Founders' Letter, Summer 2018

(Continued from Home Page)

Churchman urged us to recognize our constant failure to think and act in a rational way. If we can come to accept that we do not act rationally when it comes to building long-term sustainability, perhaps we can change our collective behaviors instead. The constant pursuit of cheap throwaway stuff, fast food, gas-guzzling big trucks etc., just pushes us the wrong direction.

Of course, the best example of a system is an ecosystem.  Our best bet for creating a more sustainable culture is in using the logic of nature. Thinking in terms of cycles rather than in a linear way would be a good first step. Don lived in an experimental house in his Berkeley days called the Integral Urban House. The concept was to close the loop in how we live.  Normal practices were to save the daily food scraps for the chickens, which provided eggs and fertilizer. We built a Savonius wind turbine from a recycled oil drum that connected to a paddle circulating the water in the tilapia fishpond. Landscaping included as many edibles as possible: loquat trees for screening, strawberries for lawn, and probably most remarkable, the city agreed the concrete sidewalk could come out to be replaced by permeable pavers that allowed rainwater to percolate back into the soil rather than add to urban runoff.

 The Integral  Urban House, Berkeley, California, circa late 1970s

The Integral  Urban House, Berkeley, California, circa late 1970s

Nature has a lot to teach us- My seven-year-old granddaughter recently asked me “what did we use before plastic?”, For her there never has been a time without plastic within easy reach. After thinking about it, I replied we used clay pots for plants, ceramics for dishware, metal for cooking pots, glass for holding liquids, cloth for bags. Fish or meat purchased was wrapped in waxed butcher paper.

In 1973 E.F. Schumacher published a collection of essays in a book called Small is Beautifulsubtitled A Study of Economics as if People Mattered. Schumacher’s assertion that modern economics was unsustainable turned out to be correct. The concepts of "enoughness" and appropriate technology led him to promote a more intelligent utilization of the fruits of human ingenuity.

We are exploring these concepts and putting them to practice with our students in both the Healthy Habitat and Future Solutions programs. With help from Patagonia we have hired a farm manager/ sustainable ag instructor and have a new crop of students. Students are getting experience in organic food production, wind and solar energy, green building and composting. The kitchen garden is supplying much of what the students eat. We just finished another semester at SBCC teaching ecological restoration. Students propagated plants for a number of local restoration projects. In the fall Don is teaching the Small Scale Food Production class at SBCC.

We continue to believe education is a key component to creating more sustainable communities. Hand's on, learning by doing, building models and learning from nature.  

Thank you for your continued support. 

—Don Hartley and Karen Flagg, co-founders of Growing Solutions

   Don Hartley installing the solar hot-water system for the Integral Urban House, circa late 1970s.

 Don Hartley installing the solar hot-water system for the Integral Urban House, circa late 1970s.