One of our recent Green Mondays talks focused on biochar and its capabilities as a growth medium and carbon capture mechanism. Japan’s Carbon-free initiative promotes two visions of the future. One is to develop a more vertically integrated society where the need for distribution networks particularly around food and commutation are reduced by bringing people and their activities closer together in integrated cities. In this model, agriculture is brought right into the cities and food production becomes a part of the urban design. The countryside is left to do what countryside is meant to do – balancing the carbon, water, nutrient and energy cycles for the earth. Food production actually becomes an urban activity in this scenario. The other scenario is to disperse the population into smaller eco-town groupings, that achieve a zero-waste, zero-carbon emissions balance within the rural environment.
The urban model seems more realistic for Japan, and many projects to make this a reality are underway in context of architectural and urban design, sustainable mobility plans and green incentive programs. METI has already experimented with indoor hydroponics facilities lit with LED lighting. I had a chance to eat a salad that had been grown in this facility at the METI New Year reception earlier this year. The taste was great and the vegetables looked wonderful. An adaptation of this indoor greenhouse approach is within the realm of Dr. Nick Savidov, PhD's work. Dr. Savidov is a Research Scientist, and leader of the Greenhouse Crops Program at the Crop Diversification Centre in the South Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development Division in Canada. I had the good fortune to spend two days with him recently and to have my eyes opened by one of the world’s leading authorities on hydroponics and aquaponics technologies.
During this visit to Japan he explained to me that aquaponics is a new food production philosophy that dramatically expands sustainable food production capacity on this planet. It is a paradigm shift in how we think about our food that creates highly productive food production “ecosystems” that results in fresh, organic, local, nutritious and tasty food within every city and town on our planet, year-round.
Aquaponics produces no waste emissions, consumes no chemicals or fertilizers and recycles 100 percent of its water. By shifting food production to aquaponics, we preserve our wildlands and terrestrial, aquatic and marine habitats. In Dr. Savidov’s view: “this is the only way to survive and continue to feed an ever-growing population on this planet. We have little time left before we exhaust current global food production capacity and destroy the entire biosphere along with it”.
We do not link food security closely enough with the future of the planet in my view. The focus on carbon is important, but the diminishing supplies of fertilizers is an equally alarming factor that has not gained much attention. The depletion of the world’s soil has also left us in a very precarious situation. We have to ask why agriculture has been left so far behind in the discussions around climate change?
Ideas such as hydroponics and aquaponics give us a whole new way of looking at food production and also may give us a new definition for urban design. Bringing green into the cities is not just cosmetic, it could help to feed the world at the same time! As Japan offers new grant money to the improvement of public and school facilities and real estate developers consider how to incorporate green building ideas, this is another very interesting angle to consider. We will be looking at these topics more in future Green Mondays sessions.
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