Several weeks ago, the Maitri Southeast Regional Yoga Conference was held in Washington, DC, and FireFly Farms was a proud advertiser in the conference program. The conference theme was “Yoga through Peace, Peace through Yoga.”
I took my first yoga class in 1991. Over the past twenty years, I have moved on and off my yoga mat with varying frequency and dedication, but since that first class I have considered myself a “practitioner” – keeping to my path with as much mindfulness and as a little judgment as I could muster.
Yoga – as most even in the western world now know – simply translates to “yoke.” This notion of yoking – or harnessing – oneself to anything is not a notion that the western mind takes to readily. Practitioners seek to yoke together mind, body, and spirit (or breath) through a lifelong practice.
One doesn’t need to look very far to observe the growing disconnection with (disdain for?) our American bodies. One doesn’t need to attend many yoga classes (certainly those taught in the Iyengar tradition) before hearing an instructor calmly observe: “pull your sacrum half an inch forward,” to realize what mind-body connection is about.
This notion of connectedness or yoking certainly has meaning for our inner-selves; I will leave that to the gurus. My “shout-out,” greetings, and admiration go to Mary Pappas-Sandonas
at Unity Woods Yoga.
What has compelled me to write is the idea of outer connectedness. What compels me is the yoking of each of us together, and the yoking of all of us collectively with our environment.
Years ago in November 2006, on vacation in some lovely tropical locale, I read a piece by Elizabeth Kolbert
in The New Yorker
called “The Darkening Sea.”
It struck me deeply and has remained with me.
In her essay, she describes the carbon-absorbing, acidifying oceans. She describes the affect that this acidification is having on the ocean’s calcium levels. And, as these calcium levels drop, she describes the effect on hundreds of species that depend on calcium for life: depend on calcium to form their skeletal structures. I was left to this day with the haunting and beautiful image of these dying coral colonies: each coral “joined to its neighbors through a thin layer of connecting tissue, and all attached to the colony’s collective skeleton.”
Not very long ago, the image of this beautifully interdependent coral was brought to mind in a very different setting. Here in Mountain Maryland, there is great on-going debate regarding Marcellus Shale natural gas development. Inside a presentation
prepared by Dr. J. Stephen Cleghorn was a quote from Sandra Steingraber, Ph.D.
and Distinguished Scholar in Residence at the Department of Environmental Studies at Ithaca College, New York:
“The Marcellus Shale is alive. It is more like a coral reef than it is an inert bunch of rock. We are destroying a living ecosystem without any real knowledge of what role it might play in the larger functioning of the biosphere.”
I’m honored to be a part of FireFly Farms. I’m heartened to be at in the midst of a “local food movement” that is inspiring Americans to ask new questions about the foods they buy – to be more mindful of our “local yoke;” more mindful of the notion that any given country or region or state or county or community should – perhaps must – feed itself, care for itself, and actively work towards its own economic recovery.
Several years ago, in reading I came across the Sanskrit phrase: "pratitya samutpada." Loosely translated: "The delicate interconnectedness of all life." I had the phrase tattooed three times wrapped about my left arm.
I am humbled by my yoke.
So Mother's Day 2012 comes to a sleepy, sun-kissed close in Washington. I trust each of us has in some way remembered our mothers today -- living or passed on -- and in some way celebrated them. Mothers deserve celebration. Though they each are human and may be wrapped up in layers of complex emotion and dysfunction, they deserve celebration.
Honoring the mothers in my family...
My own Mother's Day musings got me thinking about our "original mother:" the female god-head, if you'll indulge me the archaic turn of phrase. For much of human history, world religions ascribed equal deference and power to the divine female as to the divine male.
The ancient Egyptians called her Isis. The Hindu's call her Shakti to this day. The ancient Greeks called her Gaia -- she was the goddess or personification of Mother Earth.
Wikipedia tells us: "Mother Earth is a common personification of nature that focuses on the life-giving and nurturing aspects of nature by embodying it in the form of the mother. Images of women representing mother earth, and mother nature, are timeless. In prehistoric times, goddesses were worshipped for their association with fertility, fecundity, and agricultural bounty. Priestesses held dominion over aspects of Incan, Algonquian, Assyrian, Babylonian, Slavonic, Germanic, Roman, Greek, Indian, and Iroquoian religions in the millennia prior to the inception of patriarchal religions."
Dangerous ground, I know, but onward.
This Mother's Day left me a bit pensive. Despite our modern cultural and political assumption of religious superiority -- religious certainty -- I for one mourn the loss of the mother-god. Our fist-pounding, war-mongering, use and discard, testosterone-steeped world could use a healthy dose of the Mother, the feminine, no?
Several weeks ago, Pablo and I were fortunate enough to travel to Manhattan. While there, we visited the Greenmarket at Union Square. We were met by market volunteer, fan, and frequent shopper Louisa Shafia -- foodie, food blogger, locavore, and author or Lucid Food
. Louisa was kind enough to give Pablo and I a signed copy of this lovely book: beautifully written and photographed; emanating the wonderfully generous energy of its author.
