June 2, 2013

Ear to the Ground

This post is from Little Rock Summer of Solutions!

One of my personal sheroes, the 97-year-old Detroit activist Grace Lee Boggs, talks often about the importance of keeping an "ear to the ground, " or understanding deeply the evolution and current struggles of the community within which one is working.  But staying grounded and aware can be difficult, especially as a Summer of Solutions program coordinator responsible for logistical planning that leaves me with less time than I would like to be out directly engaging with community members and surveying the social/physical/economic/political environment.

Several recent occurrences have been jolting reminders of the importance of remaining grounded.  One realization was thanks to a friend who came to our April 27th garden work day and imparted some of her knowledge of Permaculture design.  She was helping us to build a lasagna bed, which basically incorporates layers of green material (nitrogen-rich) and brown material (carbon-rich) over a layer of weed block (pictures below!).  I was lamenting the fact that we hadn't bought mulch or synthetic weed block, but she said, "what do you mean? It's all around us for free!"  She sent a team down the alley behind the garden and they returned with wheelbarrows full of fallen leaves, which made excellent mulch.  We raided recycle bins nearby for discarded newspaper and snipped overgrown bushes and vines in an empty lot next door for green material.  The world is brimming with ample and free resources, if only we can open our eyes and our minds enough to SEE!

Lasagna beds:

Newspaper weed block layer

layer 2
Layer of brown material (carbon-rich stuff like dead leaves).
layer 3
Green layer (nitrogen-rich stuff like fresh cuttings from overgrown vines)
cucumber
A layer of compost followed by another layer of leaf mulch makes a great environment for tasty cucumbers!
)
... and a great environment for other tasty garden friends :)

It has been a little over a month since the Mayflower, Arkansas oil spill-- the debacle which many said would kill the Keystone Pipeline project.  The spill was less than 20 miles from Little Rock and was a clear reminder of the urgent need for us to move beyond fossil fuels.  Also, the Mayflower spill has been an excellent way to open conversations with fellow citizens who rarely think about these issues. Concern is certainly heightened and it has been important to remain informed about the issue (keeping my ear to the ground!) so I can make meaningful connections with Arkansans and draw their attention to the solution-seeking work we are doing.

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