We had the pleasure of sitting down with Sustain DuPage volunteer Beth Weiner in our Victory Garden for a short interview! Beth shares her unique intersectional experience being a woman and environmental activist in DuPage County. We’re so thankful that she donates her time, passion, and skills to our nonprofit! (7:06 min) Check it out! 

Transcript

Hi, I’m Beth Weiner, and the thing that I want people to know about this garden is, it is a wonderful community of people who care about their community and about this planet. You will gain amazing friendships, community connections, skills, and a place to just go and be away from the chaos of life and just feel boosted and supported. Whether you’re looking for gardening skills, whether you’re looking for friendships, you’ll find it here.

Andrew: WooooOOOooo! Ok, so like, what got you into eco stuff?

Beth: So, it’s actually a funny story because it started out when I was a Girl Scout, wayyyyy back when. Um, all the other girls in my troop were very interested in like, going camping and everything too, but they all wanted to like cabin-camp, and like still have like- NOT go outside. They’d be like very into the girly-girl aspects of the sewing and all that and I was the girl like, JUMPING into the river and like getting all of them muddy and disgusting and dirty and they would get angry. And I just really loved being in the outdoors um, and as I got older, and as I got into school, um, I pursued other interests and I kind of forgot about it because the Girl Scout troop disbanded and there weren’t a lot of outlets for young women who were interested in the outdoors. Um, and when I went off to college, I was interested in studying biology, um, it didn’t work out because I was really bad at chemistry, so I thought there were other ways and other skills and volunteering that I could do to still make an impact.

Andrew: Mm. What does it mean to you to be a part of agriculture as an American?

Beth: So I never really connected those two words in my brain before now, which is probably part of the problem. So, I think we live very much in a post-industrial world where people are not connected to the land. They don’t posses the same Land Ethic that they used to have because on a large scale, things like this garden and places like this garden don’t exist to empower people with skills to, you know, work the land and reap- and the benefits of the land and feel that sense of place. So I think that’s part of the problem, is that um, we don’t think of the word “American” as being tied to the land, um,  and I think that’s a huge disconnect that I’m only beginning to address by learning some of these gardening skills.

Andrew: Are you a farmer?

Beth: I am here!

Andrew: OooOOOoooh! Good Answerrrr! What do you believe our role as Millennials is in the Food Justice Movement?

Beth: So I think a lot of people in our generation are very passionate, um, and are kind of waking up to the idea that we are inheriting a world that is not just. And, it rightfully makes us upset. And I think it is our job to channel that frustration into a constructive and educational movement which will empower people to fight for what they believe in, instead of feeling like there is nothing that they can do.

Andrew: Mm. Is your Womanhood important to you?

Beth: Mhm.

Andrew: Do you find, um, special significance in a garden setting, as like, specifically speaking to like, your Womanhood?

Beth: Sure. So, I think of the Earth as, um, Mother. Um, and I think that the way the Earth gives life is very tied to the way that the Feminine gives life. So for me, a lot of it resonates in what I think about as the Divine Feminine and the Life-giving powers of the World. Um, and those- that wisdom that I think in a very Patriarchal-led society we’ve gotten very far away from, and so it’s incredibly empowering to make that connection, here in the garden.

Andrew: Aaaaaand, right now, literally the ‘gahden’ is filled with ladies. Does that mean a lot to you?

Beth: Absolutely.

Andrew: I think it’s really cool that our garden has, naturally like, just kind of magnetized like all these strong female leaders.

Beth: Yeah! Lindsayyyyy looking at you! Strong female leader! In one of my classes in college, it was an independent study with, um, a female professor, and it focused on um, ties in literature between the environment and the [sic] Feminism, and also relating that to post-colonialism [sic] and the othering of, um,  minorities and women and the way that, um, Patriarchal society demonizes that and is that tied to the way that we treat the Planet? Is the way that we treat the Planet, like a garbage can basically, tied to the way that we treat women in our society?

Andrew: Would you say it is?

Beth: I think so. Because of the feminizing- the way that we use female words to describe the Planet, um, I think it kind of gives society an ‘in’ to kind of abuse it [sic].

Andrew: Brutal.

Beth: Yeah.

Andrew: How do we change that?

Beth: We have to build connections like this. You know, we have to connect people and realize that this is important on a very personal level, because unless it affects you, and your experience, you’re not going to change it- or someone you love. I think there’s a lot of psychology- and I think a psychologist would have a really good answer for that- and I would love to see, um, psychologists getting involved in the environmental movement, and helping work towards changing people’s attitudes. Because we grow up with pre-conceived notions about the world, and I think it takes- really on a fundamental, like *brainstem* level, changing the way we think.

 Sustain DuPage can’t operate without your support. Find out here all the ways you can involve yourself!

a foot with black walnut henna written, "walnuts 4 life" and designs

By: Andrew Van Gorp (Sustain DuPage Founder) 9 November, 2015.

