It Takes A Village: Day 3

Friday, June 29, 2012: 10:35pm

When I said that “it takes a village,” what I really meant to say was that it takes an entire neighborhood, a garden-supply store, a post office, four or five cats, sixteen chickens, several roosters, two frogs, 1,500 lady bugs, nine or ten crayons, a barbeque and the five-year-old across the street.

Today was another napless day.  After trying to put Evan down for a nap today, I am thoroughly convinced that children’s books come in exactly two genres: the kind of book that traumatizes the child and the kind of book that traumatizes the adult.  Have you tried reading Dr Seuss’ “Fox in Sox” lately?  It is a rip roaring whirlwind of tongue twisting terror.  I am in the habit of reading but I am not in the habit of reading aloud.  Evan just sat there pointing and laughing at me.  And then he asked for more crackers.  Humiliated, I got some more crackers.

The second book we tried was called, “I’m a Shark” by Bob Shea.  The author must have thought he was being ironic.  The story is about a sweet and “awesome” shark that is comically afraid of spiders.  The moral of the story is that sharks are our friends and spiders are our enemies.  I’m all for oceanic preservation but the likelihood that a child will encounter a safe and delightful shark is slim to none.  The likelihood that the same child will encounter a safe and helpful spider is almost guaranteed.  So much for that lesson.

And finally, we opened the book, “Love you forever” Robert Munsch and Sheila McGraw.  It’s a tender book about how much a mother loves her son and how much he loves her back.  I must have read this book a hundred times when I was a kid.  I did not remember it being so heart-wrenching.  I couldn’t turn to page two without welling up.  And by the time we got to page three, I was trying to hide my tears so that Evan didn’t see me cry.  And when he started reciting parts of the book, I told him I swallowed a fly so that I didn’t completely lose it.  At that, he burst out laughing and naptime was over before it began.

Except for the nap time that didn’t actually happen, today was pretty tremendous.  I helped Evan identify wheat berries in the grass (known to most people as fox tails) and we picked them to feed to our neighbor’s chickens through the coop.  He spent time identifying each chicken.  “That’s the white one.”  And, “That’s the stripey one.”

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My peanut butter and jelly pancakes must have been a hit yesterday because I received a request for them again today.  I had to borrow an egg from the neighbor and we rehearsed the phrase, “Hi. I want a pancake.  May I please have an egg to make pancakes?”  I hid behind Evan as he knocked on the door and explained himself.  He did a pretty good job delivering his lines and was very excited when the neighbor came back with an egg.

After pancakes and our regular garden routine, we went to see the “giant fan.”  Our town’s garden supply store has an over-sized fan in their green house and Evan was very impressed with having his hair blustered around.  After several requests to go see the giant fan, I relented and took him.  Mostly, Evan just wanted to run around.  Thankfully the guys at the garden store were happy to let him.  We bought a few more flowers and a bag of potting soil which Evan had to sit on for the wagon ride home.  I also bought a bag of lady bugs.

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Evan helped me put the flowers in pots.  I have several pots out front that need attention but the dead plants need to be pulled out and I don’t want to show Evan an example of pulling up plants.

Today was a hot day on the homestead.  I could tell Evan was uncomfortable because after I changed his pull up, he wouldn’t let me put his shorts back on.  I called my neighbor before she got back from town and asked her to pick me up a kid’s pool.  Evan started taking his shoes and socks off the moment we began to fill it with water.

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After about five minutes of Evan splashing around, I could tell that there was going to be a problem.  When he didn’t go down for his nap, I made a pot of coffee and drank more than half of it.  That was an hour before.  After about ten minutes of Evan splashing around, I really needed to pee and peeked around the fence to find a neighbor.  Five minutes later I was debating between peeing in the back yard or peeing my pants.  Up to this point, there has always been a neighbor around so that if I had to run to the bathroom or set up lunch, I was assured that he would be safe.  Now, at the most critical of moments, at a time when a person absolutely cannot leave a child alone for even a second, I was having a critical moment.  I could have picked him up out of the pool but, at that point, I was afraid the exertion would release my bladder.  Dancing, I called my neighbor Jasmine and asked if she would come down and keep an eye on Evan so that I could use the bathroom.  She came by.  I ran.  I made it, but just barely.

I am sure that after months of practice, parents know to use the bathroom or make the proper preparations before putting a baby in a pool.  I’m sure that parents have tricks that will never occur to me.  For me, this experience has been completely humbling.  There would be no way that I could do any of this without help.

The guys at the garden store suggested the lady bugs.  They were in a mesh bag and they occupied Evan for the entire wagon ride home.  Tomorrow morning I’m going to release that bag of lady bugs all over Evan.

It Takes A Village: Days 1 and 2

Thursday, June 26th, 2012: Almost 8pm

I’m so nervous.  In just a few hours I will be the proud owner of my very own 2-year-old.  My best friend, Liz, is a single parent and the woman who provides her day care just had a baby.  My best friend won’t have day care for two weeks.  As such, I am taking on the role of “Auntie”.  My best friend is dropping off her two-year-old son, Evan in just a few short hours to come stay with us on the homestead for two weeks.

He’s a “city” kid.  He has grown up in a fairly urban setting.  For example, he has sidewalks and a television.  We have neither.  He has been to our farm only once and he had a blast for the six hours of his stay.  The carrots have recovered from his last trampling but, in all honesty, they probably won’t survive another beating.  We shall see.

I was a nanny for a four-year-old and six-year-old for a summer when I was twenty.  I don’t have any kids of my own.  I want him to have fun.  I want him to learn.  I want to keep him safe.

I remember the day that he was born.  I will never forget it.  I got to hold my best friend’s right leg as her little boy arrived into this world.  It was incredible.  You could feel the world change as he came into it.  There is no other way to explain it.  It was magic.

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And now I get to take that little, perfect soul and teach him, show him and love him.  For two weeks.

Thursday June 28th 2012: 2:11pm

Evan and I had a very busy day yesterday.  Liz dropped Evan off at nearly midnight the night before.  We live over three hours away from each other and, by the time she got him fed, changed and got the red wagon in the car, time got away from us.

We went over everything when she got here, in addition to the 17-page email she sent me about all the vital information—anything that I could possibly need.  Of course, I only had more questions: “Does he like vegetables?”  “Is he allergic to anything?”  “Has he ever been stung by a bee?”  He loves vegetables.  He will eat a tomato like an apple.  He isn’t allergic to anything.  He has never been stung by a bee.  He drinks a lot of water.  Fruit snacks are called “blueberries”.  He likes to be read to.

Because Evan had been up late the night before, he slept until past 9am.  I didn’t sleep at all.  I was so afraid that he would wake up and realize that he was in a strange place and completely freak out.  I got out of bed when my partner left for work at 6am.  I put the computer on the kitchen table and sat at it, just waiting.  I waited to hear him stir.  I waited to make him breakfast.  I waited to change his “pants.”  I waited.  I went in and looked at him every five minutes, just to make sure that he was breathing.

He awoke without a sound and got himself out of bed.  He came to the doorway where I could see him and gave me a winning smile.

I smiled back.  “Hi pumpkin!”

He danced around my living room.

I was running on zero hours of sleep and six cups of coffee.  It’s the type of exhilaration that prepares a person for two things: taking an exam or keeping up with a two year old.

Liz told me that he was a “morning person” but she didn’t exactly go into details.

“Go outside?”  He asked me emphatically.

“Sure!  Let’s put shoes on.  We have to water the garden.”

He let me change his pull-up (aka “pants”) and dress him.  I kept waiting for him to get worried that he was in a new place but it all melted away when he heard the roosters’ crow.  Too much to take in.  No time to worry.

