Britta Riley 談我公寓中的花園
我，就跟你們許多人一樣，是地球20億城市居民當中的一個。有些時候－不知道你們是否也有這種感覺，但有些時 候，我清楚地感受到我生活裡幾乎每一樣東西都得依賴他人；有時候，這甚至有點嚇人。但我今天想與你們分享的，就是這種相互依存關係，事實上是一種極為強大 的社會基礎，我們可以借助於它，解決一些最根本的城市問題，如果我們進行開放資源合作的話。
幾年前，我從《紐約時報》讀到一篇Michael Pollan的文章，他提到親手種植我們本身消費的食物，是我們能為環境所做最棒的事情之一。我讀到這篇文章的時候正值隆冬，在我那間紐約的公寓裡，當然 不可能有容納大片土壤的空間，基本上我只打算繼續讀下一本《連線》雜誌，看看專家們對這些未來的問題有什麼解決方案。但那恰好是Michael Pollan在這篇文章中提出的觀點－如果我們把解決這些問題的責任都丟給專家處理，就會導致如我們目前在食品系統裡所見的混亂局面。
2年後，我們有了窗戶農場，這是一種可用於種植室內植物的垂直水耕平臺，運作的方式是靠一個位於底部的水泵， 周期性地將液態養分運輸到上方，然後一點一滴地向下流經包覆在黏土顆粒中植物根系，所以不需要泥土。每一扇窗戶的光線和溫度等微氣候生態都會有所不同，所 以每一個窗戶農場都需要一位農場主照料，她必須決定在窗戶農場裡種植哪一種作物，以及是否加入有機肥料栽培。
當時窗戶農場只是一個技術複雜的想法，需要進行很多測試，我很想把它做成一個開放計畫，因為水耕法現在是美國 專利領域裡成長最快速的項目之一也許會成為另一個領域的孟山都，讓我們擁有大量食物生產方面的共同智慧財產權。於是我決定，並非只開發一個產品，我打算做 的是，將這個系統開放給所有共同開發者。
我們最初開發的幾個系統還算不錯，在一般的紐約公寓窗戶上，我們每周大約能種出一份沙拉，我們能種出小蕃茄和 黃瓜等各種蔬菜。但最初幾個系統會漏水，既吵雜又費電，瑪莎史都華肯定會大皺眉頭。（笑聲）因此，為了吸引更多共同開發者，我們建立了一個交流網站，我們 將設計公佈在上面，解釋它們如何運作，甚至進一步指出系統裡每一處缺點。我們邀請世界各地的人建造這個系統，並與我們一起進行實驗。現在這個網站有一萬八 千名參與者，世界各地都有窗戶農場。
現在我們做的正是NASA或一些大公司裡稱之為R&D，或研究及開發的工作，但我們稱它為R&D-I-Y(註一)，或自行研究及開發。例如，Jackson在網站上提了個建議，說我們應該用氣泵而不是水泵，我們建立了幾個系統才終於搞定，但這 樣一來，我們就能使碳足跡幾乎降低一半。芝加哥的Tony持續進行種植實驗，就像許多其他窗戶農場主一樣。他成功在低光照條件下，讓草莓一年中有九個月都 能結出果實，僅藉由調整了有機營養液。芬蘭的窗戶農場主，為了讓他們的窗戶農場適用於芬蘭黑暗的冬季，在農場安裝了LED燈，他們現在將這項資源開放，成 了這個計劃的一部份。
如今我們社群裡已產生一種文化，在我們的文化裡，大家認為成為一個支持他人想法的測試者，比僅做個提供想法者 更好。我們從這個計劃中得到的是對這份工作本身的支持，以及對環保運動產生實際貢獻的體驗，不僅是換幾個新式燈泡而已。但我想Eileen的話最能表達出 我們真正從中得到的，就是合作的真正快樂。她說就像是某個跟你相隔半個世界的人，藉由你的想法建造了這個系統，並感謝你的貢獻。如果我們真的想看到巨大消 費行為改變，正如環保人士和食物人（致力於開發食品策略的人）所強調的，也許我們只需深入瞭解「消費者」這個名詞，尋找背後從事生產的勞動者。
開放資源計畫已成為一股風潮，我們可以看到R&D-I-Y計畫已從窗戶農場和LED燈，擴展到太陽能 板和養耕共生系統。我們在前人的基礎上創新，我們也為了下一代所需，重新建構我們現在的生活。我邀請諸位加入我們，重新發現公民團結的價值，並宣佈我們依 然是開創者。
About this Talk
Britta Riley wanted to grow her own food (in her tiny apartment). So she and her friends developed a system for growing plants in discarded plastic bottles -- researching, testing and tweaking the system using social media, trying many variations at once and quickly arriving at the optimal system. Call it distributed DIY. And the results? Delicious.
