ABOUT Project 12×12

World Policy Institute Senior Fellow William Powers was inspired by the powerful story of a North Carolina pediatrician, Dr. Jackie Benton, who, ten years ago, gave up a large home to live in a 12’ × 12’ off-grid house and permaculture farm. Powers, who spent a season living in that “micro-house” while Dr. Benton was away, chronicled his stay in the 2010 award-winning, national “green living” bestseller, now in its fourth printing: Twelve by Twelve: A One Room Cabin, Off the Grid & Beyond the American Dream.
The 12 × 12 Project grows out of this experience.The book received an overwhelmingly positive response and created a national and now global dialogue on how much is too little, too much, or just enough. In response to this outpouring of discussion, the messages of Twelve by Twelve – smarter consumption, and living better with less – inspired well-known NYC-based architects and artists Betsy Damon, David D’Ostilio, Simon Draper, Erik Ajemian and Christy Rupp to form a creative team to bring Dr. Benton’s inspiring story to NYC in an innovative way through an interactive eco-art installation. Thus, the 12 × 12 Project was born.

The creative concept is a simple, modular space, housing panels containing text and questions from the Twelve by Twelve book. These panels will vary, allowing the project to grow and evolve. Participants including the public and invited groups and artists will engage with the question: What’s your 12 × 12?

The structure utilizes sustainable materials to bring the conversation to life. For example, while the interior and exterior reflect and collect thoughts and discussions, the ‘butterfly’ roof resembling an open book will collect and channel rainwater into barrels for use within the structure and for an eventual garden component. Elements in and around the 12 × 12 pavilion will evolve and change throughout time as additional artists and invited groups take up short-term residencies. They will further develop into a nationwide and global artistic community and expand the concepts and meaning of living lightly and more consciously. Future iterations of the pavilion may involve solar photovoltaic panels and/or a roof garden, depending on the discussions and initiatives by participants and the public.

More Info: http://the12x12project.tumblr.com/

About the World Policy Institute

The World Policy Institute is an ideas incubator focused on emerging global challenges, thinkers, and solutions. World Policy fellows, events, policy development and media outreach, alongside our flagship World Policy Journal, provide a forum for solution-directed policy analysis and debate in support of a sustainable market economy, effective governance, and broadened security strategies.

Thanks to everyone who responded to the summer solstice question on the William Powers Books Facebook page. There were so many wonderful responses to the question: “As summer begins, what feels inspiring or hopeful to you today?”

As promised, I chose one comment at random. And the winner is (drumroll please!)….

Britton Tuck, a student in Georgia, USA. She wrote: “What inspires me is seeing my fellow Earthship Biotecture Academy students make great strides in the way of promoting Earthship/off-grid living. I’m so inspired by these individuals and their passion to spread the word about how to lead a self-sustainable lifestyle!”

Congratulations Britton! I look forward to receiving your mailing address and will send you a copy of Twelve by Twelve: A One Room Cabin, Off the Grid & Beyond the American Dream. (If you prefer a Kindle or Nook e-book, let me know.)

A few of the other responses that touched me, and also touched others who “Liked” their comments:

Glenn in Naples, NY: “As I’m making arugala pesto from the arugala I just picked from our gardens and shelling peas, I am inspired by my small local community that used the power of social media to elect a new mayor and two board memebbrs who are young, vibrant and progressive enough to challange the status quo, support a ban on Fracking and work together to build our local community and small farm buisnesses!”

Kristina in Oregon: “The excitement my kids display as we pick up berries from the farm and prepare them for the jam we will eat through the winter.”

 Steve A. (in… where are you Steve?): ”The Transition Movement gives me hope that we can make a smooth transition to a lower-energy society.”

Mymza in the Netherlands: Sharing ideas and hopes with people, to find out that there are more dreamers out there, looking forward to the same things.

And Teresa: “Picking my kids up from school and having them ask “How much did the garden grow today, mommy?”"

Onwards!

Thanks to Jim Flemming and NPR’s “To the Best of Our Knowledge” for featuring an interview about Twelve by Twelve: A One Room Cabin, Off the Grid & Beyond the American Dream on their program this week.

You can listen to the 9 minute interview here. I hope you enjoy it!

Forget Shorter Showers

Why personal change does not equal political change

by Derrick Jensen

From Orion magazine

WOULD ANY SANE PERSON think dumpster diving would have stopped Hitler, or that composting would have ended slavery or brought about the eight-hour workday, or that chopping wood and carrying water would have gotten people out of Tsarist prisons, or that dancing naked around a fire would have helped put in place the Voting Rights Act of 1957 or the Civil Rights Act of 1964? Then why now, with all the world at stake, do so many people retreat into these entirely personal “solutions”?

