Thursday, November 13, 2008

Falling leaves; changing climate

Cool weather in the fall causes the witch hazel to blossom. Below is same tree a few days earlier.

November 13, 2008 Middle Tennessee, @ 2:45 p.m.

I have been thinking about this moment for many days. I've been waiting for all the leaves to fall so that I can rake them for compost and then mulch my gardens with pine straw for the winter. It's finally happened. Both my cherry tree and my witch hazel have shed all but a few of their leaves. Both trees are surrounded by garden plots and their leaves just keep building up in them. I have other trees which are still hanging on to their leaves: a young elm tree is as green as ever; a Japanese maple has changed colors but the leaves have not yet fallen. Another tree, a parrotia, is changing colors but holding fast to its leaves.

Other trees in our condominium neighborhood are doing their own thing. Most tulip trees are still full and golden; the Bradford pears are about half and half.

Have you ever noticed the fallen leaves of Bradford pears? Each one is an exquisite original design with prints of the leaves smaller and of different shades nesting one within it.

This has been a long and pleasant fall. Election day (Nov. 5) weather here was perfect. And in Chicago where President-elect Barack Obama gave his victory speech to huge crowds in Grant Park, the weather was unbelievably warm. Two or three days later a Chicago friend reported the temperature dropped 36 degrees. That's more like Chicago weather for this time of year.

Despite several very cold days here, the temperature is back up so that I was very comfortable outside wearing a light sweater. I keep thinking its too late to plant a crop of winter greens but maybe not if I hurry.

All this leads me to think about global warming. Albert Bates who teaches permaculture at the Ecovillage Training Center has said that warmer weather is moving further and further north. He thinks that planting trees and protecting those we have is a necessary strategy to reduce the impact of climate change. He is not alone in that theory. Albert also says that we need to start figuring out which trees (and other plants) will thrive in the changing weather conditions as warmer temperatures creep northward. Succession, in which different species take hold according to environmental changes, is usually a gradual process but since the earth is warming so fast, comparatively speaking, we need to help Nature adapt by purposefully planting adaptable species. One way we can figure this out is to look at ecosystems to the south of where we are.

We can also become more observant of the nature around us and take some notes. I think tulip trees which are well entrenched in this part of Middle Tennessee will be here for a while because they survive unpredictable late frosts well. How can I tell? Striplings killed by frost bounce back as trees with two or three main trunks.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Tomato season is almost over...but it was great!

This is October 13 and it's still warm during the day. The leaves are starting to fall here in Middle Tennessee but we haven't had a cold snap yet. I planted four tomato plants this growing season. One in the ground in our patio garden and three in big pots. The three in pots didn't grow at all, but the Early Girl I planted in the ground took over the entire plot, about 4 yards by 1 yard.

We've had just enough ripe tomatoes for a salad everyday since July. My husband Jimmy makes them with romaine, celery, carrots, radishes, cabbage, green peppers and tomatoes. Recently he has started adding fresh turnips, peeled and sliced. He makes the salad on a dinner plate and we divide it for our evening meal. Our tomatoes have been small or medium, never large, but always firm and juicy. Always delicious.

We still have some green ones on the vine and lots of yellow blossoms which probably won't fruit. I'll leave the plant go until the first frost. The night before I'll bring in the green tomatoes and let them ripen inside. Or maybe I'll cook 'em. I really feel bad about the potted tomato plants which included a Roma and cherry tomato. I think the soil was bad; it was mostly purchased top soil. Who knows what goes into those bags. The dirt is always black as oil.

I also planted several pepper plants none of which flourished. My jalapeno pepper plant produced two peppers. The rest just wilted and wilted. I researched this problem online and learned that pepper plants are often infected with a virus or other disease in nurseries. I could have returned them but had misplaced my receipt.

Despite my failures this summer, I think we saved enough money on tomatoes to cover my investment in plants. I used no garden fertilizer or insecticide, just watered the plants during the dry spells. I also saved two buckets of water each time I took a bath for the garden. I always add epsom salt to my baths and plants like it. My husband is not too happy about this bath water stuff. Our tub is upstairs and he's afraid I'll drop a bucket or something. It would be great if we could send our bath water (gray water) directly to the garden via the plumbing. I know this is being done but having researched the logistics of doing it here.

