Category Archives: Sustainability

Lessons from the Incas

This week the Nature Boy is thankful for the ancient Peruvians.  Everything
that’s been going on in the backyard lately, they did it first, and better, too.  More specifically, I’m referring to my attempts at:

1.  Growing (massive amounts of) sweet potatoes

2.  Storing, capturing, and distributing water for growing food

This moment of recognition-gratitude came as I gazed out at the terraces I’d constructed on the left side of our sloped backyard.  I looked at the sweet potato shoots sprouting out of them, and thought of those tiny tubers growing under the ground.  I licked my lips in anticipation of the fall harvest.  (My obsession with the sweet potatoes is well-documented.)

Sweet potatoesThe sweet potato was originally cultivated in  South America, where remains of Peruvian sweet potatoes have been found going back almost 10,000 years.  It has quite a history, but I’m just thankful that it made its way to the North American continent.

Looking at the terraces, I started thinking about the elaborate stone-faced terraces that the Incas constructed on the sides of mountains.  They used them for the same reasons I’m using them:  to minimize erosion, to capture water for growing food, and to create usable gardening space in a sloped environment.

This week’s trip to the library took me to South America, where I’ve been reading about the history of ancient Andean irrigation systems like the Puquios, a system of aqueducts near Nazca, Peru.  It’s been fascinating to read about how people tapped subterranean aquifers to create wells and develop drip irrigation systems.

As for the sweet potato,  we’ll probably never know exactly how it got from  South America to North Carolina. DeSoto writes about finding them in Louisiana in the 1540s.  Several of our regional Indian tribes grew them, including the Creek, Cherokee, Saura, and Tuscarora. Today North Carolina leads the nation in sweet potato production.


Outlawing sustainability

The states of Kansas and North Carolina have a lot more in common than a shared basketball legacy.  They also have  legislatures that are embarrassing the good people of both states.  While  the exploits of our own Tarheel Taliban have been making national headlines lately, the Kansas State Legislature has too.  It’s hard to believe, but they have actually proposed a bill outlawing sustainability.

The bill, HB 2366, would outlaw the use of public funds for sustainability efforts. It defines sustainability as  “a mode of human development in which resource use aims to meet human needs while preserving the environment so that these needs can be met not only in the present, but also for generations to come, but not to include the idea, principle or practice of conservation or conservationism.”
A recent article pointed out that this very definition of sustainability was lifted verbatim from the Brundtland Report, published by the United Nations World Commission on Environment and Development in 1987.  ( I had no idea this document even existed, or that today the U.N. has it’s own Commission for Sustainable Development.)

The sponsor of the bill,  Kansas Rep. Dennis Hedke (R-Wichita) last year supported a resolution condemning the U.N.’s Agenda 21 sustainability plan.
Hedke, a geophysicist and oil contractor,  is chair of the State Committee on Energy and Environment.  Koch Industries, which happens to be the second-largest privately-held company in the U.S.,  is listed as one of the top contributors to his campaign.