The City of Spokane: Surprise Inspiration and Hope!

Arriving two days ago at 02h45 two days at Spokane Station I wasn’t sure what to expect other than a new city in a new State`, Washington. Well right from the Amtrak representative at the baggage claim counter I have experienced a real friendly, almost laid back culture that has been refreshing. While generalisations are fraught with danger, I sense the fact that this isn’t a huge tourist destination, and also west of the great Continental Divide, makes for a different community.

Spokane Falls: Downtown
Spokane Falls: Downtown

A city of some 210 000 people, it’s pretty spread out around the Spokane River which provides a two stage waterfall feature right downtown that forms part of a 1920 hydroelectric scheme, that has an interesting background I share with you later in this Post.

The city has an aptly called Main Market, because it is on Main Street, but for me it has also been ‘the main market’ for my meals and beverages. Actually I haven’t yet seen (and certainly having been looking for!!) the big supermarkets and that ‘consumer ratchet-er’ Costco!  So far Main Market has provided all I need.

An authentic Co-operative, which also allows non-members to shop, and has that real new community sustainability ethic. The area around Spokane is full of small farmers and the Co-op has linked its supply chain to these organic providers. (See there great Mission Statement) There is both a sit in / take out Deli section and then a traditional supermarket section. Prices are fair, the food fresh and delicious and the staff ever friendly. I know there are many of these types of operations popping up all over the world, and it will be interesting to see how the market responds as sustainability and local organic products are more and more demanded in place of the exotics and ‘footprint heavy’ food options.

Main Market even looks Organic!
Main Market even looks Organic!

Heading out from my hotel room early on Monday morning (yeah, I have weakened for the comfort of a hotel in the city!!) I came across groups of people holding up the placards below and promoting a Green Party Leader rally at the local Spokane Town hall this Wednesday. I didn’t know anything about the Green Party, and so chatted to one of the placard holders… Apparently the polls show they have 7-10% of the electorate, and as I spoke more I thought they sounded pretty much what One Point Zero USA needs! It actually hit me how America’s ‘Two party’ tradition makes it very difficult for small parties to get the voice space to make inroads. I spent some time on their website and thought to myself: “Hmmm, on what they say on their website, This Green Party seems on the surface, and with ‘my spectacles on’, a much better bet than ‘The Other Two’…Those, ‘Most’ and ‘second most’ unpopular candidates ever’!

Green Part Placard
Green Part Placard

Chatting to a few people about it later, it seems that they didn’t really know about the Green Party, or either had strong preconceptions from years back that have meant that they haven’t taken the time to see the party’s latest proposition and how it fits with the current seemingly unpalatable options. Anyway I pulled this Ecological Pillar (One of their Four Pillars) from their Policy Page on their website  and was amazed how it fitted with a One Point Zero vision. Here is what it says:

“Human societies must operate with the understanding that we are part of nature, not separate from nature. We must maintain an ecological balance and live within the ecological and resource limits of our communities and our planet. We support a sustainable society which utilizes resources in such a way that future generations will benefit and not suffer from the practices of our generation. To this end we must practice agriculture which replenishes the soil; move to an energy efficient economy; and live in ways that respect the integrity of natural systems.”

Obviously I’m in no position to make informed views but I thought in sharing this with you if you are an American may just make you stop and think about things a bit broader than you have. I can see how this Green Party would be a ‘Red Party’ to a strong Capitalist mind, but as you have I’m sure picked up: I (Howard) do believe we are at the time where there is a need for Revolutionary Change, and more of the same will continue the annihilation of the human soul!  There we go…:  From the heart of a patriotically disconnected activist who is genuinely concerned about ALL global humanity!

Out of interest I’ve now delayed my departure from Spokane to attend Jill Stein talk this Wednesday night. (17th August). As a foreigner, yet understanding who crucial this election is for the whole world, this should be a very interesting experience, and I’ll ‘report back’ the whole experience in a subsequent blog! )

Now and again I can’t help myself and have to re-live my old consumer days and stroll into an outdoor shop!! North Face have a big outlet downtown and after a lecture to myself that I WILL NOT get tempted into retail therapy, I strolled in for a look, see and maybe talk experience. They had an Mt Everest climbing suit, the real thing and I have to say I spent time at it, felt it and then felt what happened inside and thought to myself: “I wonder whether I will ever do ‘That Conquest’ before I die? That still to do before I die, brought up thoughts and strong emotional pangs of sailing to Cape Horn and Antarctica, This was the reason why I bought Allone, who is hopefully still gently bobbing around waiting for me in Nelson, NZ. I thought to myself: Man this activist journey has really beaten me up….and the ‘The Crowd’ will be ‘The Crowd’ and I’m just a little boy ‘The Crowd’ doesn’t want to hear!

