unstrapped: dealing with money

•March 3, 2011 • Leave a Comment

apologize to those of you who’ve got this info a hundred times now…

Unstrapped: Dealing with Money

Friday, March 4th at 7:30pm
Random Row Books

(on West Main across from the Greyhound Station)
contact Sky for more info: 434 806 9486, peacewithinchaos@gmail.com

Most people feel confused, stressed, and isolated about money and the money system.  Money touches our lives in so many ways, and our experience is at the same time personal, local and global.  What’s possible is people working together to understand money, deal with their relationships with money, and to take action in generating wealth for themselves and their communities. This gathering is to begin a dialog in the community about money and explore ways to foster and facilitate that dialog.


cry of the mountain

•July 24, 2010 • 2 Comments

Tonight I got a poignant reminder of why I do the work I do.  Kassia and I saw Cry of the Mountain, a one-woman documentary theater performance about mountaintop removal in Appalachia.  Adelind Horan interviewed 13 people in West Virginia, from a coal company CEO to regular folks whose lives have been damaged by coal mining and are fighting back.  She then condensed the interviews into verbatim monologues and embodied each person to tell the story with incredible nuance and complexity.  For a little taste, check out this teaser.

Watching the performance, I was reminded that the various “environmentally friendly” lifestyle decisions that each of us makes is ultimately of little practical value.  Mass numbers of people making different decisions is important, but we’re a long way from that.  In the mean time, why inconvenience ourselves?

The performance was a good reminder that we are all complicit in the many environmental and humanitarian catastrophes and atrocities committed in order to preserve “our way of life.”  There’s no way we can avoid being part of the problem. Every time we turn on the lights or write a blog post on our laptops we are participating in mountaintop removal, just as we are participating in the occupation of Iraq every time we get in a car.

We can’t help but contribute to the problem.  We can try to minimize our contribution.  But that’s not enough; it won’t change the system.  Some people choose to find ways to resist the system.  Some people try to create alternatives.  Some people work to educate others.  Ultimately I think all are important and necessary, and all require a certain attitude of service.  Each of us need to find the ways to do this that inspire us most and that we believe to be the most beneficial.

If  you can make it to the last performance of Cry of the Mountain next Thursday at Play On! Theatre, please do – it’s amazing.  There’s also a great documentary on the same subject called Coal Country, which will be screened at the Jefferson Theater on August 12th.





imagineering the year to come

•February 9, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Fairly soon after landing Cville last year, we initiated monthly community potlucks.  They caught on quickly, and people took turns hosting them at their homes.  A  few months ago, we both stepped back from the community potlucks.  This was in part because of a sense of overload, and also out of a sense that if these potlucks were important to the larger community, someone would pick up the torch.   Initially, the potlucks stopped.  Then, at our evaluation session in early January a number of folks talked about how much they liked the potlucks.  People stepped forward and now the potlucks are back!

At the last Potluck, Raven lead us through a process that started with this simple exercise: Imagine it’s one year from now, Feb. 3rd, 2011. What has happened in the realm of community-building, stimulated in part by these very potlucks?

It’s a simple exercise that I’ve done before, but I found myself quickly getting very into it. So, here are the combined and edited lists from Kassia and I:

We’ve started a new Urban Commune which is rapidly developing into an urban homesteading educational and experimental center.  It serves as a hub for radical culture and fun activities.

Alexander House Hostel has expanded into two additional locations and is hosting a variety of community events and gatherings.  One of the new locations is a rambling old house with wrap-around porches and a large fireplace.   Weekly potlucks there draw local folks who flock out to join the crew of interesting and international hostel guests.

Food Not Bombs is operating out of the Haven and has expanded to serving at every park in Charlottesville.

A vehicle co-op has formed and now has 4 vehicles and 30 members.

Critical Mass is thriving, hosting monthly themed bike ride parties that draw people of all ages, including families and visitors to Cville.