We spent a good hour watering the garden.  It turns out that the hose is a very entertaining toy for a two-year old.  He started with his little plastic watering can but that wore out its welcome in about three seconds.  He wanted to help me “rain.”  We took turns with the hose.  I laughed at his complete surprise and total joy when he sprayed himself in the face.  It wasn’t as funny when he sprayed me in the face.

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After his last visit, I knew that we had to lay down some rules.  I kept saying that he had to stay on the “path” and that plants are alive and need to be treated gently, like a kitty or a puppy.  Because plants don’t walk or wag, it may not have been the best analogy.  He pulled off a few tomato leaves from one of our Cherokee Purples and he tends to cut corners in the garden, trampling my marigolds.  It’s a process.

Since he loves the hose, I try and let him water as much as possible.  We wind up with a few muddy spots but I fix the dry spots when he shares and it all works out in the end.

Our house wasn’t remotely baby-proofed and the top shelves of all of our bookcases are now covered with trinkets from the lower shelves that they had lived on.  I had really made an effort to move stuff before Evan arrived.  I can’t even count the number of times in the past month I have needed a pair of scissors and couldn’t find one.  There are now six sitting on the back of my kitchen counter, retrieved from the most obvious of places.  I feel that I am usually really good about putting my garden tools away, but Evan keeps pointing out trimmers, clippers and all things sharp that have somehow found a way into the garden.  Thankfully, he knows not to pick them up.  Still, I feel like it’s all a ticking time bomb.

I’m not sure how any parents do it.  And I truly, truly have no idea how single parents get by.

Evan was born in July.  His father was gone by Halloween.  Evan’s father proposed to Liz two months before Evan was conceived.  The conception was a surprise but the parents were both in their 30s, had steady jobs and loved each other.  There are worse situations.

The first few weeks of Evan’s life were beautiful, difficult, sleepless and amazing.  I imagine that’s typical for most new parents.  I stayed over a lot—helping out, trying to ensure naps and painting baby furniture.  Evan was a happy baby.  He was very thoughtful and smiled a lot.  As a two-year old, he is curious, energetic, dear and very, very smart—he can point out and name a parallelogram, knows his numbers and absorbs new things like a sponge.  I feel sorry for his father.  He’s missing out.

After Evan and I started in the garden yesterday, we ate peanut butter and jelly pancakes.  Then we listened to his favorite CD, something about pirates we and danced around the house.  Then we watered the rest of the garden, both of us getting soaked in the process.  Then we had a “parade”, beating drums and marching around the neighborhood.  (I am really glad that I bring my neighbors jam and baked goods on a regular basis.  Thankfully, they love me.)  Then we went to the “park with the statues”.

The town we live in is an old gold rush town.  There’s a little playground behind the community center but otherwise there are not a lot of options for letting a two year old run wild.  I decided to take Evan to the historical cemetery, since there’s a lot of space and it’s fenced in.  He ran around touching the headstones, which we called statues (he pronounces the word as “snatchoos”) and then he banged a stick against the metal garbage can for about 45 minutes because “it sounds like a bell.”

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I felt a bit discomfited with our presence there.  Aren’t cemeteries supposed to be a place of silence?  A place of calm reflection?  A place of morbid thoughts and creepy feelings?  Apparently not.  To a two-year-old, a cemetery is just a “park with the statues,” a place to run around, play with toy tractors, smile and make music.  I have taken a lot of walks through that cemetery and truly, the two year old was an improvement.  It was wonderful to hear laughter echo through the lonely trees.  Perhaps the best tribute to the dead that a person can make is to stay full of life.

After the cemetery, we came home and had crackers dipped in applesauce for lunch.  I changed a poopy diaper flawlessly, we played with the hose and the neighborhood kids, we went into the garden and picked strawberries, we played with water balloons, we had pizza for dinner at the only restaurant in town.  We got home, Evan took a bath, we put on PJs, we called his mom, read a story and Evan fell asleep around 9.

You will notice that, at no time, did I mention that Evan took a nap yesterday.  That’s because he didn’t.  He played hard all day and slept hard through the night, which might be why he awoke at 4:50am this morning with the energy of a race car.

It seems strange to have to tell a kid on a summer morning, “We can’t go outside yet.  We have to wait for the sun to rise.”  I didn’t add “And for my coffee to kick in” but I thought it.

As soon as it seemed reasonable, we went outside to water.  I can see the weeds creeping up on the plants but I don’t dare cross the garden border because I know that I have to lead by example.

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Evan has taken a liking to my neighbor Kenny.  We spent some time out front with him, kicking a ball around and making chalk drawings.  Kenny and his girlfriend are expecting a baby in July.  I was impressed with his patience and energy.  He is going to be a good dad.

I am trying to balance my work in the garden with my new job corralling and entertaining a two-year old.  Evan and I planted seeds today.  The first round went smoothly.  We filled starter pots with dirt.  Evan used his own shovel.  He set the pots into a tray one at a time.  We started with Butternut Squash.  The seeds look like pumpkin seeds but are a lot smaller.  He got to put two seeds into each cup.  “One two.”  He would count with each pot.  We covered and patted the dirt neatly.  He, of course, helped me water.

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The next round didn’t go quite as planned.  It started off the same.  Dirt into the pots.  Pots into the tray.  But we were planting pumpkin seeds.  Someone must have told him they were edible because, instead of putting a seed into each pot, he ate them.  I didn’t want to discourage his bold attempt at eating “outside the box.”  I just added seeds when he wasn’t looking.

Evan finally went down for a nap today so I’m at the computer.  It’s amazing how, when you have a two-year old at your side, your “things to do today” list gets re-titled “things to do when he’s sleeping” list.  I’m off to pick those weeds.

What Your Community Can Do About Hunger

“I try to give to the poor people for love what the rich could get for money.”  –Mother Teresa

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According to our own government’s EPA website, “In 2010, more than 34 million tons of food waste was generated, more than any other material category but paper.  Food waste accounted for almost 14 percent of the total municipal solid waste stream.”  For perspective, our food waste in the USA, just in 2010, in only a single year, totals almost 1% of the moon’s total mass.  That’s how much food we waste.  According to an article published last year by USA Today, 1 in 4 children in the US are going to bed hungry each night.  One out of every four children in this county is hungry.  Why is this country simultaneously facing both a tragedy of food waste and a tragedy of hunger and what can we do about it?

 

In Nevada County, California, something is being done.  And it is a model that all communities can adopt.  Last year, the Gold Country Gleaners, a Nevada County-based organization that is run on a volunteer basis, redistributed nearly two tons of food to people in need.  For free. 

 

No one should go hungry.  Most people who live in the suburbs have at least one or two people on their streets with fruit trees in the front yard.  A single orange or lemon tree could supply a small neighborhood with enough citrus to get through a winter.  Canned and preserved, it could last even longer .  Nevada County, where I live, is primarily considered rural and there are many people living on homesteads or farms.  Our access to food is staggering by most of the world’s standards.  And our distribution of that food is facing a new revolution.

 

In previous efforts, the “Gleaners” harvested almost exclusively tree fruit.  Due to expanding coordination and donor needs, they are additionally able to harvest and distribute vegetables and berries this year.  Since this spring, the Gleaners have already picked up and distributed several pounds of lettuce, cabbage, kale, turnips and more to places like the food bank and Women of Worth, the local domestic violence shelter.  The donation list is growing every day.