Part of the problem is that we’ve been victims of a campaign of systematic misdirection. Consumer culture and the capitalist mindset have taught us to substitute acts of personal consumption (or enlightenment) for organized political resistance. An Inconvenient Truth helped raise consciousness about global warming. But did you notice that all of the solutions presented had to do with personal consumption—changing light bulbs, inflating tires, driving half as much—and had nothing to do with shifting power away from corporations, or stopping the growth economy that is destroying the planet? Even if every person in the United States did everything the movie suggested, U.S. carbon emissions would fall by only 22 percent. Scientific consensus is that emissions must be reduced by at least 75 percent worldwide.

Or let’s talk water. We so often hear that the world is running out of water. People are dying from lack of water. Rivers are dewatered from lack of water. Because of this we need to take shorter showers. See the disconnect? Because I take showers, I’m responsible for drawing down aquifers? Well, no. More than 90 percent of the water used by humans is used by agriculture and industry. The remaining 10 percent is split between municipalities and actual living breathing individual humans. Collectively, municipal golf courses use as much water as municipal human beings. People (both human people and fish people) aren’t dying because the world is running out of water. They’re dying because the water is being stolen.

Or let’s talk energy. Kirkpatrick Sale summarized it well: “For the past 15 years the story has been the same every year: individual consumption—residential, by private car, and so on—is never more than about a quarter of all consumption; the vast majority is commercial, industrial, corporate, by agribusiness and government [he forgot military]. So, even if we all took up cycling and wood stoves it would have a negligible impact on energy use, global warming and atmospheric pollution.”

Or let’s talk waste. In 2005, per-capita municipal waste production (basically everything that’s put out at the curb) in the U.S. was about 1,660 pounds. Let’s say you’re a die-hard simple-living activist, and you reduce this to zero. You recycle everything. You bring cloth bags shopping. You fix your toaster. Your toes poke out of old tennis shoes. You’re not done yet, though. Since municipal waste includes not just residential waste, but also waste from government offices and businesses, you march to those offices, waste reduction pamphlets in hand, and convince them to cut down on their waste enough to eliminate your share of it. Uh, I’ve got some bad news. Municipal waste accounts for only 3 percent of total waste production in the United States.

I want to be clear. I’m not saying we shouldn’t live simply. I live reasonably simply myself, but I don’t pretend that not buying much (or not driving much, or not having kids) is a powerful political act, or that it’s deeply revolutionary. It’s not. Personal change doesn’t equal social change.

So how, then, and especially with all the world at stake, have we come to accept these utterly insufficient responses? I think part of it is that we’re in a double bind. A double bind is where you’re given multiple options, but no matter what option you choose, you lose, and withdrawal is not an option. At this point, it should be pretty easy to recognize that every action involving the industrial economy is destructive (and we shouldn’t pretend that solar photovoltaics, for example, exempt us from this: they still require mining and transportation infrastructures at every point in the production processes; the same can be said for every other so-called green technology). So if we choose option one—if we avidly participate in the industrial economy—we may in the short term think we win because we may accumulate wealth, the marker of “success” in this culture. But we lose, because in doing so we give up our empathy, our animal humanity. And we really lose because industrial civilization is killing the planet, which means everyone loses. If we choose the “alternative” option of living more simply, thus causing less harm, but still not stopping the industrial economy from killing the planet, we may in the short term think we win because we get to feel pure, and we didn’t even have to give up all of our empathy (just enough to justify not stopping the horrors), but once again we really lose because industrial civilization is still killing the planet, which means everyone still loses. The third option, acting decisively to stop the industrial economy, is very scary for a number of reasons, including but not restricted to the fact that we’d lose some of the luxuries (like electricity) to which we’ve grown accustomed, and the fact that those in power might try to kill us if we seriously impede their ability to exploit the world—none of which alters the fact that it’s a better option than a dead planet. Any option is a better option than a dead planet.

Besides being ineffective at causing the sorts of changes necessary to stop this culture from killing the planet, there are at least four other problems with perceiving simple living as a political act (as opposed to living simply because that’s what you want to do). The first is that it’s predicated on the flawed notion that humans inevitably harm their landbase. Simple living as a political act consists solely of harm reduction, ignoring the fact that humans can help the Earth as well as harm it. We can rehabilitate streams, we can get rid of noxious invasives, we can remove dams, we can disrupt a political system tilted toward the rich as well as an extractive economic system, we can destroy the industrial economy that is destroying the real, physical world.

