Friday, December 27, 2013

Leaving 2013 Behind: Gardening and Building Community For 2014 and Beyond




Recently, there has been a successful harvest from the last seeds we planted. For a few days we enjoyed the produce so much and again as what we desire, we were lucky to have some surplus for giving. And so we shared some of those vegetables to the neighbors, especially to those who volunteered, at the same time while successfully demonstrating the possibility and advantage of having a sharing garden and building a community. Though it’s too little to be proud of since we only planted few, it was enough to show that we can actualize our vision and that they can do it as well if only given a chance. It is also very motivating to reflect on those past few months because of the new experiences and the things that we’ve learned from gardening and inter-personal dynamics along with it. As a person assigned with this responsibility I realized that we really have to be firm and clear on our ideas and expectations so that miscommunications can be avoided in the end; and so that others will also be encouraged to work for this vision. But also to have a healthy dynamics and group relationship, sometimes you also need to be flexible and tolerant so that others can express their ideas and feelings for the sake of freedom. Though I am saying this, I also admit that I wasn’t able to demonstrate a good quality of a so called “leader”. To be honest, sometimes in this project, I admit to be inconsistent. But one thing I’m sure about is the fact that this project is still my most priority; that everything I do still concerns the future of this project. I want to emphasize this to the people, who are also very helpful in the process; the few who shared their time and energy and still want to help the projects.






Last time on our last post we told you about the challenges we are having especially the small conflict with the former “caretaker” of the area and possible threat of losing the garden. Well, we successfully managed some of those and still continue using the space. Because of this we also discovered that in every year there is something that will turn out that needs to be fixed. These are the issues that you need to sort out as you carry the seed of your vision of a community and plant them in the present. Instead of being down and hopeless about it, we somehow appreciate it because we know that trials like these usually make you stronger if you learn to handle and “dance” with it. So in the long run, this will help us face another test in the future that is waiting in the path taken by BHSG. Thanks that the former caretaker of the area did not do any attempt to push us away or anything that might bring us discontent or cause inequity. Although we can coexist with him and tolerate some of his weird views and behavior, seeing his heedless attitude towards the garden or the soil is very discouraging. As part of our vision we want to encourage and support the people who really care about gardening and community matters, but it is really very disappointing that after all those times I spent explainingto him everything about the project, and how non-organicways of gardening/farming harm our health and destroy the soil, he still doesn’t have even the slightest desire to stop using these chemical fertilizers and pesticides. It is sad that there is really something that prevents him from grasping the sounder picture of things. I appreciate his gardening passion and skills but I just couldn’t understand why he cannot see the serious threat of using these chemicals. 




Another thing that makes me sad isthe fact that he doesn’t care about the vision of BHSG and even sometimes hostile to it, thoughwithout showing it or making it obvious.I am not 100% sure of this but what bothersme is how unsupportive he was towards everything we care about.And sometimes in a subtle manner, he expresses words that suggest something against the project. To give you some historical background, he gardened on those area years before for personaland profit goal but later on, he abandoned it since it was open and different animals can easily enter and eat everything. So it was overgrown with grasses and was abandoned for almost 10 years and nearby residents from the subdivision didn’t know what to do with it; some even throw their garbagewastes on that area and nobody cares or pays attention about it. Until we found the area and determined to spend some amount to build fences and use it for a garden project, people saw that it was possible to make use of that lot.So later he decided to usurp some part of the area again and do his way without minding the impact of it. We totally don’t want to kick him out of that area, in fact before, we would love to have him as an ally of the project but it seems very difficult to do it because of some unknown factors that block him from the “connection”. 

 

More to the challenge we are currently facing is the developing patterns visible which is similar to this kind of attitude and behavior we are noticing in one of our new volunteers. I mean we don’t want to look at him as an outsider, and we don’t see it as a totally negative issue but instead as a test on our strength and stability. What we noticed is that somehow he cannot really appreciate the value of sharing in a community or in a garden. He cannot see that there is still a choice; that through gardening and re-building a community, we still can start living the sustainable way.And with this, surviving without making much money is not only possible but also necessary. It has already been lived by countless people in the intentional communities all over the globe, transforming the unsustainable industrial paradigm into an ecological paradise of compassion and mutual support in the social, emotional,and psychological aspect.We have a respect for his enthusiasm and skills and we consider him as a very important ally but it didn’t dawn on us that he doesn’t want to support the vision. Until he personally said this, we thought that he volunteered to join the project because he understands and want to support this vision but unfortunately he is being consumed by pessimism and unconsciously trapped in his judgmental attitude that is sometimes driven by his lack of information, christian prejudice, and religious dogma. In addition, it was also disheartening to know that he sold some of the harvest to the neighbors without informing the group. Though we are not totally against selling the produce,especially if it is really necessary to keep things running or to sustain the project, but selling them for personal reason is I think not a healthy sign. It contradicts the vision and principle of SG because for us,this kind of “mindset” is one of the reasons that contribute to the current social and ecological crises we are facing today. But despite of this we still don’t want to exclude him on the project as long as he will support the vision.In fact, we appreciate that he put so much time on the garden and was very helpful to the physical effort. I clearly explained this to him emphasizing that he is still welcome to join the planning and other meetings if he is willing to work with us again. 





