Saturday, January 26, 2013

No Tar Sands Port in Portland!

Figured I'd share a quick update with you about today's action in Portland.   I'd say at least 1300 people were there from all over the Northeast, with lots of wonderful banners, flags, chants (and a giant rolling drum!) and lots of high energy despite the rather brutal cold!  We marched through Portland and ended at a pier (some of my friends half-joked about it being a trap, like the end of the movie "300" - but we survived - and I'm sure the areal photos they will be quite powerful).  

These fossil fuel companies are going to have a hard time piping their dirty product through this port!  Even the Mayor of Portland (who spoke at the rally) is apparently acting to stop the tar sands.  Pretty exciting!

Here's some great news coverage of the protest and the issue, in general.  I'm rather impressed with it.  I'm also favoring this particular coverage because I used my trick for getting interviewed by the media - thank them for covering the story -  and it worked!   You'll hear/see me in the video included with this story :-0

If you're bummed about missing the largest Tar Sands protest the Northeast has ever seen, you should join me for the largest that D.C. has ever seen!  20K+ of us will be descending on D.C. this Presidents' Day. We are going to stop the Keystone XL Tar Sands pipeline, but to do so we need as much people power as we can muster!  Obama is putting off his decision until at least March.  So let's give him a strong reminder who he works for!

Signup/details here:  There will be buses going down there from Western MA (and all over)!

Settler in Support of #IdleNoMore

And for those who are not aware, #IdleNoMore is a recent iteration of indigenous resistance to colonialist exploitation of Mother Earth and Her people. First Nations of Canada are the most heavily impacted by the Tar Sands operations (ie. poisoned bodies and land). Indigenous populations have been the on the frontline of resistance to the tar sands and I am proud to stand with them as a "Settler in Solidarity."  Together we can stop this travesty!
This beautiful (and mobile!) drum kept the heartbeat of the march.
Exciting Update re: indigenous resistance to the Tar Sands!!!~

International Treaty to Protect the Sacred from Tar Sands Projects
Signed on January 25th 2013
The representatives from sovereign Indigenous Nations, tribes, and governments, participating in the Gathering to Protect the Sacred on January 23 – 25, 2013, on the 150 year anniversary of the Treaty Between the Pawnee and Yankton Sioux, have gathered on the Ihanktonwan homelands, and have resolved by our free, prior, and informed consent to enter into a treaty to be forever respected and protected. We agreed upon the following articles...

Saturday, January 19, 2013

We are the ones we've been waiting for... so let's stop waiting.

I saw these beautiful words posted on facebook, but felt that they were incomplete:
Don't freak out, Beloved. Everything is going to be alright. Truth is being revealed to your Soul- and it can be a painful process. Just remember that the Good God of Love is seeking to awaken within you the remembrance of your divine origins, to awaken your angelic spark and return you to the Land of Pure Light.

For now, be harmless, be kind, seek God and find the others- all will be well. Breathe deep, relax your mind and body, practice Yoga and vegetarianism, don't worry or fear anything, drink pure water, read holy books, listen to sacred music, hang out with other seekers, find the wisdom teachers and listen to them, stay in the Light, vibrate in Love and laugh often.

We are about to witness the birth of a New Earth!

So I added the following comment:

Beautiful!!! I totally agree, we need to do all that! But let us also put our compassion into action. Many of our brothers and sisters to not have the privilege of relaxing, doing yoga and reading sacred texts all day. We must actively dismantle all systems of oppression and exploitation and stand in solidarity with all Life! There is much work to do! Support the #IdleNoMore movement and indigenous struggles worldwide, oppose the Tar Sands Pipelines, Mountaintop Removal and Hydrofracking, protect a free and democratic internet, challenge corporate power, get the GMOs out of our food supply, decolonize our minds, challenge colonialism and patriarchy wherever we see it, build strong communities and alternative economies, reduce the environmental impact of our daily lives and our communities, support ecological innovations, grow our own food, practice permaculture, learn to live in right relation with Mother Earth, the list goes on..... Everything you describe will help us do these things, but let us not fool ourselves into thinking that all we have to do is live in love and light and wait for the New Earth to emerge. We are the ones we've been waiting for... so let's stop waiting and do something. :) In Lak'ech and Namaste.