The second problem—and this is another big one—is that it incorrectly assigns blame to the individual (and most especially to individuals who are particularly powerless) instead of to those who actually wield power in this system and to the system itself. Kirkpatrick Sale again: “The whole individualist what-you-can-do-to-save-the-earth guilt trip is a myth. We, as individuals, are not creating the crises, and we can’t solve them.”

The third problem is that it accepts capitalism’s redefinition of us from citizens to consumers. By accepting this redefinition, we reduce our potential forms of resistance to consuming and not consuming. Citizens have a much wider range of available resistance tactics, including voting, not voting, running for office, pamphleting, boycotting, organizing, lobbying, protesting, and, when a government becomes destructive of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, we have the right to alter or abolish it.

The fourth problem is that the endpoint of the logic behind simple living as a political act is suicide. If every act within an industrial economy is destructive, and if we want to stop this destruction, and if we are unwilling (or unable) to question (much less destroy) the intellectual, moral, economic, and physical infrastructures that cause every act within an industrial economy to be destructive, then we can easily come to believe that we will cause the least destruction possible if we are dead.

The good news is that there are other options. We can follow the examples of brave activists who lived through the difficult times I mentioned—Nazi Germany, Tsarist Russia, antebellum United States—who did far more than manifest a form of moral purity; they actively opposed the injustices that surrounded them. We can follow the example of those who remembered that the role of an activist is not to navigate systems of oppressive power with as much integrity as possible, but rather to confront and take down those systems.

If you’re following the Keystone pipeline battle, you’ll find this development interesting! -Bill

In Washington, DC, the fight over the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline mostly divides common enemies: Republicans and Democrats; environmentalists and fossil fuel interests; big business and the federal bureaucracy.

But though the project exists in a state of suspended animation, TransCanada — the company that wants to connect the tar sands in Alberta to the Gulf of Mexico — is preparing to build anyhow. In particular, on the portion of the pipeline that would link Nebraska to Texas, TransCanada has threatened to use disputed eminent domain powers to condemn privately held land, over the owners’ objections. And that’s creating unusual allies — Occupiers, Tea Partiers, environmentalists, individualists — united to stop TransCanada from threatening water supplies, ancient artifacts, and people’s basic property rights. 

In 2007 TransCanada’s agents at Universal Field Services approached Randy Thompson, 64, of Martell, NE, asking to survey his farm land. Thompson assented at first, under the assumption that he’d have final say over whether a Canadian company would be allowed to build anything on his property.

“Once I found out a little bit more about what was going on, I rescinded that permission,” Thompson told TPM by phone on Sunday. “[W]e did meet with them once, maybe a couple times. We told them, you don’t have a permit yet, so we absolutely do not want this thing on our property. So until you actually get a permit we have no reason to have any further discussion about this. They continually called me, like once a month or whenever they felt like it. Kept the pressure on us. Made us an offer, $9000. Whatever the offer was, we just don’t want the damn thing on our property.”

That’s when TransCanada really stepped up the pressure.

“In July 2010, we got a written letter from TransCanada, they told us if you don’t accept this within 30 days, we’re going to immediately start eminent domain proceedings against you,” Thompson said. “They didn’t say anything about a permit. I tried to contact the Governor’s office. All I got back was a form letter talking about the pipeline.”

It turns out TransCanada used the same approach with many other landowners — with some success. “It was pretty effective, it kinda scares the hell out of you,” Thompson said.

A TransCanada letter to another owner – who requested anonymity – reads, “This letter is Keystone’s final offer, and it will remain open for one month after the date of this letter or until you reject it. We believe the amount of the offer [$5,280.00] is a premium price for your property. Keystone’s offer is high because the company prefers to acquire this property through negotiation and to avoid litigation and its associated delays and debts.”

The letter goes on, “While we hope to acquire this property through negotiation, if we are unable to do so we will be forced to invoke the power of eminent domain and will initiate condemnation proceedings against this property promptly after the expiration of this one month period.”

Julia Trigg Crawford, 53, of Lamar County, TX faced similar pressure. On Friday, a judge voided a temporary restraining order she’d secured against TransCanada on the grounds that the company is threatening to build the pipeline across a portion of her 600 acre property that archaeological authorities say is teeming with Caddo nation artifacts. It also threatens a creek she uses to irrigate her land and wells her family uses for drinking water.

