The Messiness, Democracy and Hope of Civil Society
The 64th Annual United Nations DPI/NGO Conference:
Sustainable Societies, Responsive Citizens
Bonn, Germany, 3-5 September 2011
Priscilla Otani, president-elect for our Women's Caucus for Art, and I attended as representatives of our NGO. Here is part of my report:
The happy sounds of many languages filled the six floors of the Maritim Hotel atrium as the conference began. At the Opening Ceremony, I found myself surrounded by businesswomen from China, people in niqab, saris, and caftans, youth, and many nuns (Catholic, Buddhist, Hindi) some of the representatives of more than 400 NGOs in attendance. We quickly coalesced into the "we the peoples" that starts the Charter of the United Nations. Preamble to the Charter of the United Nations.
I soon had a sense of both the messiness and wonder of civil society and how years of UN conferences have distilled a method for collecting the varied perspectives, views and recommendations asked for, in this case, by the General Assembly in preparation for the Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development scheduled for June 2012 in Brazil. At each of the Roundtables, to which all were invited, high-level experts spoke on the topics after which respondents from government reflected back or challenged them on their thoughts. Four to five questions at a time were then taken from the audience and the panel responded. UN staff recorded each of these discussions. The same process, minus the respondents, occurred in the many workshops. Side events gave even more intimate discussion opportunities as did the exhibits, both of which WCA was a part. UN Conference board members worked tirelessly throughout the three days to add to, edit and condense all of this information into the final declaration that reflected the expectations of NGO participants and civil society leaders for the governments attending Rio+20. The declaration was openly discussed for a final time at the closing. Individuals were able to come to the mike, ask for word changes, minor deletions and additions, before the assembly was asked, by show of applause, to accept or reject the declaration before it was given to the German government for presentation to the U.N. General Assembly.
We need to TEACH PEOPLE FLEXIBILITY - how they can do best with current knowledge and how to change as new information arises, how to deal with a tomorrow that is so different from today without getting lost and fearful.
We no longer have TIME to polarize. We need to end cynicism. We need to celebrate courage and innovation.
Felix Dodds, Chair, 64th DPI/NGO Conference - "THE FUTURE IS NOT A GIFT, it is an achievement. The future does not belong to those who are content with today or to those who lack the courage to force change that is needed." Everyone needs to mobilize, volunteer and take action. At closing ceremony, Flavia Pansieri, Head of the Consultative Forum of the Heads of UN Agencies in Germany, asked everyone who has engaged in a cause without expectation of payment to stand - 100% stood. The spirit of VOLUNTARISM in participants from developing and developed countries alike was huge. "Of course we volunteer, why wouldn't we do our part for the future of the world."
Not everything is worse. Many positive accomplishments are not picked up by the world's media.
The eco village concept - conscious design for long-term sustainability and resilience - is rapidly expanding with over 600 established eco villages around the world and 100+ in the U.S. The country of Senegal is committing a large portion of its budget to transforming struggling traditional villages into ecovillages. Here is the story about Senegal's eco villages
Fair Trade Towns - communities in which people and organizations use their everyday choices to increase sales of Fairtrade products and bring about positive change for farmers and workers in developing countries - are also expanding with over 1000 internationally and 23 in the U.S. as of April. http://www.fairtradetowns.org
To combat the serious lack of drinking water in areas of western China, the Water Cellars for Mothers Project developed and built water collecting devices, each holding a year's worth of rain water for one family. Over 1 million people benefited from this project in 2010 Water Cellars for Mothers Project
Through a modern dance class at University of Houston, Sharon and I became quick and dear friends. She introduced me to the Dancemakers - a dance group, founded by Rebecca Clearman, that met on Sunday mornings to step out of our other lives (I was in middle of taking way too many hours in order to finish my PoliSci degree) and to create joyful, beautiful, meditative flow through contact improvisation. Occasionally, we organized enough to perform around town. The 1983 Houston Festival performance was certainly our apex ... sharing with the audience the vulnerability, fun, trust, strength and the give and take supporting of each other in unchoreographed, yet magically cohesive, movement. During our final piece, with songs from Michael Jackson's 1982 Thriller album, we invited the audience on stage for a high energy, celebration of music and dance, bringing folks together in all of their forms of expression.
