March 25, 2010
This guest post comes our way via WGY ally Leo Kacenjar, a DU graduate student developing a community garden that will be informed in equal measures by digital media and permaculture. If you’re intrigued by the concepts he presents, be sure to check out one of the upcoming events listed at the bottom, or visit digitalgardenleetsdale.com.
Human environmental interaction, public health and accessibility of technology are some of the most formidable social problems of the twenty-first century. Community gardens and metropolitan agriculture initiatives lower the rate at which food and supplies must be introduced into a city, provide an abundance of nourishing produce, and empower individuals to become engaged citizens.
The last two decades have also ushered in the creation of faster, lighter, more agile, ever connected, and cheaper technologies. Digital media offer the possibility for new realms of public discourse and participation. To optimistically read these changes, posits new realms of digital democratic public dialogue. Despite technologies’ reduction in price, not everyone can afford them. In addition, our nascent digital devices are worthless without ubiquitous connectivity, or the necessary media literacy to effectively and critically engage with media. The result of the digital divide is a discourse, which has not reached its full potential.
The Digital Garden on Leetsdale is an experimental space that works to combine the positive environmental and individually empowering effects of a community garden with the discursive potential of digital media. The goal will be that digital installations like a wireless hub, computing lab, online communal space (content management system) and various thematic digital art pieces, in combination with a working sustainability park and community garden, will bolster dialogue. Sustainable structures, serving as common area and storage will be functional testaments to environmentally friendly building techniques. The conversational potential of this juxtaposition promises to be beneficial and unique. Topics like sustainable design, networked civic engagement, and urban reclamation will all arise in context of the green space.
The project will work with Kinda Collective – a Denver area artists’ collective – and their immediate community to build a teeming collaborative gardening environment that is informed by the digital media. The gardens will improve the urban environment, provide fresh, locally grown foods, bring the diverse groups of the neighborhood together, and empower its participants.
In combination with this person-to-person and environmental interaction, the digital media will grant anyone opportunities to bridge the site-specific conversations into the digital realm, where greater human/environmental themes might be discussed. The free connectivity, computers, and literacy training through on-site classes and the community website will ensure that no one is left out of the dialogue. The digital art installations will pose questions about human-environmental interaction, though sensorial experiences.
The space will also work to demonstrate alternative lifestyle, building, and food production practices to the community by example. The weekly gardening routine and exposure to the space will suggest a lifestyle symbiotically connected to the environment. The straw bale buildings and construction workshops will teach beneficial home sustainability tactics. The permaculture-steeped community gardens will inform the community about new modalities of agriculture.
Free programming throughout the life of the project will include topics like gardening, sustainable living, environmental, community organizing, digital art, and technological literacy. These elements will make the sustainability park a thriving and vital community resource.
The Digital Garden on Leetsdale has two events coming up that are free and open to the public:
March 31st 2010, 7pm
Join us for a community meeting to learn more about the space, discuss what you could get out of the garden and what’s at stake for the local community. Garden plot and permaculture guild applications will be available. There will also be free dinner.
Sheet Mulching Workshop
April 10th 2010, 10am
Learn the basics of sheet mulching first hand as we prepare the Digital Garden for planting. We will transition the workshop into a potluck BBQ and lawn games as the day progresses.
For more information, visit digitalgardenleetsdale.com.
August 13, 2009
I’m happy to announce WGY’s fall season of Permaculture workshops, including Intro to Permaculture, Urban Permaculture, Permaculture for Renters, and Obscure Edibles for the Colorado Climate. Most classes will be held at the Denver Botanic Gardens and Denver Urban Homesteading, a brand-new local market and reskilling center.
For full descriptions and registration links, visit the classes page… and feel free to distribute the poster below!
July 31, 2009
I wrote this post a year and a half ago, when I first encountered Pitchfork’s inspiring brand of anarchy as a visitor to Denver. Today is Pitchfork’s last day as a functioning collective – the murals have all been painted white, the rooms lay bare and eerily clean. I’m reposting this essay as a tribute to the incredible impact that Pitchfork has had on Denver’s now-thriving urban homesteading community. It will be missed.
Over the last year or so, I’ve slowly begun to come to terms with the fact that everything that mattered in the first two decades of my life – all my achievements and disappointments, my aspirations and concerns – occurred under conditions that are fast becoming obsolete. The economic meltdown that’s currently underway only serves to underscore the fact that the growth-centric society in which I grew up is poorly suited to the new realities of a rapidly changing climate and declining supply of energy.
