30 December 2012

A New Year, a New Purpose?

I've already started wishing people "the kind of new year that is a gift to the world" and so I bid you and yours the same. Happy brand new year, full of potential!

Of course, that's got me wondering what sort of gift I would like to create for the world this year. As a teacher, I have two "new" years each year, one in September and one in January. My autumn new year is usually focused on new teaching strategies and learning experiences to share with my students.

But January 1st! Ah, what is it that sends so many of us off into the rite of rapturous resolution-making? I mean, every day is a new day, right? We could decide to start new projects, eat better, lose weight, stop a bad habit any day, couldn't we? But there's something about the very beginning of a new year that holds excitement and allure for us.

So here for all the world to see, I would like to pronounce my 2013 New Year's Resolution. I am going to become an Earth Mama!

I mentioned that to a friend yesterday and she laughed, asking "You want to have a baby?" "No, no!" I quickly replied. "That's not what I mean." Nor do I mean any of the other definitions I just found in the online Urban Dictionary. I'm not referring to the wonderful Joyce Johnson Rouse (aka Earth Mama) either, but check out her wonderful music.

Yikes, I'd better define this if I'm going to realize my dream. To me, an Earth Mama (or Earth Mother?) is a woman who is connected to the earth (and the Earth), who knows how to grow food, who cans and preserves the food she and others in her community grow, who fixes things around the house without having to call in expensive experts, who is confident in her own abilities to survive.

Me, in our school garden
Right now, I'm more of a coordinator ... someone who knows how to get things done without really knowing how to do those things herself. A good example is our school garden. It wouldn't exist if I hadn't pushed to have it created, however, I'm not a food growing expert (parents and other staff lead on that). But I'd like to become one. 

What's all this got to do with compassionate action on climate change? Well, the food crisis looms. Drought has become persistent in some of the world's greatest grain growing regions (American midwest, southwest China) and the whole world will soon see food shortages. We're going to have to start looking after our own food needs on a local basis. 

When I see lawns, I see food gardens. When I see golf courses and school yards, I see food gardens. When I see leaves and grass clippings on the roadside, I see soil. When I see yard "waste" being burned, I see soil going up in smoke. And when I see children stuck in classrooms, I see future food growers not being taught the skills they are desperately going to need to survive.

So this is my year to, as the Gandhi-esque quote suggests, become the change I want to see in the world. I keep proclaiming that 21st century education needs to revolve around teaching kids how to build their own soil, grow their own food, collect their own rainwater, and generate their own energy. So that's my mission this year: to learn how to do all of those things.

If something is doable, then it's learnable. And if it's learnable — and I set my mind (and heart) to it — then I can learn it. Right? We're not talking rocket science here, just food growing and preserving, and composting, and setting up rain barrels, and learning about renewable energy technologies along with my students. I can do this.

Good luck with your resolutions this year. May your learning and your doing in 2013 be a gift to the world!

23 December 2012

A Holiday Wish for Peace with the Earth

Well, folks, since the physical world didn't end yesterday, perhaps it's true that we're entering into a new spiritual world. Perhaps we're going to experience a transformation that will see our species take hold of its senses and start living regeneratively. 

For this holiday season, I'd like to gift you with the quote below. Wishing us all peace in our hearts, peace in our families and communities, and peace with the Earth. (Enjoy the festivities! We can get back to work on climate change in a week or two.) 

"The privilege to be here, on this life-giving planet at this astonishing time in human history, is sufficient to inspire awe in the most uncaring of individuals. At this late juncture in the age of industry, at the dawn of our day on Earth, we still have love: love for each other, love for our children and grandchildren, love for [the rest of] nature. One could argue it is all we have left.... Will we, as individuals, know peace? That's up to us. I suggest most of us will know peace only when we find ourselves lying helpless in the broken arms of our doomed Earth."— Guy McPherson

16 December 2012

What If All of Us Squares Changed Our Focus?

Have I ever told you about a workshop I attended during which I discovered I'm a complete and utter square? It was a presentation on the latest brain research and learning styles. The brain's synapses fire at a typical speed, but each of us has a quadrant that is much more efficient. Turns out I'm a "left-basal" (that's the quadrant in which my synapses fire at 400 miles per hour) so, in essence, a square. 

We squares are the kind of people who start making Five Year Plans when we're still teenagers. Who fit into the school system because we "get" the systems of reading and writing. We're punctual and we do our homework. We become writers and editors and teachers. (Oh man, I was so predictable!) We're the planners, the organizers. In short, we're the ones who keep the world humming along, more or less on time.

SIDE BAR: I don't want anyone to feel left out, so here are the other personality types/learning styles:

  • left-frontal (the triangle): the controllers, the CEOs, the bossy pants, the people who make sure that other people get things done
  • right-basal (the circle): the harmonizers, the supporters, the people who nurture others and keep the peace
  • right-frontal (the squiggle): the visualizers, the artists, the creative ones, the dyslexics (or "eugraphics" - the term I coined to positively describe people who think in images and for whom the arbitrariness of alphabets doesn't make natural sense)


Okay, so where am I going with this? Let me tell you. I stumbled upon a blog post this morning about the very common spelling mistake "alot" (as in, I stumble upon alot of things on the internet). The correct spelling is two words: a lot. A left-basal square is going to notice booboos like that. We correct grammatical errors on TV (out loud, to our family's chagrin), and point out typos on restaurant menus. We can't help ourselves. It's a curse (people call us Grammar Fascists and Spelling Nazis), except when it's not. (You know, like when someone needs something edited and they can't spell to save their lives.)

