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The Wisdom to Survive: Gathering our audience

Wisdom to Survive jpegA film no one has heard of. A small town (pop. 6,000). A Wednesday night in early December. 4 weeks lead-in. No marketing budget on the venue side.

This post is about how we drew a decent audience for The Wisdom to Survive, and-–what is more—turned the evening into a regional gathering of like-minded & engaged people.


Rosendale, NY is 90 miles north of NYC, and 7 miles from the college town of New Paltz. It’s an unusually eccentric and activist community, partly because of the cross-pollination of locals and transplants/weekenders from Brooklyn.
The Rosendale Theatre is a community owned & (mostly) volunteer-run Collective. It seats 260.

rdale ext betterI’m a volunteer, and one of 6 active members of the Program Committee. This month our schedule ran from Captain Phillips to Blue is the Warmest Color. We have a strong track record with environmental films: sustainability, health, agriculture. In May we screened Symphony of the Soil and skyped in the director Deborah Koons Garcia ( ).

Y’all Come!

Here is the email invitation (in part) I sent out about 2 weeks in advance of Dec 4.
The goal of the evening is to raise awareness about environmental activism in the Hudson Valley–and showcase the opportunities for people to get involved.

As a local leader, we would love for you to:
1) attend and bring friends, colleagues & kids
2) agree to be introduced preceding the film
3) and join in the discussion following the film

Here’s the evening schedule:

7:20 Welcome the audience. Introduce the filmmakers (John Ankele of Accord and Anne Macksoud of Woodstock VT).
Introduce reps in attendance from our sponsoring orgs and local office holders.
7:30 Show the film (length: one hour)
8:30 Q & A with John and Anne. Sponsoring reps & pols can fold their comments into the Q & A.

Wisdom Keepers

The film title–taken from the poem by Wendell Berry–means that we have the wisdom. The trick is to translate that into the will and the work needed to navigate climate change.  In introducing the evening, it was easy to make the point that everyone present is a “wisdom keeper.”  And that this screening is yet another opportunity to recognize our collective will and work.

Filmmakers John Ankele & Anne Macksoud

Filmmakers John Ankele & Anne Macksoud

Our box office sold 124 tickets at our regular price of $7.  The (small) lobby filled a half-hour before the program began. It was a conversational din. The audience was not just healthy in numbers (i.e., the house felt “full”) but also in energy and engagement.

To get to that, we essentially re-cast the event from: “Here is a good film we think you will like…won’t you please come?”

To: “This is more than a movie screening. This is a gathering of Hudson Valley activists. You will know many of the other people attending. You will want to be there to represent your org. You will not want to miss this opportunity to be present as a member of this tribe.”

Affinity marketing

A friend likes to joke: You can’t go knocking on doors an hour before show time, grab people by the collar and drag them to the theatre.

Our personal email invitations defined their self-interest; in follow-up phone calls I highlighted the evening as a networking opportunity with other influencers (you know who you are…).

IMG_0885The response to that message was strong. Nearly every group we contacted wanted to send at least one rep. I’d say a good half-dozen others wanted to come but couldn’t due to inevitable conflicts.

Still, it’s hard to build an audience one person at a time! So a second goal was to get people to bring a friend: other staffers, board members, family members. (We particularly wanted kids to come–even on a school night).

It was a terrific evening. At least 80% of the audience stayed on for the Q & A. We ended the evening well before the questions and discussion were played out. People left the theatre energized.

We wanted to give people the opportunity to connect to something larger than themselves—the wisdom to survive–and it felt like we did.


Note: I wrote this as a guest blog at the invitation of MocaMedia: Strategic Engagement Consultants (“Connecting content creators with their audience”).  The filmmakers engaged them to help with marketing their film.  Thank you Gwendolyn and Angela Alston for a great job!

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Practical Permaculture – Only the Oak Leaves Remain

I have always been fascinated by the phenomenon of oak leaves keeping so many of their leaves through the winter. (Years ago, I wrote a song named “Oak Leaf Legend” that purported to explain it in Native American storytelling terms–this was for my nephew’s cub scout pack) So I was glad to see this post from Chris!


