Environmental Literature | Social Justice | Sustainable Futures

Blog #9 – Kevin Bhimani

March 31st, 2017 | Posted by Kevin Bhimani in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

Kevin Bhimani Blog #9 3/31/17


“Permanent-Permutable Permacultural Futures”


By reading about Permaculture and especially getting an in-depth look by watching Inhabit, it is hard to argue that there is any better way to plan for the future. The whole idea behind Permaculture is rooted in the notion that it is “permanent agriculture” so that all of the needs that plants have are met by the natural world. I think one of the most intriguing concepts behind it is thinking about how nature works and getting a true understanding as to how the different parts function. It is a very difficult task to do and seeing the ways in which people have come up with entire farms based off of nothing but rethinking the way in which they organize, design, and populate in order to ensure success for what they hope is eternity. Essentially recreating an ecosystem that nobody can teach you how to make—you simply have to observe “the teacher” in a forest for example and figure out a way to engineer your space to fit those loose guidelines. It is really an interesting concept and it was incredible to see people like the man on the rooftop garden having a very well thought out design for his space even with bees for natural pollinators, or the group harvesting mushrooms on logs in the forest, needing nothing else but the sunlight and natural ecosystem to grow them. The movement is something that could transform the way in which we source our food as it requires such essentially no power, and currently every form of mass food production uses tons of energy. If we move to having our own food sources or even have food that is produced with no power, we will be able to thrive as a society with the ability to make food and harvest other resources just like they used to do it. It reduces our carbon footprint as a people and prolongs our time on this planet—something that seems like a no-brainer situation.

One particular vignette from Inhabit captured my attention: there are over one million rooftops in New York, and each year the city dumps thirty billion tons of sewage water into local bodies of water. As a response, more and more groups are installing rooftop gardens.

Immediately, I grasped the brilliance of this idea. The essence of permaculture, what easier way is there to mutually benefit humans and the environment? Rooftop landscaping could produce a massive carbon sink, save on air conditioning costs, provide new habitats to animals, as well as stimulate the psychological perk we derive from green spaces. Without limiting rooftop cultivation to simply a garden, it is not beyond the realm of possibility that one day New York and our other metropoles could host a forest in the sky.

Permaculture is all about finding sustainable solutions and living symbiotically alongside nature rather than siphoning its many gifts, and large scale rooftop cultivation fits the bill. The idea is not outlandish or without precedent: the Persians were famed for their Hanging Gardens of Babylon. If people are able to recognize the ease with which such a concept can be facilitated, it might not be long before the “concrete jungle” has equal emphasis on the second word as the first.

Mark Shepard’s insistence on returning the land to its “natural form and function,” while still producing food drew me to his style of permaculture. Regarding his 106-acre perennial farm, he made the point that, “if we were to disappear tomorrow, this land would continue producing food for thousands of years.” It blew my mind. Inspired by Shepard, I called my parents and asked to try permaculture in our yard at home. I said, “It’s like our regular garden, but instead we plant only perennials.” I went on to share my limited knowledge about topsoil disruption, pesticide use, and the productivity of the permaculture farms from the movie. Amazingly, they didn’t say no.

My parents have agreed to plant five new food-producing perennials before summer, on the condition that they are native to North Carolina. As the financial share-holders and creators of my life, they generously delegated the research of indigenous plants to me. The list below shows my preliminary findings, all of which are native to the piedmont region and courtesy of the North Carolina Native Plant Society.

  1. Pecan tree (nut-producing)
  2. Shagbark hickory tree (nut-producing)
  3. Beech tree (nut-producing)
  4. Hazel tree (nut-producing)
  5. Black tupelo tree (for honey)
  6. Persimmon tree
  7. Black cherry tree
  8. Pawpaw tree
  9. Crabapples
  10. Plums
  11. Wild strawberries
  12. Low bush blueberries
  13. Huckleberries
  14. Blackberries
  15. Raspberries
  16. Fox Grapes

I figure the best way to convince my parents to continue down a permaculture path even long after I’ve grown up and moved more than thirty minutes from home, is to grow what they like. While I am incredibly intrigued by pawpaws, those might best be tested further down the road. I’ll start with persimmons, black cherries, and plums. They are familiar and I’ve seen them grown in Raleigh without difficulty. Additionally, we already have three pecan trees in our backyard, so hazelnuts would be an interesting addition.

I also think that with the right amount of coercion, I can get my dad to agree to put a bee hive in our yard if I also put a black tupelo tree, given his affinity for Tupelo Honey. While the bees may not actually produce pure Tupelo Honey due to the other nectar sources, my dad doesn’t need to know that. It would kill two birds with one stone: planting a perennial, and increasing biodiversity in our yard.

Persimmons, black cherries, plums, hazelnuts, and black tupelo. Those are my five as they stand now. I am in awe of Mark Shepard’s farm, and hope to create a sliver of the good work he does there in my own backyard.


In the middle of an urban area in downtown Raleigh, North Carolina is a small community garden called the Wedge Community Garden. When I was a junior in college I emailed a lady about a potential gardening volunteer position and did not realize at the time how influential it would be on my outlook on permaculture, community gardens, and sharing that with others.  Shamsa Visone and I worked in the garden almost every Saturday during the warmer months growing everything from okra, to cucumbers, tomatoes, carrots, bok choy, garlic, chives, and so much more. We used sustainable farming practices with little chemical pesticides to care for our plants. I learned about composting, the importance of giving back to the soil and making sure all the nutrients were in balance. I also had the wonderful opportunity of working with a high school student and began my interest in being a high school science teacher.

