Wednesday, May 9, 2007

The Entire Planet Picnic-Week Plan.

Judging from the underwhelming response here, there are quite a few folks with doubts about the name, at least, for an "Earth-Lent". Here is the original conversation Crunchikini and I had-

Crunchy- "Eco or Earth Lent - Personally, I would really want to leave out any religious reference. First, Lent is heavily tied to the Christian religion(s)  and to those who know even the slightest about it (and let me tell you I've have had multiple conversations recently with people asking, "what is Lent about again" and we all went to Catholic school for 10 years) it generally means some sort of deprivation and/or penance. Which doesn't scream fun to me."

Greenpa- "I thought about that. I'm a non-catholic school person- and actually, the primary meaning of Lent to me is Mardi Gras, and sales on seafood. Really. Us outsiders never notice any deprivation going on- just the occasional whine, which really seems recreational mostly "oh, god, I've given up chocolate for Lent" - quite amusing, from the outside.

You do have a point, however. I wonder if the Pope might sue- "hey we own Lent, you can't have it." which would be great publicity. I'm SURE some people would be quite put off/out- but I'll guarantee you that will be the case regardless.

One of my thoughts was - religions are historically one of the great agents of change- it might be smart to adopt some of their features."

Something to remember- no matter what we choose, some cranks will be offended. So that should not be a huge factor, though we don't want to SET OUT to turn people off.

We might worry about names later; I'm not going to insist on Lent, that's for sure. Kinda like Planet Picnic, at the moment; not much baggage there, and has the connotation of an open event.

Here, as lucidly as I can, is how this could work. A lot of the "why" is in the previous two posts.

We need many many more people to be making individual choices that help the planet. It's difficult for them to get started, as we know. A one week community type event would really help- no long term commitment implied; and lots of company suffering at the same time.

I like the idea of folks setting up/hosting a community "Planet Picnic" - on the Summer Solstice. It's a day when Earth is really DOING something; and nobody else owns it at the moment. (Yes, I know the Druids still observe it, but they're not opposed to others noticing, too.)

1) Pick a park that folks can get to without driving too far- would be lovely if folks could bike or walk; BUT-

To the extent there are any "rules" here, I really think #1 should be - "No Preaching"; and #2 should be "No Excluding Anybody". If somebody really wants to come; and they have to drive 10 miles to get to one, they sure as heck shouldn't have to worry about some fanatic chewing them out for using a car.

2) YOU could host one- all by yourself. But this is intended to help the community along too- you might want to share the hosting. Is there a local group you could convince? Audubon? Sierra Club? Or, just call a friend. "Hey, let's do this! It's a picnic!"

3) Once you know where it's going to be- get the word out. A little, anyway. You might call the papers- or not, depending on where you want to aim. You can make this very laid back- just you and a couple of friends- or you could shoot for a couple hundred folks- your call. My own solstice event grew over the years; now folks look forward to it (though they always have to be reminded...) and come back year after year. As Alison clearly understands, this can be a good long term approach.

4) When you have a core group- PLEASE stretch out. Ask a neighbor- specifically one who does not normally take part in this kind of thing. It's a picnic for neighbors- they'll feel a little bad if they turn you down (and that's good). Just don't make a big deal about the greeny stuff. "Hey, we're having a picnic! Yeah, it's part of that Planet Picnic thing- but that's not a big deal- I'd just like you to come; we don't see you enough." Nothing works as well as a personal touch- catch them somewhere; or a phone call - answering machines are not as good.

5) Make sure folks are clear on where; and when. When can be pretty open, but telling folks "oh, anytime" is likely to make them forget. "Folks start to show up around 6- most a bit later; lots of folks stay past midnight..."

6) Make some specific arrangements for food. No picnic works without food. This could easily grow into a huge "pot-luck" affair- but particularly the first few times, the organizers need to be SURE there are good marshmallows- and sticks - and a fire. Eventually folks could bring a sample of their favorite "green" food- of whatever kind. But no exclusions.

7) Don't forget the world is not a safe place. And you want this picnic to BE safe. Be sure you've got enough folks to handle any obnoxious types that show up- if the local cops can come; fantastic. Be careful about drinking- etc. Just try to get folks to understand, at every stage- "This is a G-Rated Event- we've got little kids, babies, pregnant women - so just be cool, man." I've never actually had a problem of any kind; but somebody will. Let the cops know it's going on regardless; ask them to check in. You may need legal permits, in some places, remember.

8) People need things to sit on- blankets for the young, chairs for the geezers.
9) People need toilets- they ain't staying long if their innards are in pain.

10) Arrange some kind of activities. I listed a bunch in the previous posts. Here's the original conversation with Deenykini-

Crunchy - "The one last question I have, is what did you envision would occur for this no hair-shirt party? I think you'd want some sort of activities or recommended activities for people to get involved in."

