We Are Water: Walking the Howsatunnuck for the 7th Generation

Grandmother Carole Bubar-Blodgett, explaining aspects of the 220-mile Prayer Walk of the Howsatunnuck River (Housatonic).
Grandmother Carole Bubar-Blodgett, explaining aspects of the 220-mile Prayer Walk of the Howsatunnuck River (Housatonic). Photo: May 27, 2018.

Easily taken as just another crazy old lady, Carole Bubar-Blodgett talks a lot. Her stories are personal, about the lessons, teachings, and experiences she’s had walking the Good Red Road. Emotion runs through her, especially gratitude.

Grandmother Carole was at Standing Rock, where she gifted the Water is Life Eagle Staff to the youth of the Seventh Generation. “It was always theirs,” she explains, “I was just holding it for them.”

Healing

Beginning in 1999,  Carole danced the Sun Dance at Chief Leonard Crow Dog’s Paradise Grounds, and continued dancing for twelve years. Sun Dancers commit to a specific focus of their dancing in four year cycles. Grandmother Carole’s commitment is to the Seventh Generation, to strengthen the children as they lead us in healing the planet. She renewed her Sun Dance commitment three times. In 2011, Carole transferred her Nurture the Children Prayer from the Sun Dance to Walking the Sacred Water.

“Ceremony,” Grandmother explained during this year’s 8th Annual Water is Life Walk along the Howsatunnuck (Housatonic), “is about healing.” Carole had been raised white and learned by chance that her family had suppressed their native lineage. A decade before her first trip to the international Sun Dance at Paradise Grounds, Carole offered tobacco to Bill Soaring Eagle Martin (circa 1989-1990), asking him to become her teacher. Then aged thirty-five, Carole had a lot of whiteness to un-do. Soaring Eagle explained to her that the kind of instruction he could provide was primarily about healing. Personal healing. In the beginning, Carole did not comprehend how sincere he was. “I didn’t know I was going to be digging to China!”

About a decade later, Carole went to Sun Dance in support of a friend. Following communication with Spirit and strict attention to protocol, Carole was soon authorized to Dance. Like all Sun Dancers, Carole was required to conduct a Vision Quest prior to Dancing. In preparation, she was instructed to select and tie the prayer ties that she would need to a stick. Having never been exposed to a vision quest before, Carole did not know the traditional structure of how these ties would be incorporated into the Ceremony. Left with her imagination, Carole created a multicolored rainbow replete with seven ties of seven colors for the seventh generation, including extra yellow and a single purple tie for herself. She was abashed when she saw the sticks made by the other initiates, who used only the four standard colors of the four directions: black, red, white, yellow. Convinced she had “done it all wrong” and showed herself “an idiot,” Carole nonetheless was guided to an appropriate location and completed the Vision Quest.

Upon completion of the Vision Quest, Carole was sent to Auntie Diane Crow Dog in order to debrief the experience and share dreams. Turns out that Auntie Diane had anticipated the arrival of someone who would inherit her responsibility to pray for the children, and had previously instructed the men to watch out for this person. Carole’s unwitting deviation from tradition singled her out for this honor; it also identified her as a contrary, a person who works with opposites, heyoka.

Auntie Diane adopted Carole in a private Hunka Ceremony, and passed her a medicine bundle. “I will be an expensive teacher,” she explained, “because you will have to call me long-distance every week.” Today, Carole misses those weekly calls, which she made faithfully until Auntie Diane crossed over in 2006.

Water is Life Walks

In 2011, Carole was experiencing high blood pressure and took the question into Prayer about how to renew her next four-year commitment to Sun Dance: should she dance only three days each year? A white earwig appeared during her Vision Quest, with the communication that it was time to switch the four-year commitment from the Sun Dance to Walking the Water. Carole did not delay: she completed that year’s Sun Dance and conducted her first Water is Life Walk that same summer.

