Sunday, July 5, 2009

The Permibus

The Permibus "Skills Tour" came to the Hilltop. The Permibus is a sustainable mobile home operated by the activist family Delyla and Stan Wilson and their daughter, Megan (and their dog). They travel around the country teaching people about sustainable living and social justice activism. Johnny and Michelle invited them to the Hilltop so they could reach out to the neighborhood and to the youth who participate in the programs at my organization.

Right up front, Delyla said some things that I wholeheartedly agreed with. First, she pointed out that a majority of people in this world live in cities, and a majority are poor, so any sustainable solution that doesn't work for urban communities and poor communities really isn't sustainable. Second, she talked about the fact you can't just tell people about the changes they should make--you have to demonstrate and teach them in very hands-on ways.

Their home (a converted school bus) includes a compostable toilet, a hutch of chickens that live in the underbus luggage rack when they're on the move, a worm compost bin, and plants growing out of PVC piping, which allows them to grow in limited space, with little soil and water. Stan shared that kids usually say, "ugh" to the idea of a compostable toilet, until he points out that regular toilets flush stuff into the same water supply we drink from, which then must be filtered out. Composting our waste keeps it out of the water supply in the first place.

The Wilsons operate the bus using biofuel; use solar panels to cook, read and operate their computer; and keep the bus warm and cool in the respective seasons using curtains sewn from emergency blankets. They hunt, forage and can their own food.

While they were with us, they brought the chicken coop out. My daughter, braver than I am, held one of the chickens, and loved it. They also taught us how to make seedballs -- mixtures of compost, clay, water and seeds of all kinds, rolled into 1.5 inch balls. They let these dry and then toss them onto open land or vacant lots wherever they go. Not every seed will germinate, but something is always sure to grow.

My organization has a summer academic enrichment program for struggling students focused on science, math and technology, in partnership with the Tacoma Public Schools, so the Wilson will return later this summer to teach a few hands-on lessons to the students.

No comments:

Post a Comment