10-10-10 was a Global Work Party day of action against climate change sponsored by 350.org. http://www.350.org/
Here’s what my friends and I did:
10 AM on 10-10-10—an auspicious moment, if you like the number 10! I am at the Alice Griffith Garden in the Doublerock public housing development in Bayview Hunters Point—a neighborhood of San Francisco sometimes known as a ‘food desert’. It’s easy to buy a bottle of liquor or a fistful of oblivion here—really hard to get a good, fresh vegetable.
I’ve been volunteering and working with the gardens and garden coordinators here for the last four or five years, off and on. Earth Activist Training, my own organization, has partnered with Hunters Point Family, which runs youth programs in this predominantly African American neighborhood. Hunters Point Family hires young people to work in the gardens, giving them some income and job skills, and hires local adults from the projects to coordinate the gardens.
We begin by sitting down with the youth—about six of them, and I ask them what they know about climate change and global warming. Turns out that the major thing they know is that President Obama isn’t doing a damn thing about it. This does not bode well for the next election cycle—if Obama has lost these kids, well, there’s not much base left. Not only that, but I’m told that Michele Obama ain’t as cute as she thinks she is. I point out that, whatever you think about Obama’s politics, she is definitely cuter than Laura Bush or, shudder, Sarah Palin. We agree upon that. There is, however, a general consensus in the ‘hood that the world will indeed end on December 21, 2012. Thought you should know.
Carrying on in spite of impending doom, we set to work—leveling a section of ground where new raised beds will be built. This gives me an excuse to show everyone how to build an A-frame and find level. I’m about to start doing a long-term training program for the garden coordinators in permaculture design, garden management and environmental leadership—and I intend to revisit this lesson again. The simply A-frame is a powerful and ancient tool for finding contours on the land—and finding the contours is the first step toward sculpting the land to retain more water.
Miss Jackie, the garden coordinator, has a terrible case of laryngitis and her voice is reduced to a squeak or a whisper. Nonetheless, she keeps offering me potato chips and advice. I counter with strawberries, which she won’t eat because she’s afraid of inflaming her eczema. Growing food is only half the battle—the other half is getting people to eat it who are now accustomed to junk food. Miss Jackie will eat collards, cabbage and squash—something like chard is out of the comfort zone and why we grow it is a mystery to me. Of course, at home my Goddess-child Kore and visiting granddaughter Tashi are equally resistant to eating vegetables, and both of them have had fresh, organic, deliciously cooked veggies on their plates since birth. Why, if vegetables are so good for us, do human young seem to have an innate resistance to eating them? If there’s ever a new stimulus, perhaps we could fund some research into that question.
Now a few volunteers have arrived, some of our former Earth Activist Training students and a few others who have come over the internet. The boxes meant to go in the space need to be assembled—and there we run into a snag. We have the parts, we have the fasteners—we don’t have the tool we need to fasten them. That’s my recurring nightmare about hands-on projects—a whole bunch of people standing around for lack of one crucial item. While a few people scrounge through their car trunks for tools, I take the rest of the youth and we unload cardboard and manure that Jason has brought and begin to sheet mulch some of the orchard trees. A few volunteers tackle the weeds. Someone finds a ratchet wrench and Jason, who is a builder by trade, takes the rest over to begin assembling boxes. At our lunch break, we share fresh strawberries and cherry tomatoes picked on site.
3 pm: By late afternoon, Elaine has arrived with a drill driver, the trees are mulched, the area for the boxes has been rototilled, and the kids are heading home, their work day over. The volunteers stay on long enough to complete three boxes. A great day!
4 pm. A few of us head over to Hayes Valley Farm, a huge garden project built on the site of a former onramp to the freeway demolished after the ’89 earthquake. 85,000 tons of mulch later, and it’s a sculpted landscape of hills, green and trees where hundreds of volunteers come to help and many programs are offered. We get an enthusiastic tour from Jay Rosenberg, farm manager and one of the visionaries who got city support to turn an ivy-covered ruin into a thriving community garden resource.
5 pm. Music and food are happening at the farm—but it’s time for me to take myself home.
As I leave, I’m feeling a bit more hopeful about the world. I’m thinking about the Doublerock garden. It’s in many ways rich and productive—but could be so much more so! The kids who work there are great—but they don’t have the manic enthusiasm of these volunteers. Yet! Miss Jackie loves the garden, but she doesn’t have the training or skills to manage what is really a small farm. Yet! That’s my great hope for our training program. It would be easy to bring in dozens of these enthusiastic, mostly white permies and make the garden flourish—but that would take it away from the community who lives there. That’s happened in other places and it is not what we want in the Bayview. What we want is to develop a level of skill and knowledge in the community so they can not only run the gardens but become the next generation of environmental leaders. I don’t know if we can really pull that off with our training program, but I’m determined to begin. We still haven’t funded the program—but I’ve gone ahead and turned down other work for the winter and spring, because if I don’t create the space for it to happen, it won’t. We have a promise of a $5,000 matching grant if we can raise another $5,000. So far, our Facebook Cause page has raised a grand total of $25. This is contributing to my general state of tension.
Will you help raise that other $4,975? If you can kick in even $25, you will have doubled our contributions—think of that! $250—wow, that would be ten times over what we have so far!
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