The next year, for her second Walk (2012), Carole was ready to embark when her friend, Raven Redbone, told her that Josephine Mandamin would be speaking nearby at Evergreen College. Josephine invited Carole to wait a few more days so that she could participate in the special “Paddle to Squaxin” sea canoe event. Paddlers from 102 canoes poured water from their points of origin (not only North America) into the Budd Inlet at the Port of Olympia. Carole then collected water from the shore. She carried that water across the country, along the way collecting discrete amounts of water from 28 sacred sites, all the way to Indian Island in Penobscot Maine. There she “married the waters” from the East Coast, the West Coast and points in-between to illustrate the primary lesson of water: unity.

Once water is mixed with other water, it is indistinguishable: you can no longer separate out which water came from where. This is a lesson of getting along with each other that humans need to (re)learn: we are all one.

“We Are Water”

The 2018 Walk is along the Howsatunnuck River (Housatonic) with Headwaters in Massachusetts and New York, running down through the Berkshires and Central Connecticut to the Long Island Sound.

This river was suggested to Grandmother Carole by Micah Big Wind Lott, who was supporting actions against the illegal extension of a fracked gas pipeline in the Otis State Forest in western Massachusetts. It is mind-boggling to comprehend the poison in this river, given the pervasive gorgeousness of the landscape. Fishermen, kayakers, and tourists gawk at the beauty. But what do they make of the signs warning of fish you cannot eat and water you cannot enter, should not even touch?

Sachem Hawk Storm, of the Schaghticoke, admitting to his daughters that he licks rocks.
Sachem Hawk Storm, of the Schaghticoke, admitting to his daughters that he licks rocks.

One evening on the Walk, we were treated to a cozy dinner with Schaghticoke Sachem Hawk Storm and his family. Grandmother and Hawk spoke of many things, but mostly we laughed. Some of the more serious topics included the inadequacy of the English language for conveying the sacred nature of water, the absence of a discrete word for time in some indigenous languages, and being heyoka. At one potent moment, Hawkstorm emphasized that we (humans) are water. The emphasis on language—how to say things properly—seemed (to me/nerdy white grrl) similar to the prayer Grandmother has taught us to offer whenever we cross a waterway: seeking permission to cross.

We ask permission, she explains, because water can either be soft and gentle or hard and forceful. The gesture of asking could be literal, yet it is the ritual of asking that is most significant because it is about an orientation to the water. Seeking permission is a way of showing respect and remembering relationship—of affirming kinship and connection of humans and water. Language and language use is also about orientation: soft and gentle or hard and forceful.

For a few millenia, the hard aspect of language has sent us spiraling toward disaster. We must re-orient ourselves, somehow, so that we can slow and divert the onrush. Humans have two unique tools for this task: our languages and our cultures. Spending a month walking 220 miles in the company of a river will not automatically cleanse it of pollutants or free it from dams. But devoting such time to thinking about and caring for the water is a way to signal the intention of doing whatever it takes to ensure this water is clean and free-flowing for the next seventh generation.

My First Risky Nonviolent Action

Going to Boston to counterprotest white supremacy following the violence in Charlottesville did not turn out to be dangerous, but there was no way to know this in advance.

Walking the Talk or keeping my plans?

When I first learned of the antiracist rally in Boston, it did not cross my mind that I should go. I was already booked on a flight away from Massachusetts that Saturday morning. However, on Thursday, a friend invited me to a preparatory training hosted by SURJ — Stand Up for Racial Justice. I was curious and that evening was free, so I went. Once I arrived to the training, I realized that I had been too busy to consider that I might change my plans. Nearly everything that I learned that evening was, to be honest, a reason to keep my original plans, that is, reasons not to go participate in the counter-rally and march in Boston.

Stellan Vinthagen holds the Endowed Chair in the Study of Nonviolent Direct Action and Civil Resistance at UMass Amherst.
Stellan Vinthagen holds the Endowed Chair in the Study of Nonviolent Direct Action and Civil Resistance at UMass Amherst.

