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Converting a Suburban Property into a Model of Eco Logical Culture Change
Jan Spencer - email@example.com
The Suburban Permaculture Project - www.suburbanpermaculture.org
This paper describes an impressive variety of benefits gained from re-visioning a ¼ acre suburban property in Eugene, Oregon, USA.
The property has been reinvented according to Permaculture principles. Initial goals were to make much better use of on site resources- sun, soil and rain- for producing useful amounts of food and energy. The project includes vegetable gardens and fruit trees, a rain water catchment and distribution system, removal of a concrete driveway, solar heating for water and interior space and increasing the residential density of the property.
The project has become a community resource; covered in the media, a site for workshops on property conversion and culture change, destination for numerous visitors and an empowering model helping many others with their own kindred projects. The conversion clearly shows what can be done with non professional skills and modest finances.
More recently appreciated, suburban property conversion can be considered a sensible response to deepening trends in resource depletion, climate change, worsening international relations and the natural environment in steep decline. The Project supports timely social, political and economic actions that can contribute to Eco Logical Culture Change. It is the author's belief that the current dominant economic system- global market capitalism- must be replaced if peace on earth and a habitable planet are to have a chance. Conversion of existing suburban properties, particularly in the United States, has an important and unique role in Eco Logical Culture Change.
Key words: Permaculture, external costs, suburban conversion, home economics, eco logical culture
This paper describes thoughtful changes made to a suburban property to make much better use of on site resources. The paper also describes many of the economic, environmental and community benefits to be gained from these changes. Finally, the paper explains how accomplishments at this property offer themselves as practical examples that can empower individuals, families, neighbors and local networks to be part of Eco Logical Culture Change. For more information, go to www.suburbanpermaculture.org
The author moved into this mid fifties suburban house in Eugene, Oregon, eight years ago. Half of all Americans live in low residential density, detached homes in subdivisions- known as suburbia. The author's house is in a neighborhood that looks similar to many others all over the United States.
Typically, suburbia is highly dependent on automobiles because where people
work, recreate and shop
is a greater distance than walking or riding a bicycle will allow. Even if one did want to bike or walk, safe and attractive
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amenities for those choices are usually minimal. Public transportation in suburbia is usually inconvenient or non existent. Suburbia is an excellent example of the imposed need for mobility- driving a car- because accessibility-where people need to go- is poor.
The suburban property being described here does include certain useful assets that give it important advantages over many suburban areas in the United States. The climate in the Willamette Valley is Mediterranean with plentiful cool season rainfall for 6 months of the year and sunny, dry and warm summers. Temperatures rarely fall below 20 degrees F [- 7 C] and rarely exceed 100 F [38 C] Nearby mountains support abundant seasonal orographic precipitation and rivers that flow well all year. The soil is excellent thanks to the ancient Missoula Floods.
The town of Eugene is known for its environmental and quality of life sensitivities. There is substantial organic farming in the area and many of its residents have comparatively liberal attitudes and values. Eugene is home to the University of Oregon, a major university with widely recognized green academics. The City can boast of an extensive network of bike paths and bike lanes and also a half dozen sizable community gardens where people can rent space to grow food. There is a notable density of natural food stores and Eugene's popular Saturday Market and Farmer's Market showcase a strong “eco” characteristic of the town.
That said, Eugene is home to most of the same urban problems common throughout the United States such as traffic congestion, air pollution and automobile dependent land use practices. The vast majority of peoples' needs for every day life come from great distance. Its safe to say Eugene's positive eco logical attributes exist in addition to the urban and economic problems typical all over the country rather than instead of.
The author has had a concern for the environment along with global political and resource trends his entire adult life. Since moving to Eugene, Permaculture, urban land use and transportation have become a great interests. Added to those topics are keen interests in the converging trends of climate change, peak oil and the increasingly aggressive resource driven foreign policy of the United States. These perspectives have determined the way the suburban property was to be redeveloped from the beginning- to make much better use of on site assets- rain water, soil and sun - to reduce the author's ecological and political footprints.
Permaculture has also been a part of the project from the beginning. Permaculture is a whole systems approach to using resources carefully with a primary ideal of accomplishing multiple desirable tasks [called stacking], with thoughtful design. It operates within an eco logical context and can be applied in scale from back yard gardens to bio regional economies.
