Review of our inaugural meeting
Posted by Michael Riversong in the Urban Permaculture Yahoo Group
This past Thursday evening, i drove down from Maryland to the initial DC Permaculture meeting.
We had about 8 people there. My own role was to play a little harp music, as a demonstration of how the arts relate to Permaculture, and relay bits of my experience as needed.
Attendees included a couple of people connected with a nearby health food store, some young justice activists, and community organizers. Larry Chang moderated the meeting. He carefully explained that even though he brought this together, it's not wise to depend on one person as a leader.
There was much comment about how the Washington DC area is unique because of the emphasis on government. Some types of people there do not exist anywhere else. Many things that happen in DC affect communities elsewhere, so a Permaculture community can act as a national role model.
Ideas about taking over an abandoned industrial site that blocks access to a riverside park were discussed. Also people brought up rehabilitating homes of elderly people in neighborhoods around the city as a good focus for the group. One of the young activists, a grant writer, described how funding should be available for these projects. Others felt that this was good, but we need to get working while waiting for funds.
Larry led us through a "seed" visualization and brainstorming exercise, that helped us all focus on specific elements: what the Permaculture group includes, what can protect the group, and the outside environment affecting the group.
There was discussion about further meetings, and a networking web site has already been developed.
My own view is, this group has lots of potential. The points brought up in comments and the visioning exercise were all valid. At this stage the main requirement for success is to keep up continuity with the meetings. Inevitably some people will drop out, so it's vital to make sure meetings are regular enough to attract new participants. Learning how to work without funding is vital. One possible help would be setting up a local exchange system similar to Ithaca Hours, for use by community members. Some of the great teachers from Ithaca have expressed willingness to do classes there once things get more organized.
Larry Chang is obviously a capable leader. He is well aware of the limitations inherent in a community having a strong leader, so he is an advocate of decision making by consensus. Several of the others attending felt the same way, which is a good sign.
-- Michael Riversong
Professional Teacher & Harpist
I am very excited about working with Ecolocitizen. This project could not be more timely. We only have about 10 years left to solarize and convert our agriculture to agroecologies. No war, no warming! Act locally to globally.
I'm delighted to be here, Bob. If you ever want me to assist with your website, let me know. By making me an Admin on the site, I can do some coaching now and then. Good to be working with you. I've added D.C. to Transition Colorado's GROUPS TAB.
Thank you for the warm welcome. I look forward to joining and participating with this group. Please fell free to place your events open to the General Public on my website at www.MyDMVLocal.com. Anything else I can do ..please share. Again Thanks.
Thanks very much for your quick response. As you suggested, will contact you again closer to departure date. Looking forward to talking with you and bringing home inspiration for our push towards Transition Town Anchorage. Kate
Yes I am a permaculture enthusiast and groupy. I am also member of the Transition Clearwater and st. Pete. I think that pretty much is all we need in the county right now. My main interest is to help set aside land for future permaculture settlements, food forests, etc.
just a reply---i was at last tuesday's meeting (in a not very good state). i sometimes flip a coin to decide whether to attend these things (and then i decide the coin actually made a mistake in its landing---a quantum theory thing).
i had never heard of this group though i knew of the place which sounded like a good project (they had a gogo music workshop, and i like that music---which often has a 'bad rep'). the 'transition' project looks fine (i guess it started in ireland) but as was mentioned 'its not the only game in town' but is similar in concept to many other projects----i don't think there is neccesarily any conflict, since its a participatory network in theory , and apparently in practice since you are at the Green Fest and the Ecojustice cafes. Yes! magazine on the west coast is one group that also covers this stuff---permaculture and sustainable communities. I note people put videos on your site of F Capra (who is an long time promoter of the 'complex systems' view, which is one of my main interests), and also David Korten, who seems to have one of the most conprehensive and simple formulations of the 'big economic picture' (and has for awhile), which is another of my interests (economics). Alot of these ideaas have been around.
