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S1E102 – “Blood, Soil, & Frozen TV Dinners” with Matthew Dougal

Episode Summary

This week on Live Like the World is Dying, we have a short story about prepping called "Blood, Soil, & Frozen TV Dinners" by Matthew Dougal. It’s a parody about two right-wing preppers who are faced with a collapse in society. After the story, there’s an interview with the author about prepping mentalities and writing. This episode was reposted from the Strangers in a Tangled Wilderness podcast. The story can be read at tangledwilderness.org.

Host Info

Inmn can be found on Instagram @shadowtail.artificery

Reader

The Reader is Bea Flowers. If you would like to hear Bea narrate other things, or would like to get them to read things for you check them out at https://voicebea.wixsite.com/website

Publisher Info

This show is published by Strangers in A Tangled Wilderness. We can be found at www.tangledwilderness.org, or on Twitter @TangledWild and Instagram @Tangled_Wilderness. You can support the show on Patreon at www.patreon.com/strangersinatangledwilderness.

Theme music

The theme song was written and performed by Margaret Killjoy. You can find her at http://birdsbeforethestorm.net or on twitter @magpiekilljoy

Transcript

Live Like the World is Dying: “Blood, Soil, & Frozen TV Dinners” with Matthew Dougal

**Inmn ** 00:16
 Hello, and welcome to Live Like the World is Dying, your podcast for what feels like the end times. I’m your host today, Inmn Neruin, and today we have something a little different. I host another podcast called Strangers in a Tangled Wilderness where every month we take a zine that Strangers puts out and turn it into an audio feature and do an interview with the author. We had a two-part feature called Blood, Soil, and Frozen TV Dinners by Matthew Dougal, and it is a short story about prepping from a very strange perspective, that of two right-wing preppers facing a mysterious collapse of society. This short story is a parody and I promise that the two main pov characters are not the heroes of the tale. It’s a fun story and I do an interview with Matthew afterward about prepping mentalities, fiction, and other neat stuff. If you like this episode, check out my other podcast that this is featured from. I did not re-record the outro, so you’ll get a little taste of Margaret playing the piano, because she wrote the theme music for the Strangers podcast. You’ll also get to hear our wonderful reader, Bea Flowers narrate the story. Follow along with the transcript or at Tangledwilderness.org where you can read all of our featured zines for free. But before all of that, we are a member of the Channel Zero Network of anarchist podcasts and here’s a jingle from another show on that network.  [sings a simple melody]

**Bea ** 02:49

“Blood, Soil, & Frozen TV Dinners” by Matthew Dougal. Read by Bea Flowers. Published by Strangers in a Tangled Wilderness. 
Katie sat, wide-eyed, beneath the kitchen table and hugged her knees to her chest. She was shaking, vibrating visibly. Tanner put his finger to his lips and prayed that her silent tears would remain just that. There was no time to stop and calm her down. Not again. He moved slowly around the kitchen, fumbling through cupboards and pulling out pre-wrapped packages of food. Always be prepared. Tanner had practiced this before things went dark, but it was different doing it for real. His hands hadn’t been so shaky, back then. 
A noise, on the porch. His body froze before his mind registered the sound. Tanner dropped into a crouch and crossed the room to the window, willing every cell in his body to radiate confidence toward his baby girl. His hand found the Glock 17 at his belt and he brought it up in front of him, the familiar feel of the grip reassuring. He took a breath, steadied himself, and raised his eyes to the level of the windowsill. The muscles in his thighs steeled and he remained, unblinking, utterly still, staring out into the darkness. 
After thirty or forty nerve-twanging seconds, Tanner drew breath and relaxed. His quads were burning, and they thanked him as he straightened. He could hear the specter of his ex-wife in his head, telling him to lose some weight, exercise more… Well she’d left, and that was 135 pounds gone right there. She’d probably say that was a good start.  
An unbearably loud ringing pierced the silence and sent him diving to the floor, landing awkwardly on his gun and sounding a crash through the kitchen. A keening whine came from under the table, Katie shaken from her silence. 
The doorbell. 
Feeling foolish, Tanner twisted over his shoulder and hissed at his daughter to be quiet. Still prone, he crawled toward the hallway in the most reassuring manner he could manage and pointed his Glock at the front door. 
Footsteps outside, then a shadow appeared at the window. Tanner’s heart pounded in his ears—more violent pulses of silence than sound—and his vision blurred as panic flooded his body. He’d heard the early reports of armed groups in the streets, some sort of fighting downtown, but he hadn’t really believed they would come here. His legs were weak, and he silently thanked God that he was already on the floor. The shape at the window didn’t move, frozen in the gloom, silhouetted by flickering light coming from the street. As Tanner’s head cleared he tried to take stock of what was happening. 
The apparition was vaguely man-shaped but shorter and slighter, an ethereal grace evident even in its stillness. A voice called out, muffled through the door, the guttural singsong completely at odds with the sleek form at the window. Tanner couldn’t understand everything, but he thought he caught the words “little girl.”
A second shape mounted the porch alongside the first, similarly short but squat and stocky, and grunted something to its companion in an alien tongue.
Fluorescent light flooded the yard and the voices momentarily disappeared beneath the growl of an angry engine. Tanner’s breath caught. His trembling finger hovered over the trigger and he willed the barrel to still its swaying dance. Two shots exploded outside—loud shots, from a much bigger gun than his. The creatures spun to face this new threat, their chatter rising in pitch and speed. They sounded panicked. 
yalla! hawula’ alnaas majnoon.”
Tanner sensed his opportunity. He was forgotten. All those hours of training kicked in and muscle memory took over as he rose to one knee, took a two-handed grip, and unleashed a furious hail of fire at his front door. 
“Keep your filthy hands off my daughter!”
He fired until he felt the Glock stop kicking, the magazine spent. As the cacophony faded he realized he was screaming. 
“Tanner! It’s me, Blake. Stop shooting goddammit, they’re gone.” 
“Blake?” Tanner mechanically reloaded his gun. “Why…” His throat was raw, his voice barely audible even to him. He swallowed, fighting to control his breath, and cleared his throat. “What are you doing here?” 
“Come to see if you were okay. Figured you and the kid might need a hand.” 
A stocky, heavily muscled figure wearing fatigues and a plate carrier stepped up to the porch, visible through the splintered ruins that had been the front door. A halogen glow lanced through the holes, like the brilliant aura of some kind of avenging eagle. 
“When this shit spread across the river from the city we locked down. It was touch-and-go for a while, but things quieted down eventually. When they did, I came straight over. Good thing I got here when I did. The quick little fuckers ran for it, but I think you hit one of ‘em.” 
The figure stopped, pulled down the red, white and blue bandana covering its mouth, and spat. Tanner had never been more relieved to see his buddy’s foul-mouthed face. Or his M1A SOCOM 16 rifle. 
“We’re alright.” Tanner’s voice was exhausted, his body shivering as the adrenaline fled. “Thank God I was prepared. Still, it’s good to see you.” 
“Prepared, shit.” His buddy grinned. “I been telling you for years to get something heavy duty.” Blake kicked the splintered remains of the door and his grin faded. “You can’t stay here. Those things’ll be back. Grab your girl and jump in the truck. Let’s head to mine, she’ll be safe there.”
The grin returned.“Prepared, shit.” 

An hour later they were sitting in “the Hole,” as Blake affectionately called it. The Hole was both name and description, although it perhaps undersold the amount of effort that had gone into its construction. Attached to the garage by a short, downward-sloping corridor, The Hole was a full-blown bunker that spread underneath almost the entirety of Blake’s backyard. Tanner was sitting in the main chamber eating Top Ramen, chicken flavor. 
They had made the half-mile journey in silence—lights down on the Tacoma, Tanner jumpy, Blake grim, Katie in a state of shock. The streets had looked completely foreign, the usual calming glow of LEDs replaced by the orange flicker of scattered flames. The familiar hum of traffic had been gone. Instead, gunfire had cracked in the distance. 
Blake’s wife Lauren had buzzed them inside after Blake confirmed his identity via video feed—three times: at the gate, the door, and the entrance to the Hole. The security was impressive. Lauren had ushered them inside, AR-15 at the ready.
“This is prepared,” Blake was saying, as Katie stared blankly at her untouched ramen. “Old owners, they had this backyard full of fruit trees, vegetables, fuckin’ kale and kohlrabi. What good is that gonna do, I said, you gonna hide in the pumpkin patch with a slingshot? Idiots. 
“Anyhow me and Lauren, we wanted to be ready, so I been building this the last two years. Ain’t no one knows about it, not even the contractors…” Blake sliced a finger across his throat, then laughed, “I’m joking, but they were from one of them Mexican countries. Had no idea what they were building. Good workers, though, came here the right way. And I did the security all myself.” 
Tanner laughed too, but at what he didn’t quite know. “You took this all real serious.” 
“Yessir. You never really believed, but we did. Earl Swanson was right, this here’s been a long time coming. It’s just like he said, and we listened. And here we are, while you was laying on the floor waving round that little waterpistol of yours.” 
Tanner had listened too, but apparently not well enough. There was only so much time he could watch an angry man on TV shouting about the state of the nation, no matter how prophetic he was turning out to be. Tanner tried to put up a strong front and flex his knowledge. He had listened, dammit. 
“Is this it, then? The invasion? Earl said they’ve been preparing it for years, brainwashing people. Recruiting sympathizers and traitors…” 
“It’s worse than that. The invasion started way back, we just didn’t notice. Well, most of us didn’t. Earl did. He tried to warn us, that the aliens’d started infiltrating, landing in remote parts of the country, blending in, looking just like us…” Blake spat. “Well, not quite like us. But close e-fucking-nough, hiding out and biding their time.”
“And now it’s out in the open…”
Tanner looked from his friend’s face to his daughter’s, scared and staring, and trailed off. He may have been listening, but he sure as hell didn’t understand. 
“What’s happening?” Tanner asked. “We’ve been laying low at home, locked down and trying to wait out whatever this is. We haven’t heard a thing since the power cut out three days back.” 
He could feel a surge of emotion building, pent-up adrenaline and stress and fear and loneliness rolling over him in a wave as they were released. His stoicism wobbled. 
“We’re… Katie’s scared and confused, and tired and sick of hiding and we’re all alone! What is all this? What’s happening?” Tanner realized he was shouting and stopped, taking a deep breath and lowering his voice. “Blake, man, what the hell is going on?”
Blake never flinched, just ran his tongue over his teeth in thought while he watched Tanner’s outburst through hooded eyes.
“Naw, we don’t know nothing for sure. Swanson’s been off-air for two days, since just after shit started going down. Said he was right, that it sure as shit seemed like those aliens he’d been warning us about were making a move, and the whole fuckin’ lot of us did nothing. Well, seems like it blew up in our face. Last thing he said was he’s heading somewhere safe to keep broadcasting, and he’d let us know when he found out more,” Blake paused, sucked his teeth, “We’ve had the TV and radio on non-stop since then, since we fired the generator up. Nothing.” 
Lauren lent forward. “There was something, couple days back…” 
“Nothing useful,” Blake cut in. He spat. “Same old fuckin’ commie stations, same old crap. They took over the channels, emergency broadcasting. Said there was a ‘protest.’ Stay inside, all under control, daddy government’s here, blah blah,” he laughed “Hell of a protest. More like an insurrection. Doublespeak bullshit.” 
“So what’s the plan? We hide out? Lay low? Wait for the military?” 
“The troops ain’t coming, chief.” Blake grimaced, “Alien tentacles go deep. Probably strolling around in general’s stars by now, the politicians just handing over the keys. This President’ll have us kissing their feet before dinner. 
“Nah, if we wanna fight back we can’t rely on that fuckin’ bunch of secretaries and scribes. We hole up here, wait for instructions.” He laughed again, “Huh, hole up in the Hole. That’s funny.” 
That grin was starting to get on Tanner’s nerves. “Instructions from who? How long is that gonna take? Who’s gonna fight back against… this?”
“I know some people, from back in the old days. Good people. There’s still patriots out there who won’t give up this country without a fight.” 
 Tanner still bristled with questions, but he was starting to feel relieved. There were people in charge, and they had a plan. That was something he could work with. “What if it takes weeks? Months? Do we have food for that long?”
Blake settled further into his chair, grinned that cocky grin. “I do, don’t know about you.” Before the words were even out of his mouth he was already raising his palms, “Chill out, I’m joking. I’ll put it on your tab. You’re a lawyer, I know you’re good for it. Show him, babe.” 
Lauren got up and went over to a large yellow flag hanging on the concrete wall, pulling it aside to reveal a long, narrow room that ended abruptly at a large steel door. She flicked on the light. 
“Dry storage,” she said, gesturing at the shelves lining both walls. Packets of ramen, boxes of cereal, rows of whiskey, and gleaming stacks of cans stared down at Tanner. “And cold storage,” Lauren continued as she stepped over to the door, kicking aside two enormous tubs of supplements and pulling it open to reveal a walk-in freezer. Tanner followed her inside as she happily chatted away, showing everything off like a house-proud hen. 
“We’ve got everything we need. Steaks, hotdogs, chili, hamburgers, mac and cheese, chicken parmesan, mashed potatoes–whatever you want. There’s a well, too, over the other side, we had that dug last summer. Tastes a bit funny, but it won’t hurt you.”
Tanner was hardly listening. He had never seen anything like it, never imagined anything on this scale. Blake really had taken preparing for the end of the world seriously. The freezer room was filled, wall to wall, with a treasure trove of gourmet excess; thousands upon thousands of frozen TV dinners. 

Tanner stared at his microwaved salmon filet, fries drooping from his fork. Out of habit he was eating in front of the TV with Katie, though the display hadn’t changed in… however many days it had been. Just the red, white and blue logo, a tile flipping between ads for pillows, brain pills, and frozen food, and the same scrolling red banner: 
Breaking: The United States of America is under attack. Stand by for updates. 
Katie was poking at her food silently, barely eating. Still no appetite. Tanner had told her they were safe, told her he wasn’t going to let anyone hurt her, told her a hundred times in different ways that she was his precious little girl and he would make sure she was okay. It had made no difference. She had just looked up at him with big, frightened eyes that pulled at Tanner’s heart. The only time she had spoken in the past 24 hours was to ask why he had tried to shoot people. Of course she didn’t understand. Maybe he should ask Lauren to talk to her. 
The TV display glitched, blipped, flicked to static and then to black. Tanner shoveled the fries into his mouth and rubbed his eyes. He’d been staring at a blank TV for too long. He chewed and stretched, squeezing his eyes shut and trying to straighten out his aching back. 
Earl Swanson was on TV.
Tanner blinked a few times to make sure he was seeing straight. Swanson’s shirt was wrinkled, his hair a mess and his signature bowtie slightly crooked, but his face wore that familiar expression of righteously indignant bewilderment. It was him. 
“Blake. Blake, get in here!” 
Swanson was in what looked like a large living room rather than his usual studio. Bookshelves and a TV cabinet were visible behind him. There were shadows under his eyes and his wrinkles were clearly visible without his usual TV makeup, but his eyes were as sharp as ever. There was a strength to them, piercing the screen, full of faith and fire. It felt like he was in the room. He looked like he’d been in a fight, and won. He was back. 
“Good evening America, and welcome to Earl Swanson Tonight.”
“Blake!”
Blake stuck his head through the door. 
“What? I’m working out, give me a…. No shit.”
Blake stepped into the room. He was topless, breathing heavily. His stomach was shiny with sweat, pooling and running down the chiseled channels between his well-defined muscles before disappearing behind the low-riding waistband of his camo pants. Tanner realized he was staring and felt his cheeks flush as he snapped his eyes back to his friend’s. 
“Blake, it’s–”
“Shut up, I’m trying to listen.”
The rebuke slapped Tanner back to the present and back to the TV. He surreptitiously sat a little straighter and sucked in his gut, trying to ignore the heat rising in his face.
“…cities up and down the west coast. From Seattle to San Diego, the alien invaders and the traitors from among our own citizens have taken control, sowing chaos and destruction. Order has broken down, and anarchy rules in the streets. Yet we hear nothing but silence from the White House. The elites in Washington won’t do anything about this — they encouraged it. They caused it!
“No, it is up to patriotic Americans to stop this existential threat. It is up to us, to you and me and the other patriots out there. If you value the American way of life, if you respect the principles that built the greatest nation ever imagined, if you care about your family and the future of your children, then the time has come to stand up. Your country needs you. 
“I have been warning about this day on this very program for years. If you have been listening, you will be prepared for this betrayal. You know what to do. Find other true Americans who are ready to fight for our civilization and our culture. Defend our Western values against this attack by anarchists and aliens who wish to destroy us. They tried to take our guns from us, to disarm us, and failed — now is the time to use them. Seek out the prepared, the militias, the heroes. Fight back. Show them that we will not allow it.
“I will be moving to an undisclosed safe location so I can keep you informed. You know your job. I am doing my part, will you do yours?”
Swanson sat erect and defiant, no less commanding for his disheveled appearance. His willpower flowed from the screen in waves, washing over the watchers. It was compelling. It was urgent. It was the only option. 
The screen went black. 
Swanson’s gaze bored into Tanner long after the TV went dark, burning with righteous fire, lip curling with fury. The heat in Tanner’s cheeks sharpened, focused, began to spread into his chest and throughout his body. There was only one thought in his mind.
“We gotta go.”
It took him a second to realize that Blake had spoken the words out loud. 
“We do. But where? I don’t know anyone like that.”
“You know me, and I know people. Don’t worry about that. We gotta go to Baker City. I talked to one of my buddies from the marines this morning, he’s headed to join one of the militias out east. They might not be big, but they’re hard. They’re something.”
Tanner looked at Blake blankly, unable to quite comprehend what he was being told. Days of no news, no action, now everything all at once.
 “But what’s in Baker City? Don’t you know anyone here? This is where we live, where we have the Hole, where we have a safe base.” 
Blake was clearly agitated, shifting from foot to foot. 
“It’s not safe. Weren’t you listening? It’s fallen. The military ain’t doing jack, like I fuckin’ told you they wouldn’t.” Blake stopped bouncing and steadied himself. “But my buddy said the boys in Baker held out. It was bloody, but they held strong. If we can get there in a hurry, we can join a caravan heading for Boise.” 
“Baker… Boise? What the… Boise?! Surely it’s safer in Texas, or… or…” 
“Texas? And how far away is that? Look, I don’t know nothing about nothing, but I know I ain’t looking for safer. All I know is I got buddies in Baker, and they say Boise, and they are the fuckin’ resistance. We got our orders, soldier.
“The west had been invaded. Destroyed. Gone. You heard Swanson, same as me. Grids are down, water’s down, TV’s down–mostly, anyway. Sky’s half full of fire and smoke, gangs roaming the streets, traitors and aliens taking or breaking whatever they can get their thieving hands on.” Tears came to Blake’s eyes. 
“It’s a fucking mess out there, buddy. Anarchy. They’ve burned the lot.”
It was a lot to chew on. Tanner put a piece of salmon in his mouth. 
“I’m not gonna let some filthy aliens take my home, fuck my wife, invade my country, and steal the god damn US of A! The fight is right there, and I’m gonna fight it. Are you?” 
Tanner’s brain was spinning, but his blood was still hot from Swanson’s speech. Blake’s fire, delivered standing there half-naked like a Steven Seagal action figure, was rousing something inside him. His country needed him, and he felt the call in his bones. He put down his fork. He swallowed. He rose. 
“Of course I’ll fight. I’ll put a bullet in every alien who steps foot on American soil. I’ll put every collaborator in the dirt.”
He saw himself, next to Blake, riding shotgun as they made a fighting escape through the streets. He saw a heroic journey to Baker City, filled with danger and righteous violence. He saw a triumphant return, at the head of an army, cleansing his city with purifying flame. And he saw Katie, small and fragile and beautiful. Perfect, and terrified. The flame wavered. 
“But I’m fighting for her,” Tanner gestured, “I got my little girl, and I’m not so red-hot on riding out guns blazing to meet these savages with her hanging off my arm. She’s the future of this country, and that’s a future we have to protect.” 
To Tanner’s surprise, Blake took a half step back. 
“Shit. I know, man. Katie and Lauren, the innocent and the pure. I’m thinking of them, too.” He dropped his shoulders, but held Tanner’s gaze. “But it’s not safe for them here neither. We’re on our own, and all hell has broken loose up top. We fight for them, and they are the reason we have to fight.
Tanner paused, then nodded. He reached out and placed his hand on his friend’s shoulder, fingers gripping the sweaty skin. 
“Let’s go pack the truck.” 
As the sun set and twilight brought a low fog creeping across the city, they piled into the Tacoma with as many frozen dinners as they could carry. 
Tanner rode in back. Lauren was up front, AR at the ready, while Blake drove, M1A by his side and his Glock taped to the dash. Katie was at Tanner’s side, curled up below the window and hidden from view, and Tanner watched over her with his own Glock and a borrowed Remington 870. They were all a little jumpy. He and Lauren had wanted to maintain a shoot-on-sight policy. Blake had been more cautious. According to Swanson, there would be plenty of people collaborating with the aliens. Lights out, engine low, and hopefully they could slip right on by. 
No one knew what to expect—Tanner suspected they were all terrified. He certainly was. Even Blake had swapped out his flag bandana for a more understated camo print. He had stashed the red, white and blue fabric in the bed of the truck with the rest of their gear.    
They pulled out into streets Tanner knew, but didn’t. He had driven them every day, on the way to work, to Katie’s school, to church, to the mall. The streets were as familiar as a cold Coke, yet now, in some important way, they were… different. As they left the Hole and drove through the suburb he couldn’t quite put his finger on it, but once Blake reached the main street and turned past the bars and shops and take-out joints, it hit him. 
The streets were dead. The cars were gone. The steady flow of traffic, of people living their lives, had stopped. The parking lot in front of the drug store was empty; so was the one behind the bar. The convenience store, normally ticking over with a steady stream of customers buying cigarettes and beer, was dark behind its windows. Unintelligible graffiti in some alien script covered the ads for energy drinks, an expression of mindless violence across someone’s hard work. 
A light rain had started, misting around them and adding to the dreariness. A billboard loomed overhead, the lights that illuminated the Colgate-bright smiles of the models now permanently dark. Tanner was glad—the gloom obscured the flame-scarred destruction streaking the toothpaste company’s perfect white message.
“Disgusting,” Blake spat. He looked like he wanted to say more but pulled up short, shocked at the sudden sound of his own voice. His eyes focused back on the road and he fell into uneasy silence. The truck continued its crawl down the deserted street, barely clocking 20 miles an hour. Even at that speed, the low growl of the engine seemed unbearably loud as it reverberated among the carcasses of commerce and ricocheted down abandoned side streets. 
They kept driving, and nothing kept happening. It was torturous. Every minute of unbroken inactivity twisted the crank on the tension in the car, until the unceasing hum of the engine began to seep into Tanner’s brain. Every muscle in his arms and legs, primed and waiting and ready to spring, began to tremble, and his eyes focused and unfocused on nothing at all.  His frantic heartbeat messed with his breathing, a powerful panicked thud that matched the rumble of the pistons. 
Overall, he was relieved when the road curved and they entered a strip of restaurants to see signs of life among the debris littered across the street in the distance. 
It wasn’t immediately clear through the gloom what was happening. Blake slowed the truck, now rolling along at barely more than walking pace, and they crept closer. The scene was illuminated by the flickering light of small fires and backlit by a pair of enormous floodlights, creating a glowing aura in the surrounding mist. Images began to resolve, ghostly figures flitting in and out of view and the harsh geometric shapes—not of debris, but of hastily manufactured barricades—throwing long shadows that lanced through the air around them as they approached. 
All eyes were fixed on the barricades as they pulled within shouting distance, and Tanner nearly pissed himself when someone knocked on his window. He yelped, Blake swore, and Lauren’s weapon x-rayed Tanner’s head and pointed at the intruder. Tanner followed her lead and jerked his gun up to aim in the general direction of the window and for ten, twenty heartbeats nothing moved. Then another knock, and Blake hissed at them: “Put those things away you idiots, we’re the good guys here. Whatever side that guy is on, so are we.” 
Tanner slowly lowered the gun, then the window. 
“Hey folks, no cars through here.”
The man was clad head to toe in black—black jeans, black hoodie, black gloves, black bandana covering his face, black curly hair running with rainwater. No wonder they hadn’t seen him. The stranger spotted their guns. 
“Oh, nothing like that,” he added, catching the nervous energy in the truck, “You’re a bit late to the party. No trouble ‘round here, this area’s been cleaned out for days.” He chuckled, sending a shiver through Tanner. 
“Some folks messed up the cop shop a while back, it was a bit of a fight. Streets were all blocked up anyway, so we set up a little kitchen here. Been feeding some folks. Symbolic, like, new world in the ruin of the old and all that.”
The smile fell from his face as he took in the scene in the truck. 
“Everything alright? Is she okay?” 
He gestured at Katie, curled up and quivering silently beside Tanner. Tanner opened his mouth to respond, but Blake was quicker.
“Sure, probably just spooked by that fucking mask. Look, we don’t mean to bother you people. Just heading east, trying to cross the river. We’ll go around you and your little kitchen.” 
If the man took issue with Blake’s tone, it didn’t show. 
“Bridge is a no-go, I’m afraid. Pigs blew the cables as they pulled out, some of it collapsed. It’s way too unstable to cross.” He scratched at his temple. “What d’you want out that way, anyway? There’s dangerous people out there, not exactly safe for… families.” 
“We’re heading for, uh, Hood River,” Tanner spoke up, “Taking supplies out to the girl’s grandparents.” 
“Indians,” Blake chimed in, “they need the help.” He winked at Tanner. 
The stranger turned to Blake and met his eyes, holding his gaze for an unnerving moment. Then he seemed to resolve some internal discussion, relaxing his shoulders. “Well, you might be able to get across up St. Johns, last I heard the bridge was still intact. There’s some folks in the park up there, you can ask them.” 
“St. Johns? That’s the wrong fucking way!” 
“A bridge is a bridge. It’s that or swim, champ.”
“Can you at least call the, uh, your boss? Tell him you checked us out, ask if we can get across?” 
The man smiled, but something hardened behind his eyes. 
“My boss? Sure, sure. Look, I think it’s time you moved on. Head on up there and tell ‘em what you told me, they’ll let you out. There’s a bunch of poor Indians waiting for their dinner.” 
There was something strange about the way the man said “Indians,” but he patted the hood of the truck and turned away, waving them down a side street away from the barricade. As Blake slowly drove off, Tanner collapsed back into his seat and quickly rolled up the window. His underarms were cold with sweat, and he relaxed muscles he hadn’t known were clenched. 
Blake took the turn the stranger indicated, muttering that if he heard anyone say “folks” again he would hit them. Tanner stared out the window at the “little kitchen” as they passed. There must have been a couple hundred people, milling around a dozen or so small fires. They were all loosely centered around a large tent directly in front of the scorched skeleton of the precinct. Laughter and music drifted through the open window, and Tanner closed it. He didn’t think he could see any aliens, but it was difficult to tell in the dark. 
“Collaborators. Must be a ration station or something,” he muttered, mostly to himself. 
Lauren heard him. “No, this has been going on much longer than that, it just wasn’t so out in the open. Swanson warned us about it. He said they lure hungry people in with food.” 
“Yeah,” cut in Blake, “this is how they recruit ‘em. Set up a kitchen, give ‘em food, homeless and crackheads and queers, mostly. Drugs too, probably, and spewing their propaganda. That guy was probably one of the junkies. Sure as shit looked like it, you see the way he stared at me?” 
Tanner shuddered. A junkie. He had an overwhelming urge to wash his hands. He remembered the way the man had talked about the police station, his manic laugh in the face of such violence, and glanced back at the quickly fading light. And saw a small figure, tottering at the edge of the firelight. A child. 
“Disgusting,” he said out loud. 
“Yeah, disgusting. It’s like Earl said,” Blake continued, “they been feeding people right under our fucking noses.” 

They drove on toward the bridge. The streets were more cluttered here, both with people and the remnants of the riots, and they could only manage a slow pace as they picked their way through the destruction. Blake had to swerve to the wrong side of the road to avoid a group of people carrying trash bags, picking through the rubble. 
“Looking for something to eat,” he grunted, and locked the doors. 
Signs of violence were everywhere. Tanner’s chest tightened as they drove past the law firm where he had started his career—the job that had brought him to the city after he finished college, working for his father’s best friend and learning his profession. Inside the shattered windows it was nothing but a shell, the desks overturned and the computers gone. No one would be working there any more. 
The destruction was completely random. Violence for its own sake. Beside the firm was a pawn shop, covered in graffiti and looted. Next to that, a Vietnamese restaurant, completely unharmed except for ‘Delicious, 5 stars’ sprayed on the pavement outside. Across the road was an untouched convenience store and a bookshop with its doors wide open, light flooding out and people crowding the entrance. A donut shop and an Apple store destroyed, a mechanic and a bar looking like they had simply closed for the night. There was absolutely no pattern or reason to it. 
They saw a Fred Meyers with every window broken, the front door jammed open with a twisted shopping cart. A movement caught Tanner’s eye and he saw someone leaving from a side door, carrying a huge bag of stolen food. He hoped Blake didn’t see—he might do something stupid, and Tanner didn’t want to stop. It wasn’t safe. 
They made it a few more blocks when Lauren gasped and grabbed Blake’s arm, making him brake. She gestured across the intersection to a KFC. Half the building had collapsed in what must have been an enormous fire; the half that still stood had been savagely attacked. She pointed to the entrance with a shaking finger. Someone—or something—had toppled the giant bucket sign and sent it crashing through the ceiling of the kitchen. Above the door, someone had scrawled a message in red spray paint: 
FUCK YOU SANDERS
OUR SECRET SPICES NOW

There were more barricades set up near the bridge. Where the others had been makeshift, marking a boundary, these were more serious. They were to stop people getting through. Blake slowed before they got too close to the blockade, which they could now see was lined by shapes that very much suggested people. On both sides of the road the land fell away into darkness, sloping down to become a park that ran beneath the bridge. 
The park itself, a rare green space normally dotted with dog walkers and children, was transformed. The once-quiet lawns were a mass of tents and makeshift structures, stages and bars and sound systems, the proud trees now decked out with effigies and lights. Fires burned everywhere, and the distant space was carpeted with a swarming mass of humanity, undulating to a throbbing cacophony of noise. 
“This doesn’t look good,” said Blake. He pulled over, a hundred yards or so short of the bridge. 
“That guy said they would let us through,” said Tanner, “if we stick to our story.” 
“He was a junkie,” scoffed Lauren. 
“But he thought we were working with them,” said Tanner, “he had no reason to lie to us.” 
“I guess it’s worth a try. Anyway, they ain’t gonna try anything against this much firepower.” Blake grunted. “Too late to change our minds now. They’ve seen us.” 
He nodded at the barricade, where two shapes had detached from the mass. They moved toward the Tacoma, and Blake responded by flicking the lights to high beam and heading to meet them. As Blake swung back out into the road the beams cut through the darkness to illuminate the figures, throwing wild shadows from the two shapes until the truck steadied course and they coalesced into recognisable forms. One was a large man, white, with a nose ring and a loosely-tied blond ponytail. He was wearing a plaid shirt and carrying a large rifle. The other—Tanner’s throat caught—the other looked like one of the aliens. 
“Shit,” said Blake, as the headlights picked out at least half a dozen more shapes along the barricade, several with big guns visible. “Fuck.” He stopped the truck and rolled down the window, then cursed again and threw open the door. 
“I’ll be fucked if I’m gonna sit here and be pulled over like some criminal. Tanner, you’re with me—let’s go meet them man to man.”
Tanner scrabbled for the door handle and chased after Blake, half-skipping to catch up. They pulled up a few paces before colliding with the approaching party. The blond man stepped forward. 
“How’s it going, dude?” he said. 
“We need to get to Hood River,” said Blake, “we’re trying—”
“Yeah, we heard.” The man cut him off. “Bridge is closed to traffic, unfortunately. You wanna cross, you’ll have to walk.” 
Blake bristled. “Are you joking? We need to bring all this stuff. It’s… important,” he objected. “You can’t just keep people here!” 
“We could,” said the blond man, calmly. He sounded confident in his assertion. Looking at the line of men—and women, Tanner realized—standing along the barricade, he agreed. 
“But we’re not,” the man continued. “You can go wherever you want. Take your shit, cross the bridge. Some folks have organized buses up the river, they’ll take you. But the truck stays.” 
“But that’s my fucking truck!” Blake squealed. The man’s eyebrows shot up and Tanner laid a hand on Blake’s shoulder, squeezing it and hoping he got the message. The stranger paused, then sighed. 
“Look, I’m sorry dude. I love my truck, too. But there was an attack at another camp last night by these so-called freedom fighters,” he grimaced. “Militia wackjobs, really. Word is they are gathering across the river, and we can’t risk weapons and vehicles falling into the wrong hands. Especially not an arsenal like you folks got here.” 
The alien stepped forward and, much to Tanner’s surprise, spoke in perfect American English. 
“Don’t worry, it’ll be here when you get back. We’ll take real good care of it for you. They will appreciate the help guarding the buses and I’m sure they’ll be more than happy to help you move these… important supplies.” 
They signaled to the group at the barricade and two more figures made their way into the light of the truck’s high beams. The first was a slim Black man in fatigues, wearing a red beret at a jaunty angle and carrying a AR-style rifle in one hand. The other was a woman, tall and imposing. She wore a leather jacket over a long black dress, which was slit to the thigh to reveal hints of slim, bare legs that stretched from the pavement to the heavens. Tanner blinked rapidly and swallowed. He had always had a soft spot for long legs in thigh-slit dresses. 
As they came closer the man nodded at Tanner and Blake, but he was not what held their attention. The woman with the legs from God was also rocking a luxurious mustache that would have put Teddy Roosevelt to shame. As Tanner’s eyes bulged, she caught his gaze and winked. 
“Hello, boys. I’m Sunshine, they/them. I’ll be with you on the bus.” 
Tanner didn’t know how to react. A fuzzy memory bounced around in the back of his head.
“An investigation on college campuses found that increasing numbers of American citizens are using pronouns.” Earl’s bewildered face frowned, then puckered. “These ‘theys’ and ‘thems’ are making a mockery of the American tradition, seeking to spread their insidious ideology among good, hard-working citizens, brainwashing young Americans into adopting these ‘pronouns.’ What’s next, people identifying a different age? A different race? We need to speak out against this perverse trend and most importantly, keep them away from our children.” _
That was it. These were the pronouns Swanson had warned them about. He gripped his gun and glanced at Blake, trying to get his mental footing. 
Blake looked shocked, too, but quickly pulled himself together. He threw Tanner a sly look, one that hinted at an idea. “Give us a minute,” he snapped, and pulled away from Tanner, back to the truck. When they were both inside he turned on the occupants with a spark in his eyes. 
“They must be talking about my boys, alive and kicking,” the old grin was back, his excitement barely contained. “Must have set up in the woods. We’ll head over and find ‘em. Maybe they got word from Earl. If they’re here, and they’re fighting, maybe we don’t have to go all the way to Boise after all.”
“What’s going on?” Lauren looked confused. 
“We’re leaving the truck. Grab the shit, cross the bridge, hijack their fucking commie-wagon and strike out east. Either we find them in Baker, or our boys find us first.” 
Tanner was still coming to grips with the situation. “What about… them?” he said. 
“Who?”
“They… them. In the dress, with the pronouns!” 
“And what are they going to do, stop us? You ever tried to fight wearing something like that? No. The four of us, across the bridge, grab the bus, easy.”
“Katie’s not hijacking any bus. She’s eight, for God’s sake. Maybe she and Lauren should stay here…” 
“You stay here with Katie,” Lauren snapped, cutting Tanner off. “If you think it’s safer, if you’re looking for safer, you take her for a nice walk in the park down there. I’ll be with my husband, taking my country back from these freaks.” 
“I know you want to keep Katie safe,” Blake added, almost apologetically, “but you saw what it’s like out there. You heard Swanson’s warnings. These aren’t people, they’re animals, aliens. She’s your baby fuckin’ girl, man. You do what you’re at peace with, but my wife sure as shit ain’t staying here to get felt up by some dick in a dress.” 
Tanner looked at Lauren. “But she’s just a kid! What if she gets hurt.” 
“What if she gets hurt _here
? So you look after her. Be a man,” Lauren spat back.   
Blake clapped Tanner on the shoulder and held his gaze. “It’s do or die time, soldier. Let’s get the fuck outta here, hook up with the resistance, then bring back the fury of God and freedom and the USA to take back this city and liberate my God damn truck!”
Tanner looked at Katie, curled up in the footwell, and wanted to object. He wanted to take her somewhere safe, back to the Hole, where it was warm and they could hide from the aliens and the bad people and they had all the food they could need and they could wait for this all to be over. 
But the fire in his belly wouldn’t let him. He knew Blake was right, he knew that he should be ashamed of his moments of weakness. He saw Lauren gripping her rifle and staring at Blake with faith and devotion in her eyes and he knew that was the kind of man he wanted to be. Tanner breathed a silent promise to keep Katie safe, no matter the cost. 
“Let’s do it.”
Blake pulled the truck up to the group of guards and they all piled out, Tanner standing straight and feeling tall, Blake’s words ringing in his ears.
It’s do or die time. _
Two of the barricade guards came over to help them unload while the others stood around and watched, their mustachioed escort who made Tanner’s skin crawl and the large blond man. Traitor. They stripped off the tray covering and began shifting gear, Blake and blondie up above handing packages down to everyone else. Tanner heard the guards muttering to each other. 
“Holy shit, that’s a lot of firepower.”
The blond man snorted. “And a lot of nasty-ass TV dinners. Important supplies, my ass.” 
Sunshine shrugged. “Folks eat what they eat. Not everyone lives in a Whole Foods and learned to make Tom Yum on their gap year,” they rebuked him.
The man grimaced and scratched his jaw. “Yeah, right. That was unfair of me. Well, Thai cooking workshop tomorrow and I’ll make a big pot, so at least folks here don’t have to eat that frozen stuff… unless they want to.”
They busied themselves unloading, bundling food and weapons into bags or tying them together for ease of carrying. Tanner was tying the straps of his backpack and settling it on his back when he heard a curse from the back of the truck. He glanced up, and, frozen in time, watched the next few seconds helplessly. 
The blond man had pulled out one of the last few satchels, the one containing all their spare clothes. He was standing upright, arms held out, nose ring quivering in silent outrage. In his left hand he had Blake’s flag bandana; in his right, Blake’s spare jacket, rebel flag patch sitting proudly on the shoulder. 
Blake reacted fastest. He dropped the food he was holding, raised his Glock, and with a vengeful crack the blond ponytail exploded in a spray of red. 
The man in the beret raised his rifle and fired two shots into Blake’s chest, sending him flying from the tray. A scream burst from Lauren as she reached for her gun, but the alien matched the sound and met her with a powerful tackle, sending both of them crashing into a pile of frozen hamburgers. Sunshine reached out and grabbed Tanner’s arm.
Time snapped back into motion for Tanner. He instinctively pulled away and shook his arm free of the grasping fingers. Stepping back, he spun and swung his fist in a wild roundhouse. It connected with Sunshine’s jaw as they overbalanced toward him. Tanner watched them collapse in a heap. His gaze danced over the chaos unfolding around him, frantically searching for Katie. _There
. Tanner picked her up and ran. 
They plunged off the road and into the darkness. There was only one thought in his mind: get Katie across that bridge. She was sobbing, shaking in his grasp, and Tanner made what he hoped were comforting shushing noises as he ran. He knew this park—there was a staircase inside one of the support towers that rose from the park to the bridge overhead. That was his way out. Holding Katie tightly, breath ragged, he ran toward the orgy of light and noise pulsating below. 
The two escapees burst into the mass of people. Tanner looked around, eyes darting, taking in the madness and trying to get his bearings. The sensory assault was overwhelming, but he slowly made out patterns in the polyrhythmic press. What had looked from above like a continuous swell of humanity was actually a hundred, a thousand separate groups and camps and parties. People flowed freely between them, groups forming and merging and coming apart in a chaotic, everchanging anarchy. A makeshift stage to his left throbbed with bass, colliding with the bone-jarring screams and guitars of a group of punks. Tanner found himself surrounded by ecstatic dancers, while a group almost under his feet sat staring into a campfire, oblivious to the rest of the world. He crashed through their doped-out reverie and bounced off two men, locked in a hungry embrace. 
Tanner recoiled and turned away, shielding Katie with his body, searching desperately for the tower that would lead him out of this nightmare. Lights flashed, blinding, creating a sort of slideshow of horror as Tanner scanned the crowd. There. He found it. His escape from this festival of the damned. He soldiered on, caught up in a whirl of half-naked dancers, men, women, and everyone else, mindless of the frigid air as they span and writhed in rapture. 
Tanner spotted an exit, an island of calm, and dove for it. He exploded from the throng, gasping for air, and breathed in the relative silence. Collecting himself, he was faced with rows of bodies, still, staring at something unseen up ahead, the very air trembling with collective anticipation. 
A voice shattered his uneasy reprieve, loud and bombastic and dripping with drama. 
“And now, my darlings, it is time for these fuckers to do what I do best—go down!”
Tanner dashed through the crowd as they roared and surged into motion, and caught a glimpse of the scene ahead: two lines of people, straining on thick ropes, as a woman in lingerie and feathers pranced like a princess of hell before them. The ropes led upwards, where they were tied around the necks of two enormous metal figures.
Lewis and Clark. 
Tanner broke into a full sprint, shouldering bodies aside. He was almost there. Up ahead, rising from the chaos, was his stairway to the heavens. His legs trembled and his breath came in ragged sobs, but he couldn’t slow down. Not when he was so close. He tore out of the crowd and into the comforting darkness of the spaces in between. His hysterical panic began to subside. One foot in front of the other. Keep running. They were going to make it.
As he neared the tower a figure came into view at the base, looming from the shadows of the doorway, staring into the blackness beyond. A stocky, muscled figure wearing fatigues and a plate carrier. It couldn’t be…
“Blake! Blake, thank God.”
Tears welled in Tanner’s eyes as he reached his friend. Lauren was nowhere to be seen, but right now Tanner couldn’t think about her. He had survived, and he had brought Katie through. His heartbeat was still frantic, but from exertion rather than fear. They were here. He, Katie, and Blake. Emotionally exhausted, physically spent, battered and terrified, but alive. They were going to be okay. He reached out to his friend.
Blake turned—No, not Blake. A thick black beard engulfed the shadowy face, momentarily lit by the glowing ember of a huge cigar. The eyes were deep-set and dark, the skin weathered, wrinkled, brown. The face of an illegal alien. 
Tanner’s throat betrayed him. He squeaked, and nothing more would come out. His knees wobbled and threatened to give way, his feet froze in place. He wavered. He whimpered. 
Puffing on the cigar, the alien took in his terrified face and the little girl slung over his shoulder. He gestured toward the doorway and blew out an enormous plume of smoke. 
“Go, gringo.” 

