Posts Tagged ‘healthy cities’

Guerrilla Grafters: Turning street trees into fruit trees

Posted in Movements by Kate Archdeacon on August 2nd, 2012

Source: The Atlantic Cities

 

From “Should Public Trees Bear Fruit?” by Amy Biegelsen:

There’s a block in San Francisco that will soon be blossoming with cherries, plums and pears, but Tara Hui will not say where. That’s because she’s worried that backlash from city officials or unsympathetic citizens will halt the progress she and her fellow Guerrilla Grafters have made splicing fruit-bearing branches on to city trees.

Grafting trees is as simple as cutting a branch from one kind of tree and sticking it into a notch in another, securing it with sturdy tape and hoping that the new branch thrives. It’s as old as the Bible and widely used today in industrial agriculture.

Hui hopes the method will help bring food to under-served parts of the city like her neighborhood, Visitacion Valley, which she says is basically a food desert.

“There’s a lot of discussion about what kind of policy we need to get businesses to come to this neighborhood to sell fresh produce or even organic,” she says. Over the years she’s advocated for bringing fruit trees into the city’s urban forestry mix. “If all goes well it might even spawn some kind of cottage industry like canning or jamming,” she says.

But first things first.

Her campaign with city agencies hadn’t drawn any takers, “so finally out of frustration I thought why not just do it, and do it responsibly, and that could be a case to convince them,” she says. About a year ago, the Guerrilla Grafters were born as a horizontally organized band of fellow agro-activists who wanted to help sew{sic} an urban orchard.

Hui sees maintaining data as a key element of the project. “It’s difficult to counter an argument without any data to disprove it,” she says. The grafters are working on a mapping application with data on tree type and location in hopes that the citizen science will bolster their project and any future negotiating they may need to do.

[…]

Hui points out that the group is careful to only splice into locations where a volunteer has offered to monitor and maintain the tree, “so it really comes to us rather than us going out looking for it,” she says. Volunteers are watching in neighborhoods from the Sunnydale housing projects to the tony Hayes Valley, vigilant against a pest infestation that could spoil the pilot program.

Read the full article by Amy Biegelsen or visit the Guerrilla Grafters site.


“City Semester”: Learning about climate change and sustainability in the city

Posted in Models by Kate Archdeacon on July 25th, 2012

Source: The Atlantic Cities

From “The High School Curriculum Every Urban Planner Wishes They’d Had” by Nate Berg:

[…]

City Semester is an immersive, city-focused course that combines classwork and field studies for juniors at Fieldston. It’s like other semester away programs run by the school, but instead of sending kids out to the Rocky Mountains or the Maine coast, students in the City Semester program turn their attention to their own neighborhood and city. Meyers has compiled a broad range of teachers from the school to participate, including teachers focusing on history, ethics, language, theater, literature, film, photography and music.

The program is divided into four main sections: sustainability, immigration and difference, power and conflict, and neighborhood and community renewal. This last section is centered around the Bronx River, located a couple miles from the school.

“We wanted to talk about neighborhood formation, and chronologically to talk about the recovery of the Bronx,” Meyers says. “We use the Bronx River as a means of discussing both human and non-human communities.”

One of the main parts of this section of the program consists of a two-day canoe trip down the river. The students collect scientific data about the water and the ecology and make presentations about both the history of the neighborhoods and the development of the river habitats. Meyers says this approach pulls in what the students are learning and relates it to things they see in their day-to-day experiences and the neighborhoods around them.

“Adolescents are at a place in their lives where understanding the relevance of what they’re learning can make an enormous difference in terms of their engagement,” Meyers says.

The program looks broadly at the city as a subject, even looking into the policies and politics that are driving change in New York. Meyers took the class to meet with officials from the city’s Department of Transportation to hear about the planning and implementation of bike lanes throughout the city. Then they rented bikes and rode the lanes. Meyers says this hands-on approach helps students to see the various ways what they’re learning can be applied in real-life situations.

