Invitation to the Eco-Wedding of
Gizelxanath Rodriguez and Benjamin Barson
“Each generation must, out of relative obscurity, discover its mission, fulfill it, or betray it.”
Why an “Eco-Wedding?” Why not a natural wedding, an organic wedding, or, at the very least, a green wedding? The awkward turn of phrase we have selected reflects, partially, the awkwardness and alienation of the English language itself, which does not fully contain the word which we hope to marry to the word “Wedding.” But we have settled with “eco,” or “ecological.”
Ecological, as defined in Oxford English dictionary, means, first and foremost, “the branch of biology that deals with the relations of organisms to one another and to their physical surroundings.” In other words, not simply the study of a mysterious beauty separate from ourselves, referred to today as “nature,” but rather the interdependence of life worlds; the relation of a life form to the surrounding biosphere around it. A flower and its pollinators, bees and butterflies, which allow it reproduce--and the nitrogen in its soil, deposited from animals recycling nutrition from their consumed prey, which gives the plant substance and force. And flower’s seed, carried sometimes by birds across mountains and even continents. All of these belong to the realm of the ecological. An infinite and ever delicate dance of opposites, all operating in a theater too vast and too tiny for any set of eyes to fully comprehend. A being characterized not by its isolated individuality, but how its uniqueness plays an integral part of the whole nebula of encounters and mutual enrichment. Even in death, do organisms contribute to the sublime serenade of the ecological.
What does a human being, a recent life form in the grand scheme of universal history, play in the ecological? For the ancient Greeks, from whom the work ecology is derived, the ecological means “The study of oikos, or “house.” What is the house that humanity dwells in? Obviously, the house of Earth, the Mother that sustained and gave birth to us and all of our countless generations of ancestors. There was no separation in Greek linguistics between the concern of natural ecosystems and home maintenance, as the understanding of the necessity of taking care of each for our sustenance and survival was apparent.
Obviously the Ancient Greek cultures, from which much of Western civilization claims to draw its laws and customs, is one of a plurality of cultures which saw the caretaking of the planet as akin to maintaining one’s home. The Hau De No Sau Nee, or the six nation Iroquois confederacy, one of the largest and longest forms of democratic governance the world has ever seen, certainly believed the same.
In the beginning, we were told that the human beings who walk about the Earth have been provided with all the things necessary for life. We were instructed to carry a love for one another, and to show a great respect for all the beings of this Earth. We are shown that our life exists with the tree life, that our well-being depends on the well-being of the Vegetable Life, that we are close relatives of the four-legged beings. In our ways, spiritual consciousness is the highest form of politics.
Every successful system of governance and production, whether human or otherwise, has maintained this ecological integrity. Understood, at the most fundamental level, even before cognition, that to do otherwise was to become extinct. Indeed, we have evidence from many ancient ruins, from Mesoamerica to the Nile, that to extract too many resources over too short a time was to spell depopulation and devastation for the humans who practiced. To lose the sense of the unity of self and environment, was to spell death to both.
If we were in the islands of Hawai’i, we might refer to our wedding as a “Pono” wedding, meaning “The exquisite and elegant equilibrium between all living creatures.” Again, we attempt to rescue the English language from its current alienation to remind us English speakers that, initially, to care for the ecology and to care for one’s home were one and the same act. They were connected at the level of thought, of feeling, of basic life and death.
So how do human beings, as a global species, fare today in the ancient art of home management?
It is with devastating remorse that we remind you that the facts could not be more grim. 52 per cent of fish stocks are fully exploited, 20 per cent moderately exploited, 17 per cent over exploited and seven per cent depleted. Swirling ‘continents’ of trash, some larger than the United States land mass, are trapped in all five major oceanic gyres, the currents that are driven by the Earth’s rotation and serve to circulate water around the globe. The Great Barrier Reef has lost over half its coral cover in the last 30 years, and mussel shells are so brittle they crack upon contact. The Oceans are only the frontline of an ecological crisis of biblical proportions: 200 species go extinct each day by many estimates. The scale of this rapture is not lost on the leaders of all major world religions, including Pope Francis, who has responded to the rapid deterioration of the environment as a call for a rapid transformation of values: “Humanity is called to recognize the need for changes of lifestyle, production and consumption,” he writes in his encyclical letter Laudato si':
It is not enough, however, to think of different species merely as potential “resources” to be exploited, while overlooking the fact that they have value in themselves. Each year sees the disappearance of thousands of plant and animal species which we will never know, which our children will never see, because they have been lost for ever. The great majority become extinct for reasons related to human activity. Because of us, thousands of species will no longer give glory to God by their very existence, nor convey their message to us. We have no such right.
