Bart and M.E.O.W. have linked to something we all need to Get Real on. The reality is getting so, um, Real that even CNBC is catching on!
I have come to think of Peak Oil and Climate Change as one issue which I loosely call “unsustainability”, the answer to which is Sustainability. The root problem is the same-we are using energy waaaaaaaay to fast, behaving irresponsibly, and need to course correct in one generation-probably in one half of a generation before we doom our children to a life of poverty and doom the third world to a life of starvation.
Kerry talked about it and now Edwards is too-we need to hit Sustainability with the same National effort that we used to get on the moon. Screw Mars-if we want to keep from looking like Venus we need to get honest with ourselves, scrap the Hummers and make 300 bicycles each from the recovered steel. Silliness aside, we need to use the energy we have to set ourselves up for a sustainable future. It takes alot of energy to make PV cells or even Tulikivi stoves. Time to get busy living.
Be the Change!
Reading Chomsky, The Union of Concerned Scientists and periodicals about Permaculture and small farming –simultaneously- sparks a weird, fetid brew of thoughts, fears and hopes that takes some time to hash out. Time that I have not given them yet. Despite the incredible restorative attributes of this trip for me, I have not allowed myself much time for reflection. It has been a whirlwind trip of coffee houses, bookshops, and redbuds peppered with fleeting conversations with Chapel Hillites of various flavors running the gamut from Tar Heels to anarchists.
Really what is haunting me most of all is that little gnome, Noam. His portrayal of power politics over the past centuries, and the last few decades in particular, is strikingly disturbing, to the point that I find him difficult to read comfortably- like sitting through a 20 hour scolding by the principal where detention is a totalitarian hell that we allowed to happen. This is due almost entirely to my belief that it is not some dissident liberal intellectual screaming from the rooftops, but a clear voice of reason that is falling on deaf, or more horrifying, numb and therefore powerless ears. I can’t even rightly blame the Bush Administration, though they have taken the power plays to their “logical” and terrifying conclusions. The fruits of the past 6 years are coming to bear from the seeds planting and cared for willingly over the past 50 years by 3 generations of Americans. We have allowed the norm of state sponsored killings to be made in our name. To allow wars of aggression to be engaged on our behalf-to save the unthinkable deaths of several thousand Americans in a terrorist attack we have sanctioned the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi and Afghani civilians who are far more innocent than we.
And it is that collective guilt that is finally so disturbing for me. I knew the war was wrong, I know we are sacrificing our civil rights on the altar of our fear. But I continue with my daily life to protect myself, my mortgage, my comfort while I assuage the guilt thru telling myself its ok because we won the midterms and it will all be over soon.
Bullshit. Where is the outrage? Where is my outrage? I am paying attention, but I tell myself that working at the local level is more impactful, or that my efforts for sustainability are the greater good. What good is sustainability when Permaculture can lawfully be deemed a subversive, terrorist ideology. Reactionary? ADM owns most of the seeds and is willing to lock people up for using them. I had to sign a consent form that I wouldn’t propagate my raspberries-if they sucker am I legally liable? Paranoid? Watch the Future of Food and see the ruin of our traditional Family Farmers at the hand of corporate greed.
So that is the fear, the fetid brew comes in when you reap the hope of the Permaculturists and Ecovillagers. But even there Peak Oil is beginning to seep in as well. Permaculture may be enough to save me, but is it enough to save us. No individual can live sustainably as an island. I can not realistically make all that I need to survive. Thoreau still made trips to town for lumber at Walden, and his base level of artisan know how dwarfs mine by a factor of ten. Even if I learn enough to feed and clothe my own family if I have not brought my neighbors with me I only breed resentment, jealousy and put myself in a precarious position if the bottom drops out.
So how do I bring others with me and also fight to keep our civil rights civil? Hell if I know, but I have some working hypothesis. The Natural Step (TNS) and Permaculture are my biggest bets so far. Becoming a TNS study group facilitator was a Big Step for me. Taking groups of a dozen or so citizens through the process ever 2.5 months is a quantitative step to making our county more sustainable. I have said time and time again that the hardest part to Being Green is learning to Think Green. My first group has some incredibly well connected and highly trained members. Getting them to work together and network can increase their results significantly-and that is just my group. Our county wide organization has a half dozen groups going at any time-and in a rural community of or size several hundred citizens, growing annually, is a statistically significant block that will accomplish Real Change.
Permaculture is more nebulous, but potentially more powerful. At the last meeting of our fledgling countywide group, Sustain Jefferson, I was asked to teach a course on Sustainable Living at a local Technical College. I politely refused due to being completely overcommitted right now-but how powerful a force could that be? The thought of a continuing education course on Sustainability keeps running through my head and I can honestly see it happening come this fall. The kicker will be to inspire honest, real action on the ground. In the current issue of Permaculture, one of the authors laments that after instructing several hundred students in a semester long Permaculture Course over the years, there are still only 2 other Food Gardens in his entire hamlet.
Is the hope of a Permaculture enough to combat the power politik reality that Chomsky relates? Only in so far as the thinking can permeate society quickly enough while there is still enough power left in the populace to effect change in the Executive branch-be it Democratic or Republican. We live in an age where I am both deeply proud and powerfully ashamed to call myself an American. The political heritage of Adams, Jackson, Wilson, Nixon, Reagan and the Bushes is in sway right now to my great shame. However, our political and philosophical heritage is unmatched for boldness and truth and I believe that as the most powerful Nation we must be the force of change by drawing on that heritage and fulfill our philosophical destiny as framed by Jefferson, Emerson, Thoreau, William James, Martin Luther King and Carter. The choice will be on our generation to save or condemn our world.