“I do not want my place to be a guinea pig on this,” she told my by telephone. Those practical concerns lay atop a more fundamental question of whether a for-profit company should be able to seize private land for profit.

“I’m looking out my window every hour,” Crawford said. “While they don’t have a permit to build anything, they have the right to start construction…. A foreign for profit pipeline was allowed to condemn my land without my being allowed to talk to a judge.”

Thompson described himself as a conservative guy who supported Republicans, but had never been involved in politics beyond exercising the basic right to vote. Crawford calls herself a “political agnostic” who eschewed activism until TransCanada came into her life. But they, along with others in their position, and sympathizers have come together, with the help of Bold Nebraska activist Jane Kleeb, who became involved in the Keystone fight in May 2010, after landowners raised concerns at a State Department hearing on the pipeline.

“They actually don’t have eminent domain authority in Nebraska until they have their permits,” she explained in a phone interview. “It would have been fair for TransCanada to say once we have a permit we could take you to court for eminent domain. Letting landowners know that they could face eminent domain proceedings is one thing…but they were just bullying these landowners.”

The result: protests in Paris, Texas against the pipeline, on Crawford’s behalf.

“You could check off 20 different kinds of boxes, politically, professionally, temperamentally,” Crawford said. “We had Occupiers, Tea Partiers. This is about rights as a landowner.”

Farmers on the proposed route likely wouldn’t face these threats were it not for the 2005 case Kelo v. City of New London in which the Supreme Court, divided 5-4, ruled that eminent domain powers extend to the transfer of land from one private owner to another, if that action increases economic development.

The ruling outraged conservatives and libertarians. The effect of it today is to place people like Randy Thompson on an unfamiliar side of the divide between conservatives and environmentalists; and business and liberal political activists. He even testified this month against TransCanada as a witness for Henry Waxman’s minority on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

“I’m a little ashamed to say that maybe if it hadn’t come across our land, I wouldn’t have gotten involved,” he told me. “I’ve gained a great deal of respect for people who do care about our environment I’ve become much more aware of environmental issues. I have to admire them for being concerned about our environment.”

“Republicans,” he said, by contrast, “could give a rats ass about the people out here.”

By Brian Beutler, TMP,  February 27, 2012

It’s the 20th annual Buy Nothing Day, an all-out offensive to unseat the corporate kings on the holiday throne.

Historically, Buy Nothing Day has been about fasting from hyper consumerism – a break from the cash register and reflecting on how dependent we really are on conspicuous consumption.

This year’s Black Friday will be the first campaign of the holiday season where activists are setting the tone for a new type of holiday culminating with #OCCUPYXMAS. As the global protests of the 99% against casino capitalism continues, why not take the opportunity to hit the empire where it really hurts…the wallet.

On Nov 25th we escape the mayhem and unease of the biggest shopping day in North America and put the breaks on rabid consumerism for 24 hours. Flash mobs, consumer fasts, mall sit-ins, community events, credit card-ups, whirly-marts and jams, jams, jams! Occupy the very paradigm that is fueling our eco, social and political decline.

And if you REALLY have to open the wallet– buy local. Support the Transition!

Inconspicuous consumption, or what lunching ladies have to do with social web karma. By Maria Popova.

Stuff. We all accumulate it and eventually form all kinds of emotional attachments to it. (Arguably, because the marketing machine of the 20th century has conditioned us to do so.) But digital platforms and cloud-based tools are making it increasingly easy to have all the things we want without actually owning them. Because, as Wired founder and notable futurist Kevin Kelly once put it, “access is better than ownership.” Here are seven services that help shrink your carbon footprint, lighten your economic load and generally liberate you from the shackles of stuff through the power of sharing.

NEIGHBORGOODS

The age of keeping up with the Jonses is over. The time of linking up with them has begin. NeighborGoods is a new platform that allows you to do just that, allowing you to borrow and lend from and to your neighbors rather than buying new stuff. (Remind us please, what happened to that fancy blender you bought and used only twice?) From lawnmowers to bikes to DVD’s, the LA-based startup dubs itself “the Craigslist for borrowing,” allowing you to both save and earn money.

Transparent user ratings, transaction histories and privacy controls make the sharing process simple and safe, while automated calendars and reminders ensure the safe return of loaned items.

Give NeighborGoods a shot by creating a sharing group for your apartment building, campus, office, or reading group — both your wallet and your social life will thank you.

