Wednesday, May 18, 2005


This morning I had a dream. A woman walks into the room with a big, brown dog on a leash. She had blondish hair and was kind of shi shi and demanding. She asked me if she could use a phone book. I handed her a phone book that said BRITTANY. She said, "oh do you need it?" I said, "yes" and so she handed it back to me.

Later that day I spent some time researching Brittany, which I knew nothing about. I had heard the name and was vaguely familiar with the fact that it was somewhere in France but had no idea that it meant "Little Britain" and that it was a Celtic stronghold and former colony of exiles just accross the English Channel from England.

I did a search on one of my very favorite websites,, and came up with an amazing photo of the traditional regalia of these ancient people who speak one of the very oldest languages (a celtic dialect) in Europe.

Traditional costume in Brittany around 1900 says:
"Brittany and the Breton people have retained many old customs and traditions. Breton, their Celtic language (akin to Welsh), is spoken in traditionalist Lower (i.e., western) Brittany outside the cities (see Breton literature). Brittany has remarkable stone calvaries, some built at the close of the 16th cent. to ward off the plague. Many megalithic monuments, formerly ascribed to the druids, dot the Breton landscape, notably at Carnac. These sights and the local traditions (old-fashioned peasant dress and high lace headgear, processions, and pilgrimages), which its inhabitants jealously maintain, have made Brittany an outstanding tourist attraction."

I read up on the Breton language and Breton music. But it was when I went housesitting and pulled a book off the book case a few weeks later that was really crazy. The book, Mysterious Britain, or something like that, said that the local legends in Brittany claimed that St. Anne, the mother of Mary and the grandmother of Jesus was from Brittany!

DFC Annual Meeting

Since we moved to Davis we have been members of the Davis Food Co-op. We've decided to get involved through weekly volunteering and attending the Annual Meeting. There were a number of people there that we also got acquainted with at the Whole Earth Festival.

One of the key speakers wrote a book on the topic of Cooperatives, which are very popular here in Davis. We got a slide-show and a talk on Coopertive movements and history. Best of all we got to drink beer while we participated and had a nice little dinner there. It was a very inspiring event for me.

Whole Earth Festival 2005 Report

Jose Arguelles
was a former professor at UC Davis when he became one of the founders of Earth Day,(First Whole Earth Festival, Davis, California, 1970).

The WEF is cool because it is one of the oldest continuously running Earth Days in the world. The coolest thing about it is that it's FREE!!! So many festivals these days are just about making a profit. The best festival just also happens to be the one that my family can afford to go to! And it's within walking distance!

Unfortunately I didn't bring a camera but I got ahold of some pictures anyway and there's my little baby in the upper right hand corner with the yellow shirt, near the kids craft table.

The next best thing, well maybe it's a tie, is the sense of community. We got to see a lot of people that we knew from this blessed small town that also hosts one very effective natural foods CO-OP, also within walking distance. We also got to see a few old friends from Santa Rosa which was very cool. A mixture of old friends and new friends. Here's our new friend Morgan on a biodiesel tractor at WEF:

2005 Whole Earth Festival's Crowining Moment


After a long Saturday, the sun began to set and the ecstatic dance began. Hamsa Lila bills itself as a sacred, even religious act, beyond mere entertainment, and they deliver! They set up an altar and sang some prayers. A truly devotional ecstatic performance for all of us that trance danced under the stars...

Hot tears steaming in the rain

Sunday's Closing Ceremony at the 2005 Whole Earth Festival

Local activist, Sunny, inspires us with words and ritual to last us another year until we meet again.
We had a nice sing-along and a spiral dance. Sage and Tim can be spotted through the Tibetan prayer flags, above.

After the festival, Tim and I went home, or tried to. We were so amped up we just couldn't go home. We realized that a number of our acquaintances would be working with Project Compost, going through garbage and recycling late into the night. We decided to get involved!

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Permaculture and its Application to Global Justice

Holistic Movements with Permaculture

Notes from a talk at the 2005 Whole Earth Festival, Saturday May 7th:

Picture the blackboard at the front of the inside of this giant yellow dome -
A circle is drawn in the center with the word forest within it. Five spokes of a wheel emanate outwards like the rays of the sun, containing the words: diversity, cooperation, stacking, cycles and evolution.

Erik Ohlsen, the facilitator of the workshop, co-founded P.E.A. Planting Earth Activation.

In two years the Sebastopol-based group has planted 100 heirloom gardens.

Erik asked the group to re-form in a circle and then asked us to say why we think it is good to sit in a circle. The conclusion was that it was non-heirarchical. Yes, heirarchy exists in nature at times, he said, but so does cooperation, and it's useful to use de-centralization in social organizations. It "brings us into a common place."

