EchoTown Update: Solar is cooking `tamales` in San Anto

By Greg Harman

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BRACKENRIDGE PARK â?? It is not a burger cooking in a cardboard box, as the City Parks man dragging a water hose tree to tree supposes.

Rather, the X-Wing Fighter-looking solar oven silently radiating two batches of veggie tamales is a top-of-the-line outdoor sun-powered cooker. By redirecting and focusing the sun's rays inside a dark box, the contraption is approaching temps of 300 degrees, while those watching are layered to keep off the November chill.

As a small group gathers to watch the masa sweat, EchoTown's guardian of greenness, Matt Ahern, says you could actually assemble a similar cooker with a dark box, aluminum foil, and a little craft. So, technically speaking, it could be a burger in a cardboard box.

But that's getting off message. The point â?? and there will be more of such to come in coming weeks â?? is that while EchoTown may have flubbed its first expansion attempt, the quest to establish itself as a sustainability center for San Antonio continues.

EchoTown ran a sustainable living center for a couple months out of the back of the recently expanded Pho Sure (formerly Big Kahuna), a vegetarian-friendly Vietnamese restaurant uphill of San Antonio College, in an attempt to reach a broader audience. However, the endeavor never reaches official "launch" status and conflict with the property manager brought the experiment to a premature close.

“It was just a big waste of time right at a very crucial time for us,” said Ahern.

Now, solidifying its original mission of providing gardening services while cross-promoting with local businesses of a progressive tilt, EchoTown is looking for a way to regain lost momentum and reestablish itself in San Anto's mindscape.

Keeping with the photon theme, one near-term promotional event is expected to include a solar-powered amplifier set out on the street for any passing musician to plug into. “Anybody who wants to will be able to come play off the sun,” Ahern said.

But a larger drive for members will either take the form of a major garden initiative ("2,010 gardens in 2010") or a green people membership drive. That's TBD, for now.

EchoTown, firmly entrenched back at The Farm, a music venue-cum-gardening center on downtown San Antonio's northern fringe, hopes to instill area residents with the realization that our extractive lifestyles are in need of reform not unlike the current implosion playing out at CPS Energy. “It's the same story. It's big, old entrenched business trying to do it the old way, and it's failing,” Ahern said.

While it's unclear if EchoTown will broaden itself in the local political arena, you can listen to Matt's personal appeal by going to their website. And watch for more micro-solar street theatre in the near future. The last one digested just fine.


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