Natural disasters are big news. When they are not in your backyard, they are worrisome and exciting at the same time. When they actually reach your backyard, then all of a sudden they become your foremost concern.
Here in the Midwest we don’t have many of the hurricanes, tsunamis, oil spills, or tornadoes, that plaque the rest of the world, but we do have a number of high profile environmental issues at stake. The one that is actually in my backyard is the Frack Sand Mining issue. This issue became the first and foremost thing on my mind a little over a year ago, when my wife and I heard and saw an ugly site: Huge drilling rigs making a loud rackets for days on end as they created deep holes in our neighbors property, searching for that incredibly valuable perfectly round quart sand used in the frack sand mining industry, This sand is sent in a slurry form into fractures in the earth’s crust to hydraulically create fissures that allow the frack miners to extract natural gas. All around our little oasis hundreds of acres are being purchased or leased by newly minted frack sand mining operations from farmers looking to make some money from this new lucrative industry. These operations will pay a lot of money to lease or own (they would rather lease so they don’t have to repair the site) this land, more then triple what land prices are going for around here.
Basically what they do is dig up all the top soil and “overburden” (silt, clay, rocks) down to the frack sand, which is generally many meters below the surface, pile the topsoil to one side and the overburden to another, proceed to pile all the sand into one huge gleaming sandpile, clean it at a processing plant that utilizes enormous amounts of ground water (polluting it in the process), and then all this sand is trucked to a distribution center somewhere on the railway system. This new sand industry is creating a few jobs and an enormous burden on the local infrastructure. The frack sand mining companies try to mitigate the burden by paying for the upkeep of a handful of road miles, but of course they cannot replace the beautiful glacial rolling hills of our area that they dig up, nor can they facilitate restoration of the farming culture that is slowly fading, due to many other reasons as well.
I don’t believe that all the people involved in this industry are bad people, necessarily. My neighbor is a frack sand trucker and he’s a good guy. Most of the farmers around here are up to their eyeballs in debt, because that is how the system is played, so they see a way out of the debt by selling of their land or just part of it. Local folks see better-paying jobs with more possibilities and dignity then a job at a fast food place or a factory. It is a complex issue, but one in which everyone is passionate. We are all defensive of our back yard in some way or another.
I’ve been watching movies and the news about the catastrophes that have happened lately. I had stopped for a number of years due to being so busy that all these wild stories seemed to be happening in another universe. The BP oil spills, Hurricane Katrina, the Haiti earthquake, the tsunami in Japan, it goes on and on. And with an ever growing urban population and environmental instability do to many complex factors, I don’t see the trend for increased weather and industry related disasters changing any time soon.
I also seem to be injuring myself a lot lately. Perhaps it is a sign of me becoming an old man, but it also a refresher course in understanding my own limited physical body and my eventual mortality.
Obviously it would make sense if we all had access to our own sources of clean water, energy, food, shelter. Most of us rely on the grid so much we don’t even know what to do with ourselves when it goes out. It seems to me that the political will to change this cultural paradigm to a model far more resilient is almost completely lacking. The main industries spend enormous amounts of money and have amassed too much political power for anything to rapidly change on a political level.
On the other hand, we’ve seen amazing examples of community building with Rob Hopkin’s efforts to build the Transition Town movement. And locally, we have an amazing leader in restoration agriculture, Mark Shepard at New Forest Farm, who is leading the way in creating resilient farm-scale systems here. There are many amazing leaders in the sustainable agricultural world who are making huge changes in how the world sees food production and creating a resilient agriculture. On our own smaller scale here on LTD Farm and throughout the network of our peers, we are all creating models of what it means to be small scale farmers, gardeners, builders, and permaculture designers. It’s all looking very promising and amazing to me.
But then I look at the environmental and societal disasters that are taking place and realize that maybe all of our utopian dreams of self-sufficient resilient communities with perennial pasture-based agriculture are not going to work out if these situations grow in intensity. Maybe it will all look a little more Walking Dead then Gilligan’s Island.
I don’t like to look at the negative and despair. I take my inspiration from my body; no matter how hard I abuse it, it wants to heal. It responds to injury with a complex system of restoration strategies and regenerative tools. On this note, I propose a strategy to begin to address the realities laying ahead of us, in the decline of Peak Oil and the truths of Climate Change.
Our bio-regions are all unique. Those folks who live in a bioregion know it it like no other. They also have much more invested in the health and well-being of it then any other group. I propose forming core teams within bio-regions within Transition Town Initiatives of skilled permaculturalists, and all the other practices that have the skills and abilities to rapidly regenerate a landscape and its community
You could consider the team a hybrid of the A-Team, NEMA, Permablitz, and CCC. Okay, maybe not so much the A-Team. But in any case, let’s call it the R-Team: Rapid Restoration Response Team.
At a bare minimum the team would consist of:
An experienced Permaculture Designer / Practical Skillset
A Food and Nutrition Expert / Professional Chef
A Builder / Focused on Sustainable & Natural Techniques
Medical Expert / Paramedic, Naturopath, Herbalist
Engineer / Engines, Electric
Psychologist / Social Worker
In general it would seem that the more skilled and passionate people involved, the better the Team would be.
The R-Team could also spearhead restoration projects on degraded sites. They could contract with municipalities to renovate public spaces in the appropriate manner for a resilient and abundant future. There are many tasks ahead of us for the R-Team.
We all are busy working hard on our own projects, on our own farms, our businesses, or we go to our jobs and do the best we can every day to make our lives good lives. It’s hard to make time to better the world outside our own as well. Maybe this concept would be helpful as a loose organizing arrangement in preparation of unforeseen events.
Let me know if you have any thoughts.