It was well past midnight when Katie ran into the side of a tent, fell on her bottom, and started crying. They had crossed the bridge, left the highway, and headed for the safety of the forest. Since then they had been wandering among the trees for hours, directionless, driven by fear, then by hope, then exhausted aimlessness. Tanner wasn’t going anywhere except away from that park. He had briefly entertained the image of finding a group of militia, sitting around a fire, eating and laughing and, maybe, swapping stories with their old friend Blake. That was hours ago. Visions were fleeting in the fever dream of the forest. Since then, they had walked because they didn’t know what else to do.
Tanner stumbled over to Katie and collapsed beside her, holding her close and hushing her. He felt like crying too. 
A flashlight clicked on inside the tent and a dreadlocked head poked out of the flap. 
“Hey, there’s someone here!”
Rustling erupted from all around and more faces appeared.
“Wasn’t someone keeping watch?”
“I thought you were.”
“Doesn’t matter, doesn’t matter. Someone’s crying.”
“You folks okay?”
Tanner and Katie were soon surrounded by a small group of people. He looked up at them.
“Are you the militia?”
“No, don’t worry. You’re safe here. We’re friends.”
“Although I guess we are a militia if you think about it. Sort of.” 
“Shh, don’t confuse the poor people. They’re terrified.” 
“Sorry. No, no militia. Someone get them a blanket and something to drink.”
Minutes later, Tanner and Katie were wrapped in sleeping bags, sipping on hot cocoa. It was scalding and familiar and Tanner felt the tension of the past day fading, leaving bone-deep exhaustion in its place. 
“Are you okay? What happened?”
“Thank you. We were… we just need to sleep.” 
“And you? What’s your name? Are you alright?”
Katie looked at her dad, then stared up from her tin mug.
“I’m Katie. I’m scared.”
“You’re safe now. We’ll help you. Look, we’ll get you somewhere to sleep.”
The first face they had seen rummaged around in a tent and brought out a bag.
“Lucky we have a spare tent. I’ll just put it up, won’t be a second.”
The tent was almost up by the time Tanner and Katie finished their drinks, and they got up and walked over, sleeping bags over their shoulders, holding hands.
“Hey, thanks,” Tanner said. “I would have helped but I don’t really know how. Never had much call for camping. I am, uh, was a lawyer,” he glanced around, “not criminal, uh… intellectual property. Copyright.” 
“No problem, of course. Here, it’s not hard. I’m just clipping the…”
“This isn’t the time for camping lessons, Jacob. Anyway, you’ll scare the man, sharing information for free like that. They’ve been through enough already.” 
“Sorry, yeah. Look, slide in. Take these sleeping mats. It’ll do for tonight, I’ll teach you tomorrow.” 
Tanner and Katie squeezed into the tent, sleeping bags huddled together on the cold, hard ground, and slept.
THE END

**Inmn ** 1:03:01
Hello, and welcome to the show. Thank you so much for coming on today. Could you introduce yourself with your name, pronouns, and just a little bit about what you do in the world?

**Matt ** 1:03:15
Yeah, hi, I’m Matt. He/him pronouns. And I’m a student again, after a really long time, actually, which is why I’ve just moved to where I’m living now. But I like to write, you know, mostly for me, and this is the first first thing I’ve published but I enjoy it. And yeah, I’m really grateful that you’ve taken an interest in it.

**Inmn ** 1:03:37
Yeah, totally. I love the story. So we just listened to the second half of your story, Blood, Soil and Frozen TV Dinners and even though listeners just heard…just heard the whole story, I’m wondering if you could just kind of like walk us through the story in your–you know, from the mouth of the author–what is this story about?

**Matt ** 1:04:01
So the story, for me, was about, to some extent, seeing yourself in some ways or, you know, people like you, through the eyes of…through the eyes of someone else, I guess, someone who’s very different and might see things in a different way. So I always find it interesting to play with different perspectives or different characters instead of telling the story from a heroic perspective or something. And I wondered what a pathway to a better world might look like from someone who didn’t necessarily want that to happen. So we have these, you know, preppers who–call them you want, right-wing conservatives, something like this–and what they might think, given the knowledge that they receive about the world, what they might think is happening when something happens that a lot of the rest of us might want.

**Inmn ** 1:05:00
Yeah, totally. I really like how you put that. What was it, like, "a better world that they don’t necessarily want?" [both laugh] Okay, well, how did this, how did this story kind of…like how did it come to be? What inspiration did you kind of draw from to craft this situation or these like personalities from Tanner and Blake or Earl Swanson?

1:05:35
Yeah, the story itself, there was a discussion last Halloween, I believe it was, on Coffee With Comrades, there was a interview with Pearson and Margaret Killjoy, talking about the discussion of the monster in literature, which is where I first took the idea that they were talking about seeing yourself as the monster in this idea and sometimes reveling in that or perhaps enjoying it. And that was where the first idea came from. And then the most specific layout of the story or main theme, I guess, was, I was doing something on the US Tax Office website. And there’s this whole section for aliens, right, if you’re an alien in the U.S., these are the tax rules you need to follow. And I just thought it was a funny word. You know, I’d seen it on Fox News or something before but it just struck me as really weird in such an official position. Yeah, and I just was playing with the ideas of this and, you know, I like thinking about utopias and things. And this is where the like the main shape of the story had come from, just the idea of seeing the monster, seeing the alien from there. And then specific characters, I mean, some of them are just kind of people that I’ve met, you know, Tanner and Blake, specifically, and I think Earl Swanson’s character, I mean–I don’t know it’s possibly libelous–but we can probably figure out who that’s meant to be, right? I think it’s reasonably obvious.

**Inmn ** 1:07:09
Totally, totally. Yeah. Yeah. No, that’s super interesting. Yeah, it’s funny, I was rereading the story today to prepare for this interview and I realized that the first time that I was reading it, because of this perspective of the…. I’m like, okay, I know, these are some, you know, at least center-right, far-right preppers and they’re using the word "alien" and I don’t actually know what they mean by this, which was, you know, maybe a purposeful being vague about it, but I was like, I don’t know if they think that it’s, you know, illegal aliens or undocumented  migrants or whatever or if they mean, like, literal from outer space aliens. And, yeah, I was like, I don’t know what they mean by what they’re talking about. And maybe they don’t either.  

1:08:20
This was part of the conceit, right, was setting it up like it’s a pretend big reveal, I think, that it’s a twist in the story that at some point gets revealed, but that’s not really the point. It’s not really meant to be a big trick or something like this, you know? I think in discussions in the editing, we talked about in the first page or so when they speaking Arabic, and it’s reasonably obvious to anyone that knows Arabic who these people are, you know, it’s not hidden, but this was the idea, that they may have meant illegal alien all along, was, you know, the way they we’re using the term, but that they weren’t necessarily drawing so much of a distinction between the two uses of the word alien, that in their minds a, sort of, invasion by one was the same as the invasion by the other to some extent.

**Inmn ** 1:09:10
Yeah, which, you know, I actually really love that from the perspective of…. It’s like maybe an interesting twist. I didn’t listen to that interview with Pearson and Margaret, so I’m not sure what they talked about, but there’s this kind of idea in a lot of spaces that I’ve been part of,you know, when people talk about things like assimilation or something, especially in queer spaces, of like, "We have to seem harmless to them. We have to seem innocent. We have to seem like we just want to be part of the group," you know, and then this other side that’s like, "No, we want to be unknowable. We are claiming the monstrosity that they are putting on us," and I’m like, yeah, we’re fucking…. I don’t know, anarchists are kind of aliens, like, in an entirely other way of thinking, you know?

1:10:09
Yeah, and just considering some social norms is completely irrelevant or harmful or repressive and other things that other people would consider, perhaps, violent or something seem completely okay to other people. There is a complete sort of alienation of perspective from broader society, I think. And yeah, it is, there’s a tension between sometimes wanting to go unnoticed, or, as you say, like assimilate, and even, for me, walking around, you know, sometimes you want to look like an anarchist and sometimes you don’t. It’s an interesting dynamic, I guess, that you can switch sometimes day-to-day.

**Inmn ** 1:10:54
Yeah, yeah. Have you read much of–you know, love talking about this person on the show–have you read much of Ursula Le Guin’s Hainish Cycle?

1:11:08
I’ve read only "The Dispossessed" and "The Left Hand of Darkness". 

**Inmn ** 1:11:16
Great examples. I think "The Left Hand of Darkness," kind of brings out this idea of where the reader is going to maybe most identify with the alien, or whatever, in "The Left Hand of Darkness" being not the not the Gethens–or I don’t remember what they’re called. But then it’s like, the more that we’re reading the book… or there’s some times where I’m this alien or, you know, our perspective person just doesn’t understand this culture. And that’s really painful. And then there are other times when I’m like, I don’t know, maybe the alien’s perspectives on the world are far more dissimilar to what a normal person on like our planet Earth would think, because they’re advocating for a better world that is very alien to people on this planet. Does that make sense?

**Matt ** 1:12:24
Yeah, I mean, in "The Dispossessed," I think it’s the same dynamic with Shevak coming back to Earth and presenting the perspective, both ways that it seems incredibly alien to him and then the other way around to everyone else that’s there, to the general culture there. Yeah. I think it’s an interesting literary device to present the outsider point of view, I think, which I mean, is quite the opposite of what I did in this story, I presented the more mainstream point of view, I guess, but from the circles that we’re in, it’s funny to see from the outside what that looks like.

**Inmn ** 1:13:02
Yeah, yeah, I had this very silly idea once for…I don’t know if it was gonna be a short story or what but kind of, using that "alien" trope or like "Stranger in a Strange Land" trope as a way to talk to my parents about anarchism or about radical queer spheres.

**Matt ** 1:13:27
Yeah, I mean, that’s about as alien as it can get for a lot of people’s parents, right.

**Inmn ** 1:13:31
Totally. But just as some funny little zine that’s like an introduction to the punk house, you know?

**Matt ** 1:13:44
Yeah, viewed as some sort of interesting zoo creatures.

**Inmn ** 1:13:46
Yeah. I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about the kind of political renderings of Tanner and Blake or ,rather, their differences in how they perceive or interact with either preparedness or this new world that they’re encountering?

**Matt ** 1:14:14
Yeah, I think that Blake’s character is a lot…. He knows what he’s doing, right? It’s a lot more intentional and more–I guess educated is maybe not quite the right word–but a lot more of an actually constructed ideology, whereas for Tanner it’s very much received. He’s not so keen, not so entirely sold on the idea or doesn’t necessarily know the idea. It feels like it’s like lost and failing a lot of the time and I think that’s why I found him a much more interesting character because that’s how I feel a lot of people that I know and talk to and family members and friends and things or friends of people I know get pulled into a lot of these, you know, reactionary ideologies is kind of by accident a lot of the time, right? Because it’s what’s presented and what they’re drawn into by someone who has a lot more investment in it than they do. And they just kind of bumble into it almost by accident. Yeah.

**Inmn ** 1:15:20
Because it’s what they’re seeing on TV. People who are deeper into that philosophy are like…. It’s like the people that they’re around who are their own little echo chambers of, "Oh, okay, there’s this thing happening. Not sure how I feel about it. But I’m being like, fed this perspective on it."

**Matt ** 1:15:46
Yeah, and a lot of the social or interpersonal issues that draw people in as well, I think. I tried to make it seem relatively obvious that Tanner is envious of Blake in a lot of ways, right? He is, you know, hotter than him and he is cooler than him and he knows more than him and he’s always trying to, like, live up to this ideal that he has just completely interpersonally with no politics or anything in it. And he just wants to live up to what he thinks Blake wants him to be, which it turns out, is a bad thing. I mean, I’m not trying to excuse Tanner’s character too much here. But yeah, I think this is what’s really dangerous a lot of the time actually, for people who don’t necessarily have a fully formed belief in all of these philosophical systems or something that then puts them on the wrong side not by…not necessarily out of evil intention.

**Inmn ** 1:16:54
Yeah. No, that’s very true. And it’s interesting talking about not excusing Tanner’s character too much, but as I was reading the story I found myself like, not necessarily rooting for Tanner and Blake to win or whatever, but rooting for Tanner to be confronted with the contradictions in his worldview. Because it’s like, I don’t know, it’s like, that’s what I hope for in the world that we live in is that these kind of–I heard this phrase recently. It was people talking about everything going on in Palestine right now and these "sharpening contradictions" and that’s what I hoped that would happen for Tanner, which is not really what happened for Tanner. [Laughing]

**Matt ** 1:18:00
Yeah, well I’m sorry to let you down, I guess. When I was thinking about the story initially, I was thinking about doing this, but then it became kind of a, I don’t know, a redemption story, everything ends…. Well, he gets pulled out of this destructive ideology. He, you know, potentially reconcile some of these contradictions and, you know, maybe even talks to his daughter or something. But I didn’t necessarily want it to go in that direction because it’s not necessarily the way I see the world going, that these things just get better and everything’s okay in the end and I don’t always like stories when that happens. You know, it’s a bit too optimistic for me sometimes. And I thought it was maybe more interesting just to sit in it.

**Inmn ** 1:18:50
No, yeah. No, I appreciate how the story ended. And like, I think that is, you know, that is unfortunately probably a more likely outcome for most people and that is a hard reality to sit with because–I’m not an optimist as much as I am just really holding on to hope or something. I don’t know. You know, I’m a hopeful nihilist or something.

**Matt ** 1:19:25
Yeah, I mean, I think it’s important to be hopeful. I mean, I’m quite happy to call myself a utopian…maybe a pessimistic utopianist or something like this, but I think these things are important. And, you know, I tried to leave a little seed of that in there with–you know, there if there’s one thing that does redeem Tanner’s character in some way is his poorly expressed but the care for Katie. And we tried to end it on that, right? 

**Inmn ** 1:19:55
Yeah, totally. And maybe I’m experiencing these political ideologies wrong but Tanner is like this kind of center-right kind of character–in the American perspective, I know other places these things mean vastly different things–but how Americans might view Tanner is center-right, who…. You know, Tanner’s fear, or the core fear for a lot of people is reasonable things where they’re like, "Oh, I’m worried about my kids. I’m worried about surviving with my family in these situations." But then, you know, they go about it in the most horribly wrong way.

**Matt ** 1:20:48
And they take the easy options that are given to them that don’t make them think too much. I mean, just on the point of him being center-right in the US, here in Portugal, a friend was telling me the other day that they consider their Socialist Party center-right. So it’s kind of funny. But I think Tanner represents someone who’s maybe not even so political, but he’s just been given explanation to things that he is worried about and it doesn’t require him to think too much. And he doesn’t have to do so much. I mean, okay, well, then the position is presented in the story, a lot of stuff happened, but ideologically, he hasn’t had to do too much work, right to get to where he was.

**Inmn ** 1:21:31
Totally, totally. And golly, I’m sorry, my last like having empathized a little too much with Tanner throughout the story, is–I think this is the quotation–"These were the pronouns Swanson had warned us about." And when Tanner attempts to use Sunshine’s pronouns, I was like, okay, yeah, you’re a little wacky and like, I don’t know, you’re trying I guess? 

**Matt ** 1:22:12
Yeah, I mean, okay, I was not sure about this, you know, we talked about being a bit concerned about how the story would be received because it’s through this strange perspective. And I genuinely wasn’t sure if this was kind of funny or weird or a little offensive or something, perhaps. But, you know, it’s important to acknowledge that this is at least like such an amazingly popular topic at the moment in the US on the reactionary right. I think. So….

**Inmn ** 1:22:50
Totally, totally. Um, well, I don’t know, you know, at least as someone who…. I’m nonbinary and use they/them pronouns and I found it weirdly relatable at least within…. I don’t know, we have a lot of caricatures built up about what the Right looks like here in the United States. And these depictions, to me, are very spot on. I’ve met both of these people, you know. But it’s like, I’ve also met that version of Tanner who’s center-right has some wacky thoughts about the world, listens to Earl Swanson, or whatever, but like, at that core, just, you know, they’re like, "Oh, well, this person hasn’t harmed me. They seem nice. And they want to be called this thing. And I was told that was dangerous, but I just want to refer to people how they want to be referred to," it’s like, I don’t know, you know, it’s like I’ve met that person. I’ve met that person who has some problematic views and also doesn’t actually want to be rude or be viewed as rude to people.

**Matt ** 1:24:18
Especially, I think, you know, on a lot of these more conservative positions, that politeness is, you know, almost a virtue above all others sometimes. In a more traditional Conservative view, maybe not so much sometimes now, but, yeah, like, exactly like you say, that someone doesn’t want to be mean for no reason, or they might not understand it and they might have very problematic views about it, but this inherent very conventional politeness just prevents them from actually saying what they might mean or say otherwise when they don’t necessarily–like I said–does not necessarily have this ideological position so much. Like, why would they want to be mean to another person?

**Inmn ** 1:25:07
Yeah, they view themselves as you know, like the quote-unquote, "Good guys." And so when they’re confronted with someone who’s like, "Oh, this is just a person, they seem nice. I don’t know, doesn’t seem dangerous anymore." You know, because that’s the narratives that people like Earl Swanson are feeding people, is "These people are dangerous." And I don’t know. Sorry, not not to harp too much on the humanity of these characters, but I think they’re…. I do think there’s interesting things to find in those interactions. I don’t know.

**Matt ** 1:25:53
Yeah, no, sure. I mean, I was talking to some people about this last night, but that this liberal position that especially we saw coming up during Covid, where, you know, "Oh, Florida voted Red, let them all die," type stuff. You know, "Everyone’s redneck hicks and things," that this is for me much more…. It’s horrible, right? It’s really, really terrible. And there are a lot of people who, I mean, again, maybe a lot of people who wouldn’t even attempt to use the right pronouns or that do genuinely hold more problematic views, but fundamentally they’re still people. We can’t just write off half of everyone because they vote the wrong way. Or, we don’t have to accept the positions, but we have to accept that they are people, right? 

**Inmn ** 1:26:39
Yeah. Or it’s like, I don’t know, I think about it, as–you know, again, talking to people where I’m like, okay, yeah, y’all got some problematic views. And when I talk about pronouns, you try at least? And I don’t know. Anyways, I’d be super interested to hear about like…. So you have spent some time living in the United States but I’m curious what…. I’m curious how, kind of, American. you know, preparedness, prepper culture is viewed from not the United States.

**Matt ** 1:27:26
Yeah, I mean, I’ve sort of got a background in anarchist circles and things, so a lot of the more community preparedness sides are more universal, especially when we’re talking about climate resilience and food sustainability or, you know, local food sustainability and production and these kinds of ideas. And, you know, even just decommodification of some of these things, to provide them for ourselves even without a massive sudden crisis or something. So I’m, like, more familiar with these kinds of ideas, but the specifically right-wing, American version, or US version, is kind of interesting, you know? Like, one of the first experiences I had coming into the US that I found quite interesting was went to the supermarket the first or second day I was there and there was just a guy with a hunting knife strapped to his thigh that was down to his knee, you know, just walking around. And this kind of stuff, I mean, okay, not necessarily prepper ideology, but it just really threw me off that these kinds of things happen and how…. The way that this then pulled…the types of things they’re being prepared for, I guess, is what it is, I just find very, very funny. I mean, that was part of the reason for choosing the frozen dinners, apart from a symbolic value of it, is that as a way to prepare for the end of the world, they’re the worst kind of food you could have. You know, they’ve got the highest sort of…. They require the most convenience infrastructure, right, you need a freezer, you need some kind of microwave or something. It’s a very useless way to prepare. I find it kind of funny, you know, that Blake talks about when he builds his bunker, that there were a bunch of useless fruit trees and stuff there, so he took them out to put in a freezer full of frozen foods, right? Yeah, I find the approach very strange. And it’s incredibly individualistic, I guess, is the main point and assumes a level of comfort that might not necessarily be there if the end of the world came.

**Inmn ** 1:27:27
Yeah. And there’s these, I don’t know. there’s some really fun quotations that I’d really love to just highlight from the story that kind of relate to that, like them talking about, you know, when talking about food, they’re like, "Oh, they’ve been luring people in with food," or I think Blake says, "They’ve been feeding people right under our noses," and I’m like that’s what you do during disasters, is you feed people.

**Matt ** 00:12
Yeah, this is, I mean, not so much even on the prepper side of things, but just the attitude of people towards a lot of the sweeps and stuff, right, the absolute dehumanization of people that just don’t have somewhere else to live, that all of a sudden that…. Not even that they don’t deserve anything, but that anyone who helps them is a criminal in encouraging, encouraging the fall of the US empire or something. And I just, I mean, I find these attitudes just deeply inhuman. I don’t know, I just…the story is mainly a joke. Not trying to highlight too much. I think most people know most of these things, right? Especially people that are listening to this podcast, but I just wanted to have some fun with some of it.

**Inmn ** 01:06
Yeah, I really appreciate that as like, you know, we do Live Like the World is Dying and we talked a lot about preparedness and we usually approach it from these like, really, you know, these much more serious views and we’re like, "the danger of the Right, the danger of bunker mentality," and, you know, with good reason, those things are scary and like the world is having some wild…you know, wild things are happening in the world right now. And I really appreciated this bit of humor about it to be like, yeah, here’s this funny tale. 

**Matt ** 01:48
Yeah, I had to do a lot of research into all the different types of guns, because I’m not so familiar with them. I mean, okay, there’s like three types of guns, but I still had to go look at what they were because I don’t know them. But that seems to be the number one, the number one thing to do, if you’re right-wing prepper is to build a bunker and put like 70,000 guns in there. So…. 

**Inmn ** 02:08
[Laughing] Yeah. Extreme forethought on the guns and not that much forethought on food.

**Matt ** 02:16
Or access to water or something, you know?

**Inmn ** 02:19
Yeah, or just community, you know? I don’t know, that’s one of my big things with bunker mentality. It’s like, okay, you’ve built the bunker where you’re going to survive the collapse, or whatever, and then what? You’re just like, alone in a bunker? That doesn’t sound like a good place to end up. I’d rather build these communities that can, kind of like, get through things together and like, take care of each other.

**Matt ** 02:52
Yeah, I think you can have a lot better chance of getting through something with a group of people around with varying skill sets and expertise and experience and so on. But also, like you say, I mean, I just…I don’t want to end up by myself in a bucket. That sounds like not a lot of fun. It’s not really a life I want to live.

**Inmn ** 03:10
Um, how do people talk about community preparedness in Europe or Portugal?

**Matt ** 03:21
Yeah, I mean, it’s not so much of a…. Things here maybe haven’t broken down quite as much as they have where you are. There aren’t…the contradictions haven’t sharpened–I think was a way to use before–quite as much as they maybe have. So people are much more interested in–or, not interested, maybe more focused on–finding ways to provide things for ourselves in the moment without a market, right. So finding ways to access housing and to access food and to provide food. There’s at least as much hyperbole and xenophobia and panic about refugees in Europe as there is about people coming into the US. And so trying to, you know, build links with these communities and things I think are much more focused on. The sorts of community care that people are doing here is more immediate, it’s not really aimed at the future. It’s kind of aimed at now. It has a different character, right?

**Inmn ** 04:30
Yeah, which stuff like that certainly happens here where there’s just so much to respond to. There’s so many bad things happening that it…it does feel hard to adequately be able to plan for the future because we are constantly reacting to what is currently happening.

**Matt ** 04:55
Yeah, I mean, I think there’s plenty of people trying to make life better right now in the US too. Yeah, I think maybe there’s not quite the same expectation that it’s all gonna go to shit soon here right away.

**Inmn ** 05:14
Oh, yeah, no, that’s an interesting difference because here, there’s just so much that it feels hard to stay on top of it but we all know stuffs gonna get real bad. Whereas there, it seems like people have more optimistic views of stuff not getting bad or they’re just like not thinking about it? [Said like a question]

**Matt ** 05:36
I mean a lot of it’s just kind of more hidden, because there are, you know, stronger welfare states in some parts of Europe. So things aren’t as immediately bad for, you know, as many people. It’s still very bad for plenty of people. But there’s not as many people who are facing the same immediate problems. And, sort of lurking in the background, you know, like, but I think they haven’t been brought into focus as much as the US has. 

**Inmn ** 06:08
That makes sense. I guess like…I usually ask this at the beginning of the story, or at the beginning of the interview, but like…and, you know, we’ve talked about a lot of this already, but what is the story behind the story? like, why is this an important story for people now?

**Inmn ** 06:27
I know, I love that the mechanism of collapse, of whatever’s happening in the story is really vague, you know? I’m like, did something happen? Was there just an insurrection? But whatever happened, like, I don’t know, these anarchists are really on top of it. [Laughing, like it’s unexpected they would be]

**Matt ** 06:27
I think it’s, first, important to sometimes laugh at these things because otherwise you just despair. And like I said, I wrote this for myself as a joke initially. So for me it was important for me to write, not necessarily have a plan for anyone to read. But I think–so, I mean, this is maybe stretching the definition of Utopia a little bit–but I think that thinking about what worlds could look like is incredibly important. You know, I think Bookchin says that, "The change comes from the difference of what people see their life to what they can imagine it to be like," basically, the bigger this differential, the more likely people are to act. And I think by expanding the sort of normative horizons of what we can expect of the world, I think this is quite important, genuinely. Like I said, it might be stretching it a little bit to apply that to this story. But I think it’s maybe a funny look at changes happening, right? I mean, it’s somewhat utopian to imagine that a city in the US could fall. So…. 

**Matt ** 08:09
Yeah, I didn’t want to go too much into that and make some sort of, you know, "10 pages on how to do a revolution," because, I mean, who am I to talk about that? And we’ve had that and got that. And, you know, this is a much bigger, more serious discussion. Also, it didn’t make any sense for Tanner and Blake to know how that happened. 

**Inmn ** 08:33
No, I love that we’re wrapped up in the mystery of that.

**Matt ** 08:37
Yeah. And I think, you know, we wanted to suggest that some things, they’re very basic things, like you mentioned before, just, you know, feeding people for a long time, recruiting people by helping, you know, helping people, convincing them at their side is better because actually their side was nice to them and help them and, you know, gave them some agency. Oh how dastardly of them. [said sarcastically]

**Inmn ** 09:02
Yeah, so dastardly. But, yeah, sorry, just to go back real quick to this….  It’s funny because I think maybe we maybe have different terms that we might use, but I, for instance, I feel resistant to the idea of utopian thinking, but something that I think is really important is like–and I think Bookchin talks about this idea or at least Cindy Milstein talks about this idea a lot–is prefigurative organizing or prefigurative visioning, which is like…. I don’t really…I don’t know enough about these things to know the difference between utopianism and prefigurative visioning but prefigured visioning being like, "We want to build the world that we want to live in now and not like wait for the future or for to be too late," or something?

**Matt ** 10:02
Yeah, I mean, I think, you know, there’s a lot of debate over what utopianism is, if it’s good, if it’s bad, if it’s whatever. So I’m just, you know, I’ll use the word and other people can disagree. But I exactly agree. Like, I think, you know, prefigurative politics is what we need to be doing. We need to build a world that we want to live in. But we need to have an idea of what world we want to live in to do that. And so I think we hold it out as a horizon that we can move towards, it’s not some fixed blueprint of how we want the world to be, but rather, that we can just continuously imagine and change and reflect on and we can bring little bits and pieces of it into the here and now. You know, like I’ve mentioned a couple of times with people trying to find ways to feed themselves in their communities and other ways to access housing and other ways to just exist right now. I mean, we need to have some idea of how to do this. And I think if we can, if we can conjure–especially as writers–I think if we can conjure some of these ideas of Utopia then people can take bits and pieces and try it. We can experiment, we can see if it works. If it doesn’t work, we can update our idea of Utopia. But it’s important that it’s a practice not a…not some fire or vision, you know?

**Inmn ** 11:13
Yeah, yeah. No, yeah, I totally, totally agree. And that’s like one of the…that’s like one of the natures of, you know, anarchism or anarchic philosophy is this adaptability or the ability to experiment and be like, "Oh, golly, that didn’t work. Well, we’re going to…. We thought it would, but it didn’t. So we’re going to try something different and see if that works better for people." We can change. Our visions can change. I don’t know.

**Matt ** 11:44
Yeah, and we try ways of, I don’t know, something as simple as try a way of organizing some collective or something. And then you find out that, actually, maybe we didn’t need 10 pages of different bureaucratic structures to stop power accumulating in one place too much. Maybe we could just wing it a bit, you know?

**Inmn ** 12:02
Yeah. Well, we are nearing the end of our time. But is there…are there any…is there any last things you want to say about this story? Or like, questions that I should have asked you that I didn’t ask you?

**Matt ** 12:18
I don’t think there’s anything that I was really itching to say that didn’t get mentioned. I mean, I don’t know. Maybe, like I said, I was worried about the story. Maybe just to mention that the misogyny that comes across is, as you know, is definitely…the characters are not speaking for a reason. So maybe I’ll just mention that in case anyone’s worried about it.

**Matt ** 12:42
Totally, totally. Yeah.

**Matt ** 12:45
No, I think there’s…. Yeah, it was a good discussion. I enjoyed talking about it. 

**Inmn ** 12:50
Yeah. And maybe that’s my final question about the story is like–we talked a little bit off air about this–but there being some nervousness around how the story would be perceived. And I was wondering if you wanted to say just a little bit more about that?

**Matt ** 13:07
Yeah, sure. I mean, I think writing from this perspective, I mean, from the perspective of someone who holds some racist views, misogynistic views, they’re gonna have a racist, misogynistic perspective. And it would be kind of weird not to have that in the writing. It would feel off somehow. So I mean, okay, obviously, I’m not using slurs and stuff. And I think in some way, you know, we mentioned this slightly before, but that in some ways, this is a caricature and in some ways it’s toned down. Like I think of these characters that actually have this happened in real life, they would have been a lot…. The language would have been a lot stronger in a lot of cases, even if they behaved slightly more sensibly in some cases, right? I think there was a tension there. But I think this was a very nervous story. So far everyone that’s read it has been very graceful or given me a lot of grace or goodwill, I guess. In reading it, assumed I had good intentions, which is very nice. But yeah, it was definitely very nervous submitting it to people that don’t know me at all and I don’t know them and they could have read it in a different way. So yeah, that went a lot better than I was maybe hoping

**Inmn ** 14:18
That’s all very understandable. I thought it was…. Like, we thought it was hilarious that Strangers so….

**Matt ** 14:25
Oh thanks a lot.

**Inmn ** 14:28
Yeah, I had some nervousness because where we ended the first part was like the kind of big reveal really hasn’t happened yet. I really hope people stick with this and are viewing it as a caricature or as a satire, which I thought was pretty obvious from the beginning. So….

**Matt ** 14:50
Yeah, it’s hard to satire something these days. I mean, alright, it’s cliche to say that satire is dead. It’s definitely not. You can still do it, but it’s getting difficult, you know?

**Inmn ** 15:00
Yeah, well it’s like…. I don’t know like there’s this–this is a weird plug–there’s this really silly movie that came out a while ago called Dark Dungeons and it’s a movie that some people made about this Chick Track of this Evangelical comic about how Dungeons and Dragons the game will make your kids queer and it’s about how they’re trying to summon Cthulhu. And they like…. So people made a movie of it and the movie is incredible. And like you watch it and you’re like, "Wow, this is a whole area satire." and the creators of that movie we’re like, "This is not a satire. We didn’t change anything. This is a sober rendition of these events and they satire themselves."

**Matt ** 15:57
Yeah, this is documentary. What are you talking about? [Joking]

**Inmn ** 16:02
Yeah, it’s like these things where it’s like, yeah, maybe it’s not the appropriate thing to call it a satire because it’s just presenting it as it is, you know? Does that make sense?

**Matt ** 16:13
I mean, as the world gets more ridiculous, it’s, you know, you have to do less work to do satire, I guess. [Laughing]

**Inmn ** 16:21
Yeah. Okay. Um, are you working on anything else or have anything that you would like to plug?

**Matt ** 16:28
Um, nothing really to plug. I mean, I’m writing…. Like I said, I like…I like the idea of utopia–as you know, we could disagree on maybe–and the idea of different perspectives and different utopias and how this could be. So I’m working on, you know, a collection of short stories of, you know, different utopias from different points of view. So, you know, maybe people can find that on Strangers. I don’t know. In the future. But yeah, that’s about it.

**Inmn ** 16:58
Are you…can you be found on the internet anywhere where you would like to be found? 

**Matt ** 17:03
No. 

**Inmn ** 17:04
Great. I love when people can’t be found on the internet. It’s wonderful.

**Matt ** 17:10
Yeah, no, I mean, it’s not my favorite place to be.

**Inmn ** 17:15
Yeah, it’s a weird place. Yeah. And I think we probably have more similar views than…. I think the word "utopian" is like a kicker word to me. But it seems like we have pretty resonant views on those things. Um, so just to end out the episode, we do this, Word of the Month, which is I’m going to tell you a word. I’m going to ask you if you know any of its origins or like any guesses about its origins and then I will tell you a little bit about the word.

**Matt ** 17:54
Excellent. I can’t wait to sound pretentious by guessing the origins of something.

**Inmn ** 18:01
So, you know, the word apocalypse? 

**Matt ** 18:03
I do. 

**Inmn ** 18:04
Do you…. What does the word apocalypse mean to you? And where do you think the word might come from?

**Matt ** 18:12
Apocalypse? I’m probably just gonna embarrass myself here, like "the end of the world," something like this. Right? Like, maybe it doesn’t mean this. But where it comes from? No idea. I mean, the only thing I could think of it similar to it is like Calypso, and I’m sure that’s not…that’s very far away.

**Inmn ** 18:29
Oh, I should have looked up Calypso. I didn’t make that connection. I’m gonna have to look. There might be…there’s there’s usually connections. Um, yeah, you know, it means the end of the world. That’s what we’ve come to…that’s the meaning that it’s come to have. Yeah. And Margaret actually posted something about this recently, which is why I’m doing this word. I was like, "Oh, that that is an interesting word." But you know, Apocalypse from the Greek ‘apokalyptein," in which means, ‘uncovering,’ and it has these two components there’s ‘apo’ and ‘kalyptein.’ ‘Apo’ meaning ‘off’ or ‘away from’ and ‘Kalyptein’ meaning ‘to cover’ or ‘conceal.’ And then, you know, the root word ‘kel’ goes to form some other words. Like in Latin, there’s ‘celare’ [said like ‘sell-are’] which means–or celare [said like kel (rhymes with ‘tell’)-are], which means ‘to hide.’ The derivative, there’s a derivative of ‘kol’ which forms ‘hal’ in Germanic and ‘haljo’ which means ‘hidden place’ and it’s the source of the Old Norse word for the deity Hela, who rules the underworld and then also like the Christian ‘hell’ as in like the bad place. And you know, it’s famously like, The Book of Revelations was, it was originally called like, or it was, since it was named in Greek, it was ‘apokalyptein," or sorry, ‘apokalypse,’ which was a derivative of ‘apokalyptein’ and it’s an interesting word to me because it’s like an–I always tried to pick a word that in some way applies to the story–which is like…. Apocalypse, meaning disaster or cataclysm wasn’t a component of the word until the 19thcentury or something. And prior to that, it was like…it was a word that was like, "uncovering" or "revealing things that have been hidden." And like…I think, disasters kind of do that. They reveal simmering things in our society that are apparent to a lot of people but not apparent to everyone. And yeah, I don’t know. 

**Matt ** 20:47
If they’re  big enough disasters, maybe they can reveal some sort of pathway to utopia, you know, we’ll see. 

**Inmn ** 20:56
Yeah, or at least like–again, to use this phrase–these  sharpening contradictions of like…. For which is I think applicable to a lot of people who are like, not, you know, not like anarchists or like people who are confronted with these things in their lives all the time, but for people who are more hidden away from these realities and like being fed propaganda by people is like, that these systems or structures that they have put faith in are not designed to help them and that will become more obvious to them so that we can build a better world with more people. That sounds great. Yeah.

**Matt ** 21:41
That’s a good place, a good place to end with apocalypse, I think, is that maybe it can lead us to something better.

**Inmn ** 21:49
Yeah, exactly. Which…I hate this kind of…this lining up with the Book of Revelations. It’s a weird…it’s a weird book. Christian mythology is really weird. But anyways, thank you so much for coming on the show. And we will catch you next time.

**Matt ** 22:10
Yeah, it’s been an absolute pleasure. Thanks for having me.

**Inmn ** 22:21
Thanks so much for listening. If you enjoyed this podcast, then prepare for the apocalypse. Or just tell someone about the show. Or tell someone about the show and then prepare for the apocalypse together. That’s the ticket. Also, you can rate and review and like and subscribe or whatever the nameless algorithm calls for. Feed it like a hungry god. But really just tell people about the show and prepare for the apocalypse. It’s the main way that people hear about the show and honestly one of the other one of the better ways to support it. However, if you want to support us in other sillier ways that don’t involve feeding a nameless and mysterious entity, consider supporting the show financially by subscribing to our Patreon. If you subscribe to our Patreon at $10 a month, we’ll mail to you a zine version of the pieces that you hear here every month, anywhere in the world. You can also get access to an archive of old Strangers content as well as discounts on things like Tshirts and books we publish. Find us at patreon.com/strangersinatangledwilderness. Oh and current Inmn, or future Inmn, looked up the origins of Calypso and you know Calypso’s a Greek word. It absolutely has the same roots as apocalypse or at least that Calypso has the root ‘kel’, meaning ‘to conceal’ and so Calypso literally meaning ‘hidden one’ or ‘one that hides.’ So, these words are absolutely related. And that’s…that’s kind of cool. That’s all I got. Our theme music is by Margaret Killjoy. Our zine layout is by Casandra. And thanks to the lovely mountain goblins that mail out our feature every month. I would like to give some special shout outs to these wonderful people though, who have helped make this podcast as well as so many other projects possible. Thank you. Patoli, Eric, Perceval, Buck, Julia, Catgut, Marm, Carrson, Lord Harken, Trixster, Princess Miranda, BenBen, Anonymous, Funder, Janice & O’dell, Aly, paparouna, Milicia, Boise Mutual Aid, theo, Hunter, SJ, Paige, Nicole, David, Dana, Chelsea, Staro, Jenipher, Kirk, Chris, Miccaiah, and Hoss the Dog. If you sign up for our $20 a month Patreon then you can also get your name read here. And, you know, it can be, it can be whatever you want. So, you know, so if you feel like supporting us at that level, come up with a fun name for us to read every, you know, two or three times a month. It’ll be fun. And lastly, a lot of these features on the podcast come from listeners like you. So if you feel like a stranger that would like to find their story at home in this tangled wilderness, consider submitting it. Next month, which is going to be a little bit earlier than usual. It’s not…. Instead of coming out on the last day of the month, it’s going to come out earlier in the month, so keep an eye out because we’re going to be talking about a pretty timely thing. And that is St Lucy’s day. And…which means that we have a really wonderful piece by one of my favorite writers and one of my oldest friends, Wren Awry, who is bringing us a piece called "St. Lucy: an anti-hagiography." It’s gonna be a lot of fun. And if you want to learn more about, you know, Catholic mysticism and other really cool things–you can tell I feel really articulate right now–then come back and give it a listen. It’s gonna be a fun time. Stay well. We hope you come back

Find out more at https://live-like-the-world-is-dying.pinecast.co

S1E101 – Leah on Disability and Preparedness

Episode Summary

This week on Live Like the World is Dying, Margaret and Leah talk about disability, preparedness, finding community, and covid.

Guest Info

Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha (They/She) is a writer and structural engineer of disability and transformative justice work. Leah can be found at brownstargirl.org, on Instagram @leahlakshmiwrites, or on Bluesky @thellpsx.bsky.social

Their book The Future is Disabled: Prophecies, Love Notes, and Mourning Songs can be found:
https://bookshop.org/p/books/the-future-is-disabled-prophecies-love-notes-and-mourning-songs-leah-lakshmi-piepzna-samarasinha/18247280

Their book Care Work: Dreaming Disability Justice can be found: https://bookshop.org/p/books/care-work-dreaming-disability-justice-leah-lakshmi-piepzna-samarasinha/16603798

Host Info

Margaret (she/they) can be found on twitter @magpiekilljoy or instagram at @margaretkilljoy.

Publisher Info

This show is published by Strangers in A Tangled Wilderness. We can be found at www.tangledwilderness.org, or on Twitter @TangledWild and Instagram @Tangled_Wilderness. You can support the show on Patreon at www.patreon.com/strangersinatangledwilderness.

Transcript

Leah on Disability and Preparedness

Resources Mentioned:

StaceyTaughtUs Syllabus, by Alice Wong and Leah:

https://disabilityvisibilityproject.com/2020/05/23/staceytaughtus-syllabus-work-by-stacey-milbern-park/

NoBody Is Disposable Coalition: https://nobodyisdisposable.org/

Power To Live Coalition: https://www.powertolivecoalition.org/

Disability Visibility Project article about Power to Live : https://disabilityvisibilityproject.com/2019/10/26/call-for-stories-powertolive/

Power to Live survival skillshare doc: http://tinyurl.com/dissurvival

Long winter crip survival guide for pandemic year 4/forever
by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha and Tina “constant tt” Zavitsanos
https://www.tinyurl.com/longwintersurvival

Pod Mapping for Mutual Aid by Rebel Sydney Rose Fayola Black:

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1-QfMn1DE6ymhKZMpXN1LQvD6Sy_HSnnCK6gTO7ZLFrE/mobilebasic?fbclid=IwAR0ehOJdo-vYmJUrXsKCpQlCODEdQelzL9AE5UDXQ1bMgnHh2oAnqFs2B3k

Half Assed Disabled Prepper Tips for Preparing for a Coronavirus Quarantine. (By Leah)

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1rIdpKgXeBHbmM3KpB5NfjEBue8YN1MbXhQ7zTOLmSyo/edit

Sins Invalid Disability Justice is Climate Justice: https://www.sinsinvalid.org/news-1/2022/7/7/disability-justice-is-climate-justice

Skin Tooth and Bone: The Basis of Movement is Our People (A disability justice primer): https://www.sinsinvalid.org/disability-justice-primer

DJ Curriculum by Sins: https://www.sinsinvalid.org/curriculum

Partnership for Inclusive Disaster Strategies: https://disasterstrategies.org/

Live Like the World is Dying: Leah on Disability & Preparedness

**Margaret ** 00:15
Hello, and welcome to Live Like the World is Dying, your podcast for what feels like the end times. I’m your host, Margaret killjoy. And I always tell you that I’m excited about episodes, but I’m really excited about this episode. It put me in a better mood than when I started the day that I get to record this episode. Because today, we’re going to be talking about disability and preparedness. We’re gonna be talking about Covid abandonment. And we’re gonna be talking about a lot of the questions that… a lot of the questions that people write us to talk about that they have about preparedness and I think that we can cover a lot of those. Not me, but our guest. But first before the guest, a jingle from another show on the network. Oh, the network is called Channel Zero Network. It is a network of anarchists podcasts and here’s a jingle. [sings a simple melody]

**Margaret ** 01:08
Okay, and we’re back. So, if you could introduce yourself with your name, your pronouns, and then I guess just a little bit about how you got involved in thinking about and dealing with disability and preparedness.

