a boots-on-the-ground view of the change that's a-foot

Archive for September, 2009 – Day of Climate Action

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009

by Tao, Carrboro, NC

Some days you can feel it in the air. The energy that is building towards Change. It catches me sometimes, like an unexpected burst of endorphins – a rush that reminds me to keep moving forward with hope and determination., founded by author Bill McKibben in 2007, has also been building energy, and getting us ready for a Day of Action.

350 is the most important number in the world–it’s what scientists say is the safe upper limit for carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Everyone from Al Gore to the U.N.’s top climate scientist has now embraced this goal as necessary for stabilizing the planet and preventing complete disaster. Now the trick is getting our leaders to pay attention and craft policies that will put the world on track to get to 350. If we can stop pouring more carbon into the atmosphere, then forests and oceans will slowly suck some of it out of the air and return us to safe levels.

On October 24, the International Day of Climate Action will cover almost every country on earth, the most widespread day of environmental action in the planet’s history.

There will be big rallies in big cities, and incredible creative actions across the globe: mountain climbers on our highest peaks with banners, underwater demonstrations in island nations threatened by sea level rise, churches and mosques and synagogues and ashrams engaged in symbolic action, star athletes organizing mass bike rides–and hundreds upon hundreds of community events to raise awareness of the need for urgent action.

On October 24, the International Day of Climate Action will cover almost every country on earth.There will be amazing events happening across the globe. Every event will highlight the number 350–and people will gather at some point for a big group photo depicting that all important message. At will assemble all the photos for a gigantic, global, visual petition.

Check for events in your area. Think 350 in all ways – plant 350 trees, drive 350 less days…and most importantly, tell 350 friends to join you in action on October 24th and beyond.

BALLE Births LocalMotive in Carrboro

Tuesday, September 29th, 2009

by Tao, Carrboro, NC

It started with BALLE – The Business Alliance for Local Living Economies, a national network of local, living economies, bringing together small business leaders, economic development professionals, government officials, social innovators, and community leaders to support and build local enconomies in cities and towns of all size. And economies that are community-based, tend to be more green, and fair. The areas of focus are becoming a familiar refrain – moving all communities towards sustainable agriculture – including local and urban farms – independent retail, zero-waste management and green building. Local initiatives encourage citizen involvement, empowerment and enthusiasm – part of the equation in distressed times.

Carrboro’s movers and shakers – you know, those kind people who are determined to get things done and give over their time, energy and knowledge to do it – have done just that. Local Motive is a newly formed group for local business owners, community leaders, and citizens. In an effort to organize and create a collective voice on issues facing local businesses, A group that can give independent businesses a network, building on current resources, to provide guidance and support to existing as well as new locally owned businesses.

Are you a mover and shaker? Find a network in your area here. Not on the list? Grab a neighbor and get motivated. Want to hear more? Check out Bill McKibbens book, Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future.

HAND-Y-JOB – the future of work

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009

by Tao, Carrboro, NC

Want to work with your hands? Be an entrepreneur? You’re not alone, although many people will initially fall into the category of ‘have to’ rather than ‘want to’. This isn’t all bad. I’ve talked to friends who have been laid off, and after the initial shock has worn off, admit that they are finding freedom and satisfaction in the choices they face. It’s not all golden – one friend moved in with his brother to make ends meet, but subsequently went back to school to prepare for a new career that he’s excited about and has already found part-time work to get him through the process.

Others are leaving (or being forced to leave) corporate positions to work with their hands. Lisa Maris Grillos founded Hambone Designs with her brother, Hernan Barangan, and began designing and making bicycle bags which they sell online through  John left a lucrative finance career to establish a business restoring and refinishing flooring and says he enjoys the feeling of completing a hands-on project. A laid-off teacher and her pregnant daughter decided to start a cookie-making business.

There is a collective soul-searching and/or disillusionment with corporate America as we begin to question the value of how we spend our days at the office. With the help of the internet, starting a business is getting easier and less expensive with online services like Starting/owning a business is never a bed of roses, but I think there’s something to the fact that it challenges our abilities, confidence and identity. According to this NY Times article, research shows that we tend to find and have more resilience in adversity – a kind of call to arms – and mentions the publication of : Reset: How this crisis can restore our values and renew America.

