We had our weekly Transition Town meeting at Joe’s house. We’re getting ready for an open fair on February 27, and it’s taking longer than we’d thought. Organizing the fair itself will go pretty smoothly, but it’s who we are and what we’re talking about that’s hard. We were going to have a January 30 meeting that would include the vendors and organizers we’re inviting to the fair, but that seems premature, and we couldn’t come up with an agenda. It looks like the meeting on the thirtieth will be for us, and facilitated. We will probably approach the invited presenters personally.
I had written a piece for the Corcoran Neighborhood News, that describes the affair we’re planning. Here it is:
Corcoran neighbors are coming together to support each other’s efforts towards prosperity in changing times. “Trends like global warming and more expensive fuel don’t have to seem quite so threatening,” said Joe Hesla, one of the organizers. “There’s only so much that politicians or businesses can do to fix things, but we can be there for each other in our efforts to feed and shelter ourselves well, and have fun.”
A growing core group has met weekly since a chilly, October 17, get together at the Midtown Farmers’ Market, in response to a News article, by Hesla.
Now that group has a name, “Corcoran GROWS” (Grass Roots Opens Ways of Sustainability), and is planning a free and open Sustainability Fair, for February 27, 10:00 AM until 2:00 PM, at the Corcoran Park Building, 3334 20th Avenue South. The Fair will have information about community garden spaces, food production and edible landscaping (this would be especially appropriate for households that are receiving arsenic abatement this season), urban-rural communication and the Midtown Farmers’ Market, canning and other food preservation methods, composting, solar energy, chickens, bees, tool and skill sharing, home-grown fun, and open-source communications technology. There will be snacks and fun child care.
During the meeting, Sean Gosiewski, who is organizing a March 12 and 13 conference for the entire Twin Cities area, had the slides from his keynote speaker’s presentation showing on his laptop. I had bumped into Sean a week earlier at the presenter, Portland, Oregon architect, Mark Lakeman’s presentation at the May Day Bookstore, and had seen the slides and heard the talk.
Lakeman’s main thesis is that the “Roman Grid,” the way that we lay out our streets, destroys community by appropriating community space for transport and commerce. He asks, “How can you have freedom of assembly when there’s no place to assemble?” and contrasts a city map with an arial photo of a Dogon village, the village laid out to create spaces between buildings and fences. Intersections have traditionally been places where people meet. His European example is the Piazza del Campo in Siena, where roads from northern Italian cities merged on the way to Roma.
In Portland, Lakeman has been active in what he calls “city repair,” and “intersection repair.” The point of the exercise being to bring people together. Neighbors come together, and brainstorm about how they’d like to live, and design modifications to an intersection to begin the change. These seem to all include painting some kind of mandala where the streets cross, and have been accompanied by permaculture plantings and the construction of various sculptures and small structures, including benches and teahouses. Initially, this was an outlaw, ask-forgiveness-not-permission enterprise, but the city has come to support the effort, and every neighborhood in Portland has at least one repaired intersection.
Similar efforts have occurred in other cities, including St. Paul. Portland’s city repair has grown beyond intersection repair, to include the Tea Horse and Tea Pony, truck-mounted tea houses that look like things from Roger Dean album covers, multi-story cob and straw bale cat clubhouses, full of catnip stuffed pillows, and Dignity Village, an area of small cabins for homeless people.
Has the revolution begun?