Oct 29, 2007

Restoration is resistance

Saturday's really really free market attracted both regular attendees and loads of new folks, who were in Dolores Park for the conclusion of an anti-war march. Expecting a large turnout, market supporters brought along extra food, water, skills (like the stamp making skillshare above), and even pet rats for people to get to know.
I packed the bike trailer with 15 plants, 2 gallons of water, a gallon of sweet tea, a huge pot of mashed potatoes, and a bunch of SF ecology info. I enjoyed giving out the plants, and learned a lot by doing it. Folks always ask for specific plants, always stuff I don't have. I'm usually asked if my plants are edible. "Do you have any herbs?" "I'm into succulents."
I'm not complaining that people have interests, and I'm trying to learn from what I'm being told. I bring some aromatic plants (horkelia usually), some flowering plants, some trees. I try to bring at least a couple that will grow well in the fog belt. And yarrow has many uses.
But I'm shocked by how practical (and human centered) people's plant preferences are. But even that sentence is pretty comical: people's plant preferences are human centered... why is that shocking? I love restoration because it's not about people as much as it's about ecosystems, which, of course, people inhabit with lots of other life. But I guess that others may come to a love of ecosystems by way of loving plants that have human uses.

When I grow food, I think of it as a way of eliminating the transport of some small fraction of my caloric intake. And I know that all of the excess that I give away will encourage others to think about where their own food originates. But everything else that I plant is for wildlife. Someone at RRFM told me that horkelia looks like a weed... yep, many of our native plants have a scruffy look. But I don't plant for human aesthetics. I'm actually kind of sickened by overly ornamental gardens. And I figure that there are countless bees, butterflies, birds, and bugs that have a different kind of aesthetic, something less about visuals and more about smell and texture. Something that I don't get.
The aesthetic of a restoration site is most satisfying to me when I see bugs in the soil and hear birds warning of my approach. Coyote shit on my shoes is actually a bit delightful at first. And swarming yellow jackets give me a nervous smile as I pass apprehensively. That's beauty and utility for me.

I don't want to force that on other folks, but I hope to point out the existence of that perspective at least. Today I was able to alert a fellow dog walker to the shriek of a red-tailed hawk overhead. She thanked me and I remembered how easy it is to not hear these creatures over the din of cars and urban construction. Last week a study was released about the paltry amount of time that kids spend outside/in "nature". Like a lot of other folks in ecology, I hope that these little experiences (like planting yarrow or listening for red tails) translate to larger explorations of the outdoors.

Oct 25, 2007

Free Plants on a Borrowed Bike Trailer!

Check it out! Here are the plants I'm taking to the Really Really Free Market on Saturday. My friend, Douglas, helped me hook up the trailer and rode with me to pick out the plants. The trailer belongs to to Station 40, which is also the location for the Dirty Dove Infoshop.

And while the rad kids at Station 40 would have let me use their trailer for nothing, I was happy to give them a slew of potatoes and onions that I found in Bernal this morning. I found 12 gigantic onions and about 15 lbs of potatoes, some of which I had to toss. There was also one carrot and 2 cans of "Hart Brand Vegetarian Beans in tomato sauce". So I guess I'm cooking for RRFM as well.

Tomorrow is Halloween Critical Mass!!! I'll be rocking the dead CEO look again. Yeah!

Oct 24, 2007

RRFM in Dolores Park at End of Anti-War March

Saturday is the Really Really Free Market in SF! This is in solidarity with the anti-war effort, and it's also just the day and place that the market occurs. (Last Saturday of each month in Dolores Park).

I'm borrowing a bike trailer to haul a slew of plants. And I'll have Nature in the City Maps of SF's open space. I'm excited about setting up a little nursery in the park to get folks involved in their own restoration projects. I'll have guides for DIY restoration and a list of blighted sites that could use some nifty native plants to bring them back to health and neighborly utility.

A couple of posts back I was talking about how we all need to take action in ways that we feel is effective and in ways that bring us joy. I've been to a lot of marches and demos since it was apparent that we would bomb Afghanistan in September of 2001. I marched against the war in Iraq before it started, even though I naively thought there was no way the public would buy this war. Apparently, we can be sold ANYTHING.
I'm very happy for the folks and families who get something out of these demos. But I'm heartened more by signs in Bernal Heights calling people to join their neighbors in this fight, than by anything I'd see at the actual march. I have the fortunate position of being for something this Saturday, even as I'm against the war. I'm all for the free exchange of ideas, skills, and things as it presents an alternative to the paradigm that lead us into this war.

But I get to see the demo because it ends in Dolores Park. Crazy. February's market was located at Montgomery and Market during the last big convergence and loads of people dropped by RRFM who might not have seen it otherwise. It should be a receptive crowd for ecology, so I hope to get at least 10 plants into some dirt.

Oct 21, 2007

Collapse of Corporatism

We're calling this one "the fall of fashionism". If you can't tell what you're looking at, those were the logos for Calven Klyne, NiKKKe, and Adeedes. (Did you know that corporate hacks actually waste their time googling their company names to prevent folks from speaking out against them? Hence the misspellings. Not saying that these pumpkins would draw their ire, but ya never know.)

I thought I'd provide a link to this protracted piece. Click on the "Corporate Pumpkins" set to the right to see all the photos from this year. The pumpkins from years past are on there too. Last year's are compacty too, enviro pumpkins. Check 'em out.

Oct 18, 2007

Scales and Moralizing

First, I guess the Good Magazine article is online now. Some of my friends really hated it, forcing me to reconsider it. But I still like it! I did an AWESOME interview on Saturday with Tiffany of Piratepods.com. I love podcasts because you have time to think about the questions and an ability to elaborate.

