BioDigester As Art / Biodigester as NonArt

My 3 Cow Biogas Digester Creates Enough Gas for 6 People” is the headline announcing a new instructional video being produced by Geoff Lawton Lawton, the brawny, charismatic star of the film series he produces to disseminate Permacutlure eco-system enhancement strategies. Good ideas get around. SUPERFLEX has been developing, promoting, manufacturing, and marketing such units since 1997. In that year,  Bill Mollison, the Permaculture guru, asked Geoff to establish and direct a new permaculture research institute on the 147-acre Tagari Farm in Australia. Since then, The Permaculture Research Institute has grown into a global networking centre for permaculture projects.

In the video, Lawton visits Permaculture Designer, Tom Kendall’s farm where his three cows supply enough cooking gas to suit a family of six people. Tom’s dairy is designed to capture all the manure (including human manure) and direct it to an underground chamber where methane gas is fermented. Excess manure is then directed to his vegetable garden or through his a reed bed filtration system.

Comparing the two projects provides a challenge for justifying the ‘art’ in SUPERFLEX’s version that is easily met by considering the aesthetic and psychological components that are missing from Kendall’s version where there is no metaphor (biodigester = luxury good), no aesthetic consideration (large scale to signify importance and orange color to maximize the unit’s visual appeal), and psychological persuasion (comic books created that include caricatures of the villagers themselves discussing the merits of the units).