About the Speaker
Britta Riley designs and builds urban farms and other participatory artworks that explore the city. Full bio and more links
I, like many of you, am one of the two billion people on Earth who live in cities. And there are days -- I don't know about the rest of you guys -- but there are days when I palpably feel how much I rely on other people for pretty much everything in my life. And some days, that can even be a little scary. But what I'm here to talk to you about today is how that same interdependence is actually an extremely powerful social infrastructure that we can actually harness to help heal some of our deepest civic issues, if we apply open source collaboration.
A couple of years ago, I read an article by New York Times writer Michael Pollan in which he argued that growing even some of our own food is one of the best things that we can do for the environment. Now at the time that I was reading this, it was the middle of the winter and I definitely did not have room for a lot of dirt in my New York City apartment. So I was basically just willing to settle for just reading the next Wired magazine and finding out how the experts were going to figure out how to solve all these problems for us in the future. But that was actually exactly the point that Michael Pollan was making in this article -- was it's precisely when we hand over the responsibility for all these things to specialists that we cause the kind of messes that we see with the food system.
So, I happen to know a little bit from my own work about how NASA has been using hydroponics to explore growing food in space. And you can actually get optimal nutritional yield by running a kind of high-quality liquid soil over plants' root systems. Now to a vegetable plant, my apartment has got to be about as foreign as outer space. But I can offer some natural light and year-round climate control.
Fast-forward two years later: we now have window farms, which are vertical, hydroponic platforms for food-growing indoors. And the way it works is that there's a pump at the bottom, which periodically sends some of this liquid nutrient solution up to the top, which then trickles down through plants' root systems that are suspended in clay pellets -- so there's no dirt involved. Now light and temperature vary with each window's microclimate, so a window farm requires a farmer, and she must decide what kind of crops she is going to put in her window farm, and whether she is going to feed her food organically.
Back at the time, a window farm was no more than a technically complex idea that was going to require a lot of testing. And I really wanted it to be an open project, because hydroponics is one of the fastest growing areas of patenting in the United States right now and could possibly become another area like Monsanto, where we have a lot of corporate intellectual property in the way of people's food. So I decided that, instead of creating a product, what I was going to do was open this up to a whole bunch of co-developers.
The first few systems that we created, they kind of worked. We were actually able to grow about a salad a week in a typical New York City apartment window. And we were able to grow cherry tomatoes and cucumbers, all kinds of stuff. But the first few systems were these leaky, loud power-guzzlers that Martha Stewart would definitely never have approved. (Laughter) So to bring on more co-developers, what we did was we created a social media site on which we published the designs, we explained how they worked, and we even went so far as to point out everything that was wrong with these systems. And then we invited people all over the world to build them and experiment with us. So actually now on this website, we have 18,000 people. And we have window farms all over the world.
What we're doing is what NASA or a large corporation would call R&D, or research and development. But what we call it is R&D-I-Y, or research and develop it yourself. So for example, Jackson came along and suggested that we use air pumps instead of water pumps. It took building a whole bunch of systems to get it right, but once we did, we were able to cut our carbon footprint nearly in half. Tony in Chicago has been taking on growing experiments, like lots of other window farmers, and he's been able to get his strawberries to fruit for nine months of the year in low-light conditions by simply changing out the organic nutrients. And window farmers in Finland have been customizing their window farms for the dark days of the Finnish winters by outfitting them with LED grow lights that they're now making open source and part of the project.
So window farms have been evolving through a rapid versioning process similar to software. And with every open source project, the real benefit is the interplay between the specific concerns of people customizing their systems for their own particular concerns and the universal concerns. So my core team and I are able to concentrate on the improvements that really benefit everyone. And we're able to look out for the needs of newcomers.
So for do-it-yourselfers, we provide free, very well-tested instructions so that anyone, anywhere around the world, can build one of these systems for free. And there's a patent pending on these systems as well that's held by the community. And to fund the project, we partner to create products that we then sell to schools and to individuals who don't have time to build their own systems.
Now within our community, a certain culture has appeared. In our culture, it is better to be a tester who supports someone else's idea than it is to be just the idea guy. What we get out of this project is we get support for our own work, as well as an experience of actually contributing to the environmental movement in a way other than just screwing in new light bulbs. But I think that Eileen expresses best what we really get out of this, which is the actual joy of collaboration. So she expresses here what it's like to see someone halfway across the world having taken your idea, built upon it and then acknowledging you for contributing. If we really want to see the kind of wide consumer behavior change that we're all talking about as environmentalists and food people, maybe we just need to ditch the term "consumer" and get behind the people who are doing stuff.
Open source projects tend to have a momentum of their own. And what we're seeing is that R&D-I-Y has moved beyond just window farms and LEDs into solar panels and aquaponic systems. And we're building upon innovations of generations who went before us. And we're looking ahead at generations who really need us to retool our lives now. So we ask that you join us in rediscovering the value of citizens united, and to declare that we are all still pioneers.