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World Naked Bike Ride – in pictures

Guardian (UK)
Cyclists in cities around the world have taken part in the World Naked Bike Ride. Started in 2004, the clothing-optional protest aims to promote cycling as a greener mode of transportation, and encourage a body-positive culture. San Francisco, London, Madrid, Amsterdam and Guadalajara were among the cities that took part this year
(10 June 2012)
Slideshow at original article.

Not a Fairytale: America’s First Public Food Forest

Clare Leschin-Hoar, Daily Good
Seattle’s vision of an urban food oasis is going forward. A seven-acre plot of land in the city’s Beacon Hill neighborhood will be planted with hundreds of different kinds of edibles: walnut and chestnut trees; blueberry and raspberry bushes; fruit trees, including apples and pears; exotics like pineapple, yuzu citrus, guava, persimmons, honeyberries, and lingonberries; herbs; and more. All will be available for public plucking to anyone who wanders into the city’s first food forest.

“This is totally innovative, and has never been done before in a public park,” Margarett Harrison, lead landscape architect for the Beacon Food Forest project, tells TakePart. Harrison is working on construction and permit drawings now and expects to break ground this summer.

The concept of a food forest certainly pushes the envelope on urban agriculture and is grounded in the concept of permaculture, which means it will be perennial and self-sustaining, like a forest is in the wild. Not only is this forest Seattle’s first large-scale permaculture project, but it’s also believed to be the first of its kind in the nation.

“The concept means we consider the soils, companion plants, insects, bugs—everything will be mutually beneficial to each other,” says Harrison.

That the plan came together at all is remarkable on its own. What started as a group project for a permaculture design course ended up as a textbook example of community outreach gone right.
(8 June 2012)

Aiming at 40…

Sharon Astyk, Casaubon’s Book
… I have come to terms with the fact that if I’m not middle aged now, I will officially be so on August 15 when I cross the line into my 40s.

To be absolutely honest, hitting middle age bothers me not in the slightest – my feeling is that every year that takes me away from being 14 is a really, really good one – and the further the better. I would go back to my 20s or G-d forbid, my teens for a bazillion dollars and being made queen of the universe. My life has only gotten better as I get older. My Mom, her in early 60s, reports that pattern continuing, so I see no particular reason to worry about it. Yeah, I’m more prone to hurting myself. On the other hand, I’m not quite as stupid as I was when I was young (or at least so I think 😉 ), so I think it is probably a net win for me.

… I did want to mark 40 in some way, however, by doing some of the things that I’ve been meaning to do all along, but never seem to find the time for. Rather than presents, I really wanted to up my skill set and either improve or learn some things I don’t know. So I am officially publishing (because then I can get y’all to nag me about it 😉 ) my list of goals for my 40th year. My hope is to take some classes or follow around my more skillful friends and get a new set of super-powers as part of my official entry into geezerhood, because, after all, old ladies with super-powers are cool. Fighting old age is pointless – the goal is to keep having fun during it.

Here’s my list:

1. Learn to make a decent quilt. I have a love-hate relationship with sewing – I love the idea and hate the reality, but it is such a useful skill. At this point, I’m only a bit above 7th grade home ec, and all of that is self-taught. I have made a couple of picnic quilts out of old blue jeans, and have a half-made hand-quilted scrap quilt around, but this time I’m going actually master the basics. The problem I have had over the years is that I really am more interested in repurposing old fabric than in purchasing new – much as I admire the results of serious quilting using new fabric, I have yet to see anyone giving a course around here in patchwork with used fabric. Still, I think I’ll just suck it up and take the local quilt store’s course, and then adapt to my own needs.

2. Get my woodworking/home repair skills up and running. These are pathetic, frankly, and there’s no excuse for it. Both my father and step-mother are quite good at these things, and I just didn’t pay attention. Honestly, both woodworking and sewing suffer from my lack of liking for anything that requires precision – but it is time to just get over this and master at least the basics.

