What Kind Of Change?

We all know that green is the new black. It goes with everything: Green Jobs, Green Business, Green Homes, Green Cars, Green Cloths, Green Gadgets…. Most the these green affiliations are shallow marketing attempts to ride the wave of environmental consciousness that is slowly becoming a cultural meme. This shallow greening of everything, and the hip connotations that accompany this trend, have converged with America’s longstanding affinity towards consumptions and abundance creating some interesting cultural tension as a new meme is taking hold while the old worldview has not yet faded away.

This conflict seems to mirror the contradictory images of smoking in our culture. Through years of research, marketing, legislation and public education smoking has been demonized to the point that for large portions of society smoking is no longer cool. And yet, the images of smoking in Hollywood and elsewhere point to the fact that there is still an ingrained association between smoking and hipness. Similarly, we Americans still love our cars and our speed while we are growing to hate petroleum and lament our carbon footprints. Within these points of tension exist a profound potential for change. The question is, what kind of change?

This past week mild mannered Al Gore encouraged young people to engage in peaceful protests and civil disobedience to stop new coal plants and polluters. Gandhi believed that before you engage in civil disobedience you should have created and fostered a model of the change you want to see (both as an individual and a community), so that if your protests work you will have a viable alternative to put in place of that which you have triumphed over. In this moment of transition and tension, I am particularly interested those people who are trying to model a new way of being, who are pioneering new (and old) ways of connecting to each other and to the land.

To that end, I recently stumbled upon two little events/groups that seem to be helping lay a foundation for the changes to come. The first was a weekend workshop and knowledge exchange led by young farmers, for young farmers. The Green Fork blog reported on “a gathering of young hearts and young minds energized to learn new skills and share innovative ideas about how our generation of young farmers, chefs, eaters and activists may continue to grow deep roots into one of the most challenging, but also most rewarding (and extremely important) work forces of our country—cultivating our local food systems, both literally and metaphorically.”

From The Greenhorns Website
From The Greenhorns Website

It turns out that the group who was leading this gathering was from the documentary The Greenhorns. From their site: “The Greenhorns is a documentary film that explores the lives of America’s young farming community—its spirit, practices, and needs.” As part of their project, and to help young farmers connect and support each other, the Greenhorns have create a national database of young farmers called Serve your Country Food. Check it out.

The other event that caught my eye was Picklefest2008, led by Kelly Coyne and Erik Knutzen (the authors of The Urban Homestead: Your Guide to Self-sufficient Living in the Heart of the City). The Picklefest was a day of workshops and informal classes on all things pickling. As people around me have found out that Erica and I pickle we have been amazed at home many people want to learn how to do it. I think as people seek to eat a bit closer to home and have a bit more control over their food, the idea of learning how to preserve and put food aside is increasingly attractive. Even the word “preserve” is full of metaphorical potential hinting at the central place of food in our current ecological crisis.

In both cases, these event are about passing on old wisdom and building new ideas on top of it. They are about adapting old ways for new times and inspiring others to do so as well. These are people who are, in the words of James Howard Kunstler, “making other arrangements” and it is inspiring to see.

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