 

This walnut season Sustain DuPage amped up production almost threefold. Last year’s “Nut Club” harvested about one hundred pounds of walnuts, and this year we were able to harvest about THREE HUNDRED pounds of walnuts. This is largely due to many community members dutifully dropping off walnuts at the Van Gorp homestead.

We at Sustain DuPage are so thankful we could participate in this activity. Coming together in community to achieve anything, (not the least to build resilience in our local food system), is one of the most fulfilling parts of life in the ‘burbs. If you haven’t plugged into seasonal eating yet, (oh boy!) you are wayyyyyyyyyy missing out. The next food harvest will be maple syrup in the spring, so if you missed this walnut season- definitely get your little booty over to one of our local food events this spring!

Now, please enjoy this video we made about driving to Caledonia, WI to pick up a Hocking Valley Corn Sheller from circa 1930 to shuck the walnuts. Make sure you have eleven minutes set aside to watch! 

 

***Also, for those who are worried about harming squirrels through competition:

1)Most people are currently bagging up black walnuts and sending them to the curb to be composted/landfilled elsewhere. So we are saving them from being wasted.

2) There won’t be any squirrels left if we don’t reconnect humans (specifically young ones) with the cycles of nature and show them the value of trees outside of a monetary frame of mind. If people don’t value fruit/nut bearing trees, there won’t be any more because people think these trees are a nuisance that solely exist to harm their lawn. By getting people excited about self-sustenance we might see a native nut tree renaissance- instead of all these magnolias and foreign whatsits that don’t provide food for humans or other wildlife.

3) California’s drought provides an urgency to return to local sourcing for ALL of our dietary needs, including nuts. (California grows up to 99% of most of the nation’s produce). We need to be relearning these traditional ways of life so we are prepared for climate disruption of our currently unsustainable way of life.

4) By getting people excited about these trees, we might set off a positive feedback loop beyond just the trees. By educating people about what “native” means and “xeriscape” and “organic” and “local” means, people might not just plant a little black walnut tree, they might plant a yard full of prairie plants too! That provides more food for more wildlife!

5) Squirrels, although valuable to our local ecosystem, are not exactly paramount to its sum health.

6) Black Walnuts are healthier than domesticated walnuts, so they also provide greater bang for our buck.

7) This process is very time intensive and will ensure less food waste once people realize how much energy goes into their food.

8) Squirrels eat other foods than walnuts too!

9) These trees are in suburban lots, not from a forest. So we are not encroaching on squirrel habitat (what’s left of it).

10) We had permission to collect the walnuts, so we are connecting with strangers and strengthening community bonds and social trust.

11) We always leave plenty of nuts for wildlife.

12) I find it interesting that people take issue with things like harvesting walnuts from their local area, but then continue to participate in far more environmentally detrimental things in their day-to -day life like wearing plastic fiber based clothing that ends up in our waterways as microfibers, or eating meat that is surely sponsored by the deforestation of rainforests the whole world over, or using natural gas stoves that are powered by fracking, or drinking coffee that was shipped from thousands of miles away, etc. I find myself guilty of the same thing. I hope we can begin to change the way we think about our interaction with our yards as something we are apart from and instead begin to see ourselves as belonging to this landscape. I think one of the largest reasons people feel they can pollute our DuPage groundwater with impunity, is because they don’t drink the DuPage groundwater. People feel as though they have the right to cut down entire stands of old-growth trees to build a house, because they don’t depend on those nuts for survival, etc. Without a dependency on our local environment, we become entitled to consume invisible landscapes from near and far away. To see that squirrels were starving in the winter because we had taken too many walnuts might give people an incentive to plant more walnut trees. (Not that that will happen for a long while). 

 

 Sustain DuPage can’t operate without your support. Find out here all the ways you can involve yourself!

Restoring Hope: A Snake’s Tail… means?

Enough is Enough!

Sustain DuPage is passionate about encouraging millennial environmental advocates like Tristan to raise their voices and reject the negative and misleading narrative they’ve been given. In our conversation, Tristan did a great job pointing out that the next generation can and should reject the notion that humans are to be valued at the expense of every other living thing. There must be a generational voice that resoundingly cries, “enough!” to the unsustainable and reckless development and consumption we see tearing apart our communities. We touched on the fact that this generation has been tasked with the most tantamount challenge that has ever faced the Human Species: saving ourselves from ourselves. 

You can hear in Tristan’s tone when he speaks about restoring hope, that this mission is an overwhelming burden for those who will inherit our future, and we in the sustainability community must ensure that we are encouraging our young people! This video is a call to action for the Elders in our community to reach out to those young warriors who are taking up the torch to ensure we can all live healthy lives well into the future.

Support your community protectors by restoring hope! 

