Friday, October 23, 2009

Saying Yes

We got this in our inbox the other day and I love it - Ricki

LocalHarvest.orgLocalHarvest Newsletter, October 22, 2009


This is a story about trying to do something good, getting stuck, getting angry, leaning over the edge of gloominess, and then, finally, getting over myself. It is a story about the importance of saying yes.

First, a confession: sometimes I think if I hear one more person name 'recycling' as a substantive act of environmental protection, I will lose it. At the same time, I am as much of a ninny about radical change as the next guy. I am absolutely ready to move beyond "Ten Easy Things You Can Do to Save the Earth", but not quite ready to suspend all air travel, live in a tent, or eat squirrel.

What I thought I'd do was plant a few fruit trees. There's a large, empty lot near my house. It was destined to hold condos before the landowner's Ponzi scheme caught up with him. Thinking it might be a number of years before this land gets developed, some local food activists and I thought we'd plant half a dozen apple trees on the perimeter, where they might fit in with the eventual plans for the property. We called it a community orchard. We envisioned people walking by and picking a couple of apples to snack on during their walk: local health food, to go.

All was going well. The bank that owns the property initially agreed to the idea, provided the neighbors in the adjacent condo units were amenable. Meetings were held. Plans were made. People got excited. And then we hit a snag. The banker decided he needed a series of indemnification documents. Price tag: $600.

We can skip over the part of this story where I paced around my office waving my arms and yelling. There was no entity behind the orchard, mind you, just a group of like-minded people trying to implement what we thought was a good idea. The money for the project was being pooled from members of the group, our friends and neighbors. I could not bear to nearly double the project's budget just to ensure that the bank wouldn't get sued if an apple dropped on someone's head. I wanted to drop the whole thing. For a few days, things got bleak in my own head. This thought kept coming back to me: if we can't get a few trees planted on an empty lot, how are we ever going to take on the really big stuff?

Finally I was ready to stop wailing and gnashing my teeth and consider Plan B, offered by an inspired activist who proposed that we locate the orchard on public land, via a new community garden approval process she has been crafting with the City.

Between you and me, I had not wanted to work with a bureaucracy to get these trees planted. It felt too complicated. Trouble is, I still believe that a community orchard is a good idea. So, if making it happen involves getting over feeling lazy and too busy, inexperienced and shy, so be it. I'm trying to make an internal shift from, "That's too hard," to simply, "Okay, yes." Yes to overcoming inertia. Yes to complexity. Yes to not knowing what I'm doing. Yes to getting bigger inside.

As you have probably heard, this coming Saturday, October 24, people from nearly 170 countries are putting together over 4,000 events for the International Day of Climate Action. It is activism on an extraordinary scale, designed to send an unequivocal message to the United Nations Climate Change meeting in December. If you haven't yet visited the website, do. You will find events happening near you and see photos and descriptions of events already happening worldwide. Some are wildly creative, and many are surprisingly moving.

In my town, activists will be collecting pledge cards on Saturday, asking people to commit to whatever climate actions they choose. Essentially they are asking, "What is the biggest thing you can say yes to?" The International Day of Climate Action has the potential to move our national conversation beyond "Ten Easy Things...", but only if we are ready to acknowledge that significant change is often not at all easy. Shoot, just getting a few fruit trees planted may turn out to be a lot of pushing uphill. Even so, it's worth doing. So... what are the biggest things we can say yes to?

As always, take good care and eat well,

Erin Barnett

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