The Union Square Greenmarket was wonderful. We came away with goat's milk cheese (of course), duck prosciutto, honey produced by bees farmed on urban rooftops, fresh lavender, heirloom apples, and ostrich jerky. I was struck by the magnitude of this wonderful producer-only market in the middle of Manhattan Island; struck by the odd familiarity that it evoked. We were in Manhattan, but inside the market there was the very same sense of welcoming, nurturing, community that I feel at any farmer's market I have ever attended.
GrowNYC is a hands-on non-profit which improves New York City’s quality of life through environmental programs that transform communities block by block and empower all New Yorkers to secure a clean and healthy environment for future generations. The busy cheesemonger from Vermont's Consider Bardwell Farm. We loved the goat's milk "Equinox" and the cow's milk "Dorset." Well done!
Louisa Shafia, author of Lucid Food, food blogger, locavore, and new friend -- with Anthony Reuter of GreenMarket.
Andrew's Honey from NYC -- inspired us! Makes me rest better knowing that honey bees are being farmed on Manhattan rooftops.
So I spent this Mother's Day a bit pensive, but as the day wore on and the market's energy peaked, waned and ended -- I was comforted. I took home my market basket of agricultural bounty, thinking about the wonderful meals we would cook to nurture our bodies and to share with our friends. I remembered Mother. I knew that though she is often forgotten and dismissed, like all good mothers she toiled onward.
Gaia was at Greenmarket; she is at every farmer's market, in every home garden and compost bin.
What did you do for Mother today?
I am a small business owner, interactive marketing devotee, capitalist, and committed environmental protectionist.
Over the last few months, these sometimes conflicting passions have led me to educate myself on an industry that touches our lives and wallets virtually every moment of every day: energy consumption.
In an increasing number of arenas, business and residential consumers are asking themselves: “How can I ensure what I consume is locally and sustainably produced?” Witness the resurgence in our local food markets.
Asking a parallel question about my energy consumption sent me headlong into unchartered territory -- how many of us as consumers even wonder where the electric current that powers our lives and the myriad of devices on which we rely comes from? Is it generated from oil? coal? wind? nuclear reactors? natural gas? Where is it generated? And, what is its impact on our environment? Conversely, how many of us simply take for granted that the lights will go on and the devices will recharge?
| |The new wind power generation on Backbone Mountain, outside Oakland, Maryland, near the creamery. To source cleaner energy, do your research on the Compete Coalition website. | |
Shale. In western Maryland, we sit on top the of the Marcellus Shale formation & debate is heated about whether these energy assets can be extracted safely. Do your research with CitizenShale.
The unchartered territory is a heady, politically contentious place where long-held monopolies fight for survival and consumer behavior is hard to change. I was one of many Maryland business owners that recently testified in the Maryland State Legislature regarding proposed Marcellus Shale Drilling -- a.k.a. “fracking” – and witnessed this contention first-hand.
However, in many states these energy markets are actively being restructured to increase competition and consumer choice. I found the Compete Coalition’s
website very helpful in understanding these important efforts.
So, here in the DC metro area we live in a region where active deregulation is at work. How and where is competition increasing? And, as businesses and consumers, where are we able to exercise choice?
Competition and choice can be driven by low price especially given today’s economic environment. There are an increasing number of energy buying groups that are forming to “pool” together market demand and leverage that pooled demand to lower prices. In western Maryland, our local chamber of commerce has formed exactly such a pool through a partnership with Premier Power Solutions
Competition and choice can also be driven by other factors related to energy quality and environmental impact. There are some exciting examples of this competitive dynamic. First, energy consumers are starting to “pool” themselves in order to demand choice. WTOP recently ran a piece that highlighted “more than 100 religious, community, labor and low-income housing groups in the Washington area (that) say they are joining forces to buy clean power and save money.” Check out Groundswell
for more information.
And, there is an increasing number of new entrant “energy retailers” that are marketing cleaner energy choices to DC metro area businesses and consumers. Check out Clean Currents
and Washington Gas Energy Service’s Clean Steps
There are an increasing number of apps – both mobile and internet-based – that allow energy consumers to monitor and manage their usage. These apps are based on new Smart Grid
technologies. And, according to DC-based OPower’s
website: “they reinvent the way utilities interact with customers—from the quality of the information provided to the way it's presented and delivered. It helps people use energy more efficiently and ultimately save money on their energy bills. And it vastly improves the overall customer experience by making energy use personally relevant.”
Check out Green Button Connect
for home energy consumption monitoring. And, for you globalists, check out the cool stuff our pioneering German friends are doing at GreenPocket
And for you trendsetters with electric vehicles, check out Plugshare
to locate charging stations and Springwise
for apps monitoring electric vehicle consumption.Seth Godin’s Blog
recently asked “will our energy consumption stay private?” Will the choices about energy consumption made by brands and businesses be public? Could they drive preference for brands that are making sustainable energy choices?
My sense is a resounding “yes.” Whether driven by our need to reduce our dependence on non-renewable, globally contentious oil resources – foreign oil especially – or, our need to reduce our carbon footprint and begin earnestly the fight against global climate change – my sense is brands will be looking to differentiate themselves actively based on their energy consumption choices. And consumers will be looking for brands that reflect their own energy consumption values and priorities.