The first day of the RUST workshop was mostly good, though we went over a lot of stuff that I'm already familiar with. Some of it, we went over in a different light, and we got to see some neat stuff they've got going here at the Albany Free School neighborhood, which seems to be a very interconnected community of people working with the school, sending their kids there, or doing interesting community type work in the area. There are two chicken collectives, and most of the houses seem to have interlocking back yards.
Our primary instructor started with a go-round for names -- with 60 people -- that I feared would be interminable, but people really did take seriously the size of the group and I don't think anyone took their full 30 seconds. Of course, I don't remember anyone's name from that, either, but I did make note of who the mushroom guy was and the other people from the Boston area, so it was good for that, at least.
We started with a lecture on the intertwining of caring about people and social justice and the earth, touching, in a conversational way, on some of the stuff I've been reading for my sustainable communities class. Then we went out and looked at the chickens (why am I not keeping chickens??) and the aquaculture setup they have in one of the greenhouses. Then the other instructor got to talking about water, the state of water in the world today, and the ongoing struggle to privatize (or not) water supplies, which was largely depressing, until she got the part about how she doesn't believe in drinking tap water, because it's full of stuff that's bad for you. Wait, what? Yes, really. As dancingwolfgrrl commented later, "Do you think she realizes that bottled water is ... a commodity?" I won't go into the many levels on which I found her position on the tap vs. bottled water question problematic unless someone insists on it.
Then we had (vegan, but tasty) lunch, which also included a discussion on gentrification, which I started out listening to, but it soon became clear that I was going to find it more annoying than insightful, so instead, I didn't. This (and other scheduling) resulted in more down time than I had anticipated over the course of the day, and I'm sorry I didn't have any of my reading with me to fill the gaps.
After lunch, we went to make mushroom logs, and see a rocket stove in action. You saw pictures of all of that earlier today. Of course, I love mushrooms, though we didn't talk about mycoremediation today (I think that's tomorrow), so that made me happy, and I wasn't familiar with rocket stoves, which apparently don't like damp wood, but dancingwolfgrrl triumphed over the damp enough to get what was a fairly impressive amount of heat out of a few sticks.
Then we got to talk about greywater treatment systems, which I really do feel like I should be doing, because they're awesome and simple. That and rainwater catchment. Why am I not doing this? Because I am lazy. We also talked about composting, which, happily, I am doing, and crazy water lady also talked about humanure composting, which actually sounded super cool, but I'm totally not prepared to take on that level of, uh, dealing with my shit, even if my roommates were prepared to poop into buckets, which I'm pretty sure they're not.
I'm pleasantly surprised to see a broad diversity of people, if not so much racially (though I think there are 5 or 6 people of color in the group), then certainly in terms of age (I was anticipating being among the oldest people there, and I'm not, by a fairly large number of people), region, interest, experience and apparent income. Also, so far, no one has badmouthed "republicans" or, in fact, discussed all that much about national politics, aside from a throwaway comment about Bush.
After dinner, which was included as part of the class, we went to the corner liquor store and bought some caramel cream, and then across to the convenience store on the other corner for milk and ice cream. dancingwolfgrrl accused me of being an incorrigible flirt, but I say I was just being friendly when I asked the clerk if there was a thing to say to someone who's just breaking his Ramadan fast (which he had just told us he was doing while we were deciding on our ice cream selection). That's neither here nor there, though, because the end result was that we had alcohol and fatty dairy products before going and sitting in the awesome whirlpool in our hotel. I recognize that this may not be fully sustainable living, but camping would have been unsustainable in a different direction, and I sure am glad to be in a hotel this soggy weekend.
I'm unreasonably tired, which I theorize is lingering lethargy from Burning Man, so I'm going to sleep early tonight and hope that I catch up a bit.