Monday, December 10, 2007

What do you find hopeful in the world today?










The fall issue of Positive News US Edition features three of our speakers at Green Fest 2007 answering the question, "What do you find hopeful in the world today?" Here are their answers:

"Young people. Young people don't see the lines that divide us. The ones 'we' over forty were raised with. They see only humans....not ism's. That gives me hope that a better world is possible." SKCM Curry (Sedinam Kinamo Christin Moyowasifza-Curry), Candidate for Green Party Vice Presidential nomination.

"In little pieces things are moving towards overall good. Little things keep adding up. And everything has a voice in this movement." Dan Hill, Cayuga Nation flute performer and storyteller.

"People are taking their right of self-governance seriously. They are engaging the struggle for real democracy and rewriting laws in service to their communities and public authority,. not property and corporate authority." Virginia Rasmussen, Co-founder of Program on Corporations, Law and Democracy (POCLAD).

The issue also features two articles by Steve Gabriel from Finger Lakes Permaculture, another speaker. Ilonka Wloch, the editor of Positive News was also one of our speakers.

On the Occasion of Remembering Susan Blake

A celebration of Susan Blake's life has been scheduled for Sun., Jan. 20 at 2pm at the Unitarian Fellowship in Shelter Rock, Long Island.

On the Occasion of Remembering Susan Blake
by Jean Wilkins Dember

In the time of white Jesus & other fables -
in the time of white out
of the "rich in hue" & sable
in the time of police killings
& the daily grind of T.V. gutless thrillings
in the time of the same superficiality,
proper & improper etiquette & banality
In the time of the crises
of poverty, racial inequity & genocide,
death still catches us by surprise
& we are reminded that some things are real
& no matter how some of us may feel
in this time we pause...
Did I know Susan Blake
I think most of would agree
she was not plastic & she was not fake!
Did I ever help her with lugging & hauling,
yard sales &
demonstrations that were her calling
Some of the old timers may recall
she had a humongous vision for someone so small -
she believed in the Peace
she worked for indefatiguably,
stretching small donations
to plant the seeds of change
on L.I. where the Indigenous reservations
are still out of range
of justice & equality
where 20% of the population
makes up 60% of the jail -
How could each one of us evolve?
when there are so many gritty issues to solve -
only by speaking truth to each other
as Susan & I did on each account
can we ever hope to really build
the love of the "Sermon on the Mount"

Jean Wilkins Dember, M.H. S.
Dec 7, 2007

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Liberation Ecology Project

The Liberation Ecology Project has a new website, http://www.liberationecology.org/. Rafter T. Sass outlined liberation ecology in his inspiring presentation at Green Fest. The website describes the Radical Urban Sustainability Training Rafter attended in Albany in September. The event was produced by Scott Kellog and Stacey Pettigrew, co-founders of the Austin, TX Rhizome Collective. Topics included alternative energy - solar, wind, methane harvesting - compost and compost tea, natural plasters and paints, bioremediation of polluted soils, catching and using rainwater, small-scale mushroom production, and the NYC community gardens movement More Gardens! Photo by Rafter T. Sass.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Susan Blake's life a song for peace and justice and love!

Learning from Susan Blake in Interview
by Maxwell Corydon Wheat, Jr.
People's Poet Laureate of Nassau County,

Poem based on an interview with Susan Blake in June 2007. Poem completed the morning of her burial, Oct. 8, 2007, and read there by the poet.

Third Grade, Lutheran school's
only African American child is enrolled.
Betty Blake, Susan's mother, hears on the phone,
"We want your daughter to make her comfortable."
Susan shepherds Debbie for first days at school.

Truly, Betty Blake's daughter.
"Got a lot of my social conscience from my mother."
Betty fixed on Nixon hearings. "We shared these."

"What is Sunday school telling us?
Wicked to tell kids to be afraid of doing wrong thing
And telling us we will be found out.
At five I rejected concept of sin."

At eight leaves the church.
"I am interested in all cultures."

Later-
"Jesus, great revolutionary.
Luther had guts to nail those theses on door."

High school,
coordinator for activism,
"not just politics,
but to allow learning in the community,
get credit for music,
apply knowledge to real life.

"Almost leading the teachers.
They knew we were the smart kids. . .
We were breaking cultural barriers down.
Mother 'hanging with us.' "

University of Rochester (1971-75).
"Knew exactly what I wanted."
Designs her major:
Performing Arts in Education and Social Change.
"Lots of spontaneous theatre actions that had a message."

First year lived in dormitory.
Down the hall Black students.
"They played music loud."
Comes 'round petition "telling them to be quiet.
I wouldn't sign. Let them get it out. . . their rage.
Clear moment for me."

My proudest moment!
Psychology 101.
Professor shows film explaining electric shock treatment.
I stood up. . .
"How can you show this?"

Back on Long Island.
Drama and music for Rotary summer camp.
Recreation therapist, Brunswick Hospital, 1975-77.
"Got people not just playing banjo and games.
Challenged them, demanded more.
Fired for too good a job."

Shoreham -- Organizes first anti-nuclear demonstration
Beginning full-effort activism--everything else second.

"Made mistakes with relationships," she says at 54.
"I regret not having focused on finding a partner
To have a child with.

I was trying desperately to keep PeaceSmiths going."

PeaceSmiths, founded 1978.
Office, 90 Pennsylvania Avenue, Bellmore,
Home of near 100-year old activist Catherine Smith.
"Catherine loved what I was doing."

Coffee house idea
sprung from South Shore visit of Pete Seeger's "Clearwater."
Monthly in Catherine Smith's living room,
Hearth, old comfortable chairs . . .
1985 in Margie's basement, then George Ciproni's home.
Thirteen locations
Finally, First United Methodist Church, Amityville,
"Topical A-Typical Folk Music, Poetry and Whatever Coffee-house"

"Definitely a Pacifist!" she said of herself.
1978 started using term.
"You have to be what you are.
not push against other people,
Don't use words like 'anti-imperialist.'
But do not let them repress your energy."

Stage 4 breast cancer:
"I'm supposedly in terminal stage. . .
tumor has eaten away my breast.
I've done my own breast mastectomy..
Now trick is to downgrade it to stage 3. . .
or maybe live healthfully with it. . .
Nothing is really terminal. . . . . .
I'm still able to be a full person.

I want PeaceSmiths to be a stable organization.
I fear I will not live long enough."

A singer. . .
Susan Blake's life a song for peace and justice and love!

Maxwell Corydon Wheat, Jr. (c) 2007

Susan Blake (June 18, 1953-Oct. 2, 2007)

Susan Blake in our lives, 2005-07
by Leonard & Helene (Williams) Lehrman

2005

Susan Blake first phoned us Mar. 28, 2005, following a Janet Coleman interview on WBAI with Leonard Lehrman. She asked if she could bring flyers for New Yorkers Against the Death Penalty to our Blitzstein/Bernstein concert, including excerpts from SACCO AND VANZETTI, at the Long Beach Library Apr. 3. After clearing it with the library, we said: "Sure." She later went out to dinner with us, Long Beach composer Jay Gach and his wife Ellen (with whom Susan had gone to college) and WBAI producer Bill Propp (who turned out to be a relative of a relative of Leonard's).





























That month, Susan joined the Oceanside Chorale, which Leonard conducted, 2003-05, and soloed along with Dorothy Martin in the "Ohio" duet from WONDERFUL TOWN in their June 4 concert of Bernstein & Blitzstein. The video, shot by Helene, is a precious souvenir. On Aug. 11, Susan co-starred with Helene & Leonard in excerpts from THE BOOBY TRAP or OFF OUR CHESTS, Leonard's & Sydney Ross Singer's musical revue on the link between bras and breast cancer, at the Northeast Naturist Festival in Moravia, NY.
On Aug. 28 she co-produced, with Brian O'Haire, "The Bush Vacation Ruination Celebration: Long Island Support for Cindy Sheehan Benefit Concert" at the Cinema Arts Centre in Huntington. Helene premiered Leonard's "Threescore Years Ago," written for the occasion.
On Nov. 1 she attended a performance of two short works of Leonard's presented by Vox Novus at Collective Unconscious in Manhattan, where she met John & Estela Eaton, whom she invited to read at PeaceSmiths. She would attend numerous performances with Leonard in the future, including those of New Music New York, Composers Concordance, and John Eaton's opera at Symphony Space. With Leonard, Helene, and other friends, she also attended Shakespeare in the Park productions of TWO GENTLEMEN OF VERONA (where she handed out anti-war leaflets) and MOTHER COURAGE (for which she & Leonard braved torrential rains, waiting on line for hours for tickets).
On Nov. 2 she attended Leonard's Blitzstein Piano Recital at the Bryant Library, where she was photographed among members of his family. Later that month she became a regular at family Thanksgiving dinners, and Seders in the spring.









