Sustainable development and food production with Taner Aksel

Taner Aksel is a writer, civil engineer and teacher who started a self-sufficient farm in the highlands practicing permaculture. His research and teaching focuses on reviving ecological wisdom. After being a civil planning consultant for years, he transformed his knowledge in this field onto ecologically improving communities and he is currently giving lectures on ecological development methods.

How did you find yourself on a path that leads you to sustainable living practices?

Learning from nature and exploring sustainable teachings is my passion and curiosity. I believe in creating food security for communities that can bring a positive impact for them to thrive through future environmental challenges. Also, working on practices such as permaculture could provide us with a structure to survive and build on with changing natural cycles. I’m interested in geodesic structures, creating a dome with these patterns enables us to experiment with different ways to build. The geodesic structure holds the weight of a construction distributing the weight evenly to all its parts. I believe this could give us many core ideas on how we could start planning self-sufficient, social living spaces.

Here is a story I share with people when explaining what I try to do and maybe could get a hint from nature: 

“Hummingbird is a small bird feeding on flower nectars taking only a couple droplets of nectar to feed on. One day, a huge fire erupts chasing animals away from the forest. Hummingbird flies to the nearest stream, takes 3 droplets of water and tries to extinguish it. Other animals who see this tell the hummingbird, “What do you think you are doing, what is the use?” The bird tells them: “I do this as my responsibility, if you all do as I do, then there is a chance we can all extinguish it.” So we are just trying to just give earth a chance to bounce back into abundance.”

Any guesses on how different our plates will look in 30 years?

In the next 10 years we will be seeing more changes in our daily lives which will hopefully teach us to reverse our ways of living with nature or we will have to face immediate consequences such as failure to sustain functioning supply systems especially in our densely populated cities. Living sustainably means we’ll continue to have natural and healthy food on our plates. We can still find and produce nourishing food, many germinated from heirloom seeds in various parts of the world, but if climate change is not combatted correctly, then food security will become a major issue.

What role does maintaining and encouraging bio-diversity play in combating climate change? 

We can grow food while protecting soil and nature. We can design and operate sustainable farming systems based on how ecosystems work with regenerative farming. This is becoming a popular term being used lately in related circles. By enabling plant biomass to accumulate in our lands, we can also capture carbon from the air and will have a chance to help mitigate global warming. Governments and institutions have to take drastic steps for any change. The sooner we start tackling the effects the more chance we’ll have as the problem grows most of us are still ignoring it and not implementing real solutions.

What about water consumption, how do you think humanity will cope with droughts?
The living soil and the water are the two most important resources for growing food. Water cycle dynamics are changing on a global level, as heavy rains in short periods of time become prevalent and very dry conditions last for longer. Unfortunately many plant species suffer under these conditions so growing food becomes more difficult. Protecting the soil and having enough water during dry seasons will be essential. We have to learn to capture and store rainwater on land.

Are ecologically sustainable communities models for future livable cities?

For ‘food to table’ process to have the minimum ecological footprint in our daily relation with food:       

  • If you have access to soil, make your own garden. Create balcony, terrace gardens. Grow your own food. Enjoy and share the abundance.
  • Recycle organic matter into compost to use as fertilizer.
  • Buy from the nearest regenerative farmer. If there is none nearby, collaborate to transform them into farms using more regenerative and sustainable practices.

Self-sufficient cities, towns and villages will be the choice of many in the future. Coronavirus pandemic has also shown us the importance and convenience of living in such communities.

Will urban gardening affect the restaurant kitchens, is it possible to supply sizable kitchens with micro-gardens close-by?

Biointensive gardening with raised garden beds in small spaces still can generate 4 to 6 times more food than conventional gardens. Urban food gardens can supply a lot of people with minimum effort and space.

Whet That Appetite strives to open our minds on how we relate to food and  intrigue people’s curiosities about where and how their food comes into existence. How do you relate to this?

It should be a fundamental human right to have access to clean, natural food. We all want to trust the suppliers and be certain that food I bring in my kitchen is organically grown, clean of chemical insecticides, pesticides. As a consumer and a regenerative farmer, if I can meet and grow relations with other regenerative farmers that I can exchange crops, seeds and ideas, I would be grateful. Making beneficial connections is a great way to have more resilience in our lives. With like-minded people we have started foundations to design and apply sustainability projects. Hopefully, these efforts will all help us build a better connection with nature. 

Author: Caglar Adnan Yilmaz

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