Earth to America, Come in America
By Caitlin Moore
On Earth Day 2007, many people went out and took action to honor the environment. Some planted trees, some cleaned a river or stream, while others stayed home and turned off the lights. I spent time reflecting on my experience at the Synergy Conference held at Evergreen College that weekend.
The focus of the conference was sustainability, and how we can make changes in various areas of our life to move toward a more earth-friendly existence. All of the speakers I heard were knowledgeable and passionate about their subject, well prepared, and quite entertaining. I learned about the pros and cons of different types of energy sources, the deplorable practice of adding toxic waste to commercial fertilizer, about an activist in L.A. who is converting young gang members and other at-risk youth to organic gardening enthusiasts, about the wonderful world of fermentation, and how to find, dry, prepare and cook yummy food with acorns.
While each focus session presented a number of ideas for even the most dedicated tree hugger, one of the most important things I got from this is that we must immediately start creating community again through developing and supporting local organic agriculture on a massive scale.
As a “locavore,” I supplement my own garden by only buying food that is grown within 250 miles (my personal parameters) of where I live. But as the keynote speaker of the conference, Sandor Katz, pointed out, if we all switched to locally grown food today, there wouldn't be enough food for all of us. His solution? We MUST garden now. We being ALL of us, everywhere: doctors, teachers, garbage collectors, truck drivers, secretaries, and even the unemployed. We need to do it on a grand scale like Havana, Cuba, where the citizens grow half of all their vegetables right there in the city, and all of it organically (their source for agricultural chemicals was cut off with the fall of the Soviet Union). We need Urban Gardens. Community Gardens. Ghetto Gardens. Backyard Gardens. Victory Gardens.
Why? Well, plainly put, we the people have chosen a global food distribution system that cares more about shelf life, availability, and consistency than it does for quality, nutrition, and fresh, seasonal crops. This system is responsible for a majority of the environmental pollution and, coupled with the long distance transport, a major part of the energy use and greenhouse gases. This system is also responsible for creating the large factory farms that have displaced families from smallholdings. Its been going on for decades, and America has seen a steady decrease since the Industrial Revolution in the percentage of the population making their living growing food. At present there is less than 1% of the population growing food for the rest of the 99%. Basically, there aren't enough local farms to feed the population. While this in itself is a tragedy, Katz suggests that we all pick up a hoe and create a little farm in whatever space we have available.
I live in a rental, where I don't have the approval of my landlord to make garden beds. So I have lettuce, kale and onions growing in pots, and I paid $20 for a community plot where I can grow larger plants like tomatoes, beans, potatoes, and squashes. A number of these community gardens exist. I just spent time this week volunteering for GRuB building a community garden in West Olympia.
Something so simple as planting a garden doesn't seem like it should have an effect on the world, but it does. In fact, it has a profound effect. On health, on pollution, maybe even on education (I managed a 4.0 in college by studying in my vegetable garden). If people grew organic food instead of lawns, there would be less dependence on the fossil fuel based farming system we rely on now. Rivers and estuaries would be less contaminated with surface runoff from chemical laden fields. In community gardens, we can meet and create fellowship with our neighbors and get back the sense that we all belong to something bigger than the 'feed the greed' society we have created. In short, gardening very well could help save the world.
Recently we created an attractive tri-fold B.L.O.O.M. Brochure, designed by long-time employee, Colleen Thompson. On the back panel of the brochure is a color photo of planet Earth (our home) and this message (which also appears on the store wall):
4 Things you can do to Really
4. Buy Local
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