Category Archives: We the People

10 years and counting…

IMG_8453-2Yesterday marked 10 years from the day of my diagnosis with diffuse large b-cell lymphoma. It was an anniversary that happily passed with little notice. I think back to the days when those milestones were celebrated with vigor, but I think I’m happier to be at a distance from the memory of those days, if that makes sense.

I write about it only to reflect on this. I discovered a lump on July 19th, 2006. I went through three different doctors, none of whom biopsied the lump. It wasn’t until I visited an internist that the lump, the side of an avocado seed, was removed and biopsied. The surgery and diagnosis didn’t come until late September (the 26th). My oncologist was furious when he found out the span of time that had passed from the first doctor’s visit to an official diagnosis.

In those years since that day, I have not been haunted by the cancer; no, that experience changed me for the better. Instead, what haunts me is question that lingers:

Had I been an insured 28-year-old mother of three young children, would I have been treated differently?

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Mostly, I dwell on all the good that has come out of this decade. So much struggle, but so much joy attached to each day. I lived to raise my girls, to meet my new husband, to have a son, to start a farm, to follow a dream.

The reality of what happened and what continues to happen to other families will serve as a guide for how I choose to live my life, my vote, my practices. And a reminder of how truly lucky I was back then. And how fortunate I am today.

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Hobbits, Unicorns, and a Cow Goddess

I just returned from another trip out to New York, this time to explore the Schoharie valley and Delaware County. This trip, thanks to the farmers who housed me, really invigorated me.  I think I’ve been feeling a bit disconnected from farming, despite the daily regimen because we’re currently partially uprooted. Being on a farm started by a woman and witnessing the incredible foundation she has built, along with the connectivity she fosters with neighboring farms, has really inspired me not to “begin again,” but to continue with this mission forward to build a farm and fiber business.

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Isadora, the Adorable

The farm where I stayed (had to make this trip out alone so Chris could tend to the alpacas), is technically East Branch Farm, but most of the locals know it as Straight Out of the Ground, a beautiful property with a goddess of a guernsey cow, who is the apple of Farmer Madalyn’s eye, for sure. And it’s easy to see why. Look at that adorable face!

In addition to farming, Madalyn also co-produces a radio show called the Farm Hour Radio.

The mountains are nothing short of magical. The roadways and farmland trace their contours, and in the mornings, mist hovers over the valleys, leading me to look for hobbits and unicorns as much as farmland.

Madalyn connected us with some good folks and resources for farmers and reinforced the awareness that New York is a good state for agriculture. Beneath every county sign I passed, the words “Right to Farm” appeared prominently. The soil in the valleys appears good and the prospect of a fiber mill feels welcomed.

photo 1 (2)Moreover, the locals are fiercely loyal to their agricultural roots and at one stop, in a village where we had been told we could not house our alpacas, a local business owner stormed down to the local village office and demanded to see the ordinance. When the village couldn’t provide any specific wording ruling against alpacas, she called me and said, “You can have your livestock here.” Can’t help but love these folks.

I would like to say we have figured this whole thing out, but after an inspection revealed some significant issues on the house we were under contract to buy, we are once again looking for the farm. However, despite this setback, I feel more confident than ever that we’ll find the right place, because more significant than where we will land is that feeling of where we belong. And it’s there, among the mountains and the hard-working farmers of the Schoharie, where we feel most at home. Looking forward to calling this place home.

Last trip out, we traversed Sharon Springs, where an inspiring couple revitalized a farm into an enterprising business. Madalyn told us it’s not only a thriving business, but they even had a television show. Check it out below. Also, living in the region, a woman I look forward to meeting at some point in the near future, Shannon Hayes, the Radical Homemaker. And so much more I would like to share, save for the time to write it all down…

If you don’t know them already, the Beekman Boys are fabulous.

Begin again with the Beekman Boys:

More UN Goals Discussed

photo 3 (5) - CopyStill ruminating over those exciting world prosperity goals outlined by the United Nations. If you’re interested in permaculture and wondering why I’m talking about the UN, the newest goals have much in common with the permaculture systems design philosophy and core ethics. The first three were covered here. Below, you’ll find goals four thru six:

4. As we embark on this great collective journey, we pledge that no one will be left behind. Recognizing that the dignity of the human person is fundamental, we wish to see the Goals and targets met for all nations and peoples and for all segments of society. And we will endeavor to reach the furthest behind first.

