Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Pre D acres Josh Bio
pre- D Acres History, What happened to me before DAcres of NH?
My family and I arrived in Winterville, North Carolina in 1979 when I was seven years old. The North Carolina economy was shifting from its agricultural roots. The warm mild climate of the state provided shelter to a winter weary influx from the mid Atlantic States North. The inexpensive university system in the state attracted many to the region while retirees also found havens along the coast.
During the ten years in Winterville until my high school graduation, North Carolina grew approximately 7 % per year. Seven percent growth has a ten year doubling time. After ten years there were twice as many people, twice as many cars, twice as many gas stations and box stores. With this growth there was the subsequent increase in traffic, noise and other pollutions of people’s consumptive culture. The agricultural heritage erodes while the commuting service class builds a culture of take out food, video games and virtual reality.
In Winterville we were pioneers of an expanding suburban sprawl powered by a medical center and a state university. We moved into a newly built contemporary house at the base of a horse shoe shaped subdivision off Fire Tower Rd. #11 Baywood Dr. There were six other houses in the subdivision and ours backed into a dense forest. In all directions intensive farmland existed, the drainages ditches and windrows of pine forest were the only breaks in a landscape cultivated for annual crops of corn, soy and predominately tobacco. My father, a physician, became the fifth member of Eastern Radiologists and my mother, a nurse, took the job as a VP administrator at the regional hospital.
I spent a lot of time outdoors. Forts, obstacle courses, and explorations were part of the daily routine. The fields of the area were a part of our observations, the annual cycles of planting and harvest. The ubiquitous tobacco barns were our playhouses on rainy days. In public school, I attended the county school which were denigrated as “country”. In the county system, there were higher proportions of farm raised students in comparison to the latch key kids of suburbia. During the 1980s the landscape of this region would shift from farming to an asphalt intensive lattice of houses, condominium complexes, strip-malls and convenient stores. The partnership of doctors operating as Eastern Radiologists numbered thirty-three when my father retied from the group in 2005.
In a recent trip to Winterville I assessed the current situation. Now in Baywood there are over 30 houses. The forest behind our house at #419 Baywood has been cleared and the fields beyond filled with houses. The irrigation ditches of my youth have become a flooding menace of unanticipated storm waters intensified by the concrete and asphalt laid heedless. On the Old Fire Tower Road cars race on four lanes between stop lights as they maneuver to be the first in line at the drive thru. The windrows of pine have been mostly cut so the sounds and sights of uncoordinated growth in terms of lights, noise, and traffic is intensified. The feeble landscape trees planted in the adjacent subdivision are dwarfed by the typical houses of this era. I had a sense that these houses have identical counterparts all over North America. Because the houses were so similar it was easy to become confused in navigating the subdivided maize.
I was a willing participant in this process of deruralization. I am not sure I understood the subsequence of these actions nor was I aware of other options. The status quo and comfortable consumerism were the doctrines of this period of unrestrained growth. As I approached college, I withered without direction, complacent without a passion, and lacking motivation to participate in the rat race. I was going through the motions by enrolling at the local university through these actions were uninspired and my performance corresponded.
In 1991 I left North Carolina to enter the undergraduate liberal arts program at the University of Colorado in Boulder. This was a significant fresh start in a progressive western town that spawned significant examination of my personal values and lifestyle. I entered the environmental conservation major and proceeded with the class requirements for this degree. The classwork focused on the global crisis of today, pollution, resource depletion, overpopulation, and climate change. In general when offering these depressing revelations the professors provided few tangible solutions. The more fruitful examinations of the situation were taking place during the late night beer and bullshit sessions in the dormitories. Issues, ideas and perspectives were brought to the table as we examined our personal philosophies through dialogue. The late nite examinations of our individual role in the global crisis was a catalyst that inspired me to be more responsible for my role on the planet.
