Posts tagged Michael Richards

Deconstruction vs. demolition: a green way to handle flooded homes?

Michael Richards, president of the Oakhill/Jackson Neighborhood Association, has been working on a “Good Jobs/Green Garages” effort since the floods. Some of that is detailed in an article in the Sunday, March 8, 2009, issue of the Gazette:

 

http://tinyurl.com/bdn94m

 

Here is more from Michael about those efforts:

 

   “We have added a very important layer of innovation and action to Good Jobs/Green Garages:

   As Neighborhood Assn. President, I have been approached by flooded residents in their 70s and 80s that do not have the time, energy or financing to Rehab/Rebuild.   We are pairing these elderly residents with former Metro High students that are now in their mid twenties, energetic, employed and ready to engage limited money with “sweat equity” to gain first time home ownership by rehab and retrofit of these flooded homes they are purchasing from the above noted elderly flood victims.  We have one rehab/retrofit  Next Generation Home Ownership project already underway in Oakhill Jackson.   We have also paired an elderly resident/ and a young new homeowner in Time Check to work with  this model of community recovery.

   My goal is this:  Create the working model. Then, if the City Government wants to get on board, fine, if not, well, we’ll keep working away to rebuild this city one step at a time from the ground up.”

 

 

   From Cindy, again: Rod Scott, who is also featured in the Gazette article, realizes not every flooded home can be saved. But he questions why so many that could be rebuilt are being torn down. He asks if it’s because the city is encouraging demolition, especially of homes in modest-income neighborhoods. Rod, who is president of the Iowa Historic Preservation Alliance, notes that many of the homes are structurally sound. “They’re just flooded buildings,” he said. “They can be cleaned up and rebuilt.”

 

 

   Cedar Rapids City Council member  Tom Podzimek added to the city’s discussion of sustainability when it comes to rebuilding from the floods in one area that hit home. For city gardeners, it might not be a popular idea, but a suggestion that has been proposed in the past would be to sell land that has city gardens – presumably the Squaw Creek gardens, as the Ellis area often floods – and allow developers to build private housing there. The tradeoff would be offering leased city gardens in the city’s new green zone, where flooded homes have been bought out and removed. “Why get in a car and drive five miles?” Podzimek asked, when the “greener” model would be having gardens located near the people who use them.

   Other ideas for the green zone have included soccer and baseball fields and dog parks. Podzimek said some residents want those entities in areas not prone to flooding, but he said it makes more sense to have homes and structures built away from flood zones and use the 250 acres or so of new green space for those “flood resilient” projects, such as ball fields.

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SEED conference: A wake-up call

                       SEED Conference II:    A Wake-Up Call

 

   A conference that addresses sustainable buildings, food systems and community is set for Saturday and Sunday,  Oct. 24-25, in Cedar Rapids.

   Michael Richards, organizer of the Sustainable Ecological Economic Development, or SEED, Conference II: A Wake-Up Call, notes that Iowa this year was hit with two of its most challenging crises: the most extreme flooding in the state’s history and most serious global financial crisis.

   The conference, at Metro High School, 1212 7th St SE, will explore the root causes of these crises.

    For information, call:  319-213-2051 or e mail the conference team at: Soyawax@aol.com

 

A $25 donation for attendance is appreciated.  

 

   Here is the schedule:

  

Friday, Oct. 24 –  6:30 PM     Conference Opening Invocation; Michael Richards, S.E.E.D. Founder

 7:00 PM     Closing Night/Cedar Rapids Second Annual Environmental Film Festival

The film fest is a month long film series presented in many art, cultural and educational venues in Cedar Rapids

 

An Enlightening Evening with the Film Directors; Nationally acclaimed, award winning Madison, Wisconsin based film makers Gretta Wing Miller and Aarick Beher will join us in the Metro High Media Center tonight to screen their most recent documentary film;   “Keeping the Lights On”.  Learn how film making is a vital tool for dynamic change and cultural growth.

