Environmental Literature | Social Justice | Sustainable Futures
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The goal of culturally relevant pedagogy in teaching high school science is to create a sense of self in the content taught. Teachers can use science to investigate the differences between various cultures to make the content meaningful to all students including minorities. Scientific knowledge should be accessible, relatable, and applicable to every person across the whole globe regardless of skin color or cultural background. Many influential people and scientists from different backgrounds and cultures have shaped our scientific knowledge which has been overshadowed by the western designed textbooks. By implementing culturally relevant material into the science classroom we can support our students as agents of change for the unpredictable future of this earth.

http://www.onlineuniversities.com/blog/2012/06/10-startling-stats-about-minorities-stem/

A significant remnant of great depression era redlining is the disparity in the green spaces in different parts of Durham, and cities alike. This serves as an emblem of institutionalized discrimination due to the fact that the placement of trees and parks is based on decades old boundaries that were constructed to hinder the movement of African-American people. These boundaries continue to exist as an obstacle to African-American liberation due to the lack of green spaces leading to lower quality air, lack of biodiversity, and a decline in overall mental happiness. Through a stop motion video, the impact of this injustice is explained through voice over and visuals. This video serves as a demonstration of how already marginalized peoples will be the first to experience the powerful effects of environmental neglect.

Are “rebel” factions of government departments a contemporary form of political activism, or are today’s “rogue” Twitter accounts just novel iterations of a recurring trend in social movements? I review the historical precedent for government groups operating in subversive or counterproductive ways when members disagree with the views, decisions, or goals of the president and his administration. Then I trace the history of the “rogue” Twitter accounts that began to appear following Donald Trump’s inauguration, from their inception to the different identities and purposes that they have begun to forge for themselves. By understanding these activists as part of a long succession of rebellious government employees, we can paint a more complete picture of the complex interplay between presidential administrations and the rest of the executive branch as they are forced to reconcile contradictory or incongruent ideologies to achieve their various objectives.

Permaculture

April 6th, 2017 | Posted by Nanki Singh in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

The same stream of life that runs through my veins night and day

runs through the world and dances in rhythmic measures.

It is the same life that shoots in joy through the dust of the earth

in numberless blades of grass and breaks into tumultuous waves

of leaves and flowers.

It is the same life that is rocked in the ocean-cradle of birth and of death,

in ebb and in flow.

I feel my limbs are made glorious by the touch of this world of life.

And my pride is from the life-throb of ages dancing in my blood

this moment.

– Tagore (Translated from the Bengali poem ‘Praan’. Praan simply means life.)

The dots on the map -marking places where permaculture is being practiced- are multiplying, slowly but steadily. Although the permaculture edifice is an old one, it is beginning to see an increase in the awareness of its principles and benefits only today. What was once considered a lifestyle choice for a few, not too long ago, based off a set of ethics, principles and techniques, is now starting to look like a movement.

Permaculture sounds complex, in theory and in practice. And perhaps this is because its flirtation with the average human has always been so discreet. There are no lobbies, no demonstrations and certainly no fuss surrounding it. Yet, it is omnipresent, manifesting itself in so many ways, we just have no idea. And most of all, it works!

When I think of the word ‘Permaculture’ a weird notion comes to my mind. I think of innovation and I see the word ‘intrepid’ sitting next to it. And next to intrepid, it’s their distant cousin ‘creativity’. They must sit together on a bench, perhaps a loveseat, and it is their conversation that can make a change, that engenders exactly what permaculture is. Yet, in this time and age, why does a large segment of our society still remain so curiously resistant to innovation in this respect? Permaculture is after all a science. It is basic biology put into practice. Permaculture urges us, not to a rustic existence bound by rigid cultural constraints, but to local cooperative farming and industry, progressive education and renewed culture and creativity. As stated in the movie “Inhabit” the appeal of permaculture is that, it isn’t just allowing us to continue living by  maintain a status quo with the current levels of detriment we have caused to the environment. But, its ameliorating, healing and soothing to the earth, in addition to satisfying our needs and wants to a large extent. We have been asking for an answer, to scale back all the damage we have done, and the answer has been right in front of us all along. All that is left to do now is to act. Act before it is too late.

Large Scale Permaculture

April 3rd, 2017 | Posted by Riley Cohen in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

After watching the documentary Inhabit, I was thoroughly impressed with permaculture’s ability to produce different types of vegetation without the environmental harms of large-scale, commercial farms. However, I was left with one, very important question: how can permaculture be scaled so that it can nourish the world? After doing some research, I found it no surprise that many other people share my curiosity. Evan Wiig, the director of the Farmer’s Guild, claims that “there are many constraints on professional farmers that exist beyond production techniques,” to which permaculture pays too little attention, like land access, food safety regulations, labor costs, global competition, and fickle markets.” (Roman-Alcala) Given these constraints, it would be very difficult for permaculture to override the commercial farming industry, at least from a purely short-term economic analysis.

