Sunday, January 26, 2014


My neighbor has given me poop.

From her ducks, that is.

She has given me duck poop smeared straw, the perfect winter blanket for my garden beds. Duck waste breaks down in my garden, nourishing the soil in preparation for planting. My harvest, in turn, helps nourish her egg laying ducks. I give her yummies from the garden or headed to compost in exchange for duck eggs. My neighbor and I are eager for the summer when we will herd her ducks over to my vegetable beds for an all you can eat insect buffet.

At first I thought ducklings were like cartoon goats, able to eat anything-rotten vegetables, moldy bread (let the record show I never gave them tin cans). This is not at all the case. My patient neighbor created a duck menu for me so I wouldn’t kill her fuzzy dependents with my ignorance. 

When we take kale or greens to the ducks, my daughters sometimes feed them. Having observed them from duckling to practically grown now, we’ve watched their personalities unfold. Also in my ignorance, I had thought only people and pets had distinct personalities. Now I wonder what other species have personalities.

Have you ever experienced a duck egg? Sturdier and harder to break than a chicken egg, the shell’s hue varies, delicate blues and pinks. They also differ in size, surprising if you’re accustomed to uniform store bought eggs. The yolk is bigger, summer sun orangey and the whites are more viscous. The flavor is strong but does not linger the way store eggs sometimes do.

There isn’t a rule saying you can’t bake with duck eggs but I do not want them absorbed into something else. They are for frying. And smelling. Tasting. Savoring. 

I know the journey of these eggs. 

I know my neighbor rearranged her life and backyard to accommodate a dozen ducks and another neighbor helped design and build their enclosure. I know all about the hoops of getting permits, not to mention how much my neighbor researched the proper care of ducks. So when I receive these eggs, I am mindful of how they came to me.

This mindfulness satisfies something more deeply than the eggs themselves.

I am now connected to my neighbor. We each have something the other needs and wants. We value each other’s efforts-she works to keep her ducks thriving and I am motivated to grow enough veggies to share. For six years, this neighbor and I had only waved to each other in passing. Because of her ducks and my garden we have a relationship, slowly evolving beyond eggs and greens. 

And poop. 

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

holocaust: 3B-resistance

This blog series was inspired by a group of twentysomethings with Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance. I heard them explain their engagement in Nonviolent Direct Action at a Sustainable Sanctuary Coalition meeting. They first detailed the process of how tar sands becomes oil then explained their fight against it. 

Tar sands resisters attempt to physically thwart any part of tar sands production and transport. Actions include barricading oneself inside a pipe to halt construction, sitting in trees slated to be clear-cut and staging hunger strikes and mock oil spills.

Following the tradition of civil disobedience, they use tactics outside political venues to peacefully challenge the institutional violence energy companies inflict. Not only have traditional methods to address environmental injustice proven futile, traditional institutions typically support those inflicting injustice. 

Civil disobedience is a way to stand in solidarity with those without political, social and economic means by becoming their allies and bringing attention to injustice as it happens. It is how ordinary people organize their collective power to change the world

What struck me listening to the Tar Sands resisters was their quiet conviction. They make manifest these words of Ghandi, “noncooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good.” They learned about the Canadian tar sands megaproject and responded with compassion, their sense of moral obligation overriding self-preservation.

I am struck also by their courage. Oil companies have enough money to buy local police, politicians and newspapers for years on end. These amazing activists literally put their bodies on the line to advocate for marginalized people and nature sacrificed for resources and profit. In no way does it benefit them personally to shackle themselves to forklifts. 

They sometimes go to jail for this.

In fact, in December 2013, for the first time ever, terrorism laws were used against American citizens protesting a corporation's activities when four resisters were arrested.

Motivated by a sense of social justice, tar sands resisters are undaunted. Their very selves-simple, ordinary stones to topple Goliath. 

This is what they’re doing with their privilege.

What am I doing with mine?

I get that not everyone who reads this will suddenly want to engage in direct action. As the group emphasized when they spoke, this is the response they have chosen, not the only response. 

But everyone can respond. Everyone can do something. 

When one learns about injustice, the heart reacts. Then the mind kicks in with rationalizations to continue the status quo, to justify why things are they way they are. I think back on a conversation regarding slave labor producing the cheap goods we Americans love. The person responded with a shrug saying, “at least those people are earning money.”

Compassion insists on a different trajectory of thought and therefore ensuing action.

So if you’re not going to lie down in the path of an oil company’s bulldozer, what can you do? Here are 6 not so easy or convenient things to do.

1.) Start with compassion for yourself.

We live within destructive systems, based on extraction without thought to restoration. Since that’s the foundation of modern society, we are each hard-pressed to choose paths outside grooves worn since the industrial revolution. For instance, I can't start tooling around town on a horse because I'm anti-fossil fuels. How then can I lessen my cooperation with evil?

You may think I am being dramatic by calling the fossil fuel industry evil, particularly since what we privileged folks experience is the benefits. But understand oil, natural gas and coal have been and continue to be a slow motion holocaust.

2.) Educate yourself. There are thousands of resources available. It was at one of their meetings where I first met the tar sands resisters. SSC is a local, ecumenical group that provides congregations with assistance in taking on creation care.

3.) Let what you learn inform your choices.

An article on Nutella cited the six different countries required to make a jar of the stuff. The price point at my grocery store for Nutella does not cover its fuel cost. People who live where fossil fuels are extracted, shipped and refined pay that. It’s paid for in habitat loss for animals and people alike. And this is just to motor it all over the world. 

My kids love Nutella. Last year when we learned about the ingredient palm oil and habitat destruction, we had a conversation about not buying products containing it. Learning now about the fossil fuels involved, further affirms our decision to avoid Nutella. Instead of my kids feeling deprived of a sweet treat, they feel empowered when they pass it in the grocery store. They understand their choice helps orangutans.

4.) Seek like-minded people so you can help each other navigate challenging situations. I’m grateful to have found this group on Facebook:

I believe we parents can steer our children toward a more harmonious relationship with the earth and its inhabitants if we together, collectively, make different choices with our time and resources. We can turn globalization on its head so that we regard our interdependence with reverance rather than a vehicle for consumption. 

5.) Use what you’ve got. 

One of the resisters said he does this work to blockade passivity, to blockade indifference. In whatever ways we can, isn't that the responsibility-or in Ghandi's words, the moral obligation-of each of us? 

Channel your passion or vocation into creating a more environmentally just world. It grieves me that we've lost kinship with the natural world. Having been churched all my life, it's particularly grievous to listen to hymns and sermons about God's awesomeness manifest in nature yet witness Christians descerate creation in their daily choices. It grieves me to be unaware of how my goods get to me, who and what they impact along the way or where they go when I'm through with them. 

So I write. 

6.) Most importantly, understand there is no neutral. Our choices reverberate in a web of cause and effect.

Choose compassionately.

"Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." Martin Luther King, Jr.