Greenpa- " Dancing in the moonlight- homemade music- toasted marshmallows, hide and seek; "Statues" there's a whole children's culture of after dark games that have almost disappeared. Storytelling; ghost stories.

- summer solstice is the longest day of the year; the shortest night- should have the parties in places where there are NO artificial lights, maybe just candles and a small wood fire for the weenies (hey, nobody's taking my weenies.). Some youngsters make it a point to stay up all night; watch the sunrise on the other side of the year.

I've done basically this for 15 years; and people love it. Of course- not to hide anything- the big feature for that event for me is a HUGE bonfire. I've got a vast amount of "waste wood" that comes out of my operation, and I NEED to get rid of it (or it will rot and go to methane; can't have that) - so we revived the old solstice bonfire. That might be tricky to recommend; though it can be appropriate in some places. It's a very ancient and primal celebration. People come 150 miles for ours.

We could build a NEW holiday - specifically NON- denominational, but which in fact borrows from EVERY religion we can think of. The solstice of course is universal religion- far predating the Book. The Big Party, likewise. We could borrow from the Hindu festival of lights(?) I'm not at all sure I've got that right- but they have this festival where they throw dye all over each other- blue- GREEN - yellow, etc. Could be a harmless hoot, I think- kids would totally love it. And anything else anyone can think of . A Universal Earth holiday."

Squirt-gun tag? Kites, definitely. Do you know someone in the community who's fond of some lawn game? Invite them; get them to teach. Volleyball.

Home-made music is fantastic. Sing really dumb old campfire songs (I wish I was a fishy in a bowl...) Let the kids run. And shout.

You won't have to force it. You know what good folks do when they're sitting around and nobody's shoving them to do stuff? They talk. Assuming they can hear each other. No loud music, I think; either canned or over loudspeakers. I leave those places, myself.

11) A bunch of folks will want to help clean up- let them. Have somebody in charge, though, and make sure it's cleaned up.

12) Holler "See you next year!" to everyone as they leave.

13) Follow through with the next week- give something up, Lent fashion. It's just a one week commitment- everybody CAN do it. The folks who come to the party will either DO it, or THINK about it, all week. Invite them one and all to call you and check on how you're doing- with no car, or no refrigerator, or whatever.

14) DO write it up for the local papers afterwards. And publish the plans for next year; right away.

Ok. There's my thinking. Also in the previous two posts. There's supposed to be a poll at the end of this week, hosted on Crunchy Chiquita - not that we have to choose "either- or", really- but to get an idea of which kind of event folks think will get the best participation- and have the best effects.


Anonymous said...

ok, i've been talking about this with just about everyone i know (which, admittedly, is a small group). we've been talking mostly about the "lent" part and the giving up part.

there does seem to be some interest/preconceptions that come with calling it "lent". there's the idea that we're giving up ONE thing, and the debate over what that one thing should be. personally, i like crunchy chicken's idea of doing as many things as you feel like and trying to do a truly Low Impact Week, rather than just making one change.

then there are the people who say, "well, i'm already doing a lot of those things" when i share ideas i've had and ones on crunchy chicken's list. they seem to miss that, as i understand it, the point is to do something you DON'T already do. to raise your awareness during that one week and actually make you THINK about what you're choosing to do with yourself.

personally, i'm finding that thinking about what i could give up for a week is giving me ideas for other things that i could be ok with giving up on a permanent basis.

no one really seems to care a whole lot about the party idea when i mention it :( ours may end up being quite small.

Sally said...

Hey Greenpa--

I like this idea. Barbara Ehrenreich in her latest book talks about how necessary Carnival is to Lent -- a lesson we've forgotten, it seems. I've often thought that renunciation is only a minor American tradition, one connected to religious history and not to our big booming Paul Bunyan-spacious skies-bigger-and-better- go-for-it mentalities.
But hey, I'll do a party-picnic AND the Low Impact Week in June-- and it looks like June's going to be a great congregation of bloggers for No Impact-- see not only Crunchy Chicken but also Causaubon's Book...

Crunchy Chicken said...

Hey Greenpappy, you keep this up and I'll have to change the poll to:

"Which pseudonym do you prefer?"
1. Crunchikini
2. Deenykini
3. Crunchy Chiquita
4. Crunchy Dee
5. Ms. Deanna
6. Crunchy

I don't think I can add any more of the ones you used in my polling software :)

Crunchy Chicken said...

Oh, yeah... "Cheeky Chicken"? Don't think I didn't see that one over on NIM's site :)

Greenpa said...

hey, Crunchella- you started it!! neener neener neener! ;-)

Sally - doing both sounds good to me- I also like the balance of partying/relinquishing; I think it really will appeal to far more plain folk than just "hey, give something up."

