Category Archives: Ecosystem solutions

A restorative Twin Tower memorial

In 2002 or so, architect Malcolm Wells (the illustrator of Liquid Gold as well as many books on underground homes) mailed to his friends color copies of his alternative vision for a Twin Towers memorial.

Mac was unimpressed by Liebskind’s and others’ proposals for a tower that thrust into the sky tauntingly.

Mac’s vision was for a bowl planted on every other level with plantings that insulated and oxygenated the site. Offices would be built into the earth.
A theme of healing, not aggression.

(I hope to find Mac’s original text soon.)


Morning at the New Alchemy Institute

Remember the New Alchemy Institute? Perhaps you heard of it. It was a thinktank/do-tank on Cape Cod where baby boomer idealists gathered to model the green future, with experiments in fish farming, using composting to warm a greenhouse, and so forth. That was mostly in the 1970s. When I journeyed there in 1989, it was pretty quiet. One finding of the aquaculture (fish farming) tanks was that adding floating plants helped clean the water by transforming nitrogen from fish poop into plants like basil, water hyacinth, and watercress. That observation inspired my co-author David Del Porto to note that this applied to the wastewater field. The observation was converted by John Todd into his now-famous Living Machines wastewater treatment system. The fate of that will be the topic of a future blog post.

There experiments took place in New Alchemy’s big greenhouse, dubbed “The Ark.” The Ark is now attached to the home of Hilde Maingay and Earle Barnhart, the organizers of Saturday’s “Eco-Toilet Summit” in Falmouth. Above are some photos from a walk around the outside of the home of Hilde and Earle’s delightful home (which uses composting toilets) and its grounds. One wonders if New Alchemy, which ran out of grant funding in the 1990s, is now better served as Hilde and Earle’s home, where they hatch ideas like The Eco-Toilet Summit.

Manure as medicine

A PBS show about asthma reported that kids exposed to animal manure have lower incidences of asthma. The key agent appears to be “endotoxins” in manure. It might be that microbes like fecal coliform, which in certain volumes and types can cause illness, actually either result in boosted immunity.

A study shows that kids who get sunshine (vitamin D), play in the dirt, play with other children, and are exposed to pets or other animals from birth tend to have lower asthma and allergy incidence. Early ongoing exposure to pigs are associated with the lowest incidence of asthma, the study concluded. This is interesting because pig excreta is close to human excetra in its constitution. Could using and maintaining a composting toilet actually reduce risk of illness?