Fortunately, I’ve never been one to shy away from change. Instead, I’ve spent the better part of the past year trying to figure out what it might mean to live in a way that works with, rather than against, natural systems. Do l I have to renounce the urban lifestyle to live sustainably? Will it make me happier, or more stressed out?
For now, these questions are largely hypothetical: as long as I’m at school in New York, sustainable living remains little more than an abstraction. Sure, I can refuse plastic bags, buy local food, and use compact fluorescent bulbs in my apartment, but in the end these are only gestures at leaving a lighter footprint, greening the edges of a way of life that is fundamentally against nature. But with graduation fast advancing – and the prospects of finding a secure career seeming less attractive by the week – I decided to use the generous break between my final two semesters to seek out a Forest Green way of life in my hometown of Denver.
Which is how I found myself living in the Pitchfork Collective, a cooperative living space founded about a year ago in central Denver. The three-story house, in the historic Five Points neighborhood, is home to an ever-shifting cast of characters, all between the ages of 17 and 27. During the course of my stay, I met couch-surfing hipster vagabonds, transgender wiccans, crust-punk anarchists, and many other folks too unique to slap a label on. What united them all was a respect for diversity, defiant individualism, and a belief in sustainable community.
Like any group of activist youth, the Pitchfork Collective wasn’t without its downsides: the industrial-sized sink was rarely without a pile of dirty dishes, and during the course of my stay, more than a few non-residents took advantage of the house’s open-door policy by overstaying their welcome. Still, I continually found myself surprised by the amazing things going on around the house – at any given time, collective members might be busy making crafts to sell on Etsy, planning for the springtime permaculture garden, teaching a class on positive menstruation, or cooking burritos to hand out to migrant workers. Despite the griminess, the constant flux of residents, and the youthful naiveté, I had to admit that Pitchfork was thriving. And it’s not alone: at least five or six similar houses have formed just past the frontiers of central Denver’s gentrification, all of them connected in a tight-knit community of young radicals.
Perhaps the most inspiring aspect of Pitchfork was its role as host of Denver’s Food Not Bombs, a program that cooks and serves recently expired food to needy communities across the country. Every Saturday morning, volunteers made the rounds at several local grocery stores that have agreed to donate unwanted food, delivering dozens of boxes of produce, baked goods and leftover bulk goods to Pitchfork’s front lawn. An ever-shifting crew of residents and friends assembled to sort, prepare, and cook the food, working with whatever was in abundance that week. Once the dishes were ready, they were loaded into an old biodiesel pickup and driven to a nearby park, where a crowd of eager customers awaited.
The long train ride back to New York gave me some time to assess my stay at Pitchfork. Is it sustainable? Probably not – even Food Not Bombs is based on a surplus of produce grown far, far away. It’s also not for everybody; with such a diverse set of roommates, collective living can strain the most open of minds. Still, I don’t think Pitchfork really needs to be a universal template to be successful. After all, the whole point of the regeneration is to move away from universal templates in favor of new ways of living based on local climate and culture. Under these criteria, then, I’d say the Pitchfork Collective is a damn good first attempt at urban sustainability. In a society filled with cookie-cutter neighborhoods and lives that lack meaning, Pitchfork proves that diversity can succeed, that you don’t need stuff to be satisfied, that community is key – and that doing it yourself can be a whole lot more fun than letting others to do it for you.
Kenzie and I were recently asked by our allies at Flobots.org to facilitate an urban permaculture workshop in their new community space on 27th and Larimer. We’ll be covering the ethics and principles of permaculture, giving concrete examples of their application in an urban context, and facilitating a design session to evolve the Flobots.org space along permacultural lines. The event is FREE and open to the public… if you haven’t had any experience with permaculture yet, this is a perfect chance to check it out!
March 12, 2008
By Adam Brock
In order to graduate, every Gallatin student is required to participate in a colloquium: a 90-minute conversation with three professors around a topic of his or her choosing, centered around a list of 20-25 books.
My colloquium, “Designing the Regeneration,” took place last Friday. It focused on the shift towards thinking sustainably, and how it relates to ancient beliefs and contemporary trends. I was the first Gallatin student to opt for a Community Colloquium, as I felt the conversation wouldn’t have been complete without my community there.
The whole thing was recorded, and I’ve made it available for download as a set of zipped mp3s. Here are the tracks:
1. Introductions and colloquium format
2. My background
3. Sustainability and scaleability
4. Precedents from other cultures
5. Ancient texts: Plato, Genesis, Thomas More’s Utopia
6. Private property
7. The technology question/3 Shades of Green
8. Peak population, peak energy
9. Economic growth and international development
10. Our ethical imperative
11. Summary of systems thinking