Posts Tagged With: Economy

Occupy Denver

Saturday night I went down to the capital building to the Occupy Denver protest.  Denver is one of over 1500 cities showing solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street movement in New York.

Saturday afternoon there was a march on the state capital.  4000-5000 people joined together to march down 16th street.  I couldn’t get down there in time for the march, but I went with C and Manuel, my mom’s husband, to join the few hundred remaining protesters around 6:00pm.

I’ve never been to anything like this.  The Occupy Wall Street movement is a peaceful protest, but the Denver police department and Colorado state patrol lined the streets in full riot gear.

As we walked down Broadway from Colfax, the citizens started moving into the street, chanting “Police are the 99 percent!” and the police line backed up.  I got chills.  I was almost moved to tears, and I wished I had my camera ready to get that on video.

We spent some time walking around among the protesters.  We got a lot of warnings to “get that baby out of here, before they gas us.”  One guy warned us that we were taking her into a “really volatile area.”  I have to admit, after the third or fourth such warning, I was a bit intimidated.

Manuel shot a few videos with his phone and in one, you could hear a citizen shouting, “They have automatic weapons.  Why do they need automatic weapons?”  I was glad to be there and also nervous.  I wonder just how far we are entrenched in this bizarre culture of fear. In reality, it really was pretty calm.

Rick and my mom were watching the news reports, and the police began making arrests.  Around 6:30 we saw two people getting arrested for “blocking traffic.”  Odd since the police were the ones in the streets, and the street was completely shut down anyway.  The citizens stayed on the sidewalks and in the park for the most part.  And after reading a few news stories I realized just how much is sensationalized.

The whole time we were there, we didn’t hear any people shouting “shame” at the police.  We did however hear chants and shouts of “Protect the kitchen!” when the protestors gathered around the food tent, linking arms, to keep it from being trampled to the ground.  And chants of “Peaceful. Peaceful.” as the police formed lines and advanced on the group in the park.

We stayed until about 7:30pm when we saw several more police vehicles show up followed by a couple of ambulances.  The police had formed lines, seven or eight officers deep and started advancing on the crowd.  As Manuel and I walked back to the car, I stopped and asked an officer on the fringe of things why they were in such heavy gear and out in such force for a peaceful protest (hey, I figured they wouldn’t arrest or pepper spray a lady with a baby strapped to her).  The officers were polite, and explained their position (you know, being prepared, just in case, and all that).  Of course they are just doing their jobs.

I realize that attending a protest for just an hour and  a half, and leaving when things start to get heated totally makes me the diet soda of protesters.  But it was more than nothing, and I plan to go back in the very near future without Cora.  I still won’t be able to stay – she is breastfeeding and I can only be away for so long.  But I plan to keep showing my support in little bites and chunks as I can.

There are probably a lot of people like me that might want to stand up, but for some reason they can’t be at the protest (or like me, have little kids and may not want them in such a charged environment).  Here are a few simple things that anyone can do to help, without attending a rally:

  • Close your bank account with a large bank and open an account with your local credit union instead.
  • Buy local or handmade items for all your holiday gifts, or better yet, make gifts yourself using locally sourced materials.
  • Buy your food at a farmers market instead of from big corporations.
  • Make your own food at home instead of going out or buying it in a box (granola is just oatmeal, honey, oil and nuts baked in the oven – this is a great alternative to cereal).
  • Gardeners, buy non-GMO seeds from seed companies not owned by Monsanto.  Here is a decent list of which are safe and which to avoid.
  • Sign a petition online or in person.
  • Donate supplies to your local Occupation.
  • Donate money to the cause.
  • Spread the word.  Facebook, Twitter, email, telephone, blogging, whatever!
  • Pay in cash!  Credit only helps serve big banks.

I also realized that a lot of people still don’t understand what Occupy Wall Street is all about.  And why would I be posting this on my homesteading blog?  Food Democracy Now posted that,

4 firms control 84% of beef packing, 66% of pork production and 1 company (Monsanto) controls more than 93% of soybeans and 80% of corn grown in the U.S.

Occupy Wall Street will affect us all.  Here are a few good articles that might help in understanding what the Occupation is all about:

Or simply…

Now is the time.  Spread the word.

Categories: Community, Recommended Reading | Tags: , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Gardening and Culture: Are Food Gardens Just for the Poor?

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about gardening and different cultures in America.  As you know, I’ve been reading City Farmer by Lorraine Johnson.  In chapter two of the book, Johnson talks a lot about gardens at the White House.  Not only the one planted by Michelle Obama in 2009 in response to the Eat the View petition, but the also the many various gardens planted there throughout the history of the White House, both for the pleasure of the first family and for patriotism.  Despite many people’s view that the Obama’s garden is just another exercise in “green-washing” (especially since the President seems to be alright with living in Monsanto’s back pocket), the first lady’s organic garden does seem to be having a positive effect.  People are asking how they can do it too.  It gives a little ammunition against HOA’s that prevent vegetable gardens, and inspires many people for whom garden would not otherwise be on their radar.

