Third Paradigm is an out-of-the-box thinktank on community sovereignty and regenerative economics.
We look at how to take back our cities, farmland and water; our money, production and trade; our media, education and culture, our religion and even our God.
We present a people's history of the Bible and a parent's view on how to raise giving kids in a taking world.
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New World Notes
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Welcome to the twenty-second episode of Third Paradigm. Our title for this Easter Sunday is The Food and Community Resurrection. The word resurrection comes from resurgere, to rise again. A resurgent is a person who's risen up again. An insurgent is a person who's risen up in the first place. You have to be an insurgent first in order to be resurgent and resurrect.
Thursday, Santa Cruz County experienced an act of insurgency when four AT&T fiberoptic cables were cut. My husband called it a Silicon Valley snow day – no internet, no long-distance service, no cell phones, and no credit card verification. It was a day when commerce stood still. Cash changed hands but the millions of dollars that would've changed bank accounts stayed put. Because of the latter, AT&T is offering a $100,000 reward for tips that lead to an arrest, but I'm hoping that money won't change bank accounts either.
The effect was curious. We could still make local calls, including friends or emergencies. But business as usual was impossible. Tom took the girls to the laundromat where they watched frantic people checking their cell phones every five minutes. I rearranged my vegetable garden, dotting marigolds between the tomatoes because nematodes don't like their smell any more than we do. We baked and played board games, and walked to the neighborhood market for potatoes. My middle daughter continued her Harry Potter marathon. It made me think – why can't we have one day a week like this?
When I was growing up, my hometown had blue laws, which meant that no stores were allowed to open on Sundays. I remember being bored. You weren't supposed to work, and the libraries and theaters were closed. But rather than shutting everything down, why not a day to shut the rest of the world out? Here's the plan: Employees go to a 4-day work week at 80% of pay in return for a one-year guarantee of no layoffs. On Fridays, we help out in our communities. To interrupt our usual programming, we make sure those same fiberoptic cables get turned off that day. And if we want to make it perfect, we could thwart satellite and cable TV. What would we do instead? I don't know but I'm eager to find out.
When we return, we'll look at some novel ways that community is emerging, locally and globally, with something called the Grow Food Party Crew. But first, we'll read some poems by Hafiz, by Nanao Sakaki, and by Li-Young Lee:
The poets were the Persian mystic Hafiz, the Japanese itinerant Nanao Sakaki, and the Chinese expat, Li-Young Lee. Nanao Sakaki died this December at the age of 85. I call him itinerant because at one point, he and Neale Hunter made a practice never to sleep in the same place twice. Through Hunter, Gary Snyder, a Santa Cruz local, became friends with him. Li-Young Lee was born the same year I was but in Jakarta. His great-grandfather was China's first Republican President, who tried to make himself emperor. Li-Young's difficult childhood suggests that being the descendent of a would-be emperor isn't all peaches and cream.
But I've had days recently that went from joy to joy to joy, in a backyard that stretches from blossom to impossible blossom. This blossoming is thanks to the Grow Food Party Crew. The Grow Food Party Crew started in Ventura with two guys named Devin Slavin and Brian Coltrin. They gathered groups of volunteers, who would converge on a house and do an old-fashioned farm-raising. In one day, they'd dig, build boxes, clear, fill, and plant. Even more, they'd play music and sing. Even more, they'd bring food, prepare a tasty lunch, and clean everything up before they left. It sounded like magic!
But to our good fortune, Devin and Brian happened to leave Ventura and move up to Santa Cruz, where I met them through the Transition Santa Cruz Local Food Working Group. At a meeting, they said that they were ready to do their first installation on March 28th, but needed to find a place. My hand shot into the air before sense and caution could dampen the rocket launchers. Later, in an enthusiasm intervention meeting, my family would remind me that I'm not much of a gardener. Our yard is strictly survival of the fittest. I've thought to get one of those plaques that says, "The only thing more neglected than my garden is my husband." But this was more impetus than I could resist, and so, with two and a half weeks to plan, we jumped out of the compost bin and into the manure heap. And my family more than rose to the occasion, proving themselves to be horticulture insurgents and resurgents. We'll break for Crowded House with When You Come, and then return with the rest of the story.