And if delving into city politics isn’t enough to add a little more stress to high schoolers’ lives, one of the sections of the course had students role-playing and problem-solving their way through some not-too-far-off disaster scenarios brought on as a result of climate change. Rising sea levels create a flood in lower Manhattan that causes a blackout, in this scenario. During the power outage, a rumored hostage situation at the United Nations causes the whole subway system to shut down. Students had to imagine they were stuck in their school for 3 days – and to cope with all the logistical and psychological impacts such a situation would cause. They even engaged in community design charrettes to come up with feasible retrofit ideas that can help communities handle the potential threats they’ll face as the climate continues to change.

This section of the course was taught earlier this year by Alec Appelbaum, a journalist who’s covered urban planning for years. He says that high schoolers are maybe the ideal audience for this sort of lesson.

“They’re going to be living with the consequences of the misdirected debate that’s gone on about climate change,” says Appelbaum. “The carbon overload in the atmosphere is something that young people didn’t particularly cause and will have to survive.”

[…]

Read the full article by Nate Berg.


Planting a Stormwater-Fed Food Forest in the City

Posted in Movements by Kate Archdeacon on October 24th, 2011


The site in May 2009.


Two years later.

From “Suburban Dryland Forest Garden” on Permacultureglobal:

I love the forest, but I live in the city. Since I don’t get to the wildlands nearly enough, my goal has been to create an edible forest throughout the city where I live.  To me, it only makes sense to grow food where people live, and since a gargantuan number of people live in cities, it’s due time to get urban food systems established. Having worked in large scale annual agriculture I’m much more inclined to grow food in the semblance of a perennial forest. […]

There were many challenges to contend with for this garden. First was a mature black walnut that succumbed to thousand canker disease.  The city required that the tree be taken down as soon as possible to stem the spread of the disease.[…]

We sheet mulched this area heavily, up to 18 inches in places, as adding organic matter is reportedly the best way to lock-up and break down allelopathic chemicals [from the black walnut]. We used cardboard from the local bike shop to smother the bluegrass lawn, cow manure from a local ranch for fertility, leaves the client had collected over the years, and cast-off strawbales. The soil is now a nicely assimilated, dark and crumbly consistency. We harvested the runoff from nearly half of the house roof surface to gravity feed through four infiltration basins as the sole irrigation source. While most landscapes in Boulder are over-irrigated with municipally treated water, this garden harvests almost 10,000 gallons of rainwater annually to passively infiltrate into the soil, requiring zero municipal water post establishment. […]

We mulched the basins heavily with woodchips from a local tree trimmer to absorb the rainwater, reduce evaporation, and to prevent creating mosquito breeding habitat. Previously the water ran down the driveway and into the street only to evaporate in summer or ice up in winter. After three months of hand irrigation for plant establishment this garden now thrives strictly on harvested rainwater. After first digging the water harvesting earthworks, then planting the trees and shrubs, and following with sheet mulch, we planted various other useful plant species for nitrogen fixation, nutrient accumulation, pest confusion, and beneficial insect attraction. Most of the species have edible or medicinal qualities as well. […]

The growth in this garden is fantastic, and even better the homeowner has become a sincere advocate for rainwater harvesting and forest gardening. It has been two years since the garden was installed and it is encouraging to see the abundant results of needing no irrigation, producing food, creating wildlife habitat, being a great place to bring students, and simply being beautiful. This garden is an awesome place to eat, observe, and be! The scale of the garden is only 750 sq. ft. and is therefore easily and affordably replicated. With extremely low maintenance and no continuous irrigation cost, this garden has attracted other city dwellers to extend the edible forest ecosystem to other yards and neighborhoods. Perhaps the greatest yield from this garden is the food forest revolution that it has inspired!

Read the full article (including plant details) on Permacultureglobal.com


Public Rainwater Systems: Childrens’ Playground

Posted in Models by Kate Archdeacon on October 10th, 2011


Photo © Aspect Studios

The new development by Aspect Studios at Darling Quarter in Sydney recently featured on the InDesignLive website.  At the heart of the site is a children’s playground with heaps of things for kids to play on, climb up or mess around with.  At ground level there are stepping stones of various heights, looking much like tidal pools along a beach, and there’s an enormous rope climbing frame.  Site-harvested rainwater irrigates the playground and the surrounding public parkland, and is also used in the industrial-looking water features from Germany.  Low-energy lighting is used for night lighting.