Erik founded P.E.A. and took it to World Trade Organization protests in Seattle where they began planting guerilla gardens. They began taking over traffic meridians. Eric said that he wanted to create a model, bringing solutions in a place of resistance, and not just shut down the streets. During the Battle In Seattle Eric saw mega-unity-in-diversity from punks to business suits.

Our host gave us a basic definition of Permaculture: Modeling nature, create a "forest" of perrenial plants, and create a permanent's basically "food forest" gardening.

Eric's thesis was that Permaculture model can be applied to every aspect of culture, not just gardening. We need to model a forest in how we design every aspect of society.

Diversity the diversity we find in nature and therefore Permaculture. We are currently experiencing a proliferation of monoculture and homogenization in both farming and western corporate culture.

Cooperation it is a Darwinian myth that all is competition in nature. Competition does exist but there is also cooperation. Scientists couldn't understand how a strawberry plant was able to live and produce fruit in the understory of the rain forest with so little light available. They discovered that the tree whose leaves were high and able to reach the sun would produce the sugars and could bring them down to the mycorrhyza (fungi) which would deliver the sugar to the strawberries.

Stacking In nature and Permaculture "stacking" is an arrangement of plants to take advantage of all possible space, using tall and medium-sized trees with a lower shrub and herb layer. Care must be taken so that water and light compettion are at a minimum. The societal implications were not recorded in my notes on this one.

[Relinquishing Power] Another principle in Permaculture or a self-maintained, organized system (not listed on the board as one of the spokes). This is vital to understanding power dynamics, according to Erik.

Cycles Everything works in cycles. Time.

Evolution How can we evolve out of corporate empire?

IMHO, these last two seem more suited to being combined.

Erik asks: How can we apply Permaculture design to create communities that will last? It doesn't just take sustainability but "Resistance to Ivaders", using Starhawk's analogy to the pattern of historical patriarchal takover/military occupation. Erik works closely with Starhawk.

Permaculture is about webs/relationships/everything connected to everything else...

"We're a circle of designers!"

A group participation excercise begins:

The dome is divided into four quadrants: Yes, No, Effective, Not Effective.

We answer questions by moving to different quadrants and then we discuss our views. Why did we choose the way we did.

The questions include:

Is Peak Oil real?
Will solar power save the world?
Will biotech feed the world?

I went to the Yes quadrant for Peak Oil being real.

For "will solar power save the world" I went to No. Most people went to yes, except for me and Tim and Gabe. I spoke into the microphone and asked, "don't solar panels utilize some petroleum in their manufacture?" Gabe expressed concern over disposal issues.

The biotech issue was long and passionate, of course.

After the excercise Erik began to continue to inspire with more tales from the front lines. He started this organization, he said, to provide an alternative to the polarization rampant within the social justice community. He was tired of everything being "No" and "against." "The problem is the solution," he says. "Think whole systems."

In September of 2003, at the WTO ministerial in Cancun, they set up an eco-camp, utilizing rainwater catching, graywater, composting and rainforest gardening to create models. If you submerge enough oyster shells in acid rain it can neutralize the water.

"We don't have a water crises but a runoff crises! A consciousness crises!"

Every group of people contains all aspects of community for survival: you've got doctors, sewers, talents galore. We are each others resources.

The stories about geurilla gardening at the May, 2003 summit on genetic engineering in Sacramento were the most entertaining and inspiring. The homeless were able to harvest some of the produce, as one homeless woman who was present testified. She said the gardens are still being propagated through seed-saving.

Erik discussed the process of making seedballs and throwing them, in shell containers to protect from birds, onto degraded property. They include a diversity of seeds so that the plants that prefer to grow in that particular environment can choose to do so.

The seedballs were eventually charged with a crime and arrested by the local police. The police said they were weapons and put them in a box and hauled them off.
P.E.A. decided to host a workshop on the steps of the police station. They got a press-conference out of it. He said this is so much about "messenging." The cops got a press-conference out of it too. The police started lobbing seed-balls on film and called them weapons.

The conclusion of the day was: "We need sustainability and social justice woven together."

From the program guide: "Erik Ohlson is a Permaculture, Global Justice Organizer/Educator. he has spent the last six years building movements and nurturing campaigns that range from community gardens with ecological designs to global justice actions that confront Empire while modeling solutions to privatization. He tavels internationally, teaching permaculture courses and working with civil society movements in building soloutions and resistance at summit meetings of the WTO, G8, IMF, FTAA."

Blog Archive