What would a REAL Earth Day look like?

Two things brought to mind Earth Day today, one an article in Orion on red, black & GREEN, and the other an email. I think Earth Day, as it is practiced today, is dead. We need something new, something real.

I was one of the organizers, along with some older friends, of the first Earth Day in Las Vegas, April 1970. What did we do? We hung out on the grass and threw frisbees, and had long and deep conversations about how to change the world, and how ourselves. And, that being the time, smoked dope. It was really transformative for people, I think, because there had never really been group discussions before. We had a feeling we were all going in the same direction, if not the same path.

I continued to help organize, and go to, Earth Days for a while, and then eventually dropped out. Last year I stopped by briefly at the Sacramento Earth Day in Southside Park. And left soon after. Earth Day has become booths. Everyone is selling their version of the solution, whether agencies or organizations, and brochures multiply. Some of these agencies and organizations are really doing next to nothing, or in some cases some very bad things, but this is their greenwashing opportunity. And some organizations and agencies are doing good things. But the booth and the brochure are not the way we get where we need to go. That is a dead end, in an energetic and action sense.

So, what would a REAL Earth Day look like? Well, I’ll thrown in my two cents.

  1. Not: No booths, no tables, no chairs, no tents, no brochures, no business cards. Everyone who has a message to get across would get it across while working with other people (see below). I’m sure that most agencies and organizations would drop out, but that is OK, they weren’t doing much of use anyway. A few would stay. Their employees and volunteers would be part of it, along with everyone else.
  2. Real work: The day would be organized around a work project. Something that addresses community needs and concerns. Obviously a project that occurs in an underserved community (Sacramento has plenty!) would be best, but only if the project is initiated and organized by the community. It can be supported by organizations and agencies, but it needs to start and end with the community.
  3. Conversation: Some conversations will happen naturally as part of the work and food (see below), but more can be facilitated by having roundtable discussions on topics of concern to the community. These could be convened but not led. There are no experts here, just people who care. I see groups sitting around on the grass in a circle, that grow until too large to hear each other, and then naturally seed other circles. When a discussion isn’t speaking to a person, they get up and find one that does.
  4. Food: What we eat is not only a great impact on the earth, but is also the core of our social function. So we should eat together. That might be one use for the tables and chairs not used above, for people who cannot sit on the ground, but I envision most people sitting on the ground, and continuing informal conversations. How to pay for it? Ask people to give in proportion to their ability (To each according to his needs, from each according to his abilities). This is a gamble, of course, because food must be purchased and prepared ahead of time, but what better role for all those agencies and organizations to play than as a guarantee against a loss.
  5. Interactive: Music and dance should be a core part of it, probably following lunch. Performances should be interactive. Not someone up on stage entertaining the crowd, but the whole crowd entertaining itself, with the help of creative initiators. Keeping with the theme of the day, this is a time to get involved, to stretch beyond your normal boundaries, not a time to be an observer.
  6. Transportation: Ask people not to drive! Maybe even tell people not to drive. After food, our second greatest impact on the earth is how we get around. We have become far too complacent, thinking that something will save us from climate change, just some adjustments here and there, nothing too inconvenient. Well, it won’t! There may be things in life important enough to drive for, but I don’t think Earth Day is one of them. If people really want to come, they will get there, on foot, on bicycle, on public transit, in real carpools (not just another person, but a car packed with people). Which leads to the next point.
  7. Community: Stop doing regional events. Earth Day should happen in communities. If there isn’t one in your community, either help organize one, or stay home and do something useful in your neighborhood.


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Theatre Winter 2013-2014

The plays which I saw this quarter are listed below. Twelve play, about the right amount for 12 weeks. You can see the Sacramento area theaters I go to on my Theatre page. I have had a subscription to the SHN Theatres in San Francisco this year, which I’ve much enjoyed and have two performances left to see. I also went to the Berkeley Rep(ertory) Theatre this month and will attend more there in the future. I saw Angels in America, both parts, at TAAC (The Alternative Arts Collective), and after thinking about it for a long time, realized that my dissatisfaction was not with the local staging or actors, but with the play itself. It is too sprawling, too scattered, too much dialog rather than action to bring out the themes. I think my favorite of the quarter was Passion at New Helvetia Theatre, but there are several in close competition.

