Urban Farming: Sustainable City Living in Your Backyard, in Your Community, and in the World
Thomas Fox

Ended: July 31, 2011

The amount Americans overeat could supply the entire caloric needs of Bangladesh, of France and Germany combined, or of the total populations of North Korea, Yemen, Taiwan, Ghana, Malaysia, and Venuzuela plus 10 million of their closest friends. The problem isn’t just how much we eat, but what we eat: highly processed foods from a homogenized selection of choices—the very kinds of foods made possible, if not inevitable, by industrial agriculture.
All of us have made that most grievous of supermarket sins: bringing unlabeled produce to the checkout line. Those price lookup (PLU) codes identify the kind of product, letting the cashier distinguish between, say, cilantro (4889) and Italian parsley (4901), which look quite similar. Organic produce has a five-digit code that starts with a 9; organic cilantro, for example, would be 94889. Genetically modified produce (which, by definition, cannot be organic) has a five-digit code that starts with an 8, such as 84901 for genetically modified Italian parsley. So, to recap: four digits means conventional produce, five digits starting with a 9 is organic, and five digits starting with an 8 is genetically modified.
Square foot gardening (SFG) is a subset of raised-bed gardening promulgated by Mel Bartholomew through a book of that name—reportedly the best-selling gardening book ever—and popularized subsequently through television and other media. Rather than limiting one’s effort to a square foot, what SFG does is divide a larger plot (usually 4 by 4 feet) into individual square units. Planting in these units is dictated by plant size: for example, a unit might hold one tomato vine, or four thyme plants, or nine leeks, or sixteen carrots. As with many other (sustainable) intensive garden methods, close planting helps to shade out weeds and conserve moisture.
Metropolitan Vancouver is a blend: warmer than Juneau, cooler than Hong Kong, with an intermediate population density of about 1,900 residents per square mile (roughly 3 people per acre). It also happens to be one of the most advanced cities in the Western Hemisphere for urban agriculture.
A conventional rule of thumb is that vegetables require a soil depth of at least 8 inches.
If you are going to use plastic, however (and most of us will), consider making two practices part of your life. First, reuse what you can—those kitty-litter buckets being a perfect example. Even though the plastic itself may be recyclable, reuse eliminates the energy (of manufacture, shipping, and sale) and resources used to make the new container you would otherwise purchase, as well as the resources involved in the recycling process itself. Second, if you do buy plastic containers, try to buy easily recycled kinds, such as polyethylene terephthalate (PET, indicated by the number 1 in the triangle on the bottom of a container) or highdensity polyethylene (HDPE, number 2 in the triangle). Whatever you buy, use the container to death. One caveat: avoid reusing plastic containers that have contained potentially harmful chemicals, such as solvents. You can reuse ones that have held salts (halite, for example) after you clean them thoroughly. Clockwise from
The keys in this chapter are cognitive strategies—methods to help you replace unhelpful thoughts with helpful ones. The term “cognition” is taken from the Latin word cognoscere, which means, “to know.” In psychology, cognitions refer to the many ways that the human brain can know. These abilities include perception, comprehension, learning, reasoning, and planning. Both concrete and abstract thinking are cognitions, and so is meta-reasoning, which includes beliefs, intentions, and desires.
These keys will help you stay motivated by desire and keep a healthy balance of the right brain chemicals for paying attention. You’ll have the motivation you need from start to finish—motivation you can sustain to pursue your goals and succeed.
The art of establishing a goal is to set it up in such a way that the task required and the rewards expected develop an irresistible power of attraction. Here, in the motivate-yourself keychain, you’ll learn how to choose goals that genuinely attract you and then set them up so they irresistibly pull you forward. Your three new keys to personal victory are: goals with meaning, sustainability tools, and the deathbed test.
U.S. Olympic swimmer John Naber has won one silver and four gold medals. Naber defines motivation as “the excitement and enthusiasm you get whenever you imagine what it’s going to feel like when your personal dream actually comes true.” Notice the verb “imagine” in this definition. Imagining is a mental tool. When you imagine a future success that has personal meaning, you tap your dopamine-driven inner resource of natural motivation.
Your path with heart is unique to you. Maybe you want to make as much money as possible so you can buy a house or provide for your family. Maybe you have a particular promotion or career move in mind. Maybe, like Martin Sheen, you want to achieve a goal that you missed earlier in your life. Or maybe, like John Naber, you have a particular talent or gift and you want to see how far you can develop it.
Naber says that winning Olympic medals had little or no impact on his drive as a swimmer. His dream was constant improvement, breaking his own personal best records.
“There is more of a chance of an athlete becoming a winner if he/she does not have winning as a goal.” Dr. Unestahl had been observing world-class athletes for years to discover the habits of champions. What he found is that top athletes focus on tasks, not trophies. Their primary goal is to beat their own current level of performance, not somebody else’s.
On any given day, you may have the best race of your life, but your competitor may have an even better one. You cannot control your competitor’s performance, and if you waste your precious attention on what he’s doing, you have less to give to what you are doing. This powerful rule applies to all human performance—sales presentations, job interviews, courtroom proceedings, public speaking, and especially taking tests.
