Thursday, January 17, 2008

Dirt & Water...

If there's any readers still out there, I thought I would share my favorite photo from the Survival Pages. And just to keep you informed, I am throwing my hat into the ring for the Fringe Festival this August-- to perform The Survival Pages again. Wish me luck!

(Photo by Usry Alleyne)

In the meantime, I'll be appearing again soon -- with a persona not too different from my "Dirt-Nature-Host" side, but this time advocating the wonders of water as a circus clown in a new show, "Beneath the Surface" at In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theater. (check out for info...) Opens Feb 22 & runs through March 16. (Pay as able shows on Thurs. evenings)

This show is also known as "The Water Show/ Episode II" to those working at the puppet theater -- since this is the second in a series of work about water.
photo by Bruce Silcox
If you know any school groups (or other friends) who might be interested in a Puppety-Circus Show about the Minneapolis Water Works vs Bottled Water, or the importance of the Mississippi Watershed, or learning about what we can do do reduce pollution in our waterways, please help us spread the word!
In other news...

I'm currently reading The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan... It was recommended to me on at least 15 different occasions, and though I'm only halfway through the book I'd have to say that I also wholeheartly advocate all eaters to check it out. Not only does it tease apart the mysteries of the Industrial Food Complex & why the heck Iowa grows so much corn, the chapter I just finished also goes after the "Industrial Organic" model-- mentioning many of the same brands I eat from my local food co-op, and pointing out the VERY lax standards behind the "organic" label and something he terms as "Supermarket Pastoral"-- as a genre of literature. Selling us a story about our food that is a pretty far stretch from the truth. (those sealed plastic bags full of ready-to-go baby greens? Muir Glen canned tomatoes?) I've yet to finish the book, but already I can tell that I'm going to think differently about the amount of processed food I pick up at the co-op. And -- for real this time-- I'm going sign up for a CSA box this summer!


I have to say, I'm disappointed. I feel somewhat betrayed by the food co-ops, for succumbing to the industrial, non-sustainable forces behind this takeover of the term "organic". I feel disappointed in myself, for being so gullible. For believing the story on the package... me, who usually shuns advertisements and their mind-numbing effects. Knowing that I prioritized bargain-shopping specials at the "Big Co-op" (Wedge and Seward) and didn't make a point of supporting North Country Co-op... the first co-op in Minneapolis, and probably one of the last to make a valiant effort to counter the industrial model. (North Country closed in November '07)

It's not that all products in the co-op are "Industrial Organic"-- but reading these chapters in The Omnivore's Dilemma has opened my eyes to the fact that I can't blindly trust the co-op to choose the most sustainable options, and I can't continue to justify that buying anything at the co-op automatically makes it "good/better". I suddenly feel somewhat disgusted at my own self-congratulations (and slight sense of superiority) for not shopping at Cub or Rainbow.

The Co-op Movement has been co-opted, and the Organic Ideal has been capitalized upon.

I resolve to get more of my food locally-- now, not only for the sake of shaving off my contributions to Global Warming when I buy those bananas from Ecuador-- but for the issue of trust. I want to SEE how what I put in my body is raised. I don't want to eat eggs from chickens that are purported to be "free range" but in reality live only marginally better than their caged cousins. I want to go to the farm myself and know the farmer. I want to support the people who actually believe in pioneering ways we can raise our food sustainably.

Sustainably. Michael Pollan writes:
"So is an industrial organic food chain finally a contradiction in terms? It's hard to escape the conclusion that it is. Of course it's possible to live with contradictions, at least for a time, and sometimes it is necessary or worthwhile. But we ought at least face up to the cost of our compromises. The inspiration for organic was to find a way to feed ourselves more in keeping with the logic of nature, to build a food system that looked more like an ecosystem that would draw its fertility and energy from the sun. To feed ourselves otherwise was "unsustainable," a word that's been so abused we're apt to forget what it very specifically means: Sooner or later it must collapse."

Some thoughts stick with me, since finishing "The Survival Pages"--
Yoko Ono stating that "In the course of survival, we don't have the luxury to be negative. Being negative, that is a luxury that we can't afford."
Sweet Honey in the Rock's song, "Battered Earth" -- "If the earth could crawl away... she'd be fighting for her life, fighting for her blessed life."

I think "The Survival Pages", in the end, was less about "inspire others to protect the environment" as it was an exploration into my own contradictions. And the conflict within myself-- what I read in the news and my own actions or lack of action. The desire to transform. But I wonder at myself. Why am I not fighting, as though I were fighting for my life, for the earth's life? I think back on all the people's movements I've read about in "A People's History of the United States" by Howard Zinn: in it, he said something to the effect of : Never, throughout history, have the privileged willingly relinquished their power-- in each case, it's been fought for, and any victories have been hard-won.

When I think about it in one way, I am the oppressor. And nature -- all its creatures, all its systems -- is the downtrodden one. You know that famous Lorax, "We speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues." If nature were able to hire a lawyer, we'd be hard-pressed to dispute the evidence. My fingerprints are all over this case.

But when I think of it another way, I look at the immense grinding wheel that seems so unstoppable. I realize that there is ultimately little difference in grinding over the trees and what they represent-- and grinding over me. It may take a few generations, but I-- the universal human&non-human "I" -- have been chewed up and spit into bits over the carpet of those driving this thing. (Who is me, and you, and all us who really ought to mobilize our tongues, our bodies, and all of our will toward throwing a wrench in this thing before it mows over us all).

I am the privileged, reluctant to relinquish my power.
I LIKE hot baths, dammit. I also love papaya with lime, and travel.

I'm looking over the edge of my armchair. Survival Is Uncomfortable.
No tropical fruit.
Scratching my subsistence from the sun and dirt like every other being here.

What big-brained monkey in their right mind would take that leap?

(One with enough imagination, and enough heart, to know that we are already falling, and to jump toward it is only to lighten our landing.)