We all need to learn how to grow our some of our own food. And we also need to learn how to conserve water. My father's family had a rough time during the Depression but they gardened.
I guess that's how Daddy learned to eat peanut butter and tomato sandwiches: protein plus vitamin C! He taught Mama and us kids to eat them, too. We loved them.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Okra season and the financial crisis

In May when I was thinking about digging up the rose bushes in the side garden and planting okra seeds in their place, a gentleman named Ian Macwhirter wrote the following in the British newspaper The New Statesman:

This is the worst financial crisis in 60 years, and it has shaken the banking system to its foundations. Even the Chancellor, Alistair Darling, has compared the crisis to the Great Depression and he is not given to overstatement. Banks are in the business of lending money they don't have - it is called "fractional reserve banking". But every so often the banks succumb to irrational exuberance, lend too much and find their reserves have been eaten up too fast, forcing them out of business. This is what happened to Northern Rock, and is now happening to all the big banks. That is why they had to be rescued to the tune of £50bn last month by the Bank of England - ie, us. They will be back for more.

This in answer to the question "How bad is it?" in a story headlined Everything you want to know about the bank crisis published on May 1st of this year. The next question MacWhirter set out to answer:

Do the banks know what they are doing? Well, they know now. During the house-price bubble, the banks were lending recklessly to people with no prospects. In the US it was called "sub-prime" lending, and amounted to organised fraud. Loans were knowingly given to "Ninjas" - people with "no income, no job or assets" - who could never hope to repay them. Britain too had sub-prime lending. At the peak of the boom UK banks offered "suicide loans" of up to 120 per cent of the value of the house with only self-certification of income. The mortgage holders were in negative equity as soon as they got the keys. These people are in real trouble as mortgage rates rise and house prices fall. Northern Rock lent out roughly 200,000 of these in the two years before it went bust and had to be nationalised. This makes the government the biggest holder of sub-prime mortgages in Britain.

The next question?

How could the banks be so stupid?
Partly this was down to the delusion that house prices could only ever go up. But the other reason was a practice called "securitisation". The banks packaged the dodgy loans into interest-bearing bonds and sold these to financial institutions across the world. This took the loans off the banks' balance sheets and allowed them to lend even more money they didn't have. The banks thought, wrongly, that they no longer bore the risk of default on these mortgages because they had been sold on to other people. This was a big mistake. The debts came winging back. Now the entire financial system is in cardiac arrest because banks no longer trust each other.

But you may ask and so does Macwhirter:

Didn't the regulators see this coming?
Regulators such as the Financial Services Authority and the Bank of England were asleep at the wheel. The Treasury, Bank and FSA are run by relatively low-paid civil servants who are in awe of financiers and their lifestyles. They believed that the banks were run by masters of the universe who knew what they were doing, with their mathematical formulas and leveraged deals. In fact they were run by bonus-greedy wide boys, who gave no thought to the future and had no concept of social responsibility. The City bonus culture encourages short-termism and risk-taking. It was in these people's interest to pretend the credit boom could go on for ever, and that securitisation had taken the risk out of lending money. They thought they wouldn't be around to clear up the mess. In fact, even when the roof did fall in, those such as Adam Applegarth of Northern Rock still got their pay-offs and bonuses - in his case a "golden goodbye" of £750.000. Shareholders seem unwilling to curb the greed of the new generation of CEOs who run City firms. The regulators don't even try.

Back in May when I was just thinking about planting some four year old okra seeds in the side garden a British journalist was writing about a banking crisis in England. It is September now and my 10 okra plants are still producing more than enough okra for my husband and I to eat. But their growing season is nearing its end; the old leaves are turning yellow and rusty brown and the new leaves are small and thin.

It's September and the U.S. is in the midst of the worst financial crisis since the Wall Street crash of 1929 which set off The Great Depression of the thirties. I have included excerpts from Macwhirter's story about the British banking crisis in May because I think it's instructive about our own. The entire story can be found here. In fact, his story gives us distance--real and emotional--which makes it easier to grasp what is going on here. He is also a bit more frank than I've found most American commentators to be. And less confused.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

My tree nursery

For several years I have been saving tree seedlings that pop up in my garden courtesy of friendly birds. Some have gotten rather big. Each summer it is a lot of work to keep them alive. Since they're in pots they must be watered faithfully. We have no outdoor water source in our condo so we must use pitchers. Another problem is that I'm running out of space and pots (and dirt!).