To all of the millennials reading this: do not fall for the lie you are being told! The media would tell you that as a teenager or young adult in your twenties you should be partying and drinking away your days. People say that you can’t really make positive change because you are too young. Do not waste your prime years! You will never have more potential than you do right now.

If you practice shrugging off community problems in your twenties, you will most likely shrug off community problems until you are gone from this world. Now is the time to capitalize on your beginning years and set yourself up to make even weightier contributions to your community in your later decades. You can truly establish yourselves as community leaders right now by following your true passions and investing in your own potential.

Thank you for watching, and helping us in

restoring hope for snakes and ourselves!

 

Sustain DuPage can’t operate without your support. Find out here all the ways you can involve yourself!

 

Celebrating DuPage Farmers:

Ted Lowe of Wheaton, Illinois Brings down the House!

Did you think we at Sustain DuPage were all work and no play?

We are in the business of celebrating DuPage Farmers, too! By celebrating DuPage farmers in this mini-series, we hope to not only draw attention to the amazing things that CAN be accomplished in DuPage, but also to encourage those people who work so hard to reclaim their right to garden on their own property (a constitutional right).

Time and time again, it seems that everyone we talk to is discouraged. At some point or another we all feel like we’re the only person fighting for environmental justice, right?. Well, TAKE HEART! You are not alone. You are a valuable part of a growing and strengthening movement in DuPage County that is demanding from it’s political representatives better policy that promotes economic, social, and environmental sustainability. It is so important not to lose sight of our goal, and to never compromise in our vision.

Please, make sure that you are taking time to celebrate your sustainability accomplishments and not getting bogged down by the challenges ahead. 

Thanks for watching!

 

Sustain DuPage can’t operate without your support. Find out here all the ways you can involve yourself!

 

By Andrew Van Gorp on 18 October, 2014

 In my conversations with my community members about our many different DuPage Waterways, I often hear a few similar phrases repeated. These phrases betray a subconscious presumption that many in our County hold in common:

“It’s too bad it’s so polluted”

“I would never even think to swim in there”

“Is it even safe to eat a fish from there?”

Many of these conversations boil down to this dangerous shared belief:

“The waterways of DuPage County are beyond saving, which means that I have no obligation to protect them.”

This ideology has been deeply troubling for me, as I find it amongst my acquaintances, friends, and even my family members. My growing spiritual dissonance began to turn into a determined vision a few months ago: this mentality must be exposed for the diseased logic it is, and it must be eliminated.

I suddenly felt led to speak on behalf of DuPage County Waterways. If our Waterways could speak, I think they would say,

 “It is true that I am sick- but I am very much alive.”

Often times, many of us feel helpless in the face of vast and complex problems within society. The overwhelming nature of how big the world is can sometimes scare us into inaction or worse, indifference. The hardest part of starting a meaningful project can sometimes be just getting it started. But we must, we must, we must all of us- always BEGIN. We must get our feet wet.

And so I began the, “Get Your Feet Wet DuPage” project. I’ve learned in life that people do not steward that which they do not value or take pride in. So the first step towards stewardship in this case, was to get a few families to put their feet in DuPage waters. Somehow I knew deep inside that once people stepped into the waters, they would begin to see the beauty and the life that is tied to the river.

Our local Community is the perfect starting place to send a ripple into the universe- a ripple that can create tsunamis of change. I admit freely that as an Environmental Art Activist I may not be able to improve protections for clean water on an international scale, but I learned that I sure-as-heck am good at getting nine families to put their feet into the very waterways that need their help, darn it!

It’s a small symbolic gesture, but one that had a near-miraculous effect. I humbly watched in awe as some lifelong DuPagers stepped into the river a few blocks from their house for the first time ever, smiling and laughing. (Ironically, the families that had the most hesitation upon entry, were often the ones that ended up playing in the river most emphatically). Some of these people were perfect strangers to me- yet this experience was beautifully intimate. The quietness of the water greeted us with an unspoken welcome, sacredly reminiscent of an old friend you’d never met. I will hold onto the experience for my whole life through.

Looking back, this project is what inspired me to get my own feet wet so to speak! A few months later, and I finally decided to start this website I’ve been planning. I believe we need to gain momentum as a community. We need to stand with these families that made a commitment to protect their local waterways.

But there’s so much more to be done than just protecting our waterways in DuPage County!

We must completely submerge ourselves in the issues that face our County. We must create thriving local economies, reinvigorate our resilience through the reverse engineering of our shared agricultural history, redevelop our transportation networks, pool resources for simpler living, push for Environmental Advocates in local government, change local policy, etc., etc., etc.!

My vision and dream is that this website can serve as a galvanizing tool for the Environmental Rights Movement in DuPage County. It can highlight all the great things happening here already, help to highlight the need for reform, as well as to bring together the network of passionate people working to change DuPage.

If not DuPage, where? If not now, when?

 

 Sustain DuPage can’t operate without your support. Find out here all the ways you can involve yourself!