Wait a second… Why do the Oak leaves remain…

Walking through the woods after a winter snow… Silence… Just the crunching of snow under your boots as you walk… In the wind you hear the sound of leaves rattling together… But all the leaves are covered in snow… A closer inspection of the sound will most likely reveal a tree that is covered in dead leaves… Leaves that are hanging on for dear life in the cold winter winds…

Long after all other trees lose their leaves in the winter, the dead leaves of an Oak Tree remain. This trait is extremely helpful in identification, often remaining until the buds break in the spring. This retention of dead plant matter is known as marcascence, and it is a genius evolutionary trait that I am going to try and explain.

In autumn, shortening day length tells the deciduous trees that it is time…

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My ReThink Local “guest post”

“Repair Café” Gets Stuff Fixed

Guest blog by John Wackman for

Welcome to Repair Cafe!

Welcome to Repair Cafe!

Repair Café is a free community meeting place to bring your beloved but broken item to get fixed.  The heart of the idea is that you– yes you–participate in the repair with the help of a “repair coach”.

The idea was born in Amsterdam in 2009 and is just beginning to pop up in the U.S.  Our New Paltz project—which kicked off in May—is part of that first wave.

Here are 5 good things to know about it.

Repair Cafe has layers

Repair café is about these things:  Extend the life of stuff you care about.  Preserve & pass-on repair know-how.  Get curious about the way things work.  Use tools. Sit elbow-to-elbow at a work table with your neighbor.  Have fun.

We say bring your “beloved but broken” item to Repair Café.  A friend said, “I guess that means I shouldn’t just bring any old piece of crap.”

Hmmm.  That’s sorta true.  It means the item you bring should mean something to you.  You’d really like to keep it.

Eilene Cutler & Friend w/ vacuum cleaner

Eilene Cutler & Friend w/ vacuum cleaner

So, what kind of stuff gets fixed? 

Ever heard of a “Magic Quartz Cooker”?  They made them in the 60s.  Ellen James remembers her mother using it to broil fish year-round on the back porch (keep that fishy smell out of the house, dontcha know).  Ellen brought it, our repair coaches put their heads together, and Ellen left impressed & happy.  “Swell crowd” she wrote in our Comments book.

What else?  Vacuum cleaners, CDs, radios, skirts & sweaters, chairs and lamps (lamp parts are available “at cost”).  Marie Young’s “good old” shopping cart got a new wooden (!) wheel.  Kimiko Link’s daughter brought her doll baby with a smushed face.  Felicia Casey at our Dolls & Stuffed Animals worktable made her feel better.  Across the room, Justin Peone was reconfiguring laptops.

Marisa makes light!

Marisa makes light!

Who are the Repair Coaches?

Guys and gals with significant repair skills who volunteer their time for 5 hours on the occasional Saturday.  Some run professional repair businesses—for them this is a way to get out in the community and get better known.  Some are retired—the Retired Men of New Paltz group has stepped up nicely.  Pretty much everyone shares this trait:  they all liked to take stuff apart when they were kids.

The profile of a good Repair Coach is a person who is:

– A curious troubleshooter
– A good listener
– Wants to help make the repair…but won’t be frustrated if that isn’t reasonable or possible

Repair Cafe July flyer-Spanish- REV1 (1)

Café de Raparaciones

For our July 20 event, we are reaching out to the mid-Hudson Latino community.  Marisa Villarreal, one of our ace repair coaches, translated our flyer.

There will be several Spanish-speaking repair coaches at the event.  Some of you may know Wolf Bravo, organizer of Ulster County Tool Share.  He’ll be there teaching tool sharpening.

A Deeper Layer

A deeper layer is frankly theological.  Do you know the Leonard Cohen lyric: “There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.”  It is no accident that the United Methodist Church of New Paltz has provided a home for Repair Café.  Central to every wisdom tradition is the idea of “healing that which is broken” (in Hebrew Tikkun Olam: Repair of the World).

repaird plateThe people who started Repair Café in Amsterdam started the Repair Café Foundation to replicate this idea everywhere.  Their English-language website is  We in New Paltz were helped by the Repair Café organizers in Pittsfield MA who started up last January.  We are currently helping the group just getting started in New Mexico.

