I’m beginning this en route to work, in the traffic jam that now characterises New Orleans morning traffic flows between 7-9am, seems that half the daily population is currently living outside the city limits and commuting by pickup….
The city is a busy hive of worker bees, or a disrupted ant colony, with a lot of energy going into the process of reconstructing what was, at least in more prosperous parts of the city. Other areas such as the lower 9th ward remain largely unrepaired, with spraypainted messages from rescuers still on the houses (‘dangerous pit bull’, ‘no pets’, etc) and questions still remaining for residents regarding levels of compensation for the uninsured.
For a good overview of the issues and a grass roots response, see the Common Ground website. Kevin mentioned this group to me before I left and they are doing great work here on a broad range of social, political, economic, and environmental fronts, including the use of effective microorganisms (EM) in dealing with mold affected houses, and bioremediation of soils affected by lead and arsenic and some persistant organic pollutants (POPs).
Other useful New Orleans links: Gambit Weekly, TImes Picayune
I’ve been involved in reconstruction and rebuilding work with a friend of mine Will Quenan, working mainly uptown on a number of different houses. This has involved flooring, fencing, painting, etc which has taught me a range of new practical skills. We’ve formulated a company model called Edin Construction and are linking into groups of people with a shared vision of sustainability, as well as specific craftspeople who want to do quality work at a fair price, with a fair profit split.
There will be increasing opportunity to become involved in permaculture system design as people’s focus moves from reconstruction of their housing space to incorporate garden and outdoor spaces. This has not been much of a focus for most until now. We’re also retrofitting Will’s place in Westwego and undertaking a permaculture design as a model for more sustainable approaches locally.
I’ve linked into the local permaculture network through a colleague, Charles Reith who is helping in development of an inner city Permaculture Garden in association with Common Ground at the Art Egg site. He is a graduate of Geoff and my course here, and teaches a course at Tulane University in sustainable development, with a PDC stream optionally included within the curriculum. I attach that also as another model for getting permie into traditional educational settings.
On the broader level, there is much debate and uncertainty as to the reality of a sustainable future for the city. The attached document (see end of article) is a worthy read to understand the issues that underpin this challenge, but essentially it boils down to a sinking city footprint as a result of loss of annual silts from the Mississippi, and regional oil/gas extraction, loss of coastal marsh and wetland buffers as a result of mis-patterning of the Mississippi River by the Corps of Engineers over the past 100 + years, and continuing oil and gas extraction leading to further subsidance, as well as canals and drainage ditches through the area in support of shipping access and oil & gas.
Lacquering accross the top of this are financial, political and cultural processes that have worked against any real coastal planning based on a desired outcome or coastal restoration & maintenance models. If the current patterning continues, the city is lost, as is much of the area of America’s wetlands of southern Louisiana. There is a spirit among many residents here to find real solutions, although there is still a strong emotional reconstruction ‘as it was’ response driving the process at the moment versus a rational consideration of the realities and challenges faced. The process here reflects the challenges faced by the US on a broader scale and level, so New Orleans and the southern Gulf region is an acid test of how the rapidly changing realities of the 21st Century are to be faced within this system.
I’ll be back in Brooklyn in earlyish April and look forward to reconnecting with some of you during upcoming events such as the Local Energy Solutions Conference. I return here to New Orleans to teach a PDC beginning early May as per the attached flier.
I have observed the ongoing work, networking and system outgrowth of the Perm Hudson Valley Bioregion group and am proud of all the good work being done. Time, distance and energy limit my direct contribution at the moment, but now that planting season is arriving, plenty of cause to roll up the sleeves and get our hands in the soil.
- Optional Permaculture Practicum (Special Post-Katrina Edition)
- Folsom Permaculture Design Certificate Course