Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Green Thing

I subscribe to a food activism listserve; this was posted on it a couple days ago. I wish I could credit the author, but I don't actually know who wrote it.

In the line at the store, the cashier told an older woman that she should bring her own grocery bags because plastic bags weren't good for the environment.

The woman apologized to her and explained, "We didn't have the green thing back in my day."

The clerk responded, "That's our problem today.  Your generation did not care enough to save our environment."

She was right—our generation didn't have the green thing in its day.

Back then, we returned milk bottles, soda bottles and beer bottles to the store. The store sent them back to the plant to be washed and sterilized and refilled, so it could use the same bottles over and over.  So they really were recycled.

But we didn't have the green thing back in our day.

We walked up stairs, because we didn't have an escalator in every store and office building. We walked to the grocery store and didn't climb into a 300-horsepower machine every time we had to go two blocks.

But she was right. We didn't have the green thing in our day.

Back then, we washed the baby's diapers because we didn't have the throw-away kind.  We dried clothes on a line, not in an energy gobbling machine burning up 220 volts—wind and solar power really did dry the clothes.  Kids got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters, not always brand-new clothing. But that old lady is right; we didn't have the green thing back in our day.

Back then, we had one TV, or radio, in the house—not a TV in every room. And the TV had a small screen the size of a handkerchief (remember them?), not a screen the size of the state of Montana .

In the kitchen, we blended and stirred by hand because we didn't have electric machines to do everything for us.

When we packaged a fragile item to send in the mail, we used a wadded up old newspaper to cushion it, not Styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap.

Back then, we didn't fire up an engine and burn gasoline just to cut the lawn. We used a push mower that ran on human power.  We exercised by working so we didn't need to go to a health club to run on treadmills that operate on electricity.

But she's right; we didn't have the green thing back then.

We drank from a fountain when we were thirsty instead of using a cup or a plastic bottle every time we had a drink of water.

We refilled writing pens with ink instead of buying a new pen, and we replaced the razor blades in a razor instead of throwing away the whole razor just because the blade got dull.

But we didn't have the green thing back then.

Back then, people took the streetcar or a bus and kids rode their bikes to school or walked instead of turning their moms into a 24-hour taxi service.

We had one electrical outlet in a room, not an entire bank of sockets to power a dozen appliances.  And we didn't need a computerized gadget to receive a signal beamed from satellites 2,000 miles out in space in order to find the nearest pizza joint.

But isn't it sad the current generation laments how wasteful we old folks were just because we didn't have the green thing back then?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Save locally grown greens!

Today the USDA and Big Ag are conspiring to implement a set of rules that favor giant industrial growers while placing small, diversified farms at risk. Known as the National Leafy Green Marketing Agreement, this set of rules was designed by industrial growers to protect their market share while harming their main competition, the growing local and organic food movement. The Leafy Green agreement, drafted by the largest vegetable growers’ lobbyists in an effort to whitewash their growing food safety problems, would implement draconian practices that saddle farmers with one-size-fits-all rules and would drive local and organic farmers out of business with expensive regulations.

Tell Secretary Vilsack that it's time to protect family farmers and stop letting Big Ag write the rules by adding your name to the petition:

Friday, July 15, 2011

Tuv Ha'Aretz 3rd annual edible garden bike tour

Spoke cards from previous bike tours; this year's is the yellow one.
On Sunday, July 10, Portland Tuv Ha'Aretz, Portland's Jewish connection to sustainable, ethical food for all, hosted our third annual garden bike tour. Led, as always, by intrepid Tuv member Beth Hamon, this year's ride theme was building community through edible gardens, specifically (and obviously) community gardens, for which Portland is justly famous.

A bit of Portland's community garden history:

The Community Garden program, founded and managed by Leslie Pohl-Kosbau, has provided gardening opportunities for the physical and social benefit of the people and neighborhoods of Portland since 1975. (Leslie has recently retired after 35 years on the job, and all gardeners in Portland, not to mention every citizen of the city, gardener or not, owes her a tremendous thank you for her work in making our city more beautiful and more edible).

There are 35 community gardens located throughout the city, developed and operated by volunteers and Portland Parks & Rec staff, offering a variety of activities. Immensely popular since their inception, there's now a 3-year waiting list (with over 1000 names on it) for a plot. A local nonprofit, 1000 Gardens, is hoping to add another 1000 plots by 2012.