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“Often times our local farmers are not able to sell their product through local or conventional channels,” explains Talei Hoblitzell Mistron, a donor coordinator for the gleaners.  “We can step in with volunteers to harvest the extra food, freeing up time and space for our local farms.  We then donate the food to those in need in our community.  The program’s benefits are many-fold.”  The Gold Country Gleaners have established a system that pairs resources of excess food with people in need.

 

Farmers are often faced with outrageous standards when distributing produce to local grocery stores.  For example, a 7-inch zucchini that looks perfectly delicious to the average person might be rejected by a grocery store produce buyer because it is “too long” and doesn’t fit in to the “marketing vision” of the store.  Last year, Whole Foods Market rejected several hundred cases of organic, locally-grown zucchini from a self-sufficient farmer in Stockton for this very reason.  It wasn’t enough that the product was beautiful, nutritious or morally-grown.  The zucchini was just “too long.”  In such an instance, the Gleaners can redistribute the perfectly edible and nourishing produce to those in need, giving the farmer a donation tax write-off and keeping the hungry in our community fed.

 

In a world of abundance, and in a world of so much waste, there is no excuse for having people go hungry.  The Gold Country Gleaners are bridging that gap by connecting our local farmers to those in search of donations.  The program settles our farmers’ excess and connects it to programs that serve our community.

 

Last week, I had the distinct pleasure of distributing over 20 boxes of lettuce, cabbage, herbs and turnips from Mountain Bounty Farms in Nevada County California, to people in need.  The looks on the faces of those receiving the produce will probably stay with me forever.  It didn’t just say gratitude.  It said survival. 

 

 As we continue down the path of economic hardship, as we constantly look for solutions, it is becoming more and more clear to me that our solutions are local and they right in front of our face. 

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Every community can do what ours is doing, whether urban, suburban, or rural.  We can all pair with our farmers and our needy and we can make a vital connection.

 

To get involved or for more information, please visit, www.goldcountrygleaners.org

The Arts: Our Own Salvation

In a world of so much discord, of so much pain, so much heritage, so much history, so much military, so many walls, so many borders, so many weapons, so many politics, so many police forces, so many social structures, so many dichotomies, so many countries, so many ethnicities, so many religions, so many cultures, so many colors, so many protests, so many protestors, so many wars, so many warriors, so many children, so many wives,  so many governments, so many military actions, so many monetary systems, so many roadside signs, so much television, so much advertising, so much terrain, so many ecosystems, so many stars, so many trees, so many flowers, so many birds, so many hours, how are we, as humans, supposed to make any sense of it?  How are we, as humans, supposed to come together?

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How can we justify all that has happened?  And all that is going to happen?  What are our equalizers?  What gives us a level playing field for humanity?  Where can we meet?  How can we extend a hand to our sister and to our brother?

 

I saw Maya Angelou speak at UC Davis almost a decade ago.  I will never forget what she said.  It was before the age of iPhones and Androids and no one filmed her so I cannot quote her exactly.  I’ve looked for it tirelessly.  And you’ll have to forgive me.  As my memory serves, she said, “When you are by yourself, if you ever feel alone, look at every piece of poetry and every song ever written, and know, without a doubt, whatever you are going through, someone else has also gone through it. And you are not alone.”  It was one of the most touching insights that I have ever received.  And I will never forget it.

 

There are few things that equalize us.  There are few places where we can come together in this world.  There are few ways that we can make sense of anything that is happening today.

 

But we can make sense of it in art.  And in poetry.  And in song.  And in dance.

 

The arts are where humanity meets the unexplainable. 

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The arts are where we all can become Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata, Hemmingway’s Robert Jordan, Patsy Cline’s Crazy, Leonard Cohen’s Suzanne, Emily Dickinson’s Liquor,  Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Corinthians 13:4, Lang Shining’s One Hundred Horses, Nirvana’s Nevermind, Grimm’s Cinderella, Miriam Mekeba’s Pata Pata, Van Gough’s Starry Night, 1,001 Arabian Nights, Jimmie Rodger’s Treasures Untold, Jill Zimmer’s Empty Bench, Meredith Wilson’s 76 Trombones, Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse, Jay-Z’s 99 Problems, Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris, Pablo Neruda’s Despair, Michael Jackson’s Thriller, Bizet’s Carmen, Tchaikovsky’s Swan, Jovi Radtke’s Average Conversation, Moliere’s Misanthrope, Aaron Copeland’s Fanfare for the Common Man, John Lennon’s Yesterday, Eve Ensler’s Monologues, and yes, even Justin Bieber’s Boyfriend.

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Even when we feel like crying, the arts can move us to dance.  Few things have such power.

 

I will never forget the first time that I saw Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman.  I will never forget walking into the Tate Museum in London and seeing the Lady of Shallot by John Waterhouse in person.  I will never forget singing into my hairbrush to Madonna’s Like a Prayer when I was eight years old.  All of us have one of these stories to share.

 

Many people of my generation are looking at the broken world we’ve inherited and we are asking ourselves how to fix it.  We’ve come of age at a time of terrorism and of war.  We are watching the struggle in Syria with broken hearts.  We are watching the conflicts in Africa with confusion and dismay.  We are seeing the wars of our time continuing and we are nearly without hope.  We are watching the financial crises at home and abroad and we are concerned for our futures.  We are watching our student loan bills and wondering how we are going to pay them.  We are watching our children inherit a world even worse than our own.  We are asking what the world needs.

 

“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that.  Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” –Howard Thurman

 

The arts are what make us come alive.  The arts are where love intersects fear, where sadness intersects joy, where heartbreak intersects new life.

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Write more poetry, take more pictures, compose more songs, graph new designs, make more music, beat more drums, paint more canvas, fix more bikes, dance like you’re auditioning, chortle like a bird, plant a garden, plant an idea, put together a fountain, assemble a bookshelf, make a chalk drawing on the sidewalk, publish a zine, turn to page 64 of the nearest book and read it aloud to passing cars, recite lines from a play, sing in the shower, spray paint walls like you live in East Berlin in 1946.  Do something.  All of us can do something.

 

Let me not to the marriage of true minds

Admit impediments.  Love is not love

Which alters when it alteration finds.

Or bends with the remover to remove

O, no!  It is an ever fixed mark,

That looks on tempests and is never shaken,

It is the star to every wandering bark,

Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.” –Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116

 

We can change the world through art.  We can mend what has been broken.   Let’s go get to it!

What If It Is All For Naught: A Three-Part Speculation Part 3

Part 3: The Shift in Consciousness

­“The opposite of love, is not hate, it’s indifference.  The opposite of beauty is not ugliness, it’s indifference.  The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference.  And the opposite of life, is not death, but indifference between life and death.” –Elie Weisel, Writer, Activist, WWII Holocaust Survivor, Nobel Laureate (Quote from the US News and World Report, 1986.)

Our current world situation is overwhelming.  The deterioration of our planet is scary.  Wars, revolution, starvation, fires, gunmen, economic collapse.  We hear stories of tragedy at every turn.  We know that our political leaders cannot and will not help us.

For each and every one of us, we don’t have to look outside ourselves to feel overwhelmed.  We all carry a personal story.  Where ever we are coming from, whoever we are, we are each propelled into the next chapter by our individual stories.  And what we are finding is that our individual stories, more and more each day, intersect.

When I was graduating high school, an adult whom I had never before, pulled me aside and looked me in the eye.  She said, “The hours go by very slowly.  The years go by very fast.”  I have never found a source for the quote but have seen its variation many times.  I have never forgotten it.  It is absolutely true.