The harvesting systems and related quality controls for the use of rainwater on this public site must be quite highly resolved – does anyone know of other examples (especially in Australia) where rainwater is used for play as well as for irrigation?  KA

Read the article on the InDesignLive site.

 


Collaboration for Urban Renewal in Quebec

Posted in Models by Kate Archdeacon on September 27th, 2011

Source: Nourishing the Planet: Worldwatch Institute


Photo: Jardin St Roch by meddygarnet via flickr CC

From “Citywatch: Quebec City uses food as pioneer species of urban revival” by Wayne Roberts:

I’ve long felt that Quebec deserves to be known as one of the world’s best examples of an oppressed minority – commonly referred to as “pepsi’s” and “French Niggers of North America” as recently as the 1960s – who’ve made it economically while enriching their traditional culture and distinctive identity. My chance overnight stay gave me a glimpse of the secret formula behind this success. Ironically, it’s very close to the strategy proposed in Jeb Brugmannn’s recent book, Welcome to the Urban Revolution, arguably one of the most important studies of city possibilities since Jane Jacobs. Those running as or voting for candidates in municipal elections across Ontario this fall might want to consider ways of translating Quebec’s success here.

Dog-tired and worried about the high cost of rooms in the height of Quebec’s summer tourism, we dragged ourselves into the reception area of a hotel called L’Autre Jardin Auberge, the Other Garden Inn. The first thing we saw was a wooden sculpture from Africa. The second thing we saw was a fair trade gift store, Boutique EquiMonde. Then we saw a sign describing the place as Quebec’s first “social economy” hotel. The hotel, launched in 1996, is the money-making arm of a Quebec charity, Carrefour Tiers-Monde (Third World Meeting Place), devoted to education for children’s rights and international solidarity and to the economic revival of the surrounding neighborhood. All 28 rooms boasted fair trade towels and rugs, eco-certified writing pads, and nighttime reading booklets on sustainable tourism and responsible shopping. The breakfast nook featured organic and fair trade foods. We knew that at least we would sleep and rise with a clear conscience.

Our early morning walk showed we were in the midst of more than a socially conscious rooming district. The other garden referred to in the hotel’s name was a block away, where a campus of the University of Quebec abutted the commercial district, serving as a meeting place where students, a few homeless people and other wanderers could share a quiet and green space dominated by a tiny waterfall. This was the project that launched the renewal of this down-on-the-heels district in 1992.

[…]

Food specialty shops are the city equivalent of the pioneer species that burst forth after an area has been ravaged by a forest fire. But very quickly, signs crop up that this is more than a unique shopping experience based on the delightfully spontaneous jumble of cultural creative-and counter culture-inspired hangouts. A huge church, as was standard in Old Quebec, is at the centre of the street scene. Nearby is a public library that shares a section of the street with a low-end eatery, a budget hotel, regional headquarters for a credit union and trade union. A block away is a provincial office of the ministry of tourism and a large Mountain Equipment Co-op store. Since 2000, the entire street has been pedestrianized, given over to those who jaunt through neighborhood at a walker’s pace.

Almost all the housing in the area comes from Quebec’s iconic balconied triplexes, a mainstay of dense and affordable communities. A typical triplex has one floor for the, who pays a major portion of the mortgage with rental from two triplex tenants, thereby allowing working people to afford to buy handymen’s specials while providing tenants with low rents. What we see here is a distinctive culture of collaboration, not just a distinctive language group. In Quebec, which has pulled itself up by the bootstraps, people from many walks of life and all levels of government have learned to work together. In French, it’s called “concertation.” It doesn’t cost more. It’s about leverage from partnerships, not money.

[…]

Quebec’s traditions lend themselves to what urban expert Jeb Brugmann calls the Strategic City. It’s the antidote to the “crisis city,” torn apart by a two-way conflict that destroys both sides. It’s also the counterpoint to the “opportunity city,” where a jumble of creatives can’t break through to win support from political or economic power brokers. Brugmann, who lives in Toronto, doesn’t miss the chance to describe his adopted as the epitome of an opportunity city.