Some of the most important outcomes of these property changes were not part of the original scope of the conversion project. Later in the paper, a number of social, political, economic and cultural benefits of the property conversion will be identified. One of the most useful being that the project is an empowering model for Eco Logical Culture Change.
Conversion was fast out of the blocks. Many important changes took place less
than a year from moving in. The sooner these tasks were started and completed,
the sooner the benefits would manifest. Changes made to the property and the
benefits created all have mutually supporting relationships with each other,
an important ideal of Permaculture.
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Early on, the grass was done away with to make space for gardens both front and back. Also early on, the garage was converted into a living space. Another early project was to remove 800 ft sq [78 meters square] of driveway concrete. The freed up space has became useful for building a storage shed and planting a nut tree, brambles and grapes.
Graphic of the 1/4 acre site. South is to the left. The street is to the right. The shed occupies former driveway. Pools are surrounded by habitats. Water catchment system- black lines connect the roof drainage to water tanks. Espalier trained fruit trees lower left, create a “food hedge” 40 feet [13m] in length. Chicken habitat is lower left corner.
Again, early in the project, two used 1600 gallon [6000 liter] polyethylene agricultural water tanks were bought and installed by the author as part of a rain water catchment, storage and distribution system. The water is used for outdoor irrigation in the summer. Each tank is also connected by pipe to a small pool with surrounding native plantings. Water pressure from the tanks pushes water for small trickling falls over concrete blocks [from the driveway removal] into the pools. Very nice!
In addition to the vegetable garden, the property has been planted with a variety of fruit trees, brambles and vining plants- nearly all for food production. The property has several varieties each of apple, pear and fig. There are also two cherry trees, two peaches, filberts and an English Walnut planted where the driveway used to be. An olive tree and kiwi vines have been added recently. Another area of grapes will occupy the space above the roof of a storage shed that was built where the driveway was, an excellent example of stacking by turning automobile space into good use- storage and food production.
Two construction projects completed within the past 3 years are notable. The 350 ft sq [32 meters square] sun room was rebuilt to include 150 ft sq [14 meters sq] of glass in the ceiling. Solar input was increased substantially while the glass ceiling is aesthetically a great enjoyment.
Bungalow, completed September, 2006.
Inside the sunroom after rennovation.
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More recently was the construction of a 450 ft sq [40 meters sq] bungalow in the back yard replacing a badly sagging old shed. The Bungalow is now the author's residence. It contains passive solar design, a high level of insulation and usable loft space. The design is contemporary and visually appealing both inside and out. It helps increase the residential density of the property and allows the author's previous personal room to be rented for income. The bungalow is a snug, tranquil and very enjoyable location for living and working on various projects.
Backyard 2000, looking towards the southeast.
Backyard 2007, same view as above.
Driveway and carport, 2000.
Same view as above, 2007. Driveway is gone, shed is new. Carport is converted to living space.
South side of the house, 2000. Sun room dates back years before the author bought the house. South end of carport on the left is now location of an 8 foot slider.
Similar view, 2007. Barrel in front is part of water distribution system.
BENEFITS OF CONVERSION
After eight years living here, many benefits have emerged. Appreciable amounts of food, energy and water originate from this ¼ acre property. A great deal of creativity has become visible along with a high level of continuing satisfaction. The site is a very pleasant place to be. The author has gained valuable insights from the project and to a high degree, enjoys sharing those lessons with others.
The author seldom buys fruits and vegetables because much of what he needs is grown on site. The fruit and nut harvest is increasing year by year as the trees mature. Much has been learned about growing vegetables. Improvements in technique in the garden will help increase productivity over time.
Preserving food is a vital skill. Learning how to best keep and store food is an ongoing process. There is much wisdom to be learned in this realm. The author is inclined towards solar drying certain fruits and vegetables, freezing for some such as peaches and berries and ambient temperature storage for vegetables such as onions, potatoes and winter squash.
The Willamette Valley is mild enough for a winter garden although production drops considerably. The growing season can be extended both in spring and fall with cold frames, which adds to the site's food security. A longer growing season reduces need for storage.