 

Saturday, Oct. 25:  A Community Building Conference

 

Track  I; 9 AM   Sustainable Food and Wellness; Transforming the Iowa “Food Desert” into a Sustainable Oasis

Janet Coester, Mir Valley Farm

Peter Hoehnle, Iowa Valley Resource and Conservation

Steve Smith, Iowa Network for Community Agriculture

Track  II: 10:30 AM   Integrating Shelter and the Environment; establishing a “deeper shade of green” within  sustainable communities.   Rebuilding a Green Iowa after the devastating Disasters of 2008
Nadia Anderson/Iowa State University Architecture Studio; Green Rebuild/Design for a Post Flood Iowa
Ashley and Nate Mealhow; Building A Pedestrian Friendly-Sustainable Urban Village in Oakhill-Jackson/CR

Clark Rieke and Lisa Mc Millen Boese; Eco-Modular/A Smart Approach to Affordable Housing in Cedar Rapids

Michael Richards, Oakhill Jackson Neigborhood Pres. “The Greenest Homes are ones already here”. Rebuild/Retrofit

 

 

Track  III; 12;00 Noon Lunch Session; Community Based/Self Sufficient Energy Solutions; Local Options

Steve Fugate;   Founder, Green World Biofuels; Self-Sufficient Local Energy

Timlynn Babitsky, Author; WIND PROJECT; a Grassroots Community Organizing Handbook

 

Track IV; 1:30 PM   Building Ecological Communities; Intelligent/Sustainable Land and Resource Conservation; 

 The Back Story; The 100 year history of land and water practice in Iowa that led up to the Flood of 2008:

Wayne Peterson, Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship

Christine Taliga;  Director, Iowa Valley Resource Conservation and Development

Clark Rieke; 1000 points of mitigation, a decentralized/distributed land/water flood management plan for Iowa

 

The Future Story;  presented by the Union of Concerned Scientists
Mark Madsen, University of Iowa,  Mike Carberry, Green State Solutions;

Climate Change/Climate Chaos as a contributing factor to natural disasters; we are in a new circumstance

 


Track V: 3:00 PM  Ecological Economic Development /
A Thriving Economy within an Ecological System

Michael Richards, Author, Sustainable Operating Systems/The Post Petrol Paradigm   (www.amazon.com)

Richards is a member of the State of Iowa Economic Development Task Force;  REBUILD Iowa Office, RIO

Jim Salmons, Co-Founder/Sohodojo; The Small is Good World of Ecological Entrepreneurship

Lynette Richards, Community Connected Life-Long Learning; Sustainable Education/Grassroots Political Connectivity.   Lynette is one of the 7 Member Task Force planning post flood affordable and sustainable housing.

 

Track VI: 4:30    Ethical/Spiritual Foundation for Land and Resource Stewardship

Prairiewoods  Eco-Spirituality Community will convene this group exploration of root ethical values.

 

6:00  PM  Gather in the kitchen and dining hall and all work together to prepare a Community Feast

 

8:00 to 10:00 PM      Harvest Moon Dance Party with local musicians.     This is whole family event.

 

Michael Richards adds the following:

 

S.E.E.D  provides  an effective, non-partisan, local citizen capacity to activate reality based, sustainable solutions. 

 

For thousands of years, the native ecology of Iowa was resilient, incredibly diverse with  immense capacity to absorb water and sustain life.  These natural systems have been dramatically disrupted through our uninformed policy and economic actions of the past 100 years.   SEED serves as a community catalyst to apply intelligent biomimicry for land, water and resource management to restore ecological resilience.

Iowa has the base economic resources of fertile land, bountiful water and hard working, honest people. Out of necessity, we are entering a time of real economy; We will conserve, scale down, simplify, save, and spend prudently for the things that we actually need.  We will now create a sustainable economy.    As “The Sustainable State”, Iowa can lead the way to restore sane national economic systems and intelligent political discourse.

The false economy is collapsing, but the real economy remains.  Did we forget how to make things that people need?  Can we no longer grow local food?  Did Iowa factories burn down?  Are our tools lost?  Did we run out of good people to work in farms, factories and offices? No!  The real economy remains as our sustainable foundation.  The  present financial crisis is simply the evaporation of the false and illusory world of derivatives, collateralized debt, index funds, credit default swaps, structured investment vehicles, and the hard-sell marketing of sub-prime mortgages and super-sized homes.  That house of cards has collapsed.  We will now build a sane and sustainable economy.