The City Council has sponsored a coalition including ACCT, the city traffic engineer, UVA faculty and students, and citizens which is developing plans, to be implemented in Fall of 2011, to transform W. Main St. into a pedestrian and bike-focused multi-use street.

UVA has begun paying all hospital and university employees a living wage.

A new food co-op has started up and is rapidly expanding.

C’ville Foodscapes has been so successful that it has split into two co-operative business working in parallel and supporting each other.

Another favorite vision shared by an older woman in Kassia’s group was this (paraphrased):

Folks on my block start holding potlucks at each others’ houses.  Eventually our bonds grow and we start supporting each other by taking care of each others’ kids, lending and sharing tools, and caring for sick and elderly folks on the block.  Our block turns into a thriving and intimate community!

Karen Kerney/Syracuse Cultural Workers

We both came away from this exercise feeling inspired and re-juiced in our efforts to transform Cville into an Urban Utopia!

C’ville Foodscapes about to launch!!

•February 7, 2010 • 1 Comment

As you may (or may not) have heard, Sky and I are part of a group of folks starting up a new collective business here in Charlottesville. Its called C’ville Foodscapes, and the basic service is installing, building, and/or maintaining vegetable gardens in people’s yards. We’ve been working on this project for almost a year now, and are very excited to be on the cusp of launching this winter/spring.

Our website (www.cvillefoodscapes.com) is coming soon.  Here’s a snippet: the story of how we began.

When Angel moved in across the street from Patrick in the winter of 2008, the idea of an urban agriculture project was little more than a brief, neighborly conversation out on the front porch.  That conversation quickly snowballed; and as they continued chatting about the idea of creating a backyard CSA in the city,  they soon found out that some other folks in town had also been scheming.  Sam had recently posted a similar idea on the Eat Local list-serve, and Wendy had responded to his post.   Soon, Kassia and Sky came onto the scene; fresh from West Coast travels, and they had their own dreams of expansive urban farming.

It wasn’t long before we all found our way back to Angel’s porch on a sunny day in early February.  As we shared our visions for the project, a few themes immediately emerged.  We were all interested in supporting a sustainable urban food system.  We were all concerned with food justice; making healthy, delicious food available to people of all income levels and demographics.  We were interested in working collectively, and in creating a viable business model that would provide satisfying work at a reasonable income.

Our early meetings felt almost eerily charmed and magical.  Our skill sets and past experiences fit neatly together.  In addition to all of our own personal gardens, Angel and Sam had both spent time working on established CSA farms in the area.  Sam had also been certified in Permaculture design. Patrick had experience working in urban community gardens and doing community organizing work.  Meticulously organized and well-connected in the city, Wendy had previous experience running a small business.  While living at the Twin Oaks Community, Kassia and Sky had be able to live and work cooperatively, and gained hands-on farming skills.  They had also just spent months traveling in the states and abroad, researching successful models of urban sustainability and urban agriculture projects.

A bit giddy with excitement, our initial visioning was large and expansive.  We dreamed of backyard gardens blanketing the town, of an urban CSA run out of people’s yards, neighborhood veggie stands selling produce grown right on the block, and abandoned lots turned into thriving community gardens.  We wanted to help transform Charlottesville into a patchwork of thriving edible foodscapes.   As we continued meeting regularly, many questions arose and we discussed a myriad of different ways that an urban agriculture project could exist in the city of Charlottesville.  With guidance from local organizations and suggestions from friends, we spent many long hours hashing things out in living rooms and on porches over endless cups of tea. Eventually, we honed the project and emerged nearly a year later as C’ville Foodscapes.

Join us for our kick-off party Sunday, March 7th 1-5pm at Random Row books: live music, yummy food, seed swap, veggie fashion show and surprise, Cville Foodscaper/superhero Skit and more!

Move Your Money!

•January 1, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Large banks have been profiting mightily as our national (and individual!) economy continues to sink.  Some folks started talking about this over Christmas dinner, and created this video and website.  This video is a great summation and inspiration for an easy and concrete step we can all take to help address this national heist!  Move your money to a community bank (or credit union) and start pulling the plug on the “to large to fail” bank crew.