Be the Change.
High expected to top north of 85 today, but at present it is an extraordinarily pleasant 68 with a slight breeze. After ushering Mia off to another day in the trenches, I packed up my kit ($18, laptop, periodicals [Economist, Permaculture, Small Farm Today]; Chomsky) and hit the road. Today I had a mission. The anarchists at International books had referred me to a mythical “open air market” in the next town “up the road” that, as legend had it, served fantastic eggs starting at 7:30. Never one to pass up a good quest for mythical eggs, I hit the road.
Now to be fair “the next town over” is not the 7 mile hike it would be in rural Wisconsin, and turned out to be a pleasant 2 mile stroll on quaint brick-lined walks under canopies of blooming redbuds. My destination proved to be slightly elusive, surprising given the specificity of my anarchist guide’s directions. Never one to shirk some friendly human contact, a few questions had me pointed in the right direction to breakfast nirvana.
The Weaver Street Community Owned Co-Op is the real deal-outdoor seating for easily 100+ served by a small breakfast bar and all the accoutrements of a natural food coop (kickin sourdough, freaky strong coffee, and all the people watching you can handle). The eggs-in several national iterations favoring olives, jalapenos, and cayenne, were easily as good as billed-and their tofu scramble was seasoned to perfection. Regardless of the extreme quality of their scrambles, anytime breakfast to order is served by the pound it is a win for society.
Now that breakfast is done, it is time to return to the reverie-there is a recorder playing somewhere and the magpies and toddlers are getting restless. Perhaps I’ll hit that Organic Bistro on the way back to Chapel Hill.
Damn… this is a good vacation!
So besides writing an epic primer on Permaculture Guilds off the top of my head this morning from the hotel room, I have been keeping busy here in Chapel Hill, NC. Yesterday I had stumbled upon an interesting looking establishment named 3Cups ferreted away in a quaint little courtyard marred only by the fact that it is completely torn up for construction. The décor was striking-somewhere between African and post modern and the door was partially covered by crates of empty glass milk jugs waiting to be refilled.
So today after wiling away a portion of the afternoon under a tulip tree on campus finishing my 24 hour blitz thru The Consumer’s Guide to Effective Environmental Choices written by the Union of Concerned Scientists I walked up the street to see if 3Cups would live up to my initial impressions.
First off 3Cups specializes in just three things-all of which cry out to my inner elitist: coffee, wine, and chocolate. It’s too early for wine, and not being hungry I hit the coffee bar. The barista directed me to their coffee list (yes they have a coffee list) and I was struck by their pricing, which was closer to what I am used to paying per pound than per cup. Their “select” grades were topping out at over $7.50! My confusion must have been evident enough, as he suggested one of their selects- and pointed me to a display depicting a Central American family standing infront of several large bags of coffee beans. It seems that 3Cups became so enamored with their beans that they have secured their entire crop. Hooked, I proceeded to order a large, only to learn that got me a 64oz French Press worth which I hastily converted to one much smaller.
The coffee is extraordinary, much fruitier than a typical Columbian and I admit that having my own little press at the table with me is fetching.
Chapel Hill is beginning to grow on me!
Permaculture is a world created by merging the words “permanent” and “agriculture” or more correctly “culture”. Looking around, it is very hard to find a more permanent (i.e. sustainable) form of agriculture than, well, Nature; no one has to fertilize a Forest! And that realization is the crux of Permaculture in a nutshell: mimicking Nature’s vast experience in sustainability to make our own crude agriculture more sustainable in turn. In other words we are using Gaia as a mentor, rather than a nemesis. I have not actually attended a Permaculture Design Course, so I am not an official teacher, but I have read most of the major texts and they have literally changed my outlook on everything from our household’s waste stream to my perennial beds and choice of pets.
So Beo and the Eco Mama are on vacation. Scratch that, Beo is on vacation tagging along with the Eco Mama as she attends marathon 12 hour Conferences. So while she is working on surviving marathon meetings I am touring University Campuses, reading Chomsky, and blogging my heart out. Sprout and Bird are at home in the care of their grandmother. Life is good.
At present I am sitting in a sweet little establishment right off campus in Chapel Hill, North Carolina called the Jack Sprat Cafe which is equi part sports bar, sandwich shop, and coffee house. To my right is a philosophy grad student and on my left is a group of card playing 30 somethings planning a trip to Mexico. In front, just to ground me in reality, is a 72″ screen blaring the Florida/Oregon game.
Chomsky is brilliant, but his Hegemony or Survival is a bit much to take in over a cappuccino and March Madness so I ordered some pasta salad and switched gears. I love college towns-so eclectic-intellectual yet carefree; vibrant while remaining serious. Somehow you are able to seamlessly switch gears from issues of critical importance to complete irrelevance with ease and that adds an amazing degree of life to the entire atmosphere. It is the ability to table a topic, to speak in generalities, that seemingly allows you to discuss virtually anything with anyone. I can’t imagine myself getting nearly as polemic in a debate in this atmosphere as I would at home-it is as if here, in a more intellectually free space the ideas can remain just that-and that their implications to my family, my village, my heirs can be tabled for a bit while the ideas are flushed out.
I guess that is the greatest gift that Mia could give me for our anniversary-the ability to take myself, and my issues, a little less seriously. If only for a time, but hopefully long enough to revitalize my mind and spirit for the tasks ahead. Will that mean I will actually watch a basketball game? Given that I had to Google the correct spelling of TarHeels, probably not. But it will mean that at least for a space dancing through the night at a mediterranean themed club will be more important than the perviousness of my rain gardens or the rockwell rating of my spade.
Gotta run… looks like Florida is pulling ahead.