  • Ah, those least likely to be represented by those in power. This will take some doing and is likely one of the most important tasks for those on the ground, so to speak. An individual at risk is likely someone out of touch with some of the social services provided, without a job, ailing and without medical care, youth, the elderly, or a minority/group/sect under persecution by others within the same country. Aiding these individuals is paramount, and I’m happy to see it mentioned on the list. However, while recognition of these groups may be critical (and in an ideal world, yes, priority), priority must also be given to gaining trust among these groups, leading by good example, and establishing some momentum.
  • Look at the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) approach to working with farmers at the height of the dust bowl era. Many farmers were reluctant to listen to government telling them what they could and could not do with their land, and the USDA recognized this mistrust. Rather than approaching farmers directly, they first established demonstration areas to highlight the success of specific recommendations they hoped to put in place. The NRCS became a resource for farmers, rather than another government agency telling them what to do and the program was a great success.
  • More recently, we saw the mistrust between those affected by the 2014 Ebola outbreak and aid groups, when aid workers were attacked and in some cases killed while trying to help those in need and contain the virus.
  • Identifying those most vulnerable will take networking with individuals outside of government, educating others on the goals outlined by the UN, and building trust through successful programs and efforts in conjunction with reaching these goals.

5. This is an Agenda of unprecedented scope and significance. It is accepted by all countries and is applicable to all, taking into account different national realities, capacities and levels of development and respecting national policies and priorities. These are universal goals and targets which involve the entire world, developed and developing countries alike. They are integrated and indivisible and balance the three dimensions of sustainable development.

  • Yes! Well said. No two countries are exactly alike and each must develop strategies according to need within the context of their present state. What I would LOVE, love, love, to see here is some mention of shared resources, or measuring successes of projects and sharing these successes where applicable.

6. The Goals and targets are the result of over two years of intensive public consultation and engagement with civil society and other stakeholders around the world, which paid particular attention to the voices of the poorest and most vulnerable. This consultation included valuable work done by the General Assembly Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals and by the United Nations, whose Secretary-General provided a synthesis report in December 2014.

  • Not a goal, but good to know. It would behoove us to look at the specifics of this study to better understand the process by which the UN plans to initiate these larger, more intrinsic and idealistic goals. Feedback loop, people!

If you are interested in learning more about the United Nations Goals for World Prosperity, please have a look at the conversation we had earlier about the first three and click on the link at bottom to see the full UN report. We have some work to do. Let’s get started! Click here to register your initiative!

Let’s take a look at those UN goals, shall we?

Now that we know the UN goals for world prosperity, it’s time to take action. As a permaculturalist, I was thrilled to see so many goals aligned with the core ethics of permaculture (aka, being good to the earth, your family, others) and feel like this is one more way for the philosophy to spill over into positive action on a global scale – by starting locally.

An important item to note is that these goals are not independent of one another; they are dynamic. Feeding the world without addressing the methodology of farming would ignore the second goal straight off. Instead, with the end of the growing season approaching, we’ll take a graduated look at all of the goals and set some goals of our own in pursuance of the broader objective: To create a better world for all who live here, whether plant, bird, insect, or mammal.

  • People We are determined to end poverty and hunger, in all their forms and dimensions, and to ensure that all human beings can fulfill their potential in dignity and equality and in a healthy environment.

This is a sweeping goal that addresses not only access to food, affordable housing, and health care, but one could argue access to education, whole-system wellness (applied to where we live, how we live and interact within our environment, and what we eat), and ending violence against women and minorities. This is the first goal for an obvious reason – it’s our Utopian vision. And while some would argue it’s an impossible goal, I would suggest that it recognizes human potential for powerful change as long as we take action.

One thing to remember with this and any of these goals is that bringing about change will vary regionally, and might begin in areas of conflict, severe poverty, staggering inequality, etc. How these goals are addressed must follow an assessment of a region. Combing a few of the permaculture principles: Observe and interact, Value resources, and Slow and steady.

  • Planet We are determined to protect the planet from degradation, including through sustainable consumption and production, sustainably managing its natural resources and taking urgent action on climate change, so that it can support the needs of the present and future generations.

For the permaculture folks and bio-dynamicists out there, this one is straight-forward. However, I think this is where our Utopian vision is clouded by ego and greed. Remember when the United States government protected the asbestos producers over the workers because shutting down the industry would devastate the economic well-being of the country? Yeah, that. I’m summing it up a bit rough, but it’s the most obvious barrier to reducing CO2 levels, reducing our eliminating the destruction of sensitive ecosystems, or stopping corporate giants from ravaging resources at will.

So the real question, is how can we overcome that barrier? This question can feel overwhelming. Start locally. Individuals on a local scale can promote big change, even if these changes seem small in the scheme of the larger issues. It’s a domino effect. You might inspire change through action or demonstration, or education on a local level. Or you might be the support person for someone else taking fervent action toward change. Remember the humming bird and the forest fire?

Consider the sharing of resources. Could one area that has a deficit share resources in a way that reduces waste or ecological devastation?

  • Prosperity We are determined to ensure that all human beings can enjoy prosperous and fulfilling lives and that economic, social and technological progress occurs in harmony with nature.

This is one where we may need to alter our concept of prosperity. In America, we seem obsessed with this notion of prosperity as it applies to our perceived success – getting the bigger house, the bigger yard, the bigger flat screen television – even the phones are starting to get bigger again.

