This week we visited the three forty- foot garden beds that the UHD CUAS adopted at Target Hunger’s Willie H. and Gladys R. Goffney Community Garden. After Hurricane Harvey it was expected that the plants would be wiped out and that our solar-powered electrical system would be non-functional. There were quite a few weeds, the low to the ground eggplants took a beating but the okra appears to be thriving (see okra flower) and the electronics are still working. In the book by Leidy Klotz titled Sustainability through Soccer: An Unexpected Approach to Saving Our World (2016) he defines resilience as “resisting damage from an unexpected disturbance and then recovering quickly.” He argues that resilience is not only seen in the tactics of winning soccer games, but it is an important ingredient in sustainability. We know what some of the challenges the future will bring. We will need to feed more people, address water and resource use, work to save the biodiversity most critical for the ecosystems services on which we depend and address the impacts of a warming planet on future industries and health. Another challenge of planning the sustainable systems of our future will be creating systems that are resilient enough to handle the surprises we don’t see coming. Houston is built on a coastal prairie ecosystem. The native plants of this system have evolved a great resiliency to the floods and fires that were frequent here over thousands of years. The agricultural plant okra also has great resilience to the heat and humidity of Houston’s summers. Okra seeds were most likely brought to North America by Africans who were shipped to the US as slaves and the plant thrived in a summer environment hostile to many plants. As we recover from this unexpected disturbance and plan for a sustainable future, it can be somewhat comforting and perhaps useful to reflect on the natural models of resilience around us.
Most of the UHD Sustainability Garden including the UHD Compost Center will have to be rebuilt. Stay tubed for timeline and updates.
Thank you to our community partners that helped us brainstorm areas of academic focus in sustainability (shown here) and our future continuing education program.
Students from the NIFA-USDA funded Experiential Learning through the Center for Urban Agriculture and Sustainability pose at the end of summer I. Students in the 2017 class designed and built aquaponic systems within the UHD Sustainability Garden. Students will continue to work with their systems throughout the fall semester as they optimize their systems and run experiments.