Anna- I'd love for people to go as fast as they can, in green directions. Our biggest problem, though is not us greenies. It's the regular folks out there, who aren't doing ANYTHING yet, and don't really know they CAN, or should. Just came back from my weekly trip to my accountant- block after block of beautifully mowed lawns... no changes.

I remember very well a hugely important piece of advice I got (from a guy who raised millions for conservation) "Never ask your new donor to do 2, or 3, or 4 things for you. He'll say yes- but when it comes time to do it, he'll look at all of them; won't quite know how to start; he's busy- so he'll put it off. And put it off. Then when you call - he'll feel BAD about it- and start avoiding you. Disaster. Instead- ask him to do ONE THING. He'll say yes- when it's time; he'll think 'I can certainly do this one thing' - and he'll DO it. Then; when you call - he'll be able to tell you about progress- and he'll FEEL GREAT about helping you out. You'll have a friend for life. And then- you CAN ask him to do- one more thing."

Totally true. Even for confirmed greenies; trying to figure out how to do 10 new things- is likely to put more people off, than not; just human nature. The Church COULD have asked a whole lot more- but they're not dumb, we know. One thing. To start- if you WANT to do more; fabulous.

Anonymous said...

Hey gang -- this sounds like a blast. Where do we sign up???

No really, this is about honoring community and the spirit of conviviality. While I appreciate the idea of the week of sacrifice/learning in advance I detect a more significant amount of interest being placed on the picnic. I'll admit my preference falls on the picnic as well. . .

But of course we're trying to take these types of steps day by day, so maybe I'm just looking for an epic party!

Anonymous said...

Well I tried the bonfire thing at my place last week and the Forest Service and the Police came when it was still smoking in the morning {I make my fires only in the rain, so I have to wait for the Spring rain to do them} and they gave me a big lecture and even though I pointed out it had rained all night and the whole forest was wet and blah blah blah, they told me I could have a free ride this time but next time it would be $5,000.
Also the party thing seems too much work.
But as I believe I told La Crunchie last week, I could do more on certain fronts like the plastic bags at the stores and trying to buy stuff with less packaging. I do encourage others to impact less while they are buying my trees, since I guess they seem like good candidates. And, oh Yes, I am a Druid and have the forest to prove it, but the trees and the seasons don't belong to anyone, so celebrate!

Crunchy Chicken said...

Well, maybe the thing to do is to have people participate in Low Impact Week (and longer up to the Planet party). Then, if they want, join in an organized get together on the aforementioned date for the Planet Party / discussion of the things they tried out, what worked for them, what was easy, too hard, etc.?

Again, the issue is who's going to do the organizing, how do you find like-minded people in the area?

Just another idea...

Also, rc, I don't think Greenflappy was suggesting another "Burning Man" event. So keep your bonfires to less than 800 cords of wood :)

Anonymous said...

i agree with rc that i probably couldn't get license for a fire in the city, though to be honest, i haven't checked into the regulations.

the party does sound like lots of planning, and i feel like the large idyllic scene you painted, greenpa, would indeed take several years of growing to come to fruition. that said, what you're saying about planting a seed in the minds of people who are not currently doing anything is an excellent point. i feel like that would be exactly what the party would be good for. spreading word while having a great time and strengthening community.

the issue i take with encouraging people to do 0NE thing is that once they do the one thing, they'll feel good enough about their participation to be able to justify in their minds all the "bad" things they do to the point that they believe they do not really need to change their suv-driving, cross-atlantic-flying habits. perhaps i'm a pessimist at heart ;)

also, the specific person who did claim "i am already doing many of the things on the list" is NOT an obvious greenie. she was raised with her mother telling her to turn things off when she wasn't using them, to dry her clothes outside, etc. pragmatic environmentalism. but that builds into what i said above about people thinking that because they do something, they don't need to do more.

one question: greenpa, i get the impression from you that the party comes first and offers an opportunity to make a connection with people prior to the week of making a change, though i feel like it's still up in the air. my lady got the impression that the party came after the week (as it would were we to take crunchy chicken's suggestion of the week of june 1st) and was a celebration of getting through the week and an opportunity to share experiences. there's probably no "right" answer, but i feel like the timing of earth-lent relative to the planet picnic would have a definite impact on the feeling that the party has. any thoughts?

Greenpa said...

deliberately - fun is good! :-) really. All it really takes is SOMEBODY saying " we're having a picnic; here, this time; ya'll come." Some people will come.

rc- ow. Your experience with the fire certainly sucked; sounds like you ran into some of the forest types a ranger friend of mine described as "Smokey the Pig". They DID let you off, anyway. It mostly doesn't pay to tick off the "authorities" if you can help it. We do always get a fire permit; AND, at the Fire Warden's request, we call the closest fire department just before we set the fire off- it can light up a cloudy sky like a burning house, and it helps keep false alarms down.