A while back I joined a local yahoo Freecycle group and I've been posting household items on it. Yesterday I decided to post bedding plants which are offshoots of my own perennials. Then I decided to post my trees.

Today, a woman took one of my oldest trees, a hackberry. It has survived so many summers and was such a pretty tree; I had trimmed it to look like trees in Japanese paintings. She also took a black locust which was about as old.

I'll miss them but now they will be able to grow freely.

This is a shot of my tree nursey right before she picked them up. The hackberry is at the left; the locust is sort of lost in the other trees at the right. Other trees include more hackberries, oaks, maples, river birches, elms, honey locusts and a black walnut. All courtesy of birds and squirrels.

This was a farewell party, I guess.

I will grow vegetables in the space they and the others occupied.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Transition books reviewed by New Zealand EcoVillage Founder

This book review will interest some of you - by physician friend Joanna Santa Barbara, formerly of Hamilton, now (with husband Jack Santa Barbara of Sustainable Scale etc) launching an EcoVillage in New Zealand/Aotearoa. - (Posted to by Bill Curry)

How should we live? Three book reviews
by Joanna Santa Barbara, Atamai Village Council, Motueka

The Transition Handbook: From oil dependency to local resilience, by Rob Hopkins (Totnes, UK: Green Books, 2008).

Post Carbon Cities: Planning for Energy and Climate Uncertainty, by Daniel Lerch (Sebastopol, USA: Post Carbon Press, 2007).

The Natural Step for Communities: How Cities and Towns can Change to Sustainable Practices, by Sarah James and Torbjorn Lahti (Gabriola Island, Canada: New Society Publishers, 2004).

Are you looking for inspiration and ideas to transform your town, city, neighbourhood into a vital community, producing its own nutritious food, supplying its own energy, resilient to expected shocks of climate change and energy depletion? All three of these books offer therapy for those suffering from ‘post-petroleum stress disorder’, to use Rob Hopkins’s apt phrase, or from climate-change catatonia.

There is no doubt that a soul can get shaken to the core by facing the realities of the multiple ecological crises facing our planet, together with descent from ‘peak oil’ production, and now also threats to global financial stability. Facing uncertainty in many dimensions, a very strong argument can be developed for a risk management approach. The potential gains are greater and losses are fewer in preparing for the worst than by hoping that life will proceed as usual indefinitely.

But what does such preparation look like? Some folk are electing to start ‘from scratch’ to build the infrastructure of communities that can work in a post-carbon, climate-unstable future – the sustainable villages movement. Others start where they are, planning to convert both structure and function of their towns, cities, islands and regions in the direction of sustainability and resilience to shocks. These initiatives will all surely complement and aid each other. These three books are about the conversion of existing urban areas.

The difference between the books is that Rob Hopkins (UK) describes the movement from below, the grassroots, the people’s initiative; Daniel Lerch (North America) directs his recommendations to local governments, that is, to city councillors and town planners; James and Lahti (Sweden) begin with local authorities and move to a democratic community development process. The three books fit very neatly together. Their visions are strongly compatible. Their approaches are sufficiently different to make reading all three worthwhile.

The UK and North American books begin with an overview of the problems of ‘peak oil’ and climate change.

The Swedish book begins with an explanation of the Natural Stepfour principles of sustainability which will be applied to the structure and function of towns and cities. These are: In the sustainable society, Nature is not subject to systematically increasing:

1. concentrations of substances extracted from the Earth’s crust
2. concentrations of substances produced by society
3. degradation by physical means and in that society,
4. human needs are met world-wide.

It can be readily seen that such principles lead directly to limiting fossil fuel use (responding to both ‘peak oil’ and climate change issues), use of natural materials, organic agriculture, systematic protection of all ecosystems, as well as attention to justice and equity. These fundamental markers of sustainability underlie and guide a great range of derived principles and strategies.

Community resilience is an organizing principle of Rob Hopkins’s thinking about Transition Initiatives. He foresees shocks to human settlements from oil decline and climate change and asserts that the features that enable resilience of a system to shocks are diversity, modularity and ‘tight feedbacks’.