There were more than 20 people attending the just-in-time SURJ training; emotion in the room was high. Introductions and conversation centered on personal motivations for participation—almost nothing about strategy, goals, or specific mission. Similarity of purpose was assumed. No one seemed to blink when we were told that the march organizers, the Movement for Black Lives, had asked for white allies to put our white bodies physically in-between Black activists and white supremacists, and also between Black activists and the police. Further, the leadership had decided not to commit this march to nonviolence: they reserved the right to self-defense. Finally, just as the Mayor of Boston was actively discouraging the white supremacists from holding their (so-called) free speech rally, the Mayor had also sought to discourage the counter rally — creating a pre-condition in which violent police intervention was more likely.

It had already been a long day at work. My energy began to fade as each risk, and their compounding interactions, became increasingly clear. About an hour 1/2 into the training, we divided into groups for bonding purposes. Since I didn’t think I was going, I let my friend know I was heading home. We had a quick conversation about the lack of input into the design process…for instance, were we being deployed disposably by black leadership? Did they care about or disregard our (possible) intellectual contributions and the health and safety of our bodies? A basic reversal of power roles is not the kind of society I’m seeking to help build. I kept to myself my worries that the white supremacists had planned the sequence and locations of rallies long in advance, so their prior planning was possibly more extensive. We could literally be marching into a trap.

Who was I kidding?!seeds tshirt

Before I’d driven ten minutes I knew that I was going to cancel my flight to Missouri to see the total solar eclipse with my closest longterm buds. Yes, the counter-protest felt like a set-up. Yes, it felt like if things went wrong, they would go wrong very, very, very badly. But I’d been talking all week with Patty Nourse Culbertson, who had been on the frontline in Charlottesville. She had explained that even though anti-racism activists in Charlottesville had an entire month to prepare, they still weren’t ready. I realized readiness has both existential and practical aspects. Practically, one can only be as ‘ready’ as one is, and this may never feel like enough.

Preparation

First, communication. Not intending to be dramatic, I just touched base with my main peeps, letting everyone know that I was going to be there. I deeply appreciate the support of my friends and family. It wasn’t that I assumed there would be violence and people would get hurt or possibly killed, but the reality is casualties do happen: prior to Heather Heyer’s murder in Charlottesville, there was Sophia Wilansky’s terrible arm injury protesting the Dakota Access pipeline at Standing Rock. The chances of being that individual are drastically lower in nonviolent than in armed, violent conflict, but I cannot pretend there is no risk. It seem important to at least attempt to minimize any subsequent mess.

Grover's signSecond, gear. I perused the links provided by SURJ:

I followed the recommendations for clothing, and selected first aid items, personal protective gear and snacks that I could carry in cargo pants (since backpacks were prohibited).

Action

Will and GroverWell, it was a beautiful day. Sunny, no rain, quite warm but not excessively hot. There were 40,000 of us. We had a marching band, witty and poignant signage, and many, many onlookers who showered us with thanks and gratitude. The free speech rally was fractional in comparison, about 50 individuals. A small amount of incidents with police occurred, some which seemed unprovoked and others that were in response to taunting. I enjoyed myself and remained vigilant, seeking to stick with my group members while staying alert for trouble. Thank god nothing happened because our group(s) had practically zero discipline. If something had happened we would have been scrambling. But nothing did, and so we had a successful march and, as a result, free speech rallies across the country were cancelled.

Aftermath

We returned from the march just in time to attend a free evening concert. I couldn’t muster the juice to celebrate, too exhausted. I went home, ate and went to bed early, sleeping for 11 hours. I was still groggy and out of it on Sunday morning. By a delightful coincidence, I was able to go camping overnight at a lovely spot on a beautiful lake. Sitting there in the woods, basking in the afternoon sun, watching the calm water, listening to the sounds of birds, children playing nearby, and the breeze in the trees, I began to feel restored.

Lake TullyLater, after dark, gazing into the flames of a campfire, I realized I was experiencing white fragility.