2006


In Jan. 2006 Susan joined the Metropolitan Philharmonic Chorus















and performed with them, under Leonard's direction, with Helene as soloist, in a program honoring Mozart, Dr. King, Lincoln, Hale Smith, and Elie Siegmeister: Jan. 15 at Long Beach Public Library,












and again on Feb. 26 (postponed from Feb. 12 due to the snowstorm that day) at Great Neck House. There is a fine recording by Jeffrey Latocke of the latter, which includes photos from the former. In between those two concerts, on Feb. 17, Susan hosted a book party at PeaceSmiths for Leonard's "Marc Blitzstein: A Bio-Bibliography" --Leonard & Helene performed their "Blitzstein Cabaret" (videotaped by Bob Goldberg).
On May 19, Susan co-produced and co-starred with Leonard, Helene & Cary Bair in THE BOOBY TRAP at PeaceSmiths, as part of "Prevention Is the Cure" Week. The night before she also participated in an on-the-air discussion with Leonard, Helene & Bill Propp over WBAI. The production was telecast on Woodbury area cable TV Oct. 12 & 19.
On June 19, Susan participated in and spoke at the annual meeting (at the Brecht Forum) of the National Committee to Re-open the Rosenberg Case, of which Leonard & Richard Corey became Co-Directors.

















On Oct. 22, she came all the way from Amityville--on public transportation--to Canarsie to hear Leonard's & Helene's Yiddish program at Temple Emanuel.
And on Nov. 12, she produced a birthday program (complete with cake) honoring the birthday of composer Joel Mandelbaum, whose "The Causes Are Waiting for You" she performed as an encore. The program was telecast the following Jan. 18 & 25.











































2007

Jan. 21 she attended "Songs of Love & War" presented by Leonard & Helene, together with tenor Gregory Mercer, at the Jericho Library, and videotaped by Bob Goldberg. Then she ran the slide projector and portrayed the interpreter in the Russian scene of Leonard's & Karen Ruoff Kramer's E.G.: A Musical Portrait of Emma Goldman, starring Helene, Mar. 9 at the Puffin Room in Manhattan, Mar. 11 at Great Neck House,
















Mar. 16 at PeaceSmiths (videotaped by Bob Goldberg, telecast June 1 & 8), Mar. 25 at Long Beach Library (videotaped by Bob Goldberg), Apr. 29 at Puffin Cultural Forum in Teaneck, and May 1 at The Living Theatre in Manhattan (the best of the performances--videotaped by Bill Castleman). May 6 she reprised "The Causes Are Waiting for You" at a Queens College program honoring the centenary of the late Jewish Currents Editor Morris U. Schappes.




















She also participated in a similar program at NYU May 10. (Both were videotaped by Carol Jochnowitz.)















June 13, again at NYU's Tamiment Library, she again participated in the annual meeting of the National Committee to Re-open the Rosenberg Case.

















Meanwhile, THE BOOBY TRAP continued to grow, to its present size of 17 numbers. Photographed in rehearsal Apr. 14 at Cindy & Michael Rosenbaum's house in Goldens Bridge (where she died Oct 2),















Susan co-produced and performed in the work four more times:
May 19, again as part of "Prevention Is the Cure" Week at Islip United Methodist Church (videotaped by Bob Goldberg; audio excerpts broadcast on WBAI Oct. 5 after midnight); Aug. 10, again as part of the Eastern Naturist Festival in Moravia, NY, along with excerpts from the musical BAJOUR (in which she was hysterically funny) and Samuel Barber's "Sure on this shining night"--she also gave two workshops on alternative cancer treatments and support groups Aug. 11; Aug. 12, as part of NY Green Fest on the Ithaca Commons; and Aug. 25 at the Custer Institute in Southold. (The July 5 photo is from a rehearsal there.)
















All these performances were videotaped. The Moravia one, videotaped by Stephen Van Eck, came out especially well. But the Ithaca one, shot by Craig Seeman, is also very valuable, as it includes Susan's best performance ever of Joel Mandelbaum's "Causes," as well as an eloquent speech she gave on the difficulties of getting the medical establishment to accept alternative treatments. Photographs taken at the beach on Fire Island included July 1 publicity shots for NY Green Fest,

































and the July 21 celebration of Cary Bair's birthday. (The previous Aug. 20, Susan had organized a similar birthday suit party & cake on the beach for Leonard's birthday.)















The day after the Southold performance, Helene & Susan toured the North Fork: Helene took our final photos of Susan, by the water.















Monday, October 8, 2007

Best Wishes to Kelly Dietz and Michael Burns on the Occasion of their Wedding

Best wishes for a long and happy life together to Kelly Dietz and Michael Burns. Kelly and Mike, our hosts for Green Fest 2007, were married this past Saturday, Oct. 6, 2007, in their beautiful woods at Cayuta Sun.

Pledge NOW to Support Ithaca Community Radio

Ithaca Community Radio needs your PLEDGES OF FUTURE FUNDING now to help support their application for an FCC license. For the first time since Ithaca Community Radio was formed, the Federal Communications Commission is accepting applications for new non-commercial FM radio licenses. The window to apply is Oct 12-19 . The FCC has a list of qualifications that applicants must meet. One of these is financial - the FCC requires that the applicant already have on hand, or have commitments of funds, to cover purchasing and setting up the station facilities and operating it for 3 months. Even though an applicant has three years to build a station from the time the FCC approves the application, which is plenty of time of raise money based on a reality, the FCC requires that the funds be in hand at the time of the application.

ICR is trying to raise 250K in pledges before October 19. These pledges can be: (1) A pledge to make an outright donation of any amount (the more the better) in the eventuality we are awarded a license; OR (2) A pledge to loan ICR some amount for the purpose of building the station. This can include the use of a credit card or equity line; OR (3) A pledge by your organization to hold a fundraiser that will raise xxx dollars; OR (4) The donation of an item worth xxx to be auctioned; OR (5) The donation of necessary pieces of broadcast/audio equipment, new or used. Make pledges by filling out the pledge form at http://www.ithacaradio.org Click on the "make a pledge" button and fill out your details.

The Booby Trap or Off Our Chests

A correction sent by Leonard Lehrman to Newsday:

"Carl MacGowan's beautiful write-up in the Oct. 5, 2007 Newsday on the late Susan Blake, whom many called The Social Conscience of Long Island, is not quite accurate in saying that the show in which she performed, THE BOOBY TRAP or OFF OUR CHESTS--a musical revue on the link between bras and breast cancer, by myself & Sydney Ross Singer, a founder of the Institute for the Study of Culturogenic Disease, "poked fun at breast cancer." The piece ironically and even sometimes wryly and amusingly points out the hypocrisies of the culture in which breast cancer flourishes and millions are made and spent by "chemical, cosmetic and drug corporations," with little or no funding available for environmental and nutritional education. That's why the piece was performed, with Susan, as part of "Prevention Is the Cure" Week May 19, 2006 at PeaceSmiths in Amityville, and May 19, 2007 at Islip Methodist Church, and will be performed again in Susan's memory May 18, 2008 at Great Neck House."

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Susan Blake, 54, Amityville singer, activist

New York Newsday, October 5, 2007
by Carl McGowan

Susan Blake, a singer and activist considered by some the heart and soul of the Long Island peace and justice community, died Tuesday after a long battle with breast cancer. She was 54.

Blake, of Amityville, died at a friend's house in the Westchester County town of Goldens Bridge, said her sister, Nancy Jane Blake, of Peekskill.

