Monday, March 29, 2010

Bamboo "Paper"

Well, kind of. The sheaves from younger bamboo shoots provide an interesting surface, but because they are brittle, I don't think they are the ideal textile in terms of durability and ease of use. However, the ancient Chinese method of using bamboo slips (long slices of bamboo tied together, almost like a modern bamboo mat) as scrolls is interesting. I'm guessing that bamboo slips, unlike bamboo paper (which apparently has put a great deal of pressure on some tropical bamboo forests), could be made from bamboo varieties that can be grown locally in North America. No one is going to be turning in their college thesis on bamboo slips soon (try to adapt printer settings to that!), but it is a beautiful textile.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Whose Permaculture?

Ever since I flipped through Bill Mollison's original Permaculture I/II books, oggling the illustrations as if they were Penthouse fold-outs, the ideal of permaculture has captivated me. Granted, I have always been dubious about some of the more grandiose claims made by Mollison and others. The utopia of self-sufficient homesteads with perfect south-facing exposures sketched out in the Permaculture books always seemed to hide the dirty realities of eco-pioneering.

Recently, I've been checking out the accounts of different self-proclaimed "permaculturists," attempting to set up eco-villages in Central America. Reading about their experiences has challenged me to re-think the concept of permaculture as a living movement. After all, permaculturists do adhere to a (now global) label, creating a community that seems to share distinct characteristics (I'd insert a jab about dirty hippies, but I'd be an armpit-hypocrite).

A topic for further inquiry: how can we understand the permaculture movement in the context of globalization? It was very gratifying to read the account of a family of California transplants establishing an eco-village in Costa Rica. Clearly, these were people who had put their environmental/social beliefs into practice, constructing a physical manifestation of their ideals. However, these are still Western people bringing what are presumably Western concepts to a very different, "Other" place. What distinguishes them from a California conglomerate or Western media?

Obviously my questions are blunt. They ignore the subtleties that truly define this situation. Nonetheless, it's a realm of inquiry I'd like to delve deeper into.

Haiti Aid: Perma-aid or Perma-imperialism?
Costa Rica Settlers: Green Globalization?