Archives—March 2013

Food in the UP neighborhood

And finally a foodie post from my current haunts…. the UP Food Exchange website is up and running! Make it your first stop for information on local food news, farmers and markets, as well as an online market to increase agricultural connectivity across the three UP regions (Western, Central, and Eastern).


More urban farming news from my old haunts

This time it’s news from Cincinnati that one of the oldest community gardens in Over the Rhine would have been bulldozed for housing development. The “Eco-Garden” is a lovely garden that I used to walk by frequently on my way to downtown from Clifton, so it is very good news indeed that it has not only been spared, but incorporated into the city’s redevelopment plans for Over the Rhine.

While Over the Rhine is one of the poorest neighborhoods in Cincinnati, it has deep cultural roots that include food and urban ag. I spent most of my Saturday mornings at the historic Findlay Market, which was open year-round thanks to a major improvement about 8 years ago to enclose the main stalls in a four-seasons building. Before that project, Findlay Market definitely required a bit of stoicism for winter shopping, but it separated the committed from the fair-season shoppers.

Farmers Markets are quickly returning to cities around the country, after decades of lagging interest. It is quite an impressive achievement for Findlay Market to have withstood the test of time. And now it appears, happily, that the Eco-Garden will too.


Chicago’s new Urban Farmer program

Grist.org published a segment last week on Chicago’s new urban farmer program, aiming to train up to 100 farmers each year on how to establish an urban neighborhood farm, both from the agricultural as well as the business side.

Many contracting or otherwise struggling urban cities in the US are looking to agriculture as a solution for vacant lots and unhealthy diets, from Pittsburgh to Detroit to Los Angeles. (You know it’s a trend when the New York Times has an entire online section dedicated to it.) Farming (or even gardening) on a vacant lot can be challenging, from polluted soil to poor drainage to pest infestations, not to mention ordinance violations. But as experience with these transformations grow, lessons learned from converting many thousands of acres of brownfields into greenfields could help localize our food system and provide much needed urban employment. It’s also a great way to immerse children in the food system, allowing easier access to gardens (to participate in growing their own food) and a natural way to get to know others in their community.

Personally, I’m glad to see the change of heart in my native city; let’s see if the suburbs follow suit and relax their landscaping ordinances that prohibit gardens in front yards.


Bad news delivered well

This semester I am teaching a class on sustainability (Sustainability Science, Policy and Assessment), and I am struggling to decide whether I should show probably the most dispiriting and disconcerting documentary currently available on the topic of societal collapse, a very common topic in our class discussions.

Titled simply “Collapse“, the documentary is an interview with Michael Ruppert, one of the tallest lightning rods in the peak oil and sustainability circles. Ruppert’s methodology and conclusions are controversial, but that is not what makes his work so difficult to teach. There is a fatalistic quality to his work; that connecting fact A to B to C inevitably leads us all to D (collapse of civilization), when there are significant unknowns that may make those events truly unconnected and therefore D just one of many possible outcomes.

Indeed, it is the work of groups like The Resilience Alliance that try to understand these different pathways through destruction and renewal, and The Transition Network that tries to prevent D from becoming an inevitable outcome by guiding communities down different pathways.

I suppose I can understand how Ruppert’s history and career could lead him to see the worst in humanity…. his years in the Los Angeles police force surely required him to be open to the worst possibilities…. but hopefully I can teach my students the reality of the challenges we face without losing hope for kinder, gentler pathways through them.


Isle Royale NPS Presentation tonight (Tuesday 5 March)

From the email:

Hello all!

Just a reminder about tonight’s Global City presentation Tuesday, March 5th, 6:00-7:00 pm in the U. J. Noblet Forestry Building G002, Michigan Tech (please note the room change for our regular members!). We welcome Isle Royale National Park employees Seth DePasqual (Cultural Resource Manager), Mark Romanski (Biological Science Technician) and Lucas Westcott, (West District Interpreter) to give the following presentation:


Of Marten and Men:
Implications of Spatial Analysis in Cultural and Natural Resource Research at Isle Royale National Park


Over its history, the isolation of Isle Royale has made it a premiere location for research on cultural and natural history.  A variety of spatial analysis technologies are helping current National Park Service researchers examine diverse park resources in new ways.  Come join NPS staff for a discussion about how spatial analysis is playing a role in research on Isle Royale’s genetically distinct pine marten population, as well helping identifying potential historic and prehistoric archeological sites. (For more detailed abstracts please see below.)


Pizza and pop provided, please bring your own mug to minimize waste!

Looking forward to seeing you there!

The Global City crew

Michigan Tech Campus map:
http://www.mtu.edu/maps/


Seth DePasqual, Cultural Resource Manager
This presentation will discuss recent examinations into Isle Royale’s early prehistory and more recent mining histories with attention given to site discovery, geomorphology and the merits of survey work aided by LiDAR. In addition to conventional archaeological survey methods including background research and field-based inventories, ISRO CRM incorporated a LiDAR-based DEM when developing strategies for site discovery.

These efforts resulted in the location of many previously undiscovered site features including historic roads, prospect trenches, and diamond-drill coring stations.  With regard to prehistoric features, archaeologists targeted the island’s relict shorelines as a means to site discovery. These features (including those not yet discovered) improve our understanding of significant island prehistories/histories and lend themselves to informed decisions regarding future management actions, public interpretation and the relevance of cultural resources in Wilderness.

Although traditional survey methods are sometimes adequate for discovery of these types of features, the time and personnel necessary are typically in short supply. LiDAR allows researchers to ballpark, if not pinpoint certain anomalies that are compatible with certain island cultural themes. Related methods streamline federal survey efforts allowing more time for actual site examination and documentation. Without LiDAR, a great deal of time and expense would be committed to searching for such features as opposed to documenting them.

Mark Romanski , Biological Science Technician
Isle Royale National Park contains the only insular population of American marten in the contiguous United States. Marten at the park likely experienced a population and genetic bottleneck during the early 20th century and after a 60-year apparent absence, their presence has been reconfirmed.  Investigations of genetic isolation and relative distribution suggest abundance of marten at the park is very low, approximate 30 individuals, and that this population is genetically distinct from its likely source population. There is considerable concern that the park could lose this rare population of forest mesocarnivores without further information to assess this population’s status. This situation is exacerbated as natural colonization from the mainland is virtually impossible. Given ISRO martens are likely their own genetically distinct subspecies, equivalent to the only other known subspecies of marten  found on the island of Newfoundland, no known genetically similar source population exists if augmenting the population was warranted. As such, park researchers and their collaborators are  conducting research designed to address the most salient aspects of this population’s natural history to help preserve this unique, insular population of marten.