Fall Class Schedule

I’m happy to announce WGY’s fall season of Permaculture workshops, including Intro to Permaculture, Urban Permaculture, Permaculture for Renters, and Obscure Edibles for the Colorado Climate. Most classes will be held at the Denver Botanic Gardens and Denver Urban Homesteading, a brand-new local market and reskilling center.

For full descriptions and registration links, visit the classes page… and feel free to distribute the poster below!

PC-poster-fall-2009

Repost: The Pitchfork Collective

I wrote this post a year and a half ago, when I first encountered Pitchfork’s inspiring brand of anarchy as a visitor to Denver. Today is Pitchfork’s last day as a functioning collective – the murals have all been painted white, the rooms lay bare and eerily clean. I’m reposting this essay as a tribute to the incredible impact that Pitchfork has had on Denver’s now-thriving urban homesteading community. It will be missed.

Over the last year or so, I’ve slowly begun to come to terms with the fact that everything that mattered in the first two decades of my life – all my achievements and disappointments, my aspirations and concerns – occurred under conditions that are fast becoming obsolete. The economic meltdown that’s currently underway only serves to underscore the fact that the growth-centric society in which I grew up is poorly suited to the new realities of a rapidly changing climate and declining supply of energy.

Fortunately, I’ve never been one to shy away from change. Instead, I’ve spent the better part of the past year trying to figure out what it might mean to live in a way that works with, rather than against, natural systems. Do l I have to renounce the urban lifestyle to live sustainably? Will it make me happier, or more stressed out?

For now, these questions are largely hypothetical: as long as I’m at school in New York, sustainable living remains little more than an abstraction. Sure, I can refuse plastic bags, buy local food, and use compact fluorescent bulbs in my apartment, but in the end these are only gestures at leaving a lighter footprint, greening the edges of a way of life that is fundamentally against nature. But with graduation fast advancing – and the prospects of finding a secure career seeming less attractive by the week – I decided to use the generous break between my final two semesters to seek out a Forest Green way of life in my hometown of Denver.

Which is how I found myself living in the Pitchfork Collective, a cooperative living space founded about a year ago in central Denver. The three-story house, in the historic Five Points neighborhood, is home to an ever-shifting cast of characters, all between the ages of 17 and 27. During the course of my stay, I met couch-surfing hipster vagabonds, transgender wiccans, crust-punk anarchists, and many other folks too unique to slap a label on. What united them all was a respect for diversity, defiant individualism, and a belief in sustainable community.

Like any group of activist youth, the Pitchfork Collective wasn’t without its downsides: the industrial-sized sink was rarely without a pile of dirty dishes, and during the course of my stay, more than a few non-residents took advantage of the house’s open-door policy by overstaying their welcome. Still, I continually found myself surprised by the amazing things going on around the house – at any given time, collective members might be busy making crafts to sell on Etsy, planning for the springtime permaculture garden, teaching a class on positive menstruation, or cooking burritos to hand out to migrant workers. Despite the griminess, the constant flux of residents, and the youthful naiveté, I had to admit that Pitchfork was thriving. And it’s not alone: at least five or six similar houses have formed just past the frontiers of central Denver’s gentrification, all of them connected in a tight-knit community of young radicals.

Perhaps the most inspiring aspect of Pitchfork was its role as host of Denver’s Food Not Bombs, a program that cooks and serves recently expired food to needy communities across the country. Every Saturday morning, volunteers made the rounds at several local grocery stores that have agreed to donate unwanted food, delivering dozens of boxes of produce, baked goods and leftover bulk goods to Pitchfork’s front lawn. An ever-shifting crew of residents and friends assembled to sort, prepare, and cook the food, working with whatever was in abundance that week. Once the dishes were ready, they were loaded into an old biodiesel pickup and driven to a nearby park, where a crowd of eager customers awaited.

The long train ride back to New York gave me some time to assess my stay at Pitchfork. Is it sustainable? Probably not – even Food Not Bombs is based on a surplus of produce grown far, far away. It’s also not for everybody; with such a diverse set of roommates, collective living can strain the most open of minds. Still, I don’t think Pitchfork really needs to be a universal template to be successful. After all, the whole point of the regeneration is to move away from universal templates in favor of new ways of living based on local climate and culture. Under these criteria, then, I’d say the Pitchfork Collective is a damn good first attempt at urban sustainability. In a society filled with cookie-cutter neighborhoods and lives that lack meaning, Pitchfork proves that diversity can succeed, that you don’t need stuff to be satisfied, that community is key – and that doing it yourself can be a whole lot more fun than letting others to do it for you.

Report: the Crash Course Seminars

This post comes to us from the blog of Don Hall. I attended the Crash Course Seminars last weekend along with Don, and share his enthusiasm for the Crash Course as a tool for spreading awareness and understanding about peak oil and economic instability.

This past week, I had the good fortune to be able to participate in “The Crash Course Seminars: Thriving in Any Future” in Denver with Chris and Becca Martenson. The organization I work for, Transition Colorado, invited Chris to come here to forge an important alliance with the Transition Movement and raise greater awareness about the future of our economy, energy, and environment.

In case you haven’t seen it, The Crash Course is an online video series that has been seen by hundreds of thousands of people all over the world. With chapters on “Exponential Growth,” “Money Creation,” “Debt,” “A National Failure to Save,” “Peak Oil,” “Environmental Data,” and others, The Crash Course makes an extremely clear and compelling case that “The next twenty years will be completely unlike the last.”

While this data may or may not be new to you, the genius of The Crash Course is in its presentation. Unlike many other presenters, Chris does not beat you over the head with his beliefs, but rather lets the facts speak loudly for themselves. He avoids alienating others by setting aside his politics and religion. And his matter-of-fact tone and sense of humor help to balance out the heaviness of the material, so that people are not paralyzed by fear, but instead are inspired to action.
In the final chapter of The Crash Course, “What Should I Do?” Chris provides a “Framework for Action”: a four-step process by which individuals can assess their strengths and weaknesses and create what I have begun calling a personal resilience plan. While this model is not perfect, and could be redesigned, it does provide a process that anyone can use to move from simple awareness into individual and community action. Until we have our own house in order, we cannot be of much help to others.

There are many ways that the Crash Course can be used as a powerful tool for Transition in your community, and I will cover several of these in the Deepening Community Leadership course this fall. In fact, on the final day of the seminars, Chris and Becca assembled an entire Crash Course Toolbox for participants. While Chris offered primarily left-brain tools, like tips for reading between the lines of the mainstream media, Becca guided us through right-brain exercises and breakout sessions. This pairing of male and female energies, of practical information with heart and soul, worked beautifully throughout the weekend.

I share all this with you not only to encourage you to take The Crash Course to learn more about our collective future, but also to study Chris as one example of a truly exceptional leader. Five years ago, Chris quit his position as Vice President of a Fortune 300 company to create this valuable resource and share it freely with as many people as possible. Please use it to your advantage and help to spread the word!