Posts tagged antonio scarponi

Last year, the lady gave me a book for my birthday. At first, I didn't know what to think; it was a small, unassuming paperback with an indecipherable title -- ELIOOO -written by an author I didn't recognize, Antonio Scarponi. But, as I flipped through the pages, it was clear to me that she had found something that knit together a number of design obsessions I had investigated since childhood, wrapped up in a package straight out of the new maker economy. 

In fifth grade, I found the Kid's Whole Future Catalog in the school library and was forever warped by its vision of an integrated green future, where we all lived in arcologies and commuted in velocars. In 7th grade, for Mrs. Mason's geography class, we had to make a 3-foot square diorama of a working farm. Instead of patiently pasting toothpicks to replicate a hundred acres of petrochemically-fed corn, I made a survival pit greenhouse modeled after another library book. James Dekorne's prototype was a solar-heated, self-contained ecosystem that used compost tea to grow plants hydroponically. Rabbits in cages underneath the planters pumped the space full of CO2, which sped photosynthesis. A huge tilapia tank bred fish for eating and worked as thermal mass to store heat after the sun went down. The rabbit crap fed the compost heap, the fish water fed the hydroponic system, and on it went into a meta-hippie version of the Grand Unified Theory

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Farm Hackin'

In 1968, Stanford biologist Paul Ehrlich took a detour from his usual research subject -- butterflies -- and wrote a book called The Population Bomb. As with many alarmist books, it was a bestseller, and quickly landed its previously obscure author on The Tonight Show. Ehrlich argued that the world was headed into a state of perilous scarcity, where an exploding population would overtax the planet's ability to produce fresh food and water. This led to a bet with economist Julian Simon, who posited that human's ability to innovate would always outsmart obstacles to growth. Like Malthusians before and since, Ehrlich was proven wrong, and paid up in the late nineties, despite a doubling of Earth's population in the meantime.

Scarcity is still a popular topic amongst both the libertarian, gold-bugging right and the organic, kombucha-brewing left. And it makes basic sense, right? American farmers, once the vast majority of the population, are at only 2% of the workforce now. Very few of us are directly involved in growing food. Less and less of our land is devoted to agriculture. And the land that is out there seems to be giving out, worn down by a century or more of highly productive monoculture. It seems only logical that the oil, the gas, and the infrastructure will give out one day, disrupted by plant diseases, climate change, water scarcities, and unsustainable demand. 

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