For more than 30 years, Blake fought the Shoreham nuclear power plant and protested wars from Vietnam to Iraq through the Amityville activist group PeaceSmiths. Blake organized coffeehouse concerts and discussion forums on topics such as environmental issues and affordable housing.

"Susan has been one of those people who have steadfastly kept the focus on peace and justice issues on Long Island," said Catherine Green, of Sayville, a friend of Blake's since both demonstrated against the opening of Shoreham in the 1970s and 1980s.

"She was persistent and even dogged in trying to move forward a truly compassionate and just approach to things. She was inspiring, she was funny, she could be irascible....It's such a loss for the community."

Blake worked with other activist groups to organize peace vigils and demonstrations outside of congressional offices on Long Island and in New York City, said Dennis Urlaub, of Patchogue, co-chairman of the South Country Peace Group in Bellport.

Her protests often were set to music as she sang at rallies.

"She was the kind of person who swept you along with her enthusiasm, very into music and theater and dance and always planning some kind of an event that combined all of these things into one," said Cindy Rosenbaum, of Goldens Bridge, who befriended Blake when they attended the University of Rochester. "For her, everything was connected: the politics, the art. Everything was an opportunity to further her ideals."

Blake even protested her illness, singing in a show that poked fun at breast cancer. She rejected chemotherapy and radiation, opting instead for holistic medicine treatments.

"Susan, more than anyone I have ever known, tried to live her life consistently with her values," said Green, spokeswoman for Islip Supervisor Phil Nolan.

Blake learned activism while growing up in Wantagh. Legend has it that Blake and her mother, Betty Jane Blake, who died in 2005, chained themselves to a tree to block development of a housing project.

"I can't attest to that, but it sounds very likely," Nancy Blake said. "We were brought up to be citizens of the world and taught that you need to take some responsibility for taking care of this world."

Funeral arrangements and plans for a memorial service were incomplete yesterday.

Copyright © 2007, Newsday Inc.

Poem for Susan Blake


PeaceSmiths House


Winter evening
mugs of hot cider
guitar music glowing

"Puff the Magic Dragon lives by the sea. . ."

Hearth flames flickering
near sofa
where girl makes a cave under arm
of boy with red hair

"If I had a hammer. . ."

Young woman on frayed brown chair
cushions her man's head
on long lavender dress

Black cherry log crackles

The professor, streaming fingers
through his wife's graying black hair
looks up

"For all we know this may be only a dream. . ."

Maxwell Corydon Wheat, Jr. (c)2007

Susan June Blake, 1953-2007

b. 6/18/53, d. 10/2/07, beloved sister of Nancy Jane, daughter of the late Betty Jane and William A. Blake, "the Social Conscience of Long Island." Coordinator, PeaceSmiths, Inc. Indefatigable fighter against war, capital punishment, nuclear power; advocate for peace & social justice, environmental health & historic preservation. Tireless coffeehouse & forum organizer; presenter of countless poets, folk & concert musicians; singer/actor, oboist, naturelover. Crafter of the written and spoken word, teacher of the interconnectedness of all things. Burial: Friends, Westbury. Public celebration of Susan's life TBA. PeaceSmiths will continue with your contributions: POB 134 Massapequa NY 11758.

Friday, October 5, 2007

We Miss You, Susan

A tribute to Susan Blake by Leonard Lehrman

We miss you, Susan.
We miss your calling and saying "How did you know it was me?"
Who else would call us at 11:30, 12:30, 1:30 in the morning even!?
Occasionally we'd be asleep, but usually we weren't,
and were always happy to hear from you.
Of course you almost always had something for us to do.
But that's ok. If no one else could do it, you knew you could ask us.
You were our conscience, the Social Conscience of Long Island,
and we treasured knowing and working with you.
In the two and a half years we've known you,
since you phoned us in response to Janet Coleman's WBAI interview with me,
you became a member of our family,
at least as close to me as my own brother and sister.
Could it have been mere coincidence
your having been born on my parents' anniversary?
and my having been born on your parents' anniversary?
After Karen, my first wife, died on Christmas 2005,
it was you who helped me pack and sort the clothes she left.
You were just her size, and age - 9 days older to be exact.
Those you chose looked good on you.
The closeness we had never extended beyond hugs and occasional
meaningful hand-holding.
But who else was eager, and welcome, to attend a concert or come
skinnydipping with me? -
the joy you took in those renewing, cleansing ocean baths!
And how many wonderful things you, my dear wife Helene, and I did together -
birthdays at the beach in our birthday suits
A Blitzstein Cabaret
E.G.: A Musical Portrait of Emma Goldman
THE BOOBY TRAP
the Berrymans
Shakespeare & Mother Courage in the Park (waiting for hours for
tickets in the torrential rains)
the Puffins in Manhattan and Teaneck
the Living Theatre
tributes to Mozart, Dr. King, Elie Siegmeister, Joel Mandelbaum,
Morris Schappes, the Rosenbergs,
BAJOUR, Barber, Naturism, Cindy Sheehan, The Green Party...
and perhaps above all: Conscience.

Conscience is not a leaf in the wind to be shaken at a gust
but a deep root holding fast because it must.

That was you, Susan.

We miss you, Susan.
But we know what you'd say:
Don't mourn, organize.
And don't just organize, be peacesmiths - get involved.
Think before you do, but then do it.
No one can do everything.
But everyone can do something.
There's always so much to be done - and always will be -
for each other, for others, and for ourselves -
but not just for ourselves.

If we are not for ourselves, who will be for us?
If we are only for ourselves, what are we?
And if not now, then when?

Sometimes some issues have to be prioritized over others.
But that doesn't mean they are to be forgotten.
And you Susan, as long as there are people
with souls on fire to do justice and struggle for peace
As long as there are people who care
or can be brought to care
about war
and capital punishment
Sacco & Vanzetti
Ethel & Julius Rosenberg,
Alger Hiss
Mumia Abu Jamal
about immigrants' rights
women's rights
human rights
about health care and alternatives
about folk and concert music
laughing and dancing - If I Can't Dance, It's Not My Revolution!
then you, Susan, you who goaded and prodded,
facilitated and coordinated,
and led by your example,
You will never be forgotten.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

We've Lost a Fighter for Peace and Justice

Terribly sad news from Leonard Lehrman. Many of us had the privilege of meeting Susan at Green Fest when she performed with Leonard and Helene Williams in "The Booby Trap." Leonard writes:

"Susan Blake died this evening, Oct. 2, after a 4-year struggle with breast cancer which had just recently spread to her liver. We've only known her since April 2005, yet during that time we've spoken and/or met with her at least several times a week every week, and sometimes every day. How often have we been astonished at the breadth and depth of her energy and the scope of her interests and activities.

"A tireless organizer for so many good causes, against injustice, against capital punishment, against war, for the appreciation of folk and concert music and poetry, for immigrants' rights, women's rights, human rights--yet she could also laugh at herself, memorably putting across Joel Mandelbaum's satirical song "The Causes Are Waiting for You!"

"And despite losing one breast to the cancer that ultimately killed her, she uninhibitedly joined us repeatedly - whenever we could drive her there - for nude sun- and ocean-bathing at Lighthouse Beach on Fire Island. I've attached a photo Helene took of her presenting a card to Cary Bair there July 21, 2007 on his birthday - in his birthday suit.

"She was a featured performer in - in fact the motor behind - the production of THE BOOBY TRAP or OFF OUR CHESTS, the musical on the connection between breast cancer and bras - which, she believed, may well have been at least a partial cause of her own breast cancer. (WBAI 99.5 FM & wbai.org will broadcast some of her singing of that show Thursday evening Oct. 4 after midnight.)

"She leaves behind a loyal following of activist friends, all of whom have been prodded into consciousness more than once by her persistent urging that there is always something more that can be done to help those who need it.

"No six people could do all she did over so many years as Coordinator of PeaceSmiths in Amityville, with its monthly forum and monthly coffeehouse.

"But working together, inspired by her memory, the organization will, hopefully, continue."