What power compels humanity to abandon its ancestral home, it's obvious and overpowering interconnection with the web of life?
For both the Hau De No Sau Nee and Pope Francis, it is the unbridled power of capitalism, perhaps Western civilization’s most lasting contribution to global culture, that has made the world we live in unlivable.
From the Hau De No Sau Nee:
The Western culture has been horribly exploitative and destructive of the Natural World. Over 140 species of birds and animals were utterly destroyed since the European arrival in the Americas, largely because they were unusable in the eyes of the invaders. The forests were leveled, the waters polluted, the Native people subjected to genocide. The vast herds of herbivores were reduced to mere handfuls, the buffalo nearly became extinct. Western technology and the people who have employed it have been the most amazingly destructive forces in all of human history. No natural disaster has ever destroyed as much. Not even the Ice Ages counted as many victims.
From Pope Francis:
Today, the scientific community realises what the poor have long told us: harm, perhaps irreversible harm, is being done to the ecosystem. And behind all this pain, death and destruction, of unbridled capitalism, there is the stench of what Basil of Caesarea called 'the dung of the devil.’ In this third world war, waged piecemeal, which we are now experiencing, a form of genocide is taking place, and it must end…
“In this sense, it is essential to show special care for indigenous communities and their cultural traditions, they are not merely one minority among others, but should be the principal dialogue partners, especially when large projects affecting their land are proposed. For them, land is not a commodity but rather a gift from God and from their ancestors who rest there, a sacred space with which they need to interact if they are to maintain their identity and values.
We have reached a sort of civilization climax. Western society, long scorning, assimilating, and annihilating the original inhabitants of this land, has its very leaders calling for a redirection of the Western project away from the West, from capitalism, and returning to those who have long stewarded Earth and its mother. For human beings are also an ecosystem, and how we treat each other indicates how we treat both ourselves and our surroundings.
The Nation we call America is the most wasteful and gluttonous in human history. 5% of the world’s population produces over 25% of its trash. Its contribution to carbon emissions and its consumption of resources make its daily existence a crime against humanity.
We celebrate our eco-wedding not only because of our love for each other, but because of the love all of living creatures and existence that our love opens us to. It is a love unlike any other we have ever known, because not only does it transcend our consciousness, but it transcends us as individuals. We wed, not the in name of passing on wealth, property or lineage, but to open the hearts of ourself and our community to the ecological, the union of self and other. We marry in the hope that our marriage will be part of the awakening of humanity from this dream about itself, a dream that tells it it can pillage the resources and peoples of this world with consequence. We hope that awakening leads to action, to principled self possession, and spiritual union with the biosphere and the intricacies of life and matter which makes even our sight and breath possible. Without this transformation, humanity and life as we know it will cease to exist, downed by pointless and empty greed and materialism.
From the Zapatista Sixth Decalartion of the Lancandon Jungle:
Well, now we are going to say what we want to do in the world and in Mexico, because we cannot look at everything that happens on our planet and just stay quiet, as if we are the only ones who are in the situation that we are in.
Well, to the world what we want is to say to you is: to all who resist and fight in your own ways and in your countries, that you are not alone, that we are the Zapatistas, and although we are very small we support you and we are going to see how to help you in your struggles and how to speak with you so we can learn, because, it’s clear, what we have learned is how to learn.
And we want to say to you, to the Latin American peoples, that, for us, we are proud to be part of you, although we are a small part. We remember well when years ago the continent was lit up by a light named Che Guevara, just as that light was named Bolívar beforehand, because, at times, the peoples take up a name in order to show that they carry a flag.
And we want to say to the people of Cuba, who already have spent years in your path of resistance, that you are not alone and that we do not agree with the blockade against you and that we are going to look for the way to send you something, even if it is just corn, to support your resistance.
And we want to say to the people of the United States that we don’t confuse you with the evil governments that you have and that harm the whole world, and that we know that there are North Americans who fight in your country and work in solidarity with the struggles of other peoples.
And we want to say to our Mapuche brothers and sisters in Chile that we see and we learn from your struggles.
And to the Venezuelan people, that we watch very carefully your way of defending your sovereignty and your right to be a nation and to decide where you will go.
And to the indigenous brothers and sisters of Ecuador and Bolivia we say to you that you are giving an excellent history lesson to all of Latin America because right now you are putting a stop to neoliberal globalization.
And to the piqueteros and the youth of Argentina we want to say that we love you.
And to those in Uruguay who want a better country, we admire you.
And to the landless of Brazil we respect you.
And to all the youths of Latin America, it’s so great that you are doing what you are doing and you give us great hope.