There’s also a strong case for the value – soulwise and otherwise – of working with your hands. After finishing a Ph.D. in political philosophy and finding the academic job market bleak, Matthew Crawford, author of Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry Into the Value of Work, spent the winter rebuilding and old Honda motorcycle, saying, “The physicality of it, and the clear specificity of what the project required of me, was a balm.”

This resonates with me, for despite the fact that my work has been mostly physical, I have constantly sought outlets for creating like drawing, painting and sewing. Others make projects of their homes or yards. The author quotes one of his high school shop teachers who says, “Without the opportunity to learn through the hands, the world remains abstract and distant, and the passions for learning will not be engaged.”

Of course, we can channel this energetic soul-searching to sustainable ends in our everyday lives and work.

That’s the best news I’ve heard all day.

Sea Shepherd, At the Edge of the World

Monday, September 21st, 2009

Paul Watson, founder of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, the pirate-protectors of whales, knows how to get things done. Although many animal protection agenices, like the Humane Society, resist condoning militant tactics of rescue groups, they can’t deny the effectiveness and determination of Paul and his crew of so-called “Pirates”, as they pursue whaling ships who who defy the world-wide anti-whaling treaty (transgressors are listed as Japan, Iceland and Norway). In his own less than state-of-the-art ships and in less than ideal antarctic conditions, the Sea Shepherd crew patrols the oceans with a mission – “to end the destruction of habitat and slaughter of wildlife in the world’s oceans in order to conserve and protect ecosystems and species.”

The idea of Sea Shepherd was formed when Captain Paul Watson founded the Earth Force Society in 1977 in Vancouver BC, Canada. The original mandate of both organizations was marine mammal protection and conservation with an immediate goal of shutting down illegal whaling and sealing operations, but Sea Shepherd later expanded its efforts to include all marine wildlife. Dedicating his life to protect the environment and animals since the age of 10 (read his full bio here), Paul was also one of the co-founders of GreenPeace.

Now you can see just what it takes to stop illegal whalehunters in the documentary, At The Edge of The World, released August 28th. Director, Dan Stone bankrolled this film himself – to the tune of 1.1 million dollars – after being exposed to the horror of seal slaughters. He was drawn to the story of Paul Watson when he heard him described as, “Someone who’s actually doing something.” When asked to describe the film, Dan said, “The action and adventure that unfold in the film also bring into play the larger questions of ends and means, injustice and indifference, idealism and greed, laws and politics and life and death.” Insisting that the camera is the most effective tool in fighting whaling, he has since helped create (as exec. producer) an Animal Planet Series called, Whale Wars.

Maybe sometimes it takes a little pirate to be a real hero and to get things done. Namaste and more, Paul and crew.

Photo from

Patrick Swayze wisdom

Thursday, September 17th, 2009

by Tao, Carrboro

I felt a bit lost when I heard that Patrick Swayze died of cancer on Monday. We know him in the many ways of Hollywood – dancer, fighter, lover – not too many people know he was an accomplished horseman and aspiring conservationist. I recall one of his off-screen quotes:

“The way to screw up somebody’s life is to give him what he wants.”

He may have been referring to his own life as he also once said,

“…I feel like I wasted my time with stardom back in the ’80s.”

In any regard, it gives us something to think about as we consider conservation and our consumer-driven American lives. Did we get too much/too fast of what we wanted? Fast food, fast cars, big houses, big lawns, big toys…? It seems that, a long while back, we lost perspective and even our souls in the process of deciding what we thought we wanted.

Or, what we thought was “normal” to want. A friend wrote on her wall on facebook, “When did it become normal to have a $100/mo. phone bill?” That is one of many related questions of what we consider “normal” in our lives – like 100$/mo for cable tv? for an espresso habit? Gas? A study was published last year on just this topic, as summarized by Rob Walker in NY Times magazine – “How do consumers decide, in our relationship with material culture, what is “normal”? Obviously, the answers had some negative ecological consequences and, I believe, as Patrick said, “screwed up” our lives in some ways.

