Feeding the world’s cities can be a problem. Alastair & Clarisse find out how Steven has come up with a solution in Brussels. And we’ve got a fishy quiz for dessert …
Transcript podcast – May 24, 2020
A – Hello and welcome to WoW!, the positive podcast! Showing kids that there’s a lot more to the world news than bad news.
I’m Alastair. As a journalist, I’ve often written about things going wrong. But people also need to know too about what’s going right, to know that we can change the world for the better.
I’m here this week, with my podcast buddy Clarisse, to talk about one of our favourite subjects here at WoW! – circularity. It has to do with circles. Will we be running round in circles? Going to the circus? Or something else entirely? Stay tuned to find out!
I hope the podcast gives you some ideas too – and maybe a bit of a boost. If you like it, do share it with a friend!
C – Hello Alastair! What are you doing?
A – Hi Clarisse. Just now I’m looking out of the window at the WoW! office. More particularly I was looking at a farm I can see from here.
C – A farm? But I thought you were in Brussels, in the middle of the city? How can you see a farm?
A – Well, I can Clarisse. Though it’s not got green fields and trees and so on. I’m looking out across the houses, the town hall, a church. There’s the railway station where trains go to Paris and London. And just beyond is the farm. It’s on the roof of the big food market that some people call the market “the belly of Brussels” !
C – Gosh. But what sort of things do they grow in a farm in the city?
A – Well I spoke to people at the farm the other day and they said they are having really big crops of tomatoes, as well as peppers and aubergines, and herbs like basil. Oh, and then of course, there’s the fish!
C – Fish?! In the city??? But isn’t easier just to catch fish in the sea?
A – Well, yes Clarisse it can be easier. But there are more and more people on planet Earth who need to eat and more and more of them live in big cities, maybe a long way from the sea. So feeding all these people in these big cities can create quite a lot of problems, especially for health of our planet.
C – So maybe it would be better if we stopped living in cities?
A – Well that wouldn’t be easy. This is where the farm on the roof comes in. It’s the biggest one like this in Europe and the man who set it up, who’s called Steven, wants to build more. He hopes soon to open more.
C – So why does he think it’s better to have a farm in the city?
A – Well, he’s saying that we are creating all sorts of problems by the way we feed ourselves in cities today. Steven is an architect, not a farmer. He spends his time designing buildings and towns around the world. What he says is that we shouldn’t see the city as the problem, but that the city can be part of the solution.
C – Hm. But what does that mean?
A – Well now it’s time to talk about circularity! Let me put it like this. People cause problems by using up and wasting stuff and making the world dirty. The idea of the circle is that we use things that won’t run out and we re-use our rubbish.
C – OK. So can you give me an example?
A – Sure! So, back to Steven’s farm in Brussels. I said it was on the roof of the market. It’s about the size of a football pitch. Now, in the market underneath they have big fridges to keep the food fresh. What does a fridge do?
C – It makes things cold?
A – Exactly. Like your fridge at home. It pushes out warm air. Just wastes it. Now, Steven wants to grow tomatoes. We folk in Brussels like our tomatoes! But normally we need to get them from warmer countries, like Spain or Italy. They get to Brussels by truck. And we know what that means?
C – Pollution! Global warming!
A – Exactly Clarisse. So Steven wants to grow tomatoes. How to keep them warm? Simples ! He pumps the hot air that is comes out of the market fridges into his greenhouse – that’s the farm covered in a glass roof. That’s circularity.
C – OK, I get it.
A – And Steven has found all sorts of other ways to make his Big Integrated Green House “circular” – it doesn’t use up things that the Earth is running out of and it doesn’t make waste or pollution. Here’s another neat circle. The fish are in tanks. Steven’s team clean the water every day and put it back in the tanks. The dirty water and fish poo that’s left is used to feed the tomatoes. And his plants grow mainly just in water, not soil. That uses a lot less water than a normal farm. Fun fact! Hundreds of years ago, the Aztecs in hot, dry Mexico were growing plants in a similar way!
C – OK. I begin to see the circles!