Check out the video: and website.

Start the New Year out right!

house on fire

•November 30, 2009 • 4 Comments

The following is excerpted from World on course for catastrophic 6° rise, reveal scientists, a recent article in The Indypendant by Steve Connor and Michael McCarthy

The world is now firmly on course for the worst-case scenario in terms of climate change, with average global temperatures rising by up to 6C by the end of the century, leading scientists said yesterday. Such a rise – which would be much higher nearer the poles – would have cataclysmic and irreversible consequences for the Earth, making large parts of the planet uninhabitable and threatening the basis of human civilization.

We are headed for it, the scientists said, because the carbon dioxide emissions from industry, transport and deforestation which are responsible for warming the atmosphere have increased dramatically since 2002, in a way which no one anticipated, and are now running at triple the annual rate of the 1990s.

This means that the most extreme scenario envisaged in the last report from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, published in 2007, is now the one for which society is set, according to the 31 researchers from seven countries involved in the Global Carbon Project….

6C rise: The consequences
If two degrees is generally accepted as the threshold of dangerous climate change, it is clear that a rise of six degrees in global average temperatures must be very dangerous indeed, writes Michael McCarthy. Just how dangerous was signalled in 2007 by the science writer Mark Lynas, who combed all the available scientific research to construct a picture of a world with temperatures three times higher than the danger limit.

His verdict was that a rise in temperatures of this magnitude “would catapult the planet into an extreme greenhouse state not seen for nearly 100 million years, when dinosaurs grazed on polar rainforests and deserts reached into the heart of Europe”.

He said: “It would cause a mass extinction of almost all life and probably reduce humanity to a few struggling groups of embattled survivors clinging to life near the poles.”

Very few species could adapt in time to the abruptness of the transition, he suggested. “With the tropics too hot to grow crops, and the sub-tropics too dry, billions of people would find themselves in areas of the planet which are essentially uninhabitable. This would probably even include southern Europe, as the Sahara desert crosses the Mediterranean.

“As the ice-caps melt, hundreds of millions will also be forced to move inland due to rapidly-rising seas. As world food supplies crash, the higher mid-latitude and sub-polar regions would become fiercely-contested refuges.

“The British Isles, indeed, might become one of the most desirable pieces of real estate on the planet. But, with a couple of billion people knocking on our door, things might quickly turn rather ugly.”

Recently, I heard Adam Berman, one of my favorite Jewish spiritual and environmental leaders speak. He asked us to consider Global Climate Change as the mother of all activist issues.  That if we don’t all take this issue on on some level in some way, independently or inter-meshed with the rest of our work, all other issues will literally be irrelevant as we will no longer be able to inhabit this planet.

If it were me, I’d emphasis more strongly the idea that we’re not acting like the house is on fire, and the idea that the solution is to come together and organize in new and profound ways.  But I think that’s more a style thing than anything.

So why aren’t we acting like the house is on fire?   For me, this issue huge, scary, daunting; far too much to contemplate and take on alone.  Which is why there is such a deep and dire need to start talking about it, thinking about it, and coming together to organize and taking action in profound, new ways.  With such a huge and overwhelming challenge before us, the solution/s will likely also be unfamaliar to us, outside the normal boundaries of our usual conception framework.  This is an amazing opportunity to revolutionize our relationship to ourselves, our communities and this planet!

The most remarkable feature of this historical moment on Earth is not that we are on the way to destroying the world-we’ve actually been on the way for quite a while. It is that we are beginning to wake up, as from a millennia-long sleep, to a whole new relationship to our world, to ourselves and each other–Joanna Macey

seas of plastic

•November 24, 2009 • Leave a Comment

As a brief follow-up to the last post, please watch this video:


It gives the global context for what could seem like an innocuous local tradition.  How much damage can a few plastic bags really do?