**Leah ** 02:00
Sure. Hi, my name is Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha. She and They pronouns. Right now I live in Pocomtuc and Nipmuc territories in Western Massachusetts. And that is a great question. I will also just plug myself briefly and be like I’m a disability justice and transformative justice old sea-hag, aging punk of color who has written or co-edited ten books and done a lot of shit. Okay, so when I was sitting on the toilet thinking about "What do I want to tell Margaret when we get on the show?", I was actually thinking that my disability and my preparedness routes are kind of one in the same because… So I’m 48 [years old] now and I got sick when I was 21-22. So like back in 96-97. And, it was the initial episode that I got sick with chronic fatigue, ME, and fibromyalgia. And I was just super fucking ill and on the floor and was living in Toronto as somebody who was not from Canada. And, you know, I was just sick as hell, like crawling to the bathroom, like sleeping 18 hours a day. The whole nine. And I’d been really really deeply involved in anarchist of color and prison abolitionist and antifascist organizing and lots of stuff. I had a community, but it was 1997, so most of my community was just like, "What you’re sick? Why didn’t you make it to the meeting? We have to write all the prisoners with the [untranslatable]." And I was just like, "I just…. Okay, great." Like it was a really different time. There was no GoFundMe, mutual aid, Meal Train, someone brought me some soup. Like, know you, we weren’t really doing that. And people really did not have a consciousness around, "You can be a 22 year old brown, nonbinary femme and be really, really sick and be disabled." So something I think a lot, and I’ve said before, is that disabled people are really used to the concept that no one is going to save us and we are really not surprised when state systems abandoned us because we live in that all the time. And so I was just like this little 22 year old sicko weirdo who’d read my Octavia Butler–and, in fact, that was part of the reason why I was like, "Toronto, great, there’s gonna be more water and less heat." Okay, wasn’t totally right about that. But, you know, I mean, I really had to save myself and I kind of was like, "Alright, I don’t have…" Like, I’m working off the…I’m working under the table. I have hardly any money. I’m gonna make my own herbal medicine. I’m gonna grow a lot of what I eat from my backyard. I’m going to store water. I’m going to run a credit card scam and get a lot of dried goods and live off of those for like a year. [Margaret Hell Yeahs] Yeah, stuff like that. I feel like from there, over the last, you know, 26 years like it’s….like, that’s the route. The route was, you know, similar to a lot of people, I think of my generation, we were like on the cusp of looking at the current crises of like hot fascist war, hot eugenics war, hot climate crisis, and being like, "It’s coming," and I started being like, "Yeah, like don’t…don’t think that it’s all going to work out okay and that somebody else is going to fix it for you." So, I would say that’s where my initial route–and then do you want to jump in? Or can I jump ahead like 20 years or something?

**Margaret ** 05:10
Honestly, you could jump ahead 20 years later. I’m gonna come back and make you talk more about Octavia Butler. But we’ll do that later.

**Leah ** 05:16
Let’s talk more about Octavia Butler because I have a lot of stuff about Octavia Butler and how she thought of–and I think sometimes misused–like nowadays [this is probably not the word but it’s untranslatable] and also about disability. [Margaret "Oooohs" curiously] I know. We can get to that. Okay, so that’s one route. And then, you know, I mean, I was always kind of like a little weirdo, where it’s like, yeah, I grow most of my own food–or as much as I can–and it’s not a fun green hobby. It’s like, I’m broke as fuck and I need to grow a lot vegetables that fucking, you know, I can mulch and that can stay growing into December, you know? I stashed stuff. Something I also think a lot, is that as disabled people–and we talked about this a little bit when we’re emailing–I think we’re always prepping whether we call it that or not. Like most disabled folks I know just do shit. Like if you get a prescription and you have extra, you store it, you know? Like, if you can get a double dose, you put that aside. And then maybe you have it for yourself. Or, there’s so many disabled mutual aid networks I’ve been a part of where someone’s–I mean, before Facebook clamped down, this is really common on a lot of Facebook disabled groups–someone would be like, "Yo, does anyone have an extra five pills of such and such?" and I’ve seen total strangers for 15 years of disability justice be like, "Yep, what’s your address? I do. I’m gonna mail it to you. I have my old pain meds. I’ve got this. I’ve got that." But, um, yeah, like doing the jumping forward that I promised you, so for people who don’t know, disability justice as a movement was founded around 2005 by a group, a small group of disabled Black, Asian, and poor and working class, white disabled folks, who were all pretty, you know, gay, trans, and radical. And they were like, "We want to bring a revolutionary intersectional out of our own lives and experiences and issues. We want to create a disability movement that’s for us and by us that’s not just white, single issue, often cis, often male, often straight." Like, we want to talk about the fact that 50% of bipoc folks who were killed by the cops are also disabled, deaf, neurodivergent, etc… just to give one example. So, you know, that was ’05 in Oakland, you know, Patti Burn, LeRoy Moore, Stacy Milbern, Ely Claire, Sebastian Margaret, Stacey Milbern Park, you know, the six. And I was living in Toronto and I moved to Oakland in ’07 and I was kind of around for some of the beginnings of it. There’s two stories I want to bring in. One actually predates my move. It was right when I was getting ready to leave Toronto, I got invited to go to this reading by a bunch of queer–I think all white–disabled radical folks. And I was just like, "Oh?" And I did the whole, like, "Am I really disabled enough?" and then it was like, "Oh, it’s gonna be really depressing." And then it was really awesome. And I was like, "Whoa, disability community. Life saving." But it was kind of one of my moments of being brought into the disability community because there was this writer who was there who, their reading series was actually a choose your own adventure where there’s four disabled, queer, and trans folks who are having a sex party and the zombie apocalypse happens. And then they have to figure out how to survive it without abandoning each other. And it was all like, "Okay, you all get to the van, but then there’s no ramp. What do you do? Oh! You get this accessible ramp, but it smells like perfume and somebody has NCS. What do you do? And I was just sitting there with my mouth open–and it was also interwoven with like, ‘Yeah, and then somebody’s fucking somebody else with like, you know, a dildo strapped to their prosthetic,’" and I was like, wow, I fucking love disability. Like, sign me up. But I gotta say briefly, that was one of my first examples of like, you know, there’s a really important phrase in Disability Justice, which is, "No one left behind, " right? Like, that’s one of the core organizing principles. And that was kind of…. Before I even heard that phrase, I was like, "Fuck like this is…"–because I’d been around antiauthoritarian, quasi prepper, like "shit’s gonna happen, we have to get ready." But I was always kind of quiet in the corner closeting my disability being like, "Well, shit, like, what if I don’t have my meds? Or what if I’m too…. What if I can’t run away from, you know, the Nazis or the zombies because I have a limp and I walk with a cane? Like, what if?" And that was my first example of this cross disability fantasy space of like, "We’re going to escape together and we’re not going to let anyone get eaten and it’s going to mean really being creative about access stuff." Okay so jump ahead to, right, then I moved to Oakland and then I ran into actual Disability Justice community through Sins Invalid, which is an incredibly important foundational Disability Justice group, and through a lot of friendships I started making with other QTBIPOC disabled folks and my really, really good friend Stacy Park Milbern, who, people should totally know her work. She’s incredible. She was one of the best movement organizers that the movement has ever seen. And we met online. And she was living in Fort Bragg, North Carolina with her family on the base because her family’s military. And she was a queer southern, working-class, Korean and white, you know, physically disabled organizer from when she was really young. And then she was like, "Okay, I love my family, but I’m literally hiding my gay books in the wall because my mom’s Pentecostal." So, yeah, and she’s like–I literally realized she tells the story a lot–she’s like, "Yeah, like, I realized I hadn’t really left the house for a couple months and like, this is gonna be it," and she’s like, "I was literally watching Oprah. And Oprah said, ‘No one’s coming to save you.’" And she was like, okay. She’s 21 years old. And then through online, disabled, queer of color community there was this–or she organized–this initiative called To the Other Side of Dreaming where she moved crosscountry with Mia Mingus, who’s another queer Korean organizer who was a friend of hers, ad moved to the Bay Area. And so that was around 2010-2011. And then in 2011, what happens but the Fukushima nuclear accident, right, disaster? And we’re all on the West Coast–and it’s completely ridiculous bullshit, looking back on it now–but all of these Bay Area folks were like, "Oh my God! Radiation!" And some people pointed out, "Look, you know, we’re not…. There’s…it’s a big ocean. The people who really have to worry are in Japan and areas around it, so whatever?" But it was one of those times where we were like, fuck, this is a really big nuclear accident and we are sort of close and it’s making us think about disaster. And I remember just going to fucking Berkeley Bowl, which is this big, fancy, organic supermarket and people had bought out all of the burdock all the fucking seaweed. And I was like, "Oh, my God, these people." But out of that, Stacy started having conver–and I and other people who were in our organizing network of disabled, majority BIPOC–were like, "What are we going to as disabled BIPOC if there is an earthquake, fascism, like another big disaster? And Stacy said, really bluntly, she’s like, "You know," and she was a power wheelchair user. She used a ventilator. You know, she’s like, "Yeah, I am supported by electricity and battery dependent access equipment." And she’s like, "Well, I’m going to be really honest, my plan has always been, if something happens, I’m just going to lay down in my bed and die, because I don’t think that any emergency services are going to come save me and the power is going to run out in 48 hours. And then we were like, "Okay, that’s super real. What if, through our amazing collective access stuff we’re doing, we could figure out something else?" And we had this meeting at Arismendy bakery, which for folks who know, is like a worker owned co-op chain, Our friend Remedios worked there. It’s wheelchair accessible. We met there after hours. And it was just like, 12-15 of us who started just sitting there and being like, "What are the resources we have? What are the needs we have? And we made this map, which I still have, which I think I shared with you, which is just like, "Apocalypse, South Berkeley/Oakland Map 2011," where we were like, "Okay, you know, when the power goes down, the communication goes down. We’re gonna meet at this one traffic circle because people who are wheelchair users can roll up. And we’re gonna bury note paper in a mason jar with pens and we’re gonna leave notes for each other. But we’re also going to agree to meet there the day after at noon." And I was like, okay, my collective house, the first floor is wheelchair accessible. We have solar, we have a landline. And we have a lot of space. So like, let’s meet there. And then someone was like, "We’ve got the one accessible van. And we know, it’s only supposed to fit 4 people, but we can fit like 12 in there." And we started…. Like, I just think about that a lot because it’s, I think it was a really important moment where it was important…the stuff that we did like that–you know, the actual strategies and the resources we started talking about–but it was also that it was the first time in my life that I was like, "Okay, we’re not–not only are we not going to just die alone in our beds, I’m also not going to be the one person who survives. Like, I can actually survive with, and because of, other people. And we’re all disabled BIPOC with a couple of disabled white folks. And we can actually collectively strategize around that. And this will be my last leap forward, because I see that you’re like, "I want to ask you stuff." So, you know, eight years go by, and in that time we all do an incredible amount of Disability Justice organizing and strategizing. And, you know, in 2019…. And a lot of it started to be around climate disaster on the West Coast. Like, I moved to Seattle in 2015. The wildfires started being really bad a year or two later. A lot of us were involved in mask distributions, just spreading information about smoke safety and survival. And then 2019 was the infamous year where the wildfires came back and Pacific Gas and Electric, in all of its fucking glory, which is the main–for people who don’t know–it’s the main utility electrical company in Northern California. They announced two days before wildfires were going to really impact the Bay, they were like, "Oh, so we’ve decided that our strategy is going to be that we’re just going to shut down all the power in Northern California.

**Margaret ** 14:52
No one uses that. [Sardonically]

**Leah ** 14:53
No one uses that. And they’re like, "Oh, if you have a medical need, call this number, and we’ll make sure to leave it on at your house." and Stacey was, "Okay." She had just bought her house, the Disability Justice Culture Club in East Oakland, you know, which was her house but also a community center, de facto community center, that housed a lot of disabled folks of color. And she was like, "I was on the fucking phone for eight hours. Like, I never got through." And she and some comrades started this campaign called Power to Live where they were like…. It started out as, "Okay, we can’t save everybody, but we’re not going to just lay down and die. What do we do?" So it started out as like, okay, let’s identify who has housing that still has power. There’s some people in Richmond, there’s some people in this neighborhood, but then it also developed into this thing where it was just this amazing crowdsource survivalist resource where it was everything from, she’s like, "Here’s a number. Here’s an email. If you need something, text us, call us, email us. We have a team of eight people. We’ll figure it out. If you have something to offer, do it too." And then some of it was that people were sharing everything from generator information, to generator shares, to people in different areas– like I was in Seattle and we were like, "Okay, we will mail you generators and air purifiers, because it’s obviously all sold out in the Bay, but we can get it here and get it to you." The thing that always stands out to me is people being like, "Oh, yeah, here’s how you can use dry ice and clay pots to keep your insulin cold if refrigeration goes down." And there’s a lot more I could say about that action and how amazing it was. But for me, when I think about the through line, I’m like, that moment in 2011, when we all got together, and were like, "What do we do?" we were prepping for what we couldn’t fully predict, you know, the exact manifestation of eight years later. We’re there and we’re like, "Okay, there’s wildfires, there’s smoke, there’s no fucking power, and we’ve not only built our organizing base, we built our relationships with each other so that we can actually trust each other and more or less know how to work together when this shit actually is hitting the fan to create something that’s really life giving. Okay, I’ll shut up. That was a lot.

**Margaret ** 16:52
Now I have so many questions about all of it.

**Leah ** 16:53
Yeah, ask me all the questions.

**Margaret ** 16:55
Because there’s a couple…there’s a couple of questions and/or feedback that we get with Live Like, the World is Dying a lot. And some of them are very specifically disability related, and you covered most of them, but I want to highlight some of them. Like a lot of people write and are like, "Well, I rely on the following thing that is provided by civilization. So my plan is to lay down and die." Right? This is a–and I know you’ve kind of answered it–but I…. I want to ask more. Okay, I’ll go through all the things. Okay. So to talk more about what "No One Left Behind," means? And then the other thing that really stands out to me is that, you know, when we were talking, when we were talking about what we were going to talk about on this on this episode, I was saying, okay, we can talk about, you know, making sure that preparedness is inclusive and open and includes disabled folks, or whatever, and you pointed out, really usefully, the, the necessity to reframe it. And I think that the story you just gave is a really beautiful example of this, where it’s less about, like, "Hey, make sure to pay attention to the people who need canes," you know, or whatever, right? Like, you know, "make sure you keep track of folks based on disability." And more than like the thing you just described, is the thing that we’re always trying to push, which is that you need to make a list of all the resources and needs within your community and then figure out how to meet those needs and instead of assuming that we can’t meet those needs, figuring out how to actually do it. And so I love that it’s actually like…. It’s actually disability justice movements that we should be learning from, I mean, or participating in, depending on our level of ability, or whatever, but I just find that I find both of those things really interesting. And so I wonder if you have more that you want to say about alternatives to laying down and dying, and specifically, to tie into the other thing that I get asked the most or that I get the common feedback is–because we talk a lot about the importance of community for preparedness on this show–a lot of people don’t feel like they have community and a lot of people write to be like, "I don’t have any friends," or "I don’t know any other people like me," or, you know. And so, I guess that’s my main question is how do…. [Trails off] Yeah, how do?

**Leah ** 19:22
So how do you make community when you don’t have community? Alternatives to lying down and dying? And was there a third one in there?

**Margaret ** 19:28
I was just highlighting how cool it is that y’all sat there and made a list of resources and needs, which is exactly what…. Instead of deciding things are impossible, just being like, "Well, let’s just start doing them." You know?

**Leah ** 19:40
And I think…. Okay, so I’ll start there. Like I think that like…. You know, Corbit O’Toole, who’s like a, you know, Disability Rights Movement veteran and like older Irish, disabled dyke, you know, in Crip Camp, the movie, she’s like, "Disabled people live all the time with the knowledge that the society wants thinks we’re better off dead," right? Like one…back in the day, you know, there’s a–I think they’re still active–one of the big Disability Rights direct action organizations was called Not Dead Yet, right? [Margaret Hell Yeahs] I think this is the thing is like I think that sometimes abled people or neurotypical people are not used to sitting down and making the list. And I think that even if disabled people aren’t preppers, we’re used to being like, "Okay, what do I need? Fuck, I need somebody to help me do my dishes. Oh, I can’t bend over. I need to figure out what is the access tool that will allow me to pick up something from the floor when my that goes out? Like, if my attendant doesn’t show up, can I have a…" You know, like, my friends always like, "Yeah, I’ve got a yogurt container by the bed in case my attendant doesn’t show up so I can not piss the bed. I can lean over and piss in the yogurt container." Like there’s a–and I think that…. God, I mean, there’s been so many times over the years where I’ve done or been a part of doing like Disability Justice 101 and me and Stacy would always talk about crip wisdom and crip innovation and people will just look blank like "What are you talking about? You guys are just a bunch of sad orphans at the telethon." It’s not just about making the list, it’s also about how disabled disability forces you to be innovative. Like, Stacy would always share this story where she’s like, "Yeah," like, she’s like "Crip innovation is everything from," she’s like, "I save a lot of time sometimes by pretending I can’t talk when people come over and want to pray over me. You know, I just act like a mute and they fucking leave and they go on with their life," and she’s like, "You know, I realized one day, if I took my sneakers off, I could ramp a step if it’s just two steps. I could just put them there and I could roll up." Or I mean, there’s a million examples…. Or like, because I think it’s about prepping and about making the lists and it’s also about whatever you prep for, there’s always going to be the X Factor of "Oh, we didn’t fucking expect that." And I think that’s where a lot of prep falls apart is people have their "Dream Bunker." They’re like, "Oh, okay, I know exactly what the threats are going to be." And then of course, it doesn’t fucking happen that way. I really hope I can swear on your show.

**Margaret ** 21:46
You can. Don’t worry.

**Leah ** 21:47
Great. So, I mean, one example I could give is I’m remembering at, you know, a Sins show when we were in rehearsal, where everyone drove over from Oakland in Patty’s wheelchair accessible van, and then the ramp broken wouldn’t unfold. So we just were like, alright, who do we know who has welding equipment? Who do we know has lumber? Like, I think we ended up going to a bike repair shop and then they had tools. And then we’re like, okay, we’ll just bring the rehearsal into the van and do it that way. Like, you have to be innovative. And that’s a muscle that I think society doesn’t teach you to flex and that often, I think that even people who…. I think there can be a lot of eugenics in prep, you know, whether people are overtly fascist or not, there’s a real belief of like, "Oh, only the strong and smart," –which looks a certain way– "survive," and that "We should use rational thinking to make it all work out." And I think a lot of crip intelligence or wisdom is actually knowing that shit can go sideways 48 different ways and you have to adapt. And you have to just kind of be like, "Well, let’s try this." So I think that’s one thing. And I think, you know, one thing I’ll say is, yeah, just speaking to kind of the reframing we were talking about, I think it’s less like, "Oh, remember the people with canes," but, I mean, that’s good, but also knowing that we’re already doing it and that abled people actually have a shit ton to learn from us. But also, I mean, something…. I mean, the title of my last book is "The Future is Disabled," and it comes from something–it’s not unique thinking to me–it’s something that a lot of disabled people have been thinking and saying throughout the pandemic is that we were already at like a 30% disabled world minimum and we’re pretty close–we’re probably at majority disabled right now. Because what, 2% of the world didn’t get Covid? Like, how many people have Long Covid? How many people have complex PTSD? We’re all sick, crazy, and, you know, needing access equipment. Disability is not out there. It’s in here. Like there’s no such thing as doing prep that’s like, "Oh, only the three Uber Mensch are gonna survive." Like fuck that. And that actually–I mean, sorry, this might be a side note, but a lot of people have probably seen The Last of Us. And I’m just gonna SPOILER ALERT it. You know that famous episode three of those two gay bear preppers in love? Yeah, I loved a lot about it. I was so pissed at the ending, which I’m just going to spoil. So you know, the more artsy, non-prep guy….[interrupted]

**Margaret ** 21:47
Yeah, they don’t survive.

**Leah ** 22:47
Well, no, but like, not only did they not survive but one of them gets chronically ill. And I was just like, grinding my teeth because it’s like, "Oh, he’s in a wheelchair. Oh, his hand tremors." And then they end up deciding to both kill themselves rather than do anything else. And I was so furious at it because I was like, these are two people who are so innovative. They have figured out all kinds of problem solving. They have an entire small city for themselves. And it’s all like, "Oh, no, he can’t get up the stairs." And I’m like, really? There was no accessible ranch house you couldn’t of fucking moved to?

**Margaret ** 24:38
Or like build a bedroom on the fucking ground floor.

**Leah ** 24:40
Or youcouldn’t get meds? You couldn’t? I mean, when his hand was shaking, it was like, "Oh, it’s so sad. He’s being fed." I’m like, there’s tons…. First of all, it doesn’t suck to be fed. A lot of things that seem like a fate worse than death are not when you’re in them. And also, there’s like all kinds of adaptive utensils that they could have fucking raided from medical supply if he wants to feed himself. Or I’m sorry, there’s no cans of Ensure? They absolutely have power. They couldn’t have made smoothies? Like, what the fuck is this? But beyond that–and I think that a lot of people who have talked about that episode did, I think, have some good analysis of it where, you know, the whole way they set up their prep was they were like, "Oh, it’s just the two of us," and the one super prepper guy was like, "I don’t even want friends to come over." And the other guy was like, "Hey, actually, we need to make alliances because there’s things they have that we don’t. And we also need more than just the two of us because I love you, but I’m gonna kill you." And I think that’s something to think about is really moving away from the idea that just your little you know, the utopic queer rural community that so many fucking city queers fantasize about or, you know, lover are going to be enough, because it’s not. So that actually leads me to, "I don’t have community. Where the fuck do I get it?" And I’m like, yeah, that’s super real. Right? And I think it’s something I actually wrote about in "The Future is Disabled" is that I have people be like–when I write about different crip communities, just even when I talk about stuff on Facebook…. Like my friend, Graham Bach, it’s going to be his second year death anniversary in like two weeks, and he was like, you know, white, psychiatric survivor, super poor, amazing sweetheart of a human being, he died…. I mean, he died in his, you know, rent to your income apartment because he was really afraid to go to the hospital and he had cardiac stuff going on. And he was an anarchist, he was amazing, kind, complicated human being. And, I was writing about, like…. I’m going to tell the story and there’s a couple things I want to pull out of it. So I was writing about meeting Graham when I was in my early 20s through radical Mad people community, and somebody was reading it and was like "That sounds so great." And I was like, "Yeah, it wasn’t utopic. Like, I had to yell back at Graham because he would scream at me and I’d be like, "Shut the fuck up!" Like, there was so many fights. There was so much racism. There were so many older white cis dudes who had electroshock who were jerky or gross, you know? And I guess that was the thing is, I was like, they’re like, "Well, how did you find each other?" And I was like, it wasn’t perfect. Also, it was very analog working class. Like my friend Lilith Finkler, who is an amazing Moroccan, Jewish, working-class queer femme psych survivor, she would just go to the donut shop where everybody poor hung out and would talk to everybody who wass there who wass crazy who no one wanted to talk to and be like, "Hey, do you want to come hang out at this meeting at the fucking legal clinic? We have a room. We have a snack plate. I’ll give you tokens. Let’s organize." So I think that’s the first thing is that it’s not–and I don’t mean this in a finger-wagging way–it’s not automatic. And also, one of the really big ways that community is often ableist, and that a lot of us get cut out from it, is that a lot of us who need it the most are not particularly easy to love in ableist neurotypical worldview. It’s like we’re cranky, we’re wounded, we’re in a bad mood, we’re weird. So a lot of the time, I think it’s thinking about, first of all, what’s one step, one move you can take towards it. Like, can you make one fucking acquaintance and build it. And really think about what it would mean to build some kind of relationship. I think the other thing that I really want to highlight is that a lot of the communities that I see that keep each other alive, that I’m lucky to have been a part of making and being supported by in disabled community, they’re not static and they’re not perfect. Like, I have networks with people who piss me the fuck off and who, you know, I’ve sent 20 bucks to people who I’m just like, "I really don’t like you, but I can see that you really don’t have food," you know, and we’re not going to be friends and we’re not going to like each other, but I don’t want you to die. And that’s not…I mean, it’s bigger…. There’s also people who I’m like, "Okay, you’re my ex-abuser. I’m not gonna give you $5. Someone else can give you $5.

**Margaret ** 28:42
There’s this person who puts a lot of their effort into talking shit on me on the internet and I…they’re also broke and have a lot of chronic health issues and I send them money every month. And every now and then I’m like, could this like…could you stop talking shit now?

**Leah ** 29:03
I think this is the thing sometimes is like, hey, how about this is the deal, like maybe just say "Thank you," or maybe just talk shit even like 20% less? Because you know, I’m really doing we keep us safe here. I just really want a "thank you."

**Margaret ** 29:16
I don’t want you to die. Like, I don’t want you to starve to death, but I really wish you would be a little bit more open minded to people having different opinions on yours.

**Leah ** 29:26
Oh yeah, nuance, right? Yeah, it’d be fucking nice.

**Margaret ** 29:29
God forbid. Anyway.

**Leah ** 29:31
No, it’s good. I guess my TLDR would be to start where you are and start with "what’s one thing you can do? What’s one person you can reach out to?" And I think, you know, I don’t know if this is true for everyone who reaches out to you and it’s like, "Well, I don’t have anybody," but I think that social media and online connectivity is a real double-edged sword because for some of us who are isolated, it can create both online communities that can sometimes become in-real-life community and, either way, can be sources of some community or support. But I think…. I mean, you know, I’m a Generation X’er and I’ve just seen social media get more and more chokehold and just turn into fucking the panopticon meets a mall, you know? [Margaret laughs] And I think it’s hard because 12 years ago I was part of really early online disabled spaces, which were great because so many people were like, "Well, I’m so isolated in my small town or in my city," or "I can’t leave bed, but this is great. I’m meeting with other people and we’re building these connections and it’s actually more accessible for me to be real about my stuff from like my bed with a heating pad." And now I just think it’s so chokeholded that it’s hard for us to find each other. So it’s much more common for people to be like, "Wow, I’m seeing all these people who have millions of followers and a shiny brand and I just feel like even more of an isolated loser." And then at the same time, I think people are like, "Well, how did people meet each other before this?" And I was like, "Yeah, like, you go to the coffee shop or the donut shop. You put up a flier. You go to the library. You like, I don’t know. I mean, I just remember people I met on the food stamps line, you know, when we got there at six in the morning. And not everything’s gonna stick, but maybe something sticks. And I also think about like, I’m going back to 13 years ago in early Disability Justice community spaces where–I mean, I think back to [untranslatable] when I went back to Toronto–which, yeah, big city–but I remember I had so many people come to me and be like, "You’re…"–because I was starting to be more out about disability, cuz I was like, "I’m in the Bay and there’s these wild people who talk about it and they’re not all white people." and so I have so many, especially Black and brown disabled femmes be like, "Hi, you don’t really know me, but I have fibromyalgia too," or "I have Lupus too. And like, no one I know talks about that. How do you do it?" And I’m specifically thinking about this time that this person I’m no longer in touch with–but we used to be friends–who’s like, you know, queer, brown nonbinary person was like, "Let’s just have a meet up of other chronically ill femmes of color," which is how we were identifying a time, and it was four of us, four heating pads, a bottle of Advil, and just very tentatively starting to share things about our lives. And I was like, "Yeah, that was four people." But a lot of that hang out then rippled outward. And it was like, I think it’s also important to be like, it’s scary to build community. Some tools I want to shut out like, so Mia Mingus, who I mentioned before, she has a lot of really great writing on her blog Leaving Evidence and she created this tool a long time ago now–that some people might be familiar with but for folks who aren’t–it’s, you know, it’s her tool that she calls Pod Mapping. And she actually created it as part of a collective she founded called the Bay Area Transformative Justice Collective that was working on doing transformative justice interventions into intimate violence, specifically childhood sexual abuse a lot of the time, and she had this framework that I find really helpful. She’s like, "A lot of…" she was talking about in community accountability, transformative justice spaces and she made a really good point where she’s like, "Sometimes we talk about like, ‘Yeah, bring in the community. Like, everyone has a community.’" And she’s like, "Most people don’t have a fucking community, let alone one that can interview in childhood sexual abuse." So she created this tool where she’s like, "Let’s broaden the idea of what community is." Like, maybe it’s that one cousin, that you only talk to once a year, but you could call them in a jam, or it’s this hotline, or it is like, yeah, they’re a weird church, but you really like their food banks. She’s like, "You have to really bring in…. Like, start where you are and do the resource mapping we were talking about" I really liked that tool a lot as a place for people who are like, "What’s my community?" because I think it’s a big word and really being like, "What does that even mean to me?" and like, "What’s one place that can start building it?" And I also want to shout out, Rebel Sydney Black, who’s a friend of mine who passed this June, at the beginning of the pandemic, he created this tool called Pod Mapping for Mutual Aid that was specifically aimed at disabled folks who were trying to pod map during Covid–and we can provide the link and stuff like that–but I would say that those are two places to start and then I want to get to alternatives to lying down and dying. And then I’ll stop.

**Margaret ** 34:04
Okay, wait, wait, before we get to that I want to talk more about the building community thing.

**Leah ** 34:08
Yeah, please.

**Margaret ** 34:09
I think you brought up a lot of really interesting points. And one of the things that I really like about it, you know, talking about having like…you’re broadening the idea of what counts as community, which I think is really useful. And one of the things I realized is that a lot of times when I was younger, I was like, "Y’all say ‘community’ and you just mean the people that you like," right? And that didn’t make any sense to me. Community seems like the people where you have a shared interest, whether the shared interest is you live on the same block, or whether the shared interest is an identity, or whether the shared interest is an interest that you’re trying to see change, or whatever. It doesn’t mean people you like. It’s a different thing. Friends are the people I like, right? Well, mostly. I’m just kidding. I love all of you. I mean, there’s a lot of people I love that I don’t always like. Anyway, so I don’t know, and so I think that one of the things that stuck out with me about what you’re gonna say and I want to highlight is the idea that–or maybe I’m misreading it–but like "pick issue to work" around seems like a good useful way. Especially if you struggle to just have friends, right? That’s not like the thing that you’re good at. But maybe there’s a thing that you want to work on? Or having that meetup where it’s like, oh, all the following people who have the following things in common, let’s meet up and talk about it. Or honestly, activism is a really good way to meet people and work closely with people about things. And it doesn’t necessarily have to mean these are now your friends. But they can be people where you rely on each other. And that doesn’t have to be the same. I think about it a lot because I live in a fairly isolated and rural environment where there’s not a lot of people around me who are culturally…. Whatever, there’s not a lot of out, queer people where I live. There’s not a lot of punks. And I’m like, that’s okay. I talk to my actual neighbors instead. I mean, some of them, not all of them, but most of them, you know, they’re who I would rely on in a crisis, because they’re right there. It doesn’t mean that we have the same ideas about a lot of stuff, you know? But we have similar ideas, like, "Let’s not die," right? And so that’s enough sometimes. Anyway, I just wanted to….

**Leah ** 36:12
No, I really appreciate it. And I mean that makes me kind of think about, when you were talking, I was like, yeah, you know, there’s friends, there’s communities, and then there’s survival networks, which can include contacts, right? Because I just think about what would I do right now, if some should happened? And I was like, I’ve got long distance kin and long term friendships and relationships ofvarious kinds and I also have–because I moved to where I live, which is like semi-rural, but definitely more rural than where I’ve lived before–and I’m just like, yeah, I have a small number of friends. But there’s like people who I know who I can…who are neighbors who like, maybe we don’t know a shit ton about each other but I could be like, "Hey, this thing?" or "Hey, do you have water?" or, "Hey, let’s do this." I think it’s a lot about thinking about what are your goals? Is your goal intimacy? Is your goal survival? Is your goal friendship? Because you need different levels of trust and commonality depending on those things, right? I also think, and this is the thing too, I think something…. I think a lot of times because I’ve had people be like, "Well, I don’t have community," also, I’ve heard that. And I think that a lot of times the context, I hear it in is people being like, "Well, I have care needs, but I don’t have any community." So then there’s also the really big thorny question of "need" and like being cared for is actually very complicated. It’s very risky. It’s very vulnerable. It’s not safe a lot of the time. It may feel a lot easier to just be like, "I don’t have any fucking needs." And so there’s a lot, I will just say that there’s a lot of unpacking that needs to do around like, "What would I need to be cared for? What are my lower risk needs that I need help with? What are my higher risk needs?" right? Like, there’s people who I can…. There’s some needs I have where I’m like, I don’t need to trust you super, super deep politically or on an intimate level to let you do that. There are certain needs where I’m like, that’s only going to be people where we’ve really built a lot of fucking trust because if this goes sideways you could really stuck with me. Right? And I think that when you’re starting from nowhere, I think often where people get stuck is like, "Where I am feels like I have nobody and nothing. And I want to get to like the thing I’ve read about in your topic science fiction, where you know, it’s Star Hawk and everybody loves each other. And how the fuck do I get from A to B." And I think the solution is like, yeah, you’re not gonna get to fucking "Fifth Sacred Thing" right away–and that book is complicated.

**Margaret ** 38:29
Yeah, It was very influential on my early….

**Leah ** 38:31
Oh yeah, when I was 18, I just wanted to fucking move there. And now I’m like, "Oh God, this is embarrassing. There’s some shit in here." I’m like, "Wow, everybody’s mixed race, but everyone’s Black parents are dead." Wow. Cool. Nobody really thinks about race. I’m like, I’m gonna throw up. And like, you know, BDSM is just violent….Okay, sorry. We’re not going to get into that.

**Margaret ** 38:47
Oh my God, I don’t remember that part.

**Leah ** 38:49
Oh, yeah. No, where it’s so violent. Like, "We’re just loving." And I wrote a really no passion paper for school, because we actually had to read it in a college class I was in, and I was like, "Why are they not into leather sexuality?" And my professor was like, "Okay, 18 year old…" but yeah.

**Margaret ** 39:04
I mean, legit. You 18 year old self had a legitimate critique.

**Margaret ** 39:08
Yeah.

**Leah ** 39:08
Yeah, no, there’s a lot there. But, um, but jumping back, I guess it’s just like, you know…. And I think this feels like disabled wisdom too, it’s like, what can you do with the spoons or the capacity you have? Like, what’s one move you can make that small? And then can you build on that? Yeah, but can I talk about alternatives to lying down and dying?

**Leah ** 39:28
Yeah. Well, I think…I mean, this is the thing, is like, I’m a survivalist, but I’m not like anti-civilization in the ways that some people are. Like, I want meds, you know? And I think that’s something that other crips I know talk about a lot, which is like, you know, we’re really against this way that some people, including some people who would like align themselves with like Healing Justice who are like "We’re like, oh, yeah, we just have to go back before colonialism and capitalism, and just everyone lived on herbs and it was great." and I was like, "Nah, bitch, I need surgery and meds." Like I want it all. Like, I love non-Western pre-colonial traditional healing. Absolutely. And I’ve had friends who died because they didn’t get their surgeries on time. Like my friend LL died because nobody would give him a fucking kidney because they said he was too fat. And I’m just like, my good future involves…. I mean, and he’s one of millions right? So like, my good future involves that we have surgical suites. And I’m just like, you know, honestly, also, a lot of times that worldview just seems so white to me, because I’m just like, listen, a lot of like, global south places figure out how to have field hospitals, right, in really dire and low-resource situations. So I’m sorry….

**Margaret ** 40:40
I mean, only Europoe’s ever figured out surgery. No one else has done surgery until Europe showed up. [Said sarcastically implying the opposite]

**Leah ** 40:45
Yeah, not fucking ever. [Also said sarcastically]

**Margaret ** 40:46
Said the people who are like, "bite down stick and I’ll saw your arm off."

**Leah ** 40:49
Yeah, so I mean, I guess one thing I would just say is like, I would say that and I would say like, you know, really…I want to like lift up and encourage people to look at–and they can be hard to find–but look at cultures, look at organizing initiatives where people were like, "We can have our own ambulance, we can have our own like…" And when that’s not there, to think about what it would mean to have medical care after the apocalypse, right? What would it mean to make hormones, make drugs, synthesize chemicals, and it’s not impossible. I think that we’re still in the in between of like, okay, we gotta figure out how to do that. But, um, you know, I’m thinking about, Ejeris Dixon, who’s my friend and comrade, and, you know, we co-edited "Beyond Survival" together, which is a book we wrote that came out right at the beginning of the pandemic about stories and strategies from how people are actually trying to create safety without the cops. Ejeris always talks about how they were like, "Yeah, like, in Louisiana, you know, in the South, you know, like in the 50s, and 60s, and before I believe, there were all kinds of Black run ambulance and 911 services," because regular 911 wouldn’t come to Black communities. Right? And they, I mean, something that I’ve heard them say a lot over the years is like, "We don’t have the people’s ambulance yet. But we could." And then it makes me also jump to some friends of mine who were in Seattle who were really active as street medic crew during the rebellions after George George Floyd was murdered by the police in, you know, 2020 in the summer, and specifically in, as some people remember, Seattle managed to have 16 square blocks break off from the city for a while, CHOP, Capitol Hill Organized Front. And so what people don’t know is that the cops were like, "Okay, fuck you. We’re not going to…If there’s any 911 ambulance calls, we’re not going to fucking let anyone go in there." So the street medic crew had to deal with a lot of really intense situations. And then after that, like a lot of us folks, like some folks were already nurses or EMTs and a lot of folks who were involved went to nursing school or EMT school and we’re like–and I don’t know where it’s at now–but they were like, "We want to create,"–because right now in Seattle, there’s, if somebody is having a crisis on the street, like a medical or a mental health crisis or an altered state crisis, there’s no non-911 crisis response that you can call. There’s either you go down the stairs to talk to somebody or there’s the cops, right. And they were like, "We can get a van. We can get medical equipment from eBay." And you know, I don’t know where they’re at with that, but they were really organizing around like, "Yeah, we could get a defibrillator. We could get oxygen. We could get blood pressure cuffs. We could get fucking…" you know? And I think that that shit gets complicated in terms of insurance and regulation and the State and the medical industrial complex, but I want us to keep thinking about that. I also, and then I’ll wrap up because we have other questions to get to, but it also makes me think about, I mean, I don’t know if folks are familiar with Gretchen Felker Martin’s amazing science fiction book "Manhunt," right, which is about….

**Margaret ** 43:50
I haven’t read it yet.

**Leah ** 43:52
It’s so fucking good. Okay, so I won’t give it away. But just for people who don’t know, I’d say it’s the one kind of gender sci-fi book where "Oh, a virus, you know, affects people with certain chromosomes or certain that dih-dah-dug that’s not TERFy because it’s a book that, you know, she’s trans, and it’s a book that centers trans women and nonbinary communities and there’s like one or two trans masculine characters. But the two main trans femme, like trans women characters in the book, they’re like, they have to, they’re like, "Yeah, like, we’re going on raids to get, you know, hormones, and, you know, different, like chemical drugs we need. And we’re also figuring out how to synthesize them from herbs and different substances." And it’s not easy. It’s a struggle. But there are organized communities of trans women and allies that are fighting to do it. And I’m just like, yeah, and I mean, it’s an amazingly well written book, and she’s incredible, and I fucking loved it. And it’s just beautifully written and really just–sorry, I won’t gush too much but go read it, it’s incredible–I just really also appreciated it because she was like, "Yeah, of course we’re gonna get our hormones after the end of the world. Like of course it’s possible." And I will also…. I have some criticisms of the ableism in it, but M.E. O’Brien and–fuck I’m forgetting the second author’s name, but every you know, "Everything For Everyone," that book. I appreciated how in the good future society, they’re like, "Our priority is making sure that insulin and chemical drugs and hormones are accessible and free to everybody." And I was like, I guess I would just push people towards there are ways of imagining the future where we can defeat capitalism but still have medical care of all kinds. We can have Reiki and acupuncture and we can also hormone surgery and transplants. And we might be doing it better because it’s not controlled by fucking corporations and assholes. Sorry, that’s my soapbox. Um, okay. I will say in terms of people being like, "That’s really nice. But what about me?" I would be like, you know, I mean, right now in the war on trans America, there are so many people already who are like, "Yeah, I’m stockpiling meds. I like doing meds trading." I would say it goes back to what we started about, which is like, "Okay, what are your needs? What are the things that you’re worried will not be there if the world ends?" Right? And we also need to recognize that the world’s already ending and it’s ended for some of us a bunch of times already. But I would be like, make that list and then really be like, "Alright, how do I get it?" You know, and if I can’t specifically get it, are there like backups that I can get? And it may be stuff that you can research on your own. It also might be stuff where it’s like, "Okay, are there trans [untranslatable], disability justice organizations, nationally, globally, locally, that you can hit up and be like, "What are folks thoughts about this? Are there ways that we can resource share?" Because I think it’s about pills. I think it’s also about durable medical equipment. So in terms of stuff that requires power to live, I think about generators and I think about generator shares. And I think about things like…there’s a story when Hurricane Sandy hit New York 10 years ago, there were a whole bunch of us where…there’s a guy Nick who’s in community who, physically disabled guy, 13th floor, accessible apartment, you know, the lights went out, you know, really dependent on electricity to change out the batteries on his ventilator. There’s a whole crew of disabled folks, like people walked up and down those fucking stairs every eight hours to take the spent batteries, figured out, "Hey, you know, what still has power, the fucking fire department." People were walking down recharging the batteries every eight hours. And it was allies, it was ambulatory, it was disabled people who could walk. It was fucking hard. But people were like, we’re not…. Nick and his friends were like, "We’re not just going to die. We’re needed." So I wanna shoutout that and just for possibility modeling, I really want to, one other place I want to shout out, is an org that used to be known as Portlight but was now known as the Center for Inclusive Disaster Strategies, which is a disabled-led organization that is about like, yeah, when there’s a climate or other disaster, they figure out ways of getting like accessible fucking evacuation methods to places because they know…we know, there’s millions of examples of people who are just left to die in nursing homes or like, "Oops, the bus doesn’t have a ramp," or, you know, I really want to name that during Katrina, some people might know about, you know, the situation with the nursing home that was there were a lot of folks who were wheelchair users or had high care needs were fucking killed by medical staff because the medical staff were like, "We’re gonna actually euthanize these folks without their knowledge or consent." [Margaret exclaims] Yeah, no, there was actually a movie on HBO about it I think semi recently. Because "that’s easier than figuring out how to fucking get people in the medivac ," right? Yeah, and so the Partnership for Inclusive Disaster Strategies, I’m still getting to know them, but I have friends who are involved and they’re like, "Yeah, we’re aware this is an issue." So yeah, let’s work with the fucking Cajun fucking Navy to like make sure that you can get folks with different bodies onto evac boats. Like let’s figure out what disabled survival looks like. And I will just say, and this is the last thing I swear, for me, I mean, we all know water is important. Like, I can’t lift 54 pounds. Guess what? So can’t–which is, you know, a seven gallon right, like a five or seven gallon whatever–I’m just like, yeah, so I can actually have smaller jugs of water that I can lift. So yeah, I have a bug out plan, but I also have a real Shelter in Place plan because I’m just like, yeah, my apartment’s accessible for me. So yeah, I got a shit ton of water right here and I’ll be good for a while. And I also have a plan B for…. Okay, there’s…I’ve got my filtration equipment, so when that runs out, I’m close to some water sources where I can go and I can filter that shit. And that’s me thinking about what works for my body. Think about what works for yours and then plan out from that. Okay, I’ll really stop talking now.

**Margaret ** 49:44
No, no, but there’s so much there. Even just like to go to the weight of water, right? The thing that I ran across that I’m like–I’m reasonably able-bodied and such like that, right–but I live alone and so obviously there’s this specific thing where like…. Well, one, I mean, abledness is always a temporary position….

