Probably a famous philosopher has written on this, but I don’t want to look it up at the moment. I realized in a flash that what we do with least effort is our greatest strength. And what we do with most effort can build our strength.
Some of our culture’s greatest innovators had an injury or were born with a limitation that shifted their sensory focus in some way that allowed their “least effort” to open access to a world few others saw. E.O. Wilson, George Washington Carver, and Helen Keller are a few such people that come to mind.
In my case, my “least effort” is an understanding of aquatic ecosystems thanks to profound dander allergies to all animals with fur, leading me to be a steward for fish aquariums nearly 40 years of my life. Fish have nearly always thrived in my care despite never once testing water acidity (pH) or quantifying chemical balance in their water. Instead I have learned awareness of subtle cues in fish behavior that cause me to know a change needs to be made in their environment.
An epiphany crossed my path in the course of some transcription content. I learned about aquaponics.
I asked my child, “What are things you think of first that are associated with me all my life?” Answer: “Plants, fish, and music.”
Here is a glimpse of my little tropical community tank that thankfully survived intact 40 hours with no heat, plunging to 40 degrees when my power was knocked out this week in high winds. It’s a bit distorted, like looking through a fish eye.
As I look toward my new school program in Environmental Conservation, I know once I get through courses in fish ecology, ecological sampling, plants of the Northwest, chemistry, ecotones, limnology and others, I will have an opportunity to do an independent study project.
I cannot imagine a more suited project to me than aquaponics (with help of some people with engineering know-how).
Unless I collect data on whether Chopin versus Mozart supercharges plant growth to solve our nation’s agricultural crises, I’m not sure how my music knowledge fits in. But it feels wonderful when you encounter a system that screams “That’s It!” because it’s something that comes naturally to you, but can serve a greater good.
A single semester’s project in aquaponics may take me no further than research paper and a small model, but possibilities seem endless for this type of sustainability project – in education, community adjunct to food bank gardens, urban agriculture, etc.
When we are faced with something that involves great effort, we can take this as an opportunity to answer these questions for ourselves: How badly do I want this change in my life? Why do I want this?
For me, commuting to school provides one such example of “most effort.” I am looking into carpool options to no avail as of yet, but regardless, my route will involve 4 hours a day of commute time. Current best option involves driving 50 miles a day plus 6 buses a day. That would have been enough of a “barrier” to prevent a younger me from pursuing my dream. But now I view such barriers as windows. I can use bus time for study. I never know what wisdom I may encounter in my travels. I can thank my lucky stars to be leaving the house after 10 years working from home devoted to a young child.
Here are a few videos from folks creating aquaponics models around the U.S. One in Detroit, one in Chicago, a summer 2015 PBS spotlight on aquaponics in the US, an ambitious garden tinkerer in Washington State.
Sweetwater Foundation (Inspiring Link)