I'd like to hear your thoughts?  How do you balance living in peace with taking action to stop the bad things in the world?  This is perhaps one of the oldest questions... perhaps never as relevant as it is today....

Monday, December 17, 2012

2012: It's About Time

Wow. I've never seen a documentary like this - more of an action film that's actually a true story about what is happening RIGHT NOW, late 2012, the final days of the "Great Cycle of the Mayan Calendar."

Years in the making, "2012: Shift of the Ages" is not only an inspirational antidote for the fear-mongering around 2012 misconceptions, but also completely riveting story. It follows Mayan Elder Wandering Wolf on his quest to help unite the Eagle and the Condor and bring peace and balance to the Americas. (Spoiler alert!) But first he must recover an ancient power staff which apparently has helped two presidents get elected: Evo Morales in Bolivia and Alvaro Colom in Guatemala. Mind blown.

Incredible, artful video production and musical score. Check out this early cut that I remember seeing three years ago. I highly recommend the full film, which is online for free, until - you guessed it - 12/21/2012.

You can watch the full film here, for free (for now!)

More about the incredible storyline:

Wandering Wolf, Don Alejandro Cirilo Perez Oxlaj, leader of the National Mayan Council of Elders of Guatemala, Day Keeper of the Mayan Calendar, and 13th generation Quiche Mayan Spiritual Leader brought together the Continental Council of Elders & Spiritual Guides of the Americas.  According to the story, he leant the staff of power to the host of what would be the 4th gathering of the Council, an Elder from Bolivia.  Apparently that Elder was unable to organize the gathering and later refused to return the staff, instead declaring it for his own.  A major plotline of this documentary is about Wandering Wolf's journey to recover the staff, which can be seen in this picture, here being used by the Elder who took it, for the Inauguration of Bolivian President Evo Morales!

A 2006 article from The Nation describing a "Staff of Power" during the inauguration:

"Garbed in a red ceremonial robe and holding the staff of power, Evo Morales stood in a portal cut from a single block of stone ten feet high, eleven feet wide, estimated to weigh ten tons."

Also, as a point of interest, a random forum from the same time (January 2006) reads:

At Tihuanaco , Bolivia, Evo Morales undergoes Mayan ritual ceremony that has not taken place in over 500 years. He is handed the staff of power over the Earth and power over the spirit.

The whole thing is an incredible story, and a beautiful film. 

And its certainly wonderful time to be alive.

As a slogan for "Shift of the Ages" goes:
"2012: It's About Time"

Saturday, December 1, 2012

When did "Mother" become a dirty* word?

Today I attended a well-organized climate rally on the snow-covered Amherst common called "Colleges Against Climate Silence Rally." It was described on the facebook page as "a way for all those feeling frustrated, angry, and disillusioned with the silence to channel our energy and passion towards a constructive end." One of the solutions highlighted by event organizers was the new "Fossil Free" divestment campaign. In  my opinion, this campaign is one of the most exciting strategic moves I've seen the climate movement take, a legitimate threat: hit them (the fossil fools) where it hurts, the pocket. (You can read more about the campaign, here)

I was pleasantly surprised by the depth of analysis provided by speakers at the event. Most notably: one young woman explained what is meant by "climate justice" and how central it is to our efforts. Another young women made the connections between capitalism, colonialism, and the exploitation of the planet and its people.  To be honest, I did not expect to hear the word "colonialism."  I was sure to share with her my gratitude.  

To top it off, I saw two young men, each wielding a black flag in one hand.  With their other hand, they together held a large banner, which, without fully reading, I immediately recognized as the slogan of Earth First! I felt a wave of excitement for a movement finally getting to the root of the problem.