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The current passage of time that the world is enduring has been called a number of things.  James Howard Kunstler called it “The Long Emergency.”  John Michael Greer called it “The Long Descent”.  Carolyn Baker called it a “Sacred Demise.”  As our lives unfold in real time, and as the world changes day by day, it’s hard to grasp the whirlwind of reality.  Life may seem long as we live it each day.  Yet, there is no question that, as life goes by, it is faster, more whole and more important than it has ever been in history.

So what do we do?  Where do we go from here?  Revolution?  Quiet time with the family? Solar panels on the roof?   A determined effort in the garden?  A new political campaign?  A class on curing olives?  A few cocktails?  All of the above?  It’s hard to know how to proceed to the next step.

When the Occupy Revolution was happening, many American bloggers called it “humanity’s last hope.”  In a recent podcast from June 10th, 2012, Michael C. Ruppert noted that, “The Occupy Movement did some amazing things but I don’t think about going back to resurrecting it.  The universe is evolving so quickly that the solutions that were viable last October don’t even apply to the reality that we now see.”  The Occupy Movement is not dead.  It planted seeds the likes of Bermuda Grass.  The movement has changed in form but it will never ever go away.  (Any gardener will tell you that Bermuda Grass never goes away.)  What we do now is plant seeds.

“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs.  Ask yourself what makes you come alive.  And then go do that.  Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” –Howard Thurman

I have seen more people come alive in the last year than I have seen in all my life.  Whether young or old, people are coming alive.  It is positively amazing.

Sure, some people are still skeptical.  But skeptical thought doesn’t matter.  Skeptical action doesn’t exist.  Action, by itself, trumps skepticism.

I started this 3-part blog, with a speculation asserting that the earth might not make it.  I have proposed the idea that this might be the last generation to make any difference.  I went on to say that we are in a crisis.  I have provided evidence that our political systems are broken.  Now I am going to tell you: none of it matters.

We cannot adopt responsibly for what we’ve inherited; we can only move on.

Maybe our earth is dying.  But what if we can save it?  Maybe our political system is broken.  But what if we move forward without it?  Maybe our efforts are useless.  But what if we can change the world?

I am willing to entertain the worst of scenarios because I am also willing to never back down.  I am willing to do whatever it takes.  I am willing to be the Bermuda Grassroots of society.

I will not deny that the earth is in trouble.  It is.  I will not deny that war is on the horizon.  It is.  I will not deny that we could go at anytime.  We are all mortal.

I will not say, however, that we cannot move forward.  I believe that we can recover.  We have never, in history, faced a more catastrophic turning point.  But, at the same time, we have never in history been more united.

Rome fell.  The Incas fell.  The Mayans fell.

We will not fall.  Instead, we will evolve.

We will change.  The next 20 years will look nothing like the last 20 years.  We have choices.

On June 7th, “The Huffington Post” reported that “[American] military suicides have surged to nearly one per day.”  The article explains that, “The numbers reflect a military burdened with wartime demands from Iraq and Afghanistan that have taken a greater toll than foreseen a decade ago.”  The article goes on to say that, “Suicide totals have exceeded U.S. combat deaths in Afghanistan in earlier periods, including the full years 2008 and 2009.”  Suicide is terrible and we need better services for our veterans.  Those that serve our country deserve all the advantages our country has to offer.

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There is no question that those that enter the military come from specific demographics.  According to a blog by Yankophobe at WordPress, “By the Pentagon’s own estimate, thousands of military families live in poverty.”

http://yankophobe.wordpress.com/2008/12/02/poverty-in-the-us-military/

Some people join the armed forces to serve a cause.  Some people join the armed forces because of family heritage.  Some people join the armed forces because it is the only way that they can see out of poverty.  Almost no one joins the armed forces because they hope to kill someone.

When young men and women sign up to serve their country only to be sent to other countries to kill people for obscure and perplexing reasons, it is no wonder that despair follows.

At the Imperial War Museum in London, England, there is a hand-written letter on display from a British Soldier to his wife, sent during WWI dated Christmas Eve, 1914.  Outlined in his letter, was one of the strangest and most tender moments in all of history.  And few people know about it.

Jeremy Rifkin outlines the event in his book, “The Empathic Civilization”:  “The first world war in history was entering its fifth month.  Millions of soldiers were bedded down in makeshift trenches latticed across the European countryside…Soldiers shared their quarters with rats and vermin…Dead soldiers littered the no-man’s-land between opposing forces, the bodies left to rot and decompose within yards of their still-living comrades who were unable to collect them for burial.”  It was awful.  But then something unreasonable happened.  Something unheard of in war.  Something beautiful happened.

Jeremy Rifkin goes on to explain that, “As dusk fell over the battle fields [on that Christmas Eve]…the Germans began lighting candles on the thousands of small Christmas trees that had been sent to the front to lend some comfort to the men.  The German soldiers then began to sing Christmas Carols—at first, Silent Night…The English soldiers responded…They began to sing Christmas Carols back to their German foes.”  It didn’t stop there.  “A few men from both sides crawled out of their trenches and began to walk across the no-man’s-land toward each other.  Soon hundreds followed…They shook hands, exchanged cigarettes and cakes and showed photos of their families.”  WWI didn’t end on Christmas Eve 1914.  No.  It went on for four years.  And there was a WWII.  After all that.

And wars have continued.

But humanity has changed.  I think that the current rate of suicide in the American armed forces displays that.  It’s horrific.  We, as human beings, just can’t stomach it anymore.

As the degradation of the earth continues, we will see more war.  As the degradation of the earth continues, we will have to make choices.  We make choices every day.

When we are faced with the choice between orders and humanity, what will we choose?

In my everyday existence, I have seen more and more people choose humanity and it gives me hope.

More and more people are ditching their high-paying jobs in order to make art.  People everywhere are planting gardens.  More and more people are choosing more time with their families, even if it means living on less.  People are deciding that relationships are more important than money.  Adults are taking those long put-off guitar lessons.  People are beginning to talk to their neighbors again, inviting them over for dinner.  Soldiers are putting down their guns and picking up injured strangers.

Those in power would have us believe that we are a doomed society.  They would have us live in fear, supplementing our discord and disenfranchisement with store-bought merchandise and junk food.  Our misery is their money.  If we turn on the television, we are shown how awful the world is and how much terror we are facing.  But if we turn off our television and start talking to our neighbors, we learn that, in reality, we are living in beauty amongst friends.

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The Occupy Movement coined the term “The 99%” based on statistics about the world’s distribution of money and wealth.  In a previous blog titled “The Fallacy of Money” I outlined how insignificant money really is.  In reality, a man cannot live in 6 houses, even if he owns 6 houses.  A man cannot till 1,000 acres, even if he owns 1,000 acres.  When a person stakes a claim to that which is more than he himself can handle, it requires the consent of others to further the claim.

When a person in power declares a war, it requires the consent of the soldiers to wage that war.  When a company creates genetically modified food, it requires the consent of the farmers to plant those seeds.  When a store distributes products made with sweat shop labor, it requires the consent of the buyers to move those products.  When education is corporatized, it requires the consent of the students to pay for it.

The people have the numbers and the people have the power.  Our choices are crucial.  We can either further the possibility of our extinction or we can choose humanity.               `

What If It Is All For Naught: A Three-Part Speculation Part 2

Part 2: Politics and Culture

The earth crisis intersects other crises.

This lifetime may be our last chance to make amends.

We have watched our governments wage war, or we have watched war waged against our governments, or we have seen starvation and degradation beyond which no person should have to see.

The continuation of raping the world’s resources will not set us free.  We have to be better than that.  Our politics and our political systems will not save us.  We have to save ourselves.  But how?