**Leah ** 50:04
Yeah, you’re going to get disabled, you’re gonna get sick and disabled.

**Margaret ** 50:07
Like it literally happens to–unless you, I don’t know, die very quickly, very suddenly, probably violently, you’re gonna go through a period of disability in your life, you know? And so my argument is that machismo is anti-prepping. And one of the ways that I would say is that like, there’s now, I think…. Okay, so cement bags, they come in 50 pound bags traditionally, right? But now there’s more and more, I think, there seems to be more and more 30 pound bags, right? And I used to be like, "Oh, whatever, I can lift a 50 pound bag. So I should carry the 50 pound bag." And then I’m like, well, it was not a helpful way to look at it. It is far better for me to just have 30 pound bags of cement because they’re easier to carry and I’ll get tired less. And I, you know, at the time that I was pouring these bags, I lived up a hill about probably the equivalent of a seven storey walk up to this cabin that I was building, right. And so I had to carry each and every one. It was way nicer that I carry 30 pound bags. And if your preparedness doesn’t include the fact that your level of ability will change in different situations, then it’s not very good preparedness. And and so like, I don’t know, I mean, like most of my water jugs are four or five gallon jugs. I use jerry cans. I think most of them are five gallon. And I hate the six gallon ones and the seven gallon ones. They’re just heavy and annoying. And it’s like I can give lift them but there’s no reason why I should. Unless I’m specifically working on lifting weights. And then the other thing that you talked about that I really think about a lot, you know, is this idea, of does your version of disaster mean that every doctor dies? Or like, does your version of disaster mean everyone who’s ever made insulin dies? Like, it’s possible. Sure, you could have 90…if almost everyone on Earth dies, then everything is a little different. But most disasters don’t actually….. Most disasters destroy ways of living and large numbers of people, but not the majority of people write. Most people survive most disasters. And, people are like, "Well, our organizational systems are what produce insulin," and like, no, people produce insulin and they use organizational systems with which to do it. But different organizational systems can also produce insulin. Like different organizational systems can use the same infrastructure sometimes and make the things that we rely on. And it came up with this like whole thing where people on the internet were like, "Ah, if you’re an anarchist, you hate disabled people because in anarchy, you can’t have insulin,"

**Leah ** 50:28
That’s gross.

**Margaret ** 52:40
It is a complete misunderstanding of anarchism. It is not a lack of organization, it is a different type of organization.

**Leah ** 52:46
Anarchy is responsibility.

**Margaret ** 52:48
Yes, totally.

**Leah ** 52:50
Sorry, sorry.

**Margaret ** 52:52
That’s why people don’t like it. People are afraid of it because they actually have to…. It’s the accepting no one is coming to save us except us. You know? No, I love that way of framing and it also annoys anarchists when you tell them this too.

**Leah ** 53:07
Okay, well, I mean, you know, so I worked at Modern Times books, which was, you know, is no longer around, but was a long time anarchists and anti authoritarian radical bookstore in the Bay. And we had the only public toilet in all of the Mission because everybody else was like, "No, you gotta buy something." and in my interview, they’re like, "How will you make the store better?" And I was like, "I will make the bathroom not smell horrible." Because, you know, it was just like a bust, everyone was pissing in there. And so I taped up a sign that said "Anarchy is responsibility. If you spray the fucking toilet with urine, please wipe it up. Together we can have a toilet." And somebody called me out and was like, "That’s capitalist." And I was like, "No, just wipe your piss up or we’re not gonna make the revolution. Like, come on." But yeah, they got pissed at me about that. [Both laugh] But yeah, I mean, I think that’s a really good point. And it’s like, you know, I mean, I think that it does point to, you know, I think a structural problem in a lot of our movements, which is like, yeah, we don’t we need more people who know some basics of chemistry and can synthesize stuff. Like, that’s, you know, we need more people who’ve gone to some kind of science or engineering school who can figure out how sewage works and how you synthesize insulin and how you synthesize hormones and like, basic surgery. And I think there’s a lot of hopefulness because I–maybe it’s just the folks I hang out with–but I have a fair number of friends who are like, "Yeah, I’m gonna be a nurse practitioner. I can give you an abortion. I can sew up your wound. I can help you figure out this thing." And I’d love for there to be more of us who can go to PA school or know more than that. And I also think, yeah, we need to…. I mean, of course it’s a longer range strategy but it’s like yeah, some chemistry school would be great. And, you know, recruiting folks who know some STEM stuff and who are like, "Yep, we can build it. We have the technology," I think is super important. And also but I really…thank you for saying like "What in your idea of disaster do all the doctors die? because, no, they’re not going to fucking all die. It is a problem that, you know, under capitalism and ableist, racist, white supremacist, sexist, cis sexist society, you know, medical school is really expensive and hard to get through and will fucking make you half dead. But it doesn’t mean there aren’t some progressive PAs and doctors out there who are like, "Yeah, like we can figure it out." And it does not mean that the entire national medical stock is going to disappear overnight. It’s not. Like it’s really not. There’s a lot of insulin out there. It may not seem like it because it’s hard to get because it’s expensive, right? There’s a shit ton of meds out there. And it’s not all going to run out right away.

**Margaret ** 55:37
And it does have a impressive shelf life overall. The dosages will change as it gets older because it becomes less effective, but it is hard to get, but it’s actually more stockpile-able level than most disposable, or consumable [replacing the word disposable], goods. So there’s one more big topic that I really want to talk to you about. Originally we’re gonna do the whole first half about it. And basically, I want to talk about the state of Covid and how it ties into disability and preparedness and I want to talk about how we as both as society and then also as movements are and are not handling Covid in responsible ways and where we’re at with it now.

**Leah ** 56:20
Yeah, well, sometimes I think it’s the crips that are gonna inherit the Carth because, you know, I mean, part of the "anarchy is responsibility," thing is, you know what’s responsibility and anarchy? Public fucking health. You know, and it’s the irony where, you know…. So, you know, as of this recording, the CDC and a ASIP [American Society for Investigative Pathology] just authorized the newest variation of the boosters and the Missouri–let me find this because it was just so fucking horrible–and I was like, "Is this real?" and they were like, "Yeah." So yeah, Triangle Mask Brigade [Bloc], which is like a Durham, Raleigh, and Chapel Hill mask, you know, just masc disto and Covid activist group, they had posted…. Hold on, the Missouri Department of Health, their Instagram literally posted a thing that was like "Covid vaccines will be available in Missouri soon." And then they say, I shit you now, "If you’re into that sort of thing. If not, just keep scrolling." And I was like, "This can’t be real." And they were like, "No it’s fucking real. It’s literal." And they’re like…. I was screaming at the person who’s listerally an epidemiologist, but who’s, you know, a eugenisist and fascy. And, okay, so what do I mean by this? What I mean is, is that anarchy’s responsibility and that everyone I know who’s involved in disabled organizing, like Covid safety organizing, that’s like…. I’m like, shit, I hate to look like a tin hatter. But I’m just like, ‘The CDC has abandoned us," you know. It sucks. They’re just like, "Oh, what Covid?" What Surge? What data? We’ve made it so there is none. Oh, everyone’s sick. But oh, what could that be?" It is the rest of us who are like, it sucks that we’ve had to become citizen scientists and public health people with no budget to be like, "Wear a mask. Use, you know, nasal spray. Use, you know, use CPC mouthwash. Here’s what you do when you get sick, like, here’s…" you know, all of that. But we are the ones who are working towards collective safety and keeping ourselves and each other safe. I don’t know if I’m answering your question. I just basically I’m just like, TLDR, those of us who are Covid conscious and who are not just continuing to keep ourselves safe individually but who are like putting out tools, are going to be the ones that save all of us that end up getting saved, as much as possible. And I guess something else say is, I was just talking to my friend Gabe, who’s a musician, and he’s got an album release in a week or two in Seattle and I’m actually going to be there because I was really excited to go and celebrate him because it’s his first album in a while and I was like, "Hey, what’s your Covid safety plan." and he’s like, "I’m so glad to talk about this." He’s like, you know, "It’s in a bar. So I can make it mass required. But then people will take them off to eat or drink. So I don’t know what to do." And I was like, "Great, but if you actually really model it and if you have masks that people can have at the door and if we get some air purifiers–cuz he was like, there’s just not good ventilation–I was like, "That will do a huge amount of risk reduction. And like, I just have to keep reminding people and being like, ‘Hey, yeah, take it off briefly to fucking drink your drink, but put it back on.’" And he was like, "God, I’m so glad to talk to you about this," because he’s like, you know, "The last two times I got Covid were when I was performing at a show and I don’t want anyone to get Covid and I don’t want to get it for the fourth time or whatever." And so then I was like, "Hey, there’s this group Clean Air Club," which some people might know that’s out of Chicago that’s a really amazing–I don’t even know if their a collective, like it might just be one person–but they started out being like, "Hey," for musicians and people who are trying to do in person events, "We will loan you air purifiers."

**Margaret ** 57:10
That’s cool.

**Leah ** 57:12
Right? And they’re just like, "And we’ll talk you through how many do you need for X number of square feet and here’s the things you can do. And then they also, I think I first ran into them because they put out a really good safety guide for like, "Are you flying? Like, here’s some ways to reduce myth and reduce risks." So like N95 vs KN95. But they’re also the first place that was like, "Hey, people don’t talk enough about nasal sprays, or they only know about Enovid," which is very effective, but is Israeli and it’s expensive. So between those two things, a lot of people won’t buy it. But they’re like, "Here’s all these different kinds that actually form a barrier in your nose so if you do get exposed to COVID, it can’t really stick to your….

**Margaret ** 1:00:25
I’ve never even heard of this before.

**Leah ** 1:00:26
I will send you the link. I just had a direct exposure three weeks ago. I mean, I think we were talking because I still don’t know if I had Covid or not, because…. But I was in Philly and I was just like, yep, you know, I know it’s dense. I know, there’s a lot of people around. I hung out with a friend outside. I sprayed myself beforehand. I sprayed myself after. I went and hung out with a friend for 24 hours. And then the day after that, my friend who I hung out with outside was like, "I’m so sorry, I tested negative right before I saw you, but I just tested positive," and I was having symptoms. And I was like–anyway, I don’t want to go too much into my own story–but like, Clean Air…. I guess why I was bringing this up is that Clean Air Club is one of many examples I know where they’re sharing knowledge of like, "Here’s how we do harm reduction. Here’s how we create safer spaces. Here’s how we use layers of protection," which is the terminology People’s CDC has put out there, which is like masking, air purifiers, CPC mouthwash after exposures, nasal sprays, antivirals, opening the windows. And then I think it’s also the conversations we have because like, when I talked to Gabe, I was…he was like, "I really wanted to do it, but I was just stuck." And he needed the conversation we had, where I was like, "Hey, what about we try this? What about we try that? It’s not going to be like 100% no one will have Covid situation, but we can reduce the risk so much and we can still together." It’s not either, "We all never leave our houses or see anyone ever again," or, you know, we just raw dog the air and cough all over each other. There’s a lot of shit we can do in the middle to reduce risk. And I think that that’s going to be stuff…that’s part of my prep. And like, I feel like for a lot of us, I use the term the Great Forgetting, which is what I feel like, you know, the State and governments and, you know, the medical Industrial complex has pushed under Capitalism, especially in the last year to be like, "What Covid? There’s no Covid Let’s take away data. Oh, all you have is wastewater and what’s that even? Like, no one has Covid." There’s just been such an encouragement of like, "See no evil, smell, no Covid, everyone go back to work." And then there’s all the rest of us who are like, "No, it’s still here. We’re tracking surges. Here’s how we’re going to keep ourselves safe as communities." I feel like I’m rambling a little bit, but I guess the point I’m getting to is that a lot of us in disabled and Covid activist community have been like, eventually, I would love to believe that there’s like effective vaccines that actually prevent the virus, not just, you know, make it suck less. I really hope for Covid PrEP, like a PrEP equivalent or like a protease inhibitor equivalent for HIV. I hope for, you know, like post-exposure stuff where you can just spray shit in your nostrils and it kills on 100%. Until then, we’re going to have to keep creating harm reduction, layer protection strategies. And a lot of us, I feel like I keep almost saying this and then it feels like, tricky to say it, but I’m like a lot of us are like, "Yeah, it’s kind of a forever pandemic. It’s not, ‘It’s over.’" It’s like it’s not over yet. So part of the apocalypse of now is like, yeah, we’re living in a pandemic in a plague that continues. How do we figure out how to socialize with each other, not get Covid, not give ourselves Covid for the first or the fifth time, and build strong communities that are about not dying, and not getting exposed to a disease that can have such disabling effects, right? And it is about community safety versus individualism.

**Margaret ** 1:03:47
No, I really like this because one of the things that I’ve been thinking about more and more is, I saw it somewhere I don’t remember exactly, but it was that we need to mourn a world that doesn’t exist anymore. [Leah affirms] The pre-covid world does not exist. And it’s kind of a "grow the fuck up," to the people who are like, "Well, I want to just go back to doing these things." And I’m like, well, you just can’t. And I’m sorry. Now there’s other things…. I’m gonna be like, "No more live music." Like, I think that what you’re talking about, this risk management structure is what to do. It’s like, well, if you want to go back to doing these things, we need to be learning HVAC, like speaking of learning….

**Leah ** 1:04:28
Seriously, like, one of my best friend’s is like a radical Palestinian HVAC trans engineer. They’re not a nurse practitioner, but they were like, "I went into HVAC," and I was like, "Great, we’re gonna need you. We need you right now. I’m so happy you have those skills."

**Margaret ** 1:04:42
Because it’s like, this is just going to keep happening. And one of the things I think about is like, I was thinking about how like, you know, I travel a lot and I go to a lot of different scenes and some scenes I see a larger number of people who are like visibly–I don’t know the right way to phrase this–wheelchair users and things like that, like people who have mobility needs.

**Leah ** 1:04:59
Disabled.

**Margaret ** 1:05:01
Well, I mean specifically people who are disabled in ways that physical access to space requires certain tool things. And I see a greater percentage of people in some scenes and some other scenes and then I’m like, oh, because you only see someone who needs a wheelchair when you’re in a punk venue that’s wheelchair accessible. And it’s not because there aren’t punks who use wheelchairs. But if you think that there’s no punks who use wheelchairs, it’s because you’re going to punk venues that are not wheelchair accessible.

**Leah ** 1:05:32
The self-fulfilling prophecy of access, where it’s like, "Well I don’t see any disabled people. So we don’t need access. And I’m like, we’re not here because [emphasis on this word] your space isn’t accessible, you right jackass, right?

**Margaret ** 1:05:44
And I’m seeing this increasingly also around mask use. And like, you know, because if you’re like, "Oh, none of me and my friends, like everyone who comes to this thing, like, we don’t care about masks," and it’s like, that’s because there’s other people in your community who do want to come but can’t because they showed up and no one was wearing a mask and so they left because they don’t want to die. Or like, you know, they don’t want to….

**Leah ** 1:06:07
And it’s fascinating, because like this…. Sorry, I don’t want to cut you off.

**Margaret ** 1:06:10
No, no, I’m basically done. It’s just like, we just need to accept responsibility and fix shit. And that’s, and that’s the preparedness thing that you’ve been talking about is like, you look at your list of problems, and then you figure out how to do it, and you become really inventive about how to do it. And our problem is that Covid is around and so our solution can’t be, "no more live music," because that is a part of living that we should appreciate. Right? But it also can’t be "Pretend it doesn’t exist." Sorry. What were you gonna say?

**Leah ** 1:06:37
No, now, because you don’t lay down and die on the hill.

**Leah ** 1:06:37
I was gonna say that, like, I mean, what you said about like, the self fulfilling prophecy of like, "Well, we don’t mask, so nobody needs an mask." And it’s like, well everyone who needs to mask is home. The thing is, I mean, that was so dead on and also it was like, yeah, I mean, that’s also not new. Like that’s been like a disabled dynamic for a really long time. And what I mean by this–there’s a bunch of examples–but I mean, I’m thinking about in chronic illness and like multiple chemical sensitivities/injury community, something I was involved in was creating more materials around fragrance free and chemical free stuff. Some people might know this document I made years ago now called Fragrance Free Femme of Color Genius. That was just a list of here’s different products that are fragrance free and affordable, that aren’t just like ye oldie whitey vegan crap that sucks and that doesn’t work for curly or textured or kinky hair. But like, you know, we would fight a lot because something that people in MCS and environmental illness and the chronically ill community have faced for years was people when they’d be like, "Hey, can you make it fragrance free?" is people be [exasperated gasp]. I mean, it would just be like, you’re asking them to, like serve Christ’s head on a platter or something. And they’d be like, "Could you just not wear perfume just for the one fucking time." Yeah. And then the response would often be like, "You just, you can be fragrance free in your house. Like, why do I have to make it fragrance free?" And it’s because, and it’s like, actually, under the Americans with Disability Act, but also in terms of justice, like we deserve to be in the world, not just in our houses. And yeah, and that thing of like, "I don’t know anyone else with this problem." And like, it’s because we all had to leave because we were throwing up or we don’t even come because we’re afraid we’re gonna get sick or we know we’re gonna get sick of all the chemicals. Right? So it’s a real paradigm shift. And like, it necessitates a lot of talking to move from this kind of individualist ableism of like, "Well, you can do whatever weird disabled shit that you want in the privacy of your own home. But I don’t have to, because I’m American," to like, oh, actually, we need to make it for everybody. And actually, it benefits everybody. And I remember after like eight years of fighting it out in the Bay, Stacy called me crying because she was like, "Oh my god," like it was like 2016-2017 and it was like a Save DACA rally and she was like, "There were these 15 year old undocumented queer brown youth who are like," because it was indigenous and undocumented lead and she’s like, "They have chairs for people to sit in at the front of the rally. And they’re like, ‘We’re gonna hold up the sage and the cedar but not light it because we know that some people have asthma and MCS and if the revolution is not accessible at the revolution,’" and she was like, "I’m crying." Because for years ,especially in BIPOC community, it was a struggle because people would be like, "Wait, these are our medicines," and we’d be like, "We know. We use them too." And I just have friends who are indigenous who are like, "If there’s so much sage in a tiny room, I’m going to have an asthma attack and like it means I don’t go to events." or like, you know, Copal or different medicine, are there ways we can have the medicine present and do it accessible for everybody? So more access gets more access. If you make more for everybody, everyone will be there. Blah, blah, blah. I will die on this fucking hill, but….

**Leah ** 1:06:49
Yeah, I’m surviving on the hill. I’m surviving on the flat, accessible space. Shout out to disabled punks. Because there’s, you know, we’ve been here for forever and, you know, especially in the past 15 years, like I feel like that is one place of hope where, you know, I’m like a semi-punk but like yeah, like I’m punk. I mean, I still have green hair or whatever. I think I’m a punk.

**Margaret ** 1:10:04
You’re a punk. I’m looking at you right now. You are as punk as I am.

**Leah ** 1:10:10
Totally. I mean, I also have, you know my feet in different subcultures too. But I just hear there’s a lot of different spaces. I think about like Gilman’s still, last I checked, you know, had a bunch of disabled folks on the collective and they’re like, "Yeah, we’re still. Everyone masks," or like Vera project, which is a very loved, all ages venue in Seattle, where I’m not…I haven’t checked recently, but I know that for a long time, they were like, they were one of the first places in Seattle that opened back up to live music and are like an all ages, anarchist queer space and they were like, "No, everyone masks and we have HVAC, or I’m blanking on the name of it, but a friend of mine, who is you know, really…. Biani, who taught me so much about masking as somebody with like severe MCS and other disabilities, they’ve posted a lot about how they’re like, "I live in Albuquerque now. And there’s a monthly burlesque/drag night that requires masking." And they’re all these performers who are wearing the really good, hard mask. Like it’s a really great respirator and also looks sexy as hell. And you can breathe in it. And they’re just like, "Yeah, like, we can actually have a slutty drag, burlesque punk night and no one dies." How about that, y’all? Yeah, I mean, this is the thing…. I do want to shout out, if I can toot my own horn for a second, um, you know, I sent to you, there’s a document that me and my friend Tina Zavitsanos put together earlier this year, "The Long Winter Covid Survival Guide." And we did it because we were just like…. Look, I mean, you know, the first year or two of the pandemic, I was in Seattle, and we really did have a bunker mentality of like, okay…. Yeah, we were like, eventually the vaccines will come, and at the time we were like, and they will just eliminate Covid. And great. So we just have to survive till then and not get COVID. So I was very much just in my house with the people I live with or by myself for like, you know, a year or two years. Yeah. And then, right around 2022, we were like, actually, no, it’s not, it’s not panning out that way. And we really are really, really struggling in isolation. So Tina is a friend of mine. We work together and they’re on immune suppressants for their disabilities. So they were like, "I didn’t really leave my house more than eight times to go into public spaces in two years," cause they were living in Brooklyn, and they were just like, "I don’t have an immune system. And if I go to the hospital, like, it’s just gonna be all bad. Like I cannot…I really cannot put myself at risk." And then they moved to lower Manhattan. They’re living in an apartment in Chinatown now. And so, and they’re also a sepsis survivor. And you know, sepsis, if you survive it, your immune system is altered for two years after that, or if you get like, cold, you can die. So they were just like, "I can’t let anyone in my apartment but my partner, period." So I was just like, "Well, I want to see you." And they were like, "Well, there’s a park across the street from my house." And we just call it Tina Park now amongst her friends. And they were like, we figured it on all this stuff. Like they were like, yeah, like we’re living in Manhattan, but like, we have a portable gas generator that heats up. And we got sheepskins from IKEA. And we have hot pockets and like hot packs that we put all of our bodies in our shoes and like we’re gonna order pho and eat it.

**Margaret ** 1:13:22
But now I’m imagining Hot Pockets, like the food, and you’re just putting microwaved Hot Pockets in your clothes.

**Leah ** 1:13:33
But so basically out of that, I was just like, "Tina, I know so many people who are really…like this is a grim winter because everyone’s just like ‘fuck, like I have survived in isolation. But I haven’t seen anybody in person, haven’t been touched for years. And I don’t want to get COVID What do I do?’" So we put it together. And we put it out there as a like, "Yeah, if you are in cold areas, like here are ways that we can gather more safely outside as disabled people, including disabled people…like I have disabilities where I’m like, yo, if I sit in the cold too long, like I get really fucked up. I will be in a flare for a week. And I think that’s another example of what we’re talking about. It’s not about either total denial of Covid, throwing ourselves off the cliff, or just lying down and dying in isolation, but about let’s have live music, let’s have burlesque, let’s hang out in the park with our fucking portable heater, and our fucking sheepskins, and our layers and, you know, be able to be with each other safely.

**Margaret ** 1:14:28
Yeah.

**Leah ** 1:14:29
And not be abandoned.

**Margaret ** 1:14:32
Yeah. Well, that’s most of what we wanted to talk about. Do you have anything you want to plug? I mean, there’s obviously, there’s the stuff you’ve plugged all along, and we’re gonna put…we’re going to compile all that and put it at the top of the show notes at the top of the transcript. But, um, is there anything in particular, other things that you want to plug, how people can follow you, or you’ve written a couple of books?

**Leah ** 1:14:57
Oh, just a few. Yeah. I’ve written or co-edited ten books, which is wild. My most recent came out, it’s going to be a year in a couple weeks. And it’s called "The Future Is Disabled: Prophecies, Love Notes, and Mourning Songs." And we sold the first printing in nine months. We sold 10,000 copies, which is really good because my mom died last December and I did no promotion for six months, because I was just like, "I’m going into my cave. I cannot be In public." Yes, seriously. So the second printing is coming out soon. And I’m really excited because I, you know, it was kind of like a writing the plane as I flew it thing where I was trying to write down like, "Here’s what how Covid’s is looking." And then like, things kept getting out of date so fast. And so I added, there’s a new afterword and also includes an article I wrote last fall for Truth Out, which is now called Against the Great Forgetting. And it’s about like able bodied leftists can’t abandon Covid safety if we’re going to win. So that’s both in there. And I am really excited because my friend Sandy Ho, who is a really incredible, queer, disabled, Asian organizer is writing a reading guide for it, which we’re going to launch for free around the same time. So keep an eye out for that. And it’s print book, ebook audiobook. It’s in a lot of libraries. You can ask your library to order it. Have reading groups! Think about your own disabled survival and your own disabled future and how you’re making it. That’s one thing I want to shout out. I also really want to shout out, I Want to Be With you Everywhere, which is disabled arts collective that a bunch of my friends organize. And I want to shout it out because we had our first gathering since Covid started, this summer on the summer solstice in New York. And if you look us up, and I can give you the link, I mean, it was just an amazing day of performance. But I guess the reason I’m shouting out is that the people organized it. We were like, I’m gonna include myself in it because I was an artist and I created a disabled grief portal altar, so I’m like, yeah, I’m like, the Hair Club for Men. I’m a member and also the president because we all are. We were really, and people were really, like, we need to be together. And so it was a combination all outdoor like 95% masked in person. They were calling, it’s like IRL in URL. So like, we had that. And then we had full Zoom, and it was 12 hours of gathering. And I know a lot of people are like, "Ah, it feels like either in person or Zoom, but not both." And it was like an example of like, we did both and we did it so that folks who are there in person could interact with folks on Zoom. And we had screens on stage. So like I could turn and like talk to the folks on Zoom and see them and like they can see me and we can interact. And we also just had like really…. I’m always about expanding access beyond the bare minimum that we’re taught is the best we can get, so we’re like, we have a travel plan. If you need money to get a wheelchair accessible cab, we got. We have, not just ASL interpretation on stage, but interpreters moving through the space because we know that otherwise deaf folks often are like, "Oh, I guess I’ll just stay glued to deaf seating and not actually get to like hang out with people and like interact unless my interpreter is with me." I just want to shut out there is an example of a really creative way that we gathered together that was really life giving. And what is other stuff? I think that’s all I can think of right now. I’ll keep you posted. Places people can follow me are–I am a social media slacker and a hermit but brownstargirl.org is my I-need-to-update-it website. I’m leaving Twitter because fuck that guy and fuck some harassment off and on. And also just like, I mean it’s all been bad, but then like the latest like, "Oh, we get the steal off your shit forever." I’m just like, no, I’m not giving you my intellectual property. But I am on Blue Sky at….

**Margaret ** 1:18:46
I bet people just put your name and they’ll come up with it, right?

**Leah ** 1:18:51
Yeah, it is @thellpsx.bsky.social. I’m migrating over there. So yeah, like there’s not a lot up there yet. But this could motivate me. You know, I’m gonna have to get back to you on my public Instagram because I can’t find it right now. You can Google my name and stuff comes up. And also one thing I do want to shout out is like so last year, I kicked off this disabled centering queer and trans BIPOC disabled folk like writing and creative organization Living Altars. And then my mom died. So like this year has been like really much like chrysalis research, whatever, but um, keep an eye out for Living Altars stuff. We’re gonna start a kind of low-key kitchen table online reading series every three months for disabled majority QTBIPOC writers. And when Stacey died in 2020, one of the things that I really, that really hit me was that she was an incredible, incredible organizer and I will shout out the Stacey Taught Us Syllabus that me and Alice Wong did where you can see a lot of her writing and poetry and organizing. She wrote Bernie Sanders’ Disability Justice fucking platform. She did all kinds of shit. But I met her as a poet. You know? I met her when she was 20 online as a poet and I really saw the ways in which she struggled to find, like many of us do, accessible space to write as a queer disabled POC who had a million things going on. So I’ve been working on creating an accessible residency in her honor and one of the things that Living Altars is going to do is I’m hoping to launch that next year. So yeah, just Google Living Altars and my name and it comes up and there’ll be all kinds of shenanigans. And We’re going to also update the Long Winter Survival Guide soon, because a lot of people wrote in and had amazing things to add, especially a lot of folks who live in Canada and like more northern colder places were like, yeah, "Here’s different things you can do with like shelters, furs, heating, different things like that. So I like to think of myself as a structural engineer of disability justice along with…. I’m kind of like disabled Scotty sometimes where I’m like, "Here’s the thing. Try it." Yeah. Yeah. So these are some things. Okay.

**Margaret ** 1:21:03
Well, yeah. Thanks so much for coming on. And I hope to have you back at some point.

**Leah ** 1:21:08
Thank you so much for having me. Thank you so much for creating this podcast and being so awesome. And all the things you do.

**Margaret ** 1:21:20
Thank you so much for listening. If you enjoyed this episode, you should fight for a better world. And tell people about the podcast that encouraged you to do so. Being like get put our logo onto a flag and then carry it and be like this is the flag of the revolute. Don’t do this. Don’t do what I’m saying. But what you could do is tell people about it in more polite ways. Instead of making it a weird flag. Why would you even think that? You can also support us on Patreon because we believe in paying. We pay our transcriptionist and we pay our audio engineer. And one day, we might even pay the hosts, which would be cool. And you can do that by supporting us on Patreon. It’s patreon.com/strangersinatangledwilderness and if you support us at $10 or more a month, we will send you a free zine every month, anywhere in the world. But also you can listen to that zine anywhere in the world also for free without supporting us by listening to the podcast Strangers In a Tangled Wilderness, which comes out once a month. I want to thank, and there’s some new names on this list, which makes me really excited. I want to thank Hoss the Dog and Michaiah, Chris, Kirk, Jenipher, Staro, Chelsea, Dana David, Nicole, Paige, S.J., Hunter, theo, Boise Mutual Aid, Milicia, paparouna, Alu, Janice & O’dell, Funder, Anonymous, BenBen, Princess Miranda, Trixter, Lord Harken, Carson, Marm, Catgut, Julia, Buck, Perceval. Thanks for supporting us. Y’all are great, and I hope everyone does as well as they can.

Find out more at https://live-like-the-world-is-dying.pinecast.co

S1E100 – Report From Maui with Brooke

Episode Summary

This week on Live Like the World is Dying, Brooke gives a report on how things have been going in Maui after the fire in Lahaina this summer.

Host Info

Brooke can be found on Twitter or Mastodon @ogemakweBrooke.

Publisher Info

This show is published by Strangers in A Tangled Wilderness. We can be found at www.tangledwilderness.org, or on Twitter @TangledWild and Instagram @Tangled_Wilderness. You can support the show on Patreon at www.patreon.com/strangersinatangledwilderness.

Transcript

Find out more at https://live-like-the-world-is-dying.pinecast.co

S1E99 – No More Deaths on The “Disappeared” Report & Border Militarization Pt. II

Episode Summary

This week on Live Like the World is Dying, Inmn is joined again by Sophie and Parker from No More Deaths for part two of their talk about the militarization of the US-Mexico border, search and rescue, 911 discrimination, and medical collaboration with Border Patrol.

Guest Info

The Disappeared report can be found at www.thedisappearedreport.org. No More Deaths can be found at nomoredeaths.org, on Instagram @nomoredeaths_nomasmuertes, or on Twitter @nomoredeaths.

Host Info

Inmn can be found on Instagram @shadowtail.artificery

Publisher Info

This show is published by Strangers in A Tangled Wilderness. We can be found at www.tangledwilderness.org, or on Twitter @TangledWild and Instagram @Tangled_Wilderness. You can support the show on Patreon at www.patreon.com/strangersinatangledwilderness.

Transcript

Live Like the World is Dying: No More Deaths on the “Disappeared” Report & Border Militarization Pt. II

**Inmn ** 00:15
Hello and welcome to Live Like the World is Dying, your podcast for what feels like the end times. I’m your host Inmn and today we have part two of an interview with two folks from the abuse doc working group in No More Deaths or No Más Muertes. And we’re just going to pick up right in the middle of where we left off and talk a lot about search and rescue and the newest report from No More Deaths, "Separate & Deadly," which is mostly about 911 dispatch discrimination and medical discrimination and collaboration with Border Patrol. If you haven’t listened to part one, probably not entirely necessary but it lays a lot of important groundwork and context for what we’re going to be talking about today. So go back and give part one a listen. But before we get to that, we are a proud member of the Channel Zero Network of anarchists podcasts. And here is a jingle from another show on that network. Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo. [Singing the words like a melody]

**Inmn ** 02:14
Yeah, so it’s kind of wild to me that like, you know, Border Patrol, has these like non-responses? And it’s like, it seems like those nonresponses are on purpose, but they have every piece of technology at their disposal and like every system and like…they just have everything. And yet they purposefully don’t help find people.

**Sophie ** 02:50
Yeah, that was something we really chronicled in part three looking at their budget and just the way in which Border Patrol is absolutely a militarized enforcement agency first and foremost and 99% of their budget and personnel are dedicated to an enforcement mission, you know, that they’re kind of the search and rescue…border patrol search and rescue–so-called–wing of Border Patrol is miniscule compared in terms of staffing, and funding and so on and it’s really, you know, there to propagandize and, you know, they do take part in some of this, of course, but really looking at the way in which they are geared towards enforcement first and foremost. And we have, you know, cases of agents being asked to search for someone in south Texas and a higher up saying, "I’m not going to pull agents off of the checkpoint to go search for a person in distress," you know, so seeing those priorities play out in real time on a given case. So yeah, they have all this, you know, powerful equipment and resources, but those are really dedicated to carrying out their enforcement mission, which then compromises you know, their status as a first responder.

**Inmn ** 04:18
Yeah. And it’s like they have that like–god, what is it called–the BORSTAR helicopter that they pull out for photo shoots or something?

**Parker ** 04:27
Yeah, there’s a lot of emphasis on, you know, their high-tech capabilities of rescue. And one thing that I can’t remember if Sophie mentioned is what we found in the report, you know, when we were looking at these diminished responses and how brief some of their efforts are, is they essentially won’t do a search. You know, really in any case, they’ll do rescues that are pinpointed where they have exact coordinates. But a lot of the time, what their response will look like is going to the coordinates and if the person isn’t right there they call off the search. So what we think of is like a search where like you have a whole, you know, maybe team of people combing an area, you’re doing some investigation from like the information that you do have to try and, you know, guess where someone might be, and putting in like resources to look for someone where you don’t have their exact location but you have some information to go on. We’re not seeing those types of responses at all. So yeah, then what you see instead is these PR events where they’re like, "Look, we could rescue someone off the side of a cliff," you know, but that’s not translating to actual meaningful responses for the, you know, the situations that they’re actually being confronted with. And we definitely have a lot of cases of, you know, Border Patrol saying, you know, "Our helicopters busy right now." So helicopters are used for enforcement. You know, in the "Chase & Scatter" report, we really looked at that, at Border Patrol flying helicopters very low over people who are migrating to scatter them, intimidate them, kick up a lot of dust. It’s very intimidating and frightening for people to have a helicopter fly really low over them. And then we’re seeing these situations where they won’t respond. They won’t pull their helicopter from an enforcement mission to go search for somebody who’s lost.

**Sophie ** 06:02
And then this like, really perverse scenario in which someone who’s been chased and become lost because of the helicopter scattering them then is supposed to look to the same helicopter that put them in harm’s way to come and rescue them. I mean, it’s incredible, the notion that Border Patrol could function to respond to the search and rescue crisis in the borderlands.

**Inmn ** 06:26
Yeah, and it’s like, to put it in weird contrast, we did an episode on search and rescue specifically in a National Park, you know, from this person who does like search and rescue there. And they’re like–maybe I’m remembering this wrong and someone’s gonna be upset about that–but they’re like, "Yeah, we get a call. And then like, within an hour, we’re out and looking for people and like, usually find them very quickly." You know? And it’s like this…. It’s this other national agency with so fewer resources at their disposal. And they’re like…. Yeah, it’s like search and rescue isn’t easy, but they’re like, yeah, we find people pretty quickly because we’re professionals.

**Sophie ** 07:25
Right. We did some interviews with Pima County Search and Rescue, which we’ll talk about more, but talking with them, you know, they go out to deploy for hikers loss in the Catalinas, you know, citizens or tourists. And when they were asked, you know, what is your success rate? They’re like, "Oh, you mean in like finding someone before they’ve died? Like, preventing loss of life?" And we’re like, "No, in finding them at all." You know? And it was a confusing question, right? And they’re like, "Almost 100%. Like, what are you talking about? We’re not going to just not find someone."

**Parker ** 08:00
They’re basically just like, "Yeah, we don’t call off searches without finding someone."

**Sophie ** 08:04
Yeah, And that they really focused on preventing loss of life, like what you’re saying, getting there rapidly. And to them, a failure is finding the person in death. But what we’re seeing is this failure to even mobilize or locate someone ever at all on the border.

**Inmn ** 08:21
Yeah, and what resources or community…. Like what do community search and rescue efforts look like? In comparison, what resources do people have available?

**Parker ** 08:37
Yeah, I mean, it varies in different areas. But here in Pima County, which is, you know, the area we’ve looked at–and Pima County is, you know, most of the area that we work and do our humanitarian aid and in southern Arizona–the sheriff’s department is in charge of search and rescue. They have a lot of resources at their disposal. They have a volunteer search and rescue team that when we were researching I think we saw that they had 150 volunteers. Some recent reports that have come out in response to our report say that they have 200 to 300 volunteers. So maybe that’s increased. But they have this volunteer organization that works directly under the sheriff’s and they’re trained. Yeah, they go out and they respond to loss hikers. The sheriff’s department, you know, they have helicopters, they have drones, and infrared cameras that they’ll use. They also have volunteer canine teams that can go out–and especially if it’s suspected that someone may have died already–the canine teams can go help locate them. They have a mounted contingent, they have a search and rescue contingent on horseback. So they have, in addition to their own search and rescue deputies, which I believe at the time that we were researching they had eight deputies in the sheriff’s department that were the search and rescue coordinators who would then activate this team of hundreds of volunteers that go out to search. And like Sophie said, when, you know, we asked about their success rate, they’re like, "We just…We find everybody," you know? Like that’s what they do. And like you were saying with the rapid response, you know, we did– and I guess we’re getting a little bit into the next report now–but we listened to 911 calls that they’re responding to from lost hikers, people who are calling and speaking English and presumed to be citizens and they usually have someone responding to the area before they’re even off their first phone call. You know, you see they have dispatchers collecting the information and then they’ve already sent somebody immediately to the location that the call is coming from.

**Inmn ** 10:39
Okay, well, it’s funny, we’ve been recording for a while now and it all feels in preparation for talking about the thing that we’re here to talk about, which is the new report, which I want to introduce the new part o "Disappeared," "Separate & Deadly."

**Parker ** 11:05
Yeah, so "Separate & Deadly" is a report that kind of directly came out of the research that we were doing for "Left To Die." I left it I really just focusing on Border Patrol and their lack of response and contrasting that with, you know, they’re sort of PR of putting themselves out there as rescuers. But in doing that research, we started to also learn more about the county and the way that the county is handling 911 calls that they receive as that first point of contact before they transfer it to Border Patrol. And that research, you know, kind of was happening simultaneously with doing the research into Border Patrol’s response. We actually at that time had heard that the ACLU was, you know, considering pursuing a 14th amendment discrimination lawsuit against the Pima County Sheriff’s Department for transferring calls to Border Patrol on the basis of people’s presumed citizenship status. And they, in considering pursuing that, had received a few audio recordings of 911 calls and shared those with us. So then we put in our own records request and requested 911 calls that they received and transferred to Border Patrol within a two year period. It’s from summer 2016 to summer 2018, we put in that records request and I think we were quite surprised by the volume of calls we got back. So that’s when we got over 2000 recordings of 911 calls that were being received by the Pima County Sheriff’s Department, their 911 system, before being transferred to Border Patrol. So we received those calls and we decided to listen to them and create data and document what we were hearing in those calls. And so that ended up feeling like it really was its own report, you know? Like we wanted a report that focused on Border Patrol. And then we wanted to really look at the local county and their complicity in their discriminatory response to people who are lost in the desert. So that’s what this report came out of. It’s been several years in the making. We wanted to, you know, release it as a follow up to "Left To Die," but really just focused on the county itself and its lack of response.

**Sophie ** 13:12
Yeah, and there’s kind of this story told about border counties in the context of Prevention Through Deterrence that, you know, Prevention Through Deterrence is this federal policy and it’s, you know, unduly burdening counties to respond to the emergencies that it’s creating. And these counties are all, you know, under-resourced and flailing to handle these emergencies and that, you know, that’s true in some counties on the border. Like if you look at Brooks County in South Texas, for example, it’s, you know, one of the poorest counties in the country. But when you look at Pima County, which is so critical, you know, there’s like 50% of all recovered remains on the border in Pima County, we see this other story that we’ve been talking about that there are robust search and rescue resources, you know, available in this county. And yet when you look at the emergency response system, what we see is this segregated system in which 911 dispatchers, when they’re receiving a call from someone they perceive to be undocumented and crossing the border, which they determine based on a number of different informal factors, they forego doing a missing persons intake as they would. They have historically foregone even assigning that call a case number. They forgo forwarding that call and any information with it to Pima County Search and Rescue and instead they just quickly transfer the call to a Border Patrol line and quickly hang up. So what we are seeing and what the ACLU is concerned with and now we’ve partnered with Center for Constitutional Rights to look at this is a segregated system and in which your perceived identity as having citizenship status or not determines whether you’ll receive County Emergency Services for search rescue response as robust or this really diminished, lesser Border Patrol response that we know based on part three results in these high rates of death and disappearance. So, kind of looking at the big picture of this, we just saw this really deadly form of discrimination, which, you know, gets into, on the one hand, the way in which counties, like Parker is saying, are complicit in carrying out Prevention Through Deterrence, that they actually have this active role, not just this passive role in carrying out and exacerbating the harms of this federal policy, on the one hand, and that’s sort of an important lever for thinking about how to challenge what’s happening on the border, locally. And then on the other hand, there’s this kind of larger constitutional issue, 14th amendment equal protections issue, regarding what does it mean when something separate and unequal and there’s all these Supreme Court cases, right, that have looked into that in terms of race, like Brown versus Board of Education, and seeing that those interpretations haven’t yet really been applied to cases of segregation based on citizenship status that are really in direct conflict with the mandates of the county that they have. Like, if you look at their protocol and their mandate it’s to protect the life of all people in their jurisdiction, right? There’s no language distinguishing citizenship status, and there’s actually anti-discrimination policies embedded in county protocols that we’re seeing being really flagrantly defied and the practice of having dispatchers just bump these calls to Border Patrol and away from local resources because of the identity of the caller.