UPDATE: Per the co-founder’s kind comment below, we should clarify that NeighborGoods also allows you to import your Twitter and Facebook friends from the get-go, so you have an instant group to share with.

SNAPGOODS

Similarly to Neighborgoods, SnapGoods allows you to rent, borrow and lend within your community. SnapGoods takes things step further by expanding the notion of “community” not only to your local group — neighborhood, office or apartment building — but to your social graph across the web’s trusted corners. The site features full Facebook and Meetup integration, extending your social circle to the cloud.

You can browse the goods people in your area are lending or take a look at what they need and lend a hand (or a sewing machine, as may be the case) if you’ve got the goods.

LANDSHARE

Growing one’s own produce is every hipster-urbanite’s pipe dream. But the trouble with it is that you have to actually have a place to grow it. And while a pot of cherry tomatoes on in your fire escape is better than nothing, it’s hardly anything. Enter Landshare, a simple yet brilliant platform for connecting aspiring growers with landowners who have the space but don’t use it.

Though currently only available in the U.K., we do hope to see Landshare itself, or at least the concept behind it, spread worldwide soon.

SWAPTREE

swaptree is a simple yet brilliant platform for swapping your media possessions — from books to DVD’s to vinyl — once they’ve run its course in your life as you hunt for the next great thing. Since we first covered swaptree nearly three years ago, the site has facilitated some 1.6 million swaps, saving its users an estimated $10.3 million while reducing their collective carbon footprint by 9.3 million tons.

Inspired by the founders’ moms, whose lunch dates with girlfriends turned into book-swap clubs, swaptree makes sure that the only thing between you and the latest season of 24 is the price of postage.

GIFTFLOW

Most of us are familiar with the concept of regifting. (No disrespect, but the disconnect between good friends and good taste is sometimes astounding.) Luckily, GiftFlow allows you to swap gifts you don’t want for ones other people don’t want but you do. The platform is based on a system of karmic reputation, where your profile shows all you’ve given and taken, building an implicit system of trust through transparency.

So go ahead, grandma. Hit us with your latest sweet but misguided gift. Chances are, there’s someone out there who’d kill for that kitschy music box.

ZIPCAR

We’re big proponents of bikesharing but, to this point, the concept has failed to transcend local implementations. While some cities like Paris, Amsterdam and Denver are fortunate enough to have thriving bikesharing programs, we’re yet to see a single service available across different locations. Until then, we’d have to settle for the next best sharing-based transportation solution: Zipcar, a 24/7, on-demand carsharing service that gives its members flexible access to thousands of cars across the U.S., U.K. and Canada. Zipcar has been around for quite some time years and most people are already familiar with it, so we won’t overelaborate, but suffice it to say the service is the most promising solution to reducing both traffic congestion and pollution in cities without reducing the actual number of drivers.

SHARE SOME SUGAR

Lend me some sugar, I am your neighbor. More than an Outkast lyric line, this is the inspiration behind share some sugar — a celebration of neighborliness through the sharing of goods and resources. Much like SnapGoods and NeighborGoods, the service lets you borrow, rent and share stuff within your neighborhood or group of friends

© Maria Popvoa. Original Story. Maria is a cultural curator and curious mind at large, who also writes for Wired UK, The Atlantic and Design Observer, and is the founder and editor in chief of Brain Pickings.

Several folks on my Facebook fan page have been asking: How do I get started with living outside the Flat World in sustainable community? What are some resources?

Well, here’s one. A website called Intentional Communities serves the growing communities’ movement, providing resources for starting a community, finding a community home, living in community, and creating more community in your life.

And Intentional Community is simply an inclusive term for ecovillages, cohousing communities, residential land trusts, communes, student co-ops, urban housing cooperatives, intentional living, alternative communities, cooperative living, and other projects where people strive together with a common vision.

Let me know if you find the site helpful.

Today I leave the Minnesota woods after a marvelous fiction writing retreat.

The view from my writing desk in the cabin

During my too-short stay at Pine Needles—it was supposed to be longer but my schedule only allowed twelve days— I made friends with the folks around the cabin: raccoons, red squirrels, eastern grey squirrels, chipmunks, muskrats (I watched a muskrat couple frolic in the water, mate, take baths, and build their dam), bats, and white-tailed deer. Oh, and then there were the abundant water turtles, a large snake, and fresh-water mussels.

