Thursday, May 13, 2010

Urban Land Scouts

I've been thinking of personal responsibility (to the environment and the community) beyond veganism. For many, veganism is a step in becoming more aware of food consumption and production, but of course, there is more to conscientiousness than just eating vegan food (or not wearing animal products). There are other steps an individual can make towards conserving resources and living sustainably. As a result of all this thinking, I bought a composter with the rest of my tax return, and we moved 2/3 of our winter compost pile into it for quicker composting. I've been combing the area for native edible plants, and I've also been attempting to start a small container garden (out of wooden drawers that we've been taking from the abandoned school next door). Because of all these things--and my interest in building community and supporting the environment, I was incredibly excited to become a part of Urban Land Scouts.

The Urban Land Scouts is a project created by Katie Ries, and it is part of her Master's Thesis work, although I think that it has been coming along for a few years. Katie is involved around town, and is very conscious about people's interactions with the land that they occupy. Here is a brief description of the organization from their website:
The Urban Land Scouts are a new group helping modern urban people become better stewards of the land and communities where they live. Membership is open to all.
Also, here are the core values of an Urban Land Scout:

1 – The Urban Land Scouts looks at the land daily; he is observant of and attentive to it.

2 - The Urban Land Scout tries to identify and use the plants in her neighborhood.

3 - The Urban Land Scout seeks to cultivate native or edible plants in whatever soil he can access and tend.

4 - The Urban Land Scout is fed by the land in which she lives.

5 - The Urban Land Scout makes an effort to grow vegetables.

6 - The Urban Land Scout plants and cares for seeds.

7 - The Urban Land scout shares information freely and teach others what she knows.

8 - The Urban Land scout is lucid, patient, and rooted in the land where he lives.

9 - The Urban Land Scout composts with the help of worms.

10 - The Urban Land Scout shares her harvest.

These are also the ten levels of the Urban Land Scout, and you can see the logical progression--from observing and identifying to harvesting, sharing, and composting. What I especially like about ULS is that it's a project with built-in accountability on several different levels; yes, the project itself is about being mindful of our (urban) environment and connection to food creation. But also, in order to earn a badge, each of the scouts has to document the achievement and report back to the site. One of the tenets of the group is to share information (to blog about it!), resulting in wider awareness of the project and its goals.

As many of us become more and more estranged from the sources of our food, we can become less and less aware of the kind of impact our consumption makes on the community and environment; it is thus critical to pay attention to the land one inhabits--to take care of it, in any way, even if these actions are just small changes to the everyday routine (such as saving seeds from vegetables bought at a local farmer's market). I strongly encourage everyone to become an Urban Land Scout, officially or not. Everyone can become a genuine steward of the land! Everyone can become more responsible to the land and to our respective communities!

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