A simplified diet means more food needs can be taken care of closer to home. Still, many important food items such as oils, nutritional yeast, soy products, grains and beans are not easily produced at a home scale. That said, many important food items could be grown or produced at a practical scale by cooperation with neighbors or others in the community. Also, innovative collaborations between farmers and town people for enhancing local food security, are ongoing in the Willamette Valley.
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Reducing meat and animal products in one's diet benefit one's health and the
environment. At the same time, many animals can turn unusable plant waste into
valuable fertilizer. Animals are important elements in local food systems, even
for very modest consumption. The author is vegetarian and his property is home
to four chickens, primarily for building soil fertility but for eggs as well.
Another item, both a problem and a resource, is human excrement- humanure. Successfully turning human waste into useful soil is a new and important element of this project.
As energy costs rise, growing food locally will become increasingly important. Knowing how to stretch the growing season, being familiar with best varieties of plants for local conditions, knowing how to maintain heirloom [non hybrid] seeds and knowing how to store food are skills that will become far more “popular” as global trends impose themselves. Taking care of food needs is also a wonderful opportunity for sharing knowledge and building community.
Front yard, 2000. Beginning to sheet mulch. Point of reference is the cherry tree on the left. Card board spread all over will be covered with mulch. Grass will be suffocated.
Same view, 2007. Sunken cold frame with cover up on the left. Habitat and pool, foreground.
The rain water catchment system is a great success. The author had no previous experience in this realm and put this system together with common sense. Again, a great deal has been learned. One thousand square feet [90 meters sq] of collector surface and one inch [2.5 cm] of rain will yield 550 gallons [1100 liters] of water. For local conditions, that means over the rainy season, the two 1600 gallon [6000 liter] tanks can be filled and emptied about seven times.
Important to note, the Willamette Valley's total rainfall for the three summer months averages less than four inches [and often much less] so storage is an issue. At the outset of installing the rain water system, the author had little idea how much water would be needed for the garden and trees. After several years, the author has learned a great deal about water needs and his system's capacity. The existing system's storage is a bit shy in dry years but with another 1000 gallon [3800 liter] tank, even drier than average years will be accommodated.
The local public utility [Eugene Water and Electric Board] has been monitoring a half dozen rain water systems in town. There is recognition that rain water collection is a way to reduce need to build costly
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new purification capacity and is also a way to reduce need for costly “traditional” storm water capability. The author has intentions of constructing a potable rain water system. The bungalow has a galvalum [the author plans a galvalum roof for the main house] metal roof that lends itself to potable water systems. A friend of the author has a city permitted potable rain water system, the first in town.
Solar energy on site has also been a learning experience. The sun room has proven to be of great value. Four months during summer the roof glass needs covering with shade cloth. From later February to late May and from early October to late November, the sun room contributes appreciable heat to the house, circulated with an electric fan. Solar heating assist to the house is occasional from December through February. There are days when the solar space is comfortable even when its thermal contribution to the rest of the house is modest. Also important, the solar space is aesthetically, a very pleasant place to relax and home to many container plants, some of them citrus and fruit producing.
Solar heating in the bungalow is also helpful. Shade from nearby trees cuts down on solar input but still there are many days when the solar space does provide useful warmth to the core area. The glass roof is aesthetically pleasing as well.
Solar water is another new lesson. The local utility and State of Oregon offer incentives for the purchase of solar water heaters to encourage energy conservation. The author's solar water system allows the electric water heater to be turned off for six months out of the year, leaving solar on its own.
The author's primary means of transportation is a bicycle. With the property supplying an appreciable amount of his food needs on site, one can say an appreciable amount of the author's transportation energy is produced at home. Of course, that leads to many benefits such as physical fitness, reducing air pollution, reducing dependence on oil- both foreign and domestic. Thanks to Eugene's bike network, the author's trips into town are a pleasant ride along the River instead of stressful ugly streets.
