Climate Resilience 3: Self-Fertilizing and Self-Watering Islands

That’s right, islands in the grass.

They’re not just sitting there. They are creating nitrogen and releasing minerals from the rock into a form that plants can use. In fact, instead of growing plants by feeding them fertilizer, a process which forces land into larger and larger blocks to finance machinery rather than human labour …

… we can grow fertilizing rocks, then line them out to warm the land. They will collect and move water and fertilize the soil at their edges. It might be only one harvestable plant …

A stone, its lichen and its desert parsley

… but there are millions of stones.

Desert Parsley, blooming in March.

Well, billions.

The blue-green algae in these rock-dwelling lichens are the roots of life on Earth. They made the oxygen in the air. They are still at it.

So, if you like an oxygen environment…

Breathe deep, now.

…rather than one of carbon dioxide…

Okanagan Lake in Vernon and Kelowna Winter Smog

… plant a stone and get on with it already. Protest might help, but planting a rock is going to help, too.

Turtle Mountain

Well, you know, you could also plant a log.

Big Bar Esker

Why not. It would even store water for slow release. 85% of the snowfall on the Cariboo Plateau, for example, is stored in logs and released through the summer. Now, logs are all fine and good if you have trees hanging about…

Big Bar Moraines

… and you can even mix it up with rocks, like the one above watering a little garden year in and year out, but what about if you have only a rocky hillside?

Note how nitrogen produced in this little bluff feeds both Saskatoons and the roses and snowberries at the bluff’s base. Bella Vista

That works, too.

North Kalamalka Grasslands

With good populations of nitrogen-fixing lichens…

Not exactly bare rock.

… good water collection and storage, and resulting good berry productivity…

Pacific currant.

…a healthy response to combatting climate risk would be to add farming locations that include rocky hill-land.

Turtle Mountain

Water run-off on any of these locations is positive erosion. It releases nutrient-rich water, which brings the surrounding earth to life.

Boulder Feeding a Saskatoon, North Kalamalka Grasslands

There are hundreds of thousands of acres of such land in the valley, much “owned” by the government and left wild.

Only Settler Culture says this is not a human harvesting space.

Even though this land is not suitable to machine harvesting, it is capable of providing food in a region in which human habitation and drug production…

…are rapidly replacing foodlands. The land most at risk of climate change is unprotected, unsheltered land.

Long before lichens, there was bare clay. After 12 months of lying about, nothing has grown on this muck yet.

You know: bare, tilled stuff.

Orchard and vineyard land needs a grass crop sown just to hold it in place and to prevent salination from water evaporation. Extra fertilizer must be applied to maintain this grass, with an extra burden on transportation to deliver the fertilizer to farms.


For all of their impracticality, rock islands do not have this problem.

Catching water upslope and building a soil cover downslope.

With no manufactured water infrastructure and no fertilizer needs, they have a desirable economy. These days, community gardens for raising small amounts of food are very popular, and for good reason. Their value extends far beyond the food value produced in them.

Dehart Community Garden, Kelowna

If thousands of dollars of chipped and milled forests, plus thousands of dollars of compost, soil additives, seeds and fertilizers, not to mention spiral tomato stakes at $20 a pop, are added to the land to bring about a resettlement of urban space priced out of human reach by over-settlement, surely it is possible to build up Indigenous growing spaces for free.

Peshastin Pinnacles: Washuptum Berry Land Above the Pear Orchards of the Wenatchee Valley. Now used as a recreational climbing site for people from Seattle, three hours away over the Cascade Mountains.

The grasslands host 100’s of thousands of sites like the one above, large and small. Now that the Pandemic Age has taken hold, one of the greatest climate risks to human populations has become human populations. Gardens like the one above spread us out, give us free exercise, maintain mental health, and bring people to the living world and native crops. Soil is not a crop requirement. In some cases, lichen and stone can replace it.

The model can be adapted to urban streetscapes and alleyways, as well. The saskatoons in the image below could just as well be grown in urban space sown with lichens to fertilize it, with buildings catching water and delivering it in place.

Bella Vista

A further bonus is a reduction in air conditioner costs, again lessening climate risk and the danger it poses to hydroelectric power production. We don’t need Site C Dam.

Site C Dam. A Boondoggle destroying grassland for 10 billion bucks, with a good chance of failure. Thanks, Wikipedia.

We need to start living in this place.

This is the opposite of a dam, but if you look for it in settler culture’s favourite season, summer, you will find only drought.

Creating farms for the people is a long way off, but if we start now, with rock islands as community gardens and buildings faced with rock slabs and sown with lichen, with the resulting nitrogen-enhanced water delivered through the storm sewer system, gravity could soon be doing most of our fertilizing for us. We don’t have to do this overnight, either. We could start with one site each in both mountain and urban environments, and develop methods and techniques for enhancing them. After all, current water delivery systems are really enhancements of gravity driven lake and river systems. Those old ways no longer meet our needs.

But our needs can be met.

Cost: A little legislative paperwork.

Benefit: Increased agricultural land without water vulnerability and without fertilizer. Both community, physical and mental health benefits will also accrue. Savings on water infrastructure and hydroelectric demand. Shift of technological development and economic bondage in post-settler culture directions.

Carbon Offset: By moving the model to urban space, food transportation costs can be decreased.

One rock at a time.

Settler Species Getting into the Groove

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