A woman cycles through Minamitsumori Central Park in Osaka, Japan, one of many parks that the city has allowed to become 'wild' during many parts of the year | photo: P.M. Lydon

Wild Animal Friends & Houses Made of Mushrooms // EiR Volume 2, Issue 2

This month’s Environment in Review is loaded with inspirations and solutions for social and ecological well-being, ranging from national initiatives to community projects.

This month’s cover image (above): A woman cycles through Minamitsumori Central Park in Osaka, Japan, one of many parks that the city has allowed to become ‘wild’ during many parts of the year. The move not only saves the city money in maintanance, it also seems to be preferred by many of the parks users, who enjoy connecting with seasonal nature. Translated Tweets from the park’s birds apparently echo the same sentiments. | photo: P.M. Lydon

KAPOW! Can Hot Sauce Change Lives?

In the South New Jersey city of Camden, the Center for Environmental Transformation (CFET) is transforming not only ecological environments, but social ones too. And bottles of Kapow! – a hot sauce grown and named by young ‘eco interns’ – are helping make it all happen. Interns here not only learn about creative environmental stewardship, they engage actively in product development and sales; and they’re paid competitive wages to do it.

Camden is a food desert. One third of its residents are in poverty, 65% are eligible for food stamps, and only three graduates of the local high school were deemed ready for college, reports Civil Eats. The garden works in positive ways on all of these issues. It provides healthy food, youth jobs, life skills and ecological business sense, and inspires young people to learn, create, and cultivate positive qualities within themselves and those around them. Can a locally grown and made hot sauce turn around the lives of young people? If small urban farms like this one begin to multiply, it might just be able to turn around an entire country.

When You’re Here, What Even is Property Value?

A married couple in southeast Australia recently purchased a large piece of land for their home, but the contract had an interesting twist to it: the land can never be developed. It should remain as a natural habitat in perpetuity. Neither the landowners, nor their great great grandchildren will ever be able to develop the property, nor can they sell it to be developed. On a visit to the land, a reporter from The Age asked why they would sacrifice potential future development profit. The landowners apparently laughed, saying “Mate, when you’re standing here, what ever is property value?” Nor are they alone in thinking so. More than 1,000 other covenants exist in the Australian state of Victoria, covering around 120,000 ares of private land. The covenants are made in cooperation with the non-profit, Trust For Nature, and backed by the government through the Victorian Conservation Trust Act.

Building Houses, with Mushrooms?

You can eat them. You can make a mushroom-leather jacket with them, and maybe soon, you’ll be able to build an entire house with them. Mushrooms have long been praised for their nutritional value, but it’s the mycelia – the physical networks that mushrooms form under ground – that is catching the interests of architects and designers. Using agricultural byproducts like rice hulls and sawdust as a growing medium, companies like San Francisco-based MycoWorks are able to grow natural, breathable, water resistant, antibiotic materials for clothing, as well as building materials in a matter of a few weeks.

Teach Me to be Wild

Can a friendship with a “wild” animal help youth nurture a deeper knowledge and understanding of what life is all about? In this moving documentary film, we explore the story of a former National Park Ranger who for nearly four decades, has dedicated his live to helping millions of young people do just this. His organization, Wildlife Associates, has a truly beautiful mission, rescuing troubled wild animals, providing a sanctuary for them. Some of the animals from the sanctuary – we’re talking about anything from turkey vultures to bears – are brought into classrooms for life-changing lessons in empathy. The documentary is currently available for a limited time, free of charge, on KarmaTube.

As for us, this month we’re announcing a fully re-designed SocieCity.org, along with much new content to be posted in the coming months. Have a gander, send us your feedback, and let us know what you’d like to see as we continue to tweak the new design.

Thank you for reading this issue of Environment in Review. See you again soon, and until then, don’t forget to 1) share the newsletter with your friends, and 2) send your tips and thoughts to director@sociecity.org on what’s happening in your area of the world so we can feature them in the next issue!

Yours in Nature,

Patrick M. Lydon and Suhee Kang
SocieCity