And we want to say to the brothers and sisters of Social Europe, that is to say the Europe that is rebellious and has dignity, that you are not alone. Your large movements against neoliberal wars make us very happy. We watch, attentively, your ways of organizing yourselves and your styles of fighting so that perhaps we can learn something. We are looking for a way to support you in your struggles but we’re not going to send Euros because they are devaluating due to the chaos in the European Union, but maybe we can send you some crafts and coffee so that you can sell them and this will help you a little bit in your work for the struggle. And maybe we will also send you some pozol soup which gives a lot of strength in the struggle. But who knows if we will send it, because pozol is more of our own style and it could be that it gives you a pain in the belly and weakens your struggles and the neoliberals would then defeat you.
And we want to say to the brothers and sisters of Africa, Asia and Oceania that we want to get to know your ideas and your ways better.
And we want to say to the world that we want to make it bigger, so big that it fits all the worlds that resist because the neoliberals want to destroy them and because they don’t leave them alone only because they fight for all humankind.
We took our honeymoon before we got married, just like we got married before the revolution: because we knew that we needed to practice how to do it ourselves. So we went to the part of the world where the indigenous have taken history and the preservation of the planet into their own hands.
We visited the Totonaca community of Papantla, Veracruz, where we shared song, dance, and learned of their struggles for their culture and land. We learned how they grew food despite enormous intergenerational poverty, and maintained dignity even though global entertainment companies pillage their patrimony.
In Chiapas, we performed with the indigenous Mayan peoples, who taught us their songs in their language of Tzotzil. We visited the Zapatista community of Oventic, where we saw women taking charge of the political, logistical, and self-defense aspects of daily life.
In Mexico, we learned other worlds were not only possible; they are already here.
Together with Robert Kocik, with the blessing of Zapatista activists, and at the encouragement (maybe even direction!) of our departed comrade Fred Ho, we sought to turn our space in Pittsburgh into a revolutionary maroon society which grew its own food, created its own culture, consumed no plastic goods, created little to no waste, and made the world better than we found it. With Kocik, we decided to base our commune on the ancient Maroon societies of colonial America--populated by runaway African slaves, runaway indentured servants, and relocated Indigenous peoples--with the future possibilities and challenges of living autonomously in the age of ecological collapse. It is Dazzling because it includes “altruists, artists, the insolvent, the percipient, the vulnerable and venerable, those revolted by systemic violence and avarice, and all those committed to a peaceable, shared prosperity...if not here, how anywhere?”
At the Dazzling Swamp, we built 200 square feet of gardens, producing over a dozen different types of plants, and a fully functioning amphitheatre, with no plastic materials, and as many found and reused objects as possible. Granite stone which the Monongahela people indigenous to this region of Western Pennsylvania used for ceramics, is a major component in our building process of seating and paths, while abandoned railroad ties create garden fences and build the foundation of our stage. As plastic biodegrades into Dioxin, an extremely carcinogenic chemical found in most parts per million in human mothers breast milk, we know the future we need to build must make plastics obsolete. “ABOLISH PLASTICS!” as Fred Ho said.
We are offering vegetables to the community and are excited to present concerts, music workshops and gardening classes to those who want to build a livable future.
For all these reasons, we ask that you do not purchase a gift to give to us. We insist you make it yourself. We will not accept consumer purchased gifts or plastic materials in gifts made. The whole point of reclaiming our alienated powers of production and life is to learn how to remake our destroyed world ourselves. This means making our own food, clothing, shelter, and culture.
If you cannot make your own gift then consider making a tax deductible donation to Landslide Community Farm, our fiscal sponsor and a community farm that we volunteer at which shares many of our values such as self-sufficiency, environmental stewardship and community building.
Why Pittsburgh? Pittsburgh has historically been the epicenter of the continents civilizations. Before capitalism it was a thriving trading route that may have connected the Mayan civilizations with the Iroquois and Lenape peoples. During the age of American industrial capitalism, it produced 40 percent of the world’s steel. The modern world was literally constructed by the labor and environmental destruction of this region. If industrial capitalism was constructed here, we believe ecosocialism can reverse engineer the continent into a pathway forward.
Since 2013 we have been working with organizers and gardeners in Pittsburgh to create a systems of communal production based on self-reliance and working with the most oppressed sectors of society. In 2014 we organized an Ecosocialist Convergence in the Homewood neighborhood and helped improve two community gardens which are still harvested today by local youth. We have since been involved in projects that span the city’s hills and rivers, such as the Landslide Community Farm, and are working with Amir Rashid to build new gardens in low income neighborhoods today.
We will see you at the Eco-Wedding!!!
Ben and Gizel