Six years ago as the Iraq war started, I launched Sustainable Ecological Economic Development (S.E.E.D.) to address root, causal factors of war; the deluded pursuit of the false and destructive economy of Empire rather than productive and sustainable Creative Enterprise.  Economies based on Empire exploit other nations, the natural environment and even our own citizens through usury, labor exploitation, and unfair wealth-transfer through corporate welfare and coercive bailouts. Excessive national debt is irresponsibly relegated to future generations.  Average U.S.Citizens have been reduced to powerless serfs, indentured by fear, complex webs of wealth-transfer taxation and oppressive debt to fuel the totally unsustainable military/industrial-Wall St. Machine. Our founding fathers would not recognize the State of our Nation.  The bright light of the American Dream is now shrouded with dark clouds of fear, greed and deception.  We need a wake-up call and restore our nation to ecological and economic health.   The S.E.E.D. Conference is a call to community action.

 

  

 

 

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Seed sorting

Two-year-old Ravi Essmann of Cedar Rapids checks out packets of seeds next to his mother, Adrienne, at Monday night\'s Community Garden Party at Poet\'s Park. More than 30 people attended the Community Garden Party last night (May 12) at Poet’s Park in southeast Cedar Rapids.

Steve Hanken, who is leading the planting efforts at the park for the Oak Hill Jackson Neighborhood Association, has dug out a 10-by-24 foot wide garden bed in the park to start the community garden. Steve said he hopes to plant tomatoes soon, but it’s been too cold to start. A tiller he tried to use did little on the impacted ground, so Steve has been using a spade to ready the soil.

The Neighborhood Association hopes to offer gardening classes throughout the summer. Seeds handed out for residents to plant their own gardens have been donated to the project. If anyone would like to donate time or materials to the garden, contact Neighborhood Association President Michael Richards at (319) 213-2051.

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Victory Gardens

It appears the Oak Hill Jackson Neighborhood Association will soon have a demonstration garden in Poet’s Park, at Otis Road and 12th Avenue SE. An agreement expected to be signed today will now be signed on Monday, the group’s president, Michael Richards, said.

Richards and others hope the garden will inspire neighborhood residents to plant their own gardens.

 

Julie Sina, director of Cedar Rapids Parks and Recreation, who is signing the agreement with the group, said that had the agreement been signed earlier, seedlings planted already would have been lost to this week’s frost. As an aside, she noted  that  the city gardeners at Ellis Park have seen their gardens wiped out by flooding this week from the Cedar River. This hasn’t been the ideal spring for gardeners.

 

On a more inspiring note, CURE International sent the following news release to me today. And Michael Richards passed along the item on peace gardens/victory gardens below.

 

LUSAKA, Zambia, May 2, 2008 – As food costs continue to rise around the world, the CURE International children’s hospital in Zambia has cultivated a ground-breaking solution. Many young patients arrive at the hospital so malnourished their frail bodies are unable to handle surgery. In an effort to strengthen their bodies and immune systems, children are fed a nutrient-rich diet of vegetables pre- and post-treatment.

When a hospital administrator noticed the cost of purchasing and transporting fresh produce was rising, he decided the hospital should grow a garden of its own. By converting unused land into farming ground and hiring two full-time gardeners, his research revealed that the hospital could yield enough crops to fulfill its needs and the project would pay for itself by the first harvest.

The first harvest was abundant, providing enough food for all of the hospital’s patients and staff members. There were even enough vegetables to sell to the local community at reduced rates. Hospital gardeners have also started teaching their advanced agriculture techniques to the patients’ family members so that they can apply it to their own gardens when they return home to their remote villages.

CURE, the largest provider of specialty surgical care in the developing world, treating more than 650,000 children to date, brings children around the world the benefits of First World health care. One hallmark of all CURE hospitals is to provide meals for patients during their treatment. CURE’s hospital in Zambia was established in conjunction with UK-based charity, The Beit Trust, as a pediatric orthopedic and neurosurgery training center.

 

 

Peace Gardens

One of the most successful civilian programs in WWI and WWII was the widespread cultivation of home victory gardens. The Federal Government did not support this program at first, due to the belief that it would be a poor allocation of resources and essential labor for a tiny yield of output.

