Monday, January 16, 2012


The steps of an Earth Exchange are simple to describe:

1: Go to a wounded place

2: Sit a while and tell your stories

3: Spend time on the land and find beauty in surprising ways

4: Make a simple act of beauty

However, since we encourage each community to enact these steps in ways that reflect their own place and people, the events themselves and the ripple effects are very different. Steve Brown, an active member of a conservancy group dedicated to protecting Red Lily Pond in Craigville, Massachusetts, recently described a couple of interesting ramifications that their 2011 Global Earth Exchange had for both people and the pond. 

One of the participants at the event, Avis Strong Parke, is an artist. After the Global Earth Exchange, she was inspired to invite other local artists to join her every Tuesday morning at 10:00 to paint the pond. For several weeks a group that ranged in size from nearly twenty to about eight regulars set up their easels at different sites around the pond and created a variety of water colors, acrylics, and oil paints. At the conservancy’s annual dinner and auction, one of these works sold for $900, and in total the group raised thousands of dollars more than they ever had before. (The painting above is by Avis Strong Parke.)

The second surprise came about from an unexpected source. A man who was known to be vocal about his conservative political leanings arrived at the pond for the June 18 event, but immediately made it clear that he didn’t like the word “radical.” Steve suggested he read the Radical Joy for Hard Times manifesto that was taped to a card table on the dock and that explores our philosophy that damaged places are worthy of attention and beauty. A few minutes later, the man returned to Steve. “Well, I believe those things,” he said. “That’s right up my alley.” He ended up staying for the day’s celebration.

A few weeks later, when the development corporation that owns a condominium at one end of the pond put forth a proposal to construct a giant illuminated dock over the water, Steve and other activists were present in force at a State Commission hearing to discuss the plan. They were surprised when the conservative neighbor walked in the door, especially since he did not usually get involved in local issues. The man stood before the commission and announced, “I’m a Republican and I don’t believe in regulations, but this pond is too valuable to destroy.”

All kinds of people love the beautiful places that  they live amidst. And often we have more in common than we might suppose.