plant 2 pots with trees how much could be changed in just a few years. Also in a climate of BC.

Some of the destruction will take a lot of time to see the beneficial results of the various processes, and in other the places on the territory, I think the changes toward the positive will much more quickly be apparent.  I agree that if many people that live on the land were to put the focus on these sorts of ideas than we will accomplish great things in a short time.  I did mention some of the things you discuss here in my opening post:  

And in cattle and horse areas, initiating rotational grazing, silvo-pasturing, and alley grazing, and combining these things with coppice and pollarding of deciduous species on contour or keyline to capture water and nutrients.  

In this region there is not so much a landlord/peasant economy though the colonial model might lead one to think that.  There are people who are not indigenous who have settled on and occupy the land and have (in a colonial sense) legal title to it, and these would have to be approached, again with an idea to support common interests (such as water scarcity/fire risk and low animal weight) and approach with statistics and research and (hopefully) and an increasing amount of local examples of how processes can be to their benefit.
1 month ago
Hi Jay Angler,

in response to what I wrote here:  

Roberto pokachinni wrote:
These have, in my mind, been radically altered ecologically in the absence of formerly abundant beavers, and it is only the resilience of the other intact processes including the ecological diversity that is still present in such seemingly pristine places that create the illusion that they can get along fine without this keystone species.

You had these queries:

1. Do the people you've been working with, agree with your assessment?
2. Within the areas that have transitioned already, is it possible to identify areas in those valleys where there have been disturbance events - small forest fires, avalanches or rock slides as possible examples - and introduce beaver supporting species to those disturbed areas, as opposed to having to remove living trees?
3. Or are you better to remove living trees from areas where wetlands would have been before beaver were trapped, because that is where this keystone species would have lived, and use the resulting lumber for value added, community based support (building housing, creating saleable merchandise, etc)?

The valley hasn't been logged because it is difficult to access and the private land that exists in the lower end of the valley is held by ranchers who don't want further development.   The idea would not be to remove trees (log it) at all (unless a village or camp needed to be built in that part of the valley in the future).  The idea would be to plant the edges of waterways with willows, birches, and perhaps construct a B.D.A  Beaver Dam Analog  (a human-made dam of natural wooden materials built to create deep water safety for the beavers) and as the beavers expand the BDA flooded area and it killed various areas of somewhat wetter zone adapted conifers, then plant those zones with poplars and cottonwoods which expand clonally.  These introductions would happen naturally over time.  The idea would be to help the process out a bit, and then let it go.
1 month ago
So I got back from a marathon work stint away from home and now I'll try to address some posts that came in during that absence.  

Hi Melissa Ferrin,

I'm a little bit concerned as a subscriber to the idea that permaculture is for people who have lost their connection to their ancestral relationship to their land. And in general first nations haven't--though certainly some have. And I'm unfamiliar with most things that far north so I don't know if the Simpcw  Nation have or haven't. I would tread carefully when talking about bringing them into line with permaculture.

 I agree.  In my dealings with most Indigenous folks in regard to how they live on the land, it is always a careful process.  I have no intention of offending anybody, of course, and the way to approach this would vary, definitely, depending upon the people one is discussing these ideas with.  The Simpcw population was decimated by various colonial influences, including much of it's elder knowledge.  They do have some traditional cultural elements that they have held onto in spite of these sad losses or they have subsequently learned traditional practices from the other campfires in the Sepwepemc nation.  The greater Sepwepemc nation and neighbouring tribes in the Southern part of the region had the great fortune of having ethnological work done where many other nations on Turtle Island (aka North America) have not.  The process isn't to bring them 'in line' but to share my vision with them, explain its merits, and see if we can work together to combine our visions for a new direction that heals the land's ecosystems and water cycles and the people (both Indigenous and Settlers) so that we can create a space that is both permacultural and in line with their traditional culture advancing into the future.  

However, it is a very exciting opportunity to work with the people stewarding such a large area of land.
The only thing I'd dare to offer is that you center water in your plans. Technology is creating a bigger and bigger demand for water (this morning I saw an article about the shocking amount of water used to cool the ChatGPT servers) so it's important that we secure water abundance.

It is indeed an exciting opportunity.  Water will be central and is one of the foundations of their own cultural guidelines.  I think the reintroduction of beaver-based ecosystems is paramount to this process.
1 month ago
Thank you all for all these responses. I'm working long hours right now, but will get back to this to honor your input soon.
1 month ago
In this thread, I've been talking about rehabilitating ecosystems that have been damaged and have explained my perspective on this as it relates to various factors. One of these was the decimation or extinction of local beaver populations.  I was involved in a process over the last few years to protect what is viewed as an intact wilderness.  That is true to the extent that most of it has had no industrial impact:  no roads, no logging, and no significant mines.  During the past couple of centuries, there was likely some gold prospecting and mining up there, but it had a pretty small impact I figure, but what about the beavers?

The ecosystems contained in that 250,000 acres have responded to the lack of beavers in many ways, most of which will be hard to figure out as the aspen forests and wetland areas have transitioned in many cases to pine, douglas fir, balsam, or spruce over the past 200 years.  But when one considers the ecosystem processes that result from the beaver activity, including increased hydrology, and the resulting diversity that springs up in wetlands, it seems imperative that the beaver population be reintroduced even to valleys that are 'undeveloped' wilderness.  These have, in my mind, been radically altered ecologically in the absence of formerly abundant beavers, and it is only the resilience of the other intact processes including the ecological diversity that is still present in such seemingly pristine places that create the illusion that they can get along fine without this keystone species.
1 month ago

You asked for suggestions so here is something I came across:

 Thanks Edward.  I really enjoy the way he presents his ideas.
1 month ago

Nicole Alderman wrote:

Roberto pokachinni wrote:The coppice species that I'm thinking of would be any that could be used for various purposes.  