Only one more thing to say.  What beloved but broken item will you bring to the Repair Café on July 20?


When: Saturday, July 20, 10am – 3pm

(on-going the 3rd Saturday of every other month through 2013)

Where: New Paltz United Methodist Church, corner of Main St. & Grove St.

The Café side provides sustenance for your repair journey.  Coffee and tea are  free; baked treats and fruit will be for sale.

Sponsors: New Paltz United Methodist Church and New Paltz Climate Change Coalition

Facebook page: Repair café New Paltz

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??????????????????????????????????????????????The Rosendale Theatre will present the acclaimed documentary film Symphony of the Soil on Wednesday, May 29 at 7:15PM. The screening will be followed by a Skype Q & A with Writer/Director Deborah Koons Garcia.

The trailer is terrific–watch it here.

Symphony of the Soil blends ancient knowledge and cutting edge science to explore the complexity and mystery of the ground beneath our feet. Civilization depends–and always has–on the abundance of healthy soil, teeming with nutrients and life.

Beautifully filmed on four continents, Symphony of the Soil takes us to places where the soil is being continually renewed…or gradually eroded into “dirt.” As one ecologist says, “We don’t grow plants. We grow healthy soil – and the soil grows the plants.”

The fascinating dynamics of soil, water, the atmosphere, plants and animals are brought to life as the film examines our human relationship with soil, and the devastating cycle of fertilizer/herbicide over-use. We see the promise of large-scale composting, and understand soil’s key role in ameliorating the most challenging environmental issues of our time.

Symphony of the Soil features on-location “working” interviews with esteemed scientists and visionary farmers and ranchers, including Ignacio Chapela, Josh Frye, Elizabeth Kaiser and the remarkable physicist Vandana Shiva.

Deborah Koons Garcia is the acclaimed Director of The Future of Food (2004), the first major film to cover the history and technology of genetic engineering. Symphony of the Soil was completed in 2012 and has been featured at film festivals and conferences around the globe.

This screening of Symphony of the Soil is sponsored by the Rosendale Environmental Commission. It continues the Rosendale Theatre’s strong commitment to presenting films of significance in the realm of environment and health.


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Bring Your Beloved But Broken Item to the Repair Cafe

The 1st Repair Cafe for New Paltz is coming right up!

When: Saturday, May 18th from 10AM to 3PM

Where: The New Paltz United Methodist Church on Main Street (corner of Grove, just up from the Bus Station).

What: Repair Café is a free meeting place that is all about repairing things—together.  The idea was born in Amsterdam in 2009, quickly spun off satellites around Europe, and has just begun to pop up in the U.S.

Toss it? No way! Bring your beloved but broken item to the Repair Café.

When you arrive, you will find tools and materials to help you make the repair you need.  You will also find “Repair Coaches” with the special skills to help.

We’ll be ready with 7 worktables:

Yes, there are limits:  

  • Your item must not be larger/heavier than one person can carry.  
  • No gas-powered engines.  
  • No bicycles (for now).

We can’t guarantee that the item you bring to Repair Cafe will get fixed.  All we  can guarantee is that you will have an interesting time!  And you’ll know more than when you came in.  And you might share a screwdriver with some very nice neighbors.

Coffee& tea are free;  savory & sweet bakery treats and fresh fruit will be for sale on the “Café side” to sustain you on your repair journey. Many of the bakery items will come from The Bakery on Front Street—one of New Paltz’ most popular bakeries.

We (the organizers) invite the interest of any person with repair skills to volunteer as a Repair Coach.  Best thing to do is email John Wackman at

The Repair Café will be an ongoing event, 3rd Saturday every other month through 2013.

Repair Café is sponsored by the New Paltz United Methodist Church and the Climate Action Coalition of New Paltz.  This project is also coordinated with the Town of New Paltz Recycling Program and the Zero Waste Initiative of the Environmental Protection Agency.