Think about it. I had just spent an entire day acting as if nothing was wrong, as if everything is normal, as if it was just a usual day…while at the same time remaining alert to the fact that super bad shit could happen at any second. I know it is not an exact parallel, but I had a small epiphany: this is what people of color in the US feel all the time. They must develop and allocate internal resources to manage this tension every day, all day long, and all night, too. 24/7.  No breaks. No 48-hour recovery period, and probably no easy access to nature in which to draw spiritual sustenance.

Not only was my fragility on display, but my white privilege, too.

 

Climate change is happening within us [book review]

Kelly, an acupuncturist and Taichi student, draws on cases from his clinical practice in Chinese medicine and a solid comprehension of key scientific findings about anthropomorphic global warming to come to a diagnosis of climate change as a symptom of Yin-deficient heat.

My Taichi teacher, Wolfe Lowenthal, asked me to write a book review for our school’s newsletter,  Taichi Thoughts, so I read Brendan Kelly’s book with an eye to implications for practicing Tai Chi.

In The Yin and Yang of Climate Crisis: Healing Personal, Cultural and Ecological Imbalance with Chinese Medicine (2015), Brendon Kelly, an acupuncturist and Taichi student, draws on cases from his clinical practice based in Chinese medicine, and a solid comprehension of key scientific findings about anthropomorphic global warming, to come to a diagnosis of climate change as a symptom of Yin-deficient heat. “Heat,” he explains, “is an excess of warmth and a state of overstimulation, which can eventually cause our internal fluids, or coolant, to evaporate.” Kelly jumps back and forth between the levels of an individual human body, majority US culture, and planetary environmental conditions. This logic is legitimate from a Chinese medicine point of view, which holds that “the microcosm and the macrocosm reflect the same conditions and tendencies, with the only significant difference being scale.” Accepting this premise and Kelly’s diagnosis means most of us are operating with too much Yang, generating too much heat and thus contributing via our very bodies to the ecological processes of climate change.

Kelly spends time detailing both the ways in which too much heat is generated and ways in which cooling systems are failing, hence the specific designation of Yin-deficient heat. Water is the element mainly responsible for cooling, in our bodies as well as for the planet. Critiquing the rapid pace and consumer-orientation of our culture, Kelly argues that “stimulation is not strength; it’s heat.” This got me thinking about the sensations of practicing Tai Chi, especially Wolfe’s frequent instructions about how we are to engage the air: “caress the air;” “treat the air as if it had the substance and weight of water;” “feel the water-like air.” What if, in addition to sensing the air as an element in physical contact with our hands, we considered the air as literally cooling the excessive Yang in our bodies?  A new mantra might be, “feel the air like cool water.”

“Climate change is not just happening in the world around us;
climate change is also happening within us.”

As an introduction to Chinese medicine, I found the book compelling. In particular, Kelly’s description of the interaction of the “Five Phases” (or “Five Elements”) with the Sheng and K’o cycles was instructive. “The Sheng or Nourishing cycle is what allows organs and phases to feed what comes next. While the K’o cycle creates balance by limiting and controlling things, the Sheng cycle is the relationship among the different aspects of who we are that promotes growth – physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually” (136). If you want to learn the major symptoms of climate change without perusing the scientific literature, Kelly provides a fair and specific representation. His lessons about the Yin and Yang are familiar, e.g., “By itself, the Yang of doing things won’t lead us to the Yin of understanding our lives.” The unique contribution of his book in Tai Chi terms is his articulation of parallels and successful treatments that will help us “to know within us what climate stability would look and feel like” so that we can help to bring about climate stability “in the world around us.”

Brendan Kelly: “The Yin and Yang of Climate Crisis“, North Atlantic Books, Berkeley, CA.

Republished with permission, includes minor revisions. Originally published in Taichi Thoughts, Volume 16, No. 3, November 4, 2015.

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The Message of Interstellar, Birdman, and Dear White People

The declining ability to grow food foretells the end of humanity in Interstellar much as it does in actual climate science. Food doesn’t enter Birdman, and is only racialized in Dear White People. Now, stretch with me, will you?

