on interviewing adam


One of the good things coming out of this online presence is that gives you the chance to connect.
Adam Fenderson came in contact with you the other week, suggesting to review some of his radio work, where he interviews various environmental practitioners.
You decided to interview him in return, a person devoted to spread an awakening towards a new environmental sensitivity, so much needed in this point in time..

Adam, could you please talk about yourself, where you come from and what drove you to commit your work to environmental activism?

I was involved in roughly the Melbourne equivalent scenes as the Sydney ones you are involved with (see SquatSpace.com n.d.r.), inc. media activism/prankster activities/warehouse space. Pretty tech focused. After 911 I got more deeply involved in peak oil research. I started energybulletin.net, a peak oil news clearinghouse, and it became quite enveloping, invigorating to help powerful ideas develop, but kind of sad and frightening too. I met David Holmgren who is now a friend, and got into his vision of permaculture.
I tried to find useful ways of dealing with my fear, so I started organising self sufficiency gatherings, and learning a few skills.

What about your foraging practice? Why did you start to look at weeds with different eyes?

My interest in weeds and foraging stems from fear, and a desire to be less dependent on the industrial food chain as I learn more about how tenuous and destructive it is.
There are other reasons too:
* when supplementing my diet with fresh greens, seeds and fruit from foraging, I am living with less money, so I can work less.
* gardening becomes less of a battle, as things like chickweed, fat hen, amaranth, purslane, dandelion, milk thistle, fennel and nettle become welcome into my garden.
A weed can be defined as ‘a plant that is not valued where it is growing’. A ‘useful weed’ is an oxymoron. There are two ways of weeding — one with your hands, the other with your mind. 😉
* when I forage I am exploring the neglected and wild areas of the city and country, and finding value where others see none. This is a beautiful thing. I love the weedscapes of the merri creek.
* I begin to feel like I’m living in my environment, not just on top of it. When you recognise the plants around you, when you eat some of them, and return nutrients to the soil (i compost my shit too) you become integrated as a functional part of an ecosystem. There is a new level of information filling your vision as you walk around.
Seeing weeds as wild nature. This I think I all got from David. Perhaps I was tied up somewhat in the nativist assumptions that we must protect nature’s essentially pristine and static quality. because I felt some liberation when I broadened my view of nature, when I began seeing weeds as most often healing damaged landscapes. (I like that Tim Low lantana quote on your site). Now I see nature as dynamic and self-recreating, not something to be ‘protected’ by locking it up, untouched, like a museum piece. Novel and fascinating new guilds and ecosystems emerge out of indigenous and non-indigenous species (ecosynthesis). Many people hate weeds no doubt because they themselves feel like part of an invasive species. There’s guilt, and an attempt to right wrongs, but the expression of this urge is tragically counterproductive. We destroy self-healing landscapes and try to impose native-only species using military-industrial machinery and toxins. In fact, conditions have changed: pollutants now enter the system, the soil has been washed away, the climate is changing rapidly, the people that used to live in and manage the system were destroyed by genocide, and the megafauna were lost only a few millenia ago — but we think we can force nature back to an imagined and non-existent past. If instead we can see weeds as part of nature, and value their vigor and productivity, we can continue to identify with them, but change our philosophy about our potential ecological relationship with this damaged country. We are indeed like weeds, and we can heal the land too.

I’m very interested in your foraging tours too, could you please talk more about it?
where do you go? what you looking for? when? (as in do you do your foraging expeditions mainly in spring/autumn or whatever) what you find where?

I’ve only taken 3 formal weed walks so far. one along the Merri creek from Ceres in Brunswick, one in a community garden at a housing estate, and one at a backyard ‘permablitz’ (see here n.d.r.)
I haven’t prepared any notes for them, but have sometimes emailed participants a list of plants we’ve seen afterwards. They have been at different times of the year, with different species in each walk. Normally I bring reference books and hand them out. I can recognise most things we see, and people look up their medicinal uses (I can never remember much of this). There is a great out-of-print book by Gai Stern called Australian Weeds about useful weeds (there’s a link to a relatively cheap copy if you don’t have it yet) and one by Pat Collins, Useful Weeds at our Doorstep, and I also bring along with me some identification books, and herbal books. I have a North American produced urban foraging book too which has many useful garden species. Recently then I’ve found a Merri Creek re vegetation book which mentions bush tucker uses of all the natives which have been planted. I have been experimenting with some of them and getting into edible fungi this year too. Also preserving fruit from wild trees – I bottled about 50 kilos worth of apples and quinces I think!

Adam produced a couple of great interviews of David Holmegren (here) and Pat Collins (here), where he drives the topics towards the lowly plants we usually dismiss in our gardens.

Weedy thanks Adam!

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