When people ask us about how we make any money farming, I first explain that we’ve changed our concept of prosperity. We do not consider the amount of money made as an indicator toward our happiness, but instead look at the lives we live and how we spend our time together as true markers for progress and success. I think the same must happen on a global level. What does it mean to be successful, happy, prosperous? Having enough within a world where others also have what they need and suffering is hugely reduced?

What’s the obstacle in changing the mindset of success to reduce greed and consumption? Commercial media. We are bombarded with messages of what we “need” and “want” constantly, whether walking to the bus stop, on social media, even in schools, where corporate sponsors are now advertised. (UUUUUUGGGGGHHHHH – whew, nearly gave up!)

I don’t pretend to have the answers on how we’re going to initiate all of this change, but there are some simple practices that might inspire change. You can be the change and choose to live simply. In many cases, this can empower others to take similar steps forward. You can get behind or promote those organizations or media entities that share similar values. You can write a book or make a video that inspires many. Another effective strategy is to stop the madness and reduce consumption. They won’t be able to compete if we’re not feeding them cash-flow.

Of course cash-flow means jobs and jobs mean security. So job creation or a total overhaul of our monetary system is a subject that must be on the table. Personally, the dollar holds a little too much power in my mind. What about an economic system that looks at our gross national happiness, instead of our gross national product? Or a barter system? Or a hybrid of all three measures?

In the end, the UN is asking countries to get behind some core beliefs in order to effect real change. Waiting for those governments to enforce the change is not enough. We must individually work, whether on a small project or large, to initiate real world change. This doesn’t have to be a dream; the dream of a better world can become our reality. One small step at a time.

What’s the next step? Consider the following:

  • Organize a regular meeting in your community that examines the goals and makes an assessment based on regional needs, obvious areas that need improvement, and set local glas in alignment with the UN goals outlined.
  • Think of one way you, as an individual, could enact change in your own life that would be in alignment with these goals. This might mean getting help for an addiction to alcohol or drugs, helping someone who has no opportunity for college get a scholarship, or starting a food pantry for those in need of food in your area. You could even start a pay it forward, with random acts of kindness or generosity. There are many ways you can initiate positive change and they all matter.
  • Share the UN goals with others – even if it’s at the dinner table with your spouse or family. Getting people to think talk about these goals is one way to initiate change.
  • Become a leader in your community.
  • Ask your local government to enact a similar list of goals or to adopt the core principles of the goals outlined by the UN for their master plan.

Or maybe your contribution to world prosperity will involve spreading more ways to get the word out.

For the full report released by the UN, please visit: https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/post2015/transformingourworld

UN World Prosperity Goals and Permaculture Core Ethics Align

580134_484834508195441_1410396379_nThe United Nations assembly met in New York this week to announce goals for world prosperity that include ending poverty, gender equality, and protection of biodiversity in our world’s oceans and other ecosystems. Reading through the preamble and the goals outlined in the report, it struck me that the UN is adopting a unifying stance echoing the core ethics of the permaculture design philosophy: Earth care, people care, and fair share.

  • People We are determined to end poverty and hunger, in all their forms and dimensions, and to ensure that all human beings can fulfill their potential in dignity and equality and in a healthy environment.
  • Planet We are determined to protect the planet from degradation, including through sustainable consumption and production, sustainably managing its natural resources and taking urgent action on climate change, so that it can support the needs of the present and future generations.
  • Prosperity We are determined to ensure that all human beings can enjoy prosperous and fulfilling lives and that economic, social and technological progress occurs in harmony with nature.
  • Peace We are determined to foster peaceful, just and inclusive societies which are free from fear and violence. There can be no sustainable development without peace and no peace without sustainable development.
  • Partnership We are determined to mobilize the means required to implement this Agenda through a revitalized Global Partnership for Sustainable Development, based on a spirit of strengthened global solidarity, focused in particular on the needs of the poorest and most vulnerable and with the participation of all countries, all stakeholders and all people.The inter-linkages and integrated nature of the Sustainable Development Goals are of crucial importance in ensuring that the purpose of the new Agenda is realized. If we realize our ambitions across the full extent of the Agenda, the lives of all will be profoundly improved and our world will be transformed for the better.

Sustainable Development Goals

  • Goal 1. End poverty in all its forms everywhere
  • Goal 2. End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture
  • Goal 3. Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages
  • Goal 4. Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all
  • Goal 5. Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
  • Goal 6. Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all
  • Goal 7. Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all
  • Goal 8. Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all
  • Goal 9. Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation
  • Goal 10. Reduce inequality within and among countries
  • Goal 11. Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
  • Goal 12. Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns
  • Goal 13. Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts*
  • Goal 14. Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development
  • Goal 15. Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss
  • Goal 16. Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels
  • Goal 17. Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development

Click HERE to view the full report.