**Inmn ** 16:52
What were y’all encountering through going through these call records?

**Parker ** 16:57
Yeah, I mean, I think we went into listening to these calls not knowing exactly what we would find and, you know, sort of vaguely thinking that we would find some evidence of Border Patrol not responding. But listening to these calls, what we found is that people are just being incredibly rapidly transferred to Border Patrol and then the call is, you know, ended with no record of what happened after that. There’s not really documentation of any of the outcomes of these calls. And we also just saw a lot of mishandling by the dispatchers. So what you hear basically is somebody calls and they say something in Spanish, sometimes, you know, people are transferred so quickly. It’s like, really, like they call and they say, "Habla Español?" and dispatch says, you know, "Hold on," and then transfers on to Border Patrol. So a lot of discrimination on the basis of people calling and speaking Spanish as well as they’re call plotting somewhere in like the remote wilderness of the Borderlands. So we saw that in a lot of cases, dispatch did not speak Spanish, so they weren’t able to communicate at all with the caller. We found that in 68%, of the calls we listened to dispatch didn’t have enough Spanish to be able to communicate with the caller in distress, which means that they’re missing really important information. Like you do have callers who are calling and they’re starting…they’re describing their medical condition, they’re describing their location, and dispatch, you know, is not able to communicate with them, which in a region where you have a humanitarian crisis, essentially, from a population that speaks Spanish, they’re really not equipped to respond to this humanitarian crisis or to carry out their jobs of being emergency responders if you don’t have Spanish speakers, working for the county. And then we found, you know, there were no intakes being performed. So in 99% of the calls, almost every call we listen to, dispatch did not conduct any intake. Meaning they didn’t ask any information about the caller’s name, their location, description, medical condition, do they have food or water? What do they see? You know, anything like that. And we did request 911 calls, like I said, from presumed citizens, lost hikers, things like that and in those cases, it is routine that they ask these sorts of questions. And the search and rescue deputies themselves have said, you know, "Every caller, we asked them the crucial questions because if their phone dies, something like that, then we’ve collected information that we can potentially base a search off. And that’s not happening in any of these cases. So there’s no information. So after the call is transferred to Border Patrol, you know, if that person’s phone dies, they’re not found by Border Patrol, there’s no information collected at all. We also found that in 50% of cases that we analyzed there’s no notice given to the caller at all that they’re going to be transferred. So they’re just saying like, you know, "One moment." and then they transfer it to Border Patrol. There’s no explanation of what’s happening. So that person who’s calling who’s potentially in like a life threatening emergency, they just hear a dial tone, you know, and then maybe the phone starts ringing. And so a lot of people, you know, seem to think that they’ve been hung up on or the call has been lost, which might lead color callers to, you know, hang up in order to not waste cell phone battery. Yeah, so that was in 50% of cases, there was no notice given. And then in another 13%, notice is given only in English even when the caller clearly doesn’t speak English. So yeah, they’re essentially, we’re just seeing these like really truncated responses where people are immediately profiled on the basis of the language they’re speaking. And then just immediately transferred,

**Inmn ** 20:37
Those calls are being traced, right? And so they have the ability to, like, really hone in on someone’s location if they receive a call from them just via cell phone technology?

**Parker ** 20:50
Yeah, so the dispatchers, the 911 system, like they do have access to cell phone tracing technology. And Border Patrol is relying on these GPS coordinates that are obtained by the dispatchers. But it’s kind of a faulty system. The accuracy can really vary, especially when people are calling from remote areas with not very strong cell phone service. So when they call, dispatch gets either phase one coordinates, or phase two. And what that means is phase one coordinates means that the call is only connecting to one cellphone tower. And so their exact location can’t be triangulated. So they just get the coordinates of the cell phone tower, and sometimes a general distance of thousands of meters, you know, how close that person is to the cell phone tower. But those are very inaccurate coordinates. And then if they’re able to get phase coordinates, that means that they’re connecting to two different towers and it can be triangulated and they get a much more pinpointed rescue. So they do convey these coordinates to Border Patrol, which is the primary thing that they base their search off of. Like I said, Border Patrol will often only do a rescue if they have exact coordinates. So the accuracy of the coordinates is, you know, a huge deal. It’s a matter of life and death for people whether they’re able to get phase one or phase two coordinates. And unfortunately, a lot of the calls are phase one coordinates because there’s such remote areas and there’s not a lot of cell phone towers out in the desert. So what we’re finding is that Border Patrol often won’t search in these phase one cases and will only search for phase two coordinates. And dispatch actually, you know, they can sometimes re-ping, you know, a call that they’re getting and eventually find phase two coordinates. So there are a handful of calls we heard where dispatch said, "I’m going to stay on the line while you talk to them and try and get better coordinates." And after a couple of minutes of trying, they might suddenly get phase two coordinates. So that is a huge difference that means this person might be rescued where they would not have been otherwise. But we’re finding that in most calls, dispatch is not doing that. They’re certainly not doing it as a matter of policy. It’s at the discretion of the dispatcher. And most of the time, they’re not doing it and they’re hanging up immediately after they transfer the call to Border Patrol, even though it can make a huge difference in that person’s rescue response and could potentially save their life. If they spend a few extra minutes trying to get better coordinates,

**Inmn ** 23:05
Have y’all been able to figure out if that is a matter of protocol or is it just that the person on the line just doesn’t care?

**Parker ** 23:13
You know, we do have these examples of cases in which the person does choose to do it. It doesn’t appear to be a matter of protocol. It’s just, you know, they get a lot of these calls, and they’re very, you know, bureaucratized about it, very routine. And a lot of the time, I think it doesn’t really occur to them to stay and try and get better coordinates.

**Sophie ** 23:31
With what Parker is talking about, where we’re seeing a real pattern of Border Patrol being unwilling to mobilize a search, right, like when there aren’t exact coordinates of the person, when it’s not a straight rescue, it makes that intake process even more important, right? So like a phase one call where you have 5000 meters of accuracy pinging off a single cellphone tower, well then in order to mount a search, what you really need is the narrative of the person, right, regarding exactly what they know about where they are, what they can see, what they’ve passed along the way, information about their medical condition, how far they are likely to be able to move or travel, you know? Do they have a lower extremity injury that’s preventing them from walking? How much water do they have left? Can they make a call back? All the information becomes so crucial if they’re only able to extract based on coordinates. And then I also want to add that we have cases in which even though phase two coordinates are being derived from the caller, there’s apparently no response from Border Patrol. So we had this case in March of 2018 in which a caller who’s crossing the border calls 911 in Pima County 11 times in 10 hours. He’s lost and alone and keeps calling because no one is coming and his call is transferred to Border Patrol every single time and his call has phase two coordinates within five meters of accuracy of his location and you can hear his medical condition diminishing with each call. And eventually he stops calling. And we have no record of an outcome. So there’s nothing with the phase two coordinates we can see that guarantees or mandates, you know, that says that Border Patrol is going to deploy. So within all of this, there’s like trends of what seems to work better, but there’s nothing really there as a true safety net to ensure response for someone calling 911 in distress.

**Inmn ** 25:37
That is heartbreaking in so many ways. In that like, yeah, it’s not negligence, it’s complete disregard for what’s happening. Like, I don’t know, I think that’s why I kind of like ask questions about the dispatchers where I’m like, are they aware of what they’re doing? Are they so entrenched in bureaucracy? Do they think Border Patrol is going to do something about it? Or like? And I’m like, what do they…what do these people think the outcomes of these situations are? And like with Border Patrol, it’s like, it’s clearly disregard, because if you know where someone is and you just don’t go….

**Sophie ** 26:36
I mean, I think the powers of normalization are so strong in the border crisis, like looking at Pima County, they’re receiving 1500 distress calls a year from people crossing the border, four to five calls a day. So dispatchers are fielding these calls all the time and automatically forwarding, automatically forwarding and that does something right? That creates normalization around disappearance within the culture of dispatch in a county. And we do see, you know, occasionally, bad actors, like dispatchers who are particularly abusive or hateful. We see on occasion, good actors, dispatchers who are clearly very concerned about the person and taking some extra measures. But it’s all still really constrained within this protocol that they’re not the ones actually facilitating a response, that they’re counting on Border Patrol to act. And because our data was, you know, derived for part three and from 2016 to 2018, we decided to do a records request, just a sampling of more recent calls, from June 2022, from last last summer, just to see, you know, is dispatch still doing this? And I was personally, you know, after we listened to–because we spent hours and hours listening to these 911 calls–you know, and it’s incredibly heartbreaking and discouraging. And I think I was hopeful that something had gotten better since 2018. And it was so jarring to see, you know, listening to the 2022 calls, like the same protocol being carried out. Someone calls, speaks Spanish, the dispatcher says, "Está perdido? Are you lost?" and if the person says "Si", the call is immediately forwarded and they hang up. And the rate of deriving phase two coordinates is still, you know, very partial. And in those calls, out of those 65 cases that we got notes on, 17 of those cases, the caller was never located. And so what we’re also seeing in these calls is that even when there’s clear indication, and even reporting from Border Patrol, that they’re not responding to a person in distress. The county doesn’t deploy. So it was really hard to listen to these calls where if someone’s in such distress and they get forwarded and then you see the outcome that they were never located, right, and the county has done nothing, even though they have full knowledge that there’s a person missing in the county and Border Patrol isn’t looking for them.

**Parker ** 29:28
Yeah, and what we see a lot in this case is this exactly what Sophie was saying earlier where, you know, we know from listening to the audio recordings that dispatch is not collecting information from callers and then we look at the case notes later and they say, "Well, you know, Border Patrol didn’t find them and we don’t have any information. So we can’t search." So just sort of this reinforcing loop where they, you know, they hand off responsibility to Border Patrol and then when Border Patrol doesn’t search, they don’t take up that search and they have not followed any of the normal protocols that they would have at intake for someone that they intended to search for like someone calling speaking English or a presumed citizen, you know. And so then they can just sort of wash their hands and say, "Well, we don’t have any information. So we can’t search."

**Inmn ** 30:09
Yeah. And like Border Patrol is not…if they’re like transferred, Border Patrol isn’t conducting a separate intake to get information that the dispatcher failed to get?

**Parker ** 30:26
Yeah, in the few calls, where we do have recordings of, you know, those cases where dispatch stayed on the line a little longer to try and get coordinates or for some reason we have a recording, you know, Border Patrol does seem to be doing those intakes that Pima County would normally be doing for someone they intend to search, but it doesn’t seem from any of the files we’ve seen that there’s any sort of that information sharing between Border Patrol and the county. The county is, you know, typically they hang up before Border Patrol does that intake and they don’t have any of that information on which they can base a search.

**Sophie ** 30:56
Yeah, sometimes we hear those conversations and like…what Parker’s talking about is true, that we do sometimes hear the start of an intake, but we also hear Border Patrol telling someone who’s in distress, has no water, perhaps injured, that they need to walk to a road before Border Patrol is going to go look for them. "We’ll tell them to go walk for an hour and call me back." [Border Patrol] This kind of handling, we had a case from 2022, from that batch of calls, where a caller is…the call is picked up by dispatch, the caller is frantic saying "My phone’s about to die. I’m soaking wet and cold. I’m lost." And dispatch transfers the caller to Border Patrol and the person is trying to say like, "I’m near antennas," like trying to give locational information. They’ve transferred to Border Patrol and he’s like trying desperately to talk and Border Patrol tells him in Spanish to, "Shut up." And like, so we’re hearing like, you know, hostility from Border Patrol towards reporting parties. And that was a call that only generated phase one coordinates within 5000 meters, which is like three mile radius around the cellphone tower, and the case file that we got on that said that Border Patrol never located that person and that the county took no further action on that case. So we also hear like obstruction and abuse in some of those calls with Border Patrol when we do get, you know, audio recording because the dispatcher chose to stay on the line. Yeah.

**Inmn ** 31:58
And like, you know, looking through the report, there’s some other standout quotations, whether it’s from dispatchers being like, "Actually, we’re not going to deal with that," or like a Border Patrol agent who says like….god, what is it, "They’re gonna stay lost," or something?

**Sophie ** 32:31
Mm hmm.

**Inmn ** 32:31
Yeah, that was the case with phase one coordinates.

**Inmn ** 33:04
Like, on the recording, the Border Patrol agent just like says that? Is like, like, "Well, they’re gonna stay…" like, Oh, my God.

**Parker ** 33:13
Yeah, dispatch gives them the coordinates and then the distance with the coordinates and the Border Patrol agent says, "This guy is gonna stay lost."

**Sophie ** 33:22
Yeah, I mean, you get the sense, even though this is public record, you know, anyone should be able to request these recordings, you can feel the kind of culture of impunity around Border Patrol. The agents clearly aren’t speaking in a way where they expect to be checked up on, you know. So we’re hearing those conversations and it’s something…. Yeah, it’s just this assumption of lack of oversight and impunity that’s really embedded in the culture of the agency and its relationship with the public.

**Inmn ** 33:53
Yeah. And maybe to clarify, these calls that y’all are listening to or like requesting, these are like, the dispatch calls? Like, if dispatch hangs up, is that where the recording ends? Like, y’all aren’t hearing the Border Patrol…like, once they’re transferred, you’re not hearing anything else?

**Sophie ** 34:15
Right. To get the Border Patrol end, you would have to have a successful FOIA, you know, which could take years and generally doesn’t render those kinds of recordings easily.

**Parker ** 34:27
Yeah, we submitted a FOIA request in 2818 or something and are still waiting on documents. And we’re working with a law firm who’s litigating it and we still, you know, have like, just started to get some documents. And that’s, you know, that’s beyond the capacity for most people.

**Inmn ** 34:44
Yeah, to get these like recordings of Border Patrol calls with people? Yeah, okay. Um, so there’s kind of like another side to…there’s another component to this report too, which is, I believe y’all call it "compromised care," or "EMS collaboration with border enforcement." I was wondering if y’all could talk a little bit about that?

**Parker ** 35:16
Yeah. Do you want to start with that one, Sophie?

**Sophie ** 35:18
Yeah, I mean, I think that’s a part of the report that pulls on aid worker testimony more heavily. It was really inspired by experiences of our volunteers–I mean, including Parker and I–working in the field and encountering people in distress who needed, you know, emergency evacuation to the hospital, and seeing the kind of infiltration of border patrol into the emergency medical response system, you know, every step of the way. So compromised care is less about search and rescue cases and more looking at the way in which Border Patrol infiltrates and inhibits EMS. So, I think Parker and I both have stories connected to this, but I was…in one situation I was out in the desert to put out water on Christmas with other volunteers and we encountered this woman Lupe in distress who had a collapsed lung. She had been attacked in the desert and left under a blanket and she was in respiratory distress. And she had been there for, you know, overnight, like a long time since that abandonment piece, right? And no one had been down that remote road until we happened to choose to go to a water drop out there that day. And we called, you know, talked to her…. And even though she was in such distress, it actually took a while to get her consent to call 911 because she was crossing because her son was chronically ill. She needed to make money to pay for his medical procedure, and, you know, was desperate to make it. And eventually, she did consent to calling 911. And we, you know, let them know we’re in this vehicle on this road heading to the local fire station. And when we arrived, there was this armada of Border Patrol, like 10 agents, multiple trucks, surrounding the fire station essentially and in and around the ambulance. And when they were taking her from our vehicle, you know, into the ambulance before realizing they needed to call for her to be, you know, helicoptered to the emergency room because it was so desperate, the agents were getting in the way of medical workers to try to get her ID to start processing her on her criminal migration violation, you know, while she’s like receiving care. And we followed her case, and she was…she had been, you know, assaulted in the desert and was handcuffed to her hospital bed. She had a Border Patrol agent stationed in the room with her the whole time she was there. You know, which is incredibly intimidating for someone who’s a survivor of assault or anyone. And eventually, I mean, her case was interesting because she eventually qualified for a U-Visa, a protected status, because she had been the victim of a crime in the United States. And we saw sort of the interplay between the county that was treating her as the victim of a crime and Border Patrol that was treating her as a criminal. So that was a really stark example. And we saw, you know, every time that we’ve evacuated someone to the fire station to get to the emergency room, Border Patrol follows the ambulance. You know, they’re really kind of embedded every step of the way, which is a deterrent to calling 911 in the first place and also can really inhibit care. Parker, I don’t know if you wanted to talk about cases you’ve seen?

**Parker ** 39:05
Yeah, one that really stands out to me is I was volunteering at our humanitarian-aid station one time and a man came in who had been bitten by a rattlesnake. He came in and told us that he had just been bitten. So myself and another volunteer, you know, immediately wanted to call 911, but similarly, you know, for a long time was saying that he didn’t want us to call 911, he didn’t want to go to a hospital, that he thought he was fine because of course he knew that if we did call 911 and and ambulance came, that would result in him being deported. This is a man who had lived in Tucson for years before being deported. And his family was there. His young daughter was there. And she had actually recently had an accident. So he was, you know, very urgently trying to get back to his family and didn’t want to be deported. And eventually he started to show symptoms and we said "Look, we like have to call 911. Like, we’re really afraid that you might die." He agreed and was brought to the hospital. A volunteer was able to visit him in the hospital. And yeah, Border Patrol was…. He ended up being evacuated by helicopter. Border Patrol was waiting to start processing him as he was prepared to do Lifeflight to the hospital in Tucson. You know, as soon as we started driving up, to like drive him to where we were meeting the helicopter, he saw the Border Patrol vehicle and was like, "I don’t want to go," you know. So it was really…you know, there’s a huge deterrence to people to–even when they’re like in a life critical situation to call 911, because they know Border Patrol is waiting for them. They know they’re going to be deported. You know, he ended up being brought to the hospital. They were denying visitation for a long time. They had him handcuffed at the hospital. Border Patrol was stationed in his room at the hospital. And then he ended up being deported without even completing his full medical care. He still had follow up work to do, which is a thing that we also document and see pretty often is people being deported who are still in pretty unstable medical conditions.

**Sophie ** 41:08
Yeah. And just sort of violations of medical ethics every step of the way because of someone’s…simply because of their identity or status.

**Inmn ** 41:25
Are there like…are there laws that require EMS to inform on someone’s known or unknown status?

**Sophie ** 41:37
I mean, my understanding of that is it’s really less about a legal mandate and more about funding and getting bumper funding from the federal government to cover, you know, the 30% of EMS calls and transfers in border counties that are undocumented people in distress. And so like calling and filing with Border Patrol is a way to access those bumper funds. Parker, do you have thoughts about that?

**Parker ** 42:10
No, I mean, I believe the answer is, no, there is nothing that requires them to inform on someone’s medical status. It really is about funding and the fact that, you know, Border Patrol has created this humanitarian crisis that’s overwhelmed the local emergency response systems in these rural areas. So they get reinforcement, I believe, from the Department of Home…. I mean, reimbursement from the Department of Homeland Security for the cost of providing the care. And that really is what has created this system.

**Inmn ** 42:39
Yeah. Dang…. That’s, you know, that’s just all really fucked up. That’s, my very…articulate opinion about all of this is it’s just really fucked up. I guess, like, what is the justification for the county to pass off all of this stuff to Border Patrol?

**Parker ** 43:09
So yeah, when we have, you know, confronted the county about this, they consistently deny making any decisions based on immigration status, which in addition to being a constitutional issue is against their own policies. And so what they’ll consistently say is that they don’t make any decisions based on immigration status but it’s purely based on a caller’s location and what resources are the closest, so saying, you know, Border Patrol is closest and that’s the only reason we transfer. It has nothing to do with them having crossed the border. But, you know, we know that this isn’t true for a number of different reasons. One is, you know, we document a lot of calls, like this one that Sophie was describing earlier, where the same person has called for hours and hours. You know, if you have the same person calling for 10 hours, he still hasn’t been rescued. You can’t say that you’re just transferring to Border Patrol because they’re gonna respond faster, you know, if you know, they’re not responding. So, yeah, what we find in the calls is that it really is, you know, the person’s spoken language and saying that they’re lost is really used as sort of like a stand in to determine that a caller is crossing the border, rather than actually being like the basis of why they’re transferring the calls.

**Sophie ** 44:22
And we have documentation of this. So there’s this case that was really kind of important to the development of this report that came in through the Missing Migrant Hotline. This was in May of 2019. The family of a 17 year old named Daniel had called the Missing Migrant Hotline because Daniel had contacted…or traveling companions of Danielle had contacted them. So he was 17. He was traveling with other people crossing the border and he fell ill, was unable to walk ,was maybe unconscious, and his traveling companions contacted his family, told them his condition, and said that they left him 10 or 15 minutes from a paved intersection and Miranda, which is a suburb of Tucson. So not remote backcountry at all. Like a named, paved intersection. And they had screenshots of the location. And so then the family called Border Patrol with this information, asking for response and Border Patrol refused to deploy. And then they called the Missing Migrant Hotline, and a volunteer who picked up the call then called–with their consent called 911–and so this volunteer was English speaking and called 911 and said, "There’s a 17 year old in distress this far from this intersection." He wasn’t asked anything about the identity of the caller. He didn’t…you know, he just said this is a person in distress. And then was told that, you know, deputies and multiple fire departments were en route to that location to the point-last-scene. And then they heard nothing for a few hours and the volunteer called back to see what was going on with the search and learned from the detective on the phone that they had called off the local response, the search and rescue deputies, the fire departments, because they discovered that Daniel was a known illegal immigrant. And that was the language in their case notes on the report, that it became apparent to them that he was a known illegal immigrant. So they’d called off local resources and instead transferred his case to Border Patrol. There was no follow up number and no one for the family to call to see what was the status of Border Patrol’s efforts to look further for him. And Border Patrol had already refused once to go out. And then three days later, his remains were recovered extremely close to the location that was provided by his traveling companions. And so that was a really outrageous case in which it was obvious that, you know, this is a suburb, this isn’t the backcountry, and that his case was, you know, forwarded, as they’re reporting themselves, because of his status to Border Patrol, who then did not prevent loss of life and the 17 year old died as a consequence. And this is incredibly normal. And even when we confronted, you know, with the family and a coalition, confronted the then Sheriff Napier about this, they still insisted that it was just location because they know that it’s a constitutional issue that it can be litigated against, if they admit, even though they’ve done it in writing, that they’re forwarding based on people’s identity. And then we have, you know, the opposite. We have cases of citizens calling for search and rescue in and around Arivaca, like in the border zone in this exact same mountains where a lot of these distress calls are coming from undocumented people, like people who went out to go hunting and got lost, and those calls aren’t transferred. They get a full intake and deputies on the way to rescue that person. So we have a lot of, you know, evidence to contradict their policy. But they seem to, you know…. And I think this is part of why we don’t hear dispatchers in these calls saying, asking directly, "Are you undocumented? Are you an immigrant? What’s your citizenship?" Because they know that that’s illegal. Instead, there’s sort of these like, kind of code words for that. Like, they’ll always ask, you know, "Are you lost?" and lost becomes, you know, a coded way of talking about someone’s status to justify transferring the call.

**Parker ** 48:31
I mean, it’s literally in their system now, They have it’s like, "Lost person," is their official designation, whereas like search and rescue calls with citizens are, you know, coded as "search and rescue." You know, even if they’re lost. But if the caller is speaking Spanish, they’re called a "lost person." It’s sort of their euphemism. And then as to dispatch, like you mentioned some of the damning quotes that we do have in the report, Inmn, you know, in these calls directly from people in distress, you’re not really hearing them, directly address their immigration status, even though that is the basis of how they’re responding to the calls. But we do have some recordings from over the years where you might happen to get like a dispatch from another county who’s transferring over a call and you hear the two, you know, county officials talking to each other. And we have a couple of cases like that. Like one where someone’s calling, I think from…I think that one’s Maricopa, and they’re saying, you know, "We have a call from this person. They’re in your jurisdiction." And the Pima County dispatch is like, "Well, you know, are they speaking Spanish?" And, you know, the other dispatch is like, "Yes." And they’re like, "Okay, so are they illegal? Because we’re not going to go search for them." You know, or like a case we had from 2018, where they said, "Actually, we’re not going to deal with that." And I myself and some other people have had experiences of trying to call 911 to get a response for someone and a dispatch, you know, maybe at that point doesn’t, you know, know that they’re not supposed to say this directly, will just say like, "Oh, is it a migrant? We don’t search for migrants." So there’s this thing where it’s very well known internally that that is their policy, but it’s also known especially amongst the higherups in the sheriff’s department that they can’t say that directly. So you just hear this sort of like, repetitive like, "Nope, it’s based on location. Nope, it’s only based on location because Border Patrol responds faster," kind of no matter what information we present them with to the country.

**Inmn ** 50:21
Yeah, that’s…I don’t know.

**Sophie ** 50:22
So it’s rife for, you know, transformation. It’s a context that’s rife for serious transformation, I would say.

**Inmn ** 50:33
I mean, is there any hope of transformation beyond the abolition of the border and Border Patrol or like the shitty hell-government that we have?

**Sophie ** 50:51
I mean, you know, part of me wants to say no. But I also know that there are serious harm reduction measures that could be put in place pretty swiftly to affect a lot of people’s lives. I mean, in the report we list a number of simple reforms that could happen within the dispatch system, such as having Spanish fluency be a requirement, right, for dispatcher hiring, such as requiring a full intake, such as requiring the county remain…maintain responsibility for these cases even if they’re calling in Border Patrol, that they’re responsible for the outcome and responding. So essentially, like, you know, there’s little granular reforms that could be made to the dispatch system. There’s a more general reform of everyone in the county should have the same response regardless of status, right? And if the county did actually have to bear the full burden of responding to these calls, they have the capacity to put pressure on the federal government, right, in a way that maybe we don’t directly do something to change policy. So there are those pieces. And, you know, I think a lot of that requires further investigation into this issue. More litigation. So suing them, you know, and trying to increase accountability and equity, you know. A more robust response is totally possible. Yeah. And trying to….I think part of what’s empowering about looking at the county versus looking at border patrol directly, like this report versus the others, is when we’re looking at Border Patrol directly. It’s like this, you know, totally opaque, powerful federal agency, that’s getting all this war on terror funding, you know. It’s like really hermetic and, you know, the goliath when thinking about trying to get any wins. But when you’re talking about the county, it’s like, there is more leverage, you know, for local people to demand accountability. They’re more vulnerable to litigation. So there is kind of…I see it as something that can be more effectively pressured if you’re thinking in those kinds of terms, you know. Will it end the border crisis? You know, not unto itself. But certainly it’s an angle from which to try to squeeze the policy of Prevention Through Deterrence, you know. So we’re hopeful that, you know, further investigation and exposure can put more pressure from this direction. I don’t know if Parker has thoughts about that, but I found it more encouraging to actually have names and faces of people to challenge, you know, to answer for these policies, for example.

**Parker ** 53:48
Yeah, definitely. I mean, I think it’s…. You know, search and rescue, no matter how well funded, is not the solution to the border crisis in that sense. You know, we gotta abolish border patrol for that. You know, definitely try and really center that we want this border crisis to end. We don’t want solely just more humane responses to it. But, yeah, I mean, I guess I’ll just say that working on these reports, especially "Left To Die," you know, it is obviously really fucked up heavy content, but there’s a lot of inspiration there in seeing how like communities respond themselves to go out and search for people and the way that families respond and just like the solidarity between people crossing the border as well as like border communities. And so, you know, I think that was sort of like a salve in sitting with all of this content is just, you know, seeing the incredible ways that people have responded…just themselves, you know, outside of these sorts of like, official response systems.

**Inmn ** 54:54
Yeah. Yeah. And it’s like, you know, it’s the question of like, "How can this be better?" it’s like, yeah, Border Patrol is the cause of the problem. So reforming it isn’t gonna provide a solution because they are the problem. They can’t…. You know? Like, they’re doing what they set out to do and it seems like they’re responses to search and rescue and things like that are just in line with what they set out to do, which is exactly what’s happening. But, yeah, do y’all have any other kind of…I guess closing things for…. I don’t know, for…. I think about this within a more direct connection to themes of the podcast, but what can people who live near border regions do to prepare for encounters that they might have with finding people who need help, regardless of their of their documentations status, or like encountering people who are lost or in need of medical care? How can people prepare for that?

**Sophie ** 56:11
Well, I think really, you know, kill the cop in your mind and know that humanitarian aid is never a crime. And that there’s…you know, there are court cases to back that up. And there’s a lot of people to back you up. I think, you know, if you live in a border region, familiarize yourself with the humanitarian groups and non-governmental groups that are working in that region. If there isn’t one, start one. I think, contact the ACLU about setting up a Know Your Rights training. There’s a lot of groundwork that can be done and you’re not reinventing the wheel to, you know, connect with others around this and lose your fears that you can act like a human person when you meet human people in trouble. So I think there’s a lot you can do. But it really starts with sort of embracing the notion that helping people out in a human way is not criminal, which is difficult when you’re living under the intimidation of checkpoints and helicopters but know that people are doing this on their own every day.

**Inmn ** 57:20
Yeah.

**Sophie ** 57:24
The other thing I want to say is just that I think right now we’re seeing this…. You know, we’re recording this November 22 or more than 40 days into the Israeli bombing campaign and ground invasion of Gaza and a lot of people kind of power mapping, you know, how is it that the US is delivering 70% of its military aid to Israel? You know, and what are the kind of the direct links between US border militarization and the militarism that’s, you know, killed at least 14,000 people in Gaza, and through that power mapping there’s a lot of revelations about weapons contractors that are, you know, there’s shared contracting between the militarization of the border and the militarization of the occupied territories. And, you know, people targeting Elbit Systems, for example, an Israeli company that has a multi-billion dollar contract for surveillance systems on the border that have super deadly consequences and putting pressure on them because they’re also a contractor advancing, you know, this moment of really genocidal violence in in Gaza and the West Bank. And so I think really, you know, supporting those campaigns and connecting those dots, because these are…. There’s sort of one industry that supports both of these border regimes, you know. And when we’re talking about segregation, we’re talking about forms of apartheid, you know. It is an apartheid system if you have separate laws and separate classifications applying to people based on identity and we certainly see that living in the border zone when we’re looking at something like the 911 system. So that you know, these struggles are interlocking and I think it’s really powerful and important to bring that solidarity in so that we don’t feel so alone, you know, when we’re fighting these goliaths.

**Inmn ** 59:38
And it’s like the…I don’t know if it’s weird to…or whatever it’s not weird. It’s just how information processes but like to…. I remember like 10 years ago when I first got involved with border aid stuff like getting this like tore of the desert and seeing these virtual towers, or listening posts or whatever they’re called, and like having the person who was facilitating that training talk about them like "Yeah, they’re like made by this Israeli company Elbit…the same company that builds these systems of surveillance in Palestine." And that’s happening to people in Palestine is essentially testing equipment and shit to use other places. And yeah, it’s wild to see a lot of that coming out now. But how like these different border regions have been connected for a very long time. And I don’t know, that’s not very articulate. But it’s all just bad. This is my burnout brain from talking about this for two hours being like, I don’t know, shit’s fucked.

**Sophie ** 1:01:23
But we must fight. Go to the protest. Such an important and powerful time to be getting together on this.

**Inmn ** 1:01:34
Yeah, and it’s like, like we see with stuff in the US-Mexico so-called, like region that, a huge thing that people can do is to just form community-aid organizations or groups and have these conversations with your community to build preparedness for how to deal with finding people who are lost, how to deal with the–it’s hard to say lacking because it’s purposeful–but the conditions that Border Patrol or like the US government or any government has created that are in these humanitarian crises.

**Parker ** 1:02:20
Yeah, and I, you know, I mean, obviously, this work is also connected to any migrant justice work happening away from the border. And, you know, I think just having this awareness of knowing anyone who’s deported from anywhere in the United States, this is what they face if they try and like return to their families. Like I said, a lot of people we run into in the desert, they’re from Tucson or, you know, they’ve lived in the United States for a long time. And I think also just sort of like an awareness of the impact. I think there’s less of an awareness of what the border is like, what the crossing is like, when you’re away from it. Even though, you know, there’s so many people everywhere in our country who have been, you know, affected by the trauma of crossing through the desert or are, you know, threatened with, you know, having to do that, again if they are deported or go visit their family in Mexico or something, you know, it creates such a huge barrier of like trauma between south of the border north of the border. So I think a lot of people, you know, when I give presentations are like, "What can we do to support No More Deaths?" And it’s, you know, probably something in your own community.

**Inmn ** 1:03:31
Yeah. Cool. Well, that seems like a good place to kind of leave it. Unless, I don’t know, do you either of y’all have anything else you’d like to say or are there questions that I didn’t ask you that I should have asked you?

**Sophie ** 1:03:49
No, we just appreciate you so much.

**Inmn ** 1:03:53
Aww, I appreciate y’all.

**Sophie ** 1:03:56
It’s really nice to talk through it.

**Inmn ** 1:03:58
Yeah. And I don’t know, that’s one of the big reasons I wanted to have y’all come on is that these conversations are so embedded in southern Arizona in like these places and I’ve had funny moments of going other places and trying to talk about this stuff and realizing that like nobody has any clue what I’m talking about. And I get really confused. I’m like, what do you mean? It’s so obvious that all this stuff is happening? And it’s…I don’t know. Yeah. But they’re just very embedded in our lives and our communities and I don’t know…. So thank you all for coming on and telling more people about this. And if people want to learn more about it, where can people find the report or any of the reports that No More Deaths has put out?

**Parker ** 1:04:55
We have a website it’s thedisappearedreport.org And if you forget that, you can just go to the No More Deaths website and find the link on there if you click on the Abuse Documentation tab. But yeah, that’ll have all of our past reports as well as we have summaries and fact sheets for them as well, as well as some really beautifully done animated videos showing the findings of the different reports. Not the last one but the first three.

**Inmn ** 1:05:20
And there’s a pretty cool article that someone wrote about it whose name I’m forgetting.

**Parker ** 1:05:27
Tanvi Misra at High Country News.

**Inmn ** 1:05:33
Okay, well, thanks y’all for coming on and talking about grim stuff and providing some little nuggets of hope.

**Sophie ** 1:05:45
Thank you, Inmn. Take care.

**Inmn ** 1:05:51
Thank you so much for listening. If you enjoy this podcast then abolish the border? Abolish Border Patrol? If you could figure that out, a lot of people would be really grateful. And, you know, you can also tell people about the podcast. It’s the main way that people hear about the show. And honestly, one of the better ways to support it. You could also like and subscribe or rate and review or whatever these words are. I don’t really know how the internet works. And, you know, boost it in the algorithm. I don’t…I don’t really know about that. But if you want to support us in other sillier ways–sillier to me because, you know, all things are silly. Well, not all things. Wow, Inmn’s in a ranting mood….. Another way to support the show is by supporting our publisher, Strangers in a Tangled Wilderness, and you can support strangers by going to tangledwilderness.org and buying books and zines and games. We have a lot of fun stuff coming out, you know, soon and next year including the TTRPG that we’ve been working on for an incredibly long time, Penumbra City. It is currently out for preorder and it’s going to be starting shipping in February. And you can also support Strangers in a Tangled Wilderness by finding us on Patreon at patreon.com/strangersinatangledwilderness. On Patreon, if you support us at $10 a month then you can join the Zine of the Month Club where we’ll mail you a zine which is a feature that we put out every month. A lot of our…a lot of the features come from listeners and followers of the show and other podcasts that we put out. So find us at patreon.com/strangersinatangledwilderness. And in particular, we would like to thank these Patreon subscribers who have joined another club. And clubs are cool. I think. I don’t know. I don’t know if clubs are cool. But these people are cool and they are Patoli, Eric, Perceval, Buck, Julia, Catgut, Marm, Carson, Lord Harken, Trixster, Princess Miranda, BenBen, Anonymous, Funder, Janice & O’dell, Aly, paparouna, Milica, Boise Mutual Aid, theo, Hunter, SJ, Paige, Nicole, David, Dana Chelsea, Staro, Jenipher, Kirk, Chris, Michaiah, and Hoss the dog. Thank you so much for everything that you’ve helped us with. And we hope that everyone’s doing as well as they can with everything that’s going on. And we’ll talk to you next time. Okay, bye.

Find out more at https://live-like-the-world-is-dying.pinecast.co

S1E98 – No More Deaths on The “Disappeared” Report & Border Militarization Pt. I

Episode Summary

This week on Live Like the World is Dying, Inmn is joined by Sophie and Parker from No More Deaths to talk about the militarization of the US-Mexico border and the most recent installment of the "Disappeared" report series "Separate & Deadly."

Guest Info

The Disappeared report can be found at www.thedisappearedreport.org. No More Deaths can be found at nomoredeaths.org, on Instagram @nomoredeaths_nomasmuertes, or on Twitter @nomoredeaths.

Host Info

Inmn can be found on Instagram @shadowtail.artificery

Publisher Info

This show is published by Strangers in A Tangled Wilderness. We can be found at www.tangledwilderness.org, or on Twitter @TangledWild and Instagram @Tangled_Wilderness. You can support the show on Patreon at www.patreon.com/strangersinatangledwilderness.

Transcript

No More Death on The “Disappeared” Reports & Border Militarization Pt. I

**Inmn ** 00:14
Hello, and welcome to Live Like the World is Dying, your podcasts for what feels like the end times. I’m your host today, Inmn, and today we have some folks coming on that I’ve really wanted to get on the podcast for a while because I think that the work that they do is just really incredible and I want more people to know about it. So we have two folks from No More Deaths, or No Mas Muertes, coming on. And No More Deaths is a humanitarian aid group whose goal is to, you know, prevent death and suffering in the borderlands. And they work primarily in southern Arizona in response to rampant border militarization. And I’m really excited that they have this new report coming out in their series of reports called the "Disappeared" series. And their new report, "Separate & Deadly", just came out. And we’ll have links in the show notes to where to find it to read the whole thing. And I’m really excited to have folks from, specifically, the abuse doc, or abuse documentation, working group, coming on because I think a lot of focus gets put on the physical doing, the putting out water, and all of that, and that stuff is really important, you know, obviously, but I also think it’s great to really highlight the work that a lot of people have been doing to document the reason and the need and the reactions from Border Patrol and other governmental bodies in response to this humanitarian aid. And so yeah, I don’t know, I’m really excited to highlight this particular aspect of that work. But before we get to that, we are a proud member of the Channel Zero Network of anarchist podcasts. And here’s a jingle from another show on that network. Doo doo doo.

**Inmn ** 03:19
And we’re back. Thanks, y’all so much for coming on the show today to talk about this thing. Could y’all introduce yourselves with your name, pronouns, and I guess what your role is with No More Deaths and this report?

**Parker ** 03:37
Yeah, I can go first. My name is Parker. I use she/her pronouns. I have been involved with No More Deaths since about 2015. I came down and started volunteering in the desert. Moved to Tucson a little bit after that. So I’ve been involved with desert aid and then also involved with the abuse documentation working group producing the Disappeared report that we’re going to talk about. Sophie and I were co-coordinators for several years working on that project and then have both been involved as volunteers.

**Sophie ** 04:10
Hi, my name is Sophie and I use she/they pronouns. And I’ve been a volunteer with No More Deaths since 2011, volunteering with desert aid and also with community-based search and rescue and I’m a co-author for the Disappeared report series and co-coordinated with Parker on this report.

**Inmn ** 04:29
Cool. And for folks who don’t know, what is No More Deaths? What does No More Deaths do?

**Parker ** 04:49
No More Deaths is a humanitarian aid organization whose mission is to end death and suffering in the borderlands. No More Deaths was formed in 2004 in response to rising deaths of people crossing the border. There’s a number of different working groups and projects under the No More Deaths umbrella. So Sophie and I have been a part of the abuse documentation working group, documenting the kinds of things we’re seeing in the course of the work. There’s desert aid. They do water drops, where we bring out water and food and leave them on migrant trails in the remote borderlands. We maintain a humanitarian aid camp where people can come and get food and water and respite. We do a community-based search and rescue project where there’s a hotline and we get reports of people who have gone missing while crossing the border and can send out volunteers to do search and rescue. We also do some support in Northern Mexico for post-deportation or pre-departure support. Yeah, so there’s a lot of different projects under this umbrella but all for humanitarian aid trying to provide support for people who are crossing the border in southern Arizona.

**Inmn ** 05:59
Cool. Yeah, y’all do so many different things. And I’ve been wanting to get someone from the group to come talk about stuff for a while now. I used to volunteer with y’all and I reference border-aid stuff on the podcast a lot. So I’m just really stoked to have you all here to talk about this. And the new report was a great opportunity to wrangle some folks into coming on. I was wondering, though, if y’all could share a little bit about like the…I guess the context of the border and, specifically, border militarization and Border Patrol’s role in that to kind of build a little foundation for what we’re going to talk about today.

**Sophie ** 06:51
Yeah, so, when talking about the militarization of the US-Mexico border, usually, we’re kind of looking at a time period of the last 30 years or so starting in 1994–which certainly wasn’t the start of border militarization–but was a signal year in terms of the enforcement strategy on the border really shifting gears. So in 1994–many people remember that year because it was the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which had really huge consequences for migration. We know that NAFTA contained neoliberal economic reforms that took away tariffs and barriers to trade and lead things like US subsidized corn to flood the market in Mexico which drove down prices and then spiked this labor-driven migration of people who had historically been able to make ends meet through farming heritage corn and no longer could compete. So we know that NAFTA sparked this labor-division migration. We know that’s not the first time that US policy has sparked migrations across the border. But what was different in 1994 was at the same time the US Border Patrol came together to come up with a policing strategy of how they were going to control the border given this expected rise in labor-driven migration from south to north. And so Border Patrol met with security heads from the Department of Defense, who are versed in conducting regime change and low intensity conflict doctrine throughout Latin America in the 80s. And they produced a new strategy for how they’re going to police the 2000 mile southern border. The strategy that they came up with is called Prevention Through Deterrence, which is kind of a technical and clunky title for a really nefarious strategy. So the theory was that the southern border couldn’t be sealed off entirely despite all the rhetoric we see about, you know, border walls, sealing the southern border. The Border Patrol observed that the border couldn’t actually be sealed from migration, but that the flow of migration across the border could be controlled. And so Border Patrol sought to concentrate enforcement resources–so, personnel, vehicles, infrastructure like walls, surveillance technology–in and around ports of entry in urban areas along the border where migration had historically flowed as a mechanism that would then push people attempting across the southern border without official permission out into remote areas along the border between ports of entry between cities. so especially huge expanses of desert along the border. And the strategy document–which is public, you can look at it online–specifically says that the strategy intends to push people out into remote areas where they can find themselves in mortal danger as a consequence of being exposed to the elements without access to food, water, or rescue. And the belief was that by pushing people into these remote areas, a certain number of people would not make it. They would be deterred, either having to turn back or they would perish and that this would then dissuade others from attempting the journey. It would prevent rising levels of migration. This was the theory, Prevention Through Deterrence, that by making the border as deadly, as costly as possible to cross, that this would deter others…it would prevent others from attempting the journey. And so what happens is that Border Patrol puts up walls, installs surveillance technology in and around ports of entry in places like El Paso/Juarez, in places like Nogales, in places like San Diego/Tijuana, all at the end of the 1990s. And indeed, this shifts patterns of migration, undocumented migration, out into these really remote regions of the desert, where people are having to undertake multi-day journeys on foot through really rugged geography. And immediately we start to see hundreds of remains, human remains, recovered from remote areas of the border by 2000, 2001, and 2002 as a result of this policy, people who are dying from things like exposure to the elements or whose death cause is actually not able to be determined because their remains have decomposed so much before they’ve been located because they’re perishing in such remote areas. So this humanitarian crisis opens up on the border in the early 2000s. And this is what humanitarian groups like No More Deaths and others start attempting to respond to. And this is still the policy that we see on the southern border. Of course, it’s been bolstered by things like the 2006 Secure Fence Act, which really increased the number of Border Patrol agents on the line dramatically and allowed agents to start to patrol remote areas and rural communities in addition to being stationed in cities, to push people out into the desert, and also extended funding for walls. We also have seen more recent walls go up under the Trump administration. And now Biden’s also funding that, But this is still the strategy under which Border Patrol is policing the southern border. And, again, this was never a strategy to close the border but to try to control the rate of crossing by making it as deadly or dangerous as possible. And so the thing about Prevention Through Deterrence is that it’s been incredibly successful in pushing people out into remote areas where they find themselves in mortal danger, that that, indeed, was a prediction that that did come to pass. We know that the remains of at least 10,000 people have been recovered from the southern border. And experts estimate that the true number of deaths are probably three to ten times higher than that number, because so many people are perishing in such remote areas that their remains are never found or if they’re found they’re never identifiable. So we call this a crisis of death and disappearance on the border due to that phenomenon. But we also know that Prevention Through Deterrence has been a real failure in terms of preventing undocumented crossing on the southern border. This policy has coincided with a lot of measures to cut off legal paths of entry, shrink asylum programs, refugee programs, and further criminalize migration. And as a consequence, more and more populations are being caught up into this system. And more and more families are moving to the US permanently rather than risk multiple crossings to migrate seasonally for work or things like that. So this is the same system under which a lot of people fleeing conditions in the Northern Triangle as a consequence of US policy in the hemisphere, they’re being caught up in this system of migration too. And we know that there’s at least 13 million people now residing in the US who don’t have documentation or full status or protection or rights as a consequence of this. So this is really the context in which humanitarian groups are trying to respond by providing food, water, and even improvised emergency medical services in these remote areas. And it’s also a context in which, in terms of abuse documentation, there’s a real need for witnessing and documentation of what’s happening on the ground out in the back country where Border Patrol agents are operating daily with no witnesses and virtual impunity. So this was really kind of the context that gave rise to the abuse documentation project in general and these reports more specifically,

**Inmn ** 15:38
Cool…. Or I mean, you know, not "cool," but thank you for walking us through that. I’ve heard a lot…you know, over the years, I’ve heard a lot of…been to a lot of trainings where there’s like a border militarization context and I don’t know that I’ve ever heard it put so succinctly and neatly. So that’s…that is incredible. And, yeah, it’s funny, because when I was putting together notes for the show today, I had like a little note, like, "Oh, make sure to talk about the Deterrence Through Death strategy." And then I was like, "Wait, is that what it’s called?" And then I couldn’t remember if that’s like, what it was officially called, or not. And then, yeah…remembering that it was maybe not called that–

**Parker ** 16:33
No, that’s just what it is.

**Inmn ** 16:34
Yeah. That’s just what it is. Okay, well, could y’all, I guess, maybe with that foundation, what is the abuse doc working group then do? And like how did the "Disappeared" report series come to be?

