Browngirl Going Green


Too Much Goin’ On
May 5, 2010, 2:42 am
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Where do I start? My life has been super-hectic with work lately, which is good for my pocketbook but not very good for my blogging and other writing (at least not in the short-term). And the world’s been kind of a schizo place lately, it seems—from the celebration of all things Earth Day and enviro this last month of April, to the devastating and tragically ironic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico on the last day of the same month, to the craziness around the new Arizona anti-immigrant law.

On a more personal level, I’ve been trying to keep up with my garden while working tons more hours than I have in a long, long time, and mostly succeeded—me and my husband put a couple hours into taking care of the vegetable beds the other day, and were rewarded with the sight of broccoli heads poking out from between the huge leaves on my broccoli plants. I’ll post some pics later.

In other news, I went to check out some local ‘Bay-friendly’ aka environmentally sustainable gardens as part of the annual East Bay Bay Friendly Garden Tour, which was super-cool. Saw three Oakland gardens not more than a few miles from my home: a lovely terraced mini-forest garden shaded by huge redwoods; a C-shaped garden full of plants and flowers suited for its sunny location; and finally my friend Wally’s garden in deep East Oakland, which he pretty much ‘built’ himself, and includes keyhole veggie beds overflowing with fava beans, lots of drought-tolerant and native plants, and a hammock (aaahhh). Wally’s was the only stop on the garden tour, I’d venture a guess, where we were offered wine AND rum and coke.

Also, ate some of the pork chops from the sustainably and humanely raised pig that we share-bought a few months ago. Every bit of meat we’ve had from this pig has been frickin’ scrumptious—dense, meaty, savory.

I hope to put some more time into the garden and use some of my home-grown vermicompost in the beds soon. Which reminds me of something else I gotta do: feed my worms!



More Brownfolks Going Green

Jarid Manos and his son Kaiden (from the Ghetto Plainsmen web site)

Thanks to fellow blogger Dianne Glave for giving me the heads-up on two other people of color who are going green and writing about it. It’s been inspiring and cool for me to find these kindred spirits online, and makes me want to plan a cross-country trip so that I can meet these folks and see some of the wild places that have inspired them and their writing.

First, there’s DNLee at the Urban Science Adventures! blog, who recently visited San Francisco and seemed to have had a grand time. She’s a scientist who’s blogging about discovering nature in urban areas—one of my favorite people-of-color-and-the-environment topics. Since so many of us live in and / or identify with urban areas, either by choice or by force of circumstance (economic or otherwise) I think it’s important for people of color to (re)claim nature in the cities and towns where we live. Environmentalism is not just about going to the backwoods and living off the land—it’s about stewarding all of our natural resources in a way that’s respectful and sustainable.

On the other end of the spectrum, Dianne also introduced me to Jarid Manos, whose new book is provocatively and intriguingly titled The Ghetto Plainsman. Jarid is the CEO of the Great Plains Restoration Council, whose mission is to “restore and protect our shattered prairies and plains through developing youth leaders in Ecological Health”. I love this mission statement, and the way the organization integrates the healing of our young people and humanity with the healing of our land and ecosystems.

The time I spent in the Pacific Northwest last year as part of the Windcall Institute—a three-week-long nature residency for activists and organizers to recover from burnout and reconnect to our essential selves—showed me first-hand nature’s power to heal and to grant clarity and purpose. I came back from my time in that rugged, wild part of the world with a renewed sense of connection to the Earth, and a stronger commitment to making environmentalism part of my social justice work as well as my writing and my everyday life. I started this blog in part because of my time at Windcall—so I totally get that we need nature to heal ourselves, and that our acts of healing the Earth are also healing for ourselves.

Lastly, I’m going to be submitting something for the April Diversity in Science Carnival, a sort of blogging festival that’s being curated this month by Dianne, whose book, Rooted in the Earth is coming out in a few months. The theme this month is, of course, Earth Day, which happens every year on April 20th. I’m not sure yet what I’m going to write, but I’ll think of something.