The essential message of these three very different movies–all playing now–is that everything is up to us.

Interstellar and Birdman are rivals on the twinned theme of love and passion. Where they diverge is that Birdman establishes no context: there’s only the stage awhirl in the midst of contemporary chaos. Interstellar, according to the best principles of science fiction, embeds its story in the established science of our times, prioritizing the climate crisis on the scale at which it deserves, within the irrefutable consequences of species survival or extinction. Along comes Dear White People, to illustrate the sickening scope of intraspecies bigotry and pettiness which we’ve yet to overcome.

Mentoring for the Earth, Utne Reader, Mar-Apr 2014, p. 70.
Mentoring for the Earth, Utne Reader, Mar-Apr 2014, p. 70.

While watching Interstellar, I wondered at the non-representative racial composition of the slice of surviving humanity the film constructs for us to see. Tokenism reigns, unless Christopher Nolan and his band of writers aim to propose that the privileges of whiteness extend into the near-term upcoming calamity. They could, of course. Certainly the U.S. government is embattled on this linch pin: will democracy, freedom, and equality of opportunity truly be enabled for all or will special [white] interests continue to dictate law and privilege? Not that underfunded NASA seems likely to have anything to offer in the way of off-planet redemption. That’s more likely to come from the European Space Agency, having successfully landed a spacecraft on a streaking comet.

As far as media effects go (that is, convincing the world that white people, especially white men, are the main strain of the species worth caring about), Birdman is right on cue, with its agonized and agonizing straight white male Everyman. Saving Broadway! Hallelujah!

While Birdman patches together an impressively tight composition of literary layers and cultural references, Dear White People blows it out of the water with the most densely packed social commentary I’ve ever seen. (Curious to know what you think are its equals, or even in the same league.)

“Dear White People,” Samantha White (Tessa Thompson) sums it all up, “Nevermind.” Are the costs of racial fallout still too touchy to resolve? In our day and age, too many white people are playing racism as a game–and a fun one at that. People of color are still too often forced to craft lives within the omnipresence of race consciousness. (It’s time to be colorbrave.) Oh sure, Dear White People is a comedy! How else could such stunning criticism receive the light of day? Are all the characters types? Aren’t we all, each of us, out here living our real, untheatrical lives, also easily categorized as a type? The question is which types get airtime and which don’t; which types can help us reweave the social fabric and which won’t. We have to choose.

“Humans are cultural animals,” writes Mark Morey. “Our evolution continues along paths that we direct through our choices, patterns, and behaviors. Even more importantly—we pass culture along through initiation and story.” The story of Interstellar is that the bond of parents and children is a force commensurate with gravity. The science stretches into fiction here, because none of the things we need to know to pull off such a journey are within reach. The declining ability to grow food, however, foretells the end of humanity in Interstellar much as it does in actual climate science. Food doesn’t enter Birdman, and is only racialized in Dear White People.  Now, stretch with me, will you?

Just as Lionel blows when his jazz solo arrives—even though he doesn’t like jazz!—we need to be colorbrave in our daily lives, identify and dismiss noisome distractions, and alter the impelling rush of catastrophe.  Somehow, someway, the artistic and intellectual brilliance of today’s intergenerational collective intelligence must form new relationships and stories that recreate and renew society based on perennial agriculture, aka permaculture. The trio of films examined here demonstrate that social justice needs permaculture and vice-versa, if another seven generations are to prosper on the earth.

Guide to Earning #KRKTR Points

#KRKTR is an open game for everyone interested in developing individual character and social resilience.

Points are earned for promoting and continuing communication, especially across different topics and among different groups. The idea is that both character and resilience are built at the intersections.