I think that most people, to varying degrees, understand that we are in a crisis.  We have seen this concept of crisis described in many ways: economic crisis, global-warming crisis, political crisis, student-loan crisis, housing crisis, healthcare crisis, ecological crisis, religious crisis, etc.  Pundits, reporters, scholars, bloggers and dinner party guests all look to nail down the specifics of this “crisis.”  When they think that they have it pinpointed, they are usually willing to start a conversation with: “You know what’s wrong with the world today?  I’ll tell you what’s wrong with the world today.”

People recognize crises in different ways at different times.  If a person’s life is without immediate upheaval, or if their world-view is fairly narrow, the definition of crisis can, as a result, be equally without upheaval and/or conclusively narrow.  I remember being a 12-year old girl and thinking that not getting the part I wanted in the school play was a major crisis.  For folks that work in media or live in a war zone, and deal with crisis at every turn, the definition of crisis may be somewhat partial or reflected in a realm that sees tragedy as a part of every day life.  For someone who witnesses gunfire and bloodshed regularly, watching a building burn down might not seem like such a big deal.  For someone who has just had an injury or who has lost a loved one, the perspective on crisis might be very different from a person’s whose life situation allows them the luxury of comfort.  If someone is experiencing a personal crisis, they may not be able to think outside their immediate situation and make connections to community crisis.  Each person’s reaction to crisis is dependent on their own life situation.

There is a lot a finger-pointing when it comes to determining the crises of our day.

People usually react according to whatever conclusion they’re afforded or can come up with.  Some folks turn to action.  Some folks turn to religion.  Some folks marginalize other parts of the population in order to place blame and create scapegoats.

For example, Reverend John Haggee, of the Westborough Baptist Church, blames gays for unraveling the world’s fabric.  Generally speaking, the LGBTIQ community is a misunderstood and subjugated segment of society, (just one of many,) so they make for an easy target.  But really, when it comes to scapegoating, it could be anyone.  For Hitler and his regime, it was the Jews, the gypsies, the artists and anyone else that didn’t fit into the perspective at the time.

Reverend Haggee blamed the ecological tragedy of Hurricane Katrina on homosexuals, stating, “God caused Hurricane Katrina to wipe out New Orleans because it had a gay pride parade the week before and was filled with sexual sin.”  It’s a fallacious argument.  The more logical of us know that the devastation of the area’s wetlands allowed for such a crisis.

But logic is lost when it comes to scapegoating.  For example, Reverend John Haggee and the West Borough Baptist Church is infamous for staging protests at the funerals of fallen American soldiers because the church believes that America’s so-called  “support” of the LGBTIQ community has made it a sinful country, furthering the world’s problems.  They state that those who die in combat defending America are broadening the problems of the world today.  This is an extreme example about how people draw conclusions about, and react to, the current set of crises facing the world today.  When people are confused about the “whys”, the “hows” are equally as confusing.

Creating scapegoats isn’t going to solve the world’s problems.

For extremists living in democratic societies, it’s easy for them to pin their hang-ups on specific communities or on some political process.  For people that actually and truly live in extremist societies, the political and social crises that they are living through each day is much more visceral.  There are so many levels to the many issues that the world is facing today.  Even within our more-just societies, political crisis is easy to outline.

For people in countries like Tunisia, Egypt and Syria, political crisis has resulted in bloodshed.  In countries like Spain, Greece and the United States of America, it is clear that we are living through a political crisis similarly, even though our societies are supposedly “democratic” and our collective political crises look different.

Since I am a US citizen, I will speak to my own country’s issues.  For me, and for many people like me in the USA, engaging in the political process, such as choosing an elected official, specifically a national president, is confusing and, for lack of a better term, futile.

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Americans are starting to wake up to the political crises of our day.  Many Americans understand that the idea of “democracy” is dead in our country.  Whether extreme left, or extreme right, people are waking up to the fact that our constitutional rights have fallen by the wayside and our government can no longer be trusted.

As Benjamin Franklin said in 1775, a year before the United States of America had a country and constitution, “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”  Since 9/11, congressional policies have stolen our basic rights, rights that were outlined by our forefathers and were supposed to be protected by our constitution.  Our government is bought, sold and paid for.  Our police forces have become increasingly more militarized.  The right to protest or gather has been corporatized.  It’s enough to give up on getting involved altogether.

For those of us who vote in the US, we know that we are bound to a two-party system that offers us little recognition of the difference between choices A and B.  Of course, there are more than two choices on a ballot.  But most Americans understand the choices given to us, aside from the democrat and the republican, aren’t viable choices.  (I’ll explain why in a moment.)  I vote because social issues matter to me.  I’m not a single issue voter.  I have always voted for the democrat in presidential elections because the democrat, at the very least, pretends that social issues matter.

But let’s be honest.  The democrat for president doesn’t always stand up for all the things that I believe in.  Why do I vote for a democrat when I might otherwise vote my beliefs?  Simple:  The Electoral College.  The “lesser-of-two-evils” voting strategy cannot be eluded without first eliminating the Electoral College.

Let me try and explain the Electoral College:  The President of the United States of America does not get the job by getting the highest number of votes by the people.  The American people saw this very clearly with the election of George W. Bush.  Twice.  George W. Bush didn’t actually get the most votes in the country.  But he, speculatively, got the most electoral votes.  The way the electoral college works, for example, if 2 million and 1 people vote in a presidential election in the USA and 1 million people vote for Brad and 1 million and 1 people vote for Angelina, Angelina still might not get to be president.

The Electoral College allots so many designated “electors” per each of our 50 states.  Since 1964, that number has not changed from 538, but the allotted number per state has fluctuated somewhat.  For the upcoming 2012 election, California gets 55 electoral units, Florida gets 29, Hawaii gets 4, and so on.  What that means is, at the end of the day, our nation isn’t really tallying up votes, per se; they are tallying up votes to determine the electoral votes per state.  So even if actress Betty White wins California’s 55 electoral votes from a write-in campaign, if everyone else in the country votes the party lines, divvying up the rest of the electoral votes between democrat and republican, the 55 electoral votes from California won’t count towards the actual electing of a president.  People who understand this process don’t vote for third-party candidates or write in Betty White.  They understand that, by doing so, they are throwing their vote away.

When you can’t vote for someone whom you think is most qualified, or, put another way, when you don’t have the ability to vote for the person you think most clearly represents you and your values, your political system renders you powerless.  This is called a political crisis.

But, in the USA, such a political crisis doesn’t exist at only the most upper echelons of democratic society.  In democratic societies, like the USA, people are elected to office, even at the most basic levels, (city council, county supervisor, dog catcher etc.) in order to voice the opinions of the people that they are supposed to be serving.  In other words, when committees, councils and boards meet, those elected to be a part of the voting body of those sessions are supposed to implement laws and ordinances based on what the public, their constituents, want.  People are elected to representative positions in order to implement what the people want.

What’s to stop an elected official from making laws that they think are right, even if other people think it’s bullshit?  Not a hell of a lot.  They may eventually lose their jobs, get voted out of office, but the legacies left usually remain intact.

Similar to other types of crises, when people live through something like a political crisis, something that invokes powerlessness, even on a local level, they react in several ways.  Some people utilize the system and try and reform it.  Some people try and run for office themselves.  Some people take even more extreme measures that may involve self-harm or the harming of others.

US citizens usually go for a hunger strike.  Or chain themselves to a wall.  Or put themselves between a police force and their objective.  Or erect tents in a park.  Some people, simply, and without major incident, stage a protest.