**Parker ** 16:52
Yeah, the abuse documentation working group, it’s been, you know, around through a number of different projects with different volunteers leading them. A lot of the earlier reports that No More Deaths was putting out were focused on detention. So we put out a report called "Culture of Cruelty" that really focused on really inhumane conditions, abusive conditions, within Border Patrol custody–so short term Border Patrol custody before people are deported or turned over to ICE–and focusing on things such as denial of food and water, denial of medical care, psychological abuse…. Just yeah, really horrible conditions, people being held longer than they’re legally supposed to without being given phone calls and things like that. So that report primarily was done through interviews with people who had been deported and just kind of arose out of the conversations people were having with people through our support work at shelters there and hearing the conditions that they were being held under. So "Culture of Cruelty" was one of our earlier reports. We put out "Shakedown," which focuses on Border Patrol’s, seizing up people’s belongings when people are in Border Patrol custody without returning it. And both of those reports really focused on advocacy and trying to, you know, push for policy changes in response to these patterns that we were documenting. And I think people sort of had the experience of, you know, providing really clear documentation and then seeing that Border Patrol is still just denying the same things that, you know, we’re showing proof of and not seeing the changes that they wanted to see come out of those reports. The "Disappeared" series, I think was a shift, organizationally, in wanting to really document what’s happening in these remote borderlands areas and really push our messaging to call for the abolition of Border Patrol and really just say what we wanted to say politically and document things that there was really no documentation of at that time. So the "Disappeared" report series, it’s focusing on the actions of Border Patrol in remote borderlands areas where there’s, you know, there’s no transparency whatsoever about what’s happening, because there has been this intentional push to push migration into wilderness areas and really focusing on Prevention Through Deterrence but also the way that the day-to-day actions of Border Patrol agents are consistent with this logic of increasing the risk of death to people who are migrating in the ways that that logic is carried out on the ground. And it was a collaborative project. So the "Disappeared" report series started as a collaboration between No More Deaths and another organization called La Coalición de Derechos Humanos, who has been really vocal against militarization from the very beginning. At the time Derechos Humanos, they were operating a missing migrant crisis line, similar to what No More Deaths operates now, so they were receiving this huge volume of calls from family members reporting their loved ones who were missing. And No More Deaths started to collaborate with them with doing search and rescue in the field when they received a call where there was a viable possibility that that person was still alive and could be rescued. So that collaboration led to the "Disappeared" report series. And, yeah, so we’ve put out, this is the fourth installment of the "Disappeared" report series.

**Inmn ** 20:32
So what have the other parts of the "Disappeared" reports explored?

**Parker ** 20:37
Um, yeah, so the first report focuses on deadly apprehension methods, particularly on the practice of Chase and Scatter in the wilderness. So this is documenting a practice that, you know, we see and hear about every day in the course of this work, where Border Patrol chases groups of migrating people causing them to scatter and become separated from each other in the remote wilderness, often not detaining a lot of the people who have become separated. And this is really the beginning of a cycle of death and disappearance because when people are scattered in the wilderness like this, they can become injured in the chase, they become separated from their group, which may include family members that they were traveling with, separated from a guide, they become lost and disoriented, you know, people are crossing in this area that have no familiarity with the landscape. So a lot of the time when we encounter people who are, you know, in a life threatening situation, it’s because they’ve been chased and scattered by Border Patrol. And so they’re now lost and alone in the wilderness. People lose their belongings in the chase, lose their food, water. And so this is something that, you know, with the hotline where we receive calls from family members, a lot of the time they’re saying, you know, "My loved one was chased by Border Patrol. They don’t know where they are. They’re separated from their group. They need to be rescued." This is so routine Border Patrol really doesn’t see it as an abuse. They see it as the way that they are enforcing the border. But it is an extremely dangerous enforcement practice.

**Sophie ** 22:10
In the practice of chase and scatter that we examined in part one, we looked at surveys conducted in Nogales as well as the Derechos hotline cases and found that chase and scatter by Border Patrol agents is incredibly common, as Parker was saying, that we found that 40% of people who had been chased by Border Patrol became injured or even killed through the process of that chase. 40% of people who had been chased and scattered became lost. And 35% of the emergency cases that we looked at that involved chase and scatter ended in the disappearance of the person who came into distress after that enforcement context. So it’s really a way in which Border Patrol’s daily activities are reinforcing the strategy of Prevention Through Deterrence on the ground by sending helicopters and vehicles and agents on foot and dogs after people in remote areas who run in every direction often late at night when Border Patrol agents have night vision goggles. And, you know, we looked at the way in which they’ve actually documented this activity themselves on the Cops-style reality show, Border Wars, that has many scenes of chase and scatter. So we looked at some of that in which Border Patrol is actually documenting their own crimes and using it as propaganda for the agency.

**Inmn ** 23:55
I didn’t know that that TV show existed. That’s…yeah…that’s absurd.

**Sophie ** 24:02
I don’t recommend it. But it was helpful in kind of…you know, we’re interested in the way in which these agencies are providing evidence of their own abuses.

**Inmn ** 24:20
Yeah, and I like for…. I guess, for the chase and scatter protocol, like, you know, not that I would prefer that people get apprehended, but why…. I guess, why do the chase and scatter thing instead of apprehending people, which seems to be what Border Patrol like tells the public they’re trying to do versus like what they actually do.

**Sophie ** 24:48
I mean, I think that chase and scatter is part of a more general pattern where we’re seeing migrating people being treated as enemy combatants, enemies of the state, against whom it’s somehow appropriate to deploy all the weapons of war. And I think watching Border Wars, you really do see this as war games to an extent. And I think that, you know, the other piece of that, beyond just wanting to, you know, use the kind of military-style equipment that they’re given–and we’re talking about this, by the way, in the context of like, we’re on US soil where this is happening. This is like anywhere from the border line all the way to 100 miles within the US interior is the terrain in which Border Patrol is operating. And when you look at death maps, you can see recovered remains kind of scattered far into the US interior. But really, you know, from Border Patrol’s perspective, whether they apprehend a person or they scatter them so that they become lost, disoriented, and in harm’s way, either of those outcomes reinforce the strategy of Prevention Through Deterrence, right? On the one hand, you have increased apprehensions as a way to, you know, in their minds, deter others from attempting the journey. And on the other, you have injury and death as a way to build up that deterrent. Again, we see that that deterrence ultimately doesn’t work when measured against the conditions that people are leaving or fleeing from in order to cross the border. But both outcomes absolutely serve the overall strategy of Prevention Through Deterrence. And I think it’s just another way in which we see people’s lives, who are crossing the border, being treated as disposable and not deserving of the kinds of protections afforded to us, right, that it’s not important to them whether they apprehend everyone, whether people become lost, and those people are not even counted. So I think that that sort of a deeper structural violence at play in these scenarios.

**Parker ** 26:56
Was gonna say the same thing. I think there’s sort of just like an institutionalized lack of concern for the outcomes that people face, especially because the outcome of someone potentially dying is baked into the strategy. I remember one of our co-authors talking about when they released the "Chase and Scatter" report, talking to a Border Patrol agent, who I think at the time was the head of they’re Missing Migrant Initiative, just saying, you know, "Oh, yeah, I never even thought about what happened to people after we chased them." So, you know, they scatter a group, they arrest a couple people, they call it a day. They don’t think about it, and if that person is lost and alone and doesn’t have water, well, that’s consistent with their enforcement anyways.

**Sophie ** 27:37
Right. And the border is just a kind of erratic and contradictory zone where on the one hand, the US-Mexico border zone is one of the most heavily surveilled places on Earth, right, in which enforcement can consolidate in these moments and become incredibly violent. You can be, you know, killed by a heavily armed agent with all these weapons of war, treated as this enemy combatant, on the one hand. On the other hand, you can die of exposure and dehydration and, you know, being in an area where you don’t see another person for days at a time. So there’s sort of these two forces of, you know, militarism and direct violence, on the one hand, these kinds of really violent kind of events, and then on the other, the forces of abandonment, right, where there’s no one to help you. And these things work together. Which is sort of difficult to grasp when you’re in that zone, right? If you’re circulating in the border zone–and I mean, all of us know this from volunteering–you can see no one the whole day and then suddenly come up upon a heavily armed agent who wants to point their AK47 at you. You know, both of these kinds of forces of indirect violence, of abandonment, and direct violence exist in this geography.

**Inmn ** 28:56
Yeah. I know this is maybe a little outside the scope of what we’re going to talk about today but I was wondering if y’all could briefly just talk a little bit about the legal systems that people are facing when they are apprehended? Like what is the process of like being…going from like being apprehended to being deported look like?

**Parker ** 29:22
Yeah, well, so people are, when they’re detained in the field, they’re held in short term Border Patrol custody, where, you know, like I was mentioning before, we’ve documented all kinds of abuses that people face in custody. I remember early on in Trump’s presidency, there was this really high-profile news story about a seven year old who died in Border Patrol custody, who, you know, hadn’t received water or medical care. And I remember us, you know, just calling attention to the fact that we’ve been documenting that same pattern for, you know, like over a decade. So people are held in Border Patrol custody, which is supposed to not be any longer than three days maximum. It’s supposed to be shorter. Some people at that point are rapidly deported. And then we also saw, you know, these last few years, under Title 42 people being just rapidly deported immediately upon being detained in the field without any sort of legal process. And then other times, you know, people are held in ICE custody or they’re held in detention centers. And then there’s also Operation Streamline where people are–some people–are given criminal charges. And then they are, you know, fed into our regular criminal justice system. But they have, you know, it’s this total farce of justice where they call it Operation Streamline and they’ll bring 70 people a day and just charge them all at once. And that’s for Criminal Entry or Re-entry. And people just have to, essentially, plead guilty to the lower charge of Criminal Entry instead of Re-entry so that they can face six months instead of two years. So we’re also just feeding people into our prison system as well as into the ICE detention system.

**Inmn ** 31:02
And do charges like that preclude someone from being able to apply for asylum or other kind legal processes for documented immigration.

**Parker ** 31:16
Yeah, I imagine they do. I don’t think it’s really my or Sophie’s wheelhouse, the legal immigration system. I do know that, you know, theoretically, people who are detained by Border Patrol could request asylum, but there’s a lot of documentation of Border Patrol, you know, not asking or ignoring people when they do say that they want to make an asylum claim after detaining people in the desert.

**Inmn ** 31:35
Yeah, yeah. Um, I guess to shift a little bit more into the current report, I was wondering if y’all could talk a little bit about, I guess, like the third report "Left to Die" as a prelude to what we’re going to talk about today?

**Sophie ** 32:00
Should we talk about Part Two really quick before?

**Inmn ** 32:05
Oh, yeah. Yeah, there’s Part Two. Sorry, we skipped Part Two. Yeah, what happened? What happened in Part Two?

**Parker ** 32:11
Part Two documented interference with humanitarian aid. So pretty early on, when No More Deaths started to do water drops, we started to find that our water drops would sometimes be vandalized or destroyed. People would stab water gallons, dump them out. We put out cans of beans. People would dump those out or stab them so that they rot. And we anecdotally believed that Border Patrol was responsible for at least some amount of this destruction, just from seeing them near the drops and then finding them vandalized or just the drops being out in areas where Border Patrol is the only other person out there. But to document this, we started to put out game cameras on a lot of the drops that were regularly vandalized and trying to capture footage, which is pretty difficult. The game cameras, like they turn on anytime, you know, the wind blows and the grass moves. So a lot of the time we would come and find the battery dead, but the drop had been vandalized, but we didn’t get any footage. But over the years, we did collect footage. And we got several instances of Border Patrol on camera destroying these water drops, stabbing them with knives, things like that. So we wanted to document this pattern in that report. So in addition to that footage, we did an analysis of all of the logs that we keep from every water drop that we go to, where we mark instances of vandalization and just kind of looked at the scope of it, if there were any patterns and where it was happening and when it was happening. And Sophie, do you have some of those findings handy?

**Sophie ** 33:47
So just for context, the main part of No More Deaths’ work over the years has been mapping migration trails. People undertake anywhere from three days to over a week of a journey through the deserts through really labyrinthian topography, especially in southern Arizona. It’s high desert. So it’s really mountainous with a system of canyons and there’s just thousands of trail systems that have been created over time in the back country that are routes that people are taking across into the United States. So we’ve located, you know, certain areas of high concentration where we’ll place drops of water and food and other supplies, like Parker was mentioning, to try to mitigate death and suffering in those areas. So we looked at the records that were kept by No More Deaths volunteers over three years in which over 30,000 gallons of water were left in the backcountry. And within that we were seeing that 86% of the water that we put out does get used, that this is a really important harm reduction measure to support life in the backcountry as people are on their journey. But we also found that at least 3,586 gallons of water, so over 3000 gallons of water, had been vandalized or destroyed in at least 415 different destruction events. And as Parker was mentioning, you know, really early on we got footage of Border Patrol destroying water. There’s kind of an infamous video that we put out of a Border Patrol agent kicking gallons of water that had been put out at a water drop. We got more footage and, you know, have a lot of anecdotal evidence reinforcing this. And that report also then looked at Border Patrol action on humanitarian aid stations, attempts to repress or prosecute volunteers with non-governmental organizations like No More Deaths and others doing this kind of harm reduction work. And so that report looked at a series of attempted prosecutions. There were cases in which volunteers are given littering tickets for putting out water on migration trails as if water is somehow trash in the desert among other cases. I don’t know if Parker wants to speak to that more directly. But we’re looking at kind of that as, you know, both the destruction of water and the charging…the attempted criminalization of volunteers trying to prevent loss of life as kind of a repressive campaign that Border Patrol is leading against humanitarians coincident with the agency really trying to up its PR and branding as itself, somehow, a humanitarian actor on the border. So this report was being written at the same time that Border Patrol is doing things like publishing the number of border deaths, according to them, versus the number of "rescues" that they apparently conducted. And we’ll get more into it in part three, but really trying to say…make these claims that overall, somehow, they’re humanitarian actors in this gauntlet of their own making. So that was sort of some of the spirit behind that report was to provide evidence, direct evidence, to the contrary.

**Parker ** 37:31
Yeah, I guess just to the interference with humanitarian aid, the interference with volunteer humanitarian aid, one thing that we do focus on in that report too is the raids of our humanitarian aid camp. So I mentioned we maintain a constant presence in the desert at our humanitarian aid camp. And Border Patrol has a history of conducting raids at this camp. So coming and surrounding it, providing a lot of like intimidation, as well as a few times when they have entered the camp and arrested people who were there receiving care. So really just like creating this atmosphere of intimidation, specifically at a humanitarian aid camp. And in one of those raids, they mentioned that they had tracked people for 18 miles until they got to the camp, at which point they surrounded the camp for multiple days until they came in and arrested people. So directly interfering with the provision of humanitarian aid. The charging of volunteers, actually, a note about the timing of that is that this report actually came out before a lot of criminal charges were filed against our volunteers. And in fact, the day that this report came out and the day that we released this footage of Border Patrol destroying water gallons, Scott Warren, one of our volunteers, was arrested six hours later that same day,

**Inmn ** 38:45
Which spawned like a multi-year legal battle, right?

**Parker ** 38:50
It did result in him being acquitted by a jury.

**Sophie ** 38:55
Yes, Scott Warren was charged with multiple felonies, felony harboring and smuggling, for volunteering at a No More Deaths aid station in the area of Ajo, Arizona, where he provided first aid and care to patients who had sought help at that aid station. Right. And that, you know, was a huge court process. There were multiple trials. The first one ended in a hung jury and the second one he was acquitted on all charges. But there is a lot of discussion in court as to, you know, to what extent was his arrest retaliation for the releasing of our second report. There was evidence that Border Patrol agents had knowledge of the report that morning. So we really saw that as retaliatory. But at the same time, his acquittal then provided, you know, important case law within the district to provide a certain, you know, measure of protection for providing humanitarian care to people in the borderlands. So it was really important ,kind of, instruction to us regarding the legality of our work, the kind of defense that can be waged in support of volunteers. So ultimately, it was a victory that really kind of reinforced the foundations of our work in that way. There was a huge effort, huge struggle for Scott personally and, you know, really aimed to have a chilling effect on the work in the desert overall.

**Inmn ** 40:27
Yeah, that trial was…that trial was crazy. Like, I don’t know, I went to the…like, I attended a couple of days of the court process and I just remember listening to the prosecutor try to make absolutely absurd claims in court, that drinking water might be harmful to someone as like a reason for why humanitarian aid organizations shouldn’t leave water in the desert for people. And I was like, this is like a highly paid criminal prosecutor who’s trying to argue, and like get doctors to agree with, the absurd claim that drinking water might be harmful to someone who’s experiencing dehydration. And I’m just like…this is a farce.

**Sophie ** 41:24
Some of them were so bizarre. Well, and the smuggling charge was only based on him being seen, not heard, outside of the aid station, seen pointing to the mountains while talking to the patients. And because he was pointing north, that was considered an act of smuggling, which I thought was incredible. And there was this really powerful moment where Scott did take the stand and said "I was saying, ‘There’s one highway going through this huge expanse of incredibly deadly desert. And so don’t walk towards those mountains because there’s no help if you come into harm’s way to the east. To the west, it’s another 20 miles before you’ll hit another major road. If you’re in trouble, find the highway, right?’" So given, you know, knowing that these two patients were planning to reenter the back country and trying to give, you know, life saving information was considered to be an act of smuggling. And then I also remember the prosecutor in his closing arguments on the last day, putting up a picture that had been taken of volunteers with the patients after they’d recovered to a certain degree, where they were smiling and claiming that these patients were basically on vacation in the United States, who had gone through, you know, life or death, kind of, harrowing circumstances traveling through one of the most deadly corridors along the whole border. And they were so lucky to be alive by the time they reached Ajo. And somehow, the prosecutor wanted the jury to believe that they were just hamming it up and having a great time on vacation. And it was incredible at that trial to sit in on and relieving to see that those arguments didn’t really hold water in the end.

**Inmn ** 43:23
Yeah, and…but also, I don’t know, it’s frightening to see what the legal system can bring charges to bear on someone where they have absolutely no evidence and that it can then take multiple years and obscene amounts of community resources to defend these charges. I don’t know. It’s…which I don’t know, is maybe maybe purposeful by them. I don’t know. Just…this is also a little bit outside of the scope, but I feel like people are a little…or might be a little curious…if…. Like, under the law, like what…for people who live in the borderlands, if someone comes to your door what aid can you offer people without legal complications?

**Sophie ** 44:25
Yeah.

**Inmn ** 44:28
Or, I guess, like, what does the law define as aiding and abetting or smuggling or human trafficking, right, as we’ve seen people get charged with?

**Sophie ** 44:38
I mean, I’ll say that I’m not a lawyer. Parker is on the way to becoming one. But I can say to–and I think Parker will have something to add to this–but first of all, under US law, there’s no obligation of any citizen to report on the status of anyone else to law enforcement. So if I know that someone is undocumented, there’s no law that says I must report their status to the authorities. So there’s that to begin with, that if someone comes to your door who you know is crossing through the desert, you don’t have any obligation to report them to law enforcement under the law. And then, I mean, this is interesting because there’s the kind of word of the law and then there’s its interpretation, right? And a lot of what we…. I think what Scott’s case provided is some really important interpretation of the law. So we know that, you know, there’s a specification that it’s illegal to further someone’s illegal presence in the country. That’s the language. Which means that, you know, things like food, water, shelter, medical care, rest, meals, clothing, none of that’s actually furthering that person’s presence in the country. So there’s kind of a wide range of harm reduction that you can provide perfectly legally, right? And I think I’ve heard a lawyer once be like, you know, "Is taking your friend to dinner furthering their presence in the country? You know? No." So really, we get into issues of like, are you actually attempting to conceal that person from law enforcement? Are you hosting them as a guest? You know, what is the intent behind your actions? And in any felony case, it’s not just simply that you’re…you can’t be convicted…. Part of the conviction of a felony involves your mens rea, it’s your mental state when committing whatever act you committed. So it’s not just that you, you know, invited someone into your house. It’s what was the intent behind you inviting them into your house? And so a lot of these cases hone in on, were you hiding someone in your basement? Or were you having them in your guest room? Right? Were you driving the person as a passenger in your car? Or were they hiding in your truck? Things like this, when we get into smuggling cases, intent indicated by the way you’re interacting really matters in these cases. And that was really at play and in Scott’s trial, right, there was an argument that because people had been provided shelter in an indoor aid station that somehow demonstrated concealment because they were behind four walls, right? Which doesn’t hold up, right? I have guests at my house and I’m not concealing them from law enforcement just because they’re inside. So we get down to the nitty gritty of interpretation with these kinds of statutes. And that’s why these cases really matter in how they play out in court, how further answers are being defined. Parker, did you have thoughts on that?

**Parker ** 47:54
Um, I think a lot of what I was gonna say is the same as what you said, the language of furthering someone’s presence, I think, has been one that in No More Deaths, sort of, like analyzing our legal exposure, have focused on. For example, if you do encounter someone who is in critical medical condition and the nearest hospital is Nogales, you know, you can drive them there. That’s not furthering their presence. But, you know, I think ultimately, it comes down to I think this is sort of like a perennial question in No More Deaths as people try to define what exactly is and isn’t legal. And as we all know, that doesn’t necessarily have bearing on, you know, what the State will try to argue is illegal. And, you know, Scott, what Scott did was perfectly legal in all of our opinions. If we’d had a different jury, he still could have been convicted regardless. So I think the language leaves a lot open to interpretation. And, you know, with the repressive State, they can say that it’s illegal. In fact, I think, even in the…we also had a number of misdemeanor charges that volunteers were facing and some went to trial for. The State in that case, was trying to argue that humanitarian aid itself is interfering with the government’s compelling interest in enforcing the border. So when their enforcement tactic is to try and increase the threat to people’s lives. They can see humanitarian aid, as you know, a threat to that border enforcement and furthering people’s illegal presence by simply helping them to survive, which that particular argument that the State made was specifically addressed on appeal and the judge said, "This is grotesque. This is horrifying logic on the part of the government." but they still tried to make that argument.

**Inmn ** 49:42
Yeah. Cool. Well, thanks y’all for getting into that a little bit. I think as like a tie in to a general theme of the podcast is, you know, community preparedness. And I think something that like…I think something that like, you know, people who don’t spend time thinking a lot about community preparedness or aren’t radical leftists, or like whatever, think about these questions of like, "Oh, if like I encounter someone who needs help, like, what am I going to do? How am I going to help that person?" versus like, "What is my fear of doing something illegal that could get me in trouble?" And I worry that like…I worry that people having myths or misinterpretations or listening to whatever propaganda Border Patrol is spewing, that people won’t act to help people or to save someone’s life because they think that they’re doing something that could get them in trouble. And that fear of legal trouble is greater than the desire to help people, which I don’t think is true, but like something that I think people worry about, if that makes sense.

**Sophie ** 51:06
Yeah, I mean, I can say, I live in Arivaca, which is the town that No More Deaths bases a lot of its work out of. It’s a rural town 11 miles from the border. And residents, they’re sitting in the middle of this migration corridor and everyone who lives there has had a knock on their door of someone who’s lost, often extremely sick or injured and looking for help. And it’s also a town that’s under virtual, you know, it’s actually…it’s not unique in the sense that all these towns along the border are now, you know, living under virtual Border Patrol occupation. They’re surrounded by Border Patrol checkpoints. You can’t go to the doctor, you can’t go to the bank without passing through a checkpoint and talking to an armed guard. And there’s a heavy presence of Border Patrol in and around town, which has the function of, on the one hand, they’re doing these things like chase and scatter and on the other, this kind of high visibility is really intimidating to the public, right? You feel like you’re up against this virtual domestic army and intimidation is real. And they’re coming on to people’s property without notice, often pointing guns at residents, harassing locals, especially people of color. So education and Know Your Rights trainings have been so paramount because at the same time, you know, Border Patrol policy has put these communities on the front lines as the first responders when people are coming through incredibly remote areas. And the first lights they see, the first roads they come to, the first buildings are these residents in these rural communities. They’re kind of a natural source of support. And I think Border Patrol has a vested interest in trying to break apart the historic practice before and beyond organizations like No More Deaths of residents opening their door and giving a hand, getting water to anyone who’s out in the desert and in trouble. So I think what you’re saying Inmn has been like a real focus of organizing and I know it has been an Ajo where Scott lives as well, where they have a local project also doing Know Your Rights education and providing humanitarian resources and things like that to try to break apart Border Patrol’s attempt to recruit the local population into their really deadly enforcement regime. And I think that there’s been this really vibrant history of border communities, offering that support and facing down the really intimidating presence of this incredibly well resourced, militarized enforcement agency in and around their communities. You know, so I think it’s critical.

**Inmn ** 53:57
Yeah. And it’s like seeing communities in Arivaca and Ajo and the Tohono O’odham Nation really band together to combat these narratives that Border Patrol or the government are trying to really make people think are true and I don’t know…. Yeah, that has been one of the most inspiring things to me about doing border aid work or anything like that is seeing the communities that have really like sprung up to…or the communities that like have forever been doing this kind of work and like how they maintain that work and use that to build community rather than divide community. I don’t know. I don’t know. I just…. Like, God, I remember hearing someone once say they were like, "I don’t care what the government says. I’m going to give…if someone comes to my door, I’m giving them food, dammit." And I was like, hell yeah. You’re awesome. And this is like someone who I like don’t expect to have any other political alignment with. But like, we agreed on that. And I was like, that’s awesome.

**Parker ** 54:02
No, totally, I’ve had a few similar experiences in Tucson of just, you know, meeting…like talking to my Uber driver or someone, you know, that I’ve come into contact with completely unrelated to any sort of political work, you know, and then talking to them and them saying, "Oh, yeah, I ran into someone who was crossing once and gave them a lift to the gas station so they could buy some food and water," you know, like, just thing like that, where it’s, you know, there is, on the one hand, this real fear of criminalization that like Border Patrol has created, but then on the other hand, there’s just such a natural impulse for humanity for people to, you know, give someone water or lift or, you know, whatever it is that they’re needing.

**Inmn ** 56:12
Yeah, yeah. And I know I’m just riffing off a specific organization’s name right now. But it’s almost like, it’s really important for people to help other people and to just treat them like people because they’re people. We’re all just people trying to help people. [There’s an organization called People Helping People]

**Sophie ** 56:33
Yeah, and it’s part of this kind of longer, you know, history of social movement, I think, you know, whether we’re talking about Germans sheltering Jews or underground railroad or, you know, it’s always been that when you have a general population get caught up in these kinds of violent campaigns that are trying to, you know, discriminate and punish people based on identity, there are always locals who won’t comply. And I think that it’s heartening to see that tradition, you know, continue on the border in southern Arizona, like you’re saying, Inmn against really, you know, among really unlikely actors. Like many people I know in Arivaca might hold really racist beliefs but still are always going to give a person water and food a bed to stay in because they’re people, right? So it’s a really kind of interesting moment in which ideology sort of doesn’t hold up to the needs…to the human needs of the present. And I find that really heartening.

**Inmn ** 57:46
Yeah, it makes me really curious. And like, I want to try to learn more about this part of this specifically, but it’s like what’s going on in Palestine right now is I’m really curious about what people in neighboring regions are doing that are very similar to this kind of work right now and what people…and like what people…hearing about people in Israel who are like…who are like getting indicted with pretty scary criminal charges simply for like, speaking out against what Israel is doing right now? I don’t know.

**Sophie ** 58:34
Yeah, it’s so important.

**Inmn ** 58:39
But as a kind of unfortunate segue, so like, you know, the community is really holding it down for trying to help people who are experiencing being lost and scattered in the desert. But Border Patrol is doing the opposite of that. Could y’all talk a little bit about, I guess, the third installment of the report?

**Parker ** 59:04
Yeah, the third installment is called "Left to Die," and it focuses on search and rescue. And so this is another report that came out of our experiences with the missing migrant crisis line and providing search and rescue but also out of Border Patrol’s sort of propaganda, styling themselves as humanitarian and putting out a ton of PR about their search and rescue. You know, they hold these PR events every year where they show, you know, their fancy helicopter tricks. And they put out these statistics about how many people they rescue every year with no sort of explanation of what that means. Meanwhile, as they were doing that, you know, our personal experience and the experience of people with Derechos Humanos’ missing migrant crisis line and with No More Deaths was complete inaction when they would try and request a search and rescue from Border Patrol. So when someone does call the missing migrant crisis line, a family member or someone who’s lost, we want whatever resources possible. That’s almost always what the family is asking, is for whatever resources possible to go to try and rescue their loved one. And so we would call Border Patrol. And a lot of the time, we would get no response, a refusal to respond to go in search for someone, or, you know, these really vague, just sort of like, "Yeah, we’ll look into it," and then they never call back. So we were experiencing a lot of inaction in response to requests for search and rescue from Border Patrol. And we wanted to document that with this report. So the report draws primarily from the case notes, from emergency cases received by the Derechos Hunmanos missing migrant migrant crisis line. So there were I think 456 calls that were classified in a two year period as emergency cases. So these are cases where the person had been heard from within the last three days, there was some information about their location, and there is a possibility that they were still alive in the desert and in need of rescue. So in contrast to a bunch of other calls that were received from the Derechos crisis line where someone was known to be in detention, but they were missing a detention, or it had been months since they disappeared, these were the cases that were potential search and rescue.

**Sophie ** 1:01:19
So like Parker, said these are cases in which the family or the person was requesting a Border Patrol response or consented to us advocating or organizations advocating for a Border Patrol response. And we’ll talk a little bit more about why Border Patrol for these cases. But we looked at the outcomes and Border Patrols is kind of a notoriously opaque organization. There’s so little public reporting or transparency about what they do. So like Parker mentioned, they’d publish these rescue statistics but with no information about the cases from which they were deriving them. And we looked at, you know, press releases where the headline was, "Border Patrol Rescues Man," and then you read the article and it’s about them chasing someone into a pond where they almost die and then the agents pull them out of the pond, right?

**Parker ** 1:02:20
And then arrest them and deport them.

**Sophie ** 1:02:21
So this really kind of farcical phrasing of "apprehension as rescue." So there really wasn’t data to challenge that with. So that’s part of why we really wanted to look at this data set. And we found when we looked at those 456 cases that 63% of the time, so two thirds of those cases, where Border Patrol was pressed to respond to a person in immediate distress, we had no confirmation that they took any measure to mobilize a search or rescue in response to them. So nothing. No confirmation of any action being taken in two thirds of the time, in hundreds of cases, right? And then in the 37% of cases in which there was indication that Border Patrol took some action to prevent loss of life, we found that their responses just severely, severely diminished when compared against the measures that Pima County Sheriff’s Department search and rescue would take if they were coming to save my life, right, if I was lost in the same area. So in particular, we saw Border Patrol, when they did deploy to search for a person who was lost in the desert and in distress, we found that the duration of those efforts and the resourcing was just really diminished when compared to the measures taken to search for a citizen or a foreign tourist. So a lot of those searches lasted less than a day and we had some that lasted less than an hour without locating the person. And then just lack of resources. Like a lot of those deployments were simply a helicopter flyover. When you look in the newspaper at the case of a missing hiker, right, a citizen hiker, you’ll see that those searches will take two weeks and that the search effort and area and resources will expand with each day that the person is not found, right? More and more resources are added because it’s more and more urgent. Instead we see that if the person isn’t pretty quickly located in the 1/3 of the time that Border Patrol deploys at all, they will call off the search. And so as a consequence of that, we found that out of these 456 cases that a quarter of the time, the person in distress was never located. So that’s not a quarter of the time that they died, that’s a quarter of the time that they disappeared, right? So the person was never located one in four cases and yet the search was called off. And we can see that’s just absolutely an indication of deadly discrimination that, you know, if that…those are not the numbers that citizens see. And I think this was really important in combining these observations with that first report "Chase & Scatter," to really put together a full picture in which we found that looking at the kind of critical role that Border Patrol is playing in putting people into a life or death situation by chasing them and scattering them in the wilderness compared with the frequency with which they would deploy, to search for and rescue or distressed person, we were able to say that Border Patrol is two times more likely to take part in causing a person to go into distress, causing an emergency, than they are in participating and attempting to rescue them. So really, they’re just always responding to these emergencies of their own making and they’re much more heavily focused on their enforcement priority, right, in putting people in harm’s way as a matter of policy.

**Parker ** 1:06:06
Yeah, it really is this sort of twisted rebranding of Prevention Through Deterrence and the fact that people are being pushed into danger. It’s like, you know, someone at Border Patrol’s office was like, "I know, we can call these rescues now," because everybody who’s crossing through the borders is facing a huge threat to their life. They’re in wilderness areas. They’re lost. They’re in distress. And then because of that, Border Patrol can rebrand any arrest of somebody as a "rescue" by saying, "Yeah, we arrested this person, you know, who was like, lost, and therefore, we rescued them."

**Sophie ** 1:06:42
And then use that number to somehow offset the death statistics, which is incredible to me to publish these numbers, you know, Border Patrol saying, okay, there were 300 human remains recovered this year, but allegedly, they rescued 700 people, as if there’s something legitimate about, you know? That death statistic needs to be zero, right? It’s sort of trumpeting, it’s own death statistics, you know, in a way as a way to them comparatively have their rescue seem even more significant. And it makes you sort of forget that that statistic should be zero and that those numbers are, you know, again, hugely partial, because so many people are disappearing and never ever recovered. The other part that the report looked at was what happens when the County doesn’t deploy a search and rescue like they would for a person with citizenship status or a tourist, which we’ll talk about more, Border Patrol doesn’t deploy, and someone is in distress. Their family knows about it. They received a distress call, right, from their child, their brother, their loved one who’s crossing and we found that really often, families and communities will mobilize and improvise search on their own based on the information that they have from the person who’s calling them. So we were really interested in what happens when families and communities mobilize, sometimes with the partnership of community search and rescue organizations, sometimes on their own, and Border Patrol’s reaction. So another kind of focus of part three was looking at systematic Border Patrol, obstruction and interference with family and community-based search and rescues when all systems kind of failed them and found that a quarter of the time, 25% of the time, that communities and families deploy to search for their loved ones Border Patrol obstructs those efforts in some way. So we tracked a number of those issues, like refusal to share critical information that Border Patrol might have about the person’s point-last-seen, denying access to eyewitnesses who might be in custody, harassing families and volunteers on the ground. So a number of really serious kinds of obstructions to anyone being able to access a search area and have adequate information. Often Border Patrol will have coordinates of where they attempted to apprehend a group and people were scattered and the person you’re looking for was scattered by the apprehension attempt and needs those coordinates to go to the point that they are last seen to start the search, right? And Border Patrol refusing to share information and even cases in which Border Patrol is sharing false information with families and communities. So again, we see this as another measure that’s meant to just increase the number of people who are dying and disappearing in an attempt to cross through the borderlands.

**Parker ** 1:09:50
Yeah, and within that, I think one thing that we really tried to highlight in this report too, is the bureaucratic runaround that families and volunteers are met with trying to report an emergency. So like a lot of people have probably, you know, had the experience of trying to call Verizon and getting bounced around between different voicemails but that’ll happen in these moments where there is a life threatening emergency that someone is trying to report. And there’s no functional system. It’ll happen between, you know, a county run 911 and Border Patrol where the county is saying, you know, "That’s not our job, it’s Border Patrol’s job," and then Border Patrol will be saying, "Well, no, you have to call 911." It’ll happen within Border Patrol agencies where you call one number and you’re told you have to call this other number and then you get transferred to the other number. And it’s, you know, a non-working number. Border Patrol will say you have to call the consulate. The consulate will say you have to call Border Patrol or the consulate’s closed on the weekend. So it’s a completely non-functioning emergency response system. And I think we just want to capture that and the experience that, you know, families will go through just spending like hours and hours just trying to even get someone on the phone who they can report the emergency to. And then, you know, half the time you do that and you don’t even get a call back. So it’s just a really infuriating system.

**Sophie ** 1:11:05
Yeah, and just to add on to that as well, we have a lot of cases where Border Patrol refuses to deploy, saying there’s not enough information to search and then families and/or humanitarian organizations will deploy their own search and immediately locate the person, right? So some of those efforts also reveal that even minimal effort is so significant in preventing loss of life in these cases, and yet we see agents, you know, Border Patrol, really reluctant or refusing to deploy at all.

**Inmn ** 1:11:38
Thanks so much for listening everyone. This interview was unexpectedly much larger than we thought it was going to be and we’re kind of just cutting in the middle of it. And we’ll continue the interview next week. So tune in next week, for now that we’ve finally laid a lot of groundwork for what the new "Disappeared" report is about and then we can actually now talk about the new report. And yeah, it’s going to be, you know, "fun" isn’t the right word, but it’s going to be an interesting finish to the conversation. So if you enjoyed hearing about border militarization and the other reports then tune in next week to finish the conversation. And I’m just rambling now, because I didn’t write a script. And it turns out I do really well with scripts. But we will see you next time. Thanks so much for listening. If you enjoyed this podcast, then go do border work, go do humanitarian aid work, find ways to plug into these networks wherever you live because I’m sure they exist and because, unfortunately, the border is everywhere. And there’s…. Which you know, is horrible. And it also means that wherever you are, there’s something, there’s some way for you to plug in to deal with it, or whatever. You could also, if you liked this podcast, rate and review and like and subscribe, or whatever the nameless algorithm calls for. Feed it like a hungry god. But if you want to support us in other sillier ways that don’t involve feeding a nameless and mysterious entity then consider subscribing to our Patreon. You can find us at patreon.com/strangersinatangledwilderness. And if you sign up at the $10 a month level, then we will mail to you a zine version of our monthly feature every month. It’s called the Zine of the Month Club. It’s really fun. And you get a nice little letter from us every month. I think it’s delightful. And you can also support us by supporting our publisher, Strangers, in a Tangled Wilderness. Strangers publishes books, zines, comics, podcasts, obviously, and a whole bunch of other stuff. And we have some exciting stuff coming out this year and next year. And in particular, we would like to thank these Patreon subscribers who have just been, you know, really great. Y’all are really…. I mean, all of y’all are really great. Everyone who listens to this show is great. But we are going to highlight these folks in particular. I’m not feeling awkward about anything right now. But thank you so much, Patoli, Eric Perceval, Buck, Julia, Catgut Marm, Carson, Lord Harken, Trixter, Princess Miranda, BenBen, Anonymous, Funder, Janice & O’dell, Aly, paparouna, Milicia, Boise Mutual Aid, Theo, Hunter, SJ, Paige, Nicole, David, Dana, Chelsea, Staro, Jenipher, Kirk, Chris, Michaiah, and the eternal Hoss the Dog. Thank you so much. And your support has allowed us to do so much. And tune in next week for part two of this interview, now that we’ve laid the kind of groundwork for the "Disappeared" series and the context of border militarization. On the next episode, we’re going to dive a little bit more into talking about things like search and rescue and the newest report, "Separate & Deadly." So we hope you’re as well as you can be and we’ll see you next time.

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S1E97 – Eleanor Goldfield on “To the Trees” & Forest Defense

Episode Summary

This week on Live Like the World is Dying, Eleanor Goldfield comes on to talk about her film, "To the Trees," a documentary that highlights forest defense tactics in Northern California. The film is meant to call into question our current relationships to nature, how we might reframe them, and why that reframing is vital to our survival and having a livable future.

Guest Info

Eleanor Goldfield (she/her) is a filmmaker and journalist who works to highlight different movement and struggles. You can find her work and her film "To the Trees" at tothetreesfilm.com and artkillingapathy.com. Eleanor can also be found on Twitter @RadicalEleanor and Instagram @RadicalEleanor

Host Info

Inmn can be found on Instagram @shadowtail.artificery

Publisher Info

This show is published by Strangers in A Tangled Wilderness. We can be found at www.tangledwilderness.org, or on Twitter @TangledWild and Instagram @Tangled_Wilderness. You can support the show on Patreon at www.patreon.com/strangersinatangledwilderness.

Transcript

Live Like the World is Dying: Eleanor on "To the Trees" & Forest Defense

**Inmn ** 00:15
Hello, and welcome to Live Like the World is Dying, your podcast for what feels like the end times. I’m your host today, Inmn Neruin, and I use they/them pronouns. Today we are talking to a filmmaker about a really beautiful film called To the Trees. And I’m really excited for you all to hear this conversation. We’re going to talk a lot about logging and forest defense and just kind of like the extraction industry in general, and then just about some, you know, cultural or psychological paradigms that we have around resource extraction. But first, we are a proud member of the Channel Zero Network of anarchists podcasts. And here is a jingle from another show on that network. 

**Inmn ** 01:40
And we’re back. Hi, thank you so much for coming on the show today. Could you introduce yourself with your name, pronouns, and a little bit about your background, and what you’re here to talk about today? 

**Eleanor ** 01:55
Sure, thanks so much for having me. My name is Eleanor Goldfield. She/her. I’m a queer creative, radical filmmaker, and journalist. And I’ve been doing frontline–I hesitate to say activism–I’ve been doing frontline actions and journalism since 2010 together. And before that I’d been doing organizing and community organizing since about 2003, before the second Iraq War. And I’m here today to talk about my latest offering in the film domain, which is called, "To the Trees," and it’s about forest defense tactics in so-called Northern California and also about our relationship to nature and the necessary shift that that must take for us to have a livable future.

**Inmn ** 02:50
Cool, um–I mean, not cool that a film like this needs to get made but cool that a film like this now exists and can teach people a lot of really awesome things. I highly encourage everyone to go out and watch the movie. It’s really wonderful. It’s really beautiful. But could you kind of give us just like a recap of the movie.