Why would home owners associations ban vegetable gardens to begin with?  I wonder that a lot.  A few years back as we were digging into our own earth, setting up our first compost bins, and telling people we had chickens in our back yard, we got a lot of funny looks.  Urban homesteading was still a relatively unknown concept around these parts (to my mind anyway), and although a lot of people thought what we were doing was cool, most people felt they couldn’t do it themselves.  One friend exclaimed “You can have a garden in the city?!”  It was our turn to be shocked.  Granted, this friend lived in a suburb with strict HOA regulations, and they might not have been allowed to do the same, but our response was, “Sure, you can grow food wherever there is dirt.” So with some people, particularly in our generation, possibly there is just a level of ignorance that is dissipating over time with this issue.

Another friend’s response made me wonder if there is more at work, keeping some people from getting that compost under their fingernails.  In the midst of all our learning a few years back I had a friend that would constantly tell me to my face how great she thought everything we were doing was, and even ask me for advice about things.  She even got to the point where she bought a huge, expensive composter and a couple cherry tomato plants for her back yard.  But I found out that all the while, she assumed that we did the things we did because we were “poor.”

This friend lived in a big, expensive house in a new sub-division on the outskirts of metro-civilazation.  She had a Starbucks allowance, a shiny new SUV, a son in Montessori school and her hair and nails were always done.  Erica at NWEdible would call her a YuppieHippie.  That’s just not the way I roll.  I get my hair done when I can no longer stand it anymore (maybe every 6 months?), our SUV is going on 12 years old, is used to haul compost and roadkill, and just rolled 140k on the odometer.  Our house is small.  These are all the same for me now as they were when Rick and I had two incomes.  And we were gardening then too.  So I was shocked about her assumption.  Also, gardening and chicken coop building is not all that cheap.  Our CSA share and buying whole, locally raised, organic hogs and beef certainly weren’t either.

I generally think of gardening and self-sustainability as something that informed and educated people do.  I think about cities in the Northwest with bike lanes and wind power and wish our state would catch up.  I think about solar panels and how much they cost and what they’d save.  I guess I view urban homesteading as something that you don’t do because you’re poor and have no other choice, but as something you do because you want to make a better choice.

Not that we are rolling in the dough.  Far from it.  There have been some pretty lean months in the last five years for us.  But… hadn’t my friend just bought that $400 compost bin?  Certainly she had to know this is not just for the poor, right?  This made me think.  Why would she assume we were poor (well, besides the roadkill)?

Johnson addresses this in her book as well.  As many families immigrated to the U.S., they brought seeds and gardening knowledge with them.  They planted their gardens where they lived and kept up with the old ways, unaffected by social status and motivated to provide good, fresh food for their family.  But their children, who were likely looked at as poor, being recent immigrants, were quick to dump the old ways and buy their food from the supermarkets.  In many minds, growing your own food was a sign or symbol of not having the means to buy the same things.

I generally picture people immigrating in centuries past.  In Colorado, while we have plenty of immigrants from Mexico and other places, I tend to think about immigration in terms of Ellis Island and my husband’s great-grandparents from Slovakia.  His great-grandfather coming to America ten years before this great-grandmother, saving his hard-earned money to get her and their children here.  It would never occur to me to think of modern-day immigrants in this way.  But in some places, California for example, there are many hispanic families that have lived in the U.S. for generations as well as many recently immigrated Mexican families.  Their cultures are extremely different.  My mom’s husband, though born in San Diego, is often mistaken for a Mexican, to the point where he carries his passport and I.D. when visiting his family in California.

As I sat and thought about my friend’s view of our choices, I realized that she is from a state that is still flush with recent immigrants.  It’s likely that she was brought up seeing the immigrant families planting gardens, while her family never did.  The truth of the matter is that many immigrant families are poor when they get here.  Perhaps many of the HOAs in those new, expensive sub-divisions are set up just to keep the images of the poor, front yard veggie gardens separated from the green, water guzzling postage-stamp lawns that symbolize American success.

Have you experienced this?  Do you or did you view gardening and self-sustainability as a sign of status or culture?  Has anyone made assumptions about your choices based on their views?  Is gardening cultural?  Does your perception of the culture or status of gardening affect your own efforts towards sustainability?  What about HOAs – do you live where one restricts your ability to garden?  Should they have the right to do this?

Categories: Community, Garden, Recommended Reading, Sustainability | Tags: , , , | 21 Comments

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