This article is courtesy of www.makeitmissoula.com

By CLAY SPRINGMEYER

A few weeks ago, I traveled to Eugene, Oregon with three good friends to participate in the Power Shift West conference, a youth-driven grassroots movement designed to train a new generation of engaged citizens. We discussed some of the most pressing questions facing our democracy today, networked with other students from the Pacific Northwest, and wandered the rainy streets of Eugene.

While I was there, I began devouring a book called Ishmael, written by Daniel Quinn. Once I got over how the plot revolves around a man having a telepathic conversation with a psychic gorilla, I became totally absorbed in their conversation. Ishmael raises important questions about the evolution of agrarian society and where it has left us as a culture, our responsibility to act as stewards of the land, and how we are all inextricably connected to nature.

No matter which political team you find yourself cheering on, I recommend this book to you as a means for raising a mirror to your personal, cultural, and spiritual practices. The man finds Ishmael after responding to a want ad in the newspaper that reads, “Seeking pupil with strong desire to save the world. Apply in person.” The conversation that follows serves as a strong philosophical appeal for how and why we need to critically examine our culture and its relationship to consumption: Did you know that 1/20 of the world’s population consumes 1/3 of the world’s resources? Check it out, it’s worth the week it’ll take you to read.

Between Power Shift West and reading Ishmael, I felt like I had received a vigorous one-two punch to the brain. After all, being exposed to a crushing amount of statistics, persuasive prose, and scientific evidence that all points to our destruction isn’t so much inspiring as it is despairing. Luckily, though, there are many people and programs in place that are working to respond to our situation.

In the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans, there’s a program called Our School at Blair Grocery. Lead by an inspiring fellow named Nat Turner, OSBG is using a previously abandoned grocery store in an area heavily devastated by Hurricane Katrina to grow vegetables, employ young people in the area, and to provide free education to a group of students. I had the privilege to listen to Mr. Turner talk at UM last spring, and now a group of UM students have an opportunity to travel to New Orleans to volunteer at OSBG over winter break. Creative programs like the Blair Grocery project are crucial for finding new ways to respond to our changing climate, and through their implementation we can examine our cultural values.

This Saturday, December 10, there will be a benefit event at Free Cycles (732 S 1st St W. Missoula) to fundraise for the trip and help send the group of students down to New Orleans. Although I won’t be traveling to New Orleans, my band, The Trees, will be one of the bands performing for the fundraiser. Below you can check out our band’s cover of “King of Carrot Flowers” that was recorded at the show where we opened for Chris Bathgate.

The fundraiser will take place Saturday, December 10 at 8 pm at Free Cycles. It’s a $2 donation to get in and $3 for a beer.

I hope some of you can make it down to support a good cause and for a rockin’ good time. You’ll also be guaranteed good company, good beer, and a chance to check out all the great work that Free Cycles – Missoula’s only free bike shop – has been doing.

Thanks for reading. Be good to each other.

- Clay

Listen to the Trees’ cover of “King of Carrot Flowers”