Well, here's the thing. Despite the fact that the biosphere is going to hell in a handbasket and the American drought has continued into December (including in Alaska and Hawaii!), the blogosphere is acting as though nothing's wrong, nothing's different, nothing's changed. On the one hand, I write these blog posts and do my activism and watch my husband do all his climate change work, and still there are only 23 people in the world who care. (Okay, it might be up to 27 by now.) 

On the other hand, that blog post on the misspelled "alot" got — wait for it — 784 comments!! Isn't that astounding? That 784 people would care enough about the spelling of "a lot" that they took the time to write and post a comment?

It's obvious to me that all these people (except one, who complained) are squares. (Nobody else gives a damn about spelling.) So what if we could recruit even a fraction of the squares in the world to help counter the climate change deniers and skeptics in the blogosphere? 

They, like I have, could learn the science of global warming and climate change. At least enough to respond to the trolls. Or perhaps these squares could serve as the scribes of old, helping all the triangles and squiggles get legible and readable letters written to their elected officials.

I'll admit it. It's depressing. I don't exactly begrudge that blogger her 784 commenters (imagine how many actual readers that means), I just wish they could all find the time to comment on important stuff, too, like the global climate change emergency, which is threatening the viability of there/they're/their children's future, and is already impacting hour/our generation's food security, two/to/too.

The Street Scribe, by Carlo Naya

09 December 2012

"I Don't Want to Live in a World Without Olives"

My husband's tongue was only somewhat in his cheek the other day when he said, "I don't want to live in a world without olives." We were having a discussion with friends about a project (in the dreaming stage) to help people see the connection between the Arctic meltdown and our food.

We'd all just shared an epiphany as we realized that people don't understand (or care about) climate change because they don't understand food and agriculture. As long as people don't recognize the relationship between food growing and the climate, they're just not going to "get" that climate change is a planetary emergency. 

I then shared an epiphany I'd had about a year back, when a friend/colleague/food grower said to me, "Julie, I think we can survive here [in our small island community] on kale (vitamins), fava beans (carbohydrates) and eggs (protein)" (he's been doing his own independent research). It was at that moment that I finally saw how our food system is going to change in response to a heated planet and drought and crop failures. There's going to be less food, and less choice of food. 

I asked, "When we can't get cinnamon anymore, what could we grow around here that will take its place?" One of our friends (someone who understands all this and wants to work on the project with us) said, "Well, you just turned me off." And my husband chimed in, "Yeah, me too. I don't want to live in a world without olives." 

So even people who understand the mess we're getting ourselves into don't want to look squarely at the food crisis. People can picture a future of more of the same -- or better -- but they can't seem to picture a future with less. Less choice. Less diversity. Fewer options. 

Now, I should mention what my husband explained to me later. I agree with him that it's intuitive to see diversity as our saving grace -- and that we should be trying to grow as many different food items as possible. But I believe the reality will be much more constrained. We're still not teaching kids to grow food, and we can't grow food overnight. So when the climate change sh!t hits the fan, eggs, kale and beans might be all we can get around to growing while we're trying to deal with horrid weather events and sky-rocketing food prices. 

I'm just trying to get us all thinkin' in the direction of survival rather than luxury. After all, there must be dozens of ways to cook up beans, kale and eggs!

02 December 2012

The Life Jackets are Going On

It's been a strange week, hasn't it? A whole lot of underwhelm from Doha, Qatar, where climate change negotiators at the international climate change talks, as usual, seem to be bigger deniers of the planetary emergency than the deniers are. It creates, for me at least, a surreal sense that nothing is as my eyes are telling me. But then I'm snapped back to reality, and the true nature of the climate crisis, by some obscure bit of news (see below).

Reminds me of something that happened 14 years ago. That's when we moved to this small island community. During our first week here, we had to head back to the mainland for provisions. But as soon as we got out of the dock, the ferry started heaving and shifting. We hadn't realized how bad the winds were, and it felt like we were sailing into trouble. We literally (and I mean literally literally, not figuratively literally) had to hang on to our seats. The ferry kept going and my hubby and I kept looking at each other as though these might be our last few moments together. (Naive island newbies!)

And then a crewman walked by. In his uniform. Only his uniform. As in, no life jacket. That's when I turned to Peter and said, "When the crew start putting on life jackets, that's when we'll know it's time to panic. Until then, let's just enjoy the roller coaster ride." (I've always been one for rides at the carnival, so I was up for a cheap thrill. Peter wasn't quite as convinced.)

Well, folks, guess what's happening in the world right now? The "crew" are putting on their flippin' life jackets! Here's the quiet news: Rich people are buying up agricultural land all over the world! (Well, in parts of the world where agriculture isn't doomed. So exclude the bread baskets of the world, because they are condemned now due to disappearing Arctic summer sea ice.) And it ain't because they suddenly want to become farmers and sink their hands into the soil.

Wealthy people are waking up to the food crisis we're staring at. While so many of the rest of us are turning our heads away from the prospect (naaah, couldn't really be happening here in North America; scientists told us we might benefit from global warming), the affluent know exactly where to invest in order to (a) make as much money off the crop losses and famines as possible, and (b) ensure that they survive longest. (This really is a game for the one percent. A game to the death.)

So there it is. My analogy for the week. Negotiators at Doha, wake up! If rich people are being advised to buy up agricultural land, then you've got to admit the urgency of the emergency.