A – Ah yes Clarisse, Steven calls it “the circular economy”! It’s a way to make less waste and pollution. You said it was easier to take fish from the sea. But actually, people have in some places taken too much fish out of the sea. And like tomatoes, there’s often a lot of transport pollution involved to get them to the city. The fish has to be kept fresh in fridges, which cause their own problems. What Steven has done is bring the fish to live with us in the city. His farm can sell up to 35 tonnes of fish every year. And people in Brussels can eat them totally fresh, the same day they’re caught. No fridges, no lorries. Brilliant!
C – Hm. I’m beginning to see!
A – Absolutely. Oh, yes, I forgot! People are finding so many circles! You remember last month we talked about how people were planting trees in towns. That helped clean the air and keep people warm in winter and cool in summer without air conditioning machines. Well, hey presto, Steven’s farm does exactly that too. All those plants and fish tanks on the roof help keep the market underneath at a fairly constant temperature. So another circle! He doesn’t use chemicals to kills bugs on the plants but brings in friendly insects to eat them – and he has his own bumble bees to fly around and spread the pollen of the tomatoes to make them grow. And his electricity comes from solar panels on the roof that turn sunshine into power.
C – Circles and more circles!
A – It’s a great solution to a lot of our problems, Clarisse. I spoke to Steven the other day and he said that we should stop worrying about there being more people in the world and more cities. I loved this image he used: even if the population of the world doubles, and you took all the people in the world and get them all together to lie down, they would cover a whole country. But, hey, what country would they cover? Belgium! And as we all know Belgium, where I live, is a really small country. It would take 5.000 Belgiums to cover all the land on planet Earth. So Steven says about the growing world population and growing cities: “it’s not about space it’s about solutions – we have to be smart, not make waste and make a positive impact on our environment’.
C – Hm. You know, it really makes me feel much, much better to think that there are such brilliant solutions in the world that can help us live well, eat well and keep the planet healthy. I love circu… circus, how do you say it, … circ – u – larity!
A – Yes, long live circularity! And you do circularity in your own home, don’t you, Clarisse? You say you do lots of things to reduce waste…
C – Yes I do, Alastair. For example, today I’m making a tawashi!
A – A tawashi? What’s that? Do you wash with it?
C – Well, strangely enough, yes you do wash with it. It’s a sponge for the bath. But the word is Japanese. It has nothing to do with washing! You can take old material, like an old sock with a hole, and give it a new life. I make mine into a tawashi. It’s all about circularity!
A – That’s great, Clarisse! I’ll let you get back to doing your, what was it? Tawashi! But before you go, the rest of you out there listening, I’ve got a little quiz. Let’s see what you’ve learned and what you know – or what you can guess!
OK, here we go.
Which city is home to Steven’s farm? Is: Paris? Brussels? Or Milan? Come on. 3, 2, 1. It’s Brussels. Capital of Belgium, Capital of Europe, home to wow-news.eu!
Second question: True or false. Steven’s urban farm is the biggest of its kind in Europe? True? False? Come on! It’s true. Think of all that fish!
Another one: I’ve got a shopping basket of things I’ve bought from Steven’s farm shop. But something slipped in there that doesn’t belong. I couldn’t buy this from Steven. Here’s my basket: Tomatoes, Fish, Pineapple, Basil. What did I NOT buy at Steven’s farm in Brussels? It’s… the pineapple, of course! Maybe one day, but not yet. You need really hot weather for pineapples.
Two more questions. In a year, how much fish fish can Steven’s farm produce on the roof? Is … a whole tonne? 35 tonnes? Or a hundred tonnes? Come on, think. Now! 35! 35 tonnes of fish.
And now for the last question. Are you ready? What does Steven employ to spread the pollen around his plants and make them grow? Hm? What do you think. Do you remember? Or can you guess? Pollen? Plants. The answer is…. Bumble bees! Yeah! Check out last week’s podcast at wow dash news dot eu for more on the wonderful world of bees. Congratulations if you got that.
How did you do in the quiz? And most importantly was it fun? I hope so!
A – If you’ve enjoyed this WoW! News podcast, do tell your friends. You’ll find lots more podcasts and information at our website wow-news.eu. I’m Alastair and I’ll be back with Clarisse next week with more positive news specially for kids. Until then, stay safe and bee … positive!