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For the Love of Rain

We had some awesome torrential rains over the past few days, initiating the new roof on our building (it seems to have done its job!). After my trip through the Amazon and its equatorial rains, then the stormy weather I had in LA, it seems only fair that I’d come home to heavy winter storms in San Francisco too. And we really need ’em, since we’re in the midst of a serious drought. Highly recommend a quick perusal of Tom Englehardt’s latest, “Nobody Knows How Dry We Are,” on the global drought conditions, written as a self-proclaimed amateur, he’s trying to connect the many disparate stories, from Australia’s horrific Great Drying and wildfires, to the droughts besetting Texas, Eastern Africa, Central China, Northern California, and more…

As I rode my bike under pouring rain (and loving it!) I had this rising feeling that we ought to be catching it and trying to save it. Seems an insane waste, to see such incredible quantities of fresh water falling on our asphalted city, and getting whisked away through the sewer system and into the bay (the aging sewer systems around the once-abundant Bay always threaten to dump raw sewage; in Marin a broken system dumped 300,000 gallons of fetid sewage during the storms).

I came home soaked a couple of times…

At the top of my stairs, dripping.

At the top of my stairs, dripping.

Soaked and happy!

Soaked and happy!

I’m swamped with more than water, too… tons of reading materials piling up all the time, still trying to finalize negotiations with the SF Museum and Historical Society on our wiki, foundsf.org. I’m as overwhelmed as the next person trying to keep my morale up in the face of a global collapse and the ever-more dire news about climate change.

But I take heart from the slow convergence of some of my own Nowtopian arguments and those of radical colleagues near and far. Werner Bonefield has published some great collections of radical thought over the past few years, and in this piece he helpfully argues that “The business of negation, the anti in anti-globalization, is the creation of alternative social relations by means of practical critique of existing social relations…”

He goes on to critique the summit hopper/protesters, wondering if their activities can “assume practical relevance…” because “Suddenly, or not so suddenly, there is the long awaited and predicted crisis and the movement seems paralyzed.” He wonders how the anti-globalization movement can respond if it sees the crisis as a crisis of greed, which is a crisis of regulation, rather than a deeply systemic crisis for which the apparent greed and unregulated chaos are only visible peaks. “An anti-globalization movement that only focuses on the issue of greed does not see the vampire that sucks labor out in the production process as the basis of that greed.”

“I think what has to be left behind is the old social democratic or state socialist idea of class. That idea was based on the notion of market position, and sought to rebalance the inhumanity of exploitative producdtion relations by means of re-distribution… class struggle is correctly understood as the movement against the existence of social classes… Class struggle is the struggle to dissolve class society, relations of class domination and exploitation, in favor of commune–this society of the free and equal, an association of the freely assembled social individuals… so if correctly understood, class should be a critical concept, not an affirmative concept. The old class concept… wanted to re-distribute in order to create a fairer deal, a new deal, for those on the wrong side, or the wrong end of the stick…”

Once again to my surprise, John Robb gives some supportive coverage to emerging movements against evictions. But it will clearly come down a combination of these kinds of practical resistance efforts based on solidarity and local community support, combined with more far-sighted efforts to restructure how we meet our basic needs. As Dmitry Orlov argued the other night at Long Now, it comes down to “food, shelter, transportation, and security” to which I would add, water, energy, and communications. But these are the kinds of things that a great many Nowtopian initiatives are beginning to address.

A local effort that I recommend to anyone wanting to get started learning how to be more self-reliant in urban communities is my pal Ruby’s Institute of Urban Homesteading over in Oakland. She’s starting a batch of new classes shortly, and there could hardly be a better time to jump in and start figuring these things out, and she’s a great teacher to boot! She’ll be coming to our Talks series at CounterPULSE next Wednesday Feb. 25 to talk about Bees in the City. And in our upcoming Talks March-May, many practical conversations are scheduled, from March 11’s “Remanufacturing Our Way Out of the Depression” to April 22’s “Global Commons/Global Enclosures” to April 29’s “Transition City: Permacultural Transformation” which will feature Ruby again along with Novella Carpenter (Ghost Town Farm), Kevin Bayuk (SF Permaculture Guild), Laura Allen (Greywater Guerrillas)…

So more to come soon, but a quick blurt… Save the Rain! Catch it, store it, use it!…

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