Radical Urban Sustainability – What’s Going On

Many funny things appear on our sidewalks.

But they are all parts of genius plans.

Some months ago my daughter and I crossed paths with our neighbor Skotty. Skotty was carrying an old television satellite dish the size of, well, a flying saucer.

It would be one of many times we crossed paths with Skotty when he was carrying something large, unwieldy, or simply surprising.

What are you dooooooing????

My nosy kid would not budge from the sidewalk until she figured out why this man was carrying a gigantic circle that eclipsed him.

I am making a solar panel! Skotty leaned down and spoke slowly so my four year old could grasp each word.

Over the months, we saw more and more strange things.

Photo: Albany Times Union

Some things, like buckets and pails full of tree sap, were signs of old fashioned practices respun and brought back to life in the city.

New spins on old practices, and new practices altogether- there were so many things going on around us – things that one would not expect in a neighborhood of boarded-up buildings in an inner-city.

There was something going on.

Something different was going on. Something that was changing an inner city neighborhood that had previously been dependent on outside sources for its survival.


And like any good revolution, it won’t be televised. Why? There’s nothing here to sell you. Just some things to tell you.

Brace yourselves because this will sound like something out of a comic book:
Our neighbors Skotty and Stacy are saving the earth. Except, it’s not out of a comic book.

It’s for real.

Skotty and Stacy are not just environmentalists who try to slow the destruction of the natural environment.

Skotty and Stacy are demonstrating how to radically reverse the destruction of the environment. – and with it – they are re-envisioning the way we can live without over-consuming, amassing debt, disconnecting from our neighbors, and watching water sources and food sources become irreversibly toxic.

There are things that can be done to reverse all of this.

Photo: Albany Times Union

Skotty and Stacy are the founders of The Rhizome Collective, and leaders of Radical Urban Sustainability Training.


What does that mean? Oh, sit down! Relax! There will be no fire in the streets or shouting from rooftops.

Radical means going to the radix or root of the problem and beginning again to rethink and redo what we do from an entirely new basis. It is, essentially, beyond timid environmentalism that seeks to slow destruction.

It is beyond An Inconvenient Truth.

Radical Urban Sustainability is a real response. It is radically different.

Radical Urban Sustainability is not rocket science. (Although it comes from a few – dare we say genius? – minds educated in environmental science.)

Radical Urban Sustainability is a set of simple practices that anyone can do.

When you think of the decay of inner cities, food deserts, toxic waste landfills, lack of quality drinking water, and the destruction of our food sources, and the natural environment – it’s all bad news.

But this is all good news.

With nothing, or next-to-nothing, and working together, inner-city communities can create earth-healing, food-producing, community-binding, self-sustainable societies.

Skotty and Stacy never rest.

Skotty and Stacy are ploughing ahead to teach a city how to live sustainably.

On a forgotten vacant lot in South Albany, after the laborious work of searching for grants and wading through government red-tape, Skotty and Stacy are beginning to build the The Radix Ecological Sustainability Center.

By forgotten vacant lot I mean that this is the vacant lot that you never notice in daylight – that empty vacant lot half covered in asphalt next to the abandoned factory up from the police station..right…I know. I never noticed it either until now. Except for that one time I made sure not to pause there lest I be jumped at night.

But Skotty and Stacy do not see this land that way.

They see the soil.

They see the sunlight.

In a vacant lot, in a forgotten city, they see the possibilities.

And they inspire the rest of us to see them, too.

The Radix Ecological Sustainability Center will be a small farm on a small lot in a small city poised to change the world.

Radical Urban Sustainability means that you can reduce your garbage and create gardening soil in a space as small as an apartment kitchen. All you need is: 1. food scraps, 2. paper strips 3. a bucket, and 4. some worms.

Radical Urban Sustainability means that you can take poisons like asphalt petroleum out of ground soil simply by growing mushrooms.

Or you can grow Reishi mushrooms in logs in a small city apartment and sell them as medicine at $40 per pound.

Radical Urban Sustainability means that you can run your car on vegetable oil instead of gas – by getting old cooking grease for free from restaurants. Yes, I did write, for free.

Radical Urban Sustainability means that you can grow vegetable gardens on rooftops in $9 kiddie pools.

It means growing fruit trees in vacant lots…

…and collecting drinking water in rain barrels.

Radical Urban Sustainability means that in some cases (zoning dependent) you can raise chickens and goats to feed your family and your community with eggs, milk, cheese, and even sometimes meat.

Radical Urban Sustainability means that you can create small-scale water filtration systems with empty buckets, pebbles, and simple plants.

Radical Urban Sustainability means that you can harness wind to create power, or power a blender with a bicycle.

Radical Urban Sustainability means that we have found a small way to bring love, community self-reliance, healthy food and healthy spaces for children to grow up in – back into the cities.

You can bring Radical Urban Sustainability to your city. Click on the book cover picture below to bring you to contact information for trainings, or to buy the book,
The Toolbox for Sustainable City Living.

That’s what’s going on.

Laura Hartmark is a writer and is glad you took the time to read this blog.

~ by lhdwriter on March 5, 2010.

One Response to “Radical Urban Sustainability – What’s Going On”

  1. awesome. Simply awesome.

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