Aquaponics and the Subversive Power of Video

By: Tawnya Sawyer

This was a noteworthy week in our household – we officially turned off our TV. I can’t claim that it was a noble political statement, nor can I claim that it was an effort to spend more time together as a family playing games and reading. The real reason why we shut it off is that the internet simply offers more compelling entertainment, and we discovered that we could buy a desktop computer, and a remote mouse and keyboard, for the cost of a year’s worth of satellite TV.

Aquaponics videoThe focus of this post about subversion is not our family’s emancipation from ‘the tube’ (although I could write an entire blog post about what this experience has been like) but rather on the extreme power of internet video to create a voice that can be heard around the world.

I was struck by two examples of this power as it relates to aquaponics just this past week. The first was a TED talk. If you’ve spent any time with me you know that I’m a huge fan of TED talks, and I usually watch them on my laptop named Emily, while making dinner. For those of you who aren’t familiar with this incredible resource, TED talks are the recorded results of two main conferences, and a series of satellite conferences held around the world that bring together the world’s most fascinating thinkers and doers, who are challenged to give the talk of their lives (in 18 minutes or less). While the program started in the arenas of Technology, Entertainment and Design (TED) it has grown to far more than that and the TED website now offers over 900 of these incredible presentations, free of charge. Just last year, Charlie Price of Aquaponics UK gave the only TED talk ever given on aquaponics.

Like anything else, there are TED talks that I think are mind-blowing, some that are merely entertaining, and some that I don’t connect to at all. If I think a presentation is great then Alan, my son Ryan, and I watch it over dinner and then discuss it. I usually filter the definition of ‘great’ to give preference to the science and technology topics that the two of them enjoy. However, last week was different. Last week I saw a talk about the need for backyard gardening that I thought was so well done and so important that I actually subjected my men to a gardening presentation over dinner – horrors!

The talk was called ‘A Subversive Plot: How to Grow a Revolution in Your Own Backyard’ and was given by Roger Doiron. Roger’s bio on TED.com states “Roger Doiron is dedicated to helping individuals grow their own food. He is the founder of Kitchen Gardeners International — a network of 20,000 individuals in 100 countries. In 2008, he started the “Eat the View” campaign, a successful bid to get the White House to plant a kitchen garden–which was planted (by none other than the First Lady) in March, 2009.” Roger Doiron’s TED talk advanced the radical notion that we can subvert the powers that are keeping us and our children in a state of obesity, heart disease and cancer while at the same time lowering our overall cost of food by re-adopting the Victory Garden goals of the 1940’s, i.e. a vegetable garden in every backyard in America.’ Powerful, subversive, and revolutionary.

The next subversive video I watched showed up suddenly on our Facebook wall where it was posted by Frank Gapinski of Ecofilms. It is a good piece, and would be even better if it really were offering aquaponics as a solution to world hunger.

When I asked Frank about it here is what he said

The FB video Sylvia is bogus. I was watching a self promotional piece made by the UN World Bank yesterday which can be viewed here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nxJEwC38Wsc

And I thought to myself, ‘You know, these guys are full of crap. This would make a great video promoting Aquaponics or something more tangible!’ So I copied it and reedited it. Everyone who has an AP website should put it on their front page. I animated the fish leaping around to match the look of their ad and then changed the ending to include the word Aquaponics. It is mischievous on my part, but – hang it!

If you are going to go to all the bother of making a video like this (the original UN version) then why not offer and promote various practical solutions to empower people. Aquaponics is just one tool in the box. Maybe Aquaponics is impractical for people who have no access to power or even basic sanitation. But for the rest of the world, it offers tremendous potential to grow fish and vegetables easily – providing you have access to some electricity, some food for the fish and enough sunlight to make the plants grow. It’s really that easy and the UN and their fellow experts should take a closer look at Aquaponics as a possible solution to end the scourge of world hunger.

Don’t you love it?! As a revolutionary, subversive act, Frank has taken a vacuous U.N. piece about world hunger and with a few simple edits has pointed out that Aquaponics can be an important part of the solution. And I agree with him, we should all find a way to include it on our website somewhere.

Beyond these two stand-out examples that demonstrate the subversive power of video and aquaponics, I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention the power of video to draw individuals into aquaponics through the countless ‘how to’ and systems updates videos that are out there. This is where many of us first went to learn more about this growing technique, and whether it actually works, and what it will take to set up and run. To give back and continue this spirit of open-source sharing, we have created our own YouTube channel called (of course) Aquaponic Gardening. There are fifty videos there already and we are committed to adding many more.

So go, grab your video camera, and be subversive!