[Crowded House – When You Come]
That was Crowded House with When You Come. On March 28th mine was indeed a Crowded House. The Grow Food Party Crew descended on our yard like a swarm of locusts but with the opposite effect - they left us with veggie beds, berry troughs, herb boxes, and a food forest. White and yellow nectarines alternate with a dwarf avocado and a six-graft apple tree, surrounded by nasturtiums to deter wooly aphids. Some willing volunteers helped my husband Tom put in a fence for the chickens, who've been muttering ever since about the unfairness of life in chicken Gitmo. Herbs and strawberries went into some brick planters in front, while three entrenched angel trumpets were wrestled out of the ground by a Jacobean team. This group, honestly, worked nonstop, and then cut and stacked all the wood neatly for the fireplace. However, Ken the mushroom guy at the Farmer's Market later mentioned that trumpet vines are members of the datura family, which are both poisons and hallucinagens. Since we couldn't tell which effect we'd get, we took it to the dump. The baby bunnies earned their keep entertaining a steady stream of kids. We believe these are the most spoilt meat animals on the planet. And my 10-yr-old made fast friends with a very nice girl her age named Julia.
At the lunch peak, there were over 40 people. A guy named Gary saw the event in the Santa Cruz Sentinel and recognized the address as his aunt and uncle's house back in the '50's. Throughout the event, there were songs from the 60's played on guitars and harmonicas, with African drums and shakers. A neighbor in his 70's brought a big, lovely artichoke to plant. The weather was a perfect day in the '80's.
A young Board member of the Gray Bears delivered boxes of muffins, beautiful crimini mushrooms, and two enormous peach pies. Ethan, a member of Food Not Bombs, brought breads, chard, potatoes, and more mushrooms. He also brought a bunch of seeds to swap. Brian, one of the Grow Food instigators, brought a duffle bag full of lemons and a box of cabbages. We sautéed cabbage with lemon and salt, and when we ran out of food, made cabbage salad. As Brian says, you can never have enough cabbage salad.
While relying on the kindness of these strangers, Tom would ask them how they'd ended up here. One had a friend who was crashing on her couch that was coming, so she came along. Another guy was riding his bike past when he recognized people he knew in the yard. So he came in to help. Other people read about it in the Good Times and showed up, with their families, tools, food, and goodwill. We still have someone's hoe if you'd like to come claim it.
If you google Grow Food Party Crew Santa Cruz, you can find a YouTube video clip about the event. The description reads, "The Grow Food Party Crew is creating abundance while your buns dance. Let's create the world you want to live in!" While Devin explains the concept in the video, people are singing in the background, "I wanna get my hands in the dirt. I wanna plant some seeds and watch 'em grow." The chorus is "Let the sun come down. Let the rain come down," while the video shows a hose squirting into the air for the benefit of the kids, and the chickens scrabbling in the new dirt piles, which they thought were dug up for their benefit. Little did they know.
[Grow Food Party Crew Santa Cruz – Growing Food in the Hood — 3-28-2009]
We'll break for Brett Dennen singing Closer to You, a romantically religious song for Easter. When we come back, I'll talk about saving the world from my own backyard.
[Brett Dennen – Closer To You]
That was Brett Dennen with Closer to You from his Hope for the Hopeless CD. In these first 100 days of thwarted expectations, do we still have the audacity of hope? Well, I'm hoping that my new micro-farm will end up feeding Walnut Avenue, reforesting Haiti and Peru, supporting farmer unions in Palestine and Liberia, and changing global food policy from the grassroots up. How is this going to happen? One step at a time. Let me describe it.
A figure used to show the interrelated steps of permaculture is called The Permaculture Flower. It has a petal for each of the key domains needing transformation in order to create sustainability. Weaving in and out of the petals is an evolutionary spiral that starts with the local and moves out to the collective and global. The petals are titled Land & Nature Stewardship, the Built Environment, Tools & Technology, Culture & Education, Health & Spiritual Wellbeing, Finance & Economics, and Land Tenure & Community Governance.
