so low key that you probably missed it

About two weeks ago I arrived in Auckland New Zealand along with 19 other college students and our 5 teachers (Peter, Na, Charles, Ash, and Aga), to start our next three months together. We stayed in Auckland for two nights visiting sites of historical significance, one tree hill, and pikes point where many Mauri and Kiwi activists occupied land that the government was attempting to take from them to build new expensive housing developments. Starting now every week I will be doing at least two critical questions, on topics that we have been addressing in class. Here are the first few

1: Something that I’ve been wondering a lot about lately is just how ecologically sound agriculture can get. At this point in the semester we’ve seen a few farming ventures, from large-scale organic dairy farming, to Rick and Liz’s home based permaculture food-forest. For the most part all of these farming operations were awesome, but I’m curious if there are some simple ways that they could further improve.

The thing that bothered me about the organic dairy operation and a lot of agriculture in general (I should probably just get over it,) is that the place their cattle grazed was a drained wetland, which is not only un-natural, but likely magnifies many of the issues that currently plague dairy farmers, like erosion control and nitrogen run-off. I’m sure there is a way to tap into the natural state of the land, similar to Charlie 2’s eel farm operation, and am curious if there are other similar ventures into this new territory. Rick and Liz’s food forest was amazingly inspirational to see, and a great step towards perfecting agricultural practices. I’m interested if you could grow native crops with the agricultural model they’re using. I would likely create a great habitat for animals (which hopefully wouldn’t eat the plants,) and provide yummy food! Idk

2: Back home in Missoula I worked at a recycling center for a while and had a blast. It was great to have a job I could feel good about and I worked in an interesting environment with some funky, interesting people. On top of the normal recycling thang we worked on little side projects like up-cycling and booths to educate the public. Because of this background it was really rewarding to visit Rick at xtreme zero waste. It was inspiring to see how him and a few others had bought the land where Raglans old landfill was from the city for just one dollar a year to start their operation, and how they had got a hold of a recycling truck for next to nothing. They have so many great things going on at xtreme zero waste now, including glass, plastic films recycling, and a cool shop were they sell all the reusable materials; which is most of it. They are working on taking organic waste, permaculture, and restoration projects. They also have an awesome business plan: the best recycling company is one that doesn’t exist because the people will be well educated on reducing and reusing everything.

Because of the versatility of the Xtreme waste they are an important and appreciated part of Raglan’s community. I’m curious and hopeful that a recycling company might be able to attain this level of efficiency, versatility, and importance in Missoula, and what challenges may lie along the way to establishing this kind of company in somewhere with a different political structure that Raglan and New Zealand. Could it be attained in a large city such as Minneapolis or Chicago?

3: Something I’ve noticed during our time here so far was how most of the people that we talked stressed that no one makes any change at all no matter what the cause, unless it’s economically beneficial, and we should learn to except that. I don’t agree with that statement. I agree that economics currently play a core role in how the vast majority of people make their decisions. I disagree with the idea that we should accept that.

I think that it is a cultural issue that people factor economics so much into their decision-making, and that we should make efforts to change that, by learning from other cultures that don’t have such purely economic incentives, like the Maori and many other indigenous peoples, along with others such as hikers, and surfers. I’m don’t believe that we can eliminate the economic incentive entirely; or that it’s bad, and I don’t think we should; there is just too much of it right now. I’m curious as to what the right balance of economic incentive is, and how it changes.

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