Anyway, the Good Magazine article mentioned that some folks think we compactors are trying to moralize our way out of a huge, global problem. I've heard this criticism a lot and it has it's merits ... on certain scales. Yeah, the geographer in me has no truck w/ letting my own habits off the hook because there is a global context. I can't wait for multi-national corporations to convince everyone to "buy green" to slow climate change and prevent large scale species die off.

We didn't initiate the Compact to get a bunch of people to pledge to stop shopping. This started out on a very small scale. And we built something out of it. Yeah, the blogs and list-serves are cool, but among ourselves, we built a community. Action on the community scale is what really interests me. People can wander from the mall to their televisions, bags in hand, all around me - as long as I have a place where I belong as well. I don't find community in H0me Dep0t, or self expression in mass produced goods. Is it really moralizing to look at my culture and say: Fuck, I don't fit here!? And then to create a space in which I and others like me, really do fit?

Current criticism of the "environmental" movement harps on negativity and says we can't affect large scale change through scare tactics. I don't disagree, actually. But I don't think the Compact has done this. First, we did this for ourselves, not to start a movement. We did it because it brings us joy - try it w/ 10 friends and you will laugh for a year. It's a direct way for us to engage w/ the ecological issues that we care about, while also considering the network of factors that feed into ecological crises, such as labor, market, health, poverty, and local economy issues. Working on this challenge provided a realizable outlet for our concerns. Giving ourselves that space for action makes it more possible for us to act on other scales.

Isn't it also kinda moralizing to beg corporations to stop oppressing people and ecosystems? What's the difference really? Money saving? Well, compactors save money too. That's not it. Efficiency? Goes both ways. Just as some folks are depressed into inaction by the scare tactics of the "environmental" movement, I'm overwhelmed by the responsibility of engaging corporations to solve ecological crises. Sorry if I can't get wrapped up in online petitions and lobbying of rich ceo's, trying to convince them to adopt practices that will make them richer.

We should all be doing the work that makes us happy and allows us growth. Usually that has some connection to our talents and skills. I say this because it doesn't matter that I can't deal with corporations. If you're moved that way, then do it. Get what you can out of it. Learn something and tell us about that. That's all the Compact really is: People trying something and sharing what they learn (to which end you can find about 500 uses of plastic bags via these networks).

Oct 14, 2007

Defense Pumpkin

Here's one of 7 logo pumpkins. The flag is just the backdrop for the paw.

Oct 13, 2007

Pumpkin Carving!!!!

Every year Blake (my housemate) and I throw a small pumpking carving party to get folks together to creatively gnarl gourds. You might remember that our theme last year was enviro pumpkins. The picture above is our "Buy Nothing Day" pumpkin.
This year we're going with a corporate zombie theme. Everyone is encouraged to come dressed as a corporate drone or ceo, or wearing enough logos to rival a NASCAR driver. The pumpkins themselves always mold and rot after a few days, even though we seal them w/ petroleum jelly. So after years of carving inspiring messages into the pumpkins (peace in 6 languages in 2004, political pumpkins in 2005, enviros in 2006) we've decided to let the mold and break down of the pumpkins be part of the art. So we're carving logo montages into the gourds.

Yeah, I'm gonna have 6 pumpkins on my steps w/ logos for fashion (nikee, louey vittton,etc) media (foxxxx, cb es, diznee, inbeeseee), telecommunications (AyTEE'n'TEE, Singular, and Verrrizon), defense (blackkkwater, halliburt0n, and bektel), fast food (mkdon's, murderking, tacohell), and the parent companies (gee eee, viakkkom, noosecorps). Our jack-o-lantern will be a genetically modified masterpiece (franken food).

I don't know how these are going to turn out. The concept is a little circuitous. Our stairs are going to look like the NY Stock Exchange board for a few days, but when it all starts to fall apart, maybe it will make sense.

Oct 8, 2007

Good Mag Article

Wow, I just read the article by Zachary Slobig in Good Magazine about the Compact. It's my favorite by far, except that my picture's in it. I'm camera shy... I couldn't find the article online. I got it from fellow compactor, John.
Slobig gives a super image of the Really Really Free Market too! Stellar writing, most favorite journalist ever.

Oh, and I started a new blog about my sustainable dog walking project. Treading that fine line folks.

Oct 1, 2007

Bartered Bicycles and Sayin' What You Need

Last week I lamented that I'd be going to Critical Mass, yet again, w/a broken rear derailluer. Well, I didn't have to, thanks to my clients (and friends), who are currently decluttering their space. I got a mostly new bike for my dog walking services! And I'm having my truck -er, Trek- fixed by a friend this week.

With the impending rainy season, I have a million things to think about, the bike was just one of those. (I love my trek too much to ride it all winter). But not only did my clients offer me the bike, today they gave me a rain jacket that absolutely rocks. I'm on the way to weatherproofness.

Since engaging in the compact experiment, I've gotten a lot less shy about stating my needs. That's part of how I've redefined my relationship to goods. It's not shameful to need something, ya know. I wonder how our perception of need correlates to situations like credit card debt.

Sometimes when I mention that I need X, I get advice or commiseration. And sometimes folks are actually getting rid of the thing that I need, or they run across it and think of me. (As has happened w/ a bed, patio chairs, and other crazy stuff.) I try to reciprocate by keeping my eye out for things my friends need, like the toaster oven for RRFM.

It's compact karma, for real. I'm hoping it kicks in for grad school funding/finding housing in London next year. I'm not entirely relying on compact karma tho'... I'll also be invoking Santa, the Easter Bunny, and perhaps the Tooth Fairy if it gets real bad.