Black Nature
February 24, 2010, 6:06 am
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Just a quick post to let you know about an event that I heard of from a couple of friends of mine that’s coming up next week at UC Berkeley. I probably won’t be able attend, unfortunately, because of previous commitments, but if you’re in the area you should check it out. It’s a symposium and reading for the new anthology, Black Nature: Four Centuries of African-American Nature Poetry, edited by Camille Dungy. The book’s been enjoying some great press, including this article in the San Jose Mercury News, as it’s the first-ever anthology to focus on nature writing by African-American poets.

Along with Dianne Glave’s upcoming book, Rooted in the Earth, Black Nature represents what I hope is a growing trend among Black folks and, hopefully, people of color in general, to write and publish nature- or environmentalist-oriented writing. As I’ve said before, I think people of color, immigrants, low-income people, and other people who have been historically pushed to the margins of society in the US have a lot to offer to the public discourse on environmentalism and living more in tune with nature.

If you end up going to the symposium, feel free to post your impressions of the book and the event here. It should be a great event, with former California poet laureate Al Young listed as one of the speakers.



The Pig is Coming! And Other News

So we are FINALLY getting our pasture-raised, all-natural-feed pig delivered this Saturday from Godfrey Family Farms. The delay was on the butcher’s end, I guess, since the pig was slaughtered on my birthday (coincidence, but an interesting one) back at the end of December. I organized this purchase, pulling together five other buyers from Oakland and Berkeley via the Bay Area Meat CSA and my personal network of progressive foodie friends, mostly people of color. I’m very excited to cook and taste an animal that I purchased directly from the farmer, whom I will meet on Saturday and whom I’ve spoken to on the phone and communicated with via email. I wrote an earlier post that you can read for more background on our pig. This is all in an effort to eat more sustainably and humanely raised animals, and while I haven’t gone completely 100% sustainable in this regard, I’d say about 90% of the meat I consume now is at least hormone- and antibiotic-free, if not free-range/pasture-raised.

Of course, it’s impossible to know if stores’ labeling practices are completely forthcoming and honest, which is why I’m glad to be meeting the Godfreys on Saturday and taking home some of their pork. I’m hoping to have a little dinner party with a few friends at some point to hopefully turn more people on to buying meat in this way. I have to say, while it was definitely time-consuming and not very convenient, it’s so far been an interesting experiment in farm-to-table shopping, and is something I think more people will need to do more of if we want to have a truly sustainable, green, locavore-based food distribution system.

In other eco-news, through the networking magic of the Internet I’m happy to have connected with another woman of color writer, Dianne Glave, whose blog, entitled Rooted in the Earth is a precursor to her upcoming book, Rooted in the Earth: Reclaiming the African American Environmental Heritage. Obviously, there are lots of connections between what Dianne writes about (much more eloquently than I do, I must add) and what I strive to describe in this blog. I’m excited about Dianne’s book and hope that it signals a wave of environmental non-fiction by people of color in the US that is long overdue.

Lately, I’ve been reading The World Without Us by Alan Weisman, which is fascinating and offers a lot of information to absorb about what the Earth would be like if human beings disappeared from its face completely. The predictions will no doubt surprise you, and make you realize how much energy we expend everyday to maintain our modern civilization. Mr. Weisman is such a skilled writer that you feel as if you’re seeing the landscapes that he writes about, both ancient and modern, before your very eyes.

There’s some really good environmental/scientific non-fiction out there these days that is both highly educational as well as entertaining—two that I read last year that were among my favorite books of the whole year: Farm City by Oakland-based writer and urban farmer Novella Carpenter, and Fruitless Fall by Rowan Jacobsen. I look forward to reading Ms. Glave’s book and adding it to my growing collection.

If you know any other books that you think I or other people who read this blog might like, please share them. I’d love to hear about what you’re reading.