Evaluation for Bryan Medwed

An ecological retrofitting of a kibbutz

ILC with M. Beug – Fall Quarter, 2000 TESC 15 q.h. credit

The student, Bryan Medwed, contributed most of the information in this evaluation. It reflects the student’s style and, to some degree, emphasizes the topics that the student found most significant. In addition, the faculty read, edited, verified, and added information as necessary. Faculty assumes responsibility for the veracity of the document based on evaluation criteria in the contract.

During fall quarter Bryan Medwed completed his research into the history of the Kibbutz Samar and wrote a detailed report: "GreenPrint – an Ecological Retrofitting of a Kibbutz" and compiled a set of appendices to supplement the report. The project involved investigation of the eco-dynamics of the desert community of Kibbutz Samar within its environment in the Israeli Negev desert. The investigation looked back to the original planned community of 1975, the kibbutz as it is in 2000 and a possible ‘green’ kibbutz by 2010. Touching on energy, water and waste cycles, GreenPrint viewed the demographic, agricultural, industrial and economic life of the community. A key element in the design of this contract was the concept of tying together all the potential solutions and strategies to this specific community. The report was produced in Hebrew, as well as English. Kibbutz members were asked to read the document and offer their criticism.

The resulting report is a unique study of a small intentional community. The introductory chapters gave historical background to the origins and rise of the kibbutz movement, and the evolving role played by the kibbutzim in Israeli society today. The Arava desert ecosystem is examined and climatic parameters are shown. A brief survey of human settlement activity in the area through history is presented. The shaky founding of Kibbutz Samar is documented through interviews and archival material. In addition to archival material, the appendix contains technical works done by the student to substantiate the ideas presented in the text. Most of this is related to renewable energy.

As planned in 1975, the kibbutz is shown to have been ‘thrown down’ on the desert plain with little regard for the environment. This is reflected in the lack of adaptation of hardware and of habit, in dealing with the powerful environment, much less using that power to design advantages. Inputs, such as energy and water are shown to be linear, as are outputs such as crops and garbage. On the other hand, Samar is shown to be a highly innovative community, which draws on its relative isolation in developing original solutions.

By 2000, Samar has stabilized, matured, excelled at agriculture, pioneered organic farming and innovative building methods, and seen the birth of over 100 children. Steady income from the dairy cows and date orchard, and from members who work outside the kibbutz has been well managed, leading to net savings while supporting a reasonably comfortable life style in a high quality environment. The kibbutz is encouraging creative technology and business initiatives.

GreenPrint suggests that by 2010, Samar can convert much of what it calls waste into resources and inputs like recycled water, processed fertilizer, methane gas, electricity and heat. The report shows social and economic trends, and suggests potential appropriate, environment-positive business activity. Aspects of sustainable transport and desert-appropriate housing are explored. In preparing the work, Bryan conducted, taped, translated and edited interviews of kibbutz members. Most were willing to participate, and were curious as to what their peers had said. The 200+ page work is generating debate in Kibbutz Samar today. Issues of telecommunications, education food cycles and the political situation were not addressed.

GreenPrint fully satisfies the independent learning contract for 15 credit hours. The faculty found it to be an impressive piece of work and intend to share it with others on the Evergreen State College campus.