 

That being said, Wiig also claims that permaculture has a lot of potential. However, in order to fully utilize that potential, it is necessary for a major change in the way citizens of developed countries obtain their food to occur. In the book Sacred Economics, Charles Eisenstein discusses how commercial agriculture is not set up to maximize the yield per square acre, but is set up to maximize the yield per unit of labour. This is because, currently, less than two percent of the population of the United States of America is engaged in agriculture. (Bureau of Labor Statistics) The constraining factor here is sheer labour power. Eisenstein estimates that the U.S. would be able to feed its entire population without the use of pesticides or growth hormones if ten percent of the population was engaged in agriculture.

 

The question then becomes, is it feasible for one in every ten Americans to either be full-time agriculture employees or to considerable incorporate agriculture into their daily lives. The answer to this question depends on how you perceive the future of American culture. If we would like to continue the status quo, then the answer is no. There are way too many important economic sectors that cannot afford to transfer eight percent of all employees in the US to the agriculture sector. However, given that the current way we farm is not sustainable, we may have no choice but to change the way we obtain food.

 

Works Cited:

 

Alcala, Antonio Roman. “Can Permaculture Disrupt America’s Farm Landscape?” Civil Eats. N.p., 25 Apr. 2016. Web. 03 Apr. 2017.

 

“Employment by Major Industry Sector.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 08 Dec. 2015. Web. 03 Apr. 2017.

 

Eisenstein, Charles. Sacred Economics: Money, Gift, and Society in the Age of Transition. N.p.: Readhowyouwant.com, 2011. Online.

Permaculture & Biomimicry

April 2nd, 2017 | Posted by John Desan in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

Whenever I got a cut that bleed when I was a kid, I would ask my dad how long it would be until my cut would heal. He would almost always answer “soon, the human body does a fantastic job at healing itself.” This quote echoes the principle that “nature heals itself better than anything else.” The concept of permaculture reminds me of how mimicking “the patterns and relationships found in nature” creates useful products for people because nature truly does it better. This concept is known as biomimicry.

Velcro came from copying what the structure of a bur. A bur is seed or dry fruit that hooks or teeth. These types of seed easily latch on to animal fur so that the seeds can be carried and dispersed across long distances. Inventors realized that we can use multiple sets of these hooks and create a strong attachable fabric product. Qualcomm, a semiconductor and telecommunications equipment company, used the reflective properties of the Morpho butterflies’ wing to make a new display technology. This type of butterfly creates its colors because of microstructures in the wing that use the process of structural coloration instead of pigmentation. Qualcomm was able to create a display that reflects light so only the desired color is visible in each individual pixel.

The shark is my personal favorite animal used in Biomimicry. The shark is one the most incredible animals in the animal kingdom. The United States Navy has been trying to unlock the secret of sharks’ hydrodynamic body shape so theirs ships hauls can glide through the water easier. These same scientists are also interested in finding out how shark’s skin never has barnacles on it because barnacles cost the military millions in increased drag (ships requires more fuel to go a distance) and cleaning costs. Medical scientists study the sharks skin and immune systems. Shark’s skin is able to grow back faster than almost any animal because of how quickly denticles are replaced. The sharks immune system is able to fight off cancer & arthritis, as well as detoxify bacterial, fungal, anthropogenic and environmental toxins.

 

Qualcomm: https://www.qualcomm.com/news/onq/2010/01/07/nature-knows-best

Sharks: http://www.elasmo-research.org/education/topics/p_wound.htm   

Good Footprints

April 1st, 2017 | Posted by Margaret Overton in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

Each person, from the farmers to the founders of the movement, seemed to struggle with defining the term “permaculture.” I want to add in my own attempt. To me, the defining characteristics of permaculture are the integration of modern lifestyles, technologies, and structures with certain core philosophies: minimizing waste, maximizing efficiency, balance within the ecosystem, diversity, and overall a sense of harmony and symbiosis within the system. In a word, it’s synergy; it’s the blending of old with new and the reciprocal cycles of life, death, destruction, and creation anew. It means taking what we have now–small yards, depleted soil, miles upon miles of empty rooftops, runoff from streets, and a system that cannot endure forever–and infusing them with life and purpose and energy.

I’m torn between my belief that it takes widespread investment and effort to bring about change and my desire to make a significant impact. But lately, I’ve begun to realize that you can do both. One garden in someone’s backyard can feed a city block; a single rain garden can prevent gallons upon gallons of water from entering sewers and contaminating ecosystems; one roof can do both of these and more. I’m someone who is very grounded in reality, and I tend to be most impacted by documentaries and true stories; I found Before the Flood to be much more motivating than Pumzi. Similarly, I found Inhabit to be incredibly inspiring because it turned a seemingly impossible problem into something that can be approached one step at a time, person by person, through a philosophy and an approach that would be appealing even without an environmental crisis to consider. Instead of discouraging me, it gave me hope and a way to make a difference even if I am alone in my efforts.