With the positive solar experience gained from the sun room and solar water heater, the author is mightily impressed and contemplates why passive solar architectural design and solar water heating are not thoroughly widespread nation wide. There can be little doubt that, when factoring in full external costs for both solar heating and conventional heating, solar offers innumerable advantages. One must question an economic system that has purposefully marginalized solar and delivered to us instead, a regrettable energy system that is centrally controlled, wasteful, creates dependence, pollutes and is unnecessarily expensive. There are smart alternatives for taking care of many of our needs.
Certainly one of the greatest lessons learned from this conversion project is gaining useful perspectives and knowledge about what it takes to satisfy at least a part of one's needs close to home. This is the realm of “Home Economics.” For example, how much water and effort is needed to grow a pound of carrots? How much sun light to raise the temperature of the house five degrees? How much muscle output to bike into town? How much time to water the garden or to dry apples, peaches and pears?
Knowledge, preferably gained by direct participation, leads to a greater sense of appreciation, which leads to respect, which leads to a caring for the task accomplished. Appreciation, respect and caring how we satisfy our needs leads to thoughtful and affirmative relationships between ourselves and what we depend on- the natural environment, our community and our own selves. Coming to understand those relationships is also a very important pathway to removing barriers to eco culture change.
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Our own creativity manifested in useful domestic projects affirms ourselves. A carrot or btu produced at home rather than from a distance turns an unknown into something tangible we took part in and can value. Making these connections has enormous implications for individuals, families and communities.
The mainstream world, where time is scarce and specialization is the usual, few people have much thought about where the things they use come from. This is a profound misfortune, perhaps one of the greatest casualties of affluence and globalization. Not knowing the story of what we consume makes use without thought easy which facilitates disconnect, not valuing and not recognizing external costs.
For example, oil production in the Niger River Delta in Nigeria has horribly damaged the lives, environment and culture of the local people. There is an ongoing low level insurgency in that area composed of victimized local people opposing the government and the oil companies it protects. That circumstance receives little attention by the average automobile driver. If that driver was aware of the injustice they participated in, they might make choices that support eco logical culture change instead.
Home economics, often without money exchanged, can help satisfy many of our needs closer to home. It can be expanded to become neighborhood economics and regional economics. It can be expanded far beyond soil, sun and water into dynamic and creative networks to take care of more human needs close to where we live, in nearly infinite creative ways that affirm human potential, that heal the natural environment at the same time adding beauty to our lives and contributing to a peaceful world.
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Home economics, needs taken care of on site.
Home economics- entertainment and culture in the neighborhood. Candle making at xmas time.
Part of the conversion plan from the beginning was to create a pleasant visual and sensory environment. That includes two small water features surrounded by small expanses of native plants set among built up chunks of “urbanite” - concrete left over from the driveway removal- it looks great! Both habitats attract birds, frogs, garter snakes and is home to small fish. They are pleasant to look at, each complete with trickling gravity powered waterfalls from the respective rain water tanks.
The gardens and fruit trees move through the seasonal cycles. They are a natural calendar of quiet time, budding, blooming, setting fruit and harvest. Watching the entire site evolve is a wonderful experience. The place feeds the soul as well as the body! If we all lived surrounded by beauty at home, at work and in our towns and cities, we would be happier and more peaceful people.
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The conversion site has become a useful community resource. Hundreds of people
have visited- school
kids, Permaculture classes, visiting authors, bike tours, out of town visitors, media, friends and neighbors. The place has received attention on the radio, in print, on TV. It has been the site of workshops about culture change and property conversion. It has uplifted many people. The place is a model of what can be done with a nothing special suburban property with modest technical skills and financial investment. It has become a valuable tool of Eco Logical Culture Change.
Empowerment and Overcoming Psychological Barriers
Overcoming the psychological barriers to personal and community adaptation for what looks like a very turbulent future, could make the difference between a person's or a community's survival or not. Affuence is remarkably seductive, especially with billions spent on high octane advertising. Still, even the mainstream is aware of climate change and many feel anxiety about the increased costs of energy and food. No one really knows what level of affluence for humans planet earth can sustain but to assume that level will be thoughtfully determined by what is convenient for a self interested economic system supercharged on vanity, overextended credit and external costs, does not look promising.
