[permaculture] Is This Aquaponics Then?

Toby Hemenway toby at patternliteracy.com
Wed Jun 3 19:24:11 EDT 2015

Funny how we’ve all got blind spots, including me, definitely. Referring to foods or whatever as being influenced by astral energies very much reflects a specific religious orientation. No orthodox Christian, atheist, Jew or Hindu would ever use that kind of term; it’s right out of New Age and Steinerian spirituality. Language like that is offensive to many people with orthodox religious beliefs and to strict atheists and agnostics; I know people in all those categories who experience it as imposing an unwanted religious belief system on them. But many of us—and I am often one of them—are so deep inside that kind of spirituality that we don’t even see it as part of a religious orientation. It’s just truth to us, just as Jesus’s eternal love is a baseline truth to a Christian. (And it’s why spirituality needs to be kept out of PDCs unless everyone signs onto it ahead of time.) 

Astral energies are no more factual than the Holy Ghost, even though I believe they exist—but the emphasis is on the word “believe,” as in “faith-based” not evidence- or data-based. Claiming it’s not religious is no different, I think, than a Creationist claiming that their views on evolution aren’t influenced by their religion.

Re aquaponics: Jason hit the nail on the head with 

> It is better than fried chips and sodies from the corner
> store though. 

Only a privileged fraction of humanity has access to organic (or better) food grown in healthy soil. For the folks in urban food deserts, the choice is not between organic and aquaponic. There is no choice. There are no CSAs. There are no farms. The choice is between Walmart’s industrial commodity “food" and fast food. And many of the people in those food deserts are faced with choices like medicine for a sick child versus buying any food at all. Organic is utterly out of the question, if it’s even available. So when an amazing place like the GrowHaus comes along with its aquaponics and jobs programs and free classes to raise food awareness and help desperately poor people gain a couple of options for their lives, telling them that aquaponic food isn’t cosmically pure or natural shows how disconnected we are from the issues that those people face. We’re incredibly lucky to even know what healthy food is; most people don’t. 

One of the current critiques of permaculture is that it is overwhelmingly a white, upper-middle-class pursuit, and these sorts of assumptions reflect that. I’m guilty of it too, don’t get me wrong. But we’re really privileged to be able to turn down aquaponics as not natural enough for us. 


Coming in July: my new book on urban permaculture, The Permaculture City. Pre-order it at on-line booksellers or at http://www.chelseagreen.com/bookstore/item/the_permaculture_city/

> On Jun 3, 2015, at 3:30 PM, Steve Hart <stevenlawrencehart at gmail.com> wrote:
> Hi Ben I agree with the comment about modern agriculture being
> disconnected. This is issue had been debated similarly previously in this
> subject by Toby Hemenway. And, it is a struggle to maintain connections
> with nature and good quality natural foods for the values that they offer.
> There are many levels to that specific debate.From the extreme at one end
> to the totally artificial art the other. And, we can all learn from "Super
> Size Me". Where is the moderate mean ?
> As far as "New Age" terms and all the other interpretations mentioned. This
> subject is far from new age. Many years ago people were burnt at the stake
> for talking about it. I never mentioned saints and angels. Nor did I
> suggest any religious belief or faith based terminology. Like Scott Pittman
> suggests...even old dogs can learn something if we keep an open mind. I
> have and also have experienced the positive results first hand.
> Steve Hart
> On 4 June 2015 at 08:40, Ben Martin Horst <ben.martinhorst at gmail.com> wrote:
>> Hi Steve,
>> To me it is problematic to dismiss techniques like aquaponics as "not
>> connected to the earth." While I have a vague sense as to what you mean,
>> one could easily make the same statement about all agricultural techniques.
>> It isn't a precise enough criticism for me.
>> Further, I have to admit that I cringe to hear esoteric terms like "etheric
>> and astral energies" thrown about as if they are factual categories. While
>> I firmly believe that there are aspects of our universe that cannot be
>> explained within a rationalist framework, I simply do not see how it
>> furthers discussions about permacultural practice to throw around New Age
>> terms. It makes no more sense to me than it would if someone were to talk
>> about the intervention of saints and angels in permaculture practice. I
>> firmly support anybody's right to their own religious beliefs, but to throw
>> faith-based terminology around as something that contributes meaningfully
>> to broader permaculture discourse seems misguided.
>> -Ben
>> On May 31, 2015 10:16 PM, "Steve Hart" <stevenlawrencehart at gmail.com>
>> wrote:
>>> Hi Jason..great to hear spring has been goood. My argument all along with
>>> aquaponics and hydroponics similarly is that it is still an artificial
>>> system if it is not connected directly to the earth. This direct
>> connection
>>> is critical for us to receive many if not all the nutrients our body
>> needs
>>> for good if not optimal health. It is within dimensions greater than just
>>> simple food elements of vitamins sugars and minerals it is in micro
>>> nutrients etheric and astral energies as well as electromagnetic values.
>> If
>>> the body is missing out on these which are most often in micro
>> measurement
>>> our health falters.
>>> This connection with the earth and natural water can not be imitated.
>> This
>>> also applies to the multitude of foods that we eat that live in water. eg
>>> watercress fish etc etc etc.
>>> Therefore it is also difficult for me to consider any value in any such
>>> systems no matter where they are built, desert, damaged land, roof tops
>>> wherever, the same applies. Perhaps for the argument we jump on the
>> "Beyond
>>> Organic" bandwagon and call this "Beyond Permaculture". But, having done
>>> several courses with Mollison and other learned first generation pioneers
>>> I'm sure that such view is clearly inherent within Mollison/Holmgren
>>> Permaculture so there is no need to go beyond. It is inherent..Steve Hart
>>> On 1 June 2015 at 16:57, Jason Gerhardt <jasongerhardt at gmail.com> wrote:
>>>> I know I'm late to this...been a busy spring, but anyone looking for a
>>> good
>>>> example of aquaponics can go to the link below. Flourish Farm is one of
>>> the
>>>> microenterprises within the Growhaus in Denver. It's the most
>> productive
>>>> and flourishing aquaponics system I've ever seen. I see it all times of
>>> the
>>>> year and it totally out produces indoor soil growing, and the
>> neighboring
>>>> hydroponics system (not the same as aquaponics). Best of all, their
>>>> criteria for using the technique is right...food desert...polluted
>>>> soils...repurposed building infrastructure. While it is not a fully
>>> closed
>>>> loop system, there are some loops being closed, which is the purpose of
>>>> closing loops...to provide a means to understand energy flow. The
>>>> educational yield of that alone is likely the greatest product of the
>>>> system, which makes it an open system, which is infinitely more
>>>> regenerative than anything described as closed.
>>>> http://www.coloradoaquaponics.com/flourish-farms
>>>> Jason
>>>> --
>>>> www.realearthdesign.com
>>>> 720-496-9744
>>>> _______________________________________________
>>>> p

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