S.A. Bachman/Neda Moridpour/Louder Than Words
"LOUDER THAN WORDS is a cross-cultural, intergenerational art collective that targets sexual assault, domestic violence, women and migration, LGBTQ+ equality, and jail reform ... We strive to ignite civic dialogue, unravel obstacles, reorder entrenched cultural gridlock, and generate languages of critique and possibility."
Their presentation of "These Walls Can Talk" during "Half the Sky: Intersections in Social Practice Art", which I directed in China on behalf of the Women's Caucus for Art, was a powerful, interactive event with Chinese students and faculty and addressed "domestic violence. It alludes to domestic space by juxtaposing wallpaper with information on gender violence, video, and “don’t remain silent” stickers. The wallpaper design incorporates a number of common objects that are frequently used to inflict injury: fists, knives, belts, guns and irons. Conversely, the video presents famous world leaders including President Obama and King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia reciting Jackson Katz’s 10 Things Men Can Do To Prevent Gender Violence."
As socially-engaged artists, activists and educators, S.A and Iranian-born Neda, continue to develop community-engaged projects, including:
"Women on the Move" " transforms a 26-foot truck into a mobile billboard and resource center to address sexual assault, harassment and domestic violence" and "Vehicle for Change" which will transform" a 26-ft truck into a mobile billboard and resource center addressing jail reform and incarceration alternatives in L.A. County. The truck will travel throughout L.A County promoting passage of the 2020 ballot initiative, registering voters, educating, participating in healing justice events."
A link to a video about them is posted in the comments.
Photos by Christine Giancola and courtesy of the Louder Than Words website.
I don’t know why I am wearing these ridiculous waders, because I don’t fish, much less go wade fishing,￼￼ but this was taken at our family’s fishing shack (see other photo) which both sets of grandparents built on an oyster reef off the coast of Port O’Connor, Texas, on the northern edge of the Arkansas Pass Wildlife Refuge (where the whooping cranes winter!) in the late 1960s. I have referred to the shack as our extended family’s spiritual center, in that multiple generations would gather here, overflowing the one room onto the porch, where I preferred to sleep due to the loud, collective snoring of the elders inside on the bunkbeds. Grandpa Junker would take his pocket knife out to the reef and slurp oysters straight from their shells. My brother was into shark fishing (Steve can tell the story about the boat being drug around the bay most of the night by a huge hammerhead before it snapped off the line). When the fisher folks were tired, we would boat out around the reefs and channels to the barrier islands to play in the waves and hunt for shells, most often being the only humans on the beach. After a morning of fishing for reds and sea trout, my grandmothers would return, empty the crab traps and spend seemingly hours picking the meat from their tiny claws, which was then stuffed into flounder, which were caught when they came up into the shallows at night.