Green Buildings Open House, Oct. 6

12th Annual ASES National Solar Tour is this weekend, Saturday October 6th. Join 100,000 people across 46 states to see how your neighbors are using clean energy sources and decrease energy bills -- and how you can too. Find locations on google maps: http://nesea.org/buildings/openhouse/

In Tompkins County it should be a perfect sunny day to visit some of the 25 homes in the area.

GREEN BUILDINGS OPEN HOUSE -- SAT, OCT 6, 2006
Open House: 10 am-4 pm
Guided Van Tours: 12-4:30 pm
Guided Bike Tours: Details TBA

See firsthand how renewable energy and green building practices are at work in our area. Homeowners and building managers will be on site to answer questions and describe their green building features - such as passive solar design, photovoltaics, wind power, salvaged and non-toxic building materials, straw bale construction, timber framing, masonry stoves, and more.

Members of the public can do a self-guided tour between 10 am and 4 pm. Visit the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association website at www.nesea.org/buildings/openhouse AFTER SEPT. 6 for building features and directions or call 607-272-2292 AFTER SEP 7 to request a brochure with rough map. Details on routes, registration, and fees for van tours and bike tours coming soon. Watch for future announcements!

Organized by the Ithaca Green Building Alliance and Cornell Cooperative Extension in conjunction with NESEA's Green Buildings Open House and the American Solar Energy Society's National Solar Tour.

For more information, contact:

Tania Schusler
Environmental Issues Educator
Cornell Cooperative Extension Tompkins County
615 Willow Avenue
Ithaca, NY 14853
Phone: 607-272-2292
Fax: 607-272-7088

Healthy Environment, Healthy Economy, Albany, Dec. 5-6

Join the Citizens Environmental Coalition for the second Healthy Environment, Healthy Economy, a two day symposium on building a safe and sustainable economy for New York State. December 5th and 6th 2007 at the NYS Legislative Office Building in Albany. For more information, visit www.cectoxic.org or call 518-462-5527,x13. Many of us enjoyed meeting CEC staffer Linda Ochs and learning more about the CEC at the CEC's Green Fest table in the Ithaca Commons.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

South Bronx Food Cooperative

Bronx Green Zena Nelson has initiated the South Bronx Food Cooperative. Check out their great website at http://www.sbxfc.org/. SBFC is a green shopping alternative to what is generally offered in the Bronx. Founded and operated by committed local residents, the SBFC is dedicated to making a difference in the community by working together to provide healthy and affordable food available to all who want it.

SBFC is selling on-line and at a distribution center, and is seeking a retail location. SBFC will carry a wide variety of products including local, organic and conventionally grown produce; pasture-raised and grass-fed meat; free-range, organic poultry; fair-traded chocolate and coffee; wild and farmed fish; supplements and vitamins; vegetarian & vegan alternatives; bulk grains and spices; environmentally safe cleaning supplies and much more. In addition, the coop will stock a selection of familiar and common supermarket items making the SBFC a one-stop shopping destination.

Members will share ownership of the coop with fellow coop members. Members have a voice in the decision-making process and can participate in planning and discussions of the organization's future. Equally important, shoppers learn where their food choices come from. Members have access to fresh foods at low prices and learn about local farmers and vendors.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Philly Orchard Project

Paul Glover, the founder of Ithaca Hours, a candidate for the Green Party presidential nomination in 2004, and a speaker at our first Green Fest in 2003, moved from Ithaca to Philadelphia several years ago. Ithaca's loss is Philly's gain. Paul's latest project is the Philly Orchard Project, to plant orchards within the city of Philadelphia, in order to provide healthy food free or at low cost, create jobs, stimulate related business, reduce crime, increase summer cooling, make space for beauty and play. The project was featured in The New York Times , September 2, 2007, Replacing Neglect With Peach Trees, by Virginia McGuire:

ON a sweltering summer afternoon in August, Paul Glover rode his bicycle 12 miles to spread mulch around peach trees in a fledgling orchard — in South Philadelphia.

Mr. Glover is founder of the Philly Orchard Project, a nonprofit organization established earlier this year with the goal of planting fruit trees on Philadelphia’s vacant lots, creating “edible community centers,” Mr. Glover said.

Building on Philadelphia’s tradition of community gardens and urban farms, Philly Orchard Project’s leaders are hoping to emulate the success of longstanding urban orchard projects in Boston, Los Angeles and Austin, Tex.

Scott Harris, the executive director of TreeFolks, based in Austin, said his group’s Urban Orchard Program has changed the culture of the city. The increase in residential food gardens has drawn children outside, away from television and video games, he said, and because people are outside more, there is less vandalism and crime.

In Philadelphia, where the population has declined by more than 25 percent over the last half-century, there is no shortage of vacant land.

Domenic Vitiello, an assistant professor of city planning at the University of Pennsylvania, is president of the Philly Orchard Project’s board. He said the population decline had occurred because the city lost nearly all of its industrial economy.

While everyone agrees that the city’s thousands of vacant lots could serve a better purpose, there is no consensus on what should be done with them.

Most tracts make up the small footprint of a row house and are interspersed in a line of occupied homes, their small size making them unattractive to developers.

The lots are also located in less desirable neighborhoods like South Philadelphia and New Kensington, where gentrification has been slow to take hold. Developers are more attracted to Center City, said Joanne Davidow, a vice president at Prudential Fox & Roach Realtors, where they are “building on every little inch of ground.”

It is these less-desired lots that the Philly Orchard Project is targeting. And environmentalists would like to see the vacant lots preserved as green space. Philadelphia Green, a program of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, began to “clean and green” many of these lots in 1974. “The city didn’t have a land management program in place to take care of those parcels,” said Michael Groman, the organization’s senior director. When vacant land is neglected, the resulting blight “exacerbates the downward spiral in the neighborhood,” he said.

Susan M. Wachter, a professor of real estate finance at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, set out to quantify the impact of vacant land on the housing market in a 2005 study. Her study examined New Kensington, an industrial neighborhood hit especially hard by the deindustrialization of the city. She found that cleaning up vacant land raised the value of adjacent homes by 20 percent.

And in a 2006 study, Ms. Wachter and Grace Wong, an assistant professor of real estate at the Wharton School, found that planting trees on residential blocks citywide raised property values on the block by almost 10 percent. The increased market values are attributable to a “combination of landscape changing dramatically, and also a signal that someone is reinvesting in the neighborhood,” Ms. Wachter said.

Real estate professionals in the city know that green space sells houses. Heather A. Petrone, associate broker for Joseph D. Petrone Real Estate and president of the Greater Philadelphia Association of Realtors, said she regularly includes proximity to community gardens in property descriptions. People who may be moving back to the city from suburban areas, where “everybody has an acre,” are especially interested in the gardens, Ms. Petrone said.

As the population in Philadelphia and other cities continues to decline, city officials and urban planners are eager to retain existing city residents and attract new ones.

“Philadelphia will not prosper by merely refilling with people,” said Mr. Glover of the Philly Orchard Project. “Real progress requires that agriculture becomes a prominent part of the structure, economy and culture of the city.” He sees urban agriculture as a way to combat poverty by creating jobs and inexpensive food, while reducing the environmental impact of food production.

A veteran activist, Mr. Glover is best known for founding Ithaca Hours in 1991, an alternative currency designed to strengthen the local economy in Ithaca, N.Y.

Mr. Glover and his organization already have two orchards under way in Philadelphia, and they are planning several more to be planted this fall, when fruit trees can tolerate transplanting.

They expect to plant primarily on land acquired through transfers of development rights, where owners retain the title but give up the right to develop the land. The project also plans to help existing neighborhood groups, like schools and community centers, plant their own orchards.

In South Philadelphia, for example, the group provided peach trees and expertise to a group of youth interns who had started a community garden on land owned by United Communities Southeast Philadelphia, a community development agency that provides educational and leadership opportunities.

Laura Smoot, a youth development specialist who works with the volunteers who planted that garden, said the project had been welcomed by area residents. “Litter and vandalism have drastically reduced since we started planting gardens and fruit trees,” she said.

For 35 years, Sharon Robinson has lived opposite the lot where the new orchard planted this spring is already producing peaches. She remembers when an apartment building on the lot was abandoned. After the city tore it down, the lot sat empty for years, accumulating debris.