i mentioned the coal plant protest also as 'other games' ,and others pointed out transition is not a negative/against/protest group---and i mentioned i don't like protests (mostly because i find them boring---one could prevent things so your don't have to walk around with signs repeating some slogan--most of which are not poetry). But i also criticized the high profile/big conference (to be covered by the Post) thing, because I find alot of conferences (to which I rarely go any more) 'alienating'. Often times, they are not too different from protests, except inside---you have big name speakers who basically repeat what I at least know from listening to WPFW/Democracy Now or reading their books. Some of the 'experts' talk down to people. The group International Forum on Globalization for example is pretty good, but I have seen it accused of being elitist (actually racist) as well. Also one reason alot of people are not experts, or even informed, is because many of the experts stay in their own comfortable think tanks/NGOs, which are often fairly well funded, while average people sometimes cannot even afford a computer to access their publications, nor have any community to discuss the ideas if they can. They are forced to talk sports, religion, etc. And, often they don't have good libraries to get materials, or much time, etc.---much of the money for education is spent on a particular group who already have alot. (In DC groups like IPS do a fair number of public events, as do Busboys and Poets and sankofa and other groups, but alot of people may not really feel comfortable in those places.)
in any event, almost in keeping with the 'e-loco-city' (sic?) thing, i think small group events which are more participatory are more optimal, rather than trying to have some alternative equivalent of the World Economic forum at Davos, where some big name speakers fly in and spoon feed people the truth about the environment and poverty. The World Social Forum actually is that alternative (held in Brazil now)---but the one in Kenya was even protested as elitist and actually invaded by poor Kenyons who wanted some coference food.
Even using the convention center for the Green Fest actually was somewhat problematic for me, because alot of people didn't think DC needed a new convention center (with all those auto shows and military hardware shows)---or even the original one. There sometimes is a little bit of co-dependance of the 'alternatives' with the mainstream---Lockheed martin gets their week and we get ours. I do think maybe one can 'reform' the mainstream ('green Walmart', do something about the Washington Post which lives off sprawl, etc. and supports alot of really bad things, even if they do some good too, but it may not be easy and one easily just become 'complicit'). The Convention center now has some gogo shows, and to me that is a good use. Maybe a permanent green fest, library, free university, and gogo club can gradually clean out and adopt that space .)
I'd also say that regarding communications, makibng ecolocity a destination web site requires computers for all (like the free laptops for africa). and it would seem one would have to link to other groups tio avoid hierarchy. but computers/the web i think are problematic, because alot of people just use them for entertainment. also, people tend to read what they want as they listen to the radio channels they prefer. anyway, i don't think 'more media' is always the answer. dumping information on the uninformed may be as inneffective as throwing money at social problems. this problem is one of my interests. (as a 'utilitarian' type, i'm also interested inn what incentives might exist so people 'do the right thing'. This is a big topic in 'behavioral economics' now.
For example, In Mexico city and in NYC, they have programs which give grants to the needy ( a kind of guaranteed income) except parents may have to go to a PTA meeting, get a library card, take their kids to the doctor, etc.) Like food stamps its 'conditional' (ie you cant buy beer or cigarettes but have to buy something more like food.)
If one had an alternative currency one could give grants for example, or free computer use, if they make some effort to stay informed about something.
The Ithaca Hours currency program gives out some small grants to people who can't get started, as a sort of 'microfinance' thing.
Its also interesting that Anacostia area now has its own currency, which I think is excellent. As I mentioned the one reason I like 'currencies' is unlike exchanges based on knowing somebody, the concept of 'gift economy' (such as food Not Bombs and Really Free Markets done by anarchists), or ones based on kin or community obligations (citizenship), with money if you have it, they have to let you 'sit at the lunch counter' (like in the civil rights demonstrations in the south in the 50's) whether they agree with you or like you or not. While still 'commodified' eventually it can lead to less commodified relationships which eventually might move into non-financial contracts. (Z magazine has a big web site on 'participatory economics' or parecon which is one example; wikipedia covers it too.)
i also wanted to mention since you are going to brunswick that there is a nice asian run restaurant near the train station there (it replaced a biker bar, if i recall). its somewhat out of place though brunswick is changing---i've been there quite alot since i travel the C&O canal. (they were even playing john coltrane for music; my traditional place there was across the street, and even the McDonald's up the hill since they have infinite free refills and so far no time limits, for cold weather or for studying).
The course is down in Charlottesville with the Blue Ridge Permaculture Network - We'll be meeting with Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms; and also Dave Jacke, author of the 2-vol Edible Forest Gardens, will be teaching part of the course.
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