There’s no doubt about it: this fall is going to be an exciting one for the nation and the Bay Area. Dare I say, it’ll be one for the history books. In my magic clairvoyant mirror hanging just inside my imagination, I can just make out the writing in some future account of the Fall of 2009, “As the dog days of indian summer bore down upon a populace, things were astir in a nation conflicted with itself…”
Or something like that.
On the national scene we will be witness to–and participate in!–the heated political and economic battles over health care. Single-payer will be voted on the House floor this month for the first time. It won’t win, the White House says its off the table, and the media doesn’t seem to want to utter the phrase; but that doesn’t mean people aren’t going to keep putting it back on as part of the discussion. Witness the Mad As Hell Doctors, who are taking off from Portland, OR on a super-roadtrip across the country in an RV (joined by a ‘Care-a-van’) next week to take a message of universal health care for all to the White House and Congress. They will be stopping in 26 cities along the way and they will deliver their message and have a protest event on the Capitol steps on October 1. That’s the way to do it! And they even have a theme song!
But let us not be too consumed by the drama to forget some underlying crises that also need as much or more attention and struggle, such as corporate abuse, socialism for the wealthy, unsustainable economics, climate change, and militarism. In the next couple months we’ll see the International Day of Action on October 24, the Bail out the People Movement March on Sept. 20 prior to the G20 Summit in Pittsburgh (see Chris Hedge’s awesome post this week on CommonDreams), Labor Day weekend’s WakeUpWalmart campaign by a coalition or labor, environmental, and community groups, and the ramping up of the rethinking and resistance against the Afghanistan military escalation (even conservative George Will says to get out!).
The NYT says the antiwar movement has been “largely dormant” since Obama was elected. That’s quite a surprise to me and many others who have been voicing our resistance. But the writer has a point. Obama fever or campaign fatigue or healthcare mania–whatever it is–has zapped some of the fire of the peace movements. Maybe the NYT can make up for its past sins during the lead up to the occupation of Iraq and give some real coverage to the issues and the antiwar movement? And maybe more people will realize its not about the man/woman in office but about the policies and the real effects and hit the streets and put some real pressure to bear? How much more money and how many more lives do we want to send abroad for military and corporate expansion?
United For Peace and Justice and many other groups are calling on the grassroots movements for peace and economic and social justice to gather across the country on October 7 for action, dialog, and reflection on the 8-year anniversary of our occupation of Afghanistan and the resulting steep costs in lives, money, and morale.
But sometimes we just have to take off our activist cowboy hats and have some fun. Hardly Strictly Bluegrass (Oct. 2-4) and Power to the Peaceful (Sept. 12) music festivals are coming up fast, both at Golden Gate Park in SF. The 10th Annual Independent Expo for Arts is Sept 26 also in Golden Gate Park. It’s the Bay Area’s grassroots connection fair for independent arts, musics, and culture.
And please, please don’t miss the SF Mime Troupe performing their musical morality tale called “Too Big Too Fail.” This is their 50th year as a Bay Area treasure. I’ve seen it twice and would go again. And no, they don’t pantomime, but rather they ‘mime’ in the ancient sense: to mimic. They are talented musical satirists, making you laugh at the absurdities of contemporary life and at the same time to see their causes. Get your political propaganda and hear some great songs in the park all at the same time! I highly recommend going to see them at their home base–Dolores Park in the Mission–Labor Day weekend.
In reel news, a few much-anticipated documentaries are coming out on the heels of Food, Inc. Two big oil films debut: Crude, focusing on Chevron and the Ecuador case, is making its SF debut Sept. 25 at the Lumiere Theater, and the award-winning Out of Balance, focusing on ExxonMobil. And of course there’s Michael Moore making his citizen’s arrest of AIG execs in Capitalism: A Love Story, coming out early October.
I’m also excited about some great community events and activism here in Oakland and across the Bay Area. On Sept. 12, GridAlternatives is hosting its Solarthon 2009 in Oakland, bringing the benefits of renewable energy to the people that need the savings the most. The Green Jobs Now Concert and Rally is being held at Mosswood Park in Oakland on September 27. Noam Chomsky is speaking at the Paramount Theater in Oakland on Oct. 3 on “Obama, the Middle East, and the Prospects for Peace,” partly as a benefit for MECA. Chomsky is also speaking with Antonia Juhasz–author of Tyranny of Oil and Bush’s Agenda and the new director of the Chevron Program at Global Exchange—the next day at the First Unitarian Universalist Society of San Francisco. You can catch her interview with Amy Goodman on Democracy Now.