Ms. Robinson used to go to a park across town when she wanted to be outside. But since Ms. Smoot and her interns began cleaning up the lot, Ms. Robinson said, she spends time outside on her front porch and contributes to the garden by watering it on weekends.

The group is in the process of finding more sites appropriate for fruit trees, and the city is a possible source of land. Darlene Messina, Philadelphia’s coordinator for environmental and urban sustainability initiatives, said that the city may consider allocating land for orchards or other urban agriculture initiatives, but “it has to make economic sense.”

The city has started a new initiative, GreenPlan Philadelphia, to preserve open space and reduce greenhouse gas emissions citywide. “Orchards are part of that plan,” Ms. Messina said.

In the meantime, volunteers recently gathered to plant perennials around the young trees and layer wet newspaper and compost to keep the weeds down. They lined the beds with broken bricks salvaged from the apartment building that stood in the empty lot before the city tore it down.

“Beauty in cities is not a luxury,” Ms. Wachter said. “It’s a necessary public good.”

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Tony Gronowicz on American Democracy

Tony Gronowicz, one of our speakers Sunday on electoral politics and social change is the author of a new book, Grand Illusion: American Democracy from its Roots to the Present. Here is the prologue to his excellent book.

Grand Illusion: American Democracy from Its Roots to the Present
By Anthony Gronowicz

PROLOGUE

This is the story of how the United States rapidly evolved from royally chartered mercantile corporations that serviced British aristocracy into industrial corporations whose political arm is a federal government that grants citizens only those freedoms corporate lawyers deem necessary. During this historical evolution, rights to a living wage, affordable housing, health care, and education were denied the public.

From the first permanent English settlement in 1607, citizen fate has been directed by an upper class whose thickest roots straddle the English-speaking Atlantic. By the Civil War in 1861, immense profits had accrued to a thriving Anglo-American financial marriage, based upon a labor force disciplined through a uniquely cruel chattel slavery for transported Africans, and an indentured servitude that most European immigrants shared until the nineteenth century.

The states were forged to reflect the mastery of a class whose collective national self emerges in 1884 with the annual publication of a Social Register that lists those whom this upper class seeks to include. Ironically, the very richest and most powerful among them, like a David or Nelson Rockefeller, have no need for such self-designation as their immense power is recognized in the context of the prevailing ideology of corporate-managed democracy.

Two world wars allowed this upper class to shape consumption patterns that polluted the very pores of the planet as an oily film penetrated air, water, and earth. Each of these global holocausts generated revolutions in Russia and China respectively. They snapped the shackles of Anglo-American capital and became great powers in their own right.

Upper-class failures to gauge the strength of Red Armies led to unanticipated military outcomes. Rockefeller interests then instigated a costly arms race. It was calculated to undermine the psychological incentive for socialism that the expansion of the Soviet Union and the establishment of Communist China had upon the world’s peoples. To facilitate the task of bringing down the Soviet Union while the U.S. national deficit soared due to record military expenditure, CIA and Saudi Arabia in 1979 began to fund and supply Sunni Muslim religious extremists as part of the largest covert operation in history. That this occurred in a region that produced 80% of the world’s oil, made the stakes very high for an upper class whose assets rested upon hegemonic control of a carcinogen.

Not surprisingly, Saudi Arabia’s extreme brand of Islam, Wahhabism, soon took on a life of its own. Into the new millennium, the Saud dynasty poured almost one trillion dollars into Fortune 500 companies. The cash infusion bought the complicity of the U.S. upper class to the machinations of a cutthroat regime unique for being the only sovereign state on the planet not to possess even a fig leaf of a national legislature.

This unholy alliance was formalized in 1979. It was emboldened by the collapse of the Soviet Union whose loss of 50 million people and 2/3 of its industry at the hands of upper-class supported Nazis in World War II posed an insurmountable obstacle to the establishment of socialism, especially when it faced a United States that had sacrificed the least and gained the most from the two world wars.

The dissolution of the Soviet Union presented the Saud and corresponding U.S. dynasties with the opportunity to liquidate the neighboring Iraqi regime and privatize its oil. Saddam Hussein had been propped up in 1979 by Washington as a counterweight to the Shiite revolution in Iran that overthrew the CIA-installed Shah dictatorship and resulted in the sudden deprivation of extravagant profits for the Anglo-American upper class. In the immediate aftermath, record interest rates and oil price spikes more than recouped their losses.

A pretext was required, one that would shock and awe the average American into supporting an invasion of Iraq and the seizure of its oil through the installation of puppet surrogates like the Shah. That pretext occurred on September 11, 2001. Even though the destruction of New York City’s World Trade Center was triggered by mainly Saudi hijackers funded by members of the Saud royal family, many people were hoodwinked into believing that Iraq was involved—even though it was a secular dictatorship at bitter odds with the divine monarchy of Saudi Arabia. The Houses of Bush, Rockefeller, and Saud—and their minions—stood to gain the most.

Besides, time was of the essence since Iraq’s leader, Saddam Hussein, planned to sell his nation’s oil to the French and Germans for euros, a financial exchange that would strain a dollar weakened by a half century of Cold War, and wars against Korea and Vietnam.

First, the United States invaded Afghanistan in 2002 as part of President Bush Junior’s “crusade” to get the American public accustomed to “endless war.” Then came the blitzkrieg against Iraq in 2003.

Iraq could not, thanks to popular insurgency, increase its oil production to pay for the costs of the war as Washington had maintained. In less than two years, it dropped out of the top 10 oil producers after having been # 4 before the U.S. invasion. By 2005, Russia had rebounded from the collapse of c ommunism to become the world’s second largest oil producer. And China for the first time consumed more raw materials than the United States.

If these developments did not pose sufficient threat to the U.S. plutocracy, Venezuela under the charismatic leadership of Hugo Chavez, used its vast oil resources to effect (in Chavez’s words) “a revolution of the poor,” in alliance with Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua and a communist Cuba that is first in education, health care, and life span in Latin America.

Currently, with 5% of the world’s population, the United States consumes 25% of the world’s resources—hardly a globally democratic use. With military expenditures that exceed the rest of the world combined, the American upper class continues to demand more and more privations from the American people that point to economic collapse, revolution, and the establishment of genuine democracy and environmental concern.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Tony & Mary Lipnicki: Building Grassroots Community

Here is the excellent presentation Tony and Mary Lipnicki gave us on Saturday:

Building Grassroots Community and First Fridays:
Ways to Encourage Participation in Local Community
Anthony and Mary Lipnicki, August 11, 2007

We would like to welcome all of you to the panel discussion on Building Grassroots Community and to the New York State Green Party “Green Fest.”

Community is defined as people sharing an environment. In communities, the degree of adhesion of community members is based upon everyone participating in something bigger than each other. In this talk, we hope to throw out some ideas that we have tried to help build community through First Fridays, a monthly discussion group.

Several years ago my wife Mary and I began a journey to simplify our lives and to disengage ourselves from the fast pace, draining, market economy that we found ourselves living in. We had been sold the idea that success in career through competition and performance would bring happiness. We learned – at least for ourselves – that this was the wrong way to go. There came a time when honesty, personalization, and human dignity, came to be what really mattered to us. We read Joe Dominguez book, ‘Your Money or Your Life’, and began cashing in our so called ‘security’, paid off our indebtedness, and began living our lives which meant - contributing to making the community we lived – a little more like what we thought it should be.

After quitting my job in NYC, we sold our house, and moved to rural Western New York State. We bought an old house in Andover New York, used the windfall from the sale to renovate it, and opened up the Mustard Seed Inn and Bed & Breakfast, a platform for us to build grassroots community. It was through the idea of ‘hospitality,’ that we would initiate a response to dealing with the problems we saw in our culture - problems which limited us and enslaved us it seemed.

In the book, ‘The Coming Anarchy – Shattering the Dreams of the Post Cold War,’ Robert D. Kaplan describes a coming world of scarcity and violence as the peoples of the world fight for their share of the limited resources needed to survive. Kaplan says, “The breaking apart and remaking of the atlas is only now beginning. Volatile new democracies in Eastern Europe, fierce tribalism in Africa, civil war and ethnic violence in the Near East, and widespread famine and disease, and the brutal rift developing as wealthy nations reap the benefits of seemingly boundless technology, while other parts of the world slide into chaos, are logical extensions of what to expect in the near future.” If this isn’t a reason to build local community, we don’t know what is.

