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All of the Four Necessity Valve Turners, and most of the support team, tend a garden or a farm in one way or another. Whether you live in a city or on a farm, it is the season to plan for summer gardens. The biggest gamble is, when will the last frost come? And, have I started the seeds soon enough to be ready for it?


My mother taught me that her father started seeds on St. Patrick's Day. It's a good and common practice to tie earth-tending activities to holidays, holy days, moon phases, and other seasonal signs, both as a mnemonic and to entrust our gardens to the patronage of saints and angels. I start my own seeds nearly a month earlier, closer to St Valentine's Day, though on a map I'm located a full zone further north than my parent's hometown. Part of this, doubtless, is that I'm growing hardy kale and onions (neither deemed worthy of space in grandpa's carefully curated postage-stamp backyard garden) and my own willingness to risk a little bit to stretch the growing season as far as it will go. I'm hardening off kale, cabbage, nasturtiums and onions this week in Chicago, hoping weather cooperates with planting them while the moon is big in the sky next week. But another factor, which should not be overlooked, is that the USDA hardiness zones that growers rely on to plan are noticeably shifting northward.


My mom insists, year after year, that the frost free date where I am farming cannot be Mother's Day. In her mind, that is her frost free day. The reality is that zones have shifted northward a full zone for both of us - if she wanted to, she could safely put plants out as early as tax day (What a holiday! If there's a more meaningful feast that consistently falls in the teens of April, I'd be happy to re-term this).


Unfortunately, the volatility of weather (a side effect of global warming sometimes humorously referred to as global-weirding) that has accompanied climate change makes it hard for midwestern farmers to really take advantage of this shift to start production earlier. A hail storm, flood, late snowfall, or any number of other "rare" occurrences, like the tornadoes that swung through the south this week, easily kills a crop set out too soon. As US farmers, whose average income in 2018 was negative, balance the risk of crop loss against the reward, it pays for many to limit their liability and hold planting out until they are sure.


Are you planning a garden? We'd love to see your photos and hear your progress (or questions!) on facebook. One of the most healing actions we can take in this time is to be in tune with what sustains us, most directly through farms and food.


Flags fly at Standing Rock Camp, photo by Lukas Zhao

On the grounds that authorities issuing permits, including the Army Corps of Engineers, did not sufficiently take into account the potential impact of a spill, including all the various ways leaks occur, challenges to detecting and correcting leaks, and the poor track record of the parent company in addressing failing pipeline infrastructure in the past. The courts have ordered a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on the pipeline now, and is requesting both sides submit a briefing on the potential precautionary measure of shutting down the pipeline for the duration of the time it takes to prepare and assess the EIS.


Of this victory in a hard-fought, long campaign, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Chairman Mike Faith says, "Perhaps in the wake of this court ruling the federal government will begin to catch on, too, starting by actually listening to us when we voice our concerns.”


The full story is well worth a read here.


On this day, it is a wonder to think that we are living through this time where people are choosing to put health over profit. Long the message of activists, and so often derided as unrealistic. This message is the root of #waterislife, it is the intent behind the necessity defense, it is also a fundamental tenet of the peace movement. Whenever activists have stood up, for whatever reason, they are generally demanding changes to protect life and health. In these days, the immediate threat has overwhelmed our other demands, except where there are direct intersections - like an end to incarceration or immigration detention where many are becoming infected due to the impossibility of social distancing, or asking for an end to deportations which have already doubled the coronavirus caseload in Honduras, or demanding that we suspend rent, mortgage, eviction, and other systems that could lead to widespread homelessness in the coming months. Each of these movements is organizing petitions (click links above), calls to local, state and national representatives, and fill-the-voicemail or email campaigns to police, ICE, and other institutions. There are also mutual-aid groups organized on city and district levels, with call-lists for shut ins and forms to request or offer assistance (you can start your own!). There are take-it-to-go soup kitchens and food pantries, walk up clinics. Food drop-offs and the like. We are finding ways to hold space for each other, from 6' away. There are new ways to organize long-distance. Sunrise Movement was perhaps the quickest to move their programming online, advertising zoom organizing meetings and phone banking. And yet, some needs, like access to bathrooms and handwashing, are impossible to fill remotely, all the more urgent with so many establishments and outreach centers closed for the coronavirus.


And yet we don't want to leave you with grim necessity, but with joy and hope. So here's a humorous report of activism in the time of COVID19: a friend was outraged that elected representatives would risk IN-PERSON voting amidst the COVID-19 pandemic ... So on the eve of the primary, she made a sign and picketed all by herself in front of the mayor's home. One of the police officers on security detail ran towards her. She called out ‘6 foot distance!’ and stopped him in his tracks!


If only all civil disobedience were resolved so readily in favor of health and safety!

#4Necessity        #ActOnClimate        #ValveTurners