Rules

This ReTweet is worth 700 points: 100 (tweet itself) + 100 (it's a RT) + 500 (First Response).
This ReTweet is worth 700 points: 100 (tweet itself) + 100 (it’s a RT) + 500 (First Response).
  1. Every Tweet must include the hashtag #KRKTR
  2. Conference-based players should also include the conference hashtag, e.g., #NCORE2014
  3. All players, including non-conference players, may include other relevant hashtags
  4. Official play has distinct start and end times, announced by @KRKTR_HUB (all players are encouraged to follow @KRKTR_HUB but this is not a requirement).
  5. Unofficial play is continuous.
  6. This is a good faith game.
  7. Stimulating laughter is welcome; exercise good taste!
  8. Playing #KRKTR is an assertion of shine, all players are Bright Allies.
This ReTweet is worth 700 points.
This ReTweet is worth 700 points.

Points

  • 100 points per Tweet (remember it has to conform to the Rules above)
    • Plus 200 points if your Tweet is a Reply to another’s Tweet (be sure to include the #KRKTR hashtag!)
    • Plus 100 points if your Tweet is a ReTweet (don’t lose the #KRKTR hashtag!)
    • Plus 500 points if your Tweet is the First Response (as determined by the timelines at twitter.com/KRKTR_HUB and twubs.com/KRKTR)
    • Plus 250 points if your Tweet is the Second Response 
    • Plus 100 points if your Tweet is the Third Response or later; all additional responses earn +100 points
    • The Last Response in each thread earns all the points accumulated in that thread: 500 + 250 + 100 x (nbr of additional Tweets) NOTE: The Last Response is determined by the end of official game play as announced by @KRKTR_HUB.
1500 Points for SJEchat (800 + 700)...will elhistoryprof continue the conversation?
If this was official game play: 1500 points for SJEchat (800 + 700)…will elhistoryprof continue the conversation?

Threads

A thread is created whenever Replies and/or ReTweets are made to any original Tweet that includes the #KRKTR hashtag.

  • Previous Tweets from the #KRKTR archive can be ReTweeted or Replied to in order to earn points during official game play.
  • Threads can originate from any #KRKTR player.
  • Threads originated by @KRKTR_HUB may become privileged. (Haven’t figured this part out yet.)
  • Serious #KRKTR players are encouraged not to respond to “bad will” Tweets. Let them die alone and quickly.
Connecting issues across populations using hashtags. NOTE: The #KRKTR hashtag is missing = no points during official game play.
Connecting issues across populations using hashtags. NOTE: The #KRKTR hashtag is missing = no points during official game play.

Hashtags

Advanced play involves careful and strategic use of hashtags to make connections whenever an intersection appears.

Cultivation of a connection across two different discourses (as organized by the hashtag) requires repetition and persistence.

Rather than hashtagging every word, be focused and deliberate about the connection you’re trying to forge.

Prizes

Prizes will be announced as sponsors come forth with them.  (Negotiations are underway. Contact Steph with offers for this and future rounds of play.)

 

Race and Ethnicity promote Character and Resilience

At the end of May, I’ll be presenting two major workshops at the National Conference on Race and Ethnicity (NCORE) in higher education.

 

One presentation, called Social Interpreting: An emerging model of simultaneous interactioninvolves Babelverse, which you can learn about by watching this 20 minute video prepared for the @ think! Interpreting conference in Istanbul (March, 2014).

 

 

The second workshop is called Transmedia Character Building for Social Resilience. It promotes the idea that building character (#KRKTR) is an idea that can unify people across all kinds of divisions, and contribute to establishing locally-oriented community connections both within and beyond traditional power structures.

Can Permaculture Voices guide us through climate change?

 

Dominic reminded me that the way we talk needs revision. There is no “solution” to climate change; nothing to stop the forces already in motion. “We have to go through it.” What there are, instead, are ways of living during the escalation of natural disasters. Perhaps, against the odds, if enough of us change fast enough, the living earth will be able to rejuvenate itself and life on earth will persist into the far future.

Note: each subheading links to a summary of Tweets, one for each day of the 4-day conference.

