May Transition Palo Alto Community Council

On Tuesday, May 22, Transition Palo Alto’s Community Council met for the second time.  Six intrepid souls met at the Prolific Oven in downtown Palo Alto to hash through the business of Transition.


We first set our mind to considering the pending election and the question set by the Steering Committee in the May TPA Newsletter:  should we endorse local propositions.  The group decided, after much soul searching, that we should not endorse propositions in the name of Transition Palo Alto.  TPA is not a membership organization, nor a registered 501(c)3 – or other- non-profit.  The assembled group thought that in order to use Transition Palo Alto’s name on an endorsement, TPA ought to have a more formal structure and a publicly defined process for endorsements, such that all members could become involved, whatever membership then entailed.  This might seem less than satisfying, but in fact it was very satisfying:  we had a group of supporters, with inclusion beyond the steering committee, come out with a well thought through position.


We did come up with our own opinions, which are those of the assembled group only.  We agreed that we supported Proposition 68 and that we opposed Proposition 70.  We decided that since none of us were residents of San Jose, we were not going to take a position on Measure B.  (Spoiler:  in yesterday’s election 68 passed, while 70 and B were both defeated.)


We talked about the City of Palo Alto’s draft Zero Waste Plan.  Most people hadn’t read it.  It is a significant document, running to about 50 pages, including charts and appendices.  Those who skimmed it were impressed by its vision, short term and long.  We decided that it was indeed something which Transition Palo Alto should comment on and kicked off a committee to make comments.  If you would like to participate, send us a message.


We ran out of time before returning to our Resource Map conversation.  One thing we’re learning is that these conversations are deep and take time.  We’ll want to put multiple items on the agenda, but order them for urgency in case we run out of time.  We’ll want to return to the Resource Map conversation soon, and if we don’t have time to finish it in the Community Council, then it may just have to kick off its own separate project.


Look to join us in Council some time.


Dolores – June Fourth Friday/Films of Vision and Hope

June 22 7:30-9:30pm 
Fireside Room, Unitarian Universalist Church of Palo Alto, 505 E. Charleston, Palo Alto
All ages welcome! FREE, Donations appreciated.

“Exuberantly inspiring… makes you want to march and dance.” — San Francisco Chronicle


What makes a consummate activist? What does it take to be someone who dedicates their life and liberty to advancing social, economic, and environmental justice?

This month we’ll take a close look at Dolores Huerta, one of the most important, yet least known, activists in American history. An equal partner in co-founding the first farm workers unions with Cesar Chavez, her enormous contributions have gone largely unrecognized. Dolores tirelessly led the fight for racial and labor justice alongside Chavez, becoming one of the most defiant feminists of the twentieth century—and she continues the fight to this day, at 87. With intimate and unprecedented access to this intensely private mother to eleven, the film reveals the raw, personal stakes involved in committing one’s life to social change. See the trailer…

Co-sponsored by Transition Palo Alto, the Green Sanctuary Committee of UUPCA, Peninsula Peace and Justice Center, and Fools Mission.

Transition Café – Markings

–William Mutch


I met a traveler from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert…near them in the sand
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive stamped on these lifeless things.
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed;

And on the pedestal these words appear:
‘My name is Ozymandias, king of kings,
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’
Nothing else remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

-Percy Bysshe Shelley

I have been admiring the markings of Coyotes on the land I live on and steward, of late, scrapes and scats. At least, I believe the markings to have come from Coyotes. Scat placed carefully, to draw attention to it, either visually or through scent. One pile placed exactingly in the center of the intersection of three driveways on our hill, another in the center of the path down from the house onto the rest of the hill, in a similar placement to multiple scrapes which have shown up, lately, a couple of which I watched being scratched into the mulch of the path. The second pile is placed in such a way that the scent is barely noticeable near it, but it fills the living room, powerfully.

Some of the furred peoples are somewhat more particular about where they place their scat than others, leaving it carefully in places where it will communicate clear messages to others of their species, or to other species alert to such relationships. Ephemeral, not intended to be anything but, yet with their own beauty, to those with attention which takes in such things.

How dare I associate Coyote scat with a sonnet of an English Romantic poet? I will leave you to your own feelings on that, but will ask…what markings do you leave on the world? All of us leave tracks of some kind, of course: footprints in mud, dust, or sand…or in relationships or social groups…or the fabric of history…

These things are ephemeral, at best, fading quickly or slowly, but not always predictably. Footprints made in clay can be clear for far longer than a statue of a long-forgotten king or queen, or even their descendants or culture. Thought forms can be around for long, as well, though, and some say that they bubble up from a dynamic ground of being, somehow, long after they have been forgotten by mortal memories (not just in Star Wars, although that was neat how they did that!).

What markings do you leave upon the world? Are they the same as the markings you think you leave, that you want to leave? What are the shape of the footprints you leave on your relationships with those who love you, those who do not love you, those who may feel completely differently about you someday than they do today? It is easy to think that we will not be remembered, after we are gone, or that we will be remembered long into the future, but who knows? Perhaps your journal, your mad musings, ends up in a cave somewhere, to be found by the survivors of whatever our generation has wrought, and will be interpreted as the words of whatever divinity a future society worships (or else they would not have survived for so long). Archaeologists and anthropologists learn a great deal from analyzing toilets, latrines, and scat piles. What do yours say? About you? About your culture?