Earth First: No Compromise in Defense of Mother Earth
Upon closer examination, however, I realized that one particularly important word had been omitted from this banner, "Mother."  It read, instead: "No Compromise in Defense of the Earth."  I had to ask about this.  I said "I love your black flags, and the message of this banner.  But I noticed you modified the Earth First! slogan by dropping one word.  Why did you feel it necessary to drop the word 'Mother?"

The young man said matter-of-fact-ly, "sometimes when you use the phrase Mother Earth people think you're crazy."  

"Yea, like no one's going to think your crazy waving an anarchist flag," I thought to myself.

I said, "Or you could be indigenous, or be someone who has a biocentric worldview..."

"Well I'm an athiest, so I didn't like that phrase," the young man on the other end of the banner added.

I replied with something like, "all spiritual connotations aside, is it not an appropriate metaphor to regard the Earth as your Mother?"  (After all, what would you do to defend your mother?)  

I ended the conversation there. I wasn't going to try to convince them or change their minds, at least not here, in this setting.  But I may decide to attend a meeting with these folks, to try and examine with them the significance of this negative stigma on the use of the phrase "Mother Earth." I think it goes beyond a matter of effective messaging.

When did "Mother Earth" become a disagreeable term?  I'm no historian, but I would venture to guess that it initially received a negative connotation not from atheists, but by God-fearing men who sought to conquer the Sacred Feminine in all her manifestations. The ancient matriarchal and gender-balanced Earth honoring cultures had to be destroyed before the Earth could be fully exploited.  A people who respect the Earth as their Mother would never allow her to be raped for profit.  

The Earth IS our Mother. This can be understood without spiritual connotations. As a species, we emerged from her womb. She holds us all. How does this not make sense? 

This is about our own disconnection from the Earth.  It is this disconnect which is at the very root of our problem as a culture and now as a planet.  We are disconnected from Creation, out of step.  We have forgotten how to live with the Community of Life. 

I hope that I can encourage my fellow Earth Defenders to reclaim their heritage as children of Mother Earth.  Know that we will do anything to defend Her.  Know that the momentum of all Creation is pushing us towards our maturation and development into a species that is once again a contributing member to this Web of Life.

If that all sounds too crazy or "too radical," well maybe that's the point. We need a radical change of paradigm if we're going to survive.

*hmm, for that matter, when did "dirty" become a dirty word?  meta.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Good Business: Vapor Apparel

I don't like buying new clothes because I never know what kind of shady business practices, environmental devastation and worker exploitation I may be supporting with my fresh threads. We'll, I was so excited by a shirt produced by Vapor Apparel, that I pressed them for answers, asking about their labor practices (their website already has lots of great language about environmental sustainability, etc...). This is the response I got. Figured I'd share. This is the kind of business I can feel good about supporting.

Hello Martin,

We work with one mill partner in an exclusive manner. This location has three generations of families fully employed in the heart of Bogota. The mill has been inspected by New Balance and others for fair labor practices and exceeded all requirements. On a personal level, my partner and I are down there frequently. The facility is immaculate. The company has been an innovator in all aspects for business since the 1960’s. Emp
loyees are respected and receive a wage above the localized average. There are medical facilities on site. As a matter of fact, the mill owners own heart arrhythmia was diagnosed by the on site doctor two years ago. There is very little turn over which is a result of a genuine appreciation for each other that the employees and the employers have for one another.

The media has a role to play in the description on labor markets. Colombia has a peppered past with regards to labor rights. What I have learned as I have grown older is that “everything is local”. There are beautiful houses in bad neighborhoods. There are pockets of joy in every miserable place. Colombia is on the way up with regards to quality of life for most of its people. There are issues between the indigenous people and the Hispanic people. Again, everything is local.