Permaculture Voices is launched

Karl asked the most relevant question: What is the best path forward? Participants at the first Permaculture Voices conference in Temecula, CA spent four days searching out and following their own answers. A star-studded cast of some the living earth’s most well-known champions provided a scientific and ethical framework for the monumental economic, cultural and lifestyle changes required (of North Americans, in particular).

Eating locally grown food is the most obvious feature of permaculture; its discourse has begun to effect public opinion and (some) public policy. However, being a local hero in-and-of-itself is insufficient to guarantee a future for your children and grandchildren. Earth will lose its breathable atmosphere within decades if we persist in delaying fundamental changes in energy consumption and dismantling corporate agriculture.

Action Packed Presentation Schedule

If one wanted to notice, there were visible absences in the conference demographics. People of color, women presenters, and international representation, for instance, were seriously under-represented. Some of these imbalances were aired publicly and grumbled about privately, but perseverating on them would be a mistaken use of energy along the lines of the “feedback loops” Allan Savory refuses to entertain in the mission to let cattle (and other livestock) save the planet. Women (especially white women) need to step up and start doing epic shit (echoing Paul Wheaton and paraphrasing Larry Santoyo).

 

https://twitter.com/MontadoFarms/statuses/444884615346798592

The more significant yet rarely spoken tension is class and the luxurious privileges of whiteness. Not just white skin privilege (which varies according to social class), but the attitudes of whiteness that celebrate individualism and the myth of independence. It’s damn scary to realize that I don’t know enough people with the skills to help me survive; humbling to realize how little I have to offer in regard to growing food or tending animals; and terrifying to consider that not only is my incompetence not unique but rather it’s the norm. 

 

Building Urgency: Reaching for Permaculture Velocity

Toby Hemenway illustrated why there are no energy solutions that allow Americans (especially) to continue to consume so much power. We have to stop. Now. It’s really that simple. We have to suck it up and suffer for the sake of future generations. No presenters talked about how to make these transitions on a meaningful scale but I did hear of places (cities and regions) where significant progress is underway. Why not in more places?

There are a lot of excuses to postpone lifestyle change. These (mostly selfish) rationalizations combine with general tendencies of insularity (sticking with one’s own kind) and the drive to take care of immediate family first. The latter is reasonable, but permaculture as a movement can’t stop there. We need more Willie Smits’s and Geoff Lawtons and Allan Savory’s doing good works on massive scales (none of them are American, hmmm) demonstrating and modeling that complexity can be holistically managed and climate change perhaps mitigated by an unprecedented, massively-collaborative surge of homo sapiens seeking to survive.

Reaching for the tipping point

We need better soil for growing food and other critical biomass, and we have to stop the spread of deserts. There are ‘technologies’ – methods, behaviors, attitudes and manual human effort – that can make HUGE DIFFERENCES in a QUICK TIMEFRAME if we JUST START! Biochar is relatively easy and contributes on several fronts. Permaculture principles need to be imposed on all agricultural facilities, asap. Policies encouraging postmodern cattle drives are desperately needed to help reverse desertification around the world.

The thing is that we in the west (and those in the east aspiring to the west’s lifestyle with disregard for its awful consequences) can no longer have it all. We never could, but the bubble of privilege maintained the aura of illusion for a few generations. I admit I’m worried about how well I’ll hold up when my comforts begin to diminish.

At the same time, I’m honored and humbled to be called to participate in the greatest undertaking humanity has ever faced. Geoff, Paul, Allan, Toby, Diego Footer, Nicholas Wooten, Jessica Schilke, Souki Mehdaoui, Ryan Harb, Elaine Ingham, Doniga Markegaard, Nadia Lawton, yes yes even Joel Salatin and Mark Shepard (but I have to ask if you’re playing too close to the monster?), the other presenters and participants, and all the permies in the community house, with each your own specializations, commitments and passions: THANK YOU for your bright hearts, light spirits, and deep compassion for the living earth.