The reality is that defining a new normal is a painstakingly slow process. We’ve had more sustainable alternatives to most “stuff” long before green products found a significant presence in the marketplace – some people don’t “see” that which isn’t considered normal.

But, if we consciously and collectively move towards a lower-energy life – a new “normal”, I believe we can stop screwing things up – and be happier, healthier and more balanced in our lives than we are now. It may not give us everything we want at any given moment, but we may just get what we need.

Carrboro raw – it had to happen

Wednesday, September 16th, 2009

by Tao, Carrboro

Like many people, I love to sip. And when I look around me whether I’m at the coffee shop, the co-op or on at a picnic table at Johnny’s, I realize I’m not alone. Hot tea, really good, strong coffee, kombucha, a deep red wine….it’s comforting, it’s social. Now I can add super-nourishing to that equation – because Carrboro is getting a juice bar! When I heard about Carrboro raw and saw the space, it felt so obvious – we’ve all been waiting, whether we knew it or not.

Nice Polid was born in Brazil, moved to the U.S. 25 years ago, spending most of that time in New York, where she attended the National Gourmet Institute for Food and Health. She also obtained certification as a Holistic Health Counselor from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. She planted her truck in a small, bamboo-fenced lot across the street from the co-op. Her smile alone is enough to draw customers, but this is not your typical smoothie station. Her juices are extracted and squeezed on demand from raw, alive fruits and veggies coming as much as possible from local and organic farms. Her recipes will also include superfoods, nuts and seeds.

“Our mission is to provide alternative, nutritious and delicious raw beverages that are in harmony with your body and the Earth – made on demand with very good quality ingredients by people who are passionate about life and health!!”

It’s a thrill to know that Nice chose to land here and open Carrboro raw, right in the heart of downtown, but in a way, I’m not surprised, either. Our town is overtly and covertly setting the stage for things like urban farms, co-housing communities, local currency, co-ops, farmer’s markets and – juice bars. It’s a combination of inspiration, dedication, grass-roots efforts, and an energy that holds up through it all.

What is waiting to happen in your town??

Urban Farm Tour – the future unfolding

Monday, September 14th, 2009

by Tao, Carrboro

Did you know that in acres, LAWNS are the largest “crop” in America?? They use up to 800 million gallons of gas to mow – carbon emissions included – and I don’t even want to think about the amount of water used in irrigating something that we just look at.

Grass is not so “green” in my town. Instead, there’s a strong initiative supporting and encouraging backyard – or frontyard – “farming”. The 2nd Annual Urban Farm Tour happened this past Saturday, hosted by Carrboro Greenspace Collective, a grassroots group promoting Community and Sustainability. The Tour left from downtown, via bicycles, and stopped at 15 sites, some keeping bees or goats and all growing food in spaces no larger than an average backyard. (In 1940-something, it was called a “Victory Garden“.) The event included skill-shares workshops like composting, vegetable gardening and honey harvesting and concluded as the cool of evening arrived, with a potluck meal. I haven’t heard the final count this year, but last year, close to 300 people attended.

The ongoing intiatives of Carrboro Greenspace want to make sustainable and healthy practices – like Urban Farming and alternative transportation – more visible and accessible to everyone. They also believe that education will help us join forces for change, so regularly provide free viewing of documentary films at a downtown outdoor space, like the one I saw last night – Food Fight. A great complement to the Tour, the film describes how corporations have influenced and controlled our food sources and contributed to the decline of our health and environment. There was a good turn-out and local, Tom Philbott, Grist Food Editor, spoke afterwards.

(<<<My favorite Urban Tour Tee!)

A locally-grown lifestyle is the way to feed a healthy future. Be involved. Be aware. Be ready.

Snakes are People, too — ??

Monday, September 14th, 2009

I was collecting old music posters from poles around town on Saturday. Saw this flyer – can’t decide if it is for real …… small cats???? eek.

The recession affects all of us in different ways, I guess.

The next morning, I found a note from the paper delivery person. It said the Sunday paper “will now be delivered to the mailboxes, due to SNAKES!”

Last night, I saw a Copperhead  stretched across the road.

Snake medicine? hmmmm

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