While hiking yesterday evening, I spooked a large raccoon out of a feeder stream. Then a mother white-tail leapt by, with her white-dotted bambi in less sure footed toe. I climbed into the canoe and watched a bald eagle glide over (not 10 meters above!), scaring a pair of young mallards I’d been observing into a tree on one of the islands in front of the cabin in the swollen St. Croix.

My gratefulness overflows toward the Dunn family, who so wisely and generously left their 20 acre plot and Pine Needles cabin on the St. Croix as a Land Reserve—thereby giving it to all of mother nature’s creatures, and not the developersand not the developers. The river otters and herons thank the Dunns!

Also, my appreciation to the St. Croix River Research Station for stewarding the property into the next generation through the Artist/Writer at Pine Needles residency program. Dan, Sharon, Todd, Joy, Jill, Erin, and everyone else at the station is doing a marvelous job of understanding and conserving Minnesota’s environment.

I also enjoyed getting to know some of the many Marine on St. Croix residents who came to my talk last Thursday “What’s your Twelve by Twelve?”  Thanks and such a blessing to meet you.

At the research station the other day, staff scientists showed me the labs where they study “glassified” algae (it looked so cool under the microscope—thanks Joy) in sedimentation cores from fresh water bodies here in order to help bring them back to their historically natural state. Dan wowed me with a tour of the springs rushing beautifully up out of the earth through the sand, and into streams feeding the St. Croix.

Woodpeckers hammer above right now as I write. A human voice from a distant canoe is muted by birdcalls of all sorts: a chatty  red squirrel (they’re my favorites, along with the pudgy and curious woodchucks), the breeze in the trees below a slate grey sky, and a wilderness that overwhelms homo sapien’s mini-presence. During these days I’ve shrunk—to no more than a mammal among mammals, making my tiny nest in cotton sheets each night under vaulting pine trees.

Nature is the best, perhaps the only therapy that handle our 21st century techno-angst. Here, nature has calmed me and made me realize the wisdom of Rule Number Six: Don’t take yourself so damn seriously! (In case you’re wondering, the first five rules are all the same. Each one reads: See Rule Number Six.)

Here on the St. Croix, I haven’t gotten into a car at all. I’ve canoed to the tavern in town for a pint of local Stillwater-brewed ale; biked the state park to the north and every other day to the Eagle nest in Marine;  and used Line Two (my feet) to access everything else. Ah, what would a more bio-regional century look like, with Transition Towns and Slow Food Convivums as our anchors? Can We the People pursue the good life instead of the goods life? Can we ratchet the quality of our lives up from excess to the far-greater peak of simplicity?

A foggy morning in front of my retreat cabin

Finally, the birds. Thanks to the great blue herons who taught me patience here every day and inspired my writing. I spotted the following birds at Pine Needles, among many others: bald eagles and eaglets, mallards, hawks, red-bellied woodpeckers, common yellowthroat, American crow, black-capped chickadee, pileated woodpecker (identified through hammering, not seen), Canada goose, wood ducks, chickadees, swallows, Baltimore orioles, and humming birds. Your songs travel with me. Peace.

My friend Eva just sent this to me from Bolivia, and I thought you might enjoy it.  It appears at the end of Satish Kumar’s book, “You are, therfore I am”.

"You are, therefore I am," Satish Kumar

“Because We Are”

I am because we are, the five-toed,

the elegant-fingered, the ones

whose brains flower like coral

whose dreams span earth and move out -

I am because we animals

love to run and huddle, because

our tongues love to lick skin,

nuzzle and enter each other’s

mouths, clean milky young,

taste sweat from necks and slick

fur flat, lap water from clean pools:

because we love to swim, sleep, eat,

lie in the sun, move to the shade;

and because we are the fish

flying in ballets through shallows

and deeper, where the ocean floor

hollows and darkness begins;

I am because of centuries of thought

and centuries of dream, because of poetry,

grass, music, growing corn,

because of wine from grapes

and bread from flour,

because of a million hands,

because of cave paintings

and the true line drawn,

the bison on the wall,

doe in the clearing, because

of shooting stars and sudden floods,

ships goring out, footprints,

because of men and women

coming together, lying down

together, coming, again and again,

because of father, mother, brothers,

lovers, children, everyone making

enough love, because of skins, eyes, hands

and words, because of closeness,

because of breath.  Because

of the touch in the night

the surgeon who saved me

because of intelligence

because of care

because of enough people

loving enough people

for those centuries

for ever, I am.  We.

—  Rosalind Brackenbury