Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Launch, Logo, Dreams, Fears...

It's Wednesday morning, at 8am. I've been awake for an hour. We have our launch today, this afternoon in the Rooftop Greenhouse. I'm excited and, of course, nervous. Will it be enough? I've had many people send their regrets, people I hoped would be there - the Provost, the President, some professors. There wasn't a lot of notice for the invitation, so I understand. Still, I'm sad. These individuals have a great power to wield change for the better within our community. Opportunities to connect with them and share our work seem too rare. Especially given the magnitude of this crisis... more on that in a second.

We have a logo for the project, designed for us, pro-bono, by Emily Paris, a Concordia student who has done other design work for Sustainable Concordia. The group had some uncertainty over whether it was the right image for the project. Some felt it was too hard, and didn't show the love and harmony in this project. Others felt it was unclear - what are we trying to express?
Still others loved it off the bat. I felt pulled in different directions - on the one hand, I could understand their concerns and imagine more softness; on the other, a lot of work had already gone into arriving at this place and I felt like I no longer had time or emotional energy to rework the logo, or to ask Emily for more work. I wanted it done so we could move forward. In that lies a challenge I think must be known to all, with varying ramifications depending on your position - for an engineer, the work must be perfect, or the building or bridge might collapse; for the artist, the work must speak truly to the feeling inside that seeks expression; for the activist, the work must convey the full complexity of one's hopes and concerns. It's a lot to ask in an image. Still, as each day passes and I look again at the image, I feel happier with it. I know it will evolve, like me, like this project. For now, I can let it be. Some of the group expressed beautiful sentiments...

"It combines natural forms with the urban and modern, which is representative of some of the group's goals and activities. And although it is quite jagged, the colours are soft and have natural tones. I also really like the blue part as, to me, it represents both water and windows (of a greenhouse, perhaps?). Also, I think the crescent moon shape softens the image quite well, and it made me think about how early civilizations used astrology to guide their farming practices... But that may be way too far-fetched. A last point is that I think the logo represents the research aspect of the project and how we are piecing the food system puzzle together."

"I think it plays well with the supposed contradiction between plant life and urbanism (which is exactly what this project addresses,) and the colours and sense of movement are both vibrant and comforting. I honestly think it's one of the most attractive logos I've seen in a long time."

I want to thank everyone in the team for the time they took to reflect on this image and to relate to it and think about how it could be improved, and how it can be appreciated.


I've been powering through a book called "Fruitless Fall: The Collapse of the Honey Bee and the Coming Agricultural Crisis" by Rowan Jacobsen, a Vermont-based writer. As you can imagine from the title, it's not a happy tome. Fruitless fall is the end of the sentence Rachel Carson began in 1963 with "Silent Spring", and there is a quiet certainty in me that we are witnessing the fulfillment of her dire predictions now, as honey bees - the world's pollinators - begin to disappear, along with thousands of other wild pollinators, insects of all types. Sitting on the sidewalk one afternoon as a child, playing with a friend, he began to kill the black ants that were busily working away at our feet. He had a vicious anger and an uncaring attitude as he tried to squish them. I became extremely angry seeing this, and tried to stop him. Luckily, another neighbour, one of the dads on the street, saw him and reprimanded him for it, and he stopped. He wanted to kill those ants, just because they were small and black and different. This was a child raised on a steady diet of Fruit Loops and G.I. Joes. I knew then that there was something terribly wrong with our culture, a feeling that has never left - that we do not respect life, or each other; that we are entertained by death and destruction; that we are cutting out the very foundations of our existence through our lust for power, over anything. Such folly to think that size matters, that an insect a centimetre long is anything less than the linchpin of our food system, that its death 'doesn't matter'.

This is why it saddens me that our administrators seem so far from us, and won't be joining us for our launch this afternoon. Our small band of heroes is attempting to address the greatest crisis facing our civilization: the destruction of the planet. We can do little compared to if they turned the full strength of their power to this urgent situation. So I hold out hope, perhaps another event, in July, another invitation... perhaps even just a tea sometime.

In the meantime, I know that we are the first bees building the hive that will sustain us through the long winter ahead. Jacobsen offers pearls of wisdom and grains of hope throughout his dire warning, explanations of how the honey bee functions and the insights they might have for us. I certainly hope we can all pull together and recognize both the urgency of acting in a coordinated fashion and the opportunities we have to push our development in the right direction now, such as the wonderful initiatives our interns and partners are developing. And this afternoon, we'll celebrate our efforts together and raise a glass of honey tea to our shared commitment to sustainability.

Come one, come all.


P.S. I want to give a shout-out to friends Tana Paddock and Warren Nilsson, whose incredible blog "Organization Unbound" has been inspiring me recently, especially Tana's post on vulnerability as a strength, which encouraged me to share honestly in this first post.

1 comment:

  1. Re-reading this, something comes to mind, a gentle reminder from Lance Evoy, former director of the Institute for Commmunity Development here at Concordia, that my generation is not the 'first bees' working to create a sustainable world. I know that many have throughout history fought the injustices that now bring us to the brink. I guess sometimes, as a product of the 'me' generation training inflicted on us combined with the direness of the situation, it's hard to not feel like previous generations have been sitting on their thumbs, which I know is not true. I guess it's sort of a childlike reaction - pain = blame = fault. Of course, it's not that simple. But still, it's hard. We need leadership now from our elders. I'm hoping Laura Beach will address that in a forthcoming post.