While we are dealing with thesekinds of challenges, I believe westill need to constantly show to the people that what we are doing will really help them. Wemust show them that they are stillwelcome to join the process because we value them as a person who also needs safe food, healthy community, and empowerment to take in charge of his life and his future. It is tough, playing these roles without much knowledge, skills, and actual support from any “experienced” community organizers. Thinking about possible negative outcomes that might cause big obstacles is overwhelming, especially when you feel small in numbers. But knowing that you stand in the right way, doing the things that help others and offer sustainable alternatives, you’ll feel vindicated by the concrete reasons and visions you have for the future of your community.I think the advantage of this is that we willhave an opportunity to grow and learn by dealing with minor conflicts and clashes.I think it is normal that sometimes you’ll find people who want to join but doesn’t care much about important issues related to your project; let alone community, food, health, and ecological matters.We now realized that it is normal that some people cannot easily see the connection of this project to the global social and ecological situation especially in the aspect of food, environment, and well-being of the people. But I think by constantly working on these factors and sincerely showing them the bridge that connects these issues,you can prove to them that what you stand for is not only doable but also very easy if you work together in a community.



As for now we still want to continue gardening the area as long as it is still possible. Currently, we already have some plans and in fact, started to clear some parts of the area for the next planting. In addition, my friends already planted the next seeds. Though the soil is still poor, somehow it was now clear that we still can get something from it as long as we constantly fertilize and water them. And concerning this as well, we still have some compost and some more cow dungs to use. By January, we planned to fix the fence, cultivate more beds, and start planting more. By this time also we will start doing the related programs. Again we will organize discussions, film viewings, exhibits, and workshops related to gardening, social sustainability, and community building all throughout the year. We are very glad that there were people who donated money to keep us going even though it is clear that we are just taking a small step. In response to this kindness, we will do our best to help others by constantly showing them these alternatives and choices through this venture. I believe that by doing these things, we can have more opportunity to advance the vision of a sustainable, healthy, and compassionate community.  

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

ACTIONS, CAMPAIGNS, OBSTACLES, AND TRANSITION

It is so inspiring to learn how hundreds of community initiatives and experiments for social and environmental sustainability are being carried out today by many people and activists around the world. It is important to learn not only about this, but also about the many projects that support and advance people’s rights and humane and ethical development, meaning not oppressive and destructive to humans and nature. I think working or being involved with this can be very empowering knowing your every step is an important phase not only for your personal growth but also for others as well. Having initiatives like this is the most visible and realistic of all ideals we have. For decades, successful partnership of honest NGO’s and sincere individuals/community, committed to actualize the project and see it’s ‘fruit’ all through the years, thrived and spread through many generations. Alliances like these serve as a model community or program for the people to explore many possibilities of acting in many choices (unlike in the mainstream that is very limited to voting, paying taxes and dealing with petty crimes) for the things essential to our individual and collective well-being. Some examples here are community gardens, CSA’s, low-cost housing, alternative energy, natural housing, permaculture farms/sites, free schools, community centers, etc. Anyway, here are some interesting websites to look if you want to learn about some of the projects that I'm telling here.

THE TRANSITION NETWORK 
http://www.transitionnetwork.org

NAVDANYA MOVEMENT
http://www.navdanya.org

GRASSROOTS INTERNATIONAL
http://www.grassrootsonline.org

As part of the SG vision, we are trying to connect globally especially to those who are doing these kinds of project in order to: further possibilities of communal transition, expand the horizon of our place in the global natural system, increase the chance or opportunity of getting financial support, help others get more perspectives regarding organic gardening, community initiatives, and environmental sustainability, encourage more volunteers and promote the vision to a wider arena, strengthen the capacity by getting more allies in combating global scarcity and socio-political crises, learn many different methods of organic gardening, alternative energy, and community improvement, and help establish a global community that will dismantle the concept of national borders. So up to this moment, our group is still looking for ways to continue the social center/community library project as we see that it is one of the most effective ways to connect to people. In addition, as we still don’t have a final area suited for long-term community gardening project so what we are doing basically is preparing ourselves and learning many different aspects regarding these initiatives. Again, aside from teaching ourselves, we also educate others about important issues such as food, land, community, human rights, and other things related to our vision.



