Meeting Brad Lancaster

Brad Lancaster said his presentation would include strategies on how to live a more balanced life. He said these strategies can be adopted in other places “they’re not hindered by borders.” Brad is a teacher of Perm culture and mostly he focuses on water, our BSP group had the honor to hear from him in the comfort of his home.

What is the story of your place?” Is the first thing he asked us. After answering that question, he said, we can take on our role in that place. Brad told us Tucson is the oldest cultivated space in the U.S. Brad showed as a relatively current picture of Tucson and one taken 100 years ago. To me Tucson looked grayer and less vegetated now, back then, the Santa Cruz river was flowing. Brad told us Tucson has historically been a place of abundant natural resources with more than 400 native species. Back then when the Santa Cruz river used to flow all year long things used to be different. Infrastructural changes have had a major impact in Tucson, Brad calls it “dry infrastructure” . The over-pumping of Arizona’s water system is a major concern for Brad and should be for all of us. Tucson and Phoenix get their water from divesting water it the Colorado River. And Tucson is the second largest consumer in Arizona. According to Brad divesting that water requires an enormous amount of energy, hence resources.

Arizona looks so different from 100 years ago because “we live in a hydrophobic society” Brad comments. One that has created a “dehydration structure”. When there are big rainstorms the water washes down the streets of Tucson, like it’s not welcomed. Brad said floods are occurring here every 10 years rather every 100 years which was used to be before.

So after telling us a little about the story of Tucson, Brad told us his next question was “What is my role in this place? ” and Brad encourages us to do this at our hometowns as well. Do you we like the story? Our answer can help determine our roles in our community. This is how Brad led us into a journey of alternatives and challenges of more sustainable lifestyles for everybody.

Brad sees the possibility of beneficial generative infrastructure. Generative infrastructure according to Brad, is one that consumes less and conserves its resources. And even better than that Brad mentioned regenerative structures where we can count on nature doing the work for our consumption because we are working with nature as opposed to interrupting natural processes. For example: water conserving irrigation systems.

We learned that the relationship between nature and our human structures should is key. I am not able to reproduce the details about these structures in this blog post, but I invite you vistwww.HarvestingRainwater.com and www.DesertHaversters.com to take a clearer and closer look at Brad’s extensive work.

In this blog I want to share the bigger concepts I took out of Brad’s presentation that hope to implement in my ways of living. One of these is the importance of using our local resources rather than importing resources and plan carefully how to use those resources. This is beneficial to everybody, it’s about promoting our health and well-being the environment. One way this can happen in Tucson is by harvesting and utilizing on site water. Brad said Tucson gets enough rain water to be able to sustain on it. It would also create an organic underground-water sponge, that well, ultimately would maximize living here by promoting a growing environment for plants.

One way to achieve this would be by creating drainage systems on our roofs that would feed the plants around the homes. This an alternative to using our clean water for irrigation. However, we have tons of options, harvesting greywater is another way to make use of these resources easily available to us, easier on our pockets as well. Another of example of using free resources would be orienting your house, more specifically placing your windows toward the sun during winter months.

Brad claimed these our “solar rights” and hence our responsibility of not blocking our neighbors sunlight. New Mexico has made these rights lawful. Brad showed us this system at work in his own home. It made sense to me: Environmentally friendly and cheap for the pocket. So far, the alternatives Brad had presented seemed very realistic. I was worried coming into the presentation that I wasn’t going to be able to relate and hence engage well with ideas of “sustainability” due to financial limitations. Nonetheless for the most part I felt like the alternatives presented by Brad were relatively accessible and not solely possible for a certain privileged group. Brad commented that he is currently working on ways to reach out to the Tucson community more including spanish speakers members.

The second biggest idea I take from Brad’s presentation is not one he spoke about but one he enacted. And this is the idea of commitment. Brad not only presented all these healthier alternative ways of life but we also got to see them in place at his own home. A limitation I put on myself when thinking about these alternatives, is that I question what difference will it make if I use a composting toilet when there million other regular toilets around me? The way Brad thinks about it is that you can’t just sit around and wait for others to take action. You can’t force them either but “you can nudge them”. Brad has achieved a lot. His neighbors have started adopting several different ways of harvesting water and making use of other resources. But probably the biggest and most noticeable achievement of that neighborhood block is that they have their own rain water drainage system from the streets that feeds the trees along the sidewalk. The block is noticeably greener than its surroundings. The organization of the block has also brought the neighbors closer together. It is truly inspiring to see what some ideas, organization and cooperation can achieve for us!

– Martha McCann

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