The Dutch organizers have also established the Repair Cafe Foundation, whose purpose is to replicate the idea everywhere. To see the story of how it got started and how it’s grown, see their English-language website.

And if you do Facebook, go to the Repair Cafe New Paltz page for frequent updates & news.   Pls Like & Share!


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Something really big in return

From Thomas Friedman’s column in last Sunday’s New York Times,
titled No to Keystone. Yes to Crazy.

“We need the President to be able to say to the G.O.P. oil lobby, “I’m going to approve this, but it will kill me with my base.  Sasha and Malia won’t even be talking to me, so I’ve got to get something really big in return.”

What might that be?

Photo credit: Danny Johnston/Associated PressSteel for the Keystone XL oil pipeline may end up getting used. If it does, then President Obama will need to make it up to his green base.

Photo credit: Danny Johnston/Associated Press
Steel for the Keystone XL oil pipeline may end up getting used. If it does, then President Obama will need to make it up to his green base.

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Come on Down to the Climate Rally

climate rally logo

SUNDAY Feb 17, 2013  5:30AM      Three buses get on the NY State Thruway. Two from the “catchment area” of New Paltz, Poughkeepsie and surrounding towns, and another from SUNY-New Paltz.  3 of 130 buses from 28 states converging on D.C.  The New Paltz Climate Action Coalition organized the bus I’m on.

10AM–Baltimore.  I used to always enjoy looking across from I-95 to Camden Yards, the ballpark that ushered in a new era of human-scaled ballpark design.  Now I see that it’s dwarfed by the brash, back-to-business-as-usual Baltimore Ravens stadium.

Then I spot an eye-catching bill board with 2 pictures and one word: Unplug.


Nice thing to see on the way to a Climate Rally, eh?  (I thought Baltimore’s science museum–the Maryland Science Center–might be behind it.  But they’ve disavowed all knowledge.  Turns out it’s the 3 orgs above.  More about the campaign at

11:30AM  We get off the bus at the Washington Monument (still closed from the August 2011 5.8 earthquake)  It’s breezy, and now we feel just how cold it is (in the teens with the wind chill).


Throughout the day it’s clear that easily more than half the people here are college age.  Polar Bear hats and costumes are a popular theme.



Volunteers are giving out cardboard “Clean Air – Rally Signs” by the hundreds.


There’s a large ceremonial drum in this picture–look carefully and you can see mallets in action. The sound is fantastic.  Gathering of the tribes.


climate rally from stage

Starting at Noon, the speakers address their comments mostly to the President (“Lead!”) and to the young (“Don’t be chumps!”).  Lots of emphasis on the Keystone XL pipeline as a line in the sand.  (The Christian Science Monitor has a good piece today on that).

When Chief Jacqueline Thomas of the Saik’uz First Nation starts speaking, a man next to me says: “Hey, look up there–a red-tail hawk…two of them… wheeling!  Isn’t it significant that they come while she’s speaking.”  They certainly are not seagulls.  Soon the hawks fly off towards the Potomac.  I don’t think many in the crowd saw them.


march past eob


As the march makes its way to The White House, the crowd of 35,000 swells (so say the reports) to 40,000.



Signs & Banners on Parade!

Imagine Solar
Done with Being a Fossil Fool
Leave it in the ground!
Only my Mind & Rice should be Dirty
Why haven’t we Climate Changed?
Fossil Fuels Fuel Freaky Weather
Snow Women Against Fracking

And: Would we let terrorists poison our water supply if they said it would create jobs?

When we reach The White House, the sun comes out.


Been awhile since I was in a huge crowd of people like this–young & old & in-between– marching, singing, chanting, laughing.

Most popular song: This Land Is Your Land (of course).  We struggle to remember the verses.

Most popular chant: Hey Hey Obama/we don’t want/no climate drama

Overheard:  Man: (with enthusiasm) Fracking is Attacking!  Woman: Is that a cheer?  Man: What do you think?  Woman: I think you need to make it more catchy.


President Obama, are you ready to lead on global climate change?


