Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Now that you've met your meat

How did you feel about the video in yesterday's post, Can you eat meat? If you're like me, you may find it difficult to swallow meat and dairy products.

Though my eggs, poultry, bacon, beef and milk come primarily from range-fed, grass-fed, organic, humanely raised and (oxymoronically) slaughtered animals, the images of the video are so deeply imprinted on my mind that I suspect I will not be able to swallow animal flesh again.

It's tough, even in a city like San Francisco, to eat organic, free-range all the time, but it is possible. Yes, it costs extra. I manage the extra cost four ways:
  1. As a tithe;
  2. As an investment in the future well-being of the Earth and her creatures;
  3. As the humane, right thing to do;
  4. As the best possible support for the small-scale farmers and ranchers who dare to buck the system and grow food that is good for us, good for the planet and good for the animals on whose lives we depend.
After watching yesterday's video, I will continue to buy the highest rated organic and free-range dairy products I can, though I'll be far less likely to dine in restaurants unless the menu clearly states they serve only organic.

But what if I weren't already on this path? What if that video was the catalyst for an entire lifestyle change? Where would I start?

Wendy Gabriel of the Minneapolis Green Living Examiner posted the final installment of her interview with Dr. Alan Greene, author of Raising Baby Green: The Earth-Friendly Guide to Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Baby CareAmazon product detailstoday. She asked Dr. Greene, "If you were only going to choose a few organic foods, what would you choose?"

Dr. Green named three: milk, potatoes, peanut butter. I would add eggs, yogurt, butter and cream as well--all dairy products. To learn why Dr. Greene put those three at the top of the list, visit Gabriel's article on Examiner.com.

What to do if your local grocery store or supermarket does not carry organic produce and dairy? Local Harvest makes it easy to find a farmer's market or a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm near you, any where in the United States. Chances are there's one close enough.

Many farmers market vendors are certified organic producers or in the process of certification. They won't mind if you ask to see their certification. They need your support as much as you need their fresh, tasty food.

CSAs deliver freshly harvested, in-season fruits and vegetables, either to your doorstep or to a central location within a relatively short radius, so look for one near you and begin getting premium foods picked ripe, packed quickly and delivered almost immediately.

In the Village of Ordinary, some people are vegetarians and some are carnivores. All are raised with a deep respect and abiding love for the animals with whom they share the Earth and especially with the animals who help to feed them. For more ways to build that dynamic into our lives, subscribe to this blog or sign up for e-mail notifications in the right hand column.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Can you eat meat after watching this video?

I eat meat, eggs, milk products. Do you? If you are a fan of The Village of Ordinary and the gentle lifestyle it models, please watch The Transformation of Animals into Food.

Beware. The video includes near heart-stopping footage of the animals who supply the eggs we scramble with peppers, onion and cheese; the milk from which the cheese is made and that we feed our children and pour into our coffee; the plump chicken legs, spicy wings, wholesome heart-healthy skinless breasts, crispy bacon, juicy ribs, fast-food burgers, and well-marbled T-bones with which we nourish our bodies and tickle our taste buds. Yum. Or is it?

Can you stomach it? The need for Ordinary grows greater and more personal every day.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Did you turn out your lights?

Earth Hour light switchLast night, according to Earth Hour's 2009 Kids Page, more than a billion of us turned out our lights. That's about one-seventh of the world's 6.7 billion people. Were you among us?

Here in San Francisco, we enjoyed a late supper and a full hour of uninterrupted conversation in our cool, darkened rooms.

[Image from Earth Hour Kids home page]

Disappointingly, about the same number of windows in our neighborhood were dark as last year.

Mayor Gavin Newsom helped to dim the city's nightscape when he yanked the switches for the Bay Bridge and Coit Tower. Thank you, Mayor, for your support of Earth Hour 2009! I'll hold you to your Twitter DM today to help push SF Earth Hour viral on the web in 2010.

Cities and hamlets around the world dimmed their lights, from tiny Igiugig, Alaska, to Beijing. For an impressive show of lights going out, watch the Earth Hour 2009 slide show.

There's still time to turn this symbolic act into concrete action. Aside from votes, nothing sounds so sweet to a politician as a thank you. Take time to thank the pols in your city who supported Earth Hour and encourage them to make their town even darker for one hour next year. Public opinion matters, too, so take advantage of this opportunity to write to President Obama and tell him how important climate change is to you and your family.

Earth Hour logoRemember how the video in yesterday's post, Lights Out--Earth Hour 2009, began with a single voice saying, "I'm just one person," quickly multiplied by hundreds of voices all chanting "I'm just one person"?

Remember how big (and annoying) the sound of those voices became?

That's how climate change works: Each of us contributing carbon emissions through our quick trips to the grocery store, lights and heat on in rooms we're not using, extra gas use from low tires and poorly tuned engines.

So you're just one person. Instead of one person adding to carbon emissions, be one person reducing them. The World Wildlife Fund has eight quick actions you can pick from right now.

We can all make small changes, one person, one minute, one hour a time. That's exactly how we are building a world more like the Village of Ordinary.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Lights out--Earth Hour 2009!

Tonight's the night! All over the world, at 8:30 pm, wherever they are, people are turning off their lights for 60 minutes.

Why? We're showing in the most dramatic way possible our support for protecting the Earth.

One person committed to reducing energy consumption can make a difference, but millions working together can change the world.

Earth Hour 2009

We're dimming the Earth's artificial lights for one hour around the globe. Watch as it happened last year and see how beautiful darkness can be:

Are your favorite celebs turning out their lights? Learn who has their finger on the switch at Earth Hour US. Watch the slide show of cities dimming their lights all over the world and find links to other participating countries. Got kids? Now's the time to find creative ways to show them how human beings managed without electricity, planes, cars and phones until the last century. Earth Hour Kids has some great ideas and loads of fun-filled facts.

Are you turning out your lights tonight? Tell us why in the comments below and Sign up and be counted! If you're reading this after the event in your locale, tell us what you observed between 8:30 and 9:30 pm; and if you turned out your lights, how did you feel for that one hour?

Earth Hour 2009 is one small way we can all help to build the Village of Ordinary tonight. The Earth Hour Tool Box offers many more. Join us, won't you?

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Ordinary Hero: Helena Norberg-Hodge

Ordinary Heroes Award badge
Image copyright L. Kathryn Grace, 2009
All rights reserved

In 1975, a young linguist, Helena Norberg-Hodge, traveled to the tiny Indian state of Ladakh, so far north, and so Buddhist in culture, it is known as Little Tibet. She has returned to Ladakh for six months every year since, living with her friends and teachers, learning their language and assuring it continues to live in both written and spoken form. What she has witnessed in nearly thirty-five years is the near destruction of a self-sustaining, peaceful culture where crime was almost unheard of and the people were so efficient in providing for themselves that they partied during most of the harshest winter months.

To what does Norberg-Hodge attribute this change after more than 500 years of contentment and plenty? Western encroachment. The following film, in three video segments, nicely contrasts the genteel, traditional lifestyle of the Ladakhi with the noise, crime and dirt that symbolize the new, progressive lifestyle imported, along with gasoline and monoculture crops, from the west.

You can learn more of the story in Norberg-Hodge's book, Ancient Futures: Learning from LadakhAmazon page image, which is the inspiration for The Village of Ordinary. Ancient Futures shows us that Ordinary is not merely a vision, but a reality in one of the harshest climes in the world.

Founder of the International Society for Ecology and Culture (ISEC), Norberg-Hodge spends much of her time away from Ladakh promoting ecological, economic and political strategies to save the earth. That last phrase, Strategies to Save the Earth, is also the name of a short videotaped conversation with Doug Tomkins, founder of NorthFace and Esprit. In the film, Norberg-Hodge says:

For about 35 years I've been trying to raise awareness about the way in which the economy--economic development, globalization--lies behind almost all the social and environmental crises we face. ... A lot of issues converge in the same root causes. ... It would be a lot better if we could focus on the need for change and look upon the key levers that could bring the economy in a direction that would support life, support our water systems, the land, and help to rebuild the fabric of society.

That means looking at the way in which deregulating global trade and finance is responsible for most of the social and ecological destruction we see. So we need to be looking at re-regulating finance and trade, and one of the things we can do is start already at the local level to create protected local markets where producers and consumers collaborate to create a new economy that really supports diversity.

Sound familiar? But Norberg-Hodge is hopeful for a better future:

The most important idea is to realize is that we're dealing with a man-made economic system. It's not evolutionary. It's not happening at its own natural progression, that things just get bigger and bigger. In Nature, everything that waxes, also wanes. We're not talking about evolution. We're not talking about something natural. It's very unnatural, made by people, and we can change it. We just need to have the courage to look at the bigger picture, and the courage to realize that we are capable of changing a man-made system.

For her love of the Ladakhi people and their culture,
For her ability to recognize the economic and social genius of the Ladakhi,
For her resolve to work with her Ladakhi friends to preserve their way of life,
For her efforts to bring westerners to Ladakh to work and learn,
For her active promotion and training in shortening the distance from farm to fork through her Local Food Toolkit,
For continuing to speak, write, publish and travel to encourage all of us to make more sustainable, life-enhancing choices,
For her faith in humanity to do the right thing, eventually,
For her perseverance and refusal to give up despite the setbacks life throws at her,
For making the story of the Ladakhi available to us all,

the Ordinary Heroes award is offered with deepest gratitude to Helena Norberg-Hodge.

[Edited for typographical errors on 3/28/09]

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Thirsty? Watch this

This is World Water Week. Dozens of folks have called water the next oil. Some say we'll be paying as much for water in a few years as we paid for oil last fall. What's going on with water, and why is it important to the vision of Ordinary?

Grab yourself a sandwich and a cup of coffee. Turn off the phones. Get comfortable, and spend perhaps the most important educational hour and sixteen minutes you've ever spent with this video. (You won't want to stop. It's that good.)

Did you watch it? What do you think? Will you change the way you use water? Will you discuss water with your friends? Your congressional representatives? How do we make conscious water choices Ordinary?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Ordinary Heroes: Amelia and Michael Howard of Eden Place

Image copyright L. Kathryn Grace, 2009
All rights reserved

They had the money to live almost anywhere. They chose to return and raise their children in the Southside Chicago neighborhood in which Amelia Howard grew up, a place now riffed with gang violence and fear. She became a teacher in a local school. He started a construction business. Together, they cleared a neighborhood vacant lot that had become a toxic waste dumping ground. It took them five years. In its place, they grew a (mostly) native plant garden, built a wetland and a prairie, and taught parents and their children how to grow their own food. They called it Eden Place.

Now city kids who know little or nothing of prairies, flowers and fruit trees can run barefoot through thick, mown grass, pick tomatoes from the vine, watch beans climb poles through the summer heat, and learn about the native plants that grew in Chicago long before buildings and concrete covered the landscape. Chicago Wilderness Magazine tells the story in Secret Garden, and you can learn more about the project at Eden Place Nature Center: An Urban Oasis. What you won't find on the latter page is any information about the Howards and their role in rescuing the land, how they dealt with fire-bombing gangs who tried to stop them, or their struggle to keep the center going. They don't appear to be the horn-tooting type, unless the horn is to draw attention to the need for more volunteers and cash to keep the center and its programs running.

With an eye on the present, the center actively promotes getting down and dirty in the garden. Children of all ages and their parents and teachers participate in nature classes and hands-on gardening, including picking and eating fruits and vegetables as they ripen. The center's eye is firmly fixed on the future as well. In addition to environmental and gardening classes for students of all ages, the center provides unpaid Environmental Management/Stewardship internships to undergraduate and graduate students.

This garden has helped families heal. It's helped them learn how to be healthy physically and socially. It's improved our quality of life.

Michael Howard as quoted on
Gardener's Supply Company's
2005 Garden Crusader Awards

For their courage, determination and perseverance to turn an illegal toxic waste dumping ground into a body, mind and soul-nourishing haven, this third Ordinary Heroes award is humbly offered to Amelia and Michael Howard, with gratitude. May they be blessed one-thousand fold.

My thanks to Twitterer @urbangarden for pointing me to this story.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Ordinary heroes: Willie Smits rebuilds a rain forest

Willie Smits started out trying to save a couple of orangutans. In the process he sheltered thousands, halted rampaging grassland fires, regrew a rain forest, changed the climate and, oh yes, provided water, food, livelihood, education and a vastly improved standard of living for thousands of Borneo natives. In his TED talk titled A 20-year tale of hope: How we re-grew a rainforest, Smits tells the story in just eighteen minutes. His speech left me breathless. Take a look.

Whew! I have dozens of questions for Smits, don't you? While he is not the first to reclaim a forest or jungle or green a desert, Smits's work shows us how close we can be to realizing the vision of Ordinary.

Image copyright 2009, L. Kathryn Grace. All rights reserved.

For devoting his life to protecting and preserving orangutans and their habitat; for showing us how it can be done while improving the environment; for upgrading the economy and helping people, who like the orangutans get their livelihood from the forest, to achieve a higher standard of living; and for making the vision of a world of peace, harmony and prosperity, much like Ordinary, real; this week's Ordinary Hero is Willie Smits.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Pinning our hopes on youth

They're plugged in, tuned in and turned on to making change. In Washington, D.C., last Tuesday, two thousand mostly young people from all over the country rallied and marched in a Capitol Climate Action to shut down the toxin-spreading coal plant that lights and heats Congress. They're off and running in the next weeks and months to coal-fired electrical facilities all across the country, and they're Twittering about their experiences during the events so the rest of us can follow them live. Their rallying cry: This is what democracy looks like!

That's not all.

On Thursday, Minnesota youth took their concern for clean air, clean cars and clean jobs to their state capitol, where they heard Van Jones, author of The Green Collar Economy:Green Collar Economy book on Amazon

We don't need your leadership in the future. If we had waited for your leadership these past two years, we wouldn't have the presidential campaign we just had. We wouldn't have green jobs as a main slogan, now, reorganizing the whole economy. We wouldn't have the level of hope that we've got. We don't need your leadership in the future. We need your leadership right now.

Take a look at what the kids had to say for themselves, and how they responded to Jones.

Bill McKibben, author of Deep Economy,Deep Economy book on Amazonand NASA scientist Dr. Tom Hansen are two names we recognize because they've been warning us of the perils of global warming for decades. Thousands of others, most without any recognition whatsoever, have worked for an equal time to change laws and improve environmental conditions in their communities, states and globally. Every one of these individuals contribute to the vision of the world of Ordinary, and I give gratitude for them, for their selflessness and for their actions, great and small.

Backed by years of research, debate, political action and civil action, our youth have the collective power to compel at last the change that offers hope for one day realizing Ordinary. May they use it well and wisely.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Ordinary Hero: Jarvenpa

Ordinary Heroes Award Badge
For courage to write the truth as she lives it
For unfailing compassion
For anger in the face of injustice
For love of all beings, great and small
For unstinting generosity to those society rejects
For willingness to sit with another in pain
For persistence in working to right wrong
For resilience
For keeping her heart open when it would be so much easier to close

And for making her piece of the world better, one day at a time, in the most Ordinary of ways,

The first Ordinary Heroes award is extended to Jarvenpa, whose blog Outside the Windows is vibrant, passionate, full of nit and grit, and revealing of a heart so broken, so healed, so big with love that anyone looking in can only be healed in turn. If that weren't enough, Windows is a damn good read.

I discovered Jarvenpa through another blogger's link several years ago. Yes, she writes beautifully, which makes it easy to see her world and almost to believe I feel what she is feeling. But it is her consistency in eating grief again and again--and recovering, in seeing beauty at every turn when she could see ruin, and in helping those who can least help themselves, though they keep on trying--the wounded, scarred people who show up on her doorstep with addictions, mental illnesses, hearts broken beyond coping in a material world--that inspires and motivates me. Her stories are pure life as she experiences it in her Northern California bookstore and garden, on the streets of her town--visceral, real, immediate, heart-jolting.

Give a shout to Jarvenpa, then sit down with a nice hot cup and get to know a woman whose life makes the vision of the Village of Ordinary seem closer and closer today.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

The Ordinary Heroes Award

Copyright L. Kathryn Grace, 2009. All rights reserved.

All over the world, people work within their homes, businesses, communities and governments to ease suffering, build harmonious relationships, guide our leaders and compel our corporations to make conscious, socially responsible decisions. They work to heal and protect the earth that future generations might know the beauty and wonder so many of us older generation remember from our youth.

Whether their work is to save a single child from an abusive family member, to teach families how to grow an organic vegetable and flower garden, or to regrow a rain forest, such individuals are heroes. They hold the vision of a just, whole world. They are Ordinary Heroes.

Wanda Tucker celebrates Love Thursdays on her blog What Would Wanda Do? In a bow to Wanda and to love, beginning tomorrow Realizing Ordinary will celebrate and honor a new Ordinary Hero each Thursday.

If you have received the Ordinary Hero award, you may post it, unaltered, on your blog or web site, with a link back to this page explaining its origins.

Recipients may also pass the award along to individuals who have shown through their actions a desire to heal the earth, to reclaim the food that nourishes our bodies, to ease suffering, to improve communications between rival individuals, factions or governments. Again, the badge is not to be altered for any reason and should include a link back to this page.

In case you're wondering, the stylized image in the badge is of my personal hero, who wishes to remain anonymous, and her grandchild. This is one way I honor her and the work she has done for children and their families throughout her adult life.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

At last--Alice Walker has a web site--and a blog

It gives me enormous pleasure to discover today Alice Walker's web site and blog. She is now sharing her thoughts, wanderings, experiences and wisdom with the world, free to anyone with a computer and an internet connection. I am lost for hours, gorging on a feast of perfect words, organic, succulent and ripe.

But it is not the words that fill me. They are only ingredients, however fresh, savory or sweet. It is the measure of the words, born of a lifetime of truth telling, that feeds my soul.

Simply to read her most recent blog post, A Letter from Alice Walker to Aung San Suu Kyi, Nobel Prize winner under house arrest in Burma (Myanmar) since 1989, is to travel from Aung San Suu Kyi's well-guarded prison home to the inauguration of President Barack Obama, to the killing in California of a 19-year-old man by BART police who shot him while he lay face down with his hands behind his back.

On the journey, we absorb the sights, smell the exotic scents of any traveler, but what we learn and feel and understand is so much more. You must read it. Please go there now.

As extraordinary as she is, Alice Walker is one of my Ordinary heroes.