Diversity refers to kinds of people, connexions between them, kinds of land use, kinds of economic activity.

Modularity refers to the capacity of parts of the system to self-organize in the event of a crisis.

Tightness of feedback concerns how easily the system registers when things are going wrong or right.

A resilient community will be self-reliant for basic needs, although it may benefit from trade relationships for nonessentials. The community will be capable of feedingitself, providing its own energy and water. It will build with local materials and have a strong local economy, possibly with a local currency. There is therefore a focus on smaller-scale communities – town
or neighbourhood-sized.

A strong feature of Rob Hopkins’s book is his inclusion of many ‘tools for transition’, teaching devices and exercises for groups working in this direction. Both his book and the James and Lahti book deal with the psychology of change, recognizing that the change in values and attitudes required to build resilient, sustainable communities in harmony with the biosphere requires major shifts for most people. Those who want to move to action on transition in their own communities will find the pathway mapped by Rob Hopkins extremely helpful, even though it is recognized that each community will tread a unique route. To whet the activist appetite, his suggested twelve-step programme is:

1. Set up a steering group and design its demise from the outset.

2. Raise awareness.

3. Lay the foundations by networking with pre-existing groups and activists.

4. Organize a ‘Great Unleashing’, an inaugural event.

5. Form groups around major theme areas, for example, food, retrofitting houses, energy, land use.

6. Use meeting strategies that maximize inclusion of the ideas of many people, and release creativity, such as ‘Open Space Technology.’

7. Develop visible practical manifestations of the project, such as a community garden or a structure built with local materials.

8. Facilitate the ‘Great Reskilling’, recovering dwindling skills for survival
in a low-energy future, for example, food preserving, composting, scything, tree grafting.

9. Build a bridge to local government.

10. Honour the elders, who have experience in living at lower energy and
material consumption levels.

11. Let it go where it wants to go.

12. Create an Energy Descent Action Plan.

One might add to the latter step, create a plan that also includes adaptation to climate change, water problems, and sea level rise if that is relevant to the site.

All three books agree on the sectors of needed action, although each has different emphases. Lerch, writing for city councils, begins with urging cities to join global networks of other municipalities working in the same direction and to sign the Oil Depletion Protocol as a city, in order to reduce vulnerability. He goes on to say, ‘Deal with transportation and land use (or you might as well stop now)’. He charges city councils with responsibility to encourage energy conservation in private use, assertively engaging the business community ‘to reinvent the local economy for a post-carbon world’.

His slogan is ‘Reduce consumption and produce locally.’

He cites several case examples of cities on the way to adaptation to a post-carbon world.

The Swedish book by James and Lahti is organized by sectors of action: renewable energy, transportation, housing, green businesses, ‘eco-economic development’, ecological schools and education, sustainable agriculture, waste, land use and planning. The book is rich with case studies. The approach is being used in scores of towns and cities around the world, including the city of Christchurch, and is also applied by businesses. It is perhaps the most extensively applied of the three approaches.

While Rob Hopkins’s book focusses primarily on the process of change. he does examine specifically the envisioned sectoral changes in food and farming (with emphasis on the merits of Permaculture), medicine and health, education, economy (with emphasis on the merits of local currencies), transport, energy, housing. There are several case studies of Transition Towns in progress, and many examples of creative ‘visioning’, as recommended by the writer.

The Transition Towns approach is being rapidly adopted by scores of UK towns and about 35 New Zealand towns.

I found all three books to be potent sources of learning and will return to them many times in the future. I have a couple of criticisms.. The first is a failure of the Hopkins and Lerch books to place their creative recommendations in the very big picture of inquiring about the scale of human impact on the region or bioregion of interest: ‘How much human economic activity, of what kind, can this segment of the biosphere cope with without degradation? How many humans, at what levels of consumption, can it support?’ It is possible that we may reduce consumption significantly and still continue to degrade the place we live in, though at a slower rate. The answers to these questions are not easy to come by, but we need to know.

Secondly, we need to get our minds around working out an economy with a steady-state material through-put, that is, no material growth in the economy. This idea clashes seriously with the prevailing assumptions. All the more reason it needs to be incorporated into our ideas of envisioning and moving towards future resilient, sustainable communities.