We decided to focus on abundance rather than fear and scarcity, and went down the path of community – a practice of age old security – to rediscover ourselves, and the place where we lived.

Living amidst the poverty of Allegany County, we saw people who had once participated in the local economy, becoming more isolated and dependent on grants and the welfare state to survive at the very basic level of existence. The rural self-sufficient agricultural economy had left for more profitable greener pastures. Replacing community interdependence with government programs, deregulated monopoly based electricity, natural gas and water, state controlled education, and the effects of globalization on the local economy, stacked the cards against the people in our community.

We launched First Fridays in August 2006. First Fridays is a “community oriented group of people interesting in learning about issues that are close to their hearts, and concern them, but need to be better understood, so a response could be initiated in the community.” First Fridays is open to all and meets the first Friday of the month from 7:30 – 9:00 pm at the Mustard Seed Inn and B&B in Andover, New York. The makeup of the group is relatively diverse, including women and men, young and old, and people from different political parties and religious persuasions. There are no dues or other costs associated with participation, though participants are encouraged to assist in the planning of the programs. We encourage people to bring a non-perishable food item for donation to the village food pantry on behalf of the First Fridays group. We have used the food pantry to help members of the community in need – a member of the group was helped while out of work recovering from surgery. We made a donation of mittens and hats to the Andover Central School nurse during the winter for the school children too!

We get the word out on First Fridays by writing up a news article every month on the last meeting, and submit it to the local newspapers. We have the cooperation of the local press. We announce the next month’s topic at the end of the article. We have upcoming First Fridays programs announced on the local radio station. Down the road, we want to have the topic leaders do interviews with the local radio station. Word of mouth helps too. We may do seminars and workshops on topics too.

First Fridays, therefore, was a culmination of what we thought would be the initial step in building community. In the last year we have discussed:

1. the corporation and its influence in our lives, and the work of POCLAD;

2. peace through direct non-violent service to others;

3. the restorative justice movement;

4. the Catholic Worker movement;

5. sustainability and community;

6. the Baker Hamilton Alternate Peace Plan for Iraq;

7. healing inner violence through centering prayer;

8. understanding violence in the scriptures of Islam, Christianity, and Judaism;

9. breaking our dependence of foreign oil through renewable energy;

10. Genesee Valley Habitat for Humanity; a way for the working poor to afford owning a home with a zero interest mortgage;

11. Oasis of Peace – an Israeli Palestinian village of peaceful coexistence;

12. the Canticle Farm CSA; a way of supporting the local agricultural economy

We are now reaping some of the benefits of our discussions at First Fridays. First of all we have developed a sense of honesty and trust between each of us who have participated; a sort of interconnectedness has developed between us and people outside the group as well, and the idea that we are all in this thing together, and the realization that we can make a difference.

We have fundraised for Habitat for Humanity, and may be doing a Habitat project in our village; one of our members ran for school board; we are putting together a resource guide of local agriculture producers; we bought a share in Canticle Farm; participated in the Wellsville Balloon Rally Parade with a group against Iraq Troop Escalation; attend monthly village board meetings to learn about issues affecting the community; volunteer with the Quaker Prison Ministry to Attica Prison; volunteer with the local hospice; worked with some Iraqi war veterans on adapting to community life; and as I mentioned the donations to the local food pantry and school, and visits to members of the group who were in need.

To build grassroots community at the local level, I have outlined the following which you may want to keep in mind:

1. Begin by simplifying your life, if you haven’t already done so, particularly in the area of your personal finances. Live at the most basic level possible. I mentioned a great book by Joe Dominguez, “Your Money or Your Life – How to Achieve Financial Independence through Simplification.”

2. Access the needs of your community, and determine what depletes and affirms life in the place where you live. Get to know the people that you live with, and get them to know you and to trust you, by listening and understanding their concerns and needs.

3. Join organizations that support your value system! Learn how they meet a community need. Don’t reinvent the wheel. We attend our local church. I joined the Andover Lions Club, became a hospice volunteer, and board member on the Andover Free Public Library, and the Andover Historical Preservation Corporation, which meets housing needs for the poor. I also joined the community choir.

4. Work with others in small groups! Participate in study groups and issues groups and meet the people who are out there participating in community events.

5. Find a spiritual center! Deal with your fears. Find a spiritual advisor to hear you out and bounce ideas off. Look one up at a retreat house or on the web. Work on developing your conscience.

6. Visit with other organization and meet like minded people! We connect with St. Joseph’s CW House of Hospitality in Rochester, NY, the Olean Area Coalition for Peace and Justice, the Friends Service Committee Attica Prison Ministry, Canticle Farm CSA (community supported agriculture) in Allegany, NY, and the Genesee Valley Habitat for Humanity.

7. Get involved in local politics! Participate in community life. Speak out on issues that concern you. Find out what the local government’s position is on issues, who are the people making the decisions and what are the public and private interest groups shaping community life. Access if these organizations are meeting the needs of the community. Go to village and town and school board meetings. Join the Green Party and participate in communication the political issues that affect the community through political activism. Get involved. Give a talk on an issue that is close to your heart!

8. Put you shingle on your heart! Don’t be afraid to be yourself. Be human! Initiate a community platform, either through a church organization, volunteer and community service organization, or business; to give your community organization authority, presence and respect that supports your meaning and purpose. We began the Mustard Seed Inn and B&B. You could run for political office, or the school board, or join a peace and justice organization, or a group with an affinity toward community and social justice issues (Franciscans, the Catholic Worker, the Canticle Farm CSA or POCLAD.

9. Motivate people to help them realize their interdependence! Start a small community group and network with like minded people, and learn through them how to refine your value system. We began a weekly Short Story Reading and Discussion Group at our house after a course we enjoyed on short stories. We also began First Fridays. There are Book Groups at the local public library. All these ideas help engage oneself with our common humanity, and help each of us better understand each other and the world we live in, and what really is important.

10. Take some risks! Encourage everyone to participate in community life. Help identify people’s interests and skills, and support them unconditionally in their passions. Learn from people who have special abilities and are different from you. Buy local! Support family run businesses.

11. Provide vision and purpose to the group and to the community! Get the group to participate in a community oriented-civic minded project. We are considering as I mentioned, working on a local Habitat project, and studying the feasibility of beginning a community farm share farm in our area.

12. Think outside the box! Take courses at the local university and continue to learn. We have taken humanities and history courses at Alfred University, and Alfred State College (SUNY), our local colleges, and are considering courses in agriculture and community economics. These courses teach us about alternatives we never quite imagined in our lives. There is a great book called ‘Deep Economy’ which gives other ideas on alternative community economics.

In summary, First Fridays uses a variety of programs to achieve its goals: speakers on community oriented topics, letters to the editor, communication with elected officials, radio interviews with First Friday speakers on topics addressed at meetings, prayer vigils, protest events, study groups on topics to better understand the market based global economy, and the dominate pervasive presence of the corporation in our lives, participation in village and town meetings, articles in the newspapers on First Friday topics, support of local grassroots community oriented organizations, i.e. Habitat for Humanity, Canticle Farm CSA, development of alternatives to the global market based economy, like renewable energy, alternatives to the justice system in defusing disputes and disagreements and bringing about peace through direct non-violent service to others.

We encourage all of you to find your inner self through participating with others to help build local community, and in so doing turn the course of history to a more amenable place to coexist and enjoy the beauty, goodness and kindness available at the grassroots level of community. We encourage you to open your consciousness, develop you conscience and participate in community life at a new level. We are not meant to live in isolation nor in fear nor as individuals. We are designed to live with others at a basic level of interdependence and understanding. We are designed to participate in community!

Monday, August 13, 2007

Virginia Rasmussen: The Politics of Sustainability

Many thanks to Virginia Rasmussen for the wonderful talk she gave Friday evening!

