Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Local Growers Guild makes food issues visible

I am on the board of the Local Growers Guild, which met in our back yard this evening. I wonder how many other such groups exist across the United States?

The Local Growers Guild was featured last year on Earth Eats, when Maggie Sullivan was the director. You can read or listen to an interesting interview with her there. Maggie is also one half of the Green Couple, with a blog about "learning to live green, and live together." (There's another Green Couple on facebook, The Green Couple, from Edmonton, Canada.)

The Local Growers Guild has a new director now, Kim Kanney, with the same focus and commitment to supporting a stronger local foods economy.

The mission of the Local Growers Guild is this one: The Local Growers Guild creates a local foods system that provides quality food to communities through direct markets and retailers; preserves the viability of family farms; improves the quality of life for growers; makes food issues visible; and promotes practices that preserve and protect the Earth. 

Monday, May 3, 2010

Photos from the May Day Parade from In the Heart of the Beast

Living uproariously large, sometimes on stilts: a few photos of the May Day Parade and Festival yesterday in Minneapolis, with thanks to the photographer, Jeanne Lakso. They capture much of the heart, and the beastiness, of this wonderful, ephemeral event. (I want a version the "breathe" sign for my wall..)

What innumerable traces exist in our collective consciousness, thanks to this event, I wonder? What do they look like, and where do they go? (Here's a clue: the captcha I got when posting this to facebook was "giant Demeter"!)

Sunday, May 2, 2010

In the Heart of the Beast MayDay Parade: Uproar! for a better city, better life

It's just about to begin – my favorite public art event: the In the Heart of the Beast Puppet Theater MayDay Parade and Festival. The MayDay Parade and Festival has helped build a "better city, better life" for 36 years now in the Twin Cities. (Here's the link to where I wrote about the event in 2009.)

The theme this year is:


A call to be fully present to the uncertainties of these shifting times

In this Year of the Tiger*, we stop to inhale the immense beauty of the world we share.
We exhale into a thunderous UPROAR! an embrace of multitudes joining together with collective strength for the present and future health of this world.
*according to the Buddhist, or Chinese, lunar calendar
Social genius Sandy Spieler, founder of In The Heart of the Beast, posted some photos by Andrew Kim at her facebook page, giving a glimpse of the artistry and effort that goes into MayDay. The parade travels down Bloomington Avenue in Minneapolis, to Powderhorn Park, where there is a ceremony at the edge of the lake.

Here is more about the Tree of Life Ceremony, with its suggestions for a reflective census:

The Tree of Life Ceremony 2010

In this year of the census when we are asked all manners of questions - name, age, race, how many are in your household - our Ceremony asks:
  • What if we "counted" all the trees, beetles, fishes, the waters, worms and raccoons?
  • What if we asked each other questions toward our wellbeing?
  • What if we asked questions of wonderments, of outrage?
  • What is immeasurable?
  • And what if these questions opened channels of compassion, action, and love, throughout the land? 
Anyone can help contribute to MayDay, where the donation page makes this observation:

Your contribution is critical to the programs that delight the senses, push the issues and prod us to see the world through a different lens.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

"Better City, Better Life"? Expo 2010 opens while housing activists remain in detention

It's the opening day for Expo 2010 Shanghai China , the largest world's fair ever, with a logo from the Chinese character 世 ('world', Chinese "shì") modified to represent three people, with the 2010 date at their feet.

More than 70-100 million people are expected to visit Expo 2010, which runs through October 31, making it a high impact energy event, one that would require a heck of a lot of carbon offsets. In a promotional movie, Expo 2010 presents itself as "a magical world of sustainable development, as a world without traffic jams or pollution." That does, indeed, sound like magical thinking.

I guess it's much better than spending money and energy on war, which is what our world cultures tend to do. Still, there are many back stories involving displacement and exploitation, power moves of the first order.

You can see images of the rather ingenious pavilions at Design Boom, including this Macau Pavilion, which takes the shape of a jade rabbit lantern. Designed by the Chinese firm Carlos Marreiros Architects (such a Chinese name!) this building is wrapped with a double-layer glass membrane, with fluorescent screens on its outer walls. Balloons serve as the head and tail of the "rabbit", which can be moved up and down to attract visitors.

The Macau Pavilion is constructed from recyclable materials, with solar power panels and rain collection systems. The design was inspired by rabbit lanterns popular during the mid-autumn festival in south China in ancient times. I have to say that while I find it to be in some ways "delightful" (and would love to see it in a Pixar movie), this construction reminds me more of a take-out container for some kind of fast food item. Not so sure about it as a livable or workable habitat – it's pretty sterile.

DIE's Dr. 
Doris Fischer
A good source for news about Expo 2010 has been DW World DE Deutsche Welle, where there was a piece about a month ago about the last minute chaos of construction. Since 2000, 18,000 families have been evicted, often without compensation, to make way for the Expo, and historic sections of Shanghai have been razed. One result was the expansion of the Shanghai housing rights movement, which is largely led by women.

Another essay at Deutsche Welle, by social development expert Dr. Doris Fischer, considers some of the social ironies of an event on this scale. Fischer argues that "the challenges facing China's big cities are in some ways strikingly similar to topics and visions addressed by legendary science fiction silent film Metropolis":
The Expo is a global event, not only representing China. Still the motto seems to especially address the challenges posed by China's metropolis. Will the exhibition live up to the expectation of the motto? ["Better City, Better Life"] Or will we just see another futuristic view of cities, the beautiful part, blinding out the ”underground” workforce and machinery that may be needed to keep the wealthy and shiny part running?
Amnesty International has also reported on the emptiness of the motto "Better City, Better Life" to those housing activists who have been held in incommunicado detention for protesting eviction from their homes. You can call for their release here: please do, especially before participating in any global utopian enthusiasm for Expo 2010.