There was no electricity or running water, so days begin and ended with the sun, somewhat extended by gas lanterns.￼
Not everyone in our family enjoyed being there, for various reasons, but my favorite time was dusk, when the birds began their evening songs and the sun set across the water ... glorious abalone colors. And, over the years, I read and wrote and sketched and let my eyes soften, taking in the bay views from that porch, protected from the sun and cooled by the breezes. ￼
Back to the photo ... This was the late 80s.￼ I am wearing one of the original Whole Foods t-shirts from their first store in Austin. Steve is wearing a dog training whistle, so our lab puppy must have been with us. It was a moment of silliness. Steve used this photo in his medical school graduation publication with the simple words “gone fishin’ “
#memoriesat60 or lack there of... #captionthis
All I know is that my brother and I were #freerangekids, that lack of supervision lead to many adventures, that this was the Cornett farm, that our expressions make me think we were being apprised of a certain ill-advised behavior and that there is a good probability that a dirty and unhappy barn cat is squirming just out of sight, inside that wash basin
Repairing Homes in Central Appalachia
My first lessons, in the ever-evolving lessons, of acceptance of people where they are, just as they are, came from my Grandmother Cornett when I was very young, particularly when she asked me, as a five year old, to help with her Head Start class. I don't recall that I was much help, but I do remember basking in the love she spread throughout the room. As a 14 year old, this was underscored by the mentors and leaders in what would become multi-summer, spiritual and educational experiences for me, responding to requests from families, living deep in the hollows of the mountains, to work with them, to find donated materials in order to help to repair and to make safe their homes.
On a practical level, I learned to roof, to tear up floors, to tear down and build new outhouses, to build a simple bridge, to raise money to replace a coal-laced well, a sole source of drinking water for one of the families and ... the beginnings of a fascination with using power tools.
On a soul level, I was shown the importance of recognizing cultural, social and economic barriers and the importance of continually self-reflecting to avoid patronizing or "savior" actions or words of pity and the joy of connecting with the families in mutually respectful ways. While the parents might be initially hesitant to engage in conversation, the children were the reliable welcomers ... their curiosity, their eagerness to learn and to show their treasures, to help out, whether it be making caulking "worms" for me as I replaced window panes and then taking on the painting of the frames or hammering nails or taking a break with us to play keep away or taking my hand to show me flowers behind the house or asking me to read a book. And then the conversations with the elders, who shared their stories - one grandfather showed me how to hunt for ginseng in the woods - and who asked about ours. My guitar became another ice-breaker, as we shared songs back and forth, songs like Will the Circle Be Unbroken or Simple Gifts or Pass it On or If I Had a Hammer, songs about hope and love and community and trying to do the right thing ... I was happy to share one of these summers with each of my friends Amy Ettinger Burkett and Katy McCormick.
These experiences were formative and I continue to be grateful for their influence on how I navigate the world and the big and continuing and sometimes difficult and embarrassing lessons about self-editing, about letting go of outdated ideas, and about being open to learning new ones that might change the way I look at the world as a whole or how I interact with others.
Perhaps it is the birthday, perhaps the new year, but a tidal wave of memories has washed over me and I am just going to give in. Perhaps this will be my theme this year - giving in to the memories.
Cowboys and Honky Tonks
This song, Johnny Lee's "Looking for Love" just popped up on my shuffle of my 80+GB of music (yes, my brothers and I share a common obsession with a wide variety of music and we have shared our collections with each other):
Wherever we lived, we made an annual trip to my parents hometown of Cuero, Texas, where I learned to polka with other girls, while my grandmother and her friends played Bunco and, for some inexplicable reason, a German band played in the background at the hall, and I learned to two-step at the VFW Hall, with people of all ages. There was something so freeing and wonderful, given my independently feisty spirit, about letting a pair of knowledgeable arms twirl me around the dance floor. My parents moved back to Houston (or more precisely, Spring, TX) during my college freshman year and I spent the summer there. High school friend Lynn Martin came down from Ohio for a Texas experience, which, of course, included C&W dancing. First stop was a local bar. When we went out onto the dance floor and began to do our free-form styling, we were almost immediately whisked into the arms of some real cowboys, who expertly maneuvered us into the two-step. Our next stop was Gilley's, the huge honkey tonk in the oil production areas east of Houston (before the problematic Urban Cowboy created a buzz), with its equally huge dance floor. The cowboys who asked us to dance were respectful ... it appeared that it was more about dancing than a prelude to something else, or perhaps that was my 20+ year old confidence and naïveté, and I relished the larger space in which to be, temporarily, one with the series of men, as we circled the dance floor. As my husband would testify, it is not easy for me to give in to the lead. With my modern and contact improv and various cultural dance experiences, I tend to get into my own groove, in my own space, me and the music. But ... I do sometimes yearn for a good honky tonk and an experienced cowboy, or at least his dancing skills.