That said, all three of these books provide a feast for those wanting to take action on these issues. Judging by the entries on the Transition Towns website, this group of folk and the list of towns in which they live are multiplying by the day. Networks of interest are:

New Zealand Transition Towns

Living Economies, Aotearoa/New Zealand

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Reviews of Michael Clayton and Himalaya

I subscribe to Netflix because it seems to be the only way I can watch the foreign films, documentaries and independent films that I enjoy. I rarely enjoy American films being made today. My husband is always fussing at me because I never order the newer films. He likes action and newness though he usually watches my films with me and seems to enjoy them. The last one we watched together was Himalaya (1999), based on story of the Dolpo Pa, the people of a village in the Himalayas of Nepal. The village was founded by wandering Tibetans, probably Buddhist pilgrims, long ago and is in the middle of nowhere surrounded by Himalayan peaks. Each year the villagers travel to a market in the foothills to trade salt for grain which they must have to survive. The salt is mounted on yaks which the villagers herd down treacherous slopes in sometimes brutal weather to reach the market. In 1998 (?), the French director Eric Valli made this film with a French crew and a cast made up of Dolpo villagers. The film was released by a Nepalese company and received an Academy Award nomination for Best Foreign Film. The dramatic journey is further enlivened by a conflict between an old chief and a young man with his own leadership abilities. The villagers do well in competition with the two other stars, the weather (a snowstorm) and the Himalayas. And the story is beautiful. Making the film was an ordeal for the director and his crew, unaccustomed to the weather, living in tents and the isolation of the mountains. I am extremely grateful for their perserverance because I would never have learned about the beautiful Dolpo Pa, a people totally unaffected by Western civilization.
This brings me to the film Michael Clayton which my impatient husband rented from Blockbuster. We watched it last night. George Clooney plays an attorney cum "fixer", one of three sons of a retired big city (New York) Irish cop. He's an ok guy: divorced, a gambler, whose restaurant business failed leaving him (actually his brother, an alcoholic) in debt to a shady loan operator. He works for a law firm whose clients are corporations fighting class action lawsuits among other things. The plot hinges on one of his fellow lawyers in this firm who suddenly goes bonkers working on this particular case, a class action suit against a weedkiller manufacturer (Monsanto?) whose product (Roundup?) is poisoning the water table in a small farming community somewhere in the U.S. His friend, Arthur, played by Tom Wilkinson, a first rate lawyer in the biz, suddenly acquires a conscience, goes off his bipolar meds, loses it and in various ways, some rather colorful, compromises the client's defense against the poisoned farm families. I like Tom Wilkinson who came to fame as one of the bare assed men in The Full Monty (1997), played opposite Sissy Spacek in In the Bedroom (2001) and Jessica Lange in Normal (2003), the TV movie about a middle-aged married man who decides to become a woman.
Michael Clayton has an interesting plot which revolves around Michael, Arthur, the weedkiller case and the corporation's effort to deny responsibility at any and all costs. I won't spoil it. But I will say that I liked its insinuation that normal people take drugs to treat so-called mental illnesses which in fact may be caused by a guilty conscience and trying to stay afloat in the very sick culture we call global capitalism. Also, I really dislike Montsanto and its herbicide, Roundup, which I will forever believe are hidden targets of the movie's script. Another nice touch is a subtle reference made to the 1977 film, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, about how thousands of people worldwide were mysteriously and unknowingly summoned to a meeting place somewhere in the American West.

Friday, February 15, 2008

From the Heart of the World

This stunning photograph was presented as a Valentine's Day greeting yesterday. It is so beautiful in and of itself as are all the photos on Nihihiro & Shihiro's Flickr site. But it reminded me of a wonderful book I read many years ago: Alan Ereira's From the Heart of the World.

Somehow Ereira learned of a tribe of Indians in Colombia who had an oral history of Columbus' arrival in their part of the New World. This members of this indigenous tribe, the Kogis, are remnants of the Tairona civilization that flourished in the Santa Marta mountain area before the arrival of Columbus. When relations with the gold hungry Spanish deteriorated this people retreated further and further up the Santa Marta, finally settling in the furthest reaches of it, the Sierra Nevada. They lived there in the mountain heights for many centuries, avoiding contact with civilization but watching those whom they call their "younger brothers" (us) from afar.
The Kogis believe it is their duty to take care of their Mother and ours, the Earth. About the time Ereira learned about them, their leaders, called Mamas, had decided that the "younger brothers" were doing things that were hurting the Mother, our Earth. So after centuries of avoiding civilization, the Mamas came to believe that it was time to reach out to us and to warn us that we were harming the Earth.