 

Permaculture Balance: Approaching Wholeness with David Eggleton

I’m thrilled to be co-presenting with David at Permaculture Voices on the necessary care of people dimension of generating (and re-generating) collectively-oriented social webs for planetary maintenance and survival.

David and I will co-present a workshop at the beginning of the first Permaculture Voices conference, to be held in Temecula, CA. He’s the Meaningful Makeover content guy; we’re both pedagogues, and I fancy myself the interpreter.

In our hour-long workshop, participants will be guided through a set of considerations for charting their course through the offerings of this incredible collection of luminaries full of unapologetic hope.  The considerations blend learning theory and permaculture principles. We’re designing the workshop to have immediate application for participants in the here and now of the conference in order to root a scaffold for self-directed, lifelong learning that can be taken home for daily use and applied to any experience, anywhere.

“We can’t go it alone for very long” (Weisman, p. 269)

spiderweb_applied ecologicsFacing “the Three Scary Numbers” of global warming isn’t easy. If you take in the ramifications of that terrifying math seriously (and don’t choose denial as a coping mechanism), you’re likely to wind up in the camp of Guy McPherson and the Doomers. Guy is the most vocal advocate of it being too late to do anything meaningful to salvage life on earth due to the amount of self-reinforcing feedback loops already in motion. If you do take the scary numbers seriously (as Guy, Bill McKibben, and many others have and do), you’re almost guaranteed to experience emotional shock or even trauma. For me, the fog from that “poison” of realization (as it was metaphorically described by a friend) lasted fifteen months; it’s only in retrospect that I can perceive how wounded I was by recognizing near term human extinction. Coming out of the fog meant, for me, gaining clarity on my values and my skills.

Permanent Culture = Permaculture

odometerI recently snapped this photo of my 1993 Volvo’s odometer to share with the mechanic I bought it from last year. Paul told me the record for a Volvo from his shop was 509,000 miles, and he had heard of a guy who supposedly drove his for over three million miles!  Personally I wouldn’t want to spend that many hours in the seat of a car! But this got me thinking about durability and resilience supported by maintenance: a web of social and physical factors interwoven with environmental conditions. Permanent implies fixed, unchanging, absolute—but culture is adaptive, adaptable, evolutionary. Putting them together is not exclusively about food, central as food is to survival. This is why I’m thrilled to be working with David on the necessary care of people ethical dimension of generating (and re-generating) collectively-oriented communities for planetary maintenance and survival.
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Memory of a Circle

“It is over.”

With this epigraph, Charles Genoud begins his book on the non-sense of time. Near the end of Gesture of Awareness (pp. 164-166), Genoud writes:

I hold on to the notion
of a subject.

On the impersonal world of experiences,
with a single letter, I
I trace a person,

as if creating
a blower of the wind,
a rainer of the rain.

A single letter
sets two worlds apart:

the world of object
and the world of subject,
and thus comes exile.

We are all storytellers.
We spin the fiction of our lives,
the fiction that we are.

I may move
my hand in a way that one
could call circular—

but there is no circle.
Can my hand be
at more than one place at a time?

If so,
where is the circle?

One is holding only traces, memories:
it is through such traces that one speaks
of movement, and of a circle.

The fiction that I am
is created in a similar way.

Holding to traces of past moments,
holding to imagined future moments,
I draw an enduring character, I.

But just as with the circle
seen in the movement of a hand,
I am no where to be found.

Once I’ve created the main character, I
once I’ve put distance between
myself and experience—

my story can’t be but a story of exile,
of a hopeless wandering.

Exile can end only with end
of the split between
object and subject;

exile can end only if the fictitious nature
of object and subject
is seen through.

As the main character
is also the storyteller,
he resists his own ending.

The world of traces, of fiction,
isn’t another world

as there is no real world
with respect to which it could be
other.

The memory of the circle
drawn by my hand is only
the trace of a trace,

the trace of something that
never was.

I’m also looking forward to seeing a ragged assortment of Monks and Nuns when the Human Sushi Platter will be guest of honor at an event hosted by Hot Mama.