Chrismukkah 2019 began when Emma flew, secretly, half way across the world. Hints were unintentionally dropped and, apparently, unnoticed, so the looks of happy surprise on Steve, Collin, Emily, Nancy and Barry's faces proved our efforts a success ... Family, friends, skiing, collaboratively cooked food (highlights: Collin and Emily's zucchini/potato and purple sweet potato latkes and Emma's famous Linzersterne and ginger cookies), stories, games, puzzling, beverages, cuddle-inducing fires ... a full embrace of Hygge.
A perfect first-of-the-season ski day... having Lazy M to ourselves for long cruises on corduroy, the sun making appearances between abalone clouds, mild temps, friendly lifties, strong legs, good conversation and... we resisted the temptation of the ungroomed Palisades slopes, which will wait for another day.
Thank you to all who ventured over to my Open Studio during Art Walk on Friday night! Families, children, elected officials, Montana Arts Council members, my buddies at High Plains Architects, artist and curator colleagues, dear friends and friends I haven't seen in a while, and the curious. Far-ranging conversations... about city/county planning and community building and memory and collaborations and supporting family members and making mustard and graphic novels and how to depict water and being our true selves and very sweet discussions, with children, about how I could expand my projects. And then there was that spiced hot chocolate...
Thank you to Virginia Bryan and the Downtown #billingsartwalk for another opportunity to bring so many people downtown to enjoy our offerings.
This memory from the 2014 Billings Relay for Life came to me before I fell asleep last night as I thought about my friends struggling through cancer, surgeries and its treatments.
When my friend Lise and I were finishing the last of the ten miles to which we had committed for the Billings Relay for Life (and which were also helpful as part of our training for the Madison Half Marathon) … This song played through the speakers, the fireworks lit up the sky and the luminaries - too many luminaries for those who are no longer with us and the hopeful ones, the ones for the survivors - all under the huge moon. The assemblage of video I took that night, I dedicated to my father-in-law Dick Kriner, who had just been diagnosed with terminal lung cancer (he lived several more months); my aunt Doris Lee, who is a breast cancer survivor; her daughter Sandi, who died that spring from breast cancer; Sandi's daughter Cathy, who was diagnosed while her mother was dying and to all those family and friends whose lives have been affected by cancer.
Music: "Firework" by Katie Perry
Ancient Tea Horse Caravan Trail
Besides the delightful Erhai Lake fish dish in Dali (posted previously):
Peach Gum Soup? Beverage?
We enjoyed several versions, and key ingredients are Tears of Peach Blossom (an amber like resin secreted from the bark of wild Chinese peach treas that, when soaked, expands into gelatinous masses), white fungus (I first thought it was a kind of cabbage, but this is good for lungs), sugar and then optional goji berries, longans, dates, pear, snow lotus and snow lotus seed. Very comforting and I will to replicate the multiple day process at home!
Tsampa (roasted barley flour) mixed with salty yak butter tea, a bit of sugar and walnuts for breakfast. Stomach filling and tasty.
The ubiquitous Yunnan hot pot, but, unlike Emma, who enjoyed hers with thin slices of yak, my versions contained varieties of mushrooms and fungi. So many of these on this adventure... though flavorful, I might need to take a bit of a break from them.
Soup dumplings (particularly chicken and truffles) so good they were consumed before I could take photos and this spongy braised bran dough with more mushrooms... I have no idea how this is made and it isn’t attractive, but oh so yummy.
I am also bringing home some of the rose liqueur, saffron and dried morels!
Ancient Tea Horse Caravan Trail
Randoms from Xianggelila
Back to the not so high country, Emma and I had another beautiful day to wander the Ganden Sumstelling/Songstam Lin monastery area.