**Eleanor ** 03:17
Sure. Yeah, and the films available at ToTheTreesfilm.com. And all of my work is also available at ArtKillingApathy.com. So kind of a general overview of the film is that I went out there to do…. This is kind of how I work. I ask folks if they need any support–and I’m ground support, by the way, because I don’t do heights. Although, I did climb a redwood when I was out there, which was a terrifying experience. And I’m never doing it again.

**Inmn ** 03:49
They’re so big, 

**Eleanor ** 03:51
They’re ginormous. And that was my first…that was the first tree I decided to climb because…yeah, whatever. And it took me 45 minutes. And it’s 200 feet up in the air, and I was terrified. And it took me like 15 minutes to get up the courage just to step off the platform. And the tree sitter, they were like, "You just step up," and I’m like, "What do you just step up? I’m gonna die," and they’re like, "No, you’re not. You’re gonna be fine. I swear" and I’m like, "Oh God, this is so terrifying." And they’re like, "Yeah, maybe you are ground support."

**Inmn ** 04:20
Ground support is crucial.

**Eleanor ** 04:23
It is crucial. Yes. And it’s very much…. That’s very much me. I was built to like just be grounded, I think. So I went out there basically saying, "I would love to help you all and do support and also, if it’s cool with you, I’ll bring a camera and I’d love to just hear some of your stories." And so folks were cool with that. And so there I go, traipsing into the woods. And it’s a beautiful tree village. And the redwood forests, if folks have never seen them, I mean it’s like Narnia. You know the forest floor is Like this plush, you know, soft and welcoming space. And then you look up and it’s like the trees are so tall that you can barely see the crowns. It’s just kind of like this green haze above you. And so I just started talking to folks and talked to a couple of tree sitters. I also spoke with somebody who does more of the judicial side of things, like trying to get forest…or like logging companies in court and how that kind of works with tree sitters. And then I also spoke to an indigenous woman, Marnie Atkins, who is a member of the Wiyot tribe, spoke to her a lot about perspectives on what’s going on in these forests and the paradigms that are different between her people and the colonizers who came. And so it’s kind of a…. [trails off] I call it at the end, I have this, I have this slide that says, "To the trees: It’s a dedication, a call to action, a promise, and a militant apology." And I wanted folks to feel that, that it’s an offering and it’s also an invitation, not just to act in whatever ways we can but also to question the way that we think about these beautiful places, whether they be the redwood forests or whether they be the the ecosystems that are outside your front door.

**Inmn ** 06:42
Yeah, yeah. And it’s…. I feel funny that this is one of my first questions, but it was one of the pieces of the film that kind of really got me–it’s like always knowing that Capitalism uses things for really silly things–but learning that the main use of redwood trees is to just turn them into kind of crappy decks. Is that right?

**Eleanor ** 07:12
Yeah, yeah, it’s based on market forces. The best use of a redwood tree is decking. And not only that, but redwoods can be 2000 years old. And of course, if you were to chop down a 2000 year old tree–which by the way, there’s no law against it in California or anywhere else in the in the United States–if you were to do that, yes, that deck would last a while–it wouldn’t last 2000 years–it would last a while. But the way that they cut down trees at the rate–because of course, no one’s gonna wait 2000 years–they cut down these trees in their infancy. So the strong heartwood of the tree has not had a chance to develop. And so you’re cutting down these trees, you know, destroying any future that they might have to rebuild an ecosystem, and you’re turning them into a deck that is not even going to last like a decade because it’s just not made of wood that has had a chance to mature. And so you’re literally destroying burgeoning ecosystems for the sake of a deck that is going to last less than, you know, the length of a Britney Spears’ single. It’s just…it’s ridiculous.

**Inmn ** 08:35
Yeah, yeah, I feel like that’s one of the harder things that I struggle with when really thinking about industrial Capitalism is just the…it’s like the cost of what it…like what it costs to do to the planet versus what is gotten from that. And it’s not even like, oh, you’re gonna get something that’s like, "We cut down this tree and it’s gonna last this family multi-generations," you know, it’s like a piece of shit that’s gonna rot and fall apart in a decade. 

**Eleanor ** 09:12
And that’s the whole, you know, that’s one of the primary issues with Capitalism is that it treats things that are finite, like trees and clean air and clean water, as if they’re infinite. And it treats things that are infinite, like ones and zeros on a computer, as if they’re finite. Like, "Oh, we don’t have the money." And, I mean, it’s like–I can’t remember who it was– maybe it was Alan Watts, who said, "That’s kind of like saying, ‘You don’t have enough inches to build a house.’" Like that doesn’t make any sense. Like of course you have more money because you just make it up. It’s all a fairy tale. Whereas the things that we can’t just make up like a 2000 year old tree or a clean river, you treat as entirely disposable, and that is one of the primary issues with the paradigm of Capitalism and thereby colonialism, which was the battering ram of Capitalism.

**Inmn ** 10:08
Yeah. Yeah. I’m wondering if you could tell us a little bit about what are the life cycles or growth cycles or logging cycles like in places that are being [testing words] harvested? Destroyed? Whichever word. 

**Eleanor ** 10:34
Yeah, that’s that euphemism, right? "Oh, we’re just harvesting." No! So, basically, there are several different cycles that can be used. I think one of the shortest ones for redwoods is 45 or 50 years. So if you clear-cut and then you–and redwoods are actually one of the few trees that can sprout, like from a stump. Like it’s self…I can’t remember what it’s called. Self-sprouting or something? And so you have to wait 45 or 50 years. Now, whether they always do that or not, is up for debate, especially depending on what they’re hoping to get from the products. But it’s 45 or 50 years. Some will say, "Oh, we’re gonna leave this plot for 100 years," or whatever. And again, whether that’s done or not, is up for debate. And it’s also difficult because industrial logging has only been around since like, you know, 120 years or so. So when we talk about the amount of time you really need to grow these forests, it’s like we’re going back to a time before this was even a conversation because you couldn’t possibly tear down the forests that quickly. And so we’re in this kind of odd liminal space where people are talking about, "Oh, we’re gonna have to let this grow again for 100 years," but 100 years ago this wasn’t even a contemplation. And so the cycles are based on, again, like the market forces. LIke, okay, well, at 45 or 50 years these trees will be ready to be harvested and then can be used to do whatever we want with them, you know? Truck them off to the sawmill. And that, again, is it…. Well, I could go off into so many different tangents, but I’ll pause.

**Inmn ** 12:36
I do…. We love tangents. We love rants. So this wasn’t surprising to me, but I’ve spent like a little bit of time in the coal fields of West Virginia, and it seems like there’s this kind of similar thing in logging where there’s a strong guidance to preserve the cardboard frame of what things look like from a road or something, you know, so it’s like the devastation appears a lot less impactful. I am curious what kind of lengths or strategies logging companies go to–or the State goes to–to make it seem like nothing all that bad is happening?

**Eleanor ** 13:25
Yeah, absolutely. And it’s funny you brought up West Virginia because my first documentary was actually about West Virginia. And I talked a lot about the coal fields. And I actually did a flight above them because you can’t–I mean, to your point–you can’t see it from the roads. And you can really only see the vast devastation if you’re up in a plane. Or if you have a drone or something like that. So in California, they call it the ‘visual impact’ or commonly called ‘the beauty screen.’ And it’s this idea that, particularly Inmnorthern California–because Northern California, unlike West Virginia, which is very proud of its coal, Northern California doesn’t want you to think it’s proud of logging–it wants you to think that it’s super proud of the trees, which is really twisted.

**Inmn ** 14:21
Yeah. Yeah.

**Eleanor ** 14:22
It’s like being a serial killer and then being like, "I have a human rights organization." So they will…. Right before you get to a lot of these THPs, that’s timber harvest plans, you’re driving through, for instance, the Avenue of the Giants, which is part of a redwood forest, Redwood National Forest, and it’s gorgeous, right? And you would never think that just a few miles up in the hills there are these vast bald spots. And so they want to ensure that that stays the case, right? So you just keep driving and you keep driving up the one on one and you just see trees and then the Pacific Ocean is over here and you’re like, "Oh my god, California is amazing!" 

**Inmn ** 15:06
"We love trees!"

**Eleanor ** 15:07
Right. But it’s being destroyed. And you can’t see that. And it’s very important that you can’t see that because the companies that own this land–because most of it is privately owned logging land–and the companies have this like…one of the guys in the film says, "This eco groovy PR campaign and this facade." And they want you to think that everything is done respectfully and sustainably when, of course, you can’t clear-cut sustainably. So they want to make sure that you can’t see it because that would fly in the face of their ‘eco groovy facade.’ And part of that is also that they have a certification, which is called FSC, Forest Stewardship Council certification. Which if you’ve ever been to a Home Depot or Lowe’s, oftentimes FSC wood will be more expensive because the idea is that it’s sustainable. And so you get to feel good about yourself, you know, like, "Oh, sweet, this isn’t from a clear-cut," but it is. And the Forest Stewardship Council, even if it started with honorable aims, is a complete…it’s just a rubber stamp for the logging industry. And there’s been a long list of horribleness, including stealing indigenous land, clear-cutting old growth forests, and you know, and yet they have that little FSC stamp. So people think, consumers think, that this is done sustainably. But of course, it’s not. And so this is all part of that greenwashing campaign, whether it be the ‘beauty screen’ or the FSC stamp, it’s all part of that push to ensure that the consumer remains in the dark and thinks that, particularly, Northern California is sustainably harvesting their, in quotes, ‘harvesting’ these trees and ensuring that they will be around forever.

**Inmn ** 17:09
Golly, yeah. And I imagine people also…like the consumer on the end of like…they, you know, they go into Home Depot, or they’re hiring a contractor to build their crappy deck, I’m sure they’re really ecstatic that they have this…are getting this redwood deck. Like, I feel like it’s just the name, you know, "Redwood," it sounds so majestic. It sounds so like, "Wow, this is gonna last me a really long time."  Is that kind of like part of it too, do you think? 

**Eleanor ** 17:44
Yeah, I think it sounds…. You know, I was in bands for years, and people used to talk about the wood that went into their instruments like, "Oh, it’s mahogany neck." and someone’s like, "Oh! It’s a mahogany neck."

**Inmn ** 17:57
It’s an electric guitar…like it doesn’t matter.

**Eleanor ** 18:01
And sure, I mean,as a former audio tech, I can be like, okay, I’ve heard the difference in acoustic guitars where you’re like, "Okay. That. Yes." But it is also pretty…. I mean, mahogany is not endangered in that sense. But still, it’s pretty twisted to be like, "Yeah, the best way to use this tree is to turn it into an instrument or a deck or whatever. It’s that like, again, in Capitalism, nothing has inherent value in and of itself. Nobody’s like, "Oh, wow, an oak tree! That’s super cool!" Everyone’s like, "Hmm, what can I do with that?" It’s like, maybe you could just leave it the fuck alone. I don’t know, Maybe that could be a thing? But nothing in Capitalism has inherent value in and of itself. So it always has to be twisted and contorted into something. And that carries with it a certain status, right? Like, oh, if you have this deck made out of redwood or if you have that guitar made out of mahogany, it becomes a status symbol. And so that is also part of like the poisoning that is Capitalism, psychologically, I feel. 

**Inmn ** 19:06
Golly, I wish–I know, this is a recurring theme on the show–but if only our lives were more like those of hobbits. I mean, they just have a Party Tree, and that’s a community resource. And they’re like, "We need a party tree. It needs to be like 3000 years old and that’s a party tree." If it’s not 3000 years old. It’s not a Party Tree. Or, yeah, the forest on the edge of town that everyone’s like too afraid to go into.

**Eleanor ** 19:40
Yeah, well, and this is actually something that I think is funny, too, that we have so many stories, whether that be through, you know, Lord of the Rings, or like when I was growing up, I partially grew up in Sweden, and there’s so many stories still today about the Forest and its power. And I feel like that’s also an interesting relationship that we have with the forest is that we are a little bit afraid of it. And that also…that also pushes us into this relationship where, okay, well, I’m gonna conquer my fears, right? As opposed to the stories–and there are these stories even in European cultures–that talk about the beauty of the forest and what the forest gives us. But that’s also an interesting dynamic between a lot of Indigenous stories that I’ve heard where, yes, there might be like some being that lives in the forest that you don’t want to interact with. But a lot of it is also about how, "Oh my gosh, look at all of the beauty and the life that we get from the forest," as opposed to, "Woods are terrifying. Don’t mess with them at all. Just don’t go there." It’s like, but that’s also going to dictate how you feel about cutting down a bunch of trees.

**Inmn ** 21:04
Yeah, it’s wild that fear of the forest means we have to destroy the forest. It’s a bad mentality. As much as I love a story about the Dark Forest, you know, and wish that that was like a more sustainable option, growing a more deep connection to the forest is probably a more sustainable way to go about things. Did you ever see Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind? 

**Eleanor ** 21:33
Yes, I did.  

**Inmn ** 21:34
Yeah. Incredible movie about a toxic forest that will fucking kill everyone who comes into it. Because it eventually was like, "No humans. You can’t. No, I can’t take anymore. Here’s poison."

**Eleanor ** 21:50
Don’t blame it really. 

**Inmn ** 21:52
Yeah, and it’s like, "No, I need several thousand years to recuperate from the harm that you’ve done and eventually I’ll be a forest you can come in again."

**Eleanor ** 22:04
Right. Right. Well, and I think… We talk about that in mutual aid spaces, or in organizing spaces, like, okay, if harm has been caused and there needs to be time to recover then possibly we can get to the point where we can be in community together with that person who did the harm…. It’s like, we do that as humans. And it’s necessary, right? And that is exactly what ecosystems need too. Like, the idea of–this is also how we fuck it up in terms of the Capitalist mentality–the idea of like, "Oh, we’re going to leave that to grow for another 45 years before we cut it down again," that’s not allowing a relationship to recuperate, right? That is, once again, treating something in that violent way, like the violence of ownership versus stewardship, right? Like, ownership is a violent relationship–I mean, just look at slavery–but stewardship suggests a respect. And I think there’s also space for fear there, too, right? I think that, you know, when I was a kid walking through woods, I would feel a little…maybe a little scared, but I would also feel safe, like, "Oh, I’m safe within the woods." So I think we can carry both of those at once. And I think that sometimes when you have a deep respect for something, there might be a moment where you’re like, "Oh, that’s, that’s creepy." But there’s also this feeling of like, "I’m safe here." And I think that, you know, I think that carrying multiple truths at the same time and multiple thoughts is just beneficial. But yeah, I think that the idea of allowing places to recover is super important, while also recognizing that we have a role in that. And that’s something that Marnie talks about in–and actually one of the tree sitters as well–talks about in the film is this idea that the relationship we need to have with nature is not removing ourselves from nature. And I always think of…I spoke with somebody who does work in Africa with the Maasai, and she was saying that the Maasai were removed from their ancestral lands in order to create a conservation park. But what happened with the ecosystem when they were removed is the ecosystem started to fall apart, because the Maasai were an integral–and had been for 1000s of years–an integral part of that ecosystem. And so it belies that notion that we are somehow outside of ecosystems. No, we are super reliant on them. And I think that kind of that kind of thinking is also super important to remember that like, you know, Indigenous peoples have used, for instance, wildfires, as a way to steward the land, because they’re not the wildfires that we see today. They were wildfires that were able to replenish the soil and the land, get rid of invasives, and things like that. So the idea that humans are a part of these ecosystems, and that we have to learn those ways of being and rid ourselves of the notion that we can somehow be outside of, and other than, the ecosystems.

**Inmn ** 25:29
I mean, it’s like, it’s…. I feel like, it’s the same thing with most struggles out in the world is we have the tendency to want to remove ourselves from those things. And it is usually detrimental to those causes for us to think of ourselves as outside of everything–which, you know, obviously, there’s struggles that we should send our specific voices around and that we should…like certain people should like not make about themselves–but like, for the most part, we are entrenched in all of in all of the thing. And we have to be an active part of them to fix them.

**Eleanor ** 26:13
Totally. And I think that, you know, the idea of like, we should always be a part of these struggles, and not make them about ourselves, right, like the struggle to defend redwoods is not about us. It’s just that in our own space, we can have these conversations about what it means for us humans to be in the struggle, just like I think, you know, right now, I’ve been in conversation with several fellow Jews about what’s going on right now and what what we’re dealing with as Jews. That is not something that I want to put out into the world like up on, you know, I don’t want to spend a lot of time on it because it takes the focus away from Palestine. But within our Jewish community, I think it’s an important conversation to have. So it’s like…It’s that…It’s that way of being in the struggle. And then if you–just like I think white people need to have conversations with each other about what it means to…like what does Black Lives Matter really mean? And what does dismantling racism really mean? Don’t do that at a Black Lives Matter protest, okay. That is not the time, but in our own space and time. So I think, again, you can hold both of those, and I think it’s important to. 

**Inmn ** 27:29
Yeah, golly, to go tangent for a second on that, like, I don’t know, I read this article yesterday, I think, about this…. It was an interview with this Palestinian man who was talking about being asked about antisemitism and like his response to it was like, Israel is…. Israel as a State. Israel displaced Jews living as Arabs in Palestine. Like, Israel is bad for Jewishness and Jewish people. 

**Eleanor ** 28:15
Yes, thank you. 

**Inmn ** 28:16
And this is like all part of this, like colonizing myth, and any colonizing myth, is to create these others to create a "side," or whatever. I don’t know.

**Eleanor ** 28:29
Yeah, that’s so true. Israel is the greatest threat to Jews in the world right now, I think.

**Inmn ** 28:37
Um, too…. Not that I don’t want to talk about this stuff more but to veer back towards the movie, I am curious about the collaboration between different…like attacking the problem from different angles. And in the movie, there’s kind of this triple-pronged approach that is presented as there’s people on the ground doing stuff in the trees, there’s people doing legal work, there’s indigenous people doing stewardship, and then there’s people coming in to make movies about it. And I’m wondering if you could talk a little bit about how, like, all of these things interact and like help each other.

**Eleanor ** 29:32
Sure. So, it was actually Tom Wheeler, who works at Epic in California, who said that we exist in an ecosystem with each other, which I liked. And he was talking about how–and he works on the legal side–and he was talking about why the tree sitters are important. And I really appreciated that because I think a lot of times we get, you know, the classic saying that like, "When anarchists meet, we meet in a circle. And that’s also how I do firing ranges." And unfortunately, like it’s true–not just with anarchists, it’s just that my anarchist friend happened to say that. I think it’s everybody on the left, regardless of what…if you have a title for your preferred angle. But I think it so often is the case that it’s like, "No, my tactic is the most important. If you don’t want to do my tactic then you’re wrong and you’re an asshole and you’re standing in the way," and it’s like, but not everybody can do the thing that you’re doing. Like, I can’t climb–I mean, I can climb a tree, but I won’t, there’s like, you know, the floor is lava or some shit–and not a lot of people have the ability to get up into the woods, to take that space and time. And a lot of people don’t have the expertise to do legal battles. You know, we need a lot of good lawyers out there. I think the Lakota Law Project taught us that. Look what’s happening in Atlanta. Like. you need good lawyers. So I think instead of getting on people’s cases, about tactics, I think it’s really important that we recognize that whatever your passion is, whatever your expertise or your drive is, there is a place and a need for that in our movements and in whatever struggle. And so I really appreciated that about the folks that I spoke with, is that they all were complementary and understanding of the other people in the struggle and understood that the goal was the same, was to protect these spaces and protect them out of this feeling of love for these spaces. And I think that’s the other thing that’s really important is that nobody was doing this for the, you know, the Instagram likes or because they thought it…because it paid the most money or because anything like…they were literally like, "Because I love these spaces," either because I have a strong ancestral connection to them or because I’ve just fallen in love with them from being around them. And so I think that that’s the other thing and that this diversity of tactics is necessary when confronting something so vast and so disgusting as colonialism and Capitalism. We have to do whatever we can. And these folks are doing whatever they can. And Pat, one of the tree sitters, actually talks about this too in the film, like, sit wherever you can, do whatever you can in the ecosystem that you know, in the ecosystem that you love. Like, it doesn’t have to be in a redwood. Cool if it is, but we don’t have to choose the most superlative ecosystem or the most superlative place to do this. All ecosystems are worthy and Inmneed of our collaboration and protection. And again, in whatever ways we can.

**Inmn ** 32:57
Yeah, yeah. It’s really disheartening to watch spaces kind of rip themselves apart in being upset that everyone is not doing the tactic that they want. And that is something that I’ve always really appreciated about, especially, forest defense campaigns or like other kinds of extraction industry defenses–I can’t think of words right now–is just the recognition that we need a lot of different kinds of people to do this work. And, you know, I feel like maybe part of that is people maybe having gone and done things and then gotten in a lot of legal trouble and being like, "Oh, fuck, we need lawyers," and then like, realizing like, "Oh, lawyers are really cool!" But, yeah, that’s something I just really appreciate about those campaigns. Um, yeah, I don’t know, maybe this is a funny question. Say I’m some random person–or not random–just I’m a person listening to this podcast who’s been like curious about forest defense and doesn’t really know where to start or how to get into that. Like, I want to…. I’ve never done forest defense and I want to go get involved in a forest defense campaign, either one that’s near me or one that’s, maybe, far away. Do you have any advice for someone like that?

**Eleanor ** 34:48
Sure. I mean, I think just start digging into folks who have the knowledge that you’re interested in. So like Inmnorthern California, there’s the tree sitters union, I think they’re on Instagram @thetreesittersunion. There’s also, like down around where I am, close to Appalachia, there’s Appalachians Against Pipelines. Greenpeace does a lot of like trainings, like climbing trainings and things like that. And those are also spaces where you might be able to meet folks that are like minded. But honestly, like in terms of getting started on a campaign, like…. You know, in the film, again, they just say, just, you know, I" walked up…we walked up and we saw that there was a chainsaw at the bottom of this tree And were like, ‘Oh, I guess we’ll sit in this tree.’" I think people feel like there has to be this, you know, there has to be the war room where you got all the plans and you got the poster board and you got paper clips and all that. But you don’t! Like yes, plan is good so you have water and shit, but it doesn’t have to be this really elaborate. campaign to start with. And earlier this year, I was in Germany because I was doing a tour of my film about West Virginia coal in the coal regions of Germany. And I went to this tree village that is absolutely gorgeous. And folks were still living there, even though the campaign had kind of moved on, and I was asking them, like, "Okay, so what’s the story here?" And it was the same thing. It was like, "Well, we just didn’t want them to cut down this forest." I mean, it really is that simple. Like, I think, again, there is this…there’s kind of this mystique to the idea of frontline defense. And, yes, it can build to something where you’ve got several tree villages or you have, you know, a resistance camp blocking a pipeline that’s also like a food forest. Like, sure it can become that. But you don’t need to start with that. You just need to start with yourself and some comrades, and this, again, this feeling of love for this place that is threatened. And again, like looking for organizations or like minded folks–and the ones that I mentioned are good places to start–but there are definitely others that I don’t know of personally.

**Inmn ** 37:14
Yeah. I’m having…I guess having witnessed campaigns in a lot of different places, I’m curious about this. Are there any kind of differences that you noticed between forest defense campaigns here in the United States, or like Turtle Island, versus in Europe, or any kind of like other places that you’ve been? Either in terms of repression, tactics, or just like how people organize?

**Eleanor ** 37:52
So, I’d say in terms of the repression tactics, I mean, people in Europe–I can only speak to, currently, Germany and Sweden–but people were very shocked and disgusted at what happened to Tortuguita and what happened down in Atlanta in terms of facing terrorism charges and Rico charges. But there is also, I mean, in Germany, earlier this year, the cops brutally beat people who were trying to save a small town, Lützerath, from being destroyed for an open coal pit mine. So in terms of the direct pushback, the violence, they’re not getting shot, but they are getting the shit beat out of them. And so there’s absolutely that understanding that, you know, fascism is on the rise across the globe. And neither Europe nor the United States have to look very far in their history, or their present really,to find ways of emulating the fascist state that they are moving towards. And so, in terms of repression, I think it’s mostly like the legal battles that are the main difference between the US and Europe. And I think in terms of organizing, I do see a lot of similarities, basically, because it’s the same story. It’s people who were like, "Actually, you know what, no, you can’t fucking do that. I’m not gonna let you ruin this." And I do find a little bit of the same problems in terms of organizing. Like, for instance, Inmnorthern Sweden–which a lot of people don’t know that Sweden, Finland, and Norway have indigenous peoples that were then colonized–so the Sami are the indigenous people of the far-north and their ancestral lands blanket across what is now Norway, Finland, Sweden, and parts of Russia. And that’s also where a lot of forests are. And it’s up in the Arctic Circle. And there’s a lot of still culturally important practices, like reindeer herding, that happen there that are being disrupted by deforestation and mining. You know, like Sweden announced recently that, "Oh, we found lithium in the north." Oh, great! 

**Inmn ** 40:24
Oh no. Leave it there!

**Eleanor ** 40:26
Yeah, exactly. Don’t tell Elon Musk. So, yeah, there’s a push to protect these spaces but also this difficulty of like, okay, how do we, as non-indigenous people in Sweden make these inroads. And the Sami are historically very reticent of working with Swedes–I don’t blame them–or Norwegians or what have you, because of what’s happened in the past. And I noticed that here, too, right. It’s difficult sometimes for people who are not indigenous to make those connections in indigenous communities. And so I see a lot of that struggle as well. But at the same time, again, when you are coming at it from this place of, "Well, I too want to protect this out of love. And not because I’m looking for some kind of accolade or whatever," that I think that you can make those connections and you can make that struggle collaborative, as long as you’re coming at it from that space. And, so I do see that happening in places outside of the US and I think it’s rad.

**Inmn ** 41:43
Hell yeah. That’s really great. Golly, this is a really weird question, but, you know, my brain’s always on a tangent. Are there any forest defense influencers? Is this a thing in the internet and the internet world? I’m imagining the person who’s just there for, you know, Instagram likes, or something, and I’m like, is that real?

**Eleanor ** 42:10
So like, not like the straight up forest defenders, but there’s definitely like the Sierra Club type that are like…. You know, so, again, it’s like this kind of gray area–I’m a big fan of recognizing nuance–it’s like this nuanced space where the person cares and doesn’t want to see it destroyed but also wants to virtue signal to people that they care. And that gets all gummed up in the whole Capitalist shit show. So yeah, it’s a gummy area.

**Inmn ** 42:48
Yeah, and this is–golly, whatever, I love funny questions–so I’m curious about this from, you know, I’ve had my own experiences with different with different organizations, but is there any kind of  tension or like problems that you do see between on the ground direct action campaigns versus these larger NGO or like nonprofit structures like the Sierra Club or Greenpeace? Yeah, I don’t know. I’m not asking for a shit post about these groups or anything, just some of the nuances or complications that can come up? 

**Eleanor ** 43:38
Yeah, I mean, again, Capitalism fucks everything up. There were a couple of organizations that I reached out to when I was in California, and they were first happy to talk to me, but then when they realized that I was there supporting and speaking to tree sitters, who are, by definition, breaking the law, because it’s private timber land, did not want to speak to me anymore. And I think that’s very clearly–like whether they personally wanted to or not is not the point–but as an organization, I think they realized, "Oh, well, our donors are, I don’t know, some rich asshole over here. And if we do that, if we engage with people who are very overtly breaking the law, then that’s not good for our bottom line. And we need our bottom line in order to keep protecting the forest.: So in their mind, they were doing that so that they could continue to protect the forest. But of course, this creates that splintering that is so useful for the system. In reality, they should be working with the tree sitters. Like, you have the ability to work together to protect these spaces but because you have to make sure that you get the foundation money or these rich donors or whatever, you can’t. And so I absolutely see that and I think that’s also a global problem because a lot of this does cost money, you know? Like, rope is not cheap. Just making sure that people have supplies and food and things. Like shit costs money. And it’s not like tree sitters get paid. So it is difficult, but I tend to–I shouldn’t say…I don’t want to be prejudiced ahead of time, but I’ve I find that I often am–be prejudiced against a big organization that says, "We are protecting the forest." It’s like, are you? Or are you doing like forest walks and shit–which is cool–and like picking up trash. But that is not the same thing as standing between a chainsaw and a tree. And that’s not to say that like, "I’m more radical than you." It’s just a necessary context, I think, for understanding, again, this ecosystem that we’re a part of. Like, we need more people to be the ones standing in between the trains on the tree. And I think we need fewer people being the ones, you know, typing up newsletters about this forest walk where you can plant a sapling or some shit, just in terms of what we need. That’s what I would say.

**Inmn ** 46:25
Yeah. Yeah, It’s weird how similar the idea of an NGO or something being getting donors to lead a forest walk…. It’s the trap of building an organization that gets too big and has too many dependencies on Capital to sustain itself. It’s, yeah, it’s…. I don’t know. I think about this a lot with different projects that I’ve been a part of. Like I’m part of this community theater group and I’m like, we can’t get too big or it’s gonna cause huge problems. We can’t be too successful or else it all falls apart. Yeah, I think that would be my biggest thing with some larger NGOs is it’s cool if y’all’s thing is like bringing in money, that’s cool. But it seems like the real problem is an organization like that’s inability to accept a diversity of tactics or donors to really look past–and maybe this is a shitpost–but the idea wealthy donors who want the experience of like donating to an environmental nonprofit and want that experience of like bringing their kids on the forest walk, this is the same thing as getting a like, quote, "heirloom redwood forest timber deck that is sustainably ‘harvested’" Like it’s the same thing.

**Eleanor ** 48:15
Yeah, it is very twisted. And of course I think that’s the problem is that there’s no such thing as money without strings. And so when you have these big donors–and I know this from just other spaces that I’ve organized, even outside of the environment–okay, well, so-and-so is gonna give this much money, but then they also want us to build the website this way or they want us to make sure that the action looks like this. And it’s like, but also these people don’t know anything about organizing. So then their ideas are shit and you’re like, "Look, the whole entire campaign is falling apart because you want this sign to say something completely stupid," and it happens all the time. And that’s why, unfortunately, we as organizers have to have this balance of like, "Okay, we need this much money, but if we just get it from one or two donors, what do they want in return for all of this cash?" And there’s always going to be something. They’re not just going to be like, "Hey, really happy that we can support you in whatever you’re doing," like, that’s never the case. So yeah, it sucks. But yeah, until we can just, you know, pay rent in good deeds or something, that’s gonna be the problem.

**Inmn ** 49:35
Or like shift our cultural mindset beyond like…you know, if I’m a wealthy donor or something, then the important thing is that the people have the money and resources to do the work, not that I get anything in return from it.  I don’t know, I feel like–and maybe this is my bias, having not traveled much outside of the States–is that we have this very individualistic mentality around everything, and that that extends to forest and extraction resource defense and like…. I don’t know.

**Eleanor ** 50:15
It is a…. And one of the people in the film Marni, a member of the Wiyot tribe, talks about this individualistic paradigm that has perpetuated, that we as children of Empire have, because it’s been passed down to us. And even those of us who have been radicalized, I like to say that there’s no way that you can ever be like 100% AntiCapitalist. Like it’s a daily struggle, just like you have to be antiracist everyday and antifacist. Like, there is no like, "Got it! No, I’m done." So she talks about this like this–and you know, to go back to Lord of the Rings–

**Inmn ** 50:18
The real goal podcast, right? It’s not. But…

**Eleanor ** 50:27
It all has to do with Lord of the Rings. She likens it to Gollum. And if anybody listening has not read Lord of the Rings, first of all, please do so. But secondly, Gollum is not a character that you want to emulate. Like, that is not how you’re supposed to read that. Like, oh, Gollum is cool? Like, he is literally driven to mental anguish and dismay and physical like breakdown because he’s so obsessed with this one ring. And that is not a good thing, right? It’s not something where you’re like, "Yeah, Gollum!" and he loses like all his community. Like, he’s just by himself. And yet, we have built an entire system on the paradigm of Gollum. Like be by yourself. Fuck community. Care only about the thing that you can own and that can thereby, of course, own you in return. It’s so fucked up. And yet, that is like the foundation of Capitalism. And so of course, when we step into a forest…and is one of the lines that I have in my first film about West Virginia is "How can you look at a mountain and think ‘mine.’" Which is, of course, a double entendre. Which, I’m a sucker for those. But it’s like, that’s what we do. We’ve been programmed into stepping into these beautiful spaces and thinking, "Oh, I wonder how much this would be worth if I destroyed it?" Like, what kind of fucked way is that to look…. And it happens, you know, I have a toddler and people will kind of laugh when I’m like, "We go outside and we hug trees together," and they’ll laugh. And I’m like, "So that’s kind of weird that you think it’s funny in like a derogatory way, because wouldn’t it be more fucked up if I had like a toddler axe, or some shit, and I was teaching him how to destroy these things? Like, why do we have this paradigm where it’s weird to teach your kids to love nature but totally cool to give a five year old a hunting rifle or something. Like what in the hell? And I’m not saying that you shouldn’t hunt. But we hunt for fun. Like we don’t hunt because we need food. We hunt because it’s fun.

**Inmn ** 53:17
Or for the trophy.

**Eleanor ** 53:20
Right, for the trophy, which you can say is the same with the redwood deck. It’s a trophy. It’s something to show off to people. You don’t need it. Like you could, you could stack stones and have a deck. Like, you don’t need the fucking redwoods. And she also made…Marni makes this point in the film too, like, of course, people have used wood for generations, to use  for firewood, to widdle sculptures, to build things. And she’s like, "I totally get that, but you can’t do it at this scale. You have to have this relationship with nature so that you only take what you need and make sure that there’s enough for the next time," and you see this throughout indigenous cultures. You know, Robin Wall Kimmerer talks about it in "Braiding Sweetgrass," the idea that–and I don’t remember if it was her tribe or another one that she’s talking about–would go out and get fish, but then they wouldn’t get all of the fish. They’d just get the ones that they needed, right? And they would know that there’s all these fish ‘getting away’–in the white perspective–but they’re not ‘getting away,’ they are surviving so that you can go fishing next time. And so again, it’s like this…it’s a very short sighted paradigm that is totally individualistic and totally destructive, that doesn’t…. And again, like Gollum is totally destroyed but he doesn’t see it himself. It’s only people on the outside that are like, "Oh, God, that guy’s not doing well." And yet again, we don’t, we don’t see it from the inside. And so I think that’s why it’s so important to step outside of that programming and just see the logic or the illogic of these situations and allow ourselves to fall in love with nature and question why that sounds corny when we say it out loud. Like, why is it corny to fall in love with a tree or a river or what have you. I mean, like, that is actually really beautiful. And it is necessary if we are to get to the space where we can say, "Defend what you love." Because if you don’t love something, you’re less likely to defend it, right? Like, you know, of course, that’s why parents always defend their children because you have this natural need, like you love your child so much, or your partner, or your friend, or what have you. You’re less likely to defend a total stranger. It’s just like a human thing, or an animal thing. And so if we don’t love these places, these spaces, then we’re less likely to be moved to defend them.

**Inmn ** 56:01
Yeah. Golly, so don’t be like Gollum. Don’t hoard ultimate power and destruction. Be like a hobbit and enjoy the 3000 year old party tree because it’s a beautiful tree. 

**Eleanor ** 56:19
Amen. 

**Inmn ** 56:23
Well, this seems like a great place to kind of tie it off, and because we’re also almost at time, but do you have any final thoughts or questions that I didn’t ask you that you wish I’d asked you? And then after that, anything that you want to plug?

**Eleanor ** 56:43
Just, I mean, it was something that I included at the end of the film, my good friend Carla Bergman co-wrote a book "Joyful Militancy," which I also recommend to everyone.

**Inmn ** 56:53
Oh, yeah. We had Carla on not too long ago.

**Eleanor ** 56:57
I love Carla so much. So one of the things that they talk about in that book, Carla and Nick, is this idea of rigid radicalism and the need to be fluid but not flimsy. And I think that that’s something that…that’s another practice that I’m trying to get more into, because I think a lot of times when we have a stance or when we have a perspective, we can get stuck in it. And then, we can let it weigh us down. And I think it’s really important, no matter what fight we’re fighting, to be able to be fluid because it will allow us to confront the next struggle, the next shitstorm, the next fire, or whatever. But if we are too rigid, we will get caught up in the flood or the flames and be carried away. And so I think it’s important to stay fluid but not flimsy. And yeah.

**Inmn ** 57:59
Sick.  Are there any places that you can be found on the internet where you would like to be found or where your work can be found? I know you plugged stuff at the beginning but we’ll throw stuff in the show notes.

**Eleanor ** 58:14
All of my work is at artkillingapathy.com That’s where my films are, my music, my poetry, and journalism. This specific film To the Trees is at tothetreesfilm.com and I am on Instagram and Twitter @RadicalEleanor.

**Inmn ** 58:32
Wonderful. And are you working on anything? Got anything coming up soon that you’re working on?

**Eleanor ** 58:38
I think I’m going to work on some of the footage that I got in Germany as kind of like an addendum, or a compliment, to my first film about coal regions in West Virginia. I have footage from coal regions in Germany that I think I’m gonna put into something.

**Inmn ** 58:58
Great. Well, thanks so much for coming on the show today.

**Eleanor ** 59:01
Thanks so much for having me.

**Inmn ** 59:08
If you enjoyed this episode, Defend the Party Tree. You can also tell people about the show. You can support the show financially by supporting our publisher, Strangers in a Tangled Wilderness. And you can find us on Patreon at patreon.com/strangersinatangledwilderness. You can also go to tangledwilderness.org and check out some cool books that we have for sale, because we are a publisher. We put out books, we put out zines, we put out podcasts, obviously. And we’re working on all kinds of really fun stuff. So, go check it out and get a cool book. We also do this zine of the month club where for like 10 bucks a month, you can get a zine version of our monthly feature mailed to you anywhere in the world. You can also listen to the feature for free on our other podcast Strangers in a Tangled Wilderness, where we do interviews with the author And that’s really it. We would like to have a special shout out to a few of our Patreon supporters. Thank you, Patoli, Eric, Perceval, Buck, Julia, Catgut, Marm, Carson, Lord Harken, Trixster, Princess Miranda, BenBen, Anonymous, Funder, Janice & Odell, Aly, paparouna, Milica, Boise Mutual Aid, Theo, Hunter, SJ, Paige, Nicole, David, Dana, Chelsea, Staro, Jenipher, Kirk, Chris, Macaiah, and Hoss the Dog. Thank you so much. And we will see everyone next time.

Find out more at https://live-like-the-world-is-dying.pinecast.co

S1E96 – Elizabeth on Small Scale Farming

Episode Summary

This week on Live Like the World is Dying, Elizabeth talks with Brooke about running a small scale farm, including what goes into feeding over 700 families year-round, the importance of community accessible farm space, how climate change continues to mess things up, and how taking care of the soil really matters.

Host Info

Brooke can be found on Twitter or Mastodon @ogemakweBrooke.

Publisher Info

This show is published by Strangers in A Tangled Wilderness. We can be found at www.tangledwilderness.org, or on Twitter @TangledWild and Instagram @Tangled_Wilderness. You can support the show on Patreon at www.patreon.com/strangersinatangledwilderness.

Transcript

Live Like the World is Dying: Elizabeth on small scale farming

**Brooke ** 00:15
Hello, and welcome to Live Like the World is Dying, your podcast for what feels like the end times. I’m your host Brooke Jackson. And today we’re going to be talking with Elizabeth Miller, a farmer, about her work in having an organic farm and some really cool stuff that she does that’s worth all of us learning how to do a bit of. But before we get into that, we’d like to give a shout out to another one of the podcasts on the Channel Zero Network. So here’s a little jingle from one of our friends. Doo doo doo doo, doo doo. [Singing a simple melody]

**Brooke ** 01:29
And we’re back. So as I mentioned in the intro, I have with me today, Elizabeth Miller, a wonderful lady who owns a farm. And Elizabeth, I’ll hand it off to you to tell us a little bit more about yourself.

**Elizabeth ** 01:46
Thanks for having me. I’d love to talk about farming and my community. I’ve been running Minto Island Growers for about 16 years here in South Salem. My husband Chris and I started the farm way back when. We were passionate about environmental science and community food systems when we met in college, and I grew up working on our family farm and it was the kid who always wanted to come back and work with plants. And when Chris and I formed our partnership we were ready to come back here, in 2008, after working at a farm in California and really building a community based organic farm. And I can delve more into what that means to me. But one of our primary works that we do on our farm is centered around our CSA program, which is an acronym for Community Supported Agriculture that’s practiced in lots of different ways all over the world, really. Every farm does a little bit differently but you have a subscription based weekly produce box. And we do a main season and a winter season for that. And I can, again, talk more about that if that’s of interest. And we have a farm stand where we also do lots of food: woodfired pizza and berry milkshakes and salads, things that we hope reflect all the beautiful abundance and diversity that you can grow and eat here in Oregon. And it’s also just a wonderful community hub for families to come and gather and join and connect with nature and really connect with the earth. That’s what I firmly believe food can do for us and feed our souls and bodies in all the really most profound ways. We do organic plant starts and we do mint propagation and we used to do native plant work that were projects that I grew up doing, but we don’t do any of that anymore. And that’s a short summary. And I’ll stop talking so we can get into more detail.