There is no question that democracy is unraveling in the countries where it is established.  And there is no question that people who live in totalitarian societies are working to unravel the strong holds of government.

On January 4th 2011, Mohamed Boudazizi, a street vendor in Tunsia, set himself on fire and died, after he was harassed by the police and his wares were confiscated.  Twenty years into the future, this singular, revolutionary act by an individual may be attributed to the change of an entire world’s perspective.  As Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.  Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

Some people narrow down a crisis and react with logical and individual action.  For example, a person might see the reason for the earth’s current crisis directly related to the clear-cutting of forests and begin to plant trees and recycle.  At this point in our history, no act is too small.

Of course, logical conclusions about why the earth might be in trouble may lead to not exactly logical action. Recently, 50-75 people got naked to protest a road-widening in Humbolt County, California, a road-widening that would require the cutting of old-growth redwood trees.

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Protesting the cutting of old-growth forest is warranted, especially for an endeavor as stupid as widening a road at a time when resources to power trucks and cars are becoming more and more scarce.  The additional and sensational stunt of baring one’s nude body in the spirit of protest was likely for publicity.  If we lived at a time of logical enterprises, such illogical action would seem unnecessary.  The addition of nudity in a protest, however, as it relates to our ability to make statements, may not have been ill-advised or unwarranted.  We live in a world where sex and sensationalism take precedent.  If Paris Hilton and the Karsdashians are any indication, sex and sensationalism get attention.

Similarly, and bizarrely, this same truth about sensationalism is why I know Mohamed Boudazizi’s name.  Unreasonable times call for tremendous measures.  Trying to navigate the reasons for, and reactions to, a world in crisis, can be frustrating, confusing, extreme and often illogical.

This is ever more true for a world with a legacy of abundance, like the one in which we live.  It is true that, today, some nations have more than others.  It is only fair to point out such a truth.  We know that our developed nations have experienced a sense of privilege at the expense of under-developed nations.  Yet, all of society, and the world’s nations, have undergone a revolution of complexity.

As Chris Martinsen reveals in his book, The Crash Course, “Before agriculture, human society was limited in its complexity by the amount of food that could be gathered and crudely stored, which represented a very limited energy budget.”  On the same page, he notes, “After the [agricultural] revolution, complex societies with multiple producing and nonproducing job specializations arose, building enduring works of architecture, art, music, law, and all the other trappings of societal complexity that are familiar to us today.  These bold works and levels of complexity only became possible once there was a surplus of food to ‘fund’ specialized roles and activities.” (pg 129)  Our abundance has afforded us the opportunity to create society as we know it today.

I think it is very important to note how specialized roles and activities have manifested in today’s richest nations, in contrast to how society has developed in poorer areas of the world.  While nations struggling with poverty, by today’s standards, (though very well-off by historical standards), might have more time for things like art and ritual dance.  Nations like the United States of America, have been given such an extreme abundance that our extra-curricular activities involve things like TV’s “American Idol,” which allows judging strangers from afar, through electronic transmission.  We can decide on a person with a touch of a button.  Our abundance has also given us mobile phone-games like “Words with Friends” and “Draw Something” which allows us to interact with fellow human beings without actually communicating at all.  Our privilege, abundance and complexity have provided us with such superfluousness in our society that there is no real need for relationships any longer.

The dichotomy of such things further manifest in the presence of social-networking websites like Twitter and Facebook and create a further social-segregation and social structure in developed nations versus under-developed nations.

While places like the USA can’t deny the prominence of social networking for things like the “Occupy Wall Street” movement, the Obama Presidential Campaign and other political campaigns, our use of social networking is generally related to superficial interactions with people that we may or may not know, and the occasional sharing of news stories, quaint political pictures and videos of cute cats or Justin Beiber.

By contrast, in nations where “complexity” has not gone off the deep end, such tools have allowed for real revolution and political change.

Abundance creates complexity, even when there is no need for it.  Unwarranted complexity has the ability to cloud even the simplest issues of our time.  Even some, in the apparently most academically-based issues facing our time, complexity and sensationalism and the following drastic measures still cloud perception.

For people that see the major function of world crisis as something economical, they are faced with a lot of paradoxes.  It can be very confusing.  For those that see the current world crisis as something of “economic downturn,” something that creates and perpetuates scarcity and vulnerability, a logical answer may seem to be that hoarding things like canned food and gold will create a level of insurance against scarcity in a changing world.  Unfortunately, that’s just not true.

The continuation of raping the world’s resources will not set us free.  We have to be better than that.  Our politics and our political systems will not save us.  We have to save ourselves.

So what does that mean?

When I talk to people who understand that our political system is broken, and who understand that our earth is in real trouble, and who understand that resources are scarce, they are often preoccupied with maintaining the status quo.  They often hope that their efforts today will ensure that their families will be able to live at the level that they have been living.

But true sustainability can’t come from maintaining the status quo.  As I have outlined above, the status quo has led us to this mess.  True sustainability considers how an entire community sustains.  True sustainability considers everyone—from the down trodden and mentally ill, from the drug-addicted and incarcerated, from the poor and struggling, to the well-off, the comfortable and the rich.

“No one is free until we are all free.” –Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Whether you are in Greece, Argentina, Tunisia, Spain, South Africa, Iraq, China, Egypt, Ireland, Uganda, Afghanistan,  Honduras, Japan, Italy, Madagascar, Russia, Libya, Comoros, Senegal, Germany, The Czech Republic, Indonesia, Mexico, Canada , everywhere, anywhere or here, like me, in the United States, each and every one of us live here.  We inhabit the same earth.  We all face the world’s problems together.

No matter where you live today, money and wealth-getting is a factor of daily life.  Resource scarcity and its consequences have clouded our political systems.  Whether you live in an oil-rich nation or an oil-poor nation, your life has been affected.  Your government and your people have been affected.  Whether your nation boasts castles or deserts, you have been affected.  If you have lived in a place of abundance, you have seen your country wage war.  If you live in a place of resources, you have seen war first-hand.  If you live in a place without significant resources, you have been ignored and left to die.

We have witnessed extinction.  We have seen lions starve.  We have seen polar bears drown. We have seen beehives collapse.   We have seen swallows that can’t fly, sharks that can’t mate and trees that can’t grow.  We have seen butterflies return to the earth on our watch.

For all of the terrible problems that industrializes society has created, our ability to live in a complex world has also given us a lot of joy.  For all of the hell we have seen, we have equally been introduced to heaven.

We are a world of poetry.  We make music.  We make art.  We make jokes.  We make love.  We hold each other.  We dance, we sing, we drum.  We put on plays.  We write novels.  We laugh.  We hug.

We don’t belong in a world that tells us to divide and conquer.  We are beyond that.  We are above it.

We are at the cross roads of politics and culture.  Our abundance has allowed us both.  Our humanity will have us choose just one.

Where do we go from here?

What If It Is All For Naught: A Three-Part Speculation Part 1

Part  1:  The Planet

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We might not make it.

If you have children, or if there are younger people in your life that you care about, you might want to skip this blog.  I’m going to explore a few things here that just aren’t fun.

Whenever I get into a conversation with a new friend about things like climate change, resource scarcity, politics, war, nuclear meltdown, etc., I always ask the question, “Do you have children?”  Our conversation usually changes accordingly.  Our perspectives are very different when we are fending for ourselves than when we feel a responsibility to others.  I don’t have children.  When we only have to care for ourselves and other capable adults, it is a lot easier to come to terms with the reality of our planetary situation.  It’s no fun to think about how dire things are for this planet with future generations to entertain.  Truly, it’s bad enough when we are thinking only of ourselves and our own survival.