Mostly, as I watched, I was overwhelmed by the green everywhere. It must be an evolutionary trait, to be so calm and content just at the sight of leaves, grass, trees, plants– green. Here, finally, is a vision of a way out of the hole humanity has dug for itself. The path runs through every discipline, from public policy to education to engineering to psychology to chemistry to philosophy to urban planning to agriculture to biology to architectural design, and yet it is simple enough that anyone with enough determination can walk along it. I want to live in a world dappled by trees overhead, with each footstep muffled by grass, and permaculture puts the power to work towards that directly into my inexperienced yet willing hands. Rather than focusing on the problems we face, we must begin to look forwards and look around us and see the good that is being done to do “more good” rather than just “less bad.” Ben Falk put it best: what if footprints were something you wanted to leave behind?

perma-what?

April 1st, 2017 | Posted by Jessica Marlow in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

We’re sitting in Francesca’s, a quaint little cafe on 9th street. The walls are purple, bedecked with colorful paintings, and bouncing with laughter and conversation. I’m sitting across from my college advisor happily chatting about my current classes when the word “permaculture” enters the conversation. At this, my advisor stops me – “perma-what”?

Frankly, less than one week ago, I was in the same position. What is permaculture? I had heard of agriculture, of course, of industrialized planting. I have discussed CAFOs at length and horticulture in my spare time. But permaculture? The word brought to mind images of “permafrost” and the Arctic. Little did I know that permaculture is a form of “permanent” + “agriculture.” More than simply promoting sustainability and the idea of doing less bad, permaculture endorses actively doing good, mimicking natural patterns and relationships found within nature itself. As exhibited in the film Inhabit, permaculture can take on countless shapes and forms, ranging from Ben Falk, the self-sustaining homestead farmer from Vermont who makes farming look far more attractive than I ever thought possible, to Mark Shephard who makes his livelihood off of a perennial agricultural forest, to suburban gardens, to rain gardens along the streets of New Jersey. Our current approach to permaculture is founded on three core ethical principles: “care for the earth,” “care for people,” and “fair share,” established as part of the Permaculture Design Course, a manual which helps people like myself who had zero exposure to the concept of permaculture create their own form of agriculture, tailored to their lifestyle but sharing the same kind of positive impact.

Interestingly, though the term “permaculture” has a very short history, with the term first coined in the 1970s, permaculture principles fueled much of history’s agriculture. For example, the Three Sisters farming method which grows squash, corn, and beans together and is currently used by Susana Kaye Lein on Salamander Springs Farm – as shown in the film Inhabit – was widespread in Native American societies and used by the Iroquois as trade goods. This goes to show that in calling ecologically friendly “advances” may not actually be so innovative, but rather a return to earlier times in which people and Mother Earth coexisted more peaceably.

Make Change Happen

April 1st, 2017 | Posted by Victoria Grant in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

Human activity changes the environment and now we are changing the world at unprecedented rates.  Climate change is a huge problem that seems too daunting to tackle at times. With politicians being too busy arguing whether it exists and scientists attempting to create extravagant solutions, it seems impossible to fix. Big corporation pump pollutants into waterways and the atmosphere daily and turning on the car to drive to work creates a carbon footprint crisis for the individual. There does not appear to be any solution but, permaculture shows there is another alternative to living an environmental friendly life.

Permaculture changes the culture’s mindset of reducing waste to not producing waste. The ideas involved with permaculture emphasize using the environment to do the work and let nature work for you without altering it. When properly being practiced, individuals could grow their own food (and food for others), reduce their waste, and purify the air without drastically changing the environment. The gardens shown in the documentary, Inhabit, clearly were more productive and sustainable but, involved less work. They were proof that sustainable farming can exist it just involves a change in mindset. As a culture, we want what we want: corn, beef, or pecans. We grow things not native to the area and damage the environment to keep up with the demand. If we were to change our ideology, we could support a lifestyle that does not just lower our footprint but, creates a green one.

The solutions for climate change are here. Yes, some large-scale actions will have to be taken but, little things like a permaculture garden help. Using bikes to collect garbage or installing beehives make a difference. We need to stop sitting around thinking there is nothing we can do as an individual. Demand change through our actions: great movements always started with one.

Permaculture at Home

April 1st, 2017 | Posted by Brielle Tobin in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

As someone who grew up surrounded with monoculture and year-round hostile weather, I became incredibly inspired from Inhabit and our discussions on permaculture. So of course, I scoured the web to see if anyone from my glorious state of Wyoming had braved the years of trial and error to create a permaculture design to work in the sagebrush and pine covered, notoriously wind-blown landscape. It turns out, the only permaculture center in Wyoming resides in my hometown of Casper! The owner, Laurel Graham, keeps a blog of not only the environmental, nutritional, and social benefits of permaculture, but also of her intense appreciation of the peace that living off and with the land gives her. I learned through her blog and through this film about the vibrancy and the passion behind the practice and design of permaculture, and how it is something extremely special.

As volunteering at the Duke Farm was my first exposure to anything farming wise, I finally learned how I love caring for and having a hand in creating life, not to mention the rewarding act of contributing to a process that benefits both the Duke and the Durham communities. As inspiring stories of healthy and local food that benefits us in tandem with the environment mount, the only next step is for me to call my parents and start to work on transforming our backyard in a way none of us thought possible.