Consider the economic system that is causing the greatest species extinction since the last asteroid or mega volcanic eruption, that has brought the planet to the brink of nuclear war, that has created economic disequity of remarkable dimensions, that routinely sells and promotes products known to kill people, that is trashing the planet's climate, that spends billions on grotesque weapons systems while millions die of starvation,,,,,,,,,,,, To look to this same economic system and its "magic hand" to solve the problems of epic proportions it has created in the name of profit, is not a good choice. One could rightly ask in amazement, why are there barriers to overcome choosing an alternative to global market capitalism?
Global trends will nudge more people into positive initiative. A relevent question to ask is, does all this wealth and affluence really make us happy and elevate out spirits, regardless of the climate, resource and political trends? Many who downsize the material and upsize the personal and community can testify its a wonderful change. The more examples and models of eco logical living along with its visible benefits, that people know about, the more people will "defect" from the mainstream.
Much can be done with modest resources, either financial or skill. When people realize a more sensible way of life is far closer than they think and makes more sense than they thought, many barriers will come down and people will make changes.
The author has learned a great deal about “home economics” and many other practical skills. Sharing what he has learned has been helpful to many others. Ideally, this chain reaction of empowerment will broaden and accelerate as people making changes in their lives, build and expand on what others have taught them and pass their new experience and insights on to still others new to these topics.
Being a visible example of eco culture change may be one of the best ways to encourage others to overcome those psychological barriers. Making known existing and functioning models - in person, on tours, on the web, in articles, radio interviews and presentations to groups can expand the impact of a project.
The more kindred spirits making similar changes, and sharing them, the better. Converging global trends will certainly provide far more hard to miss incentives for making eco culture changes. What will be most interesting is to see if enough people can overcome the psychological barriers for eco culture change in a timely and voluntary way to avoid a great deal of misfortune. One bumper sticker a friend described to me advises, “Panic Now. Avoid the Rush.”
ECO LOGICAL CULTURE CHANGE FITS SUBURBAN RENEWAL
Historically, we are learning as individuals, a nation and as a world, we cannot continue to live the resource intensive lives many have come to expect. Even the mainstream news, in its mild mannered and self restrained way, is full of articles explaining climate change, vexing energy issues, economic worries, political instabilities to name only a few. The truth is likely far more sobering.
Eco Logical Culture Change [ELCC] is a timely alternative. ELCC is a vision of a way of life that uplifts the human spirit and can take care of human needs in a way that Planet Earth can sustain. Moving from the current globalized and resource intensive way of life we are familiar with towards an eco logical, far more localized and peaceful future will require change in many many ways.
A brief look at market capitalism can help understand a compelling reason for eco culture change. Market capitalism cannot exist without external costs.External costs include pollution, social/economic dis equity, degraded public health, disabled human potential, breath taking military spending and climate change, to name a few of the most glamorous.
These costs from the production, use and disposal of countless products [cars,
oil, suburbia, tobacco, alcohol, plastics,,,,] is not included when most products
are bought. Instead, public health pays, the environment pays, global security
pays, individuals pay. External costs are a massive and dishonest subsidy to
market capitalism which it requires to be profitable and competitive. It cannot
account for them and goes to great political effort to maintain them.
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Capitalism, as we know it, cannot exist without these external costs. Capitalism's destruction to the environment severely reduces the life supporting capabilities of planet earth at the same time its social external costs severely damage the capacity of humans to act, in their own self interest, to repair the damage both to the planet and themselves. These facts disqualify capitalism as we know it, to be a partner for eco logical culture change and a peaceful world. Rather, it is severely in the way.
Eco Logical Culture Change [ the title/name is not important] offers a timely and sensible alternative for taking care of human needs. Primary elements of ELCC are individual, social, economic and the natural environment. An eco logical culture would value these elements and design them together to bring about these primary outcomes.
1] An economy that internalizes its costs and exists to serve positive community
2] An economy that relies largely on local and regional resources and assets.
3] An economy and way of life that can be sustained by planet earth.
4] A culture that identifies civic uplift, nurturing positive human potential and insuring a healthy natural environment as its greatest priorities.