Birch, for instance, can be coppiced and allowed to grow to clusters that contain many merchantable stems.

Alder, cottonwood, willows, birch, and poplar could be used for compost, mulch, and biochar.  Some of these are decent rocket stove fuel which is another project to promote.

Big Leaf Maple coppices really easily, and the coppiced trunks produce maple sap at as small as 8 inches in diameter (maybe smaller, but that's what I've found with my maples).

Your bioregion seems a lot like my own, just a bit cooler. Big Leaf Maples are native down here, and I do get sap out of mine, depending on the year. With cooler weather up there, they could probably get a lot more sap, and reduce it down to syrup. There's a market for our native Big Leaf Maple sap, and maple is a beautiful, relatively-dense wood for carving. It also has pretty high BTUs for firewood (aside from holly, it has the highest BTUs of any of the wood growing natively on my property!)

Hi Nicole,
Big Leaf maple is abundant in the South Western coastal part of B.C.  I have not heard that it is a natural part of the ecosystem in the upper parts of the Fraser River.  It may not take the cold; I'm not sure.  It may just have not had the opportunity to spread into the interior.  I agree that it is an excellent tree and a potential for introduction.  I would caution any introduction of a non-native species.  The interior has already lost an entire bio-type when an introduced rust disease, I think, from European domesticated white pine came in from nursery plants.  This is less likely with the maples as they are relatively close by, but I would be loath to introduce something that would affect the locally native Douglas maples (even though they are smaller and produce a lot less syrup).    
1 month ago

Many areas are not going to be convivial for beaver. Introducing them to an area that doesn't suit them (unhelpful land contours, lack of food sources, etc) won't help them or the area. When they build their ponds, they tend to be interested in taking down deciduous trees, whose bark they prefer to evergreens. So at least in the short run they are going to be working counter to your efforts to increase deciduous trees.

Hi Sig,

You are correct in some regards.  Some of this was discussed as well, but I will restate and clarify in shorter form for the benefit of yourself and others who have not read every word.  

It is true that some landforms will not support beaver populations.  Many, especially hill country, ridges, steep slopes, and high mountain areas, will require non-beaver interventions, with some examples being herbivore (particularly domestic) exclusion and or reforestation with diverse species (not just trees).  In some cases, mechanical interventions, like excavated ponds will greatly enhance an area's potential to rebound ecologically.   Fencing and machines would be expensive and hard to get into some places and have many other detrimental co-factors, and as a result, are less desirable than more natural interventions.

Beavers are only one part of the strategy, and they are not a cookie-cutter solution to the panacea of problems that have cascaded ecologically eroding results onto these ecosystems.  Beavers are, however, ecosystem engineers with a well-deserved reputation as keystone species.  These particular keystones have been largely removed and subsequently often purposefully excluded from the landscape and from local ecosystems and as such, their introduction should be considered at many locations throughout the planned area.  Pretty much every living creature in the region will benefit from an active beaver population, from trout and salamanders to coyotes and butterflies.

The strategy, as it should be in most permaculture designs, is to use the smallest amount of work to do the largest amount of good, or to concentrate a large amount of effort for the greater gains that will be found in the future relative to that expended energy.  In the case of beavers, the concentration of their reintroduction into the region will be at least initially limited by where the greatest gains can be foreseen, either in the short term or over the long haul.  The purpose, besides rehydrating the landscape, would be to kick-start ecosystem dynamics.  

Poplars and other deciduous forests need to be well established before the introduction of beavers to any watershed in order that they have the capacity to handle the impact of their intensive and extensive activities.

Beavers and poplar/deciduous forests co-evolved on North American landscapes and have been able to successfully adapt to each other's population fluxes over many millennia.  Most deciduous species affected by beavers have evolved to replenish themselves in the form of multiple coppiced shoots.  The beavers will thrive on these as well, as you have alluded to, but the beavers will move on and leave them if the plants are consumed beyond the plant's ability to replenish sufficiently to cover the beaver population's dietary needs.  The beavers then will return to the grove a decade or two or more (sometimes many more) later when the stand has sufficiently recovered and the beaver population is moving in that direction.  In the meantime many of these old pond systems become drier, producing rare forested grass and sedge glades, boosting ecosystem diversity and health, and locking huge amounts of carbon.  Beaver dams may have been the basis for the idea of early hugulkultur.  

For a great read to understand more about beavers, I highly recommend the book EAGER:  The Surprising, Secret Lives of Beavers, and Why They Matter

A shorter read by the sadly deceased permaculture great Toby Hemenway The Watershed Wisdom of the Beaver

A book that contains some seminal work on beaver introductions in a nearby desolated region (in the title the word 'against' is about them having to deal with the threat of wildfires):  Three Against the Wilderness
1 month ago
Alleys are another major potential avenue for this change. pun intended.

In some neighborhoods, all the parking is done via alley-way carports or driveways, so in that case, the entire street's pavement could be removed and the alley switched into the main thoroughfare.  In other places, the alleys do not serve much purpose and in many cases, the entire thing could be planted.

Even in many small towns, there are alleys.  Many of them could be removed and planted with forests, gardens, or common-space parks.  
1 month ago