By David Glenn Cox
The warm summer sun rises over my shoulder and begins to burn the dew off the grass though some moisture still enters through the openings at the front of my sandals. The morning winds blow as the tall grass waves, the birds sing and play in the gusts while the lesser insect aviators remain grounded.
I have spent many hours here this summer and as the harvest nears the dying leaves of ripening crops whisper in my ears with the breeze that I shall soon be banished from this small window on paradise. Soon the cold winds will blow and the snow will block the rural roads and enforce my banishment. I realize and now understand that this is but a temporary respite and a momentary insight, an invitation to something natural and beautiful that we can only share with the earth. A harvest can never be not ours to own but only to share with this earth as the earth shares with us and renews our eternal connection.
Many believe and want to believe that this earth is our dominion, when we are but invited guests to a feast. A feast for the eyes and for the ears as the birds sing for us and the blossoms paint us pictures with eclectic pallets and the plants share their summer’s efforts. They give to us all they create and ask for nothing in return.
I became acquainted with this communal garden quite by accident. My friend was ceded a garden spot and I gladly came along to help out. Little do I know about growing crops as the only crop I’ve ever grown involved pulling up male plants before the flower tops of the females became fertilized. This was a far different enterprise and I liked its Socialist tendencies immediately. Everything is shared in common in this communal garden, tools, tillers and hoses. Extra fencing, stakes and cages are stacked by the tool shed and are free for use by any and all.
There is no competition here, only the desire to cooperate with each other and to work together communally. The gardeners share their stories and their problems. It’s been a tough year for corn and the potato bugs were especially hungry this year. The gardeners share their extras as well, my friend had an over abundance of cucumbers. She gives them away to friends and relatives and I’ve even suggested jokingly that she drop the over supply into the grocery store bins on the sly.
I had told my friend about the PBS series “Frontier House” where several city families where given land to live on as our ancestors once had in the 1880’s. In the end the men had the most regrets about returning to this century. The women had the least regret due to the hard work load that was placed upon them; having to deal with wood stoves, no refrigeration, no washer and dryer etc. The children quickly adapted to a life without video games or cell phones. The experience made some marriages stronger while breaking others apart.
Yet there was a strange dynamic at work in their lives, they lived off the land and with the land. Their work was hard but it was satisfying, they gloried in their accomplishments and they discovered more about themselves than a lifetime of watching Dr. Phil. Rather than asphalt, concrete and plastic their lives revolved around wood, earth and grass, an ancient connection which is muted but not severed by this century. It made me think about the many social problems we have in this country.
The US government currently pays out $20 billion in crop subsidies to an ever decreasing number of corporate farmers, when what we should subsidize are small farms. Subsidize and educate those wishing to work a small patch of land, communal farms growing organic vegetables and organic meats and dairy. The farms would stimulate business in small towns which are currently dying off.
I had written before about this country developing wind farms built along the lines of the WPA and TVA of the 1930’s. In the process of building these wind farms, large tracts of land would be need to be purchased and in those lands would be ample room for new homesteads. Let’s be clear here about what I’m talking about, I’m not talking about building 3,500 square foot McMansions but 800 square foot energy efficient modern homes. The homesteaders would farm ten to twenty acres with communal tools and professional expertise with the hope of creating self sustaining communities.
Incomes could further be subsidized by homesteaders working as schoolteachers, mechanics, and doing construction work in the community. The goal is not to build a new suburbia but to escape from suburbia, to escape a morning commute and replace it with a walk to the field. This would not be for everybody; it would be aimed at those looking to get off of the technology rollercoaster. It would be for those looking for a slower pace of life and a more authentic pursuit of life.
After World War II the Japanese government paid ship building companies to hire workers to build ships. The government then sold the ships on the open market to defray the cost of the program. This idea isn’t really very different; we subsidize people to grow wholesome food for us to eat. The Japanese were trying to rebuild their industrial economy while this idea is about rebuilding our agricultural economy.
Each Saturday my friend and I go to the farmers market and local farmers bring in local produce for sale to the public. Free range eggs, blueberries, strawberries and hand made soap. Every vegetable imaginable is for sale, from the strange to the mundane, along with homemade bran muffins, doughnuts and coffee. These are neighbors exchanging goods and services in an open market. It is the best of a system and should be expanded.
Rather than cutting Social Security, we should encourage people out of a crumbling industrial society. Instead of building hypersonic missiles we should build sustainable organic farms. Rather than weapons of mass destruction we must build models for a sustainable future. It illustrates that the answers to our problems are out there. For the price of Obama’s two nuclear reactors in Georgia we could build nine thousand wind turbines.
For a fraction of the annual cost of the Star Wars program we could begin to build something new and hopefully better for our people. For less than ten percent of the annual Star Wars budget we could seed a million families into rural America. A program designed to literally turn swords into plowshares and to offer another and hopefully better model for our families.
The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have cost the treasury $1,239,675,045,079 and for that expenditure we have gained only misery and ever growing poverty. Despite the party or promises, regardless of the pundit’s prognostication or the public’s pleas, these wars will continue. While we argue amongst ourselves about tax rates and funding social programs under the banner of free trade we grant access to foreign produce tax free. We tax our own farmers and people and businesses and allow foreign products to compete in our market tax free.
It becomes clear that the way forward is blocked by vested corporations who buy government and profit from free trade, profit from nuclear and coal powered power plants and agribusiness companies who profit by operating in unsustainable models. Under an illusionary model of Capitalism the best products and methods move to the front. Under a more realistic model vested interest strangle progress in its crib if they cannot control it or profit from it. For example a 1908 model T Ford got 25 MPG while the average of all cars in 2008 was 21 MPG.
The issues before us then become issues of life and death. Genetically modified corporate crops sprayed with deadly pesticides–what do these mean for our children in the future? We don’t know. John McCain wanted to build fifty nuclear power plants and Barack Obama is trying to crack the door open by building the first two. The Fukashima disaster in Japan will make the profile of the American nuclear industry submerge, but they will not cease their efforts in government. GE’s CEO Jeffery Immelt was named by the President to head Obama’s jobs council and we all know how well that’s worked out.
We must understand that our future is not black, it is only shaded. We must understand who our enemy is, who it is that would deny you and your children a better and more hopeful future.
“We must learn to reawaken and keep ourselves awake, not by mechanical aids, but by an infinite expectation of the dawn, which does not forsake us even in our soundest sleep. I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by a conscious endeavour. It is something to be able to paint a particular picture, or to carve a statue, and so to make a few objects beautiful; but it is far more glorious to carve and paint the very atmosphere and medium through which we look, which morally we can do. To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts.”
“Things do not change, we change.”
Henry David Thoreau