Living bridges and supper from sewage: can ancient fixes save our crisis-torn world?
From underground aqueducts to tree-bridges and fish that love sewage, indigenous customs could save the planet – but are under threat. Landscape architect Julia Watson shares her ‘lo-TEK’ vision
This bird has gone out there and looked at what people actually do to solve problems:
Many of the phenomena were never intended to be solutions to ecological breakdown, but simple responses to local circumstance, practised for generations. Some are bound up in millennia-old mythologies and religious practice, while others, such as Kolkata’s thriving aquaculture system, were the result of happy accident. According to local legend, in the 1920s a cultivator named Bidu Sarkar realised untreated wastewater from sewage pipes had started to flow into his fish pond. He expected disaster, but instead of killing his fish, the effluent doubled his yields.
Others took note and followed his lead, realising the combination of sewage in the water and sunshine broke down the effluent and allowed plankton, which fish feed on, to grow exponentially. The fishponds now cover around 3,000 hectares, holding 300 fish farms, and the technique has caught on elsewhere in the world – in Bangladesh, Pakistan, Myanmar, Thailand, Germany and France.
Cool. People react – at this level of local knowledge – to the resources, problems and incentives they face. Those solutions that work spread as a result of the profit motive.
Of course, if The Guardian had realised that the name for this system is capitalist free marketry they’d never have published the piece.