Let's face it the negative approach of protest and lobbing has outlived its usefulness. Panhandlers are more effective at getting what they want then protestors and non-profs. What progressives need is a new approach, a positive step towards change, one where we stop begging the corrupt system to change itself. We need to take things into our own hands. We must build an alternative system that's sustainable and socially just. We need positive action rather than negative reaction in order to change the world's direction. OrganicVolunteers.com, the brainchild of an Idahoan, is one such organization that attempts to put the tools of positive action into your hands.
OrganicVolunteers.com is a matchmaking service for people interested in sustainable living and people who are living in various states of sustainability. It's a web page that puts people with the means and know how of sustainability in contact with those wishing to become a part of the alternative system. If you're a farm or educational program you sign up as a host and if you're someone who wants to learn how to become self sustaining you sign up as a volunteer. OrganicVolunteers doesn't place volunteers with hosts, but instead, the person interested in a sustainable lifestyle browses the hosts contacting the ones they are interested in. From there the host and volunteer work out the details. It's very user friendly, so technophobes and Luddites need not fear. Most hosts provide room and board and some even throw in a stipend. OrganicVolunteers is part of an international organization called WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms).
Ethan Schaffer and Schaffer, brothers, from Sagle, Idaho, teamed up to make OrganicVolunteers possible. In 2002, Ethan won Earth Island Institute's Brower Youth Award for his commitment to Conserving, Preserving, and Restoring the environment. Ethan was kind enough to answer a few questions about OrganicVolunteers and the philosophy behind it. Here's what he had to say:
Can you tell us a bit about positive versus negative solutions to the worlds ills?
A positive solution is an affirmative and creative response to a negative situation. Take the negative situation of global warming for an example. We know cars are a major contributor to global warming but it would be a negative solution to start bombing cars. A positive solution is to envision a world based on sustainable and human powered transportation and start taking steps to realize that vision. The outcome of a militant anti-car campaign would most likely be a fascist backlash much like we've seen in response to the 9/11 attacks. On the other hand working towards a sustainable society would not only undercut global warming but also provide positive benefits like increased community, a sustainable economy and better health.
That's not to say direct action is obsolete. Direct action is very effective when carried out as a means to realizing a long-term positive solution. Brigades of bicycle riders cruising through downtown in a Critical Mass protest can bring awareness to creating a society based on human powered transport.
What role does OrganicVolunteers play in positive approaches?
The foundation of all positive solutions is changing the way we do things- the way we farm, build houses, harness energy- and creating a truly life sustaining society. OrganicVolunteers is an education network for this sustainable revolution. It allows people to get directly involved in positive solutions like organic farming, natural building and renewable energy. It's also a positive approach to education. Using Organic anyone can gain access to education in sustainable practices without having to pay out for expensive colleges.
Why is organic farming a positive solution?
Organic farming is a positive solution to chemical based conventional farming. Rather than trying to pinpoint every agricultural chemical that is harmful and outlawing them we can develop agricultural systems entirely independent of human made chemicals. I don't think it is possible to test every chemical in every quantity in combination with every other chemical in every different stage of human development. It's a waste of time and money. Switching to sustainable agriculture systems does not only solve the chemical problem but also comes with an abundance of positive externalities such as creating more jobs, providing a healthy working environment and improving wildlife habitat.
What besides organic farming do you consider positive and does OrganicVolunteers also provide assistance in these areas?
Any of the components of the sustainability movement are positive. OrganicVolunteers is a clearinghouse for hands-on education in any aspect of sustainability. Whether you want to get involved in organic farming, permaculture, natural building, herbal medicine or renewable energy its all part of a positive vision of a life sustaining society.
How many volunteers and hosts does OrganicVolunteers have?
OrganicVolunteers has over 500 hosts in 45 states and over 4000 volunteers.
Can you tell me how the story behind how OrganicVolunteers came about?
My girlfriend, Sarita Role, and I were introduced to organic farming and permaculture by wwoofing in New Zealand. That's where we got the idea to create a similar network for the entire sustainability movement in the USA. I took the idea to my brother, Grayson, who built the high-powered database that runs the network. We brought in our friend Tyler Dillavou to help find grant funding. In a matter of weeks we were up an running. It's a great example of an instant revolution. We had a good idea and we went for it.
Tell me a little about yourself.
I'm 22 years old and a student at the Evergreen State College. Organizing and networking is certainly a passion of mine but I'm much happier when my hands are in the dirt. I've spent a good two years interning on organic farms, taking permaculture courses and getting practical experience. I just got back from Peru where I was developing a high school garden and other permaculture projects. Some of my other interests are Vipassana meditation, yoga and bikes.