  • 2014-03-16 Berkeley Rep: The House That Will Not Stand
  • 2014-03-07 Green Valley Theatre: The Wild Party
  • 2014-03-06 B Street: Wrong for Each Other
  • 2014-03-01 Cap Stage: The Real Thing (again)
  • 2014-02-28 Big Idea Theatre: The Merry Wives
  • 2014-02-27 New Helvetia Theatre: Passion
  • 2014-02-14 TAAC: Angels in America 2: Perestroika
  • 2014-02-12 Cap Stage: The Real Thing
  • 2014-01-24 Big Idea Theatre: When the Rain Stops Falling
  • 2014-01-17 TAAC: Angels in America 1: The Millenium
  • 2014-01-16 B Street Theatre: Elemeno Pea
  • 2014-01-10 Runaway Stage: Young Frankenstein
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A drought decision point

Folsom Reservoir draw-down

Folsom Reservoir draw-down

While backpacking this week, walking from Auburn to Sacramento in large part in order to see the drawn-down Folsom Reservoir and the living North Fork American River that has been revealed, I had a lot of time to think about water use and drought.

I see the drought as an inflection point where California could change directions towards a sustainable future. We basically have two choices: 1) try to spend and engineer our way out of the drought crisis, or 2) bring our behavior within the limits of nature. Of course ultimately, we cannot spend and engineer our way out, we only delay reaching the limit and hit that limit all the harder.

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ADT: Auburn to Sacramento 2014-02

Dudleya among moss

Dudleya among moss

I backpacked the American Discovery Trail segment from Auburn to Sacramento this week. This is my second time on this segment (ADT: Auburn to Sacramento 2012-05), and the reasons I went again were to see the American River North Fork while the draw-down of Folsom Reservoir exposed more of it, and to create a GPS track of the trip.

I took the Amtrak train to Auburn, then walked to the trailhead at Auburn Staging Area, and then down into the canyon to sleep. I took a few wrong turns in the dark, but quickly realized and corrected (and I have corrected the GPS track). Not far into the canyon, I noticed the sound of the river much stronger than I remembered it. The night was cloudy, then cleared to brilliant stars, and at dawn there was a light drizzle. I headed down the Cardiac Bypass Trail, which is better signed that it was two years ago. These signs are unusually clear for a state parks-managed area, so I presume they were designed, paid for and installed by a volunteer organization.

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ADT: Antioch to Walnut Creek 2014-01

Buckeye leafing out

Buckeye leafing out

This weekend I completed the Antioch to Walnut Creek segment of the American Discovery Trail, up and over Mount Diablo. This is the last of the California segments for me, so I’ve now walked across California. Though the ADT materials and I use the word “trail,” much of this route is actually fire and farm roads. These are still pleasant to walk, and there are some stretches of real trail interspersed.

I started out in Antioch, getting there on Amtrak and BART and TriDelta bus. The official start of the segment is up in Contra Loma Regional Park, but I’d finished segment 6 in Antioch Community Park, closer to public transit, so that is where I started again. The trail soon enters Black Diamond Mines Regional Park (East Bay Regional Park District) and heads up into the dry brown hills and eventually to the old town of Somersville. Scattered oaks and cows mark the hills, but gradually thicken to oak woodlands and chaparral. Some buckeyes are leafing out, and there is a bit of green grass in a few wetter areas, but mostly it looks like the end of summer, no new growth of winter or spring.

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Reduce water use? We don’t really mean it.

“Sacramento City Council members last night voted to require water customers to reduce their water use by 20 percent.” (Sacramento City Council Mandates Water Use Reductions, City of Sacramento press release 2014-01-15)

“Part of the reason we’re not using the meters as a method of enforcement is we’re not looking to put folks out of business,” said Jessica Hess, spokeswoman for the city of Sacramento’s Department of Utilities. “But if we can help encourage them to find different ways to use water, maybe they can find other savings elsewhere (such as converting to low-flow toilets). Maybe it’s not 20 percent, but at least we’re trying to help contribute to the solution.” (Water cuts: It’s honor system, SacBee 2014-01-29)

Mandatory: required by a law or rule :  obligatory (Merriam Webster Dictionary online)

The message, as I hear it, is: Cutbacks are mandatory, but we don’t really mean it, and certainly we don’t want to inconvenience anyone.

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benefits of the drought

Folsom Reservoir, from Cap Radio

Folsom Reservoir, from Cap Radio

The drought in California (and some nearby places) is a prominent topic of conversation these days, and I constantly hear people say in effect “if it would just rain, everything would be OK again.” Well, I disagree. I’m OK with the drought. Whether it is a natural cycle, or something we’ve created with global climate change, or likely a combination of the two, I don’t see it as a bad thing, nor do I long for it to end.

If we allowed ourselves, there are a lot of things we could learn from the drought. The most important, I think, is that it is immoral to have created a situation where we are living so close to the edge that a drought pushes us over. We could live differently. We could live by using only the minimum we need, and letting the rest flow in the rivers and be used by wildlife. Instead, we have tried to capture and use every last drop. And when the drops are fewer, we are in a crisis mode.

Specific things I’d like to see:

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