2008 Spring Evergreen

Practicing the 10 Key Values at San Mateo Ecovillage

By Sanda Everette, Green Party of California


When I am not talking, emailing, or meeting about the Green Party, and not at my job as a teacher, a large part of my life focuses on living at the San Mateo Ecovillage, which my husband and I founded. We live with more than a dozen other people who share our green values, though only some are actually registered Green. We call ourselves a mini-ecovillage.

The San Mateo Ecovillage is in an urban setting located 20 miles south of San Francisco overlooking a large lagoon. It is an intentional community with a mission and established charter. Apartment homes in our community are based on shared ownership or “tenants in common” as a way for the housing in this high-priced area to be affordable.

A definition of ecovillage from the Global Ecovillage Network website states: “Ecovillages are urban or rural communities of people that strive to integrate a supportive social environment with a low-impact way of life. To achieve this, they integrate various aspects of ecological de sign, permaculture, ecological building, green production, alternative energy, community building practices, and much more.”

“Ecovillages, by endeavoring for lifestyles which are successfully continuable into the indefinite future, are living models of sustainability and examples of how action can be taken immediately. They represent an effective, accessible way to combat the degradation of our social, ecological and spiritual environments. They show us how we can move toward sustainability in the 21st century.”

The San Mateo Ecovillage has been set up to grow some of its own food and to be a model to teach others ways they can also do it. We have studied a variety of sustainable gardening techniques over the years including permaculture, biodynamic, and biointensive agriculture. We completed an extended urban permaculture course, have been certified as permaculture designers, and endeavor to apply its ecological design principles. We have even had some specialized training in mycology including: the use of mushrooms in the garden, in soil remediation, and building the soil food web as taught by Dr. Elaine Ingham.

We have extensive organic gardens in raised beds made with mostly recycled wood and stone. We have planted about two dozen fruit trees as well as berries, veggies, and herbs, often saving our own seeds.  We are master composters and make extensive use of compost and other soil building methods including: vermicomposting (worm bins), thermal composting, brewing and using compost tea, and raising chickens which aid in the composting process. 

We have also planted dense combinations of plants that help each other while improving the soil. Efforts are made to never leave the soil bare and use cover crops, mulching often. Even some weeds build tilth in the soil, bring up minerals, and feed the organisms that make other plants grow better. Now the ecovillage has a great soil structure that is two to four feet deep. Our latest project is building a gray water system with ponds surrounded by cob benches as part of the permaculture principle to keep water on your land as long as possible.

By being active participants in the food system, our food-buying dollars are our vote for or against food production methods. Sustainability rests on the principle we must meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. By participating at this level with sustainable agriculture the ecovillage is integrating the Green Party’s 10 key values including ecological wisdom, decentralization, community-based economics, social justice, responsibility, and future focus. 

In addition to gardening there are other related green values in the community. When building or remodeling, we have focused on reused or recycled materials or products produced in a more sustainable way, like bamboo flooring or blue jean insulation. Members are personally committed to reducing their impact on the environment: Reduce, reuse, recycle… in that order.  Generally we avoid buying food and other items that contribute to the destruction of local economies and the environment—fair trade, not free trade. 

At the ecovillage we talk politics, share videos on progressive subjects such as American Blackout, and have even hosted several Green candidates. Those living here who are not registered Green are “decline to state” with leanings ranging from Socialist to Green to an occasional Democrat. Other than primaries, most vote Green, most of the time. 

For information: www.greensolutions.org/smcc.htm

The benefits of local foods

By Sanda Everette, Green Party of California

If you can’t grow your own food, participate in a “community supported agriculture” (CSA) program with a local farmer or buy locally from farmers’ markets. Both CSA’s and farmers’ markets allow farmers to get retail prices for their crops, and save us money by eliminating the middleman. Both help to develop a regional food supply and strong local economy; maintain a sense of community; encourage land stewardship; and honor the knowledge and experience of growers. These arrangements are ecologically sound because they reduce the long-distance trucking involved in much of today’s produce delivery. The need is increasing to produce our own food or get it from sources closer to home as the “peak oil” crisis continues to grow. 

Reasons to buy local food

Locally grown food tastes better. Food grown in your own community was probably picked within the past day or two. It’s crisp, sweet and loaded with flavor. Produce flown or trucked in from Florida, Chile, Mexico, or Holland is, quite understandably, much older. Several studies have shown that the average distance food travels from farm to plate is 1,500 miles. 

Local produce is better for you. A recent study showed that fresh produce loses nutrients quickly. Food that is frozen or canned soon after harvest is actually more nutritious than some “fresh” produce that has been on the truck or supermarket shelf for a week. Locally grown food, purchased soon after harvest, retains its nutrients. In a week-long (or more) delay from harvest to dinner table, sugars turn to starches, plant cells shrink, and produce loses its vitality.

Local food preserves genetic diversity. In the modern industrial agricultural system, varieties are chosen for their ability to ripen simultaneously and withstand harvesting equipment; for a tough skin that can survive packing and shipping; and for an ability to have a long shelf life in the store. Only a handful of hybrid varieties of each fruit and vegetable meet those rigorous demands, so there is little genetic diversity in the plants grown. Local farms, in contrast, grow a huge number of varieties to provide a long season of harvest, an array of eye-catching colors, and the best flavors. Many varieties are heirlooms, passed down from generation to generation, be cause they taste good. These old varieties contain genetic material from hundreds or even thousands of years of human selection; they may someday provide the genes needed to create varieties that will thrive in a changing climate.

Local foods are free of genetically modified organisms. Although biotechnology companies have been trying to commercialize genetically modified fruits and vegetables, they are currently licensing them only to large factory-style farms. Local farmers don’t have access to genetically modified seed, and most of them wouldn’t use it even if they could. A June 2001 survey by ABC News showed that 93 percent of Americans want labels on genetically modified food—most so that they can avoid it. 

Eating healthy food isn’t expensive or difficult when you eat farm-fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables.

15,543 and Counting by D.L. Carcara

Reviewed by David McCorquodale, Green Party of Delaware

Abolition of the death penalty is certainly a goal of most state Green Parties. But could most Greens make an effective argument about why the death penalty is wrong against the common rationales used for justifying it? 

Author D.L. Carcara, a Green and an adjunct professor of social science at Manhattan’s Interboro Insitute has done just that. The book’s title, 15,543 and Counting refers to the number of state sanctioned executions that had occurred at the time the book was finished from the time official records were kept. Carcara has written a short but detailed examination of all of the arguments used to justify legalized killing by the state.

Anyone who reads this book will come away with a broader understanding of the cruel lengths to which the state goes in legalized killing. The process of killing a prisoner usually takes decades. The execution is only the culmination of the endless dehumanization of death row in which prisoners exist in almost total isolation, slowly going insane.

It is a revelation to learn that a prisoner may not be led to the death chamber in restraints, but must go willingly. Why don’t the condemned simply refuse to go? Because death row was so designed that over time the will to live, in those condemned, is gone. This is the true meaning of “dead man walking”—the prisoner who has lost the will to live surrenders his life to the state.

15,543 and Counting is available through major online booksellers or from Publish America.