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Convergence 2008: Local Farm Hosts Event to Promote Green Living

by Cameron Shultz

COBURG, Oregon - About four miles north of Coburg, nestled comfortably amongst the trees and fields of Lane County, lies Rivers Turn Farm. It's nothing out of the ordinary: Rusted tools rest in the dirt, stacks of lumber and pieces of plastic tubing lean against walls with faded paint, and a poodle-mix takes a nap on a pillow in the sun.

But if you take a closer look, you'll notice the rows of tables and chairs being set up around the low-hanging trees of the orchard. Very quickly, you'll realize that something is going on, and it isn't something small.

Known by the organizers and volunteers as simply "the Convergence", The West Coast Convergence for Climate Action is an eight-day event that takes place from July 28 through August 4.

In a nutshell, it's an opportunity for locals to participate and live in an environment that concentrates on sustainable living through both practice and learning.

"There's a focus on 'think globally, act locally,'" Eugene resident and Convergence volunteer Ayesha Mehren said. "We're completely off the grid. All of our electricity is generated on-site."

Anyone can attend for free and camp for a night or the entire week, said Monica Vaughan, one of the organizers.

Amenities will include composting toilets with tarps around them for privacy, and a makeshift kitchen. Every utensil and piece of food has been donated from individuals or local small businesses like Coconut Bliss and Wintergreen Farms, and it's all being brought in on bike trailers.

"We don't have any corporate sponsors," Mehren said. "It's sort of the 'the revolution will not be funded' idea. It means a lot more."

There will also be a movie projector, one very large fire pit and a solar-powered shower.

Mehren was quick to point out, however, that these things are only a piece of the entire Convergence experience. Walking along the rows of trees adjacent to a dusty road on the farm, she explained the workshops that were going to be available.

Most of them are sessions teaching sustainable living such as how to make your own biofuel. Mehren expressed excitement about her current project: "I've never built a solar shower before," she said.

Other workshops focus on "forest defense issues," direct-action training and community organizing, Vaughan said.

The purpose behind it all is to raise awareness and show others how to cut back on their reliance on fossil fuels, a subject that participants at the Convergence take very seriously. "We're not just talking about problems; we're doing something about it," Mehren said.

There will also be guest lecturers who, she said, will highlight what the Convergence believes are important issues surrounding climate change effects on forests and dirty energy products like liquefied natural gas.

This is the second year the Convergence has set up operations on the West Coast, but its third year worldwide. There are convergences in Germany, the United Kingdom and New Zealand and one in Australia just ended a couple of weeks ago.

Mehren and others hope that more countries will join in, and that people will do more than just verbally support grassroots efforts in Oregon and other places.

More than 400 people attended the Convergence last year in Washington, Mehren said. Organizers expect this year's numbers to be similar. Vaughan said some presenters come from as far as Canada and Mexico, and at least 25 University students have volunteered

"It's a radical idea that a bunch of neighbors can get together to do this on no budget," Mehren said.

© Copyright 2008 Oregon Daily Emerald

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