Restart Radio: The parallel worlds of the tinkerer and the grower

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Most people think of electronics and gardening as two very distinct hobbies, belonging to two very different worlds. But there are some striking similarities.

Today we are joined by Lou and Ed from Friche: an art and design studio working towards eco-structures for urban spaces, and our neighbours in our workspace in Bermondsey. Lou and Ed encourage us to re-think the arbitrary distinction we draw between ‘natural’ and ‘manmade’ environments, and to learn to see the resources and materials we use as a connection between the two. Drawing attention to the processes of growing, they create indoor and outdoor green spaces that are co-designed with communities to suit their needs.

We talk about how these ideas can be applied to the problem of e-waste. Many people forget that their phone contains many naturally-occurring minerals and materials, and the labour of manufacturing is just as invisible to us as the processes used to grow our food. At the Restart Project, we like to see ourselves a bit like ‘permaculture for electronics’.

There is another fascinating parallel between the worlds of the Gardener and that of the electronic Tinkerer. Ed and Lou explain the ways in which tree roots can actually communicate with each other along fungal networks called Mycelium, which function a bit like cables. Trees can pass nutrients through these networks to smaller sapling plants that cannot reach the sunlight, and send chemical signals a bit like we might send an instant message.

Finally, Lou and Ed talk us through the processes and equipment of hydroponics. From electric toothbrushes to large-scale LED-lit greenhouses, growing today is inextricably linked to technology. The idea that natural and built environments exist in separate spheres is well and truly out of date.

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