Winding Roads, Hopefulness and Community
Our travels continued bright and early on Friday June 6th, with an exhilarating bus ride along the winding roads of the California Coast, singing along to songs about California. Scott McKenzie’s “San Francisco” played as we crossed the Golden Gate Bridge and set our eyes on San Francisco for the first time. The air was electric as it dawned on us that this was the final stop of our trip, but clearly the start of something greater than ourselves.
Community has played a significant role throughout the trip; pushing people to think about the greater good and develop initiatives for a sustainable future. Our time in San Francisco only served to reinforce the importance of community and truly brought us together as a community in ourselves. We sang our way through the streets of San Francisco until we arrived at the hostel and grabbed a quick lunch in the city.
We spent the afternoon at SF Environment, a department of the city and county of San Francisco, where we first met with Cal Broomhead, the SF Climate and Energy Manager, who spoke about San Francisco’s Climate Action Strategy. The strategy is based on a 0-50-100 goal: Zero waste, 50% of trips on transit or non-private vehicles and 100% renewable electricity. Cal is working on integrating a climate action plan into all departments, as he believes that all departments should have an environmental aspect, rather than just one department. We then listened to a short, heartfelt speech from Debbie Raphel. She emphasized creating change through passion and enthusiasm, the difference between hopelessness and hopefulness and how to utilize the power of people. We can be both hopeful and hopeless, as long as we keep putting one foot in front of the other. Next, we heard about Green Building in San Francisco. As 53% of greenhouse gas emissions come from buildings, SF Environment is working to have new green buildings put in, and more importantly, make existing buildings greener, and create a cycle of improvement. Last but not least, Kevin Drew spoke about organics recovery and its importance in green energy, jobs and agriculture. A common theme from the presenters was the importance of incorporating the community into their initiatives. It's only with strong support of the community that significant change can occur.
We started the following day in the city with a trip to the Yerba Buena gardens where we reflected on our trip thus far, experienced the breath-taking Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial and soaked up the California sun. From there we jumped on the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) to the Mission District for some organic, vegan, non-GMO Mexican food and an education in sacred commerce at Gracias Madre. While we enjoyed our exquisitely prepared meals we listened as Matt Englehart shared his passion for sacred commerce and gave us inspiration to better ourselves and our communities. He read to us their mission statement, that came across more as a marriage vow than anything business related, but for Matt business is as sacred as marriage and developing relationships and connections with people and our planet is vital for success. He believes in building a spiritual community at the workplace. It was clear from the smiles on all the employees faces that they were, indeed, experiencing spiritual satisfaction while developing financial success for themselves and the business. Experiencing the delicious, quality food and humbling inspirational environment of Gracias Madres opened our eyes to the possibility of a future in harmony with our spiritual, environmental and financial needs.
After our enlightening lunch we walked to Dolores park and orientated the group to the history and geography of the Bay area and suggested some must visit areas. In the spirit of the city's historical counter-cultural hippie movement, we lead the group in a massage circle to get them relaxed and feeling the love and community environment. The park itself, was brimming with people and full of energy which only served to reinforce the community atmosphere.
Bicycles, Bridges and Burritos
On Sunday we were free to explore the city and the many neighbourhoods within it. Many of us took the morning to explore the Haight Ashbury Festival, a street fair to showcase the many artists, musicians, and cultural and community services in the district. The Haight Ashbury district is a community united by a common peaceful, accepting outlook and the festival welcomed people from all over to celebrate in the streets. The energy and excitement of the festival and its vendors made for a great morning.
That afternoon we rented bicycles and rode through the city, stopping at the bustling Fisherman’s Wharf before cruising across the Golden Gate Bridge and down into Sausalito for tacos and margaritas at a local Mexican restaurant. The weather was perfect, and everyone was grinning as we took in the beauty of the bay area, and enjoyed a great meal with even greater company. The evening ended with a ferry ride back to the city as the sun set on a beautiful day in San Francisco.
Food Justice and the Story of Stuff
On our field school's last day we were lucky enough to finish by meeting with some very inspirational, hardworking individuals at the People's Grocery in Oakland and later in Berkeley with The Story of Stuff. The People's Grocery at the Hotel California is a community garden located in the middle of the food desert that constitutes this part of Oakland. We met with the greenhouse and garden coordinators, Heather Smith and Larry Davis, to learn about their grassroots food justice mission whereby they envision healthy, equitable and sustainable food access for their community. We also learnt about the fascinating history of the Hotel California where after a change in ownership in the 1950s it became the first non-segregated hotel in the United States, and hosted the likes of Billie Holiday, James Brown and Aretha Franklin. The hotel ceased operations in 1971 but was converted to low income housing in the 1980s which it remains as today. After a short orientation, we were happily put to work in the gardens by helping with the weeding, and, turning and sifting newly composted soil. After a few hours of hard work, Heather and Larry were kind enough to share a delicious lunch with us of rice, beans and fresh greens from the garden!
Next, we moved on to Berkeley where we met with Naomi Young and Renee Shade to learn about The Story of Stuff and the challenges faced by people everywhere in regards to precipitating positive change through community, sharing and sustainable living. They have created some innovative and easy to understand educational videos on the consumption patterns of humans, the consequences of these patterns and some ideas of what can be done to improve the consumptive system we are all a part of. They emphasized developing ones own Citizen muscle rather than their Consumer muscle and in doing so, making a change in ones broader community and even country. They believe our Citizens muscles are atrophied from years of letting others dictate our behaviour. Utilizing our Citizen muscles involves thinking outside the box and challenging ourselves and communities to do more.
We Are Community
We have been blessed to have met an amazing collection of people throughout Cascadia that are working hard to make our region sustainable and build strong community connections to help each other with their efforts. After spending the past three weeks together our class has become a very close community and have shared a wealth of knowledge with each other. Moving forward, we will continue to support each other through the community we have established in our like-minded group and help each other in the pursuit of a brighter future. We had an emotional farewell dinner at Chow by Golden Gate park where they strive to serve local, healthy and organic fare, and celebrated our last night together. Thank you to our exceptional instructors, the community builders and the sustainability innovators who we have met for inspiring each of us 2014 Cascadians.