keystone pipeline

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:

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This past Friday, the only thing I was worried about was coming up with a good presentation for the Association for Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) Conference. While relaxing on my porch after a strenuous week of midterms, our student government president happened to walk by and inform us that the White House had just contacted her about President Obama coming to Pittsburgh on Tuesday. We had been planning to confront the Organizing for America office the following Friday to tell Obama to stop the pipeline, but if Obama was in town, we had to send the message to him directly. I, however, had a midterm during the exact hour that Obama would be coming and resolved to recruit a few friends to greet him.

On Sunday at the AASHE conference, we grabbed Bill McKibben right before his speech and let him know we planned to greet Obama on Tuesday. At the end of his speech to a national conference of hundreds of climate leaders, he said the best thing they could do was attend the rally to meet Obama with a strong message to say NO to the Keystone XL pipeline at 11AM, Tuesday at 313 Oakland Ave. My heart skipped a beat- Bill McKibben, one of my idols, had just announced my house address to a national conference. What’s more- he then told us to stand up so everybody knew who to find. I hesitantly stood up with two of my friends, Nikki Luke and Seth Bush, who looked around nervously. What happened after was chaos. Within five minutes we were interviewed by the City Paper, the Tribune Review, and asked by dozens more what our plans were. The problem was—we didn’t have a plan. And I had a midterm when Obama was coming. Here’s the thing: if Bill McKibben calls you out at a national conference to organize a rally, you are going to organize a rally, whether you have a midterm or not.

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