My second semester spring at CU I took an activism class with Elizabeth Moens. The class was my first exposure to Lester Brown’s Gaia hypothesis of the earth as a living organism. One of the requirements of the class was a service project. I worked in opposition to a constitutional amendment that would have allowed discrimination towards people based on their sexual preference. The amendment was publically supported by the Christian fundamentalist football coach at the university. In opposition to the amendment I marched, canvassed, wrote letters tot he editor and was a spokesperson in my classes. One year later I learned that Elizabeth had died of dysentery while working doing relief work with rural populations in India
In 1992 I traveled to Spain for a semester abroad to help me fulfill my pathetic attempts in the study of a non native tongue. At the Universidad de Alicante I received instruction in the history of Spain, including the conquest by the Moors and the years of Franco. We also studied the impending formation of the European Union and the effects of globalization. After the semester I choose to stay in Spain moving to Granada where I enrolled in more language classes while living in the gypsy caves above the historic castle. During this period I traveled to Morocco. This is where I first witnessed and absorbed intellectually the vast disparity and inequities on the planet. The results of these experiences broadened my perspective on the issues facing humanity. For the first time I understood the rational basis for anti-american sentiment within the global community
When I returned home I was intent to finish my degree and pursue the practicalities of social change in the USA. I was exposed to the work of CU professor Ward Churchill and MIT professor Noam Chomsky. The National Oceanographic & Atmospheric Administration is located in Boulder and through a program at the university I served as a go-fer intern on a project researching methyl bromide concentrations in the upper atmosphere. Methyl bromide is a significant greenhouse gas that is used as a fumigant for industrial strawberry agriculture. The exposure to the funding pressures on researchers at the university level left me questioning the validity of science sponsored by private sector funds
That summer I traveled to Costa Rica to preserve biodiversity in the tropics. While an intern with the national parks I painted outbuildings and railing between incessant rains. The potable water ran directly from the pristine rainforest stream and the waste from our laundry and septic directly down the stream. In preparation for the arrival of a pharmaceutical company sponsored biodiversity inventory, I practiced cutting the lawn with a machete. On occasion when school age children toured the parks we policed their prolific tendency to litter without discrimination. I viewed trash being disposed from the windows as the buses entered the gates of the park. We did have the opportunity to chase some local poachers who were seeking pets for the North American market. I spent a couple afternoons in the small community by the park playing soccer and drinking beer.
When I returned that summer I spent two weeks with my father at the Yestermorrow Design Build School in Warren, Vermont. The two week course offered morning sessions of drafting, a construction project in the afternoon and additional site visits to buildings in the area. This was my first exposure to the concept of good boots and hat to metaphorical explain the foundation as solid impermeable support and the roof as protection from the precipitation above. In the afternoon session we learned fundamental construction basics while the morning was spent designing a specific project. My father was occupied with a retirement home design while my goal was to design a community structure for the people of the village in Costa Rica. This community building would house a kitchen for meal preparation, food preservation and processing of value added food products. The building would include a meeting space, bathroom and laundry facilities and would showcase solar hot water heating and sustainable alternative water treatment systems.
The following fall in Boulder I volunteered at a Community Health Clinic taking vital statistics and offering my limited translation capabilities. In my classwork I focused on sustainable design including passive solar and energy efficiency. For independent coursework, I investigated how energy is consumed in the industrial world considering strategies for conservation. In the spring I volunteered at the campus recycling center. My school breaks were spent in the mountains of the region, camping, hiking, boating and biking. Upon graduation, my appreciation for nature along with my increasing awareness of the disparities of the global north and south combined to motivate me into motion. I endeavored to build my skills for the purpose of finding a sustainable future that would attempt to resolve the inequities that exist.
The summer of 1995 was spent in Carbondale in the Roaring Fork Valley of Colorado where I had been accepted as a summer intern at Solar Energy International (SEI). This summer program consisted of nearly 3 months of programming including one month studying photovoltaics and two week blocks on microhydro, wind and sustainable construction. In preparation for the week on methane digestion, I constructed a small batch digestor from a 55 galloon drum. Also offered during this time was a week intensive on solar dehydration and cooking. While there was class-work, the majority of our time was spent with on site tours and doing installations of renewable energy systems. I became promptly aware of my inadequacies as a carpenter during this summer and resolved to improve my skills as a builder.