We circumambulated the exterior walls of the complex and found elders doing the same, pausing at spots where sacred trees provided shade, smiling to us in a generous, kind way that reminded me of my paternal grandmother’s welcoming face.
A paved side path lead up to another sacred hill festooned with hundreds of prayer flags. The path itself was painted with the series of meditative symbols found in the monastery, such as the dharma wheel, and the Shrivasta or Eternity Knot, which was prominent on the temple entrance curtains, decorated our the curtains in our room and is the symbol of enlightenment, auspiciousness, unity, harmony and perfection of the wisdom of Buddha.
Our last circumambulation was another walk around the lake in front of the monastery. As with the first time around days prior, a cat came up to me, climbed onto me and made itself comfortable, purring and moving its head, as cats are so wise to do, to guide my hands to the next preferred massage spot.
An empty barley drying rack resembled a huge, sculptural chair, worthy of Storm King or Tippet Rise.
Across from the temple was an outdoor gym, where I found a place to massage my calf muscles, and which we saw most used by older folks. We determined that the prevalence of squat toilets motivated people to stay strong and flexible
Ancient Tea Caravan Trail
Bai Ma Xueshan and Three Parallel Rivers
Kawagebo Peak and the Meili Xuashen (snow mountains - glaciated peaks) lie in the Three Parallel Rivers region.
The Yangtze/Jinsha River, third longest in the world, starts in the Tibetan Plateau and winds down through Lijiang (one of our previous stops) and empties into the East China Sea at Shanghai, where we return soon. Already at this Moon Bend of the river it is large and shows why it is named River of Golden Sands (or as we have often heard it, the Yellow River) because it picks up so much glacial silt and ochre earth. The other two rivers are the Nujiang/Salween, which is on the other side of the Meili Xueshan and empties into the Indian Ocean in Burma and the Lahcang/Mekong which empties into the South China Sea in Vietnam.
In this area, and just south east of the Meili Xueshan, with its 13 peaks, are the Baima Xueshan with 20 peaks. All do this are - the Meili, the Baima, the Three Rivers, are heritage sites. UNESCO: “ Baima may be one of the most biologically diverse temperate zones in the world”). Our road back down to Xianggelila took us through and past and under (long, long tunnels) several of these. On a side road of the high pass we climbed to 4292 meters/14081 feet. Standing there, I thought of altitude comparisons from my past, the “14ers” , 14000+ peaks in Colorado and that where we slept with the view of Kawagebo, at 11,800, was equivalent to sleeping at the top of Lone Peak in Montana. These peaks are so craggy and stupendous and raw and high, yet, due to latitude, some are still not covered yet in snow.
Ancient Tea Horse Caravan Trail
Kawagebo Mountain, Meili Xueshan
And here, my family and friends, is my birthday gift, on my birthday, during this 60th birthday adventure (with Emma Kriner - I could not have done this without her and wouldn’t have wanted to) ... Kawagebo Mountain in the Meili Snow Mountains on the border of Yunnan and Tibet.
[Thank you all for all of the birthday wishes. My VPN and thus my access to social media, google, email has been intermittent, so I haven’t been able to respond to all of you.)
Our first glance at Kawagebo (also called Kawa Garbo and Khawa Karpo) had us wide-eyed and jubilant. It is a virgin peak (never been climbed and now it is forbidden to do so) at 6740 meters/22122 feet and one of the most sacred mountains to Tibetan Buddhists. We spent time with it at Thirteen Pagodas, from our hotel room at 11,800 feet (sleep was difficult with the altitude, full moon and mountain energy, but so very worth the lack of it), at sunset, at sunrise at Feilaisi Temple prayer platform. I imagined being on top, taking in the mountain energy and sending out to all those I love. It was hard to leave, but this mountain is now part of me.
A place to decant my brain, to capture inspiration and share fresh insights. [Posts from 2015 onward]