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Agritopia – A Story About Healing Our Environment And Our Communities.

by November 22, 2022 0

On November 17th, the Mt Baker Meaningful Movies Group hosted their second screening for the film, Agritopia by Kirsten Dirksen. South Seattle Climate Action Network and the West Seattle and Kirkland Meaningful Movies groups  co-hosted this event.

At a time when the world seems so fraught with problems, Agritopia provides a hopeful antidote to despair. The film looks at the Kailash Eco-village in Portland and the way in which it has transformed the land and community around it and has provided inspiration and a model for a new way of living in the world.

The film tells the story of Ole and Maitri Ersson, who in 2007, bought a rundown Cabana apartment complex in Portland, Oregon and immediately began to de-pave parking spaces to make space for what today is a huge permaculture coliving space and urban food forest. Today, the Kailash Ecovillage has 55 residents who all help farm where there was once pavement, grass, a swimming pool, and an overgrown weed patch.

In the film, we learn that the community is well-prepared for natural disasters. They have extensive rainwater collection and storage, plenty of produce and they process their own sewage. Their permitted sanitation project complies with international building codes for compost toilet and urine diversion systems and turns their pee and poop into nitrogen and compost.

At Kailash, nearly everything is shared. There are two community electric cars – donated by the Erssons who no longer have a private car-, shared bicycles (and bike trailers), an extensive fruit orchard, berry and grape patches, and a considerable community garden space. Photovoltaics provide about two-thirds of the energy consumed by the complex.

Neil Robinson is the community’s full-time farmer who has sold thousands of dollars of Kailash produce at farmers’ markets. He moved in as a way to prepare for systemic collapse. He says, “I wanted to learn to grow food and then have a system that could step in. We have water, we have food.” Ole explains, “We’re in this zone where it’s not a question of if, but when, we’re going to get a Richter 9 earthquake… that’s going to break all kinds of grids, the power grid is likely going to go down, the sewer grid almost undoubtedly and it’s probably going to take months, if not years, to get the sewer system going again.”

The Kailash sanitation project can absorb 60 adults for months. Rents there are lower than the Portland average because the Erssons want Kailash to be accessible to all income levels. There’s a 300-person waitlist, but Ole hopes others will follow their example. He says,“If you look at it from an economic perspective no business would want a complex landscape like this because it’s way too much maintenance, but what you have to do is turn the maintenance over to the residents, and then they do it: they get joy; it’s an antidepressant; it’s a way of creating food; it’s a way of creating community; so you have to do it in a certain way, but it’s definitely a lot more work than the typical grass and shrub landscape for sure.”

The Mt Baker Meaningful Movies team and cohosts provided both a watch-ahead link for the film and also streamed it as part of their event. After the film was streamed, there was a panel discussion with Ole Ersson, Founder Kailash Ecovillage; Denise Henrikson, Co-Founder EcoThrive Housing; and Taryn Koerker Co-Founder, Burien Shark Garden. Each of these fabulous speakers were able to describe the incredibly simple and incredibly radical ways that they and their organizations are working to heal our environment and rethink how people can live so that we don’t flush potable water down the toilet, we don’t pave over arable land, we do re-wild and reclaim parking lots for urban gardens, we do retrofit our living spaces so that they are much more energy efficient, we do create affordable environmentally sustainable housing options and we do build community – one sprout at a time!

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