At SEI I was exposed to my first permaculture style farm at Jerome Ostenkowski’s Central Rocky Mountain Permaculture Institute. While living at SEI, I enjoyed the freedom of living via bicycle. With a trailer and one person tent I was a gypsy in the valley camping amongst the cattle on the BLM land or off the railroad tracks by the river. At the end of the summer it was time to head east and I made it to my Aunt Francis’s condo in Tennesee before I succumbed to carpal tunnel and hopped the bus to Winterville.
In Winterville I borrowed my dad’s truck and headed on a roadtrip of US highlights camping & visiting friends in Utah, California, Oregon and Washington. Visits to Anasazi ruins, the Redwood forests and the Olympic Pennisula highlighted the natural wonders of the West while Las Vegas, San Francisco and Seattle presented some of the urban diversity of the USA. After this whirlwind trip I returned to NC where I was gifted a pickup and then proceeded to Arizona in early 1996.
In Tucson I was hoping to get involved with alternative construction projects in the area that featured strawbale, rammed earth and adobe techniques. While I did have the opportunity to be a part of several projects the majority of my time was spent receiving an introduction to basic conventional construction techniques. I was employed by a property developer with varied projects including condominium renovations, tile roofing, drywall and painting an ice cream factory. As the heat in Tucson turned up I migrated north to Boulder for a stint of stick framing learning the ropes of North American conventional house construction.
Our boss in Boulder had found some work in Montana at the northern entrance to Yellowstone Park. So I was the junior member of a three man framing crew hired to build a sizable second home for some folks from Utah. We incorporated some salvaged timbers from a recent forest fire into the construction and communed with the moose family who were steady grazers in the bog. From Cooke City I traveled to Washington State where I discovered within the San Juan Islands a farm on Orcas called Tap Root.
Tap Root and the neighboring farm were small scale vegetable market farms and homesteads experimenting with the WWOOF model. Typically with Willing Workers on Organic Farms arrangements short term residents exchange labor for a farmer’s room and board. When I arrived at Tap Root they were in the process of building a post and beam structure that was to incorporate straw bales as insulation. I joined the construction team under the supervision of a natural builder named, Pamela Pauly. I joined an island community rich in ideas of sufficiency and sustainability. It was my first introduction to the large scale operation of an exchange at the town dump that amounted to an outdoor swap of all types of consumer products. The adjacent island of Lopez had an independent monetary system and a land trust dedicated to affordable, sustainable housing. The experience of living in collaboration with other volunteers, with minimalists accommodations, in an extraordinary landscape, doing rewarding work, eating farm fresh food, in an incomparable climate was exhilarating. When the rainy season began in October my sister Dara and I headed to the Virgin Islands.
We headed to Maho Bay on St. John, USVI. Maho is a resort with an ecotourism theme. The accommodations at Maho are minimalists screened cabins with meals and music offered at a central dining hall. From Maho we brokered work and lodging with the owner of the Island Hardware Store. The house that was being renovated had a downstairs where we lived that walked out to the waters of Chocolate Hole, the ground level roof had been removed by the previous Class Five hurricane. When the house was nearly finished and they were filling the swimming pool it was time to move again North.
I journeyed again across the country making the familiar stops in North Carolina, New Hampshire, Tennessee, Colorado and Washington. After putting up some sheet rock at Tap Root, myself and Jim Stevenson, an acquaintance from St. John, headed to Alaska. The Al-Can trip was an amazing glimpse of the Mother Earth often in juxtaposition to the ugliness of humanity. We finished a house in a Juneau subdivision tucked so closely to the Mendenhall Glacier that the coolness of her touch was constantly a reminder of her presence. We were graced by interactions with bears, eagles, otters, caribou, salmon and seals. Then in early August of 1997 camping in the back of a truck across the bay from Juneau I received a cell phone call that would change my life.