School Holiday Blues

For most of us there was a recurring theme about both the start and the end of summer school holidays. The last day of school was like every birthday and Christmas combined. Freedom from the oppressive yolk of compulsory education. No teacher telling us to stand or sit in militaristic order. But sometime during those long holidays something started to change. Suddenly or perhaps gradually there developed a longing. Perhaps not a longing but an awareness that schooldays were approaching and that might not be such a bad thing.

For some of us our parents had to work through most of that holiday. For others one or other of our parents pulled their hair out trying to occupy our minds or stop us killing our little brother. In more modern days getting us to turn off the TV has been replaced by a seemingly constant struggle to separate child from device or device from child.

As parents, more and more, we are concerned about the world we are leaving to our children and grandchildren. When I was a kid in Glasgow our river was highly polluted by the abundance of heavy industry that lined the River Clyde. We were aware of the pollution but nobody seemed to care. But now there doesn’t seem to be anywhere safe for our kids to swim. We are more aware of the chemicals polluting our air and the food we eat. We’re scared to let our kids walk to the park. I swear my parents hadn’t a clue where I was for hours every day from about the age of 5 or 6.

Yet something is changing around the world. People are starting to challenge what seemed like absolute truths. We used to believe that all food was good for us or at least all vegetables, meat and dairy. But added chemicals and hormones and irradiation have made unbelievers of many of us. How can it be possible for a tomato grown half way across the world to find its way, some time later, to a supermarket near you and hence to your plate? It’s not just Trade Treaties that have made that possible. We are also gradually becoming aware that the well traveled tomato comes with a price to our environment.

Global Warming isn’t new but our determination to tackle it is growing. Our devotion to commercialism is having a crisis of faith. We are looking at labels and making decisions based on a new culture. It’s such a new culture and what is so exciting about it is that it isn’t a youth culture or any age or race or gender culture it is a new human culture.

For the first time we humans are realising that we are killing our planet and many of us are determined to save it for our children and our children’s children. What is beautiful about this culture is that there is no right way to go about saving our planet. There are many, many ways. So many, in fact, that it would appear deliberate if we were to do nothing. The days of doing nothing for fear that anything one person does is irrelevant in a world as big as ours have long gone. One less plastic bag is one less plastic bag.

In part, Katrina’s Kitchen Garden was born out of this culture. Perhaps the greed that spawned the destruction of the planet also gave birth to the exclusion of people with disabilities who might not serve The Man with robotic obedience. Certainly our determination to be inclusive feels revolutionary in a world focused on bottom lines. Likewise our use of backyards in ours and other revolutionaries backyards (that’s my description, some of our homeowners might not see themselves as revolutionaries) to create an Urban Farm might be new to Auckland but it is a worldwide movement that is creeping into consciousness.

I’m a teacher. I love teaching. But if this new culture is a revolution then schools may or may not be the appropriate place to recruit revolutionaries. So with heart on sleeve and one foot in a new and developing culture I declare my bias and want to teach my bias this summer. I want to run a small summer school, it can grow bigger organically over time. I want to pull young and not so young revolutionaries away from their screens. I want them to collect manure and learn how to use it as one of the ingredients of compost. I want them to learn how to grow food.

I want to help them grow food at your place or their grandparents’ place. Or their neighbours’ place or all of the above. I want them to taste a tomato they grew and didn’t make the ozone layer deplete by even a fraction. I want them to innovate and teach me. This culture cannot be controlled by the old. We need to listen and to learn from everyone. I want us to volunteer with organisations like For the Love of Bees.

Yes it’s a school holiday programme and yes there is a cost. The cost is to ensure sustainability but our new culture and my old morality will not allow dollars to deny revolutionary spirit. If you want to join us and money is an impediment we can talk. Money hasn’t always been and may not be part of our future.

I’m excited about what we are achieving with Katrina’s Kitchen Garden. Our community is growing and it is all good. Come and join us. Even if school was something you did years and years ago come and join us. Whether you are an old revolutionary like me or new to this come and join us. Whether you think you can help or think you cannot come and join us.

Think Global, Act Local

by an old revolutionary Steve McCarthy (Katrina’s Kitchen Garden)