When your goal depends on your efforts, not a prize, you’ll get motivation that lasts and focus that won’t be wasted on factors you can’t control. Aim for self-improvement—to do your personal best.
the art of establishing a goal is to set it up in such a way that each task and its reward develop an irresistible power to pull you forward. A metaphor that is used in sports psychology is to think about building a flight of stairs. You want each step to be just the right size and all the steps to be in the right order, so that each one leads to the next. As you climb, you gain the momentum you need to take you to the top.
When you have to make a tough decision, ask yourself this question: “At the moment of my death, if I look back to this moment, what do I want to remember that I decided to do right now?”
If you make a decision that results in a loss, reframe it for what it is: a part of your ongoing efforts to learn and succeed. Instead of beating yourself up over it, say, “Hey, I’m proud of myself for trying. What can I learn from that?”
Reframing is a powerful antidote to FOMO—the fear of missing out, which you read about in Chapter 6. Instead of feeling as if others have an edge on you because they’re doing something you cannot do, you turn it around so that you feel you have the edge because you’re mature, decisive, and in control.
Self-defeating habits are hard to break. Regardless of whether your actions help or hurt you, it’s a natural human tendency to justify them to yourself, so you can avoid cognitive dissonance. Essentially, “cognitive dissonance” means that you cannot hold two conflicting thoughts at the same time. So, for instance, if you believe in efficiency and then you procrastinate, your brain instantly assumes that there’s a reason for the procrastination. And that reason, or a variation of it, will justify your procrastination again tomorrow.
Its average half-life—the time required by the body to eliminate one-half of the amount consumed—is three to seven hours. In other words, at seven o’clock in the evening you’re still metabolizing about half of the caffeine from the latte you drank at two in the afternoon; and at eleven that night you’re still running on one-fourth of it. It takes about fifteen to thirty-five hours to eliminate 95 percent of it.
Caffeine’s half-life is hugely variable. It depends on age and a broad range of other factors. Smoking cuts it in half, and taking birth control pills doubles it. This is useful to keep in mind if everyone else orders coffee while you’re trying to cut back. Don’t compare yourself with others. Your brain and your situation are individual to you.
Scientists developed an instrument called the tachistoscope to study the effects of flicker. They found that it alters brain wave patterns, but that not all flicker is alike. The flame of a campfire induces a relaxing EEG pattern known as brain coherence; but the flicker from television and video, while still having a hypnotic attraction, has disruptive effects on brain waves.
study published in the medical journal Pediatrics shows a strong connection between TV watching at early ages and weak attention later on. Researchers related the hours of television watched by 1,300 children ages one to three with their scores on measures of attention problems at age seven. Frequent viewers were most likely to score in the highest 10 percent for having problems concentrating. Every added hour of watching TV increased a child’s risk of having problems by 10 percent. The American Academy of Pediatrics now recommends no television for children from birth to two years of age.
Electronics and self-awareness. To stay balanced when you’re plugged into your electronics, practice the self-awareness keys you learned in Chapter 5. Get in the habit of asking yourself, “What am I not doing now?” Unlike reading a book, you’ll never get to the last page of the Internet, so you have to decide when to quit and go spend time with your family, friends, or nature. In Chapter 10, you’ll learn more tips to stay productive when you’re browsing or searching the Internet.
Appreciation. In the 1970s, I had the privilege of participating in one of the last teaching conferences conducted by Hans Selye, MD, the discoverer of biological stress. Dr. Selye taught us that the only thoughts strong enough to compete with stress are thoughts of appreciation.
Years later, as scientists learned more about brain chemicals, it became clear that Dr. Selye truly was ahead of his time. It turns out that when we feel gratitude we promote serotonin, which slows down the cascade of stress chemicals. In other words, thoughts of gratitude decrease the fight-or-flight brain chemical, norepinephrine, and return us to a relaxed-alert state.
You may have already discovered this effect for yourself. Next time you’re under fire from the demands that surround you, remember to use appreciative self-talk to defeat your stress: I’m thankful for my life, health, family, friends, and home. I’m grateful for today. I’m glad for all that I have. I’m especially thankful for __________. At this moment, I feel grateful for ____.
Research shows that you’re more likely to get back into a project if you’ve already gotten it well under way. In the language of physics, you’ve gathered momentum. When you need to begin a new project, check your schedule and create a sizeable block of uninterrupted time so that you can get a solid start.
To Handle Interruption Use blocks of uninterrupted time to start important projects.
Stay aware of how much of the interruption is work and how much is a break. Keep a visual reminder of what you are doing directly in front of you so you can return immediately after an interruption. Use your assertiveness-skills key to limit unhelpful interruptions. Use your self-talk key to direct yourself to get back o work.
Interruptions eat up mental energy and stamina. You’re doing one thing but still holding a place mark for the thing you didn’t finish doing. In addition to Stone’s original definition, the term “continuous partial attention” also describes the fragmented, preoccupied state that results from carrying too much unfinished stuff in your head. This problem is aggravated by the “Zeigarnik effect”: people remember uncompleted or interrupted tasks better than completed ones. Bluma Zeigarnik was a Russian psychologist, who noticed that waiters remembered a long, complicated order until they finished serving it.