Yeah, parties ARE a little bit of work- but worth it, for some people. No pressure!

Crunchissima- flappy?? flappy?? Hey, now! :-P

Yeah, I like your idea about the party after- maybe we'll wind up with both options- and a party in the middle. Both options can go to the same party; and people can do it however they want.

Annabanna- "once they do the one thing, they'll feel good enough about their participation to be able to justify in their minds all the "bad" things"

Some truth there. But. Really? They're going to keep doing the "bad" things - no matter what.

Then the question is; do we want a person who's totally turned off by all green ideas; or one who's got a crack in their armor- and would LIKE to feel good about something? I do think it's the latter. See, I'm as big a pessimist as you are- in the short term. They won't change fast. But starting the process is crucial.

And- part first, or party after- actually, we're discussing both options. It would be lovely to present a simple unified concept for folks to adopt; but we're all trying to help think about it still. This'll be on Cruncheroony's poll this weekend. Personally - I like party first; a) it's the way they do Lent, probably for good reason; 2) I'm really thinking most about getting NEW people to start thinking green; not just involving those of us who are already here; and I think the psychology for motivating them is better there. "Nice time; new thoughts; follow through." Rather than: "New thoughts; change your life; have party as reward."

Ya know? To me party after seems like we're trying to train a puppy - and I think some people will resent that, whether they see it that way consciously or not.

Crunchy Chicken said...

greenpeep - an argument against the party first is that people will party and then, "what was I supposed to do again?"

There's no closure. Just saying...

And, if you must continue with the religious analogies ... this option is more like Id al-Fitr after Ramadan :)

Anonymous said...

i suppose it would be too much to ask to have party first AND party after, eh? that's a lot of party...

Greenpa said...

anna- well- the idea of the party is to get people TOGETHER - I'll guarantee if you give them 2 dates- there are a bunch of them who will never meet; year after year. Whereas, if there's just one- some years, they'll both make it.

Anonymous said...

Grinpa & Crunchy Munchy -
I must say how fun it is to read all your kidding back and forth. I plan to participate in the Low Impact Week and will probably bring it up at the CSA where I volunteer weekly. Maybe we can incorporate a small party atmosphere there instead of trying to organize a big one. We often have tastings of farm fresh goodies and will be starting our new session (season) in June.

Anonymous said...

Excuse me, Greenpa, still no email unless I am missing it, so this is to you, since I guess you are doing the moderating.
This week we got to read all about the party planning, which is perfectly OK, after all it IS your blog, you get to do whatever you want, but how about addressing some of your promised topics like "how to talk to a normon". I have the feeling that one will appeal to me. I have to deal with morons every day, so this may be a concept that is close enough.
I'm getting a little impatient for some actual content to put it bluntly.
But I guess I may have to wait until The Party's Over.

Greenpa said...

rc- hang in there. I have 4 full time jobs - besides the blog. One of them has me out visiting clients at the moment, then there's a family graduation tomorrow...

:-) We'll get there.

Anonymous said...

I’ve just sent an email about the project to Treehugger’s tips email so hopefully more people can hear about this.

WolfMamma said...

Ok Greenpa, I realize this is a very old post i am responding to but please give me feedback if you can. First of all this is beautiful, gears are already turning. Community is so important and I'm always trying to build one for my growing family (now two critters!) Here is my question. What are children's night games? My first born loves the dark, he used to wake up regularly around 11pm and request to walk around the city to which his dad would often comply. My husband remembers playing "Wolf" with his 6 siblings on his farm. He was deliciously terrified. I personally had real things to be afraid of in my childhood so I'm not a fan of being hunted and have no desire to experiment with fear. What are the games you know? Could you spend a little time describing them? I think it is so important for kids to be out in nature in the dark, here are some jot notes why.
- it's a bit scary and knowing you're okay and that fear is an natural healthy useful emotion is important to learn
- independence and trust.... children have less and less opportunity to be unwatched and in dangerous situations in our society, this is foolhardy. They need to learn and also they need to know they are trusted so that they can build up trust in themselves. Obviously we don't want them in real danger but not being completely visible at all times is good.
-community: kids caring for eachother, multiple ages interacting, ect
Anyways I hope you can recall some of these lost games and pass them on. I'll be sure to help revive them with an appropriate party.

Oh and I love that you are reclaiming the word party. We have parties monthly or more often. My three year old will come and say "Let's have a book party, with food, and books, and lots of food. We'll read and eat food and play." A quick event post is put on facebook and it happens. Simple is good and parties are beautiful when they are based no a range of ages and experiences coming together to enjoy eachother's company.