Permaculture design, Transition Towns, and Post-Carbon Cities all address peak-oil: our dependence on fossil fuels and the reality that we're nearing the peak of how much we can exploit nature and get away with it. What they don't address is the peak exploitation of people, a peak that I think we're already on the other side of, where it's a quick downhill slide. It's not that we're not trying. It's just that, no matter how high our military spending, we're not getting away with it anymore. From Latin American solidarity to the weakening dollar to the food, climate, economic, you-name-it crisis, we're a bully that hasn't yet realized that we've lost our. No one's following our orders anymore, except for the fellow exploiters on our USAID payroll: Israel, Columbia, Mexico, Egypt, and Syria. So my permaculture flower is out to transform our relationship with humanity, starting in our own neighborhood, and with nature, starting in our own backyard.
On my flower, the Grow Food Party Crew is the first petal to open. Food is the soil and seed of every community. On the weekend before our event, a small group met to put together the boxes. The guys got out the power tools, deliberated, measured and troubleshot. They cut, hammered, and screwed. In the 20 years since I convinced Tom to move to Santa Cruz, I think it was one of his strongest experiences of community. And it hooked him.
The weekend after our event, we threw another Grow Food Party at my friend Walter's house, who's been helping me with the website. I made the food, including spanakopita with the chard from Abby Young's garden planted by the Grow Food Party Crew the year before. Abby also gave me a CD that she'd laboriously edited, interviewing the USCS apprentices and participants. They talk about their reasons for being in the program and their hopes for the future, and what community gardening is all about. It will air after this broadcast, thanks to Abby.
The second petal is called Wide World Partners, which is a coalition of students from the public, private, and charter High School's whose purpose is to raise funds and awareness for global causes through sustainable means. Over the last year, a small group has been meeting around my dining room table where I've set up a white board. We discuss global issues and have had speakers in from Sweatfree Communities and Students Against Sweatshop Labor. We're ready to start raising money as soon as we find a donor to match what the students raise.
The third petal to open I'm calling Food in the 'Hood, which will be a frontyard Farmer's Market run by the High School students. I've partnered with Faria Farm Eggs and I-Rise Bakery, who has been doing home bread delivery for ten years. We're aiming to be a CSABCDEFG – Agriculture, Bread, Carne, Dairy, Eggs, Fish and Goodies. We'll sell produce from neighborhood backyards, and food prepared from the produce. We'll also have seed-starts to reuse all those excess plastic containers. We might have rare breeds of baby chicks, if the 45 eggs I'm incubating and turning 5X a day hatch. We'd also have fair-trade baked goods because my students are all in a cooking class.
To end this episode, I'd like to wish a Happy Easter to my mom and dad, Helen and Gene Zembower, who are visiting from Maryland, and I'd like to tell a story from my mom's childhood. Their version of Food in the 'Hood was a snowcone stand. They had homemade flavors that they poured over shaved ice – one snowcone for a penny and the fifth one free. A block of ice cost 15 cents, plus free cones for the person who went to get it. Every summer night, the neighborhood teens congregated at the Church of the Holy Snowball. Some summers they made $100. By my calculations, that's upwards of 12,000 snowcones, scraped by hand, each in its own washed and reusable glass cup. She and her sister helped their brother use his college scholarship, by buying his books with their snowcone money.
This has been Tereza Coraggio with Third Paradigm. Particular thanks to Devin Slavin and Brian Coltrin of the Grow Food Party Crew, and to Abby Young, recipient of the first garden. She's paid back the harvest in spades with the wonderful interviews that follow. Stay tuned for her editing labor of love, and thanks to Skidmark Bob for his help evening out the sound quality. Sustainability and community aren't new concepts. We just have to reclaim our right of birth. To that end, our final song is The Commons from David Rovics' CD of the same name.
[David Rovics – The Commons]
Thank you for listening.