Deserts to Grasslands to Forest

The famous TED Talk by Alan Savoy about changing deserts to grasslands was first on my YouTube watchlist today. This was after I read this wonderful blog post by Sacred Sueños, a darme un the Andes where the forest was burnt down in 1999 to bring in cattle… And afterwards was used for corn and other crops, until the land was unusable anymore and it came into their hands.

The message is this:

After we have brought grazing animals to the land, whether it be desert land that is unusable, or grasslands, if we want it to become forest again or even crop land, we need another step.

We have to give it chance for succession if we want it to be productive again. We need to allow it to feed and for the soil to grow with mulches and leaves from trees and bushes, for the microbes and organisms to live within it.

It really makes sense. There is a wonderful video about a professor from the US going back to his native land in Africa, where the people were struggling to eat from the land, and creating a new biome with water and forest through agroforestry.

The traditional way of agriculture isn’t working for us. It will be our undoing, as it has been for so many cultures before ours. This is the power of history: let us learn from it and not make the same mistakes.

Subdivisions & Ranches

This is a fascinating story on the complicated relationship of the stakeholders in Florida’s wilderness, explaining pretty well the issues faced on all sides. It isn’t a new story, either, as it is a problem in many developing areas. However, as I see it, developers are antiquated in their planning methods. As a planner, I think that the story could change if there were a combination of subsidies for farmers so that they have some support and don’t have to sell their land, and of environmentally conscious developers considering the wildlife corridors and absorptive qualities of the land they buy that triggers water issues when developed. After all, as the population grows (and Americans aren’t into micro cities), people need more places to live. So to design places in such a way as to:

  1. Do no grading or limited grading to retain native plants, microbes, seeds, and mycology.
  2. Create wildlife corridors within suburban complexes to allow for other creatures to exist
  3. Plant only native species in landscaping and avoid classic-style lawns
  4. Create and retain more places for wildlife within subdivisions, and not cut down big trees
  5. Design houses higher above the ground and with less of a footprint, making them higher quality than quantity. For example, getting creative, like using recycled or locally-sourced materials or with designs, like pools and gardens on the rooftops.
  6. Subdivisions with a central area having a small kiosk or shops, community center, and park — basically centrally located places to interact with one’s neighbors in order to improve community, as seen in classic cities such as Barcelona and small towns in Mexico.

… And I’m sure there are a lot more ideas we could all come up with if we tried.

What I do know is that for a long time, everywhere in the world, developers have been in it for the money, and it’s time that changed. They should be put to the bar as responsible for the futures of communities and areas (in this case wildlife areas), and as Spider-Man said, “with great power comes great responsibility.”

Finnish Ed & Humanizing Math

Had this hopeful future been the case when I was in school, I might have become a physicist.

But because my ability in math was based on time, not actual ability, I was even derided by the teacher in my precalculus class.

That being said, the Fractal of Life, in all its complexity and confusion has led me here, and actually anywhere is really okay. It is the journey, and feeling it, that matters.

At some point maybe the world education system will realize that there is a reason Finland’s education system (wherein children are not given homework and are allowed freedom after only three hours of school) has been top-rated worldwide. Maybe they will see that rather than trying to control and test what has been literally crammed into delicate grey matter, it is ultimately better to allow our infinitely more-intelligent-than-us yet extremely naive children to explore their world. After all it is theirs, and they will all tell you their concerns for the future, which are very real… Actually, there may be a correlation with the education system and the fact that Finland is also famous for its social support and peace in its society. It is consistently rated one of the top happiest countries on Earth according to the Happiness Index.

But it may take destroying all we have for reasons included in the Seven Deadly Sins (there is a reason they are called that), before we change our idiotic ways from control and fear of the unknown, to trusting and allowing guided growth. In that healthy future, people might choose very different careers. They might choose happiness instead of money, an in doing so really be alright financially.

In fact, people would be much happier because they would have been training since a young age to follow their interests instead of what they are force-fed to think is what they have to do. In this, the overall quality of everything, from furniture to management would improve, because only those who thought that they were good at something would pursue it, and they would know it from their elementary education. 

I was once told by Dr. Fujii, the Japanese traditional garden specialist, that the reason Japanese garden trees have changed so much is this. In ancient Japan, the trees were pruned for the way they wanted to grow. This style of pruning can still be seen in Kyoto, and the most beautiful example I have ever seen is the tiny private garden in the imperial palace there.

Now they are pruned to force them into what is considered the proper form, or what is most convenient for the space. They are caricatures of what they could be, and the gardens suffer for it visually.

The trees, like the children, are being stunted, forced to fit into a mold, and not allowed to become the greatest they could be.