We started our ride at the Woodlawn Community Garden, which is 14 years old this year, and shares space with Woodlawn Elementary School. One unique feature of this garden is the Thai jar rainwater-harvesting cistern, the first of its kind in the northwest United States, which was installed in 2007. It collects rainwater from the school roof, which is then piped to spigots placed throughout the garden:

Thai rainwater jar at Woodlawn Community Garden
Our next stop was the Rigler Peace Garden, located at 54th and NE Prescott. Here's some info about this special place:

Inverted gazebo roof with rain chain at Rigler Peace Garden.
In 2000, Will Levenson and Starr Hogeboom, Friends of Trees volunteers who were in the Cully neighborhood selling trees door-to-door, noticed an ugly, dusty piece of land that Rigler School was using for overflow parking. Given that the neighborhood had no park, they came up with the idea of creating a community garden in that space. For the next two years, they applied for grants, recruited volunteers, solicited donations from local businesses, filed for city permits, and negotiated a lease with Portland Public Schools to prevent the land from being sold. In total, the group received $60,000 in grants and $10,000 in fundraising. Donated materials were worth an estimated $40,000. The garden opened in September 2005.

The Rigler Peace Garden, as it was unofficially named by the group of volunteers who built it, is used for both community gardening and for education. Its entrance, made of bricks and featuring a shiny sculpture made of galvanized steel and student artwork, invites children to learn about natural science as well as how to grow flowers and vegetables. A concrete path leads to a gazebo where teachers hold class. The inverted roof of the gazebo captures rainwater and funnels it down a chain into an underground storage tank that is connected to a hand-operated water pump. The north side of the garden is shaded by dozens of native trees, each one sponsored by a different Rigler classroom.

Student artwork decorates the gate at Rigler Peace Garden
Our final stop was at Columbia Ecovillage, a sustainable co-housing community in NE Portland. Our friend Dennis is one of about a dozen Jewish members of CEV, and he gave us a tour:

Dennis (turquoise T-shirt) shows us the hazelnut trees CEV has planted in the parking strip; the nuts are intended to be shared with CEV's neighbors.

Dennis and chickens. CEV has 30 birds, including a rooster. Eggs, anyone?

Just a portion of the amazing garden space at CEV.

Bees at CEV.

5,000 gallon water tank, which harvests gray water from the roof to use in watering the garden. CEV can store up to 29,000 gallons of water with its tanks.

Thermostat and namaste inside the temperature self-regulating greenhouse.

Dennis assembled a salad for us, complete with edible flowers.

Group photo at CEV.
So what's Jewish about all this? The examples of community building we saw in the gardens and at CEV aren't specifically rooted in Judaism, of course, but as Jews interested in making strong, lasting connections with our neighbors and the land we live on, we can learn (glean?) much about how to build a Jewish community from what we saw on this ride. It requires patience, determination, a willingness to compromise and listen, and affords ample opportunities, as with reclaiming the land for the Rigler Peace Garden, to practice tikkun olam, repair of our world.

You can see more pictures from the ride here.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Fire or water?

Last weekend my sweetie and I made our annual pilgrimage to the Metolius River in Central Oregon. Well, I say annual because we've been going every year since 2006, but we didn't make it last year, so returning this year was especially lovely, like greeting an old friend.

Here are some random pics:

Closeup of Ponderosa bark; I used to call these "puzzle trees" when I was a kid, because the bark looks like a jigsaw puzzle. My favorite pines.

Near the head of the Metolius River, just below our campsite

Very late purple trillium near Cabot Lake

Black Butte from the Cabot Lake trail

 On the Cabot Lake trail, which goes through part of the B & B fire area in the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness. That's Mt. Jefferson off to the right.

Shabbat citronella candle blessings

 This trip brought us into proximity with both fire and water. Fire because we hiked a trail to Cabot Lake through part of the area that burned in the B & B fire in 2002, and water because of the Metolius, of course, and Scout Lake, our favorite swimming hole nearby.

 So it occurred to me to wonder, one night while I was watching our campfire, whether watching fire or watching water, especially the ocean, creates different states of contemplation. Watching either can easily hypnotize me for awhile, and there's little I find more relaxing than gazing into the snapping flames of a campfire, or seeing the eternal ebb and flow of ocean waves.

But the hypnotic state created isn't the same, at least not for me. When I watch a fire, I don't usually find myself contemplating anything in particular. Perhaps it's the mercurial, elusive nature of flame (as soon as you fix your eye on it, it moves or disappears). I'm just drawn into the fire itself and my mind doesn't fix on any specific ideas or thoughts. Whereas when I sit and watch the ocean, often my mind will turn towards the big eternal questions of existence, or at least to thoughts about particulars in my own life. Perhaps it's the regular rhythm of waves that creates this state of mind.

What about you? Do fire and water stimulate different thoughts (or lack thereof) in your head? Or similar ones? What happens for you?