Human potential is a vital element of eco culture change. From either a rational or metaphysical perspective, one can arrive to a belief that all people have wonderful potentials for positive expression both as individuals and as a community. History, we are taught, is made by exceptional people; some heroes, others villains. But, one might consider a different view- are the heroes really “special” or are they famous just because they effectively tapped into their own potentials and behaved in an appropriate way? That suggests that the millions of people we never hear about are all under performing, perhaps distracted by TV, credit card payments or malnutrition.
A vital platform, for human potential to manifest, is for a culture's goals- its economy, social conditions and values - to nurture positive human potential. Simply stated, we as people and communities can benefit enormously by purposeful uplifting our values and expectations of what we are capable of. Where and how we live can be affirming to the spirit and bring out the innate good in us.
Global trends referred to numerous times in this paper will create social and economic conditions most people have had no prior experience with. Responding to those conditions successfully, will depend on people becoming resourceful in new ways. Eco Culture Change can provide a context, encouragement and exciting models to nurture human creativity and potential to manifest in positive ways for moving towards positive community goals.
Examples of Eco Culture Change Already Exists
Not everyone would recognize the words “eco logical culture change” but millions of people in the US and elsewhere would recognize the ideals and vision. Many examples of ELCC already exist, and the examples are impressively diverse. They go far beyond removing driveways and growing cucumbers. They take in economics, regional food security, human relations, environmental restoration, education, cooperative efforts of many kinds, to name only a few.
Suburbia and Eco Logical Culture Change
Making time for life changes is a place to start eco culture change. Downsizing
our material needs can free up time for eco culture change. Less time required
to make money to buy unfullfilling and planet unfriendly products leaves more
time for self, family and community. Collaborating with others nearby can greatly
expand our culture change opportunities.
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Think of all the benefits and assets possible within a mutual support group of six people. Then imagine a neighborhood scale network that can include skills in management, food production and preservation, health care, construction, education, permaculture and more.
Work parties can help make projects become reality that might not happen working alone. Many tasks magically become fun and sociable when done with friends and neighbors. People can help each other turn grass to garden, teach each other new skills, take care of the young or elderly and provide for many familiar needs in new ways, pushing the boundaries of home and neighborhood economics.
This all may sound very ideal and theoretical but when we recall many of the best times we've had in our lives, many were unpaid, uplifting to the spirit, low tech and in cooperation with others likely working on a project that had benefits to the community.
During the Great Depression and many other difficult times, barter and trade networks took over when the mainstream economy shut down. Much of our human “hard wiring” is naturally simpatico with culture change. Its less a matter of creating a healthy way to live, its more a matter of acting in our own self interest, reclaiming our own potential and building on the work of others! Suburbia can be a place for eco culture change to happen! All the ingredients are there- land, people, potential and need.
Close to Home
In Eugene, there are dozens of examples of culture change in suburban settings. Each is a nucleus in its own area. When people see what a good idea and how much fun suburban conversion is, many will activate. Deepening economic, social and resource trends will provide even more incentive.
My next door neighbor had his gravel driveway dug out - removing the packed gravel- and replacing it with good garden soil. There is garden where there was a driveway. They also have added a fair amount of edible landscaping in front. Neighbors over two other fences have started small gardens. A fellow down the street bought a half acre lot behind his house. He is in the process of turning the property into fruit and veggie production and at the same time, reclaiming an old small barn on site to live in. Joe's 3 bedroom suburban house and his new adjoining property could become a co-op supporting many of the needs of eight to ten people. Neighbors could take down bordering fences and join in.
In the 'Hood
Around the neighborhood there are many other models of eco culture change. Another neighbor on the street has PV panels, a couple dozen chickens and a wonderful diverse garden with an impressive variety of grafted apple trees. He is a Methodist minister and well known for organizing local churches and a synagogue into a network on behalf of community supported agriculture [CSA] farms. A block a- way, another friend has a large straw bale studio for yoga and community gatherings. The site also has a gray water system, garden, pond, small orchard and a longer term ambitious permaculture site plan.
Several blocks away, another friend has turned a garage into a very cozy rental. Her back yard has become a nascent food producing powerhouse with raised beds along with many fruit and nut trees planted. She has built a great chicken habitat and attached shed with green house to be added. A rain water system is in the plans as well. The owner is a single, middle aged woman with modest income. There are more conversion projects with overt culture change intentions within a ten minute bike ride.
