Post-Tsunami Rehabilitation

Discussion in 'Planting, growing, nurturing Plants' started by Geoff Lawton, Jan 15, 2005.

  1. Geoff Lawton

    Geoff Lawton Administrator Staff Member

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    Post-Tsunami Rehabilitation

    PRI director Andrew Jones is heading out to do a consultancy with UNEP - heading up one of their post-tsunami assessment teams in either Sri Lanka or Indonesia.
    Hopefully this work will allow the injection of some good sound permaculture ideas in the longer-term rehabilitation planning in the region.

    Below is a short concept paper that I put together with Geoff Lawton and Paul Brant.

    Introduction
    As the emergency response phase continues post-tsunami, it bears considering how coastal communities can reduce vulnerability for the future.
    Ideas and strategies that have proven merit in coastal rehabilitation and protection need to be introduced early into any rehabilitation planning. Such initiatives are ideally seeded in the emergency response phase of disaster relief, otherwise the understandable impulse by both survivors and aid deliverers may be to replicate what previously existed before considering new appropriate patterns. The integrated approach also delivers the incalculable benefit of enabling an early sense of ownership by survivors in the rehabilitation process.

    The following thoughts are drawn from a collective group of people, and are based on the experience of permaculture design, implementation and teaching, as well as humanitarian aid delivery and land rehabilitation. Permaculture is a holistic design science. It is premised on the development of productive systems to support human needs, using ecosystem function as the blueprint. Such systems are designed to have the resilience, diversity and stability of natural ecosystems. More specific detail about permaculture is available at: https://www.permaculture.org.au

    Early Warning
    The proposed early warning system for the Indian Ocean is a necessary step as part of the disaster preparedness system for this region. Whilst early warning can clearly assist in saving lives by giving people a chance to escape an impending tsunami, there are many variables that can affect such a system. It is therefore only a part of reducing future vulnerability.

    PNG Experience
    In 1998, a tsunami struck Aitape on the northern coast of Papua New Guinea. It occurred as the result of an undersea earthquake off the coast. This in turn generated a wave estimated at 30 feet in height which decimated several coastal communities. The death toll was estimated at 2,000 people.

    The Australian Permaculture Research Institute worked on the tsunami relief effort in New Guinea. They observed that where there was dense natural vegetation on the foreshore the wave impact was diminished completely - a very passive mulch depositing surge reached in 150m and beyond that all infrastructure survived. In New Guinea there was a repeated survival story discribed which was running to the leeward side of the bamboo (especially) or just the dense vegetation belts and holding on. This obviously was a position where all dangerous objects being carried by the wave had been filtered out by the dense vegetation.

    Wave Breaks
    Based on the above observation, we can propose that the implementation of coastal ‘wave breaks’ in the form of mixed vegetative plantings of coconut, casuarinas, large clumping bamboo and pommello etc could be designed as a wave impact buffer. The theory works in a similar manner to that of a vegetated wind break, although we would term this bio-engineering feature a 'wave break'.

    The planting of appropriate coastal species which would have functional and productive inter-actions of use to the local people in product yield and protecting gives a two fold justification for implementation. There is apparently a precedent in Hilo Bay in Hawaii, where dense coastal vegetation plantings are being used as a tsunami buffer successfully

    Patterning for Success
    The study of permaculture teaches that thoughtful observation of natural systems can teach us how to meet human needs with minimal negative impacts. A study of the variability of physical coastal impacts in the current tsunami would be instructive ahead of specific planning in conjunction with affected coastal communities ahead of specific reconstruction.

    Permaculture has much broader applications in terms of rehabilitation of land, design of appropriate housing, potable water capture strategies, food security and garden design etc. Its strength lies in a commitment to consider the function and place of all elements within a harmonious pattern. As such, elements are designed to have multiple functions, and to be mutually supportive. E.g. the inclusion of significant bamboo plantings integrated with the coastal wave break would provide for a sustainable source of building and craft materials, as well as food resources. This would be of value to the communities in numerous ways. Bamboo also provides the key attributes of flexibility and strength – able to withstand the potential impact of a wave, and absorb considerable amounts of energy without being uprooted.

    It is our belief that future vulnerability for the Indian Ocean communities will be decreased through an early warning system, but also potentially through the implementation of sensible coastal bio-engineering and patterning. It seems to me that there should be some time spent looking into the possibility of installing well designed, productive and functional vegetated coastal wave breaks using good permaculture design principles for all coastlines that could suffer similar potential tsunami disasters.

