Urban Farminng: My Roof Deck Reimagined and AAP Climate Advocates Reimagining Our Built Environment
February 22, 2021
I’m working on several substantial climate projects. Therefore I’m up at 424AM to take advantage of the quiet and to read and think. Anyone who wanders onto this blogpost, please know that the readership is like this virtual blanket of friendship I feel as I’m typing away in the silence. This blog is really my journaling about the eco-avatar me trying to save the earth.
We are working on an article for the Journal of Applied Research in Children entitled “INFORMING POLICY FOR CHANGING OUR BUILT ENVIRONMENT TO REDUCE CARBON EMISSIONS AND ALSO TO SAFEGUARD THE HEALTH OF CHILDREN IN EJ COMMUNITIES, COMMON SENSE ADVICE FROM FOUR COMMUNITY PEDIATRICIANS.” We were excited to get the article accepted, but now we have to write it. Since our tween daughter was able to almost finish her 7th grade drama project and her History Day Project on Mahatma Ghandi, I thought to myself yesterday – I certainly can try to knock out some work on this writing project. Time moves quickly and I’m the lead author, so I want to really get this moving so we enjoy this experience.
I’m ultimately a very stategic person, so if we are going to put the work on this project – we should reap as many rewards for the earth as possible. I think of this project as a call to action for pediatricians to have a voice on the built environment aka community pediatricians state that we should have a say. And then the four of us will have our say in our own local area, to show others that they can and should do it as well. At the same time, one of our fantastic premedical interns is helping along the process. She is now a climate activist and fighting for Environmental Justice communities. This will help her get into medical school, and then the next generation is born and the fight continues.
I didn’t realize that this current journal project relates to what I’m doing on my roofdeck. I have this roofdeck that is about 500 square feet. I know, I am very lucky. When we built the house, it financially made sense to transition to a bigger home. It was an excel sheet calculation for me really. I just looked at square footage, expected appreciation, tax deductions and the current mortgage rates at the time. We were considering just renovating our older beloved Spanish colonial house and adding a second story, but that whole process did not make sense. It was actually the same price and financially more advantageous to move into an entire new build near the beach with a house with a roofdeck. The crazy thing is that unlike most people in the world (I know that I am odd) I never had a desire to live near the beach, nor have a roofdeck. And then I had a roofdeck and everyone else had all sorts of great ideas of what to do with the roofdeck. But for me, it didn’t make sense. Teak furniture? $10,000!!! Too expensive and I’d need to get a crane. Built-in barbecue? But I don’t even like to eat meat, and no one in my household wanted it. Then there was that crane again. For five years the roofdeck sat empty. I moved a hammock up there and we swung up there a few times, but really no one went up there and it was too hot. The hammock eventually got moved back downstairs to the backyard.
But now it is all coming together. I am writing an article with four great new friends who are fellow AAP Climate Advcoates on changing our built environment to address climate change, and at the same time address the mitigate the pediatric obesity crisis and mental health crisis. I finished another literature search and uploaded a few more articles onto our shared Google Drive, which our premed intern created and is maintaining. I requested another article from the HMO library. And I tried for the first time in a long time, the service we have which is to ask our HMO librarian. I sent this request:
What is the benefit of active transport to pediatric health, both in reducing metabolic diseases and mental health?
I am doing an opinion piece for the Journal of Applied Research in Children, and would like to have the HMOlibrarian do a preliminary literature search on the current research on active transportation (bike lines, light rail, walking school buses) and it’s effects on pediatric physical health and mental health. I would also like the HMOlibrarian to do a literature search on “green canopies” and the effects on pediatric mental health and physical health (like asthma).
I already received an email that said “We will get back to you as soon as possible!“
And while I am waiting for the virtual librarian (who I think is actually a real librarian) get back to me, I emailed our intern to set up a time this week to discuss things. She is really fantastic and going to do very well in the medical school application process.
And while I am waiting, I am working on my roofdeck. I was thinking of it more as a green roof, and initially was going to fill it with succulents. I will still likely have a quarter of it be succulents, but I’m creating more of an urban farm. I asked my real life Facebook Friends and real life friends are wonderful. My mother-in-law already gardens quite a bit in the front and backywards. She usually does tons of tomatoes, zuchinni, lettuce, and chilli peppers. On our roofdeck I already have a dwarf orange, dwarf clementine, pine tree, and many succulents. I think I am going to work on a line of berry bushes. I have a blueberry one, and now will try to get a raspberry and blackberry and maybe one more blueberry. I like the idea of edible berry bushes, because they are carbon sequestering and will combat the urban heat island effect yet are low enough they won’t blow over. It’s sometimes really windy up on the roofdeck. I have some low planter beds that I want to plant just simple things. My friends said onions and garlic, which sounds really great. I want to try carrots maybe too, maybe an heirloom variety or maybe ginger? If you’ve been following our urban gardening adventures, I’m kind of over beetgreens right now. We had beetgreens on our pizza last night, but the rest I’m actually going to give out to friends at work. There are only so many beetgreens one can eat. They are super healthy though. I just have eaten too much.
And that is it. That is the thoguhts I had for over an hour regarding Urban Gardening and also thinking about our built environment. Dr. McFrugal calls this the hour of power, and it is totally true. It’s amazing what can be done in an hour when you’ve gotten a good night of sleep and are mentally focused.