3. Learn to shoot properly. My father taught me the basics as a kid, and I can handle a gun in the ways that most farmers need to – to put down livestock close up. But I’m not especially competent, and while I can clean a rifle in a basic sense, I don’t really feel competent with guns, even though they are a necessary tool of my trade. I’m a terrible shot (crappy vision) as well. In my “if I’m going to do it, I’d like to do it well’ spirit of things, this is on my list.

4. Learn to take down a tree well. I basically won’t touch anything of any real size, because I’m scared of the trees and scared, frankly, of chainsaws. I use a buck or crosscut saw in our own woods, but only take down things small enough not to make me nervous. Time to grow up and get over it.

5. Up my home brewing and wine-making skills. I can make a competent beer and a half-decent wine, at best. I’ve got all the information, I’ve got all the tools, I simply never have sat down and played with it enough to really get any good. I will make time.
(5 June 2012)

Interview with Eva Schonveld – Transition in Scotland.

Mandy Meikle, Transition Network
On 25 May, I went to Portobello, three miles (5 km) east of Edinburgh, along the coast of the Firth of Forth. I went to interview Eva Schonveld, in my view the most influential Transitioner in Scotland. This is the short version!

Can you tell me a bit about yourself and how you got involved with Transition?
I got involved with Transition in about 2005 when I read an article by Rob Hopkins in Permaculture News. I had been trying to set up a climate change awareness group in my community, and been failing disastrously, and was thinking “maybe you can’t do this”. And when I read the article, I said “yes, this is fantastic. We could do this!”

Portobello has the feeling of a small town – we have our own town hall and a still-functioning high street – although it is completely attached to Edinburgh now. It is relatively well off in that unemployment is not a huge issue and while it’s not wealthy, people are motivated to do stuff. So when an application was lodged to build a superstore on a big site at the end of the high street, there was a lot of public opposition to it. The community raised thousands of pounds to take a case to court against this planning proposal. We won, on a technicality, and that’s very unusual. There was a real sense of community power and that’s when I read Rob’s article – we had just won and there was a real feeling of “OK, what’s next?” It was a good moment to come along and say, “What do we want?” We formed the Portobello Energy Descent and Land Reform group (PEDAL) and apart from some people thinking we’re a cycling charity, a door-to-door survey revealed, to our surprise, that PEDAL has quite a high profile for doing environmental and social things.

… What is the most rewarding aspect of Transition for you personally?

There’s two sides really and one is making things happen. The feeling that I can change my community and move us towards living in a different way. That’s really exciting and empowering and feels worthwhile. The other side is that the other people who are involved are just really good people. I feel understood, I feel that my concerns about the way we are living and my love for the planet are acknowledged as being important. There’s something incredibly heartening about knowing and meeting other people who share those same values.

In your opinion, what is the most important aspect of Transition?

I think the importance of Transition is providing an alternative and showing that not only is it possible to think differently, it’s also possible to take actions in the world which change things. It’s important to give people a sense that we could make a different future because one of the biggest things that we’re up against is that the majority of people can’t see beyond the way that we do things now. Whether they think that’s great or whether they think it’s rubbish, there’s a real feeling of people not having any hope that things could be any different. And many don’t want to change.

People are so wedded to their cars and their consumer lifestyle that to say that this way of living is unsustainable and damaging is incredibly unpopular. But if what you’re saying is that there’s another way of being which is really rich and enjoyable and vibrant and here’s how we do it, then that’s a different message. It’s not saying you have to give up your car; it’s saying you can make where you live absolutely fantastic and you probably won’t need your car so much. So it’s that positive side of Transition which I think allows you to paint a different kind of picture for people, one that isn’t about loss.

What do you find most frustrating about Transition?
Again there are two things which I find very frustrating. One is that you can’t do it fast enough. There’s not enough time, there’s not enough money, there’s not enough other people involved and even if you have all of those things, you still can’t do it fast enough because it’s a mammoth task. But it’s also to do with the perception of time; when you look back at what you’ve achieved, you seem to have done a lot in a short time but it feels very slow because you so much want things to change so quickly.

The other side for me is how hard it is to build networks.
(31 May 2012)