Mark's place. At the beginning of transforming a one acre suburban property. Taking out the driveway in favor of future orchard.
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Land use bike tours are popular in Eugene. Recent tours have seen up to 75
people biking and walking from place to place to learn about making changes
to their own properties and their own lives. There are so many creative conversion
projects around town there is need for multiple tours. Its great to see grass
traded for gardens, reclaiming car space for people and food, rain water systems,
collaborative efforts and turning something neglected into something productive
Larger scale examples of conversion exist. One couple I know owns two adjacent properties. They have taken the fences down merging the sites, creating a pleasant meandering water course and have built artful raised garden beds. Kindred spirited house mates add up to an eco artist cluster. They also have been organizing a funky neighborhood art walk every month for several years- walkable culture. Several blocks from them is a residential housing co-op dating back to the 1970's. The co-op owns nine properties and can manage its holdings in ways individual properties would find difficult.
People living in town houses can garden at other locations of the co-op. Many residents don't have cars and those who do, cluster park them which allowed for one ten car parking lot to be removed ten years ago, the space is now a garden. There are shared laundry facilities, child care and a sauna. Co-op policy is made by members. The co-op has a community room that is available to the neighborhood.
East Blair Co-op shows a bit of what Block Planning can look like. [see photo below] A Block Plan [BP] is an agreement made by residents and property owners on the block. The city and particular neighborhood organization would be involved in the planning as well. A Block Plan identifies changes to be made on the block and over what period of time. A block plan can satisfy city code requirements in more creative and positive ways than single property conversion.
Block Planning- one possibility. Before, yellow- concrete to remove.
After, green- new edible landscaping, blue- new building infill. brown- garages
reclaimed for good use. Graphic image credit - Mike Pease.
East Blair Housing Co-op in Eugene. Fewer autos to provide parking for allowed a former parking lot to be turned into a garden. Block Planning could facilitate many such benefits. More on Block Planning at www.suburbanpermaculture.org
East Blair Garden. Site of former parking lot. A small example of what Block Planning has to offer.
The upshot is, there is opportunity to make much better use of the block when interested parties can work together. Block plans and informal agreements between neighbors can be remarkable places for permaculture design and community building. Cars might be cluster parked [shared and reduced in number] which would allow for driveways and garages to find productive uses. All kinds of creative ideas could evolve such as small businesses, gardens, community spaces, increased residential density and cooperative efforts.
Block Planning and informal agreements among neighbors open up wonderful opportunities for eco culture change. More on Block Planning at www.suburbanpermaculture.org
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Eco Logical Culture Change offers a new direction for taking care of human needs. Capitalism as we know it, along with its prolific and essential external costs cannot be a partner.
Considering the monumental misfortunes global capitalism has already delivered along with deepening and alarming trends in climate change, resource depletion and economic disarray, to name only a few; eco logical culture change should be off the charts with popularity. Further, the timid responses, at best, to these deepening challenges from mainstream economic and government entities, serves to emphasize the fundamental need for individuals, neighborhoods and ad hoc groups of resourceful people to take the initiative for creating a way of life that affirms the human spirit and that planet earth can sustain.
A quirk of the human experience called suburbia is ready for a new role in dramatic contrast to its original assignment. There is human potential, there is land and there is need. Much of suburbia, nation wide, is a place where barriers can come down and eco logical culture can go up.
External costs- melting glaciers.
Olympia, Wa. Grub Urban farm. Education, CSA, food cultivation and uplift in the neighborhood.
Allen explains cooperative home ownership at Duma House.
Bike tour in Eugene to see existing models of eco culture change.
Alley Repair. A muddy alley becomes a neighborhood asset with native plantings. Management, initiative and time made to do it. Kids love the place.
Neighbors meet, building community.
Intersection Repair. Portland, Or. Reclaiming auto space for humans.
Churches support local farms, "Thats My Farmer" in Eugene. Local economics and building community. Communities of faith should be in the vanguard of eco culture change.
Contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org
Author's website home page.
search permaculture, intersection repair, Grub Farm, School Garden Project, Thats My Farmer