Let’s Get Beyond the Fear.

The US presidential election was a horrible result for those of us who are inspired by working together to create vibrant communities and create a sustainable, peaceful world. It’s ok to be scared of what policy will come. But we need to overcome that fear, and I think the best way for me to do this will be with action.

If the government reduces social services or inhibits sustainability actions we can and must pick up the slack. There are great non-profits and grassroots groups that are already working on these issues. We can contribute more to these groups; we can start our own groups; we can initiate community work. I know, at the very least, I will be volunteering more.

If a talking head riles up a group of people because spurring division and throwing out insults boosts his or her ego, let’s come and work together on something that will benefit us all. Even working together on a small community project, like planting flowers at a school, creates discussion and great feeling between all of us.

If we see justice and rights being infringed on we must bring awareness to it. Information exchange is incredibly easy, but we can’t let the important stuff get lost. Celebrity marriages don’t affect most of us, but the Standing Rock water protectors are being harassed for ensuring we all have clean water and land. Let’s share important information we find that is real and actually affects our lives or the lives of others. Then we have to speak up and tell our policymakers we don’t like it. And, we have to keep telling them. And then remind them again.

If people voted because they felt disenfranchised or think the world is passing them by, it is not time to shout at them or blame them; let’s talk to them; let’s explain how real knowledge and understanding is needed, and we need to consider how talk and actions affect more than ourselves. When we think of others and think on a global level we will all realize that this is not the world of our childhood; it is better! It is better because more and more people are working together to improve the world and raise awareness the important issues. It is better because there are innovative technologies and methods available so that we can live in a completely sustainable world. It is better because now we all have great opportunity to live happy, enriched lives.

I know I am not the only who believes that action is better than fear; the peaceful protests on Wednesday have shown this. I know some of my thoughts are pie in the sky idealism, but we have to dream, and we have to do!

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A Rant About Diversity in the Garden

Last week we mostly maintained the vegetables that were planted before camp began. We were pruning, stringing up tomatoes, and weeding. I am trying to teach the kids how to care for the garden in a way that is environmentally sustainable, and why this is the better way to garden. It’s funny that many of the kids first think to throw the weeds in the trash; they don’t realize that they have. Showing that the weeds are useful helps motivate the kids to do the work that needs to be done. I feel that many kids will do the hard work that is needed if they know why.

One of the lessons I am trying to impress is that we don’t have as many options of vegetables and flavors as we think. Often factory farms use seed from large companies. Most of these seeds have been modified to increase yield or color or flavor or some other characteristic that is appealing to farmers or consumers. This has resulted in the loss of diversity of vegetable types, and a seed that produces sterile seed in its vegetable. Over the past 100 years we have lost over 95% of vegetable varieties. The graph below, from National Geographic, shows the diversity we used to have. I almost cry at the thought of the many flavors we will never get to taste.

food-variety-tree-754

Many farmers take pride in saving the seed from their best vegetables, and passing that seed on through the generations. But when the seed gets cross pollinated with a GMO seed from a nearby farm and the fruit becomes sterile, or the farmer gets sued by the big seed company, the farmer has no choice but to buy new seeds from the big company. And his or her variety of vegetable that has been grown for 150 years is lost forever.

Now the new seed doesn’t just grow on its own. Each seed will only grow with a specific fertilizer, and are prone to specific pests, so they need specific pesticides. Chemical fertilizers and pesticides pollute our land and water both as they are being made and being applied. 55% of the US waterways are in poor condition for aquatic life, according to the EPA; if they are poor for animals they have to be worse for humans. Also, chemical fertilizers actually deplete the soil of nutrients; after the harvest all the nutrients are gone, and new fertilizer must be added. It would take many years and lots of organic fertilizer to make land self-sustainable again. So, now the farmer has to rely on the big seed company to provide seed, which they can’t save, and has no choice in what fertilizers and pesticides he or she uses. The farmers no longer have any choice for their businesses, and we have no choice of fruit or vegetable variety.

While we are becoming more aware of the lack of variety and the health impacts of factory farming, choice is not always available. Low income areas have fewer grocery stores and farmers markets. The stores that are in these areas have less choice in produce. When someone wants to have vegetables that have been grown in a healthy way they have to travel farther and pay more than at their local store. Extra time and money is not always available to people who are working two jobs to provide the basics for their families. By teaching the kids how to grow their own food we can provide them with choice. They will have the skills, and hopefully be inspired to grow their own vegetables.

You can help too; just buy organic and heirloom vegetables. By buying better we support farmers that are fighting back against the big seed and farm corporations that care only about profit. As the responsible farm businesses grow the price of good food becomes cheaper and more readily available to all.

I am really enjoying the camp garden program; not only am I helping to provide fresh, diverse, organic food to people who don’t usually get it, but I am also able to talk about one of my biggest passions: organic, sustainable agriculture. This is a key to solving our global food crisis in a healthy way. Plus, it just tastes better.