We might not make it.

There is scientific evidence that suggests that human extinction is not just possible, at the current rate of climate change and planetary degradation, it’s probable.  Moreover, much of current scientific sentiment points to the possibility of human extinction within the next 50 years.  In other words, human extinction is on the horizon.  We may not get the opportunity to live out a full and complete life.

In a USA Today article published in June of 2012 titled, “UN Warns Environment is at Tipping Point,” the paper outlines the UN’s report of the severe and disturbing degradation of the earth.  It says, “The earth’s environmental systems ‘are being pushed towards their biophysical limits,’ beyond which loom sudden, irreversible and potentially catastrophic changes, the United Nations Environment Program warned.”  The article goes on to say, “In a 525-page report on the health of the planet, the agency paints a grim picture: The melting of polar ice caps, desertification in Africa, deforestation of tropical jungles, spiraling use of chemicals and the emptying out of the world’s seas are just some of the myriad of environmental catastrophes posing a threat to life as we know it.”  In other words, our only planet may become uninhabitable.

For me, and for people my age and younger, there is a possibility that we may not die from “old age.”  Or from cancer.  Or from a sailing accident.  Or from West Nile Virus.  Or from a jelly fish attack.  Or from Mad Cow Disease.  Or from being struck by lightning.  Or from any of the other very real threats to human life that exist each day.  For me, and for people my age and younger, there is a possibility that we may exit this world together.  All together.

We might not make it.

We are all mortal.  Each and every one of us could go at any time.  Many people fear death.  I don’t usually worry about it.  The after-life, the next realm, the whatever-you-want-to-call-it, is not something I fear.  I understand that part of living is dying.  I’m okay with that.  My family and I have had a pretty healthy approach to death and loss up to this point.

For me, however, the looming every-day possibility of a car accident is nothing compared to the much more troubling reality of planetary extinction.    And it’s not just the Disneyland-like lines that might be waiting at heaven’s gate.

Even without children of my own, there is something in my soul that hopes to leave the planet to someone, something.  Maybe it’s my ego talking.  But even new-age religions won’t touch the possibility of an anti-spiritual ego contemplating the loss of the planet altogether.

We might not make it.

I have a cheerful heart so it is a challenge for me to look at this issue.  I am logical so I know that seeing the status of this planet as one of dire straits is appropriate.   Within that logic, however, I often look towards positive solutions.

I like the assessment of people like Charles Eisenstein, Carolyn Baker and John Michael Greer.   Eisenstein is the author of “Sacred Economics,” a book that outlines the fallacy of the monetary paradigm and suggests that humanity is evolving towards a gift society, a society that will one day return to relationships based on kindness and relevant interaction.  Carolyn Baker is a psychologist that specializes in dealing with the very real problems that people are facing in a world amongst things like peak oil and resource scarcity.  Her book, “Sacred Demise” outlines a world in which we will eventually become better off without the possibility of mass-production and mass-consumption, a world in which we will return to living within our means and cultivating inter-dependency.  John Michael Geer is an ecologist, known for his status as the Grand Archdruid of the Ancient Order of Druids in America.  His writings and teachings offer reasonable responses to the current disruptions plaguing society.  Each of these authors and scholars offer realistic outlines of the world’s problems and provide equally realistic solutions.

I respect people like Charles Eisenstein, Carolyn Baker and John Michael Greer because they don’t pretend that the problems the world is facing today are something that can be fixed with a Silver Bullet or a little “positive thinking.”  I don’t like to be bullshitted.  I prefer to be reasoned with.

All people deal with crisis differently.  Some people bury their heads in the sand.  Some people take extreme action like building an underground shelter or joining a cult.  Some folks cry.  Some folks write poetry.  I will not weigh one action against another.  They are all a part of humanity so, perhaps, they are all relevant to our existence.  Since I am weighing our existence, I will, at this time, embrace all action as relevant and pure, valuable and worth-it.

I am 32 years old.  My great-grandmother lived to be 99.  My great-aunt died hours short of her 100th birthday.  My grandfather is still alive and kicking.  We have a history of long-life in my family.  For all intents and purposes, I’ve only lived about one-third of what’s coming to me.  If precedent begs reality, couldn’t I also live to nearly see 100?

In a “normal” world this all seems very exciting.  The possibility of a long life is exciting.

Sadly, we don’t live in a normal world.  My generation inherited a world that is full of problems.  Problems they may eventually lead to our collective death.

I have to ask myself: What if it’s time to look at the staggering data and consider, really consider, that we may not make it?

The jury is not out about climate change.  The media would like you to think as much but really, the evidence is staggering.  According to the National Weather Service, the last month was the hottest on record.  The last six months were the hottest on record.  The last year was the hottest on record.  Since we have started keeping data, we have exceeded our threshold for heat at every possible record-breaking moment.  While we have every possible indication that our planet is heating, we have no evidence to suggest that the foliage and animals (including us) on this planet are comparatively equipped for dealing with the rapid temperature increase.  The planet may very well be heating at a rate faster than those living on it are able to develop attributes for dealing with the temperature increase.

One of the scariest results of climate change may be a lack of oxygen.  Not just trees, but other oxygen-rich resources are affected by the heating of the planet.  Oceanic-algae, which, by all accounts, is our greatest source of planetary oxygen, cannot mitigate our recent planetary heat.  There is no scarcity when it comes to research on the increase of respiratory disorders.  More and more people are finding it harder and harder to breathe.

But we don’t have to consult scientists and their confusing data to get a real picture that points to our demise.  Even without a thought given to oxygen-giving plants, like oceanic algae, that rely on climate control to produce the air that we breathe, if we merely focus on the role of weather for producing our food, most farmers will tell you that we are facing a grave situation.  Folks without a college degree or scientific language can tell you that, after generations of planting, they are no longer getting the yields that they used to.  Even farmers that use pesticides and genetically modified foods, (technologies that were supposed to feed the world) are facing incredible decreases in their ability to produce food.  We may run out of food before we run out of air, as a first milestone of climate change.  Neither scenario is comforting.

But it gets worse.  According to the United States Antarctic Program, a US-government-sponsored research project, current levels of methane being released into the atmosphere from Antarctic Ice-Melt are currently similar to those that have been historically attributed to ancient mass-extinction and die-off.  According to our scientists, our atmosphere may no longer be able to hold life in the very near future.

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Scientists studying the Antarctic have become increasingly alarmed at the rates of which ice is melting and previously-trapped sub-arctic methane deposits are being released.  When methane deposits are released, it changes the atmosphere in a way that traps greenhouse gases and raises the earth’s temperature.  All our scientific evidence on the subject suggests that the current levels of methane in the atmosphere coincide with planetary extinction.

In the same USA today article that I quoted above, the author notes, “As human pressures on the earth…accelerate, several critical global, regional and local thresholds are close or have been exceeded.” The report says.  ‘Once these have been passed, abrupt and possibly irreversible changes to the life-support functions of the planet are likely to occur with significant adverse implications for human well-being.’”  The article further outlines,  “Such adverse implications include rising sea levels, increased frequency and severity of floods and droughts, and the collapse of fisheries, said the report, which compiles the work of the past three years by a team of 300 researchers.”  It gets worse.  The article also says,  “The bad news doesn’t end there: The report says that about 20 percent of vertebrate species are under threat of extinction, coral reefs have declined by 38 percent since 1980, greenhouse gas emissions could double over the next 50 years, and 90 percent of water and fish samples from aquatic environments are contaminated by pesticides.”  We are really screwed.