[…]

Read the full article by Wayne Roberts on Nourishing the Planet


Kitchen Garden Schools: Adelaide Tour

Posted in Events, Movements by Kate Archdeacon on September 26th, 2011

Adelaide Kitchen Garden Schools Tour with Maggie Beer

Hosted by our wonderful South Australian Ambassador Maggie Beer, our first-ever South Australian schools tour visits established Kitchen Garden Schools throughout Adelaide that have been running the Kitchen Garden Program for several years and are now reaping the benefits.  Join Maggie to view kitchen and garden classes in action, speak to Foundation staff and school staff, and enjoy a delicious gourmet lunch. This is an inspirational day that showcases the beautiful and productive school gardens as well as the home-style kitchens, and gives participants a chance to get closer to the Program in action. The tours are suitable for staff from interested schools and new Kitchen Garden Schools, as well as our Subscribers and interested members of the public.

8:45AM – 4:45pm, 10 Nov, 2011

Public: $77.00
Subscribers: $55.00
Program Schools: $44.00

Venue
Kilkenny Primary School, Jane Street
West Croydon SA 5008

Click through to register for the tour.

www.kitchengardenfoundation.org.au


Lunchtime Gardening for Office Health

Posted in Models, Movements by Kate Archdeacon on September 23rd, 2011

Source: Sustainable Bristol


Photo: Ovagrown.blogspot.com

From “Will Business embrace Lunchtime Allotments?” by Paul Rainger:

Growing your own is all the rage. With long waiting lists for allotment space, we’ve seen veg beds spring up in parks, guerrilla growers taking over derelict land and even veg growing on supermarket roofs. The beneficial effects of reconnecting which nature through growing are well studied, from healthy eating itself, through to general improvements in health, happiness and even productivity at work. So, could leading business embrace Lunchtime Allotments as the next must have staff perk?

Will tomorrow’s young generation of more values-led employees see an hour lunchtime break to tend their veg as another key differentiator between good and bad employers, just as secure bicycle parking and showers are for many today? One company in Bristol, Arup, are already leading the way in the city. Staff in their city centre Bristol office haven’t let lack of space get in their way. They have simply taken over the nearby wide grass verge by the main bus lane.Now beans and courgettes pass by the window of the traffic heading up to the train station. You can even follow their adventures on [their blog http://ovagrown.blogspot.com/].

What if every business played its part in greening our city? Not the bland corporate shrubbery we see today, but the real veg growing of Lunchtime Allotments like this. Businesses would benefit from the improved productivity, health and wellbeing of their staff. And in these times of recession in the public sector, it may now be the best way of achieving the truly edible city.

Read the original article by Paul Rainger on Sustainable Bristol

 


Pop-Up Placemaking

Posted in Movements, Visions by Kate Archdeacon on September 21st, 2011

Via Sustainable Cities Collective


Photo by John Niedermeyer via flickr CC

From “Cities rethink urban spaces with ‘pop-up’ projects” by Siri Agrell:

‘Pop-up’ urban planning gives cities the freedom to experiment with projects on a temporary basis, allowing innovative ideas a trial run without expensive commitment of taxpayer money. Cities around the world are embracing the idea, leading in many cases to permanent changes in the urban landscape.

If there is a reigning Queen of Pop-Up, it is Janette Sadik-Khan, the New York city transportation commissioner. In 2009, Ms. Sadik-Khan famously closed Times Square to traffic, transforming it into a pedestrian mall by simply throwing down some pylons and offering a smattering of lawn chairs. Although some drivers howled, Ms. Sadik-Khan was ready for the criticism, and began citing statistics she gathered by closely tracking the experiment.

The city quickly found that revenues from businesses in Times Square had risen 71 per cent, and that injuries to motorists and passengers in the project areas dropped 63 per cent. The city installed GPS units into 13,000 taxis so that the Department of Transportation could track the impact on car traffic, and found that northbound trips in the west midtown area around Times Square were actually 17 per cent faster.

The pop-up projects didn’t stop there. Ms. Sadik-Khan brought temporary public swimming pools onto Manhattan streets last summer, and, over the course of a single weekend, she turned a Brooklyn parking lot into a park by painting a white border and filling it in with green to represent grass. “It was a quick way of showing you can transform a space in a matter of hours instead of a matter of years,” she told Esquire magazine.