Alan Ereira's book, which was later republished under the title, The Elder Brothers, is the story of his meeting the Kogi Mamas and of how he worked with them to make a film about them and their message to us about our Mother, the Earth.

In the time that has passed between the release of Ereira's film which I believe was in the 1980"s and the present, the Kogis and three other Tairona peoples have experienced many difficulties resulting from the intrusions of Younger Brother. One of the most devastating intrusions has been the result of the U.S. government's War on Drugs.

The coca bean has been an essential part of Kogi life over the centuries. Chewing the bean has helped them withstand extreme cold and perservere in the intensive labor necessary to successfully farm the slopes of the Sierra Nevada. In an effort to control the trafficking of cocaine, the U.S. government has sponsored aerial fumigations of vast stretches of Kogi lands. Other troubles have occurred because the Colombian government has resettled other Colombian in the Kogi land reserves.

Perhaps worse than anything else that has befallen them, the Elder Brothers' warning to us, their undisciplined Younger Brothers, has not been heeded, and they are watching the precious snows disappear from the Sierra Nevada, the snows which feed the streams that water the lands all the way down to the bottom of the Santa Marta mountains of Colombia.

The indigenous peoples of the Sierra Nevada knew about global warming before we did. They've been living in the heart of the earth and they have been watching their Younger Brothers wound the Mother that sustains us all. Their concern led them to emerge from their hidden retreat to warn us about our careless treatment of our Earth. Ever since I read about them I have held the Kogis and the other Tairona peoples in my heart. I truly believe I feel the grief and the helplessness that they must feel. I believe the Kogis and other indigenous peoples carry within them a wisdom which we do not have. I believe we should listen to our Elder Brothers.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Who am I?

I recently joined an online network called Native Spirits and one of my Multiply friends, Walking Path, found me there; she is a member, too. She inquired about my interest and to answer her, I wrote the following little essay. Her question caused me to explain myself -- one of my better, deeper, truer selves -- to myself. Here I share this self with you.

A very long time ago, I told my daughter that for our country to get on a healthy. life-supporting, earth-friendly track, that we would have to depend on Native Americans because they have knowledge of this place, this land, which we (I am not Native American as far as i know) hybrid invaders from Europe do not have access to.

I also told her that African Americans would have essential contributions to make to a more equitable and compassionate socio-economic system or structure or way of life because they too possess knowledge and understanding that white people cannot access directly.

I have cast my lot with these two peoples although they are probably more than two. I am deeply attracted to their stories. I know much more first hand about African Americans than i do about Native Americans. I know none personally. Perhaps, that is why i wanted to be a part of Native Spirits.

I am a seeker of wisdom, always have been. And I have learned to follow my child heart. At 65 I am still learning about myself and others. I am just a human being who has a thirst for life, a love of life and of the Earth that gives us life.

I truly believe that our Earth is in danger, that the beautiful blue jewel of our solar system, a delicately balanced ecosystem that cradles all the living beings who call it home, is threatened as never before.

The Earth is my Mother, our Mother, really, but when I say my Mother, I mean to emphasize how I feel about our current predicament. A child loves her mother and is protective of her Mother because she knows that her Mother gives her life, protects and sustains her. That is my heart.

I also love others,. I grieve for the pain of those who have had their worlds swept away...It is impossible to dwell on the cruelty that some human beings have imposed upon other human beings without heartbreaking pain.

I am old and honored to be old. To be old is to have the wisdom of many years, a great treasure, not to be neglected. Yes, I truly believe that i am an elder of sorts. I seek the wisdom of others who are old. I draw courage and strength from the young and seek their wisdom, too. I take a long view and believe it is time to seek the wisdom of the elders. But I want to teach younger people to believe in their own child hearts which is what becomes the wisdom of the elders. Learning patience is a way to truth. But so is action. Cooperation. Work.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Homeland security to seize Apache Lands

In violation of United Nations Declaration on Rights of Indigenous People the U.S. government plans to forcibly take land from the Lipan Apache people to construct a fence and levee to keep illegal immigrants from crossing the U.S. border. The following is a letter from Margo Tamez, the daughter of a family being threatened by agents of the U.S. government.

