Small scale models of environmental and social sustainability are being implemented through pilot projects at the Italian head office of Istituto di Ricerca Prout (Prout Research Institute). The centre, based in Salsomaggiore, Terme, located east of Parma in the Emilia Romagna region has partnered with regional authorities, a local bank and voluntary associations to initiate two community education initiatives that involve local school children, their teachers and parents. This report was prepared by IRP’s project coordinator Franco Bressanin with input from IRP Chair,Tarcisio Bonotto.
“Let Us Adapt, Not Lie Down – Actions to Deal with Climate Change”, this project, partly financed by Cariparma Foundation, promotes environmental conservation, particularly of water and biodiversity.
This integrated pilot project models conservation of surface water, restoration of the ecological balance and protection of the environment. It’s premised on the growing scarcity of water due to climate change, and subsequent long periods of drought, as already experienced in the province of Parma.
A small pond measuring 20 x 18 meters and 3 meters deep will be restored, or rather refashioned, with five rows of trees surrounding it, as suggested by Prout’s founder, P.R. Sarkar, in his proposal for the conservation of rainwater. This will serve as a demonstration model for people and institutions to learn how to store surface water on a hill side more effectively. The various trees assist to attract rain and prevent evaporation of catchment water. During dry periods the stored ‘blue petrol’ will not only be utilised for irrigation and in some cases for drinking (provided there is an effective purifying treatment). The pond and its surrounding plants also attract and provide a congenial environment for insects, amphibians and birds, thus restoring the biodiversity and ecological balance endangered by climate changes.
Another objective of the project is the creation of an Information and Technical Support Center. This centre will serve to impart training in the skills and knowledge required to establish more projects with the shared aims of environmental conservation and ecological restoration, as well as training in “vegetable garden-therapy” and renewable energy technologies. Programs will focus on creating a heightened public environmental awareness, particularly among young people and school students of all ages.
“The Garden in the Lounge – Adapting to Climate Change” this second project, funded by the Emilia Romagna Region, includes the participation of the Association for Social Promotion (APS) and the Salsomaggiore Middle School.
This project teaches boys and girls to grow vegetables in their homes, on the terrace and balcony, and to be prepared in case of any emergency.
The project aims to raise the awareness of youth to take care of their own future, that of others and the natural environment; to develop a sense of respect for all life, feeling part of a whole while building a new model of society. By having children, youth, parents and teachers work together it enhances greater social cohesion, solidarity, participation, creativity and teamwork among all participants. Children and young people from 11 to 18 years old, with and without disabilities, can experience a safe space to experience being of greater importance and ability.
Activities include classroom based instruction by an alternative horticulture expert, weekend hands on workshops, as well as shows and exhibitions in the town squares organized by the students. The initial target group are 40 children from two middle school classes, up to 11-12 years old.
A wooden geodesic dome has been erected with the youth at the PRI center. Agreements have been made with two farms for utilizing the dome for research on hydroponic cultivation, tests to grow tropical plants and to prepare seedlings. The dome will be a center for schools and the students to learn about plant life, consciousness and sensitivity.
A system for automated irrigation and water conservation is also being developed. The students and teachers are learning how to grow vegetables in their houses, courtyards and balcony. If the pandemic conditions allow, a new project with schools and farms will begin in the Autumn.
A booklet and DVD that documents the project and includes interviews with the participants are being prepared.
PRI staff also plan to start a company for building geodesic domes and green houses. A series of online seminars on Prout philosophy, principles and policies has been conducted over the past months. For a description in Italiano please see their website.