Comments on "The Politics of Sustainability"
Presented at Green Fest, Ithaca, NY, August 10, 2007
Virginia Rasmussen, Program on Corporations, Law and Democracy

I appreciate the invitation to be with you tonight and, in particular, to have had an opportunity to explore, deliberately, the matter of sustainability politics. Surely, this will be at the root of our capacity to live sustainably. The suggestions I offer tonight are quite grand in sound and vision, yet must become, I believe, a very practical part of our work in the years ahead. If it is our intention:

* to adopt ecological technologies,
* to recognize and live within the limits of a finite planet,
* to bring the fairness, justice, restraint, and community as well as citizen rights, all essential to sustainability, then a new kind of political process is required, one we've barely begun to consider.

Common sense tells us that a systemic, FUNDAMENTAL response is needed to address the ecological and social breakdown enveloping us. Yet many struggling in environmental and social change work continue doing what we have always done:
* dealing with an issue here and an issue there;
* confident we know the nature of the problem, we work hard and yet harder on a playing field we did not build, using rules we did not write -- rules that are solidly stacked against us;
* we've gone on ad nauseum at times, describing in fuller and fuller detail the old problems and then the new problems and then the newest problems...

Not that it's easy getting to these roots! Daily we face forces of denial more brazen, more militant than ever.
(1) insidious religious doctrines that foster dangerous ignorance and superstition
(2) ever-growing corporate rule that denies us any access to the power of decision-making and governance.
(3) and a virulent patriotic ideology that makes one shudder.

This is a tough reality to try to change. Bill Moyers pointed out that when "ideology and theology couple, their offspring are not always bad but they are always blind." And getting the blind to change directions is even tougher than getting the bad to do so!

So, how might a sustainable politics break into this seemingly vicious downward spiral?

I'm going to suggest four basic aspects of our cultural-political lives that I think require great focus and evolution if this search for a sustainable politics is to reward us. They are, each one, about RELATIONSHIP within the work of GOVERNING OURSELVES. We'll have to address each of them, because the one we do not address will undo any gains in the other three. Each is politically fundamental to the creation of sustainable communities and the sustainable lives of those who dwell in them.

None is new to you. Some effort in each has already begun. But there is great need to bring these basic aspects of political life up front, provoke rethinking and a dedication to these four tightly connected, determining aspects of any sustainable future.

Let me state them briefly at the outset:

First, can we bring up front, include in our work and conversation, the fact of our present dominator, patriarchal, industrial worldview that drives us inevitably toward inequality, violence, war, and earth destruction. Only a tireless commitment to comprehend, counter and change it will stand us a chance.

Second, an alternative world view is inadequate in itself to the task of evolving a sustainable politics. That worldview must find its expression in REAL democratic processes. Is it possible that through our work and conversation, the fraud that is our current so-called "democracy" can be made clear to an entrenched, indifferent middle class, along with a will to build the real thing, a radical democracy?

Third, what good will establishing a radical democracy do us if we can't sustain it through our capacity to DO democracy? Might we bring up front in our work, our teachings, a valuing and learning of the arts and skills of DOING democracy?

And fourth... What good will our capacity to make skillful democratic decisions within a people-centered democracy do us, if we have no AUTHORITY as We the People, to put those decisions into policy, law, governance?

In the time we have, let me elaborate briefly on each of these fundamental aspects of the work ahead.

A sustainable politics calls on us, in the words of Adrienne Rich, "to understand the assumptions in which we are drenched." This is prerequisite to knowing ourselves and being able to change ourselves. The present dominator, patriarchal (industrial, anti-ecological, war-culture, anti-democratic) worldview, too long with us, and too little acknowledged, will block and then annihilate every sustainable measure and attitude we place in its ferocious grip.

We have to pull this conversation into the forefront of most every issue we take on, government and corporate, community and even personal . That wrong-headed worldview defines who we believe WE are, it TELLS us what OUR nature is, who we think we CAN be with one another and the earth. As long as we do not hit head-on this limiting, frankly terminal, dominant worldview, we will continue to see human beings as what that worldview assumes us to be: primarily individualistic, acquisitive, selfish, competitive, and generally quite nasty. Of course, that serves those who want to rule over us; if we're that crummy, we BETTER have strong and powerful rulers to keep everyone sufficiently at bay from everyone else.

I share the resolute view of Anne Scales, in her book "The Emergence of a Feminist Jurisprudence," when she says: "It is insane at the end of the 20th Century to adhere to the belief that people are innately horrid and can do no better. Rather we must recognize that our fears -- of contingency, of dependency, of unimportance -- have put us on a suicidal path."
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* But what good will this nearly opposite worldview and assumptions about ourselves do us in regard to sustainability politics unless we apply it within a very different understanding of democracy. Many minds in this country have been falsely, intentionally colonized with untruths about democracy.

In "The Populist Moment, a work by Lawrence Goodwyn, he claims that "we are culturally confused and cannot even imagine our confusion. ...we are culturally organized by our society not to rebel... not to understand protest..." and most importantly, "not to understand the prerequisites of democracy itself."

Might we be able to help ourselves and others
decolonize our minds and promote an understanding of and commitment to radical democracy, which means nothing more than the REAL thing, people REALLY ruling themselves.

Democracy, according to C. Douglas Lummis in his book Radical Democracy, is not a kind of government, but an end of government. It's an ideal, a project, "the art of the possible," a "performance art." He sees radical democracy as "an adventure of human beings creating with their own hands the conditions for their own freedom... it's a way in which people order their lives together, through discussion and common action, on principles of equality and justice."

Democracy is NOT what so many have come to believe in this country:
* It is "not handing your power over to people in exchange for promises." Political parties have a role in education, but they do not make the people's decisions.
* it's not "just rulers looking out for people's welfare," it's about people ruling themselves;
* it's not "economic development or a stage of development;" it's a form of political rule
* it's not the "free" market or "free trade," deceptive language for global corporate rights law that divides society into rich and poor and is utterly inappropriate to democracy;
* it's not the U.S. Constitutional system which was opposed by radical democrats of the time as putting too much power at the center and giving too much power to the rich;
* it's not free elections, although that can play a democratic role;
* it's not allowing the people to have their say; the "right to dissent is not power, it is not the right to decide."

Can we bring these wrong, even dangerous perceptions of democracy up front for people, and begin to shape the REAL thing for ourselves?

Establishing radical democracy is not "some leap of consciousness into an uncharted future" assures Lummis. "Rather it only means returning to a natural attitude. Our challenge is to break the ideological bonds that prevent us from assuming that natural attitude of democratic common sense."

Democracy IS in our nature, says Lummis. We CAN be a primarily community-based, cooperative, less material and radically democratic species.
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* Since a sustainable politics requires that radical democracy be made real, then the skills necessary to DO Democracy, to DO the "art of the possible," must also be made real, become part of our teaching and learning. This rarely happens...

We hear about the value of diversity, the importance of inclusion and participation. But how often do we hear these values presented in the context of doing democracy, of governing ourselves successfully?

When do we learn how to set an agenda and facilitate a meeting that people are glad they attended; are eager to return to in order to continue the conversation and mutual learning that can lead to smart decision-making?

When do we learn the skills of communication necessary to share knowledge and opinion with one another in a way that can be heard, that works for the group and truly adds to the social learning essential to self-governance?

When do we learn the skills of decision-making without losers, where everyone gets to participate and be a part of the outcome? How long will we settle for Robert's Rules of Patriarchal Order????

--And conflicts? We need them. They're natural. Dealing with them usefully teaches us new things and brings us to a better, wiser place. How many people learn conflict resolution as part of the art of conducting our lives, much less governing ourselves? Without an appreciation of conflict and some skills to make the most of conflict, many stifle their voices and others prevail by aggressively filling the void. This disempowers individuals, the group, the society.

Organizing and planning skills -- who learns them? How do we form a group? Set goals? Determine priorities. Hold an event? Address accountability? Learn how to evaluate our work along the way and on its completion? Gain support from others for our efforts? How can we ever do democracy and govern ourselves if we never learn organizing for self-governance 101?