Dear Relatives,

I wish I was writing under better circumstances, but I must be fast and direct. My mother and elders of El Calaboz, since July have been the targets of numerous threats and harassments by the Border Patrol, Army Corps of Engineers, National Security Agency (NSA), and other U.S. government
agents who want to put a fence on their levee on Apache land.

Since July, they have been the targets of numerous telephone calls, unexpected and uninvited visits. The agents informed the Apache that they will have to relinquish parts of their land grant holdings to the border fence buildup. The NSA demands that elders give up their lands to build the levee, and further, that they travel a distance of 3 miles, to go through checkpoints, to walk, farm, and herd goats and cattle, on their own lands!

This threat against indigenous people, life ways and lands has been very very serious and stress inducing to local leaders, such as Dr. Eloisa Garcia Tamez, who has been in isolation from the larger indigenous rights community due to the invisibility of indigenous people of South Texas and Northern Tamaulipas to the larger social justice conversation regarding the border issues.

However recent events, of the last 5 days cause us to feel that we are in urgent need of immediate human rights observers in the area, deployed by all who can help as soon as possible--immediate relief.

My mother informed me, as I got back into cell range out of Redford, TX, on Monday, November 13, that Army Corps of Engineers, Border Patrol and National Security Agency teams have been going house to house, and calling on her personal office phone, her cell phone and in other venues, tracking down and enclosing upon the people and telling them that they have no other choice in this matter. They are telling elders and other vulnerable people that "the wall is going on these lands
whether you like it or not, and you have to sell your land to the U.S."

My mother, Eloisa Garcia Tamez, Lipan Apache is resisting the forced occupation with firm resistance. She has already had two major confrontations with NSA since July--one in her office at the University of Texas at Brownsville, where she is the Director of a Nursing Program and where she conducts research on diabetes among indigenous people of the MX-US binational region of South Texas and Tamaulipas.

She reports that some land owners in the Rancheria area of El Calaboz, La Paloma and El Ranchito, under pressure to sell to the U.S. without prior and informed consent, have already signed over their lands, due to their ongoing state of impoverishment and exploitation in the area under colonization, corporatism, NAFTA and militarization.

This is an outrage, but more, this is a significant violation of United Nations Declaration on Rights of Indigenous People, recently ratified and accepted by all UN nations, except the U.S., Canada, and Australia.

Furthermore, it is a violation of the United Nations CERD, Committee on Elimination of Racism and Racial Discrimination.

My mother is under great stress and crisis, unknowing if the Army soldiers and the NSA agents will be forcibly demanding that she sign documents. She reports that they are calling her at all hours, seven days a week. She has firmly told them not to call her anymore, nor to call her at all hours of the night and day, nor to call on the weekends any further. She asked them to meet with her in a public space and to tell their supervisors to come. They refuse to do so. Instead, they continue to harass and intimidate.

At this time, due to the great stress the elders are currently under, communicated to me, because they are being demanded under covert tactics, to relinquish indigenous lands, I feel that I MUST call upon my relatives, friends, colleagues, especially associates in Texas within driving distance to the Rio Grande valley region, and involved in indigenous rights issues, to come forth and aid us.

Please! Please help indigenous women land title holders resisting forced occupation in their own lands! Please do not hesitate to forward this to people in your own networks in media, journalism, social and environmental justice, human rights, indigenous rights advocacy and public health watch groups!

Margo Tamez

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Truckers and the cost of gas

Here's another note from a Yahoo group, Peak Oil Nashville. It's an up close look at one of the signs of our time.

Posted by: "Bill Campbell" composter243

Fri Jan 4, 2008 10:12 am (PST)
Spoke with my trucker nephew today. He's paying an average of $3.40 a
gallon for diesel and the fuel cost back billing to shippers is not
covering the spread. He's hearing via CB radio many tales of woe from
independent owner/drivers which comprise 57% of the total trucks on
the road.