Developing relationships and connecting with high school students can be a challenge. I had the opportunity to connect with a student named Donte during my time at The Wedge Community Garden. Donte had been court ordered volunteer hours and decided to spend some of those working in the garden. I guided him through several projects and I tried to make the laborious process as fun as I could by asking him questions about his life and why soil is important when growing vegetables. At the beginning, he barely answered any of my questions but I did my best to keep asking because I genuinely cared and wanted him to develop a love for gardening. Over time, he began to open up with me and I really felt as if we were making progress not only in the garden but forming a mutually respectful relationship. One weekend without notice, he stopped coming to the garden. Not all of my students will be easy to connect with and each student faces their own challenges but I believe that through never giving up on them I can grow their love for science.

This is one benefit of permaculture and using urban areas to grow anyone’s love for science but also the beautiful earth we live on. I think by turning more areas with degraded soils into areas that produce food is just the beginning of producing a sustainable future in which all people have access to sustainable and wholesome food sources.

Me working in the community garden

Hope as a Catalyst

March 30th, 2017 | Posted by Alyssa Cleveland in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

As I have been drilling chemistry into my head over the past few days for an upcoming exam, I could not help but connect the concepts I am learning in chemistry 101 to concepts that are apparent throughout the environmental humanities. In kinetics, we learn that a catalyst is  substance that is added to a reaction in order to lower the activation energy, and thus speed up the rate of the reaction. I view hope as a catalyst that environmentalist use to find solutions and problem solve. One of the most captivating solutions we have discussed is permaculture. In its simplest description, permaculture is an ethics based way of living that strives to maximize natural benefits of the environment while maintaining a mutualistic relationship with other aspects of ecological systems. These principles are based on the assumption that humans are indeed a part of the the ecosystem and are responsible to make decisions that promote the harmony and respond to the feedback the environment provides. It is common of our current industrial system to ignore this feedback and exploit the environment for the ways in which it can benefit human kind. Permaculture urges the focus on smaller, community based sustainability rather than large scale, exploitative practices which prevail in our agricultural means today. Designing ways to thrive in the long-term in many areas, not just agriculturally, has become the focus of permaculture.

Permaculture looks towards systems in nature and pre-industrial societies in order to create innovative solutions to environmental issues. It is a very poetic way of thinking in that sense; the utilization of the very entity that it strives to protect as a model for its growth and development is ingenious. In the same light it is very logical and rational way of thinking because it looks back in order to look forward. In science and math problems it is imperative to change the given problem so that it looks like a problem that is familiar and has specific, known steps to solve it. By letting the problem of sustainability become as familiar as an ecological system, this allows for specific steps to be taken to solve seemingly mountainous issues.

A key starting point: Wikipedia Article Wizard

From Sydney University Press: Wiki CHEATSHEET

Wikipedia Markup Cheatsheet

Wikipedia Manual of Style (WP:MOS)

How to create Wikipedia entries that will stick

Wiki Rules

Wikipedia’s Principles

From all of the art pieces that we looked at, the collection that struck me the most was the collection that included witty advertisements that exposed the wrongdoings of companies and governments.


The first advertisement of the collection stuck with me. It is pictured below. So, I decided to create an image blog of the Volkswagen (VW) emission scandal.


This is a real VW ad:


VW CEO Martin Winterkorn acknowledging the breadth of the VW scandal:


The scandal explained:




The size of the scandal put into perspective:


There is, however, some hope for humanity:



The words have come today. The stories make living on the sea better, they give me a chance to get away from it. The short works are worth more than any amount of Pagrus-plastious stratus that I can catch. I can tell that It is trying to wipe away my memories so books let me experience new ones.

I fear I will lose my ability to experience sensation to it. 2 years ago when I left, there were hundreds of story-makers. I used to be able to get a story in a few days for a small Mercluccius-plastious australis. But as the tides continue to rise, the story tellers are forced from their homes. No one can write on the sea, that is well known. Now I know of only 5 story makers and the price of their service has has continued to rise as the lengths between receiving stories grow. The balloon captain said that it seems like they will lose all of the native Island story tellers in the next 2 months, so they will try to expand their air routes north in hopes to find new ones.

I remember when anyone could write a story. We were warned that the amount of plastic in the animals we were eating had reach toxic levels but no one listened. No one wanted to change their regular diet. We all said it was to too hard to change our habits but now that we are living like this we realize how stupid we were.

We kept eating and eating and eating. Then, the 1-hour-WAR happened. The plastic was beginning to turn people mad all those decades ago. One of the United States 4 star generals went mad and fired the entire nuclear arsenal on the world. and the world fired back. The radiation from all the bombs caused the temperature of the world to soar and melt every piece of ice on the planet and destroy the Ozone. Waters rose hundreds of feet. What we did not see coming was the effects of the fall-out.

All the plastic inside of us became alive. The same thing happened to the animals and plants. That is why all animals know have “plastious” added on to their scientific name. No one could figure out how the radiation made the plastic alive in us and I do not think we ever will. Everyone is too infected to figure it out.

Now we just wonder the empty oceans waiting for the words. the words that will let us be free for only a moment.

It is becoming stronger, I can tell. It has taken me several weeks to record this and I have already forgotten what I have said in the beginning.

[Source: The Biosphere Foundation]


 [Source: Metrocosm]



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[Last two gifs by me]

[Edit: sorry for the technical difficulties! Finally uploaded the gifs to a proper image hosting site]