    Conclusion
    We have a team that includes significant technical expertise and practical experience. We would be interested in potential involvement in rehabilitation activities in support of tsunami affected communities. Understanding the depth of expertise that already exists within the affected countries; we are interested in working with the relevant government authorities and ministries, international agencies, NGO’s and local communities to share our knowledge and help devise strong solutions.

    Andrew Jones – [email protected] https://www.fullcirclellc.com
    Geoff Lawton – [email protected] https://www.permaculture.org.au
    Paul Brant – [email protected]
     
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  2. Grace Pignatello

    Grace Pignatello Member

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    Great post/article!

    This same idea could be used for many other if not all natural disasters. These natural disasters wouldn't exist in a developed permaculture world. So I will refer to these natural disasters we now experience as unnatural disasters. Forest fires could be slowed down or stopped by a swell with a green wet forest. The same could be done for destroying winds such as hurricanes and tornadoes. Even earthquakes could be less if the earths crust was interlaced with a forest. Not only do we have land deserts, but we also have forest deserts and ocean deserts. How about volcanos? If the mountains where being fed as they should be, would we have destroying volcanos? This truth absulutly amazes me! This is my permaculture goal, to have a developed permaculture world. Both oceans and land.

    Thank you Geoff, Andrew, and Paul, for giving me this much needed insight!
     
  3. Bryant RedHawk

    Bryant RedHawk Junior Member

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    Excellent observations and solutions!

    Grace, I think you are not understanding some of how nature works. Volcanos are vents from the magma layer and planting trees will not stop them, wood burns, molten rock will not be stopped by vegetation (take a look at Hawaii). They are necessary unless you think that the pressure buildup and following explosion of the earth would be a good thing. High velocity winds do good things as well as destructive things, Earthquakes the same, this planet is more about disruption, it is constantly changing and like a stagnant pond, it will cease to flourish with out these disruptions. What you wish is exactly that it would seem from your statements.

    Yes it would be nice but then you would have so many overpopulation events that the earth would not be able to handle, that it would be the end of what we know. Observe everything first, a forest fire is only a disruption and it allows new growth patterns, an earthquake shifts minerals around allowing new growth patterns as well as other things like shifting water flow. None of these things are bad for the earth, perhaps they are bad for humans but we are just fleas upon the planet and we have done far to much destruction in our short period here. Not every human needs to live, this seems a harsh statement but it is the truth of the earth mother, nothing lives long in her eyes.
     
  4. songbird

    songbird Senior Member

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    Bryant, you could also say that the earth mother likes her edges.
    plate techtonics is an interesting topic as it demonstrates how various
    lighter elements are recycled/reformed. utlimately it will be what
    will recycle much of humanities trashing of the surface and perhaps
    will also cleanse.

    we will have known we have acheived sustainable living if we are
    around long enough to see signs of our changed crusts being sub-
    sumed and thus starting to be recycled. certain man-made elements
    or isotopes may eventually be detected in magma.

    now that is long term thinking. ;)
     
    Last edited: Oct 6, 2016
  5. Grace Pignatello

    Grace Pignatello Member

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    Thank you Bryant for taking the time to address this. While all the ways the earth functions has a place such as through natural disasters, these functions can be to destructive. Fire is great, but when million's of acres are burned in a couple weeks here in the west, leaving behind a desert there is only destruction. My post explained that could the destroying effects of volcanos be lessened if they were surrounded by a forest? Maybe a strong forest would release the pressure bit by bit and throughout the root system and feed the soil and trees? My point and questions is the thought process of my observations in relations to the tsunami and in turn thinking about other natural disasters. Of course you wouldn't encourage a forest to grow on an active volcano in Hawaii.

    Over population is not a concern of mine. What the population does to the earth is a concern.
     
  6. songbird

    songbird Senior Member

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    Grace, Hawaii is a very good example of where you can see
    how volcanoes and life can interact and study the time-scales
    involved.

    there are rarely any areas near an active volcano that life will
    flourish. the fumes, heat, ash, lava, etc. make it a very tough
    zone for many years. once the vent/volcano has gone dormant
    it may take hundreds of years for life to reclaim such an area
    as topsoil formation is going to depend upon erosion/rainfall
    and other factors (elevation, adjaceny to other life, etc.).

    as for rehabilitating such areas. i think there is a lot more to
    be gained by working in much more stable areas where topsoil
    already exists.
     
  7. Grace Pignatello

    Grace Pignatello Member

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    The point of my post was to challenge the idea of healing the earth as an organism. Or to simple think about the possibilities. My goal would never to be to get rid of the way the earth works. But what if our understanding of what is good for the earth actually is very destructive and not needed at all?

