Now that I am back in the United States and exploring options for work, I find myself each day asking: What is the most direct and effective way that I can work for positive social change here in the U.S? In this exploration, I am continuously pulled back to the garden. An unusual place for social revolution, so why is it that I end up here?
As an environmentalist, I see clearly that the production, processing, transportation and storage of food (aka the food industry) certainly provides an enormous challenge to the American and international environment. It also represents an incredibly political debate when we look at the money spent subsidizing unsustainable, destructive agriculture by our government. I like The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan as an introduction to this conversation. Additionally, food access is a public health concern in almost every under-resourced inner-city community (and many more rural towns) across America (for more exciting discussion on this topic check out the Plantastic! Ted Talk playlist starting with Ron Finley). But that is just the start!
Gardening is also one of the greatest ways to build community. Starting in Berkeley where I lived at Fort Awesome (an 18-person cooperative house) I saw immediately that the garden, more than anything (except maybe the kitchen) brought people together. A garden is a place where we can work together, play music together, host parties with our neighbors and teach each other about ecology and our beautiful planet. Even more, the garden connects us to each other and to the Earth and creates peace in mind and spirit. I would spend hours and days out in our beautiful Fort garden.
Now that I live in Long Beach in Los Angeles County (what is often seen as a concrete jungle), I again find myself in the garden. To begin with, I have already put more than 30 hours this month into creating a garden right in my front yard. Change starts at home, and having a local food source reconnects our house to the Earth and helps provide sustainable food for our shared meals. Plus, it looks great, it brings the house together and everyone who comes over now feels more at peace.
Most recently, however, I have been gardening in the community. Every Thursday and Sunday, I volunteer with FoodScape, a local non-profit that builds gardens on unused plots in Long Beach to create a sustainable food source and to educate the local population on alternative and organic agriculture. Earlier this week, I also helped teach a class with EnrichLA, which operates at more than 50 middle schools and high schools across LA County. It is the most far-reaching garden education program in the country. Los Angeles schools have a huge demand for garden classes to teach students about the importance of growing their own food and to give kids a chance to be outside during the day and to get dirty. Starting in two weeks, I will be co-teaching 3 classes at Markham Middle School in Watts every Wednesday. This will be an incredible chance to connect with the local South LA community and work with youth to understand food, agriculture and concepts of sustainability.
As I look forward at potential careers, connecting inner-city youth to food, ecology, agriculture and the environment is certainly a possibility. On a large scale, this has the ability to provide under-resourced youth across the country the opportunity to create their own food source and escape the fast-food diets that lead to diabetes, obesity and other health challenges. Most importantly, an unhealthy and unsustainable food system is a threat to the entire planet and one that must be faced immediately for the health of ourselves, our children and the Earth. I hope that I can make a small contribution to this movement over the next few months as I continue to explore angles for creating positive social change locally and around the world. Anyone have experience with other garden projects in the U.S. or abroad?? I always love to share stories…
2 Replies to “A Garden Revolution?”
Orion you should check out my brothers film it should be playing again in Bay Area soon and touches on a lot of these issues! They’ll be distributing it eventually as well especially for edu purposes. http://Www.growingcitiesmovie.com
Greed, exploitation, short sightedness, hatred, and selfishness are the causes of most of the ills in our world today. The lesson of ‘interconnectivity’ is ultimately the one that will help us to let go these negative orientations towards existence. However, like riding a bike, the living in harmony with other people and other living beings is not easily achieved from an intellectual approach. We need practice to master the balance of both, and in the convolution of modern day, a tangible methodology is necessary to gain the expertise.
As a teacher and someone who seeks to integrate the concept of oneness and interconnectivity into my life and help others do the same, I found myself needing a vehicle to deliver this lesson. Gardening and farming became this for me and many others involved in our organization’s work (Global Student Embassy).
I feel that many of those negatives mentioned above can be alleviated if we realize more how interdependent we are. What are our most important common resources? Water, soil, air? Those things make food, and we need to share them.. understanding this in a grand sense is a challenge, especially when our experiences can be limited to our local context. We can however understand how to reuse our waste to make fertile, regenerative microbe rich food for our soil and plants (compost!) and we can learn about how to conserve and efficiently use water (drip irrigation and water catchment!), we can learn how to clean air and how dirty air impacts us and other organisms negatively (plant trees, and eat learn to eat local organic food that doesn’t require heavy fossil fuels for transportation and fertilizers for production!).
The lessons are limitless. What we can learn about ourselves, individually and collectively through growing gardens and working together. There is a fantastic bi-product from these endeavors too!! Healthful delicious food!
These lessons translate seamlessly and profoundly to the international stage as well. Food is obviously a global need, and is currently supplied through a global system (squash from Mexico in the winter, bananas from Ecuador, rice from Thailand, wine from Australia, the list goes on). How are we impacting these bioregions where this food comes from? How are our bioregions impacted by the food we grow and export abroad? These are common challenges we face. We have a lot in common with our brothers and sisters in other cultures, climates, and economies! Therefore, there is fertile ground for collaboration everywhere!
Thanks Orion for the work you’re doing, good luck on the path you’re finding. You know I’ve got your back and look forward to cultivating further our collaboration.