Even without pinpointing esoteric scientific notions about climate change, or looking to our farmers, we can see the rapid dilapidation of the earth and its resources from our own man-made follies.  The disaster of Fukushima has barely touched front-page news in months but its consequences are more dire now than they were in the wake of the Tsunami and at the start of the melt-down.  In the past few weeks, radio-active debris from the fall-out has washed up on Western-American coast lines.  Seaweed tested for radiation has shown up positive in California.  Every day, the radio-activity increases from the initial disaster but the publicity about it decreases.  People and polar bears thousands of miles away are being exposed to radiation and may not know it.

According to the Public Information Service at Nuclear World News, there are “now over 430 commercial nuclear power plants, operating in over 31 countries today.”  The number of resources that it would take to appropriately and safely shut down those plants is staggering.  If we are being honest with ourselves, many of our Nuclear Power plants, and those living near them, will go the way of Chernobyl and Fukushima.

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Nuclear Power is but one example of many in a world of man-made entities that pose a threat to humanity.  We have raped the earth.  We have bended the atom.  We have put money before humanity.  We have put mass-production before common sense.  And we have put war before negotiation.  This is our truth.  This is our legacy.  And it’s time that we face it.

I m starting to think about, really think about, the possibility of the human race and all or almost all living things on this planet ceasing to exist.  I’m not talking about Mayan Calendar conspiracy theories or the Christian Dogma’s concept of Rapture.  There is no need to point a finger at one specific religious or cultural theory to sort out the myriad of factual evidence that concludes that our world is in trouble.  Because religions and cultures vary worldwide, not one of them has to apply specifically to the reality of our worldwide crisis.  The earth and her problems apply to all of us regardless of race, gender, religion, economic status, current vocation, natural talent, sexual orientation or country of origin.  When this planet can no longer support life, each and every one of us will be doomed.

Installing a Drip System

I walked into the hardware store only having a tiny idea of what I was doing.  If you feel a little bit or totally lost about irrigation, then this blog is for you.  If you are hoping to put a drip system into a small gardening or farm area, then this blog is for you.  If you are looking for advice on underground or PVC piping, I won’t cover that in this blog.  This is for the frugal gardener and farmer looking to put in an inexpensive drip system.

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You can do irrigation for your garden using this method with only about $50.  Prices vary but I spent $43.64 for my garden.  (A special thanks to B&C Hardware in Grass Valley.  They were really helpful!)

Your shopping list:

-25 feet or so of 1/2 inch plastic piping

-50 feet or so of 1/4 inch piping

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-One hole puncher

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-A few 1/2 inch compression adaptors that will attach to a hose. (This is the part that attaches to your watering hose.  Think about how many sections you hope to water and buy as many.  In other words, for every section of your garden that you are hoping to water and foster a drip system, you’ll want a different adaptor.  It plugs into the piping and you can move the hose.  If there are three different places that need a drip system, buy three different compression adapters.  Your hose will easily attach to the adapters and you can move it around.)

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-25 or so “stay-put” wire anchors to hold your piping in place.  (I’ve used one for about every three feet of piping and that has worked for me.  If you are into a more exact restraint system, you may want a few more anchors.)

-Support stakes or drip anchors.  (These are different than the stay-put anchors. They hold the drip attachment up and in place.)

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-Hose end clamps*. (They come in packs.  You will want as many as you will have sections to tie off.  *Full disclosure:  This is the one piece of manufactured irrigation equipment that I have hesitation recommending.  The clamps are supposed to kink the ends of the 1/4 inch piping and lock it.  They don’t have a great reputation and most of us end up using tape or wire to kink off the ends because the clamps generally leak.  Please keep that in mind when buying this product.)

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-1 pressure regulator. (Unless you will be using multiple hoses at the same time, you will only need one.  This part is essential and expensive but, again, most people will only need one.  You can move it, so don’t buy unnecessary extras.  Most household watering systems, even if on a well, expel more gallons per minute than a drip system can handle.   So you will need this part in order to maintain your drip system without damaging all your other components.)

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-Several 1/4 inch double barbed connectors.  (I started with ten and then ran back to the store to buy 30 more.  This is the part that will decide how many watering arms you will have.  So be liberal.)

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-Dripper attachments. (For every connection that you make, you will need a dripper attachment at the other end.  Unfortunately, this is the one thing that I can’t give solid advice about.  The attachments are the most non-descript item when it comes to irrigation.  It begs the farmer’s preference.  There are several different varieties.  Depending on how much water you hope will spill out, your dripper attachments, or drip heads, will vary.  When you are at the store, you will notice several varieties: sprayers, drippers, etc.  You may have to experiment and see what works best for you and your garden personally.  Some of them drip a few drops at a time.  Some of them squirt water in a stream.  Some of them spray a nice mist.  Be willing to experiment and keep your receipts.)

The steps:

1. Pick a central place for your drip system.  Decide the length you want for your 1/2 inch piping and place it in your garden.  Remember that you are setting a foundation with the 1/2 inch piping and that you will be attaching arms to the piping.  Pick a central spot in the area that you wish to water.  This isn’t a soaker hose.  You are actually placing a system.`

2. Cut the piping appropriately and kink off the end, securing it with a clamp.  (If leaking occurs, tape or wire the end, once kinked.)  Your 1/2 inch piping can be many feet but can lose pressure and watering efficiency if several feet long.  If you find that you are trying more than 30 feet, you might want to add a second length of 1/2 inch piping.

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3.  Firmly press the end of the 1/2 inch piping into the compression regulator (the part that attaches to the hose.)  You only need to go about an inch deep and it will be secure.

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4. Secure the chosen length of 1/2 inch piping with the anchors so that it doesn’t coil for the next step.  Make sure the end that you want to attach to a hose is accessible to a hose.

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5. Once the 1/2 inch piping is in place, punch holes in the piping to attach the arms.  Think of it like a great octopus with many legs that will provide water for your garden.  Punching the holes is hard.  I bought the cheap hole puncher where I had to screw it in and it took me about 5 minutes per hole.  This was my least favorite part.  The holes can be on either side of the piping and they do not necessarily have to be equidistance from each other.  If you find that you are wanting more than 3-4 arms for every foot of 1/2 inch piping, it may be best to add another line.

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You’ll want to squeeze the piping so that you are able to make a clean punch and don’t accidentally punch through both sides.

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6. Cut your 1/4 piping to the appropriate lengths for where you want the water to spray.  Remember you can always cut shorter if they are too long but if you cut them too short, you are stuck with the length.

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7.  Wiggle a double-barbed connector into one end of the 1/4 inch piping.

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Stick the other end of the barb (now attached to piping) into one of your punched holes in the 1/2 inch piping.  It will pop when it’s in place.

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8.  Place a sprayer head on the other end of the piping.

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9.  Place a support stake where you want to mount the sprayer and secure the sprayer.

Repeat steps 7-9 for as many arms as you are wanting for your drip system.

10.  Connect the pressure regulator to the compression regulator and then attach the hose to the pressure regulator.  Turn your watering hose on just a little bit at a time until all sprayers have an even flow.

That’s it!  You have a drip system!

Check your system frequently for leaks and to see if any of the sprayer heads have clogged or popped off.  If a sprayer head is clogged, it can usually be cleaned out with a bent paperclip and put back.

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Not often, but occasionally, critters will chew a hole in your piping.  More often than not, the critter in question is the family dog.  It is important to be sure that you watch your dog around your drip system.  If a critter does chew a hole in your piping there is an attachment to fix it.  It looks like the compression regulator but with no hose attachment, just a place to press two sides of piping.  If damage is minimal, you can cut the damage out and place the clean piping in the attachment.