**Brooke ** 03:46
No worries, thank you. Now listeners, you’re listening to this and you may be wondering why we’re having a farmer come on and talk and we’ve definitely talked a lot about gardening, at home gardening, growing your own garden. We’ve talked a little bit about community gardens. And what intrigues me about what Elizabeth’s doing and what I think is useful to us is that she and her farm operate on a fairly small footprint. They grow an incredible diversity of food. And it’s a fairly small staff. And when I think about the future and climate change problems that we’re having and the number of food chains, food supply insecurities that we have, I’m concerned a lot about how we grow food to feed a community. And I feel like what Elizabeth does with her farm does feed a large community and there may be parts of that that are replicable for the rest of us. So if we find ourselves in a time in which our supply chains have broken down or we can work together to develop a farm, there’s a lot of insights from what she does that would help create those kinds of things and replicate them in other places, because she’s not a large scale industrial farmer and is not mono-cropping. And really does, like I was saying, a lot on a small footprint with a small staff. So. Elizabeth, would you tell us a little bit more about some of the specifics of the farm like how much land do you farm? How much food do you produce? How many different crops? What’s your staff size? Some of those kinds of things to fill in the details of what I was just saying,

**Elizabeth ** 05:46
Sure, happy to. We lease about 29 acres. A lot of that encompasses non-production areas where we grow our plant starts and have our washing station and a commercial kitchen that supports the food cart. So in any given season, we are probably cultivating between 8 to 12 acres of land and that also includes lots of fallow fields that are either not in the rotation that year or hopefully are being cover cropped to add more nutrients and organic matter to the soil and to just practice good rotation. And one of the most amazing things about growing in the Pacific Northwest is the huge amount of diversity that you can grow here in this temperate climate, even with climate change. And that’s going to stay true even within a climate change context. And I feel like having a diverse…a business model based on a high level of diversity can provide a lot of resilience within, you know, socio-political changes, climate change, context environmental extremes, you know, that…. Even though diversity is challenging, because it means you have to have a greater skill set per crop. And the complexity, the number of successions, and the complexity with the number of crops makes it difficult to run as lean and efficient and profitable of a business, it still provides a lot of resilience and it’s really what our business model is based on. So we grow, you know, about 30 to 40 different crops and within that, over 100 different varieties. You know, just with pepper, eggplant, and tomato alone there’s probably 30 to 40 varieties there, which is a little bit insane, but it’s also incredibly exciting because there’s so much diversity out there. And as a farmer, you know, it’s just…it keeps…it’s just exciting to delve into the world of diversity within varieties. And we do that both for fun, to expose our customers and our eaters and for ourselves to more options and things you don’t get in the store. That’s one of the fun things about gardening at home or working on or buying from a small farm is just getting access to more interesting varieties. We do that also because there’s a lot of great plant breeding that goes on and can–depending on what the breeders are focusing on–there can be more resilience within a variety. That’s especially true with the hybrid brassicas. So, you know, we love the seed saving. We love open pollinated varieties and heirloom varieties. But as farmers who rely on growing food for our economic living, we do buy hybrid seeds–nothing GMO, of course, because we’re certified organic and we wouldn’t do that anyway. But we do see it with certain crops like the hybrid brassicas–like the heading brassicas, like broccoli, cabbages, etc–having options with hybrids is really important for just vigor and yield and consistency. And even with tomatoes, we love growing the beautiful diversity of all the open pollinated heirloom tomatoes but, you know, now that we’ve been farming for over 16 years, we’re seeing diseases we hadn’t seen before, especially with the extreme…. Well, we had already seen late blight in our tomatoes, but I’m sure that it would have been…. Our very, very wet spring we had last year, we saw a bigger increase in fungal and bacterial diseases and we’ve seen resistance to those things in different varieties. So that’s been an interesting thing we’ve observed in the last couple years. So yeah, our CSA model, it’s changed a little bit over the years but essentially we do 22 weeks of a main season. And then we do about 7 weeks of a winter season. And our main season is June through the end of October and winter being November through February. And we could easily do a year round CSA in terms of what we’re able to grow. It’s those bridge months, we call them, from like February March, April, May are challenging but we have farmer friends who are really successfully do a year round CSAs because you can grow so much diversity here, especially if you utilize covered spaces really strategically, like hoop houses or even lower tech stuff like caterpillar tunnels–which are also important in a climate change context, even more so than then they have been in the past. So we do a combination for our CSA program of pack [unsure of spelling] shares, where we decide what goes in those shares. and we do two different share sizes to make it more…give more options to the community. And those get delivered to drop sites still relatively, you know, the farthest…. We used to go to Portland and then we realized at a point that we could fulfill all of our CSA shares here in the community. And so we decided to just deliver into the Salem area, which is so much better for many, many reasons. So the farthest we go out is Kaiser. But many of our drop sites are really pretty close to the farm. A few are five minutes away. Some are 10 minutes away. And that’s because we really do cater to our local Salem community. And we are so proud of the relationships we’ve been able to build with our community over time, which I can talk more about because it’s really its own thing to discuss. And then we do a market-style option, which again, different farms define this and do this in different ways. But for us it means setting up our produce at our farm stand two nights a week from four to seven. And we have a combination of fixed and choice items. And so the fixed items allow us to just have a little more reliable crop plan and make sure that we’re still getting that good level of diversity out to our customers. People have to try to eat bok choy at least once a year, not five times a year, but once a year. It justifies us growing it too, which is good, you know. You want that diversity. It’s good for our bodies. It’s good for the soil. It’s good in many, many ways. And then they get their choice items which they get to choose amongst. And like we’ve found that market-style option to just be incredibly popular, both for our customers and for us as a farm. It gives us so much more flexibility. It allows us to…. It justify us growing more specialty crops too because we can pick those really small amounts of like a specialty crop fully and put it out for market-style choice and we know that it’ll all get taken and chosen versus like not being sure that that would all get enjoyed in our packed boxes, because we want to make sure that folks are really enjoying their CSAs. One of the big pieces…the most consistent piece of feedback we’ve gotten over the years, and many other CSA farms we hear this too, is that folks aren’t able to fully utilize everything that’s in their share. And they’re usually joining a CSA because they value that local produce so much. And so trying to find ways to fit different people’s needs within the CSA, you know, do the combo and fix and choice and also not…still grow specialty items but not have to grow huge quantities of it, you know. We’ve really fine tuned our model quite a bit over the years in the options that we’ve created. And then the winter season’s every other week with a bigger break in the winter. And that’s a combination of storage crops, but a lot of crops still coming from the field, which is really one of the things I love to talk about when I do tours is talking about just the amount you can still eat fresh from the fields where your nutrient density is still so high because things are fresh. You know, you lose a lot of your nutrients when things are picked and sit on the store shelves or, you know. They can be…not all frozen things are bad, you know. You can capture nutrients with certain types of processing techniques. But if it’s not being processed in a certain way and it’s just fresh, sitting on the shelf, you can lose a lot of your nutrient density that way. So the winter CSA is a really fun eating because it’s still very, very diverse. And a lot of it’s still really fresh. And there’s some folks that just do that CSA. They might be really avid home gardeners, but they either don’t have the scale or the storage capacity but they still want to eat a seasonal diversity and eat local and fresh. And so they’ll come to our farm just for the winter CSA which is really neat. Yeah.

**Brooke ** 14:13
And you do garden, or excuse me, "garden…" you do farm year round basically. It’s not that you’re…you’re not working throughout those months when there isn’t the CSA, right? Your farmers are still quite busy.

**Elizabeth ** 14:29
That’s very true. And yeah, you had asked to talk about our staff. So we–

**Brooke ** 14:34
Yeah, hold on, let me back up before you get into the numbers just because I want to review. Okay, so you’re operating on eight or nine acres a year generally. And you’re growing how many different crops, not including sub varieties?

**Elizabeth ** 14:48
I’d say 30 to 40. I haven’t encountered the actual list in a few years, but it’s definitely between 30 and maybe 45.

**Brooke ** 14:58
30 to 45 crops. 8 or 9 acres. You’re sort of actively actually farming and yielding stuff from May/June through winter.

**Elizabeth ** 15:10
Well, with our covered spaces, honestly, it’s almost February now. February or March through…. We had a really big success last year in growing a much greater amount of food fresh from the soil but in the covered spaces with the addition of the caterpillar tunnels. We were harvesting quite a bit starting in early March.

**Brooke ** 15:32
You didn’t say numbers on the CSA, but I just happen to know that it’s about 250 families that sign up that get that weekly produce box through the summer. Plus, you still have a farmstand that people come and buy fresh at. Plus, you have wholesale. Do you know how much food you produce? Like I don’t…. You know, I know sometimes I hear about tons of this or that, but….

**Elizabeth ** 15:54
You know, I don’t know the statistics and I really should. We keep them all in our harvest spreadsheets for our own record keeping and for Oregon Tilth for the organic certification. And I should know some of those stats because it’d be really…. What I really should know is per acre and by crop, you know, per bed-foot yield. But it’s changing. I mean…. I have two really talented…. Shoutout to my two head farmers, my harvest manager, Arabella, and my field manager, Justin, are in their fifth and sixth year of farming on our particular farm, which is important to say because you have to really learn how to farm a particular farm. You can be a talented grower, but knowing a particular farm’s soil, experiencing multiple seasons of variations, both in disease, pests, cropping patterns, weather patterns, learning that level, you know, you have to know a lot about many different crops. It’s a huge breadth of knowledge that you need. And so you only really get that depth by farming many seasons. So they’re just at the peak of their game in their trajectory this year. And so many crops statistics that they have reported have been double or more. I mean, just…. And it was a quote, unquote, "normal year," you know, with no big climate extremes. No, you know, heat dome. No raining for the first three months of spring so that, you know, the soil tilth was so much better than last year, for instance, where we had one of the coldest, wettest springs on record. And we saw the effects on crop health, and especially disease, but just crop health generally because of the tilth of the soil. The roots…the plants just were never as healthy, especially the one-time plantings that you would have to establish in the beginning of the year when we were so pressed to get things in the ground. So this year has just been so incredibly positive and more bountiful than normally even so. It’s really turning my head of what’s possible growing wise, you know, because there’s so much variation within a crop year-to-year. And you know that with a large level of diversity, you’re never going to grow each crop perfectly. There’s always going to be something that’s going to have a challenge or be better than expected or have some unusual circumstance. That’s the challenge but also the wonderful curiosity of farming is you’re always learning something new because soil systems and ecological systems are so complex. So I should…I’ll get some of those steps under my belt for the next time I have a conversation like this.

**Brooke ** 18:39
Well and that diversity, you know, another example of why that diversity is so important is that you’re going to have some kind of crop failure or problem going on, right? Okay, so the CSA feeds something like 750 families. So if you had to take a guesstimate with, you know, Saturday markets and farmstand and wholesale, what do you think…. Like how many additional families worth of produce do you suppose that you put out?

**Elizabeth ** 19:12
Oh, gosh, I mean, I’d say there’s, you know, probably 700 to…. I don’t know if we should say 1000 family units that come through the farm. You know, some people come to just have a milkshake with their kids and play on the playground, which is wonderful. My single biggest driving factor in starting the farm was that I wanted to continue a deep, and deeply important to me, and long family tradition of working within natural resources in Oregon. But most importantly, I wanted to keep the soil productive and in agricultural production so that it could be farmed for a few generations because we will need that soil and once…. If you can’t afford to keep land in agricultural production and it’s developed, you can never really go back from that. And two, was to give people the same opportunity to connect with the land that I had, you know? My family happens to own it. But of course the white people took all the land from the Native Americans and have abused it in many different ways over the years. And thankfully, the family tradition I was raised in, generationally it shifted, of course, because we’ve learned so much more about how to treat the land well. But there was always a history, like when my family was in timber. And that’s where my family got its start was, you know, getting to take advantage, in some sense, of Earth’s, you know, capital that it had grown for hundreds of years. And that’s given me, in some way, the opportunity to have. But there was always an ethic of conservation and stewardship within my family’s relationship to the land or to the natural resource that they were able to have the privilege to get to interact with. And I believe firmly that I’m so passionate about the Earth because I had the opportunity to connect with it. And so many people just don’t have the exposure. They don’t have the opportunity to either be out in nature or to have a garden. And of course, many people, you know, encounter that and experience it and find inspiration on their own. But it’s hard…it can be hard to find that connection and that care for the earth and that perspective if you don’t have the opportunity to interact with nature and with the soil. And food is such a fundamental way that we can all do that. And it connects us all. We all have to eat. So I just felt that our farm at Minto needed to be a community farm. People needed access to it. They needed to be able to connect to it and we needed to be able to connect to each other through that mechanism of growing and eating food. So that’s always been a driving principle of our farm and our business.

**Brooke ** 22:08
Yeah, and I’ll say, you know, as an indigenous woman, how proud of you I am and how grateful I am for your ongoing…. You know, and you don’t shy away from the awareness of the privilege that you have and where it came from and then the commitment that you have and have had towards land preservation and restoration and the way you take care of this piece of land. Yes, it is a business. But I think you would do things that would help the land and hurt the business because of your priority structure. Not that you would generally have to make that choice. But like if that’s…if it came down to a decision between the two, I know that you’re always going to take care of the land and make sure that it’s healthy and strong and sustainable for generations. And that’s really important culturally to me. So I’m, I’m grateful for that and to be a part of it.

**Elizabeth ** 23:05
And thank you for that comment. I have so much learning to do. But I am so thankful for my family and especially my father for giving me that opportunity. He’s my greatest hero and we share the same passion for plants and for soil and really the idea of stewardship that we just happen to be lucky to be able to have this relationship and that it’s, you know, really…. I really wanted to examine what the idea of ownership is…. It’s never made sense to me that we have the ability to own land, you know, and so there’s so much more soul searching and seeking of…questioning of what that means. But I definitely see it as there’s a huge responsibility when you do have the opportunity to try to do the best you can. And I’m thankful that my dad’s been able to learn from me too. He still thinks we’re crazy with all the amount of work that we put in. But he also understands. He sees how responsive the community has been to it. Because I believed…I knew that the community would come for this because it’s just so fundamental. It’s so fundamental to our wellness to be connected to the earth and to each other and to do it through food. It’s like you can’t really argue with it. And I am not…. This is not a discovery I’m making. This discovery has been fundamental to how we’ve interacted as a species since we’ve been evolving, you know? So um, yeah, so back…. I didn’t really get to talk about the team that that makes it all happen because I–

**Brooke ** 24:53
Yeah, you must have a massive staff to produce this much food and be working this long and year round and so much land that you’re doing. It must take an army to get that out, right?

**Elizabeth ** 25:06
Yes, I simultaneously feel that it’s huge and tiny and huge. And you know, my conception of it, my concept of it, expands and contracts depending on how I’m looking at things. But I just want to say that the people who choose to work on organic…small organic farms–or any farm really–are just some of the best people around there. They’re in it because they’re passionate about plants and soil and feeding their community. They’re not in it because they’re trying to make a bunch of money and they’re sacrificing. Agriculture is often a lower paid profession. And there are very few farms, unless they’re in a nonprofit structure or have figured some things out that I’m really trying to figure out, but there’s usually not a benefit package to support, you know, these worker populations. And so it’s just, it’s a labor of love, the people that choose to do this work, and I am so humbled and proud to work with them every day. So we have a team of year-round managers. That’s about four or five. And then we have a seasonal staff that expands quite a bit and quite a bit more so even this year to about between 20 and 30. But that encompasses all the farmstand staff and food cart and our perennial crew. And I haven’t yet spoken about the fact that we grow blueberries and strawberries and we also have a neat tea project. Camellia sinensis is the tea plant and all the types of teas, black, green, oolong, ect… come from that one plant. And my dad has a real innovative approach to plants and agriculture, always has, so he, with a partner, in the late 80s planted tea, and so I’ve gotten to try to move that project forward. And so we have managers that kind of head each part of that farm. We have a CSA manager. We have a CSA logistics person. We have a field manager. We have a perennial manager. We have a farmstead manager, a food cart manager. And often those folks will take on many other roles too on the farm or have done other…. So, it’s a small but mighty team. And since we do farm year round, that core managerial staff is often working in the winter still, which is wonderful but also challenging because they work so hard during the main season that then to continue to work when it gets so much colder and wetter and muddier and everything is hard and you can’t necessarily warm up and recharge your body during the day, it’s…. I’m at a crossroads with our business where I’m really trying to build longer term sustainability. And we’ve been doing this for 16 years, so that’s quite a long time and some big lessons learned and there’s still a lot of resilience needed in our business model to keep going. And our managers are really the heart of the farm. I can’t physically do all the work as a mother of two younger kids. My husband, Chris, now works as a mint breeder and he still is able to work from the farm but for a totally different company. And he really supports my ability to keep farming because the economics are really challenging with small farms. So I’m just trying to think very creatively with the newer perspectives I have of how people can do this work year round, long term, and what they really want to do during the winter. I think it’s an incredible niche for other folks that are interested in this as a business model. There are some beet firms that only do winter farming because so many fewer farms there do it and you can do so much. But I’m thinking of different options and different models for our farm, but that’s probably a level of detail we don’t need to go into today but it’s…. Yeah, I’m really looking at our business model from all angles to try to build in long term resilience, just in terms of the model. Yeah.

**Brooke ** 29:24
Well, I might love to have you back sometime and talk about some specific things like winter farming or maybe…. I would love to do a whole thing on potatoes and I don’t know if you want to come back for that but….

**Elizabeth ** 29:35
Well, I might stop throwing them so I don’t know if you want me to. Not fully. Not fully. But if there’s one crop I know we lose money on its potatoes.

**Brooke ** 29:47
Wow. Okay, that’s really interesting because potatoes are–

**Elizabeth ** 29:49
I’m not sure. My numbers will tell me this year but…. Yeah, we could do a deep dive on potatoes, even later in the episode if we have time, but…. People love potatoes, though. So that’s a thing. There’s like…. You want to grow what people love and you know they’ll use. And they’re nutritious. And they store. And they’re so versatile in the kitchen. But….

**Brooke ** 30:12
Nutrient dense.

**Elizabeth ** 30:16
Yep. But we’ve had such a difficult time growing them consistently well. Last year, we doubled our yield from the previous year, and grew them better than we ever had. And then this year, it’s kind of back down to, "Ehh?" normal yields. We’re like, well, did we learn anything? What were the factors, you know. Sometimes there’s trajectories in crops and trends and you’re like, okay, I’m steadily getting better at this. I’m learning things that I’m applying to a consistently better outcome. Potatoes are not one of those crops. There just seems to still be so much uncertainty and variation in the end yields. And to me, you know, I like to think about what is really unique about a locally grown vegetable. And often there is something really special, whether it be a variety or the fact that it doesn’t store well or it’s super delicious, or it’s more perishable, or, you know, many, many things. Potatoes, in my mind, unless it’s a really interesting variety and it’s a new potato, to me, potatoes are almost…. There’s not that many distinguishing features that make a fresh, locally grown potato that different in comparison to everything else we grow. To me, it’s more of a commodity type thing. Same with onions, but I love growing alliums and I will never stop growing them. But I could deep dive into those specific crops if we wanted to.

**Brooke ** 31:43
Yeah, I think I’ll save that for probably another one. But that is really interesting to know. And some of our audience members are going to have some strong feelings about not growing potatoes. And I understand that. And we’ve done episodes around…. Well, I don’t know if we did it. I know Margaret, who’s one of our other hosts who originally started the podcast, has certainly done a deeper dive on potatoes on one of her other podcasts. Anyway, sorry. If you said it, I guess I missed it, you talked about your management team but then like the harvest staff you have kind of at the height of your season, how many folks do you have?

**Elizabeth ** 32:25
Yeah, I’d say six to eight. I mean, you know, on a…Tuesday is our biggest harvest day, and there’s probably, you know, six to eight people out there. Some of the managers come in to do half days, but you know, on a Wednesday, that’s the second biggest day of our CSA, we’ll have four or five in the morning and then three in the afternoon. So it really…it really varies.

**Brooke ** 32:50
So less than one person per acre? Not that that’s how…. That’s not a great measure. But, you know, if you’re growing eight or nine acres, you have–

**Elizabeth ** 32:59
It’s difficult to talk about the stats because you’re growing…you have to do…. There’s so many steps that go into the full execution of a crop. You know, onions, for instance, your crop planning in November. You’re starting the seeds very, very early, actually. We used to do it in February. Now it’s March. Because they’re relatively slow growing and you have to grow quite a bit. You know, one onion plant is an onion versus a potato plant grows multiple potatoes. Same with a kale plant. You know, so lots and lots of seedlings, many, many flats. And then they are in the greenhouse for a long time. Then they get transplanted out and they grow all season long. They don’t get harvested for storage until…. Of course we’re taking spring or fresh onions out of the field starting in maybe July, but the bulk of the allium harvest isn’t until August/September. And then they’re stored all winter. So the labor that’s spread across that whole…. You know, it’s almost…. I mean, we have onions year round so sometimes an onion will be a seedling or in storage for almost an entire year. So it’s difficult to fully, accurately allocate your labor across an acre or crop just because–

**Brooke ** 34:15
Sure. Yeah,

**Elizabeth ** 34:16
You know, but yeah, in peak season from June through September, I would say that there’s six to eight people on average that are full time growing those crops. Growing, harvesting, delivering, etc…processing, delivery, ect…

**Brooke ** 34:36
And that’s what it takes to grow enough food to feed more than 250 families a weekly box of produce, six to eight folks.

**Elizabeth ** 34:43
It probably could be quite a bit more. I believe, you know, with better farming techniques and, you know, I don’t know if we want to go into no-till philosophy and practices on this episode, but from the learning we’ve been doing about some of these no-till farms that have been in operation for quite a long time. Singing Frog is one in California that’s pointed to a lot because they’ve been farming for so long. The yields that they’re getting per acre, it’s almost like double or triple or even quadruple sometimes what even the best, you know, organic producers are saying they’re getting. So I believe on our footprint we could be growing a much higher density of food per bed foot or per acre than we even are now, but it’s very labor intensive. It’s a very…. Which I think is good and challenging economically. But it’s good that there is the opportunity for people to grow food for a living as their job. It’s extremely enriching and gratifying on many levels. I think the economics are the hardest part. And I believe farmers should be making as much as doctors are making. I mean, maybe, yeah. Ehh, maybe not a specialist surgeon, you know, but you know what I mean? It’s a very undervalued profession, especially for the crew position versus a managerial position. It’s incredibly important and incredibly difficult. And food prices in our country, and across the world, it’s just the way that we perceive food value is challenging. And affordability is incredibly challenging too. But there’s just many things that should change in our food system to value, you know, to value food better. Not necessarily that it should cost more money for people, but the way that that work and that product is valued, there’s a lot of improvement that could be made in that and you know, we could talk all about government subsidies and policy and all that another time. But I believe there’s a lot…. I believe the federal government should be subsidizing small to medium diversified organic farms, not just large scale commodity farms growing GMO soy for a stupid faux green biofuel, you know? I mean, there’s just so much wrong with our agricultural policy. But, again, another episode in the making maybe?

**Brooke ** 35:06
Yeah, there’s so much to get into there. And that’s interesting. So you’ve had 16 years of learning and growing and it’s a nonstop process, it sounds like. Partly with just because some crops are fickle and because of climate change. So, I want to rewind for a second all the way back to 16 years ago when you and Chris first started and compare, you know, what your staff size looked like, how much of the land you were farming, what kind of yield you were getting in those first few years as you were learning and developing.

**Elizabeth ** 38:04
Again, I don’t have those statistics. They’re all anecdotal at this point. The big context for when Chris and I started the farm was that we were both more steeped in native plant and restoration work. Chris did, you know, he did Environmental Science at Colorado College and I was on that track as well but switched to more social sciences and music and…. But, you know, that’s what I grew up primarily working with on our farm. We had a native plants nursery, and my dad did forestry research. And you can still see some of the cottonwoods, the native and the hybrid cottonwoods on the farm, which are an interesting thing that isn’t active really anymore. But you know, those woody perennials and their kind of environmental uses, you know, from both just standard restoration to bio energy and phytoremediation, like toxic metals and wastewater clean up. And Chris and I were really interested in green roofs and urban use of plants, you know, and that…. So when we started the farm, we were passionate about food systems and we started a small CSA. We started with five people, five shares. And LifeSource was actually our first sale of Romaine. I still have the receipt framed. We sold them some romaine. And we’re not currently selling to them right now. But we have sold them quite a bit in the past. And Marion Polk Food Share is currently our large wholesale account. But yeah, we started with five members, one who is still an active member of our CSA, which I love. And we actually had a largely Latino crew. Pedro and Maria were husband and wife. Pedro used to work with my dad doing the hybrid poplar harvest. And Maria and her sisters and her nieces were our core crew for quite a long time. And they are amazing people who I miss on the farm. And that’s another whole topic, of just agricultural labor and how that’s changed so much. But it’s interesting to think back to that because that’s a very different population of people. And they are such skilled agricultural workers. And I miss so many aspects of that on the farm. And currently most of our worker population are young students. It’s a lot of Willamette students, other students, people who are transitioning to other professions, people who are going into horticulture, you know, who are plant and science based people all mostly in their early 20s or 30s. It’s…. How to do this work into your 40s, 50s, and 60s, and 70s is a whole nother thing that I’m thinking about quite a bit now as I’m entering my early 40s. But yeah, very different demographics of people who were working on the farm. And Chris and I were doing so many native, woody plant-based projects at that time. We were in mint propagation, and that was both really positive because we were really passionate about that work and it’s really interesting work, and Chris had been working at a living roof ecological restoration company down in California before he moved up to Oregon. And it also spreads really, really thin across the farm and across many projects. And it didn’t…we didn’t have the…. Now, in hindsight, I realize it. Doing too many things just doesn’t allow you to really focus in and hone your skills and get your discipline, especially with the economics, in your key project areas. And so we grew our CSA model and the direct-to-farm model really quickly. I think we said, "Yes," to everything. Like "Yes, we’ll do the Wednesday farmers market. We’ll do the Salem public market, we’ll do the Salem Saturday market. We’ll do the Tuesday OHSU farmers market and then oh, while we’re up at the Tuesday OHSU market, they want to do wholesale for their institutional bid at OHSU, and they need a new CSA farm for all of their drop sites. And I thought, well, what an opportunity. They’re one of the largest employers in Oregon there. They have an in-house nutritionist who is incredible, who’s still there and still passionate about food systems, and what an amazing opportunity. And it was. I mean, I don’t know…. It felt to me at the time it was, but really, it just, I think, spread us too far and wide and thin. And so that’s one of the biggest hindsight reflections I have at this point of just…. And I encourage anyone who’s interested in this type of farming model is t to make this model successful, to actually not burnout with an injury, to burnout psychologically, like my husband, Chris did, and physically doing this work, to not get into debt, you know, to have a good business plan, and to be disciplined about your numbers, you just have to plan well, and you have to be diligent about your expansion. And I think we just…we had so much enthusiasm and so much demand for our products, so we just grew really fast without really understanding the economics of that growth. And so there was a mid period where our first really…. Tim, who’s now a farmer in…he was a Willamette student and now a farmer in New Orleans. And a very wonderful farmer himself, now. He and his partner, Madeline, also a really talented farmer, they’re both from Willamette. But Tim was our first kind of longer term staffer who became a manager. And he really…. He and Lindsey, another wonderful Willamette student, they were so gung ho about scaling up our CSA, and also doubling our market sales at the Saturday market, you know. They had these personal professional goals that they brought to the business. And we had never before had the capacity for that kind of growth because we hadn’t had folks that were like, you know, quote, unquote, "like" Chris and I, that kind of had that same bird’s eye view perspective and were really interested in the business side of things and the strategy and we’re kind of doing the business planning with us and really had the capacity to take on that growth. And so they wanted to expand the CSA by like 40 shares one year and they were in their fourth year of farming. They had the capability. They’re both incredibly bright and incredibly hardworking. And they were also young. They had that 20 year old energy. It’s really something and it’s unique, you know? And so those were some of those mid years of growth, really came from those strategic managerial staffers that really when I look at the peak, the growth spurts that we’ve had over the business as the business has expanded and also gotten better and more efficient and gained the knowledge and depth, it’s because of these…it always has coincided with the peak of these managerial staff that have come into their third and fourth and fifth seasons. And they go in cycles. And they eventually have to cycle through because they want their own farms or they can’t physically, they don’t physically want to do the work anymore, or, you know, there’s a combination of reasons, but it’s always a cyclical thing. And that’s a pattern that is now known to me, but it also is still a vulnerable pattern. So those are the patterns I’ve had, yeah, the kind of patterns I’ve been able to recognize at this point. Yeah.

**Brooke ** 45:49
So if people are doing this model, either for business or, you know, in the context of trying to develop a small farm like this for community support and perhaps a climate collapse situation, knowing that sort of rotation that people will go through and helping make sure that, you know, whoever’s…. Even if you’re collectively running the farm and everyone sort of equal partners, knowing that there is sort of that learning and burnout cycle to be aware of and, you know, having the members of your community that are doing this together supporting each other and taking some turns with it over time, like that sounds really important.

**Elizabeth ** 46:29
And trying to build structurally into the business ways to prevent that burnout. So even this next season that I’m looking towards, where those two key managers are moving on, and we’ve known that and we’ve been planning for and they’re going to help us transition at the beginning of the next season, thankfully, but we’re looking towards, you know, training a new set of managers. The expectation for that new set of managers is going to be completely different. I want every manager to be able to go on vacation during the peak production season for at least like a week or a long weekend, a Friday, Monday, or four or five days. They need that. They need that physical and psychological break. They need that recharge. Everybody needs it, everyone deserves to go on vacation and to not work, especially farmers. And there was never that…. Our previous managerial staff, they’re just, that isn’t a common expectation on most farms. You’re just sort of expected to to work your ass off, excuse me, and you will anyway. So, it’s up to the owners, or to the collective leaders, to find ways to build that structure of balance into the structure from the beginning, but this is the advice I would give. Because the work is hard no matter what. It’s some of the most challenging work you’re going to do no matter what, especially in a climate change context. The extremes are here. They’re not predictable. You might have experienced one extreme, but you don’t know what the next extreme is going to be like or what it’s going to do in your ecological system. So you can’t even really plan for it. That’s the challenge of farming in a climate change context is these extremes. I’m sure there’ll be some similar ones. Perhaps we’ll be able to apply lessons learned. But that’s been the biggest challenge of experiencing these climate extremes over the last five or six years is that it’s been a new extreme each time. And so the learning curve is immense and it’s stressful and it’s costly and there’s so much uncertainty. So that’s a challenge.

**Brooke ** 48:35
So really quickly then as our last thing on this, before we wrap, you’ve mentioned some of the climate issues that we’ve had, and I know I’ve mentioned these on other episodes of the podcast too, that, you know, for instance, last year, we had a really long, cold wet spring that went well into the first part of the growing season and it really screwed a lot of things up in a lot of different ways. And then two years ago we had some really extreme heat in that summer or a couple times over temperatures that have, you know, record breaking heat temperatures here. And so now we’re looking ahead at the world and we know that there will continue to be climate issues and to some degree, you can kind of predict for your own area what’s most likely to happen and what’s somewhat likely to happen and what’s not very likely to happen in terms of your individual climate extremes. Is that something that you actively work into your plans or is it something you deal with as it comes up? You know, how much are you looking ahead and planning for that and practicing for that on your own farm?

**Elizabeth ** 49:43
Yeah, I think that we’re planning for it to the extent that we can, you know. Like you’ve said, there is some predictability and now that we have experienced, you know, the heat dome…. The wildfires were so, just almost a completely totally different scenario, because you could hardly be outside safely, you know, but you we had to keep…some crops had to continue to be harvested or else it would make them unharvestable for a period after. You know, farms like ours, you have to continually harvest many crops. And then flooding has been really…. Wet and cold is always something we dealt with, but the extremes of last year were just far and above. And then flooding has been also greater and at times that we had never experienced before. Like we had some really intense flooding in April. I think that was like six years ago now. And so, yeah, ways that we’re adapting and planning for that, you know, where we have floods…we have fields that are more flood…that are more…. All of our farm fields are in the floodway, actually. It’s a pretty extreme flood plain designation from the Army Corps. But some of our fields are lower and they farm, you know, almost every winter. And so to the extent we can, we plan our rotations so that our winter crops are now, like I mentioned before, we had some crops, some of our first crops of the season in April, flood. So to the extent we can, we try to be cognizant of where that flooding might happen and try to put more vulnerable plantings in higher fields. But that’s difficult for us to always do, but we try our best at it. Season extension, you know, through covered spaces is something that farmers have been doing all over the world forever, because it just gives you more flexibility, extends your growing season, and you can control your environment better. Sometimes you have less…you’re less prone to pests. Those diseases can be much greater risk. So,you know, we had never had a huge amount of covered spaces. They’re expensive to put in. And they’re more difficult growing environments. I always like to say that they kind of expose all your weaknesses. And so since we’ve been spread so thin across so many projects and so much diversity and probably more scale than we should have expanded to too early, we have not always been the greatest hoop house or covered space growers. But our team’s really improved in that area in the last few years. And so we’ve really benefited from partnerships with the NRCS. They administer the organic equip program and they give dollars towards conventional and organic farmers, the organic equip program specifically for organic farmers for many projects like cover cropping, restoration projects, hedgerows, and, most impactful for us, hoop house infrastructure. So all of our hoop houses and our caterpillar tunnels, including two more that we bought that haven’t been put up, were all partially funded by the NRCS, which is really, really great use of our tax dollars. We can all at least maybe feel good about that for the use of our tax dollars. Yeah. And so that’s…. Those spaces have been really instrumental in our bridge season growing, would you like to call it, especially the early season. Like, we all know Oregon springs can be cold and wet in a normal year and relatively unpredictable, and so because we are building our farm model on a CSA that starts in June, which actually really isn’t that early, and people are really ready to eat seasonally from the farm in June. They’re coming to us in April and May like, "When does the CSA start?" Like they think it should just all be available. And yeah, certain crops are. But to have the level of diversity and scale in June to feed that many people does take quite a bit of planning and land space. And so having just those extra covered spaces so that we can just fine tune our planting schedule and our planting mix in those early months, has been really key. And then methodologies that were even kind of pre a climate change context but just for better spring farming, like there was a practice that we were following, many farmers are doing, with preparing beds in the fall, tarping with silage tarps, and then that allows you to just pull back those silage tarps in the spring when you have a couple days of dry out. And then you can direct seed and transplant right into those beds, as opposed to having to wait for a one or two week dry window and leaving soil uncovered without a cover crop, which you don’t really want to do anyway. So that completely changed our spring growing. And then adding in extra covered spaces this year was what allowed us to have such a wonderful early diversity. And then pushing, being pushed more towards no-till and regenerative practices that are, we feel, can just provide even more resilience in a climate change context, and in any in any context, you know, when you’re building up the quality of your soil with the microbiology and organic matter. And from what we’ve researched and seen, the potential for healthier, happier crops that are produced with less fossil-fuel-based equipment and don’t release carbon because of tillage, and just myriad other benefits that we’ve been seen and been hearing about, we were motivated to start our own no-till experimental plot. And so we had our first crops on that this year and they did well. And the soil–we didn’t know how our heavier clay content soil would respond to no-till practices and from what we’ve read and understood, really the benefits of no-till don’t take in massively so until years three to five. It takes a while to do your weed control and for your microbiology to get in there and add all that soil health. It just takes a while for the soils to adjust. Yeah, it’s like how to…. How I say this to kids on tours is like, “How do forests feed themselves? How do those big old growth trees get so big? Humans aren’t coming in and fertilizing those trees. It’s just decomposition and micro organisms and all those amazing nutrient relationships between the micro organisms.” It’s like they’re just all working in this beautiful, and even more so we know now, because of these really cool scientists that are doing forestry research showing how these forest communities are this huge interconnected network with the root systems and the fungi and bacteria. It’s just so much more complex and interconnected than scientists ever even thought. And so it’s the same principle applied to annual or perennial farms. So we’re only in…this will be year two. But we were already interested in those practices and some folks on our staff, Garabella, had studied that in college at Willamette and was already really passionate about it. We’d been doing some experiments with it, but this was our first year really biting the bullet and saying, okay, this is our no-till plot. And we’re really, really enthused by the results and how well the soils responded. It’s hard to break that addiction to tillage. I love tillage. I love tractors and PTO shafts and rototillers. But it’s also really disruptive. SO it’s breaking those habits. Yeah.

**Brooke ** 57:11
And I know you can talk about this literally, for the rest of the week, but we should probably wrap it up here for now. It’s been really great having you on and I do hope that we can have you again to talk about some more specifics of this and other things so we can continue to learn how to develop some of this in our communities and encourage the farms that are doing it.

**Elizabeth ** 57:35
Thank you so much for having me and exposing and educating our community.

**Brooke ** 57:40
Absolutely. And, you know, also to the world over because we have listeners internationally as well. And we love you all very much. Elizabeth, is there anything that you want to plug or promote here before we say goodbye?

**Elizabeth ** 57:57
Just in relation to our conversation earlier, just really taking many, many steps back and looking at the communities of people that had a relationship to this land for generations before us. And there’s an awesome nonprofit here in Salem run by Rose High Bear, and it’s called Elderberry Wisdom Farm and they’re an indigenous based nonprofit. And I’m not going to get their mission statement right. But they’re educating about indigenous plant communities and knowledge bases and practices of those communities in relation to land. And I’m looking forward to learning more from Rose about their work. And obviously, they’re working specifically with the elderberry plant but also indigenous youth. And so if you’re in the Salem community, check out their work and support them.

**Brooke ** 58:47
Wonderful. Okay, thanks so much for that, Elizabeth. We also want to say thanks to all of our listeners who check out our podcasts. If it’s something that you are enjoying, please like it, share it, let others know about it. That’s how we reach more voices and help more folks. If you want to comment at me about any of this you can find me on Mastodon @ogemakweBrooke. Brook with an E. Especially if you have any follow up questions for Elizabeth because she’s pretty easy to get ahold of and likes talking about her farm and so I will probably try to drag her back around. So if you want specific questions answered, I’d be so happy to share those with her. This podcast is brought to you by Strangers in a Tangled Wilderness publishing collective that produces podcasts, zines, books, posters, comics, and many other forms of educational leftist media. You can check us out at Tangledwilderness.org You can find all of our latest publications there. And if you really love our work and want to help us continue, especially with the podcast production, you can support us on Patreon. We do a monthly zine mailing to our Patreon supporters. That’s a really wonderful mix of stories, politics, and poems. It’s a different thing that comes out every month. And we especially want to give thanks to some of our patrons who support us at the $20 month level. And those wonderful folks include patolli, Eric, Perceval, Buck, Julia, Catgut, Marm, Carson, Lord Harken, Trixter, Princess Miranda, BenBen, Anonymous, Funder, Janice & O’dell, Aly, paparouna, Milica, Boise Mutual Aid, theo, Hunter, Paige, SJ, Dana, David, Nicole, Chelsea, Jenipher, Kirk, Staro, Chris, Micaiah, and as always, Hoss the Dog. Thank you so much.

S1E95 – Sam and Amadeo on Sheep, Wolves, and Climate Change

Episode Summary

This week on Live Like the World is Dying, Margaret talks with Sam and Amadeo about their experiences shepherding in the Swiss Alps. They talk about the problems that shepherds are facing in Switzerland with wolves, climate change, city mentalities, and right-wing propaganda.

Host Info

Margaret (she/they) can be found on twitter @magpiekilljoy or instagram at @margaretkilljoy.

Publisher Info

This show is published by Strangers in A Tangled Wilderness. We can be found at www.tangledwilderness.org, or on Twitter @TangledWild and Instagram @Tangled_Wilderness. You can support the show on Patreon at www.patreon.com/strangersinatangledwilderness.

Transcript

Live Like the World is Dying: Sam and Amadeo on Sheep, Wolves, and Climate Change

**Margaret ** 00:16
Hello and welcome to Live Like the World is Dying, your podcast for what feels like the times. I’m your host today, Margaret Killjoy and this is an episode about sheep…and sheep farming. Shepherding, I believe we might want to call it, in the Alps. I’m really excited about it. We’ve been planning this episode for a while, because we are going to be talking to two sheep farmers in the Alps about climate change and about the return of wolves and about ecology and about why the right-wing picks all the wrong talking points and a bunch of other stuff. But first, we are a proud member of the Channel Zero Network of anarchists podcasts. And here’s a jingle from another show on the network. 

**Margaret ** 01:52
Okay, we’re back. So if y’all could introduce yourselves with your name…your names, your pronouns, and I guess just a little bit about your background with shepherding.

**Sam ** 02:05
All right, Hi, I’m Sam, my pronouns she/her and we are in Vienna right now. And yeah, I’m an artist and also a bit of a writer, filmmaker. I do a lot of that kind of stuff. Lately I have been working a lot with metal and smithing And yeah, I went with Amadeo on a sheep farm and Alps in Valais in Switzerland. And we want to tell you a bit about our experience.

**Amadeo ** 02:38
Yeah, my name is Amadeo. He/him. I’m 38. Actually, I started to work as a teacher now. I teach biology and some other stuff, politics, and so on. And yeah, This was my third year…third summer, not third year, third season to work as a shepherd but the first time with sheep, actually. Before that I worked with cows and milking and so on. Yeah, and for me it was also the first time with sheep and the first time in this area of Switzerland. I’m Austrian. But the payment in Austria is really bad so we went to Switzerland. So we are also the working migrants. Or what do you call it in English?

**Margaret ** 03:31
Migrant workers, I guess. 

**Amadeo ** 03:34
Yes. 

**Margaret ** 03:36
Okay, so what brought you all to sheep farming or to farming in general as like the thing to go do with your summers for work? 

**Amadeo ** 03:47
Should I? 

**Sam ** 03:48
Yeah, you can.

**Amadeo ** 03:50
So, I had this experience in 2020 and 21, I think, and I really liked it in a way. It was very hard work back then, but I learned a lot. And we met after that, actually, and decided we would like to go together. And then we just hit up the internet and looked for work and places to go and then we found this place that sounded pretty ideal for us because it was sheep farming and no milking, which is nice. I didn’t want to do the milking job and do cheesemaking and so on again, I wanted to stay outside mostly, like the whole day under the sky and not in the staple. And yeah, we found this place where you don’t need your own dogs, which is nice. We were working with blacknose sheep, they’re called. It’s like a breed that is only bred in this area. Or not only but traditionally there. And yeah, we tried to get the job and we got it.

**Sam ** 05:08
I guess we also got in because Amadeo also already had a lot of experience. And yeah, they were looking for two people there and without dogs. And yeah, I also got…I was really lucky that I was with Amadeo because, you know, like some very daily stuff, he already was prepared for this job. Like, you need a lot of some equipment and know what to take. And yeah, I was really….

**Amadeo ** 05:36
The thing was that, of course, the owners of the sheep, they want someone who has some experience because it happens often that you think, "Oh, it’s nice. It’s in the mountains. It’s beautiful." And then people after two weeks, three weeks, they say, "No way. I can’t work here. It’s way too hard." I mean, it’s like pretty hard work. It’s outside all day. With rain, with snow sometimes. And you work from sunup to sundown every day, seven days a week. And many people underestimate it because there’s like, I don’t know, this idea drawn of what it’s like to work in the mountains and it’s always beautiful. And it is. But it’s also very hard work, actually.

**Margaret ** 06:22
It seems really hard. It wouldn’t immediately occur to me that I could just go run out and become a shepherd like tomorrow. But I have two questions. And they’re related. And one is, what does an average day look like for a shepherd in an Alpine Valley? And the second question that’s related is, do you get a shepherd’s crook?

**Sam ** 06:42
Yeah, well, the day starts with sunrise. Around five was when the summer started. We got there in mid of June. I stayed till mid of September. Amadeo had to leave a bit earlier. And the day ends with sunset. And yeah, you bring the sheep back into the night pen. You say, "pen," huh? Like a space where there is electricity on. Pen? [Said with air of not being sure if it’s the correct word]

**Amadeo ** 07:15
Do you know what that is? Or, did we get the right word? 

**Margaret ** 07:17
Like an animal pen? Or is it a barn?

**Amadeo ** 07:19
Yeah, it’s like it has no roof. It’s not a barn. It has no roof. It’s just a fence. An area fenced. A fenced in area with strong electricity because of the wolves.

**Margaret ** 07:35
Oh, yeah. Okay, it has an electric fence. Yeah,

**Sam ** 07:37
yeah, exactly. And yeah, we would move every two weeks to a new pasture with the sheep. And there were 12 farmers or sheepherders. They’re not all farmers. They also have another life. Most of them have another job. They work as bus drivers in heavy industry. And yeah, they also are doing a lot of work. So they’re working with us there. We were there most of the time alone, but they come on weekends. They bring us food. They set up the pastures, lines, the fences too. Yeah. And so then we stay out with the sheep all day, any weather. And yeah, also, when we moved the pasture, they came for help because it’s hard to change the pasture. You sometimes have to cross a river. And….

**Margaret ** 08:29
Wait, how do you cross the river? Do you just like drive them through the river?

**Amadeo ** 08:33
Yes. 

**Margaret ** 08:35
Like , "Go swim!" 

**Amadeo ** 08:38
It was not such. It was more like a stream than the river. A river sounds bigger than it was. 

**Sam ** 08:48
It was like this, like we always make a plan in the evