Esteemed Reader of Our Magazine:
My parents were sure the end was nigh, and they intended to be prepared. It was the early ‘70s, and abundant, fertile land in a remote area was cheap. They learned to build houses by building them. They learned to farm by farming. They started a “free school” in a burned-out house and eventually came together as a community and built a schoolhouse. They met often for encounter groups and other varieties of “consciousness-raising.” On weekends we marched on one Capitol or another, against nuclear power, against imperialist war mongering. Their solution to the problems of society was to become self-sufficient. To drop out and reject their bourgeois origins.
That was almost 40 years ago. Today, the problems that seemed to have us on the brink of disaster are amplified. The balance of nature is teetering under the weight of our environmental impact. Our leaders and their cheerleading team, the media, are so blatantly evil and ignorant as to be laughable. The lumbering behemoths of the multinational corporations are stumbling and falling under their massive girths and the reptilian stupidity of their profit-fixated myopia. The feeding of the world’s natural resources into the gaping maw of our industrial monster—which consumes oil, forests, oceans, whole species of animals, glaciers, and peoples before shitting out an amazon of toxic waste—is on the rise. Social inequality, globalization, and the exploitation of “human resources” are rife. We are waking up from the “American Dream,” which was yet another cynical joke at the expense of the malleable masses who stay tethered to the treadmills of industry, futilely stretching toward the dangling carrot (forever out of reach), ultimately falling off the track to be ground into dust as the machinery of progress makes its unstoppable push forward.
And there is a sense that, more than ever, despite the ignorant elements in our midst, the world is just too small to think only about personal salvation. Dropping out and becoming “self-sufficient” is no longer the answer. We are in it together.
Having lived through the Back to the Land movement, it seems clear to me that what is needed now is best described by an old adage: “Be in the world, but not of it.” We need to make the new world right here in the midst of the old one. And it is for people to come from ourselves to create something that knits together a meaningful community. We need to create something new—not spend our precious energy rebelling against the old.
The great pitfall of activism and politics is that they engage well-intentioned people with a paradigm that is fundamentally flawed. Even the illusion of democracy in America is dead. Now let’s let the dead bury their dead while we create something new.
I look around the community and see so many people doing amazing work that has the remarkable quality of putting their values into action. Here are seven examples that spring immediately to mind, because they all live and work within a half-mile of my home: Pete Taliaferro, and family, and his organic community-supported farm; Lagusta Yearwood and her impeccable, local, organic, vegan meal home delivery service (and her bicycle powered washing machine);
Mario Torchio and his 60 Main Arts Collective & Café; Kim Kimble and daughter Noelle Kimble McEntee and their Celebration of the Arts event; James Yastion and the ultra-green strawbale house he built himself;
Chris Harp, apiarist, and his passionate work to educate about bees;
Ron Khosla, farmer, and his work to organize community farmers nationally under an organic certification independent of the USDA.
Seven people doing amazing work in and for the earth and community—and within a half-mile of my home. What if I extended the circle to two miles?!
The work for a new world is happening here, now. As the corporate dinosaurs die, the warm-blooded mammals—small, interrelated, interdependent communities that operate with an awareness of their own neighborhood and the planet as whole—will flourish.