But as many of America’s farmers went overseas to fight, domestic food production dwindled. This caused shortages and strict rationing of foodstuffs. Victory gardens quickly became an essential part of the civilian war effort. These small gardens supplied low cost and nutritious produce, and helped build morale during the hard times. By growing victory gardens, our grandparents resolved their food shortages through practicality and common sense.

Today, we Americans are confronted with similar dilemmas which could imperil our very survival: an economy in deep recession, a devalued U.S. dollar, war in the Mideast, totalitarian repression at home, contaminates in the food chain. Add to this the decline of small and family farms, the explosive growth of global factory farming, genetically modified seeds and foods, declines in food production due to drough and global warming, water pollution, and an ever increasing reliance upon imported food. By considering these factors, we begin to see the approaching spector of global famine on the horizon.

Today, the creation of home gardens has become an important aspect of personal sustainability. In a few short years it will be an absolute necessity. Because of this we must relearn these traditional skills, and begin supplying our own produce, just as our our grandparents did.

Gardening is a healthy and satisfying endeavor. It provides numerous benefits, including a sense of accomplishment and personal wellbeing, an inexpensive supply of high quality vegetables, and builds morale during stressful times. Growing vegetables reconnects us with nature, and strengthens us in many ways. Gardening is a perfect antidote for these dark and depressing times. I think of them as “Peace Gardens.”

A surprising quantity of delicious and healthy produce can be grown in this way, and it is easier to accomplish than one might suppose. This can be done almost anywhere: in backyards, vacant lots, in containers or planter boxes, on porches or on window ledges. Community gardens are popping up in urban areas as well as in small communities accross the country.

Small gardens are easy to create using inexpensive, local materials: wood, stone, soil, compost, manure, and water. The size and layouts of the gardens will be dictated by the spaces available. Raised beds are a good solutions for most gardens, and can be built using clean recycled wood, or local stone. They should be designed to provide good drainage (Gravel can be put in the bottoms to assist drainage). The best raised beds are 3-4 feet wide, 16″-24″ deep, and can be worked from either side.

When picking a spot, make sure that is has good solar access, and the availability of good water. If you must use city water, acquire food grade 55 gallon plastic barrels as a temporary holding tanks. This will allow the chlorine in the city water to evaporate prior to watering. Roof water catchment is also a good alternative in areas where pollution is minimal.

Find the best garden soil that you can acquire. Do not dig soil near roads or highways, as these are all polluted with petro chemicals and lead. Ask around and find our where others get their garden soil. It should have lots of worms. Soil with a high clay content can be used, but must be improved. If you must use soil that is marginal, start by sterilizing it with solar, heat or steam. This will kill all bacteria, spores and nematodes, etc. Then augment the soil. You can add washed sand, wood shavings, organic compost, chicken, sheep or horse manure (seasoned not fresh), etc. Mix it in well with shovels and pitchforks.

The economic gifts of gardening are considerable. In addition to supplying ourselves with high quality organic vegetables at a low cost, we are also able to trade, barter or sell our extra bounty. This facilitates our participation in the alternative (underground) economy. The alternative economies will be essential as the traditional ones will soon collapse under their own dead weight.

As spring approaches, it is a good time to begin gathering the seeds, the supplies and the tools necessary to begin gardening. During the dark and cold months that precede spring, one can brush up on the essentials of gardening: composting and making soil, acquiring organic fertilizer, sprouting and planting the seeds, making raised beds, protecting the seedlings from pests, weeding, harvesting, “putting up” the produce, and finally – the many ways of preparing and eating the bounty. There are numerous resources available to assist in this learning process: Libraries, used book stores, university extension programs, and best of all – from experienced gardeners in our own communities.

Planting a peace garden is an excellent vehicle for re-establishing one’s connection with nature, restoring one’s place in the natural food chain, for preserving personal freedom, and for sewing the seeds of peace. This is the essence of true homeland security.

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Oakhill garden update

What seemed like a straight-forward proposal turns out not to be with the Cedar Rapids City Council and the Oakhill Jackson Neighborhood’s plan for a community garden. Rick Smith’s Eye on the Island blog mentions the red tape the group has encountered. Following is the latest correspondence from Oakhill Jackson Neighborhood Association president Michael Richards:

From: Michael Richards, President/Oakhill Jackson Neighborhood ASSN.