Speaking of food, one of our programs is to spread awareness and start a campaign against GMO and the companies that perpetrate this kind of hazardous biotech invention. One of the most popular of this is Monsanto, the giant transnational biotech company that is undeniably responsible for many atrocities happening around the world since almost the beginning of industrial revolution. This company is one of the biggest producers of chemicals (such as Round Up, etc.) and other synthetic pesticides that destroyed many farm lands around the world. Not only this, Monsanto also helped in the production of DDT and other poisonous pesticides used in the war on Vietnam in the 60’s. Up to now, with their bio-engineering, genetic experiments and political influence, Monsanto is still ruthlessly committing ecological and biological terrorism all over the globe. The company that is rampantly abusing farmers and perpetuating violence against nature is also the company that is influencing policies and laws regarding agriculture and food production. To give you more ideas and options on how to help, please check these links:

  
MONSANTO'S HISTORY
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monsanto

OR THIS:
http://www.gmwatch.org/gm-firms/10595-monsanto-a-history

CAMPAIGNS:


MILLIONS AGAINST MONSATO
http://www.organicconsumers.org/monsanto/

CAMPAIGN MATERIALS:
http://www.organicconsumers.org/monsanto/materials.cfm

OCCUPY MONSANTO
http://occupy-monsanto.com/


COMMUNITY LIBRARY AND INFORMATION CAMPAIGNS
 So as a response to this problem, our group is committed to initiate public awareness about this issue. We produced informational videos, posters, and text in local dialects. Every now and then, we organize film screening, discussions and leafleting regarding this issue because we strongly believe that it is very important to educate the public first about this ‘crisis’ for them to take action sincerely. Last May in this year, we organized a public demonstration against Monsanto and GMO and although there were not so many people who participated, it was a successful action in terms of spreading public awareness.  



In connection to this campaign, we are also currently doing a school to school awareness exhibition. In this, we exhibit posters and artworks that depict issues about GMO/biotech, health, organic gardening, natural lifestyle, and community actions. This month-long school to school program is entitled: Sustainable Social Paradigm: Organic Gardening, Natural Health, and Intentional Communities. Along with photo exhibition, we do film screening and discussion to educate the students and teachers about these matters. As a result, we got connected to the teachers that are also into these kinds of interest and plan to work together in the future. As part of their ‘Sustainable School’ initiative, they want to incorporate some of their strategies to our programs since they are closely related.    



ABOUT THE GARDEN...
Regarding our garden, we will put here some photos we’ve taken some months ago. Obviously, sharing garden here in Bread Homes is almost coming to an end since there is not enough community support and the land in the area is very poor. As you can see, we can plant some things but it doesn’t produce enough that is at least fair to the effort we are giving. The solution is to find another area especially permanent so that it will be assuring for all the people who want to get involved. 




Anyway, thanks to our new friend Clarke, he sometimes helps us in our projects and it is quite inspiring to learn about his visions and ideals too. We enjoy being with his company so much since he is one of the few people here in Bread Homes that think about things essential to community. 




Bread Homes Volunteer Action Day and Ecological Camping

Last August 8, Organic Minds organized a community gathering and volunteer day to get help from volunteers and friends. It was also a great opportunity to evaluate some of our projects. It was also a half-day event of book and poster covering, film viewing and musical performances. Participants contributed to the event and brought food for everybody. It was a great day since many of our friends came to enjoy the day and share different things. On August 31, together with other members of CGINET (Common Ground Initiative Network), we helped organized an ecological awareness camp some kilometers away from the city. 



With almost fifty participants, students and out-of-school youth, the event ran smoothly for two days full of meaningful workshops and discussions about the various projects of the network including the Sharing Garden, KU Free School, Food Freedom, Organic Minds Community Library and others. Not only about the projects but it was also a perfect opportunity to educate the community (mostly youth that are protecting the Davao City watershed area in Tawan-tawan, Calinan) about other important issues related to the environmental and social problems we all are facing. 



That area is the only community who refused to use the non-organic method of farming since companies like DOLE entered this area. It was amazing to learn about the effort that this community does to protect their environment and also the ideas some of the young children has regarding the situation of their natural habitat. 



During the evening of that camp, we exchanged presentations that made the night very exciting and unforgettable. Some performed their traditional dances and their own musical compositions that tell about living and working for the natural world. On the second day, they brought us to the nearby river where we enjoyed swimming and hiking. As a result also, we exchanged contacts to plan the next actions.  



So to update you about the garden again, we are very sad to tell you that there is a very serious problem right now. First is that the former caretaker of the area wants to use half of the area again (after we installed fences!) and has burned huge part of the garden as his method of getting rid of the grasses. Before that, he sprayed Round Up without our consent; he did this during our camping activity so we obviously didn’t have the chance to say no. This man is known in the community of Bread Village as a greedy and selfish idiot who sometimes harvest other people’s fruits. When we arrived from the camping, we were surprised and disappointed with the news. 


After few days, he burned the area and now, he doesn’t want us to plant on that area anymore! As we are having an argument, he threatened me stay off of that part or else he will hurt me. To prevent things from getting worst, I left him screaming in frustration and anger. As what we’ve thought before, this will be very problematic since we don’t have a tangible support from other people and also from the owners. 


We used to send them (the owners) emails and updates about the project but up to now we don’t get any response that would at least encourage us to continue using that area. Well, as for Organic Minds, this will not stop us from continuing our plans since we can do this in other area. Hopefully next year, we can finally get a financial support that would enable us to get a permanent land so that this dream of having a successful community garden project will happen.