Of course we’ll have our flourishing farmers markets and CSA harvests to relish in. West Oakland’s Mandela Foods Coop is open and thriving (see my post on Sustainablog). In addition to those projects and organizations that are already deeply rooted in Oakland, many new food justice and urban farming initiatives are springing up with new energy this fall and new ways to be involved in the movement and localize, like Planting Justice and the newly seated 21-member Oakland Food Policy Council (see my forthcoming article on Oakland Local, launching around mid-September).
We also have our pick of great local festivals & conferences too. Just to point out a few, we have the 20th Annual Bioneers Conference in San Rafael in mid-October, the Green Festival in mid-November, and the 10th annual WorldVeg Festival Oct. 3-4 in SF. And perhaps a little further removed from the grassroots level is the Social Media for Sustainability Conference, sponsored by JustMeans, is October 19 also in San Francisco.
But I’m particularly pumped about a few alternative, local economy and climate change events coming up, especially after having just finished Bill McKibben’s Deep Economy yesterday, one of the best books I’ve read in a while. One event is the “Festival of Grassroots Economics, Building an Economy for the People and the Planet” on September 26 at the Humanist Hall in Oakland.
“The diversity of community-based economic projects, from housing to community currencies, from alternative energy systems to collectively managed low-cost health care, from co-op janitorial services to opensource software creation, encompasses every sector, but is often unrecognized…A goal of the Grassroots Economics Festival is to bring together a variety of economic projects for the public to see close up and to appreciate the creativity and value of bottom-up efforts to fulfill real needs.”
Another event is Growing Resilience: Community Resilience Toolkit Launch Party at the Women’s Building in the Mission District on Sept. 16. The website says:
“The Toolkit is a workshop facilitation guide for leading groups to think holistically about how to build ecological, economic, and social resilience in their communities while decreasing reliance on fossil fuels. It offers Bay Area-specific fact sheets, resources, and actions in six key sectors: food, water, energy, transportation, jobs, and civic services.”
Then we have the big Economics of Peace Conference in Sonoma from October 18-23, hosted by Praxis Peace Institute. Its tagline is “Transforming Money, Rebuilding Community, and Redefining Wealth.” Lots of big names in the alternative economics, sustainability, and peace movements will be there, like David Korten and Normon Solomon. Dennis Kucinich is rumored to be coming as well. I’m especially excited for Vandana Shiva, one of my all-time heroes. I first heard this fierce and intelligent woman at the World Social Forum in Nairobi speaking truth to biotech corporate power & WTO, and I recommend any of her books. Check out any of a number of videos of her speaking online.
Finally, another great opportunity is the 3-day West Coast Convergence for Climate Justice & Action in Richmond, CA. People will participate in:
“a three-day training and movement-building convergence followed by a mass action. Join us to learn about climate change and climate politics, support local communities in their ongoing fights for climate justice, & build a stronger Climate Justice movement on the West Coast leading up to the international days of action on October 24th and November 30th and international climate change negotiations in Copenhagen in December.“
It looks like there will be trainings and workshops on everything from political education around climate justice and direct actions to media messaging and practical sustainability skills. You can go to the website to see the program and to apply for one of the 200 slots.
Add to all of this a whole array of campaigns ranging from Prison Reform and Winning Marriage Back in California to demanding justice for Oscar Grant in Oakland to an increasing number of service-members refusing to deploy and the 8th Annual National Organizing Conference to End the Israeli occupation of Palestine in a couple weeks in Chicago. It’s indeed a full fall workload for changemakers.
I don’t know if we’ll be pullin’ the root, plantin’ the seed, harvesting bushels, or plantin’ bulbs that will sprout in some later spring, but we’ve got some real momentum here and lots of opportunities to make some noise, make some trouble, and push for positive change!
giddyup! (copyright for that word belongs to chris)