How would you feel if your great sonnet were to end up in an essay with a couple of piles of scat? How about if your carefully-considered, exquisitely-placed scat piles were to end up in an essay with a sonnet composed by someone so crass as to consign your artistic medium to an outhouse or toilet?

Who knows? What do you want to happen? Is it ever too late to change that? What if it isn’t too late, however old you are, however close to the end of your mortal life? A good friend of mine left her physical form behind a few years ago, and the ripples of her state change have created benevolence, understanding, and good works in the world that she likely did not anticipate, in her time as a mortal. Still, she lived a life that many of us would envy, and folks are realizing that they could emulate. She certainly would have had a less-pleasant side, too, most of us do, but folks aren’t talking about that. No monuments, no vast and trunkless legs of stone, just ripples of good will, stirring hearts long past her mortal life, and perhaps long past our mortal memories of her.





Spring Share Faire June 10

Mitchell Park Bowl
3700 East Meadow Dr
Palo Alto, CA 94303 [MAP]
Sunday, June 10, 2018
1:00 – 3:00 PM

Don’t miss the Transition Palo Alto Spring/Summer Share Faire this Sunday afternoon. We’ve got an awesome batch of skillshares lined up:
Improv Techniques with Roy
Cockadoodle Do’s and Don’ts with Victoria
Tool Care with William
Science Experiments with Hamsa
Lace making with Suzanne
Food prep with Diane

We’ll also share goods – garden and clothing, books and household items, toys and more.  And we’ll share each other’s good company while building a stronger community.

Please plan to join us.  If you’d like to volunteer as a greeter, for set-up or clean-up, or for whatever, send email to
2018 spring share faire flyer

Trash Dance – May Fourth Friday/Films of Vision and Hope

“Inspired and inspiring…Not to be missed!” – Paste Magazine

We all know what a problem waste is, and previous Fourth Friday films have focused on how to reduce it. But what about all the people who work tirelessly to pick up, process, and dispose of our waste? They’re mostly invisible to us, yet they perform an essential service that most of us would never want to do.

Trash Dance introduces us to some of these people, adding an amazing and inspiring twist. Choreographer Allison Orr rides along with Austin, Texas sanitation workers on their daily routes to observe and later convince them to perform a most unlikely spectacle. On an abandoned airport runway, two dozen trash collectors and their trucks deliver — for one night only — a stunningly beautiful and moving performance, in front of an audience of thousands.

May 25 7:30-9:30pm 
Fireside Room, Unitarian Universalist Church of Palo Alto, 505 E. Charleston, Palo Alto
All ages welcome! FREE, Donations appreciated.

trash dance

Thanks to Zero Waste Palo Alto for providing the film and for being a great TPA partner!

Garden Share in San Diego

This was written by my mother, who, inspired by our TPA Garden Shares, began her own in Scripps Ranch, in San Diego:

by Suhasini Jayakumar

We’ve held our Garden share once a month, for over 5 years now.  We get together in our community center, where we share ideas, produce, and stories of successes and failures in our backyards. The main idea is to welcome neighbors and get to know them, building community. To that end, we bring snacks and tea or some cold drinks, sharing and communing with friends.
Gradually, we have also added things other than produce and home made snacks. These include books, household items, pots and planters, and even clothes.
During all this time, we have had one big Permaculture workshop, where about 25 people participated, building a grow box, and learning about Permaculture. The workshop was led by Alden, a local who helps run the Sky Mountain permaculture institute. [photos below]
We have also had a show and tell of tools used in the yards, notably a 3 in 1 tool that caught folks’ imagination.
Our latest event, on April 15th., called a Sustainability Hack, drew over 30 people, which we consider quite a success, especially for a first event  such as this. We had specialists talk about Bokashi, regular and worm composting; people showing videos and photos of their Native-plant yards, along with the edibles they are growing; one person showing people how to make small succulent planters out of corks; youngsters having a lot of fun with used, recyclable material; one girl making very cute and useful bags from old T-shirts; henna at one table; stringing of jasmine flowers at another, both of which drew curious and interested spectators. One person made smores in the solar oven, which came out ok despite the cloudy skies. We even had a demonstration of a small wood chipper, and shredder of cardboard for mulch.
Youngsters were interested in calculating their carbon footprint at a table, along with elders. The guess the fruit/vegetable table drew a lot of interest, along with the CO2e of different diets.
All in all, we all had a great time learning from each other, and sharing food and ideas. We will certainly do this again in a few months.

When the World is Mad….

“When the word is mad, only the mad are sane.” Akira Kurosawa

This thought came to mind as I watched ‘The Reluctant Radical’ with the Fourth Friday audience April 27. When Ken Ward, a former mainstream environmentalist realizes that business-as-usual actions aren’t waking the powers that be up to the severity of the climate threat, he starts steps in up with creative and often quixotic acts of civil disobedience. These culminated in a major action with other activists that temporarily shut down all the major oil pipelines entering the US from Canada in 2016.