All of this must be learned and practiced and called what it MOST IMPORTANTLY IS -- the art of self and mutual governing. Do some of us have natural gifts in these skills and arts? Of course. Does that mean we hand our power over to the people with "the gifts?" Whose agenda will we then be subject to? Yes, those people get to use their gifts on our behalf. All the more important that we stay involved and participate where and how we can?

Every educational setting -- classrooms, organizations, municipal boards, etc. should be a forum for learning and respecting the art and skills of democracy.

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* And lastly, a sustainable politics requires that those decisions we make with our democratic skills and mutual work be implemented through a governing system that puts the people in charge. That is, We the People must have the AUTHORITY to govern ourselves.

And let's be clear... from the days of the Constitution on, we have NOT had that authority, despite all the mind control and colonization that sends the message -- that this is a democracy and we people rule. Of course, not everyone continues to fall for the standard "line" about our so-called "democracy:" A friend recently caught sight of a bumpersticker... "Watch Out or We'll Bring Democracy to Your Country!"

Nonetheless, our Constitution hangs on to its unchallenged, unquestioned place of reverence; most people know little about those passages written by its authors to keep democracy OUT of the picture!
There is positive content in that Constitution. We must know of it, use it and build on it:< >--- never before was a nation established on a set of agreements...
--- the system of checks and balances is brilliant and intended to serve vital objectives in a democratic set up, .... CURRENTLY BEING THROWN RIGHT OUT THE WINDOW!
--- every state was guaranteed a Republican form of government...

BUT, where legal authority over economic and political life is concerned, the framers wrote a Constitution that protected the propertied few from the many with ease. the Constitution's principal author, James Madison, saw to it that political and economic structures "would protect the opulent minority against the majority."

So the "Founding Fathers" designed a plan of governance that sanctified the individual and the rights and protections of property; not the community and the rights and protections of persons.

Even though there was no mention of corporations in the C'n, the propertied class used the property bias of the Constitution to hone the corporate form as its vehicle to concentrate wealth and legal power, a scheme generously assisted by judges and courts over the 19th and 20th century. Whatever business wanted, business got; business practice and malpractice simply turned into law.

Property's legal protections turned into all kinds of legal POWER OVER people, communities and the earth.

These rights of property gave to the corporate form control over production, investment, the organization of work and the development and diffusion of technology. This is control over our economic life and whoever controls economic life also controls political life.

Not content with that, corporate boards realized that the designation of the corporation as a person under the law would gain them legal PROTECTIONS FROM the people through the Bill of Rights, intended to protect REAL people from denials of free speech, assembly, search and seizure rights, etc.

So we arrive at today's corporations, able to do most anything they wish, and it's ALL PERFECTLY LEGAL, because they saw to the writing of the law, the shaping of policy, the defining of every debate, the election, in so many instances, of THEIR FAVORITE candidates:

What they do is the stuff of governing, it represents historical takings of powers that belong to people. But here's some good news: because this crisis is systemic, the problems are being driven right down to the local level, where the way is open for the development of NEW approaches.

People in their communities are beginning to take their right to govern themselves seriously. They are waging the struggle to shift the cultures of their communities and rewrite law to serve people and PUBLIC authority, not property and CORPORATE authority.

They are changing the law by challenging existing law, recognizing that democracy is without meaning when corporations have constitutional powers to deny to people the democratic process.

More and more communities are no longer exhausting themselves in the regulatory maze. Instead they are educating themselves, organizing, making decisions together and passing their own laws that ban corporations from owning farmland, from dumping sludge on farmland, from giving money to candidates or referenda within their jurisdictions, from planting GE crops, from placing any more BIG BOX stores in their jurisdictions; communities are extending rights and protections to nature, and denying them to corporations.

These people are reframing their issues in terms of democracy and rights, no longer in terms of regulating corporate harms and haggling over permits to pollute. They are building a movement to drive self-governance into communities all over the country and eventually, into the Constitution itself.

While it's true that sustainable politics requires our possessing the rights and the law to govern ourselves, all the good law in service to people and public authority, should we acquire it, will not survive without attaining a level of success in the other three fundamentals of a sustainable politics: a new partnership or post-patriarchal worldview and accompanying assumptions; a deeper understanding of democracy as radical democracy; and the capacity to DO democracy by respecting, learning and practicing its arts and skills.

It's a tall order, but all of this work is underway. Let's be deliberate in joining it at every opportunity.

Award for Protecting Old Growth White Pines
















Ranger Michael Liu of the Finger Lakes National Forest received an award at Green Fest from Gudrun Scott on behalf of "We the People" for his decision last fall to preserve a grove of ancient white pines in the forest. Above, Ranger Liu discusses white pine ecology.

Friday, August 10, 2007

2007 Green Fest Schedule

Here is our updated schedule for the weekend:

Friday, August 10, 2007
2:00 — Check-in for Camping sites at Cayuta Sun
At Community School, Ithaca
6:30 — Registration
7:00 — Opening and welcome
7:15 — 9:00 pm - The Politics of Sustainability
Art Weaver, Renovus Energy, "Social Change and Its Connection to Renewable Energy", Virginia Rasmussen, Program on Corporations, Law and Democracy, Dan Hill, Cayuga Nation rep to the Haudenosaunee Environmental Task Force

Saturday, August 11, 2007
At Cayuta Sun Permaculture Homestead
7:00 am — Sunrise Yoga with Ann Eagan, Sunnyside, NY
8:30 am — Early Bird Workshop: Baking in an Earth Oven
Lois Hilton, Tickletown Trade, Great Valley, NY
Elizabeth Thompson, Allegany, NY
10:00 am — Opening and welcome
10:15 am — Grassroots Organizing for Sustainability
Gay Nicholson, Sustainable Tompkins, Ithaca, NY
Anthony and Mary Lipnicki, First Fridays, Andover, NY
10:15 am — Cob for Kids Workshop
11:45 am — Building a Local Food Network
Lois Hilton, Tickletown Trade food coop, Great Valley, NY
Matt Glenn, Muddy Fingers CSA, Ithaca Farmers Market
Michele Danels, East New York Food Co-op, Brooklyn
Josh Dolan, EcoCity Ithaca
11:45 am — Job Free Living
Ed Haffmans and JoAnn Myers, Accord, NY
1:00 pm — Lunch, Blues by Deborah Magone
1:45 pm — Permaculture Workshop
Michael Burns and Steve Gabriel, Finger Lakes Permaculture
1:45 pm — Living off the Grid
Steve Nicholson, Ithaca
Tony Moretti, Hammondsort
3:00 pm — Make Your Own Wind Turbine
Barry Miller, Hinsdale
3:00 pm — Getting Media Access for Alternative Viewpoints
Sander Hicks, VoxPop, Brooklyn
Bill Huston, Binghamton
Carl Lawrence, Producer, Green Vision, BCAT, Brooklyn
Deborah Magone, Green Cable Producer, Rochester
4:15 pm — Native Earthling Band on Solar Stage
6:00 pm — Dinner, Ki-tun Band
7:00 pm — Liberation Ecology: Refusing to Choose Between
Social Justice and Sustainability, Rafter T. Sass
9:00 pm — Burning Hearts Band

Sunday, August 12, 2007
At Ithaca Commons, downtown Ithaca
10:00 am — Opening
10:15 am — Green Roof Demonstration
Lexie Hain, Motherplants, Ithaca NY
11:00 am — Building New Media Outlets
Ilonka Wloch, Positive News, Ithaca
Craig Seeman, Third Planet Video
Cyril Mychalejko, Upside Down World, Vermont
12:00 noon — Political Songs by Peacesmiths
1:00 pm — Creating Change through Third Party Electoral Politics
Howie Hawkins, 2006 Green Party candidate for US Senate
SKCM Curry, 2008 candidate for Green Party Vice President
Anthony Gronowicz, author Grand Illusion: American Democracy, New York, NY
Jason Nabewaniec, Co-Chair, Green Party US, Batavia, NY
2:30 pm — Campus Organizing for Sustainability
Ethan Rainwater, Cornell Sustainability
Peter LaVenia, Albany U Campus Greens
3:45 pm — Closing

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Photos of Cayuta Sun

Great photos of Cayuta Sun by Simon Wheeler accompanied the Ithaca Journal article on Green Fest.