She performs most of her transformations without capital funds from the city, scrounging up cash and resources and avoiding actually asking permission.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration has embraced the tactic, and now uses the term “pilot project” to introduce programs into other departments, including education, making them exempt from the usual approval processes.

Read the full article by Siri Agrell for The Globe and Mail.

For an interesting follow-up, read this March piece in the NY Times, outlining the difficulties faced by the city officials mentioned above. KA


Capital Bee: Supporting Beekeeping in London

Posted in Models, Movements by Kate Archdeacon on September 15th, 2011

Capital Bee promotes community-run beekeeping in London and campaigns for a bee-friendly city.

The heart of Capital Bee is its seven training sites across the capital, offering 75 new beekeepers one year’s training from some of London’s most experienced beekeepers. These communities will then receive a hive and bees in 2012. The community sites, throughout the capital, are in schools, colleges, housing estates, businesses, and allotments. A full list of sites is available here.

Capital Bee is asking Londoners to support their local beekeepers and honey bees by growing plants that bees like, finding alternatives to garden pesticides, and opting for organic choices where possible. Solitary bees and bumble bees also need a suitable habitat in gardens, in much the same way as we put up bird boxes. A honey bee will fly up to three miles, so with over 2,500 hives already in London in London, you are never far from a bee!

The 50 new community apiaries are part of the Capital Growth campaign, which aims to support 2,012 new community food-growing spaces in London by the end of 2,012. Capital Growth is a partnership between London Food Link, the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, and the Big Lottery’s Local Food Fund.

In August this year, Capital Bee ran the London Honey Festival – “a celebration of London Honey, from across the capital as far as Croydon to Bexley, Tottenham to Ruislip, King’s Cross to the Royal Festival Hall. [People could] participate in the festival at selected restaurants, local shops and at the Honey Festival itself.”

http://www.capitalgrowth.org/bees/

 


Urban Agriculture Potential: Report

Posted in Movements, Research by Kate Archdeacon on August 23rd, 2011

Source: The City Fix


Sembradores Urbanos in Mexico City, photo by K. Archdeacon

From “New Report: The Potential for Urban Agriculture” by Itir Sonuparlak:

A new report by the Urban Design Lab (UDL) of Columbia University’s Earth Institute explores the potential for urban agriculture in New York City. The report, “The Potential for Urban Agriculture in New York City,” complements the existing discussion on sustainable cities. Developing agricultural spaces within or near urban areas has a great potential to reduce food transportation costs and environmental effects, as well as provide opportunities for economic development and diminish the disparities in access to healthy foods. In order to become a viable option to food production for the masses, urban agriculture must overcome challenges of scalability, energy efficiency and labor costs.

To understand the capacity of New York City’s crop production, UDL’s report aims to answer how much land could be productively used for agriculture and how much crop could realistically be grown in the given land. When it comes to the benefits of urban agriculture in New York City, the study also considers factors like food security, storm water runoff and sewer overflow mitigation, urban heat island effect, energy consumption, waste reduction, as well as opportunities for composting for agricultural purposes.

The study highlights 12 key findings:

  • Urban agriculture can play a critical role as productive green urban infrastructure.
  • Urban agriculture can play an important role in community development.
  • There is a substantial amount of land potentially available for urban agriculture in NYC.
  • Intensive growing methods adapted to urban spaces can result in yields per acre which greatly exceed those of conventional production techniques.
  • While urban agriculture cannot supply the entire city with all of its food needs, in certain neighborhoods it can significantly contribute to food security.
  • There is a need for cost/benefit analyses that reflect the full complexity of the city’s social and environmental challenges.
  • NYC’s rooftops are a vast, underused resource that could be transformed for food production.
  • Bureaucratic challenges are a major barrier to the expansion of urban farming.
  • Existing infrastructure has the potential to support the expansion of urban agriculture.
  • Urban farmers are establishing viable businesses by taking advantage of multiple revenue streams.
  • Urban agriculture is part of a broader horticultural approach to urban greening that encompasses more than fruits and vegetables.
  • Urban agriculture functions as a catalyst for larger food system transformations.
Read the full article by Itir Sonuparlak for a summary of the above points, or download the report.