The film encouraged participants to think about who is sane and who is crazy in our mad world, what kinds of actions might make a difference, and the personal and moral choices that we all face. The film also illustrated the power of social connections and mutual support among activists, as Ken evolved from a lone crusader to part of the larger group that together planned and executed the major pipeline action.

Filmmaker Ralph King introduced a second short film, ‘Arrestable’, which profiles a group of activists preparing to engage in civil disobedience to encourage banks in Seattle to divest from fossil fuels.  Arrestable brings the planning and decisions about engaging in civil disobedience closer to what some of us might actually do. In the film, activists are trained on what to do and what to expect, and each decides whether to risk arrest or remain in a supporting role.

Much food for thought and action!

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Transition Café – Convenience

Transition Cafe notes from William Mutch…

In setting up Bird feeders and houses on the land I’m stewarding, I have been trying to balance having a consistent, convenient food supply with wanting the Birds to have to work for their food, so they don’t take it for granted and unlearn their foraging skills. The goal, here, is not to create domesticated, tame cultures of the formerly-wild, but to supplement their diet, replacing what my people have damaged and destroyed, until such time as the land is teaming with food for the wild folks, again. Work in progress…

Convenience, of course, is a major issue in Human culture, as well, especially in the age of and the internet. We Humans have been grappling with our own domestication for at least as long as the rise of grocery stores and convenience stores, which offered to remove the burden of growing and preparing food, as well as making needed products and goods. How many skills did we let go, along the way? I discover new ones, constantly. How many things used to be done by hand, in the home, village, or city, that are now outsourced to slaves-Human, Machine, or otherwise?

It is hard to have a privileged class, if everyone is making things for themselves and helping each other out, and hard to motivate people to go to work to make money for themselves and widgets for others if they don’t have a life of privilege to look forward to, hopefully with enough of their life left to enjoy it. Convenience stores supply, among other things, a sense of ease and affluence which was formerly available to a very few.

Online convenience stores seem to be the next big iteration of that. Why trouble yourself to walk a few blocks, or bike into town, when you can click on a picture of something you think you want and have it appear on your doorstep soon thereafter? I have heard that there are even houses which have security systems, which allow for your stuff to be dropped off inside your house by the people whose job it is to do so, eliminating even one more step in the accumulation of stuff, and you never even have to see them or talk to them. There are even, the rumors say, houses which are completely controlled by a computer system contained within the home. This must be an internet legend, of course, as surely folks see the potential issues with that. Have we not seen enough sci-fi to be concerned?

What is the cost of all of this? Is money the only metric we should be using, here? Has all of this really improved our “quality of life”? Why, or why not?

How many of you, reading this, still go into your bank and speak to the tellers behind the counter? Can you recall their names? Do you know anything about their families? How many of you prepare your own food, as opposed to having food prepared for you? What are the ingredients of your food? What are the names of the folks who got your food to your table? Are they all still alive at the time you are consuming it? Why, or why not? That thing you ordered online-who made it? What are their names? Why would you care, if it’s not Convenient to do so?

I hear, over and over, via articles, studies, and friends who experience this themselves, that many many people in this world relate to each other via their computers, and are near-phobic of personal interactions, having spent so much time at, or even growing up with, computer-mediated interactions. But then, why sacrifice the convenience of an e-mail blast for the messiness of in-person relationships? What would you learn about those around you, if you did so?



First TPA Community Council

We had our first Transition Palo Alto Community Council at Palo Alto Cafe this Tuesday.  Attendance was modest, but it is bound to grow as people discover the opportunity to get more involved with setting priorities, creating events and participating in the operations of Transition Palo Alto.


We made a good (re-)start on the idea of a Transition Palo Alto Resource Map.  We realized that there are many issues to be discussed before we have a map, including at least:
  • What makes a place a Transition Resource?  Criteria need to be grounded in Transition values.
  • What area will we cover?  It must be broad enough to be accessible to our members, but narrow enough to cover responsibly with limited volunteer power?.
  • Should we have grades?  Not all resources will have all Transition values, but some which have a good representation of values should be noted anyway.
  • Maintenance of the map was not discussed but will have to be.  New businesses appear, while old ones disappear, and some may cease to follow Transition values while remaining in business.
We spent some times considering Grocery Stores as our first category of businesses to be included on the Map.  We do expect that we will want to discuss this for a few months, at the level of the map and criteria, and at the level of the grocery store before we produce our first map.  This is a complex process that demands serious thought and research.


We also came up with a good plan for the Palo Alto Library’s re:Maker Fair, which will take place on June 23.  We will follow up on March’s Shop Your Fridge Potluck and the interest in decreasing food waste and show people what to do with odd-bits and leftovers.  At the least, we will talk about saving craps, peels and tops for veggie stock, either made immediately in small amounts, or later with bits saved in the freezer in bigger batches.  There are lots of little tips and techniques to include in such a demo.  We would also like to run the Dan Barber video about squash bits on a laptop.  A team will form to put together a detailed presentation/table over time.  Reach out to us if you are interested in participating.


Make sure to join us in May.  Look for an announcement with time, place and other details.