Friday, September 11, 2009

Field Trip #1 - ECHO: A Deeper Understanding of Sustainability

The field trip to ECHO - Environmental Concerns for Hunger Organization (I read on the website that the "H" once stood for "Haiti") - proved to be very informative and a pleasant experience. I have always been intrigued and have learned much about herbal remedies and exotic foods, so this trip was right up my alley. Also, I work with many South Americans and Haitians and so the messages of the trip to ECHO were of further relational importance to me.

The main theme of the tour through the farm was sustainability. In other words, it dealt with how people can recycle man-made objects, and provide their own food, in order to survive and preserve the environment. The term "appropriate technology" was used much by the guide, which refers to the development of contraptions from found items that both perform a needed function and recycle the found items. One such item was a laundry detergent bottle that was fashioned into a device to wash your hands. By tipping the bottle, a small stream of water flowed out, and attached to its bottom was a bar of soap. This device not only conserved clean water (a scarce commodity in much of the world), but also lent towards sanitation and the prevention of disease. It is attached to the right side of this ten person hut:

The "appropriate technology" concept can also be observed with this tractor tire, which has been converted into a tree pot: I learned that vulcanized rubber tires are very tough and resistant to decomposition. The same goes for aluminum cans. Hence, ECHO suggests using tires to pot trees and plants and burying aluminum cans in the soil held within them.

Other aspects of the tour through the farm that I enjoyed were the recreations of various environments, for instance tropical highlands, pictured here:

This type of climate is of particular interest to me, because I am fascinated by the Andean Mountain Range of South America, where this type of environment is abundant. However, I had no idea that stones were used to terrace the mountainsides.

Another alluring subject to me is the use of plants has healing aids, and the cultivation of "superfoods." I am already familiar with quinoa, which is grown in the Andes, and its high nutritional value. But I have never heard of the "miracle tree", or mirenga, shown growing here:

The mirenga, as the class was told, is full of several different vitamins and minerals. The cultivation of cinnamon trees was also of importance to me, because my mother is a diabetic, and I always see her using cinnamon to help her blood sugar levels. I had no idea what a cinnamon tree looked like before visiting ECHO:

Growing my own food and sustaining myself sounds like something I'd be interested in doing. My past experience is limited, but I did attempt growing vegetables when I was much younger. I have also had small bonsai trees, Venus fly traps, and cacti. Clearly, in addition to my affinity for plants that offer health benefits, I am intrigued by exotic plants.

I think that I would be most interested in growing something like the "miracle tree," and I should suggest to my mother that she may want to grow cinnamon. Personally, I think it would be amazing to have an infinite supply of something so beneficial and life-giving as the "miracle tree."

I guess I should stop being a "vegetable" and tree-t myself to some sustainable living!

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