There is something about the Freedom and Purity of Dealing with Nature, no politics, manipulation, lies and authenticity is rewarded. The Soul seems to really flourish! Why have we lost that basic human vibrancy?
There is something about the Freedom and Purity of Dealing with Nature, no politics, manipulation, lies and authenticity is rewarded. The Soul seems to really flourish! Why have we lost that basic human vibrancy?

Fatefully, before I moved down the wrong path, a sales person, by the name of Dane came up and asked me if I needed assistance. I said to him: “No man, not buying anything today, got too much stuff already!”  He seemed to totally understand that and then asked me if I was from Australia? Perceptive man, and it turns out he has family there and so we then started chatting freely. He moved from San Diego 7 year ago, put himself through Bio Chemistry degree, and know had two jobs, this North Face one and then his core Laboratory, Bio Chemist one.

An avid climber, the rock face type, he was going to climb El Capitan in Yosemite in a few weeks. With a more experienced buddy, they were hoping to do the difficult climb in 32 hours. We spoke about One Point Zero, and he was totally aware of the issues and the severity of the problem. When we moved to the question of what Nature is to him and whether he thinks we humans are an integral part of Nature, or disconnected and separate, or higher than Nature, the guy was so quick in his response that fits with the main motive to be One Point Zero: We are part of Nature, and should work within that restraint, but we aren’t. I saw a focused young guy, probably 25 years old, and although he clearly understood the picture he had his plan for working around society’s problem. In him I saw a younger version of me when I was 40, and realised I needed to use the system to get out of the system. He like me was at the same time enjoying the adventure that that involved, and like me he had urgency! Maybe that is still the best way forward in this world that won’t change it anthropocentric view and aim for a One Point Zero vision? I sense if I was a young person facing the chaos of today I’d do just the very same…. That made me sad, as it goes against a One Point Zero path, but then if the powers that be and Richard Branson (See his pathetic Pledge)  doesn’t really care, then it’s each for themselves, and like me Dane’s strategy is a good one for his optimal preservation…!  I actually congratulated him on his focus, beliefs, Nature orientation and as best as he can be sustainable way of life! Good one Dane!

Next stop was a coffee shop called ‘Indaba’! That is a Zulu or Xhosa (African) word that means important community meeting. I sensed it must have South African roots and walked in to meet Nate who picked up my South African accent straight away and was almost excited to have met someone through who he could live his lengthy and clearly memorable trip to South Africa. Turns out the Spokane based owner of Indaba was so taken back by South Africa that on his return he started Indaba!  Knowing the full intent of the word makes it the perfect name for a Coffee Meeting place!

Even he is worried about The Western world... A wise old Masai man just near Kilimanjaro 2007
Even he is worried about The Western world… A wise old Masai man just near Kilimanjaro 2007

Nate and I discussed the African philosophy of Ubuntu:  ‘Without Others I am Nothing’ in the context of the ever strengthening Western culture of ‘Without Me You are Nothing’ and how this election is truly bringing out the bad side of that… Not being able to help myself I said we desperately need the next level philosophy: ’Without Nature we are Nothing’, where we humans all have one highest level Goal!

So there we go, just a bit of my time in Spokane: Quite diverse and ‘multi-cultural’: In fact the most multicultural open I have had since being in the USA, and good for this ‘Stock Taking’ time of mine!

Continuing the Hydroelectric Power topic from above, I have included some really interesting facts and history about Spokane and Washington State’s amazing Renewable Power achievements in a document called ‘Humans Solving Natures Failures‘, here.

Also included are some thought provoking reflections on the role of infrastructure development projects that seem to solve ‘Nature’s Failures’……

Read it here for this some though provoking stuff!