    Instead of a government or corporation spending billions to stop wild fires, they could instead spend millions to build permaculture earthworks to keep the wild fires from destroying large land areas. Wild fires are not needed. Sure a dead tree hit by lightning may burn but not a whole forest.

    I agree volcanos are extreme to address and may not even be necessary. But by mentioning this idea allows us to think of the earth beyond what is normal or what can be done. Permaculture has done the impossible. Geoff and others have created life where others said it was impossible and a waste of time. He and others were only able to do this because they explored the impossible, the crazy, and the insane. Our developed world culture has this idea that we only think in the confines of what we are taught or think to be true. May we have the courage to know the truth, the patience to wait for the truth, and take the action to pursue the truth. Also the humility to accept truth will always be evolving, as our understanding of reality does.

    We are in control of our destiny and we are able to direct, nurture, and heal mother nature.

    I ask you to not get caught up in the facts of a volcano. While we do understand a little bit of how and why they do what they do. Our understanding is very limited and yes, may even be wrong. We have observed in the ocean how vents that release gases feed certain organisms. Should we limit our perspective and say the same doesn't happen to the organisms in the ground/soil/rocks/earth/ or forests?

    Yes, we can strengthen the areas that already have topsoil. But we also can build top soil where there is none. These places would be, deserts, forest deserts, quarries, and other such areas. My goal would be to seed the earth with permaculture sites in the areas with no top soil. Areas/sites that would be 100 acres to 1,000,000 acres. This could be done in many ways and each could look different. This would heal the earth, change our weather/climate, and diminish the destruction of natural disasters.
     
  8. Bryant RedHawk

    Bryant RedHawk Junior Member

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    I agree with you Grace, to a point. Where humans go wrong is that they think they can control nature, that is exactly what goes on in Agriculture today as mono crop farming and livestock being penned up in feed lots. The results have been soil death and disease spreading. Just from these observations it should be apparent that we lack the understanding of how nature works to the point of doing wrong things on a fairly consistent basis, so far at least. Even permaculture can fall into this when people fail to first observe and understand what the current succession is telling us about that area. There are many avenues that can be traveled on the journey to heal the earth, not all of these will fit any particular portion of the land or sea, each must be devised to work with nature not against it.

    As far as fires go, before humans arrived at the point of being able to do something about fire, it ran its course and then new life sprang from the ashes. This still happens. It happens whether or not humans are present and it always will. We humans are not the creator. It has only been in the last 500 years that we have spread stupidity around the globe and it has only been in the last 200 years that we have done most of the destruction that has happened to earth. Fires have been massive in the west only since humans cut down the old growth forests for lumber, those trees were thousands of years in the making, saw fires come and go, yet they survived and grew on. It only took humans 50 years to kill almost all of them and humans would have were it not for one president realizing that we were killing things we had no right to kill. On this the North American Continent, the destruction originated in Europe and was spread here by the invaders from there. Oh, and they have not slowed, ever, in their destroying ways. At least not yet, because that would take a total lack of greed, and everyone knows how much those people love money.

    We may think we are in control but that is looking through rose colored glasses. We can urge mother nature, we can set things up so that natural succession goes in the direction we desire so that soil is made rich and whole again. We can create swaths of trees and other vegetation to slow the mighty surge of a tsunami but we can not stop the tsunami from happening in the first place. Where humans fall down, in my opinion, is that we fail to stop and observe, really observe, without superimposing preconceptions. It is rare that you can find a human that can do so. Fires are fed to huge proportions today because of what humans have done in the past and in the present. They are no more "Unnatural" than Straight Line Winds, Tornados, Tsunamis, Earthquakes, Volcanos or Lightening strikes. What is unnatural is humans not realizing that these are functions of Nature and that they are not bad for the earth, they are in fact necessary for renewal of life on earth. Not our life, that is insignificant to the earth mother, except for the fact that humans are a plague upon her skin and have in the blink of an eye done so much damage to her that she is gasping for her life.

    We have to first realize we are the devil in the eyes of the earth mother, then we have to sit and listen to her, pay close attention to what she tells us. Only then can we do what is in her best interest. We created the massive forest fire situation of today by getting the idea that fires were bad, and should be stopped as quickly as possible. This thought preconception created too much "kindling" being able to grow so that when there is a fire it can now spread to the crown and when a crown fire happens, that forest dies, but then the whole process of succession begins again. As Pogo stated so succinctly "WE HAVE MET THE ENEMY, AND HE IS US!"

    Humans, for all the knowledge we think we have, know nothing.

    Sit in the dirt and listen to our mother, do not suppose you know anything until you have heard her heart beat in your own soul and hear her thoughts with your heart.

    Redhawk
     
    Last edited: Nov 2, 2016
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