I can tell you that I am very proud of the quality of life of the people inside our supply chain. We pay more then people coming out of asia with products. Our 35 domestic employees enjoy a wonderful work environment as well. Respect is something near and dear to my heart. Being raised middle class by an immigrant blue collar grandmother has played a major part in my view of the world. Time and time again, my partner Jackson and I find ourselves int he position of ding the right thing....again.

Please let me know if you need additional information to have a level of comfort with our labor position.


Chris Bernat

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Question monetized relationships.

Mother Earth does not charge for her services.  So, why should I? "That's the way the world works," they say... I say that's the way the world is NOT working.  For the majority of human existence, we functioned solely on a gift economy.  Debt is a recent invention.  The idea of "savings" translates roughly to "hoarding" in many indigenous worldviews.  Question monetized relationships.  Embrace your heritage. We are beautiful, Earth-serving, cooperative, imaginative, creative, passionate problem-solving heart-centered thinking, feeling, walking expressions of Creation.  Remember that.  Hug the person next to you.  Give thanks to the Universe for providing the opportunity to Love and to reflect upon Love.  A new era is here, a return, a great synthesis of ancient wisdom and modern knowledge, and we are here to bring it about.  As go the words attributed to the Hopi: "All that we do now must be done in a sacred manner and in celebration. We are the ones we've been waiting for."  In Lak'ech and Namaste (I am another yourself, I recognize the divinity in you that is the same as the divinity in me.)

Thursday, April 19, 2012

lamp posts along our journey

The realised vision of an egalitarian society rooted in justice, collaboration, and mutual aid may still exist far on the horizon, but lamp posts of compassion in action continue to light our way forward.  It's important to savour the seemingly small victories, especially when they mean the world to one individual, one family, one community.  Today I reflect upon such an event with gratitude and encouragement.

Noelia Ramos with her two children.

Lessy Noelia Ramos was one of the 361 victims of the horrific New Bedford raid over five years ago. (Immigration and Customs Enforcement, ICE, invaded a factory where workers like Lessy were making backpacks for U.S. troops. The workers were chained and shipped all over the country away from their families and their communities.)  After years of fighting the possibility of deportation, the 27-year-old mother of two was instructed to show up at the ICE office this past Wednesday with her bags packed a ticket back to Honduras.

Thanks to the mobilisation of community members, student groups, immigrant advocates, elected officials and many others, Noelia has received a one year stay of deportation, pending further review (see article about the victory, here.)  This mother, who suffers from post-partum depression, will remain with her family.  The people of New Bedford will retain a valued community member.  She will be able to continue working hard to support her family and to continue paying taxes to the country she calls home, a "nation of immigrants."

I'm writing this post not to expound upon the arguments for immigration reform, but to record my excitement and gratitude for everyone who made this happen, and my love and shared excitement for Ramos family.   

I learned about the case on Sunday afternoon, when I was walking by Arlington Street Church on my way with others to the #OccupyBoston Strategic Action Assembly.  A group of student activists with Student Immigration Movement were holding a vigil on the front steps of the church.  I went over to ask what it was about, and, my heart stings effectively pulled, immediately realised that this is a battle that we should be able to win!  I spent some time the next day helping to organise online support for the call-in day targeting the local ICE department and for the last-minute press conference to be held on Tuesday (see the action alert).  I also stopped by the Vigil during the madness of the Boston Marathon to help gather signatures.  It was a beautiful day to stand in solidarity and connect for change.

Noelia shares her story at a press conference on Tuesday.

Much gratitude to everyone who made a phone call to ICE and/or their elected representatives, to everyone who signed the petitions, to everyone who stopped to talk to folks at the vigil, to community members in New Bedford, to the organisers of this campaign, to immigrant advocates, to student activists, to elected officials and decision makers who finally made the right choice!  Thank you!

This might just be one small victory in the grand journey of the transformation that we are taking as a society, but celebrated and combined, these winds will fill our sail towards the horizon of justice and liberty.

Love and Gratitude, and Congratulations to the Ramos family.