The message - there are alternatives to market capitalism and the culture it has created and the government it controls - urgently needs a wider audience. Of course, this alternative does not usually appear so overt to a wider audience.
I have made use of the mainstream daily paper here in Eugene, having written 5 or 6 guest opinions - 800 words - over the years. Those guest opinions all called for alternatives to the mainstream economy and culture. Very overt. Ongoing, I work with a city program for restoring a nearby filbert grove to improve our nearby food security.
Activists in Olympia, Seattle and Port Townsend, Washington have very productive working relationships with government programs and agencies. The outcomes of these relationships are impressive. None of these projects could have happened without citizen initiative and working with the mainstream. Emergency preparedness in Port Townsend, Beacon Food Forest in Seattle, Olympia's Pathway Program.
Coming up in Eugene in later May, the City will be hosting NUSA - Neighborhoods USA - a national conference about neighborhoods. 600 people are expected to attend from all over the country. Many cities have neighborhood programs, Eugene does. Attendees will be neighborhood leaders and city staff. Remarkably, one of the themes of the Neighborhoods USA Conference is local food.
Neighborhood Associations are perfect locations to advance a green agenda in a neighborhood. They usually meet once a month. NAs usually have a modest budget to put info out to the neighborhood. Accessing those communication tools can mean putting a local and green message out to a much wider audience. I was on the board of our neighborhood association for ten years and was able to have information about permaculture and property transformation go out to every address in the neighborhood - something like 5000 homes. Neighborhood associations have enormous potential for advancing a green agenda.
We have a perma zone in the neighborhood. Well known in Eugene and to some degree, in the Northwest and even beyond. There are some two dozen properties making purposeful design changes in the realms of food, energy, water. We are purposefully developing an alternative social/economic/cultural infrastructure.
So the NUSA Conference is coming up in May. I knew about it and responded to a call for proposals.
We had two proposals accepted for the Conference. One is for a panel presentation where 5 of us will explain how we are creating a local food culture in the neighborhood. The other presentation will be an on site walking tour where up to 45 people from all of the country will see what permaculture ideals and design can look like when applied to suburbia.
Those attending both the indoor presentation and outdoor tour will learn about a variety of radical changes that can be made to almost any suburban property. They will see examples of grass being replaced by garden, passive solar heating, rain water catchment systems, driveways removed, edible landscaping, a restored filbert grove on public property and just as important - creative mutual assistance social networking and collaborations.
Most likely, these actions and ideas will be totally new to many attendees. Most attendees have probably never heard of permaculture, much less how it can be applied to suburban infrastructure, culture and economy.
This is exciting! Literally hundreds of city staff and smart, motivated mainstream neighborhood activists from all over the country will get a jolt from the River Road presentation and tour. Even just reading about the presentation and tour in the schedule will have a great effect.
The NUSA Conference was not set up specifically to advocate permaculture applied to suburbia. But in a similar way to the impressive collaborations mentioned above, several people recognized an opportunity offered by the mainstream and are making good use of it.