To: Ms.Sina/Cedar Rapids Parks and Recreation

 

Dear Ms.Sina;

 

The City Council made a decision to back the establishment of a community demonstration garden in the Oakhill Jackson Neighborhood nearly one month ago at the City Council meeting on March 26th.

 

We are in Iowa where we have a limited growing season.    The extended delays with getting this timely project launched are a mark of extreme inefficiency in our local City government.   If a business operated with such extreme inefficiency, it would be out of business in short order.

 

You are now telling me that you have to “take this back to City Council” after a formal decision was already made on this same project by the City Council one month ago?

 

This is a very well organized community effort.  The Oakhill Jackson Community Garden Project is not a random group of people heading out to a city park with a hoe.

 

Below is the list of organizations that are providing funding and gardening expertise to this exemplary community project;

 

1. Linn County Master Gardeners of the Linn County Extension Service/Iowa State University

2. Iowa Network for Community Agriculture This Statewide organization of professional operators of

    CSA/farms all over the State of Iowa are providing funding and expertise.

3. Practical Farmers of Iowa  (statewide organization that supports sustainable agriculture)

4. Kalona Organics (a coalition or Amish family farms that are binging healthy food to Iowa

5. The Kalona/Organics-Metro High fresh produce project

6. Iowa Valley Resource Conservation and Development (six county soil and water conservation organization that includes Linn County.

7. Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University

8.I-Food Local Food Coalition (about 40 local organizations are participating including United Way, Prairiewoods, Grinnell College, ISU, and many local elected officials.

 

 

Back to Cindy: Rick Smith said it looks more likely that the garden will go somewhere other than what the neighborhood association had hoped for. More undoubtedly will follow.

 

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Urban permaculture in Cedar Rapids

A job at Clipper Wind brought Frank Cicela and his family to Cedar Rapids recently from Indiana. Wanting to meet some “kindred spirits,” Cicela decided to bring in a few experts to conduct a permaculture workshop at his new home in Cedar Rapids.

The workshop will be Saturday, May 3, and Sunday, May 4, at 3409 Seminole Valley Rd. NE.

Permaculture is the design of human habitats that have the stability, diversity and resilience of natural ecosystems. The multi-disciplinary approach integrates renewable energy systems, energy efficiency, agriculture and food systems, natural building, rainwater harvesting and urban planning, along with the economic, political and social policies that make sustainable living possible and practical.

This sustainability  allows people to begin taking food security and energy security into their own hands and into the hands of their community.

The focus of next weekend’s permaculture workshop will be on gardening. Part of the discussion will be how to garden in a three-dimensional zone, that is, using the space above, as well as the traditional design of a garden.

Quite a bit of work goes into starting such a garden, but once established, Cicela likened it to a “food forest,” that maintains itself. “Once it’s created, you just walk through and eat,” he said.  

The course – an intensive classroom and hands-on event – will be taught by three staff members of “Big Green Summer” from Fairfield.

Cicela said the workshop normally costs almost $200, plus a drive to Fairfield. This two-day course is $55 per person.

To see the schedule and register, go to: http://www.myearthwatchexperience.com/pcw/ or call (319) 832-1025.

 

 Michael Richards of Cedar Rapids, founder of  SUSTAINABLE ECOLOGICAL ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT (S.E.E.D.) noted the following to take into consideration on the importance of urban permaculture:

 

– 95 percent of  the food on the shelves of Iowa grocery stores travels an average of 1000 miles to get to your table.

 

– A few decades ago, Iowa was close to total self-sufficiency in food supply.  Over the years, local creameries, canneries and meat processors all over Iowa have gone out of business in the “bigger is better” world of cheap energy.   

 – The opposite economic structure is now our present reality;  Energy is no longer cheap.

 So now what?      

 It is time to re-build Iowa’s local food production and local food distribution infrastructure.

 It makes no sense for the state that has the most fertile soil on earth to lack the ability to feed ourselves with local sources.

 Start in your own backyard with urban permaculture.

 We can all plant “Iowa Victory Gardens” to supply 10 to 20 percent of our household food needs in our own backyard or in neighborhood community gardens.   We can then gradually build back up the local food production and infrastructure throughout the State of Iowa to reclaim the economic foundation of a safe, healthy and abundant local food system.

 

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