[permaculture] Is This Aquaponics Then?

Toby Hemenway toby at patternliteracy.com
Mon Jun 8 11:06:17 EDT 2015


> On Jun 7, 2015, at 3:28 PM, Steve Hart <stevenlawrencehart at gmail.com> wrote:
> 
> We know that composts of all nature of
> recipes assist in stimulating natures dynamics and it is in my opinion that
> this is where we need to travel in designing and building better solutions.

Aquaponics involves microbe-driven nutrient conversion of manures to live fertilizers very similar to those that go on in soil. Why isn’t that natural? Because it’s in water? Soil fertility is in water too (nutrients are water suspended or dissolved, else the roots couldn’t take them up). 

Steve, could you describe what you mean by “natural?” It’s a slippery word that means very different things to different people. 

As I’ve said before, nuclear fission is natural, arsenic is natural, botulism is natural, polio is natural. Those are not healthy to have near human systems. Burning of some landscapes by indigenous people is artificial, yet extremely healthy for biodiversity and human welfare. The natural/artificial distinction is not a valid criterion to judge appropriateness of a system.  Natural does not equal healthy, artificial does not equal unhealthy. Any permaculturist should know that our criteria are function and ecosystem health, not some slippery and arbitrary set of boxes created by subjective prejudice as to whether something is “artificial”  or not. We’ve gone round this one several times, and you keep returning to “aquaponics produces artificial food” as the basis for your argument. Can you cite evidence for your claim that aquaponic food is no healthier than soda pop?

This is why I don’t think you know what aquaponics is (and posting the link to wikipedia doesn’t persuade me). 

Organic farms grow plants in water-suspended fertilizers that are produced by a mix of microbes that convert manures, and the plant roots are held in a mineral matrix. 

Aquaponics grows plants in water-suspended fertilizers that are produced by a mix of microbes that convert manures, and the plant roots are held in a mineral matrix. 

The principal difference is that the manure conversion in soil is done in much drier conditions (compost) rather than in a liquid microbial slurry. But the biochemistry—the microbial population—is very similar (more bacteria and protozoa in aquaponic systems, fewer fungi)

We need to be looking at the effects of these process on human and ecological health, not making a “this isn’t natural therefore it’s bad” arbitrary judgement based on whether we like the technology or processes involved, or whether we things there is some esoteric life force present or not. 

Toby
http://patternliteracy.com

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/







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