Gardening, Farming and Net Neutrality

This is a re-post of a piece I wrote in 2014. Given recent events, it is as relevant and concerning as it was then–maybe more so. Please consider taking action at the link in the 2017 Update.

 

Inevitably we look upon society, so kind to you, so harsh to us, as an ill-fitting form that distorts the truth; deforms the mind; fetters the will.

Three Guineas.   Virginia Woolf, 1938.

 

This morning I rose with the dawn to spend a little time inspecting all the greens that emerged after the Mother’s Day snowstorm and several days of heavy rain. Surprises abound. I had no idea, for example, the fertile potential of the woolly lamb’s ear. Those silvery lobes now don every open space of my herb and grass garden, as well as the cracks of an elder “patio” (actually the concrete slab that remained after the original garage burned sometime in the 70s). Arugula is similarly prolific while the blue sage sits square in its original earthy pocket, pushing infant greens through the stiffened gray stalks of last season’s growth. Of course there are weeds… lots and lots of weeds, and too many spaces that require something altogether new and different if I am to create the dream garden of my imagination.

 

It’s overwhelming.

 

And waving the white flag of surrender earlier in the month, I headed to the Internet to begin a search, sustainable urban landscaping, which offered up the local fare that appeals to my economic convictions—specifically, a site called Urban Roots. A phone call and a lovely conversation with Susanne who assured me that we could come up with a plan to be implemented over time and on a teacher’s salary, and we were off. But not before she told me to start collecting pictures and ideas that appealed to my gardener’s sensibilities so that when we met she could get a true feel for my needs and tastes. Back to the Internet where, studying, I realized that gardens are as varied and distinct as a Picasso is from a Renoit. Picture after picture, and I’m trying to decide on a label that might identify my tastes. For now, I’ve settled on conservative Bohemian.

 

But as is so often the case, I begin one search only to be taken off on peripheral side streets of other curiosities. Somewhere in that digital mound of photos was a picture of an urban farm, created on an abandoned parking lot in Denver proper. I clicked on the Feed Denver site that speaks of creating a “caring economy” while being good stewards of the earth and its gifts. From its executive director, Lisa Rogers, I learned about food deserts and false securities of provision. There were volunteer opportunities to which I signed on, so last Saturday spent the morning with tender hopeful souls (or perhaps wannabes, like me), trimming back a virtual hedge of arugula, the exact variety growing out of control in my own backyard. We plucked arugula and chard leaves suitable for sale in their little market and spared the rest for compost. All told, a perfect morning in May.

 

 

Confession: This post isn’t really about gardening OR urban farms. Though, I guess, peripherally, it is. Peripherally it’s about many, many things. It’s about coming out late and Ash Beckham and acceptance; about GMOs and Monsanto and greed; it’s about paleo dieting and apple cider vinegar; about all the stuff we question in a day and how the Internet answers those questions. It’s about Net Neutrality and what its end could mean to Internet users like me, to small businesses like Urban Roots and to nonprofits like Feed Denver.

 

For those who don’t know, Net Neutrality is the principle that Internet providers must offer equal access to all content without bias for or against products or websites. It keeps the Internet open and the flow of information free. But last week, the Federal Communications Commission paved the way for large cable and telephone companies like Comcast and Verizon to charge for a particular speed of travel. So… if you’re a giant corporation with vast sums of money to spend on rapid Internet speeds, your content will land with users far more quickly than, say, a local or start-up business—or a nonprofit. Imagine the implications for a surfer like me, who starts a search not knowing what’s out there or just exactly what I’m looking for. Under the new rules, chances are I might never know what’s out there. I might never have seen Urban Roots or Feed Denver. Really, how could such businesses and organizations keep up with the spending of  Walmart or Monsanto? It is license for corporate favoritism and Internet discrimination. And when I think about all the small journalistic sites like Democracy Nowtruthdig and truthout where I get much of my news and information, I fear for what any of us might actually “know” in the future—just exactly what Comcast and Verizon and AT&T want us to know, I suspect. For a while, the few of us who know to wait out the Internet waves, will likely do just that. But as this generation of us who understand the implications disappears, so will the spread of truth… so will any remaining legislative fairness.

 

That is, unless we do something.

 

2017 Update:

Right now, the FCC is proposing a new set of rules that would end Net Neutrality, favoring corporate servers in the ways I described above. Nonprofits like Fight for the Future, Free Press, and ACLU are gearing up for an Internet protest on July 12th. This isn’t the first round with the FCC; I wrote this little piece in 2014 when public outcry defeated the FCC Chairman’s efforts. I fear the profiteers are empowered by the current administration, and it will take more to shut it down this time around. Please take a little time to write a note and join the July 12th protest here; just follow the links. Yes, the corporations pushing this thing are big, but think about SOPA several years back; there was some big backing for that, too, but public action stopped it dead in its tracks.

 

We can do this. For Democracy, for fairness, for future gardeners, farmers and humanitarians… we must.

 

 

 

 

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