Upcycling is the process of turning materials from the wastestream into new materials of higher environmental value.
Upcycle Yourself is a similar concept on a human scale, turning from agents of pollution into agents of environmental change.

May 8, 2011

Scenes of the ground in springtime

Scene 1: Riding my bike past municipal employees who are raking leaves from beneath the trees and loading them into a truck. I wonder where they're taking the leaves. I wonder why they are being paid to remove a natural source of fertility from urban environments. Wonder what the soil organisms are going to eat if we remove the organic matter.

Scene 2: Riding my bike past a farm along the St-Lawrence River. The soil has recently been tilled. I wonder if the farmer knows that the short-term boost from tillage leads to long-term losses in soil fertility. I wonder if the farmer knows that tillage leads to increased erosion and nutrient leakage when the soil is bare. Wonder if the farmer will try to make up the difference with chemicals.

Scene 3: Walking into the backyard in the countryside, sent on a mission by a friend to see What's happening of interest near the compost pile. All I find is wild strawberries. He points out the small tree branches and twigs that are scattered on the ground, having fallen from the tree above. If we leave them over the years to decompose, they create a stable humus, leading to soil aggradation (the opposite of degradation), like the natural fertility cycle in a forest. Most people remove these to mow the lawn.

Scene 4: Walking with my bike past a retirement community near sunset. There are bales of straw. They've been mulching the gardens. Last year's decomposing mulch is still visible, protecting and feeding the soil. Wonder if knowledge of sustainable techniques will continue with the next generation of retirees.

Scene 5: Being told by a friend that he just bought a new lawnmower. I answer, Aw, that totally sucks that social pressures have convinced people to buy machines to cut down plants... and even to grow grass lawns in the first place. He answers, I don't think it's social pressures. I answer, If everyone around you had a garden and a tall meadow with pathways, would it come to mind to buy a machine to cut it all down? Social faux-pas perhaps.

Scene 6: Watching a utopic black-and-white film from France, l'An 1. The citizens replace their sidewalks with gardens. They only use bicycles. They end the notion of property. They visit a museum that showcases useless modern conveniences, including a lawnmower. The daughter asks, What is a lawnmower? and What is grass? Wonder if this society can ever come about.

Scene 7: Seeing dandylions growing on a deforested and eroding hillside. Thanking the dandylions for being hearty enough to establish themselves and slow down the erosion.

Scene 8: Seeing a father and son raking leaves together and putting them into plastic bags. Sunday bonding activity. Wonder if I should say something. Social faux-pas perhaps. Decide to leave them in peace and write about it instead.

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