He said the fuel station parking lots are unusually full of drivers
trying to telephonically score loads from brokers that will provide
even the smallest margin of profit. There are many sitting idle for
longer periods of time, turning down offers of loads because they
can't make any money on them due to fuel costs.

He said there was a general call for a strike to begin at noon on the
3rd but no participation because everyone is so strapped and can't
absorb any more loss of income that a strike would cause. He didn't
know the % of drivers that were teamsters union but said it's way
less than it once was.

Much worry going on out there on America's highways.

No-till gardening/farming conversation in Kansas

This announcement was posted by a member of I share it here just to pass it on. The event will take place January Friday at 5:15 p.m. local time.

Patrice Gros* wishes to have a conversation with interested people on
organic, no-till gardening/farming. He will say a few words to get us
started and then we will open for questions and comments. Please come
to Kansas City Community Gardens at 6701 Kensington, off Gregory
Blvd. in Swope Park in Kansas City on Friday, January 11, at 5:15 PM.
If you need transportation or are willing to offer a ride I will try
to matchmake. Come even if you are brand new to gardening. Patrice is
a wonderful communicator. Patrice is looking for interns to work with
him this season. Please let people know about this opportunity. No


Marty Kraft

*Patrice Gros left the big city 12 years ago and fell in love with
gardening. He has been a full time organic farmer for 10 years,
following a 2 year apprenticeship. He is the co-founder of two local
farmers markets (Berryville & Eureka Springs, AR) and sit on the
board of the Eureka Market. He is married and has two children.
Patrice makes a nice living by devoting about 1/2 time to gardening.
He runs Foundation Farm and associated Farm School for people to
learn gardening.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Bianca Paige: "Smoking!" but without the smoke

Bianca Paige is a Nashville celebrity. She is also my husband's nephew. I adore him. The first time I saw him perform I was transported. I have never been up close to an artist with so much "star power." I met him first at a family gathering. He was not in drag, a small figure of a man in his early forties with a deep, absolutely gravelly voice and huge expressive hazel eyes, he was self-possessed, modest, but a presence nonetheless.

Bianca is bald and likes to wear hats when he's offstage or without a wig. Actually, he insists on wearing a hat. Once I tried to convince him to take a little derby hat off during his break. He complained of being hot. But he wouldn't shed the cover despite my nagging.

The first time I saw him perform I went with my daughter, 21 at the time, and my sister who is a few years younger than me. I guess she was 59 at the time. We let him know in advance -- through the management since he's impossible to reach in person--and when we arrived we were ushered in like celebrities. Everyone seemed to know we were Bianca's kin and treated us grandly. Apparently, acceptance by family members is not common within the openly gay ("out and about") community. A young man approached me as I was returning from the ladies room to say how much it meant for all of them that Bianca's family had come to see him.

Bianca is no exception. He comes from an extremely religious family. My husband's father was a manager for Kroger's before his death. But on weekends he was a "hell fire and damnation" preacher here in Middle Tennessee. While the kids were growing up my mother-in-law, Maybelline, refused to cut her hair and never wore make-up. Television was considered "not a good thing" so they never purchased one. My husband spent the1950s in the livingrooms of neighbors watching the tube. He also entered the Navy at 17 to escape the his parents' way of life.

That's the thing about Bianca. How did he manage to overcome the family ethic? He was a small kid, but extremely spirited. His older brother is a preacher but shares Bianca's attraction to performance. He's a gifted Gospel singer. Their father, my husband's brother, was once in radio and still gets calls for bit parts in movies made for television.

Well, part of the story is that Maybelline, the family matriarch, was the epitome of kindness.
If she judged Bianca for his erring ways, it was a judgment buried deep in her heart and tamed completely by her faithfulness to Christ's commandent to love.

I haven't seen Bianca for a while. She's moved to a new venue. But that's not why I've not seen her. My problem is that I'm old and don't like staying up that late--first performances are at 11 p.m. Smoke used to be another problem. From what I've seen a high percentage of people attending drag performances smoke. I guess that's true of all night clubs. But all that's changed since Tennessee's new "no smoking in restaurants" law. I think I'll go to Lucky's with my daughter before she leaves later this week. We'd even brave the smoke.

We love Bianca and we miss him.