Photos in this post are from my camera, except “Red-tail Hawk Harlan’s – Calurus” by Dominic Sherony (accessed from WikiCommons), and the 2 rally photos with watermarks from

To see a terrific video of Van Jones speaking, go to The New York Green Advocate.  Thanks Paul McGinniss!

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A sense of repurpose

The ReUse Center in New Paltz is up the hill from the Recycling Center.  It’s a steel frame building built by the Town as a “store” for stuff that oughta be useful to SOMEBODY!

I expected to find an eclectic mix of items saved in the nick of time before they went into the landfill — soulful, you know, like a thrift-store.  Fix-it, clean it, put it to use.

Instead, I found boxes and shelves and bins of decidedly un-used manufacturer’s leftovers.  Hundreds of small wooden pieces from Woodstock Chimes–some shaped like wings, some like little chairs.  Cosmetic gift bags from Kiss My Face.  Plastic tubes that once contained titanium knee-replacement parts.  Plentiful but essentially soul-less odds & ends.

And God created glue guns

Laura Petit, the Town recycling coordinator, had a great idea:  get in some artists, school teachers, crafters, home fixer-uppers.  Give ’em glue guns and “let them run wild.”  See what they come up with.

Those of us there did our best.  And once we got going, some decent configurations began to take shape.  Laura calls them “recipes for recycling.”  Possibly.  For seasoning, we had our choice of hundreds of small cardboard cards with shiny-surfaced images of…Americana!

It’s important to say that the ReUse Center is an evolving enterprise.  The goal is to have stuff coming in & going out of there faster than a minnow can swim a dipper.

4 “R”s

The 3 “R”s–reduce, reuse & recycle–are all on the increase in the Hudson Valley.  In 2012, New Paltz reduced the garbage leaving the Clearwater Transfer Station by 20%–more than 100 tons, saving the town a cool $10,000 in disposal fees.

Make that 4:  Results.

Last Saturday morning at the New Paltz ReUse Center, John Wackman, Eric Bravo and Alyce Conklin created “recycling recipes” for people wondering what to do with odds and ends available at the center. The project ideas have been posted by the materials so others can use them. (photo by Lauren Thomas)

Last Saturday morning at the New Paltz ReUse Center, John Wackman, Eric Bravo and Alyce Conklin created “recycling recipes” for people wondering what to do with odds and ends available at the center. The project ideas have been posted by the materials so others can use them. (photo by Lauren Thomas)

**Thanks to Erin Quinn for the title of this post.  Her article about the Recycling Recipes event is in the New Paltz Times.  Thanks also to Lauren Thomas for the photo above.

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Wolf comes to the Hudson Highlands

I have been in transition, moving from the shoreline of Connecticut to the Hudson Highlands. (I am more Mountain than Sea: I know this about myself).

In November I got invited to a workshop at the incredible Mohonk Mountain House in New Paltz NY. The people I met that day–brought together by Mohonk Consultations–are involved in an astonishing array of sustainability initiatives – this region is humming with activity.

That is where I met Wolf Bravo.wolf bravo

Native of Peru, founder of Sustainable Urubamba Valley in Cuzco, Wolf is an organizational consultant (he does a lot of work in New Jersey).

And he’s working to establish a Tool Library in this county.

To quote from Erin Quinn’s article in the New Paltz Times this week: Why not a tool library, where community folks can borrow a spade, shovel, fertilizer machine, ladders, hand trucks, hedge trimmers or a circular saw?  After all, we have a library that lends books, magazines and DVDs.  And we have a seed library that sells and lends heirloom seeds from the Hudson Valley…

800px-Garden_tools (1)

Right in line with Ulster County’s goal of creating “a safe food system that increases and improves the nutritional level in the Mid Hudson Valley.”

And right in line with New Paltz’s role as an EPA-designated Zero Waste Initiative community.

Tonight Wolf is giving a presentation about the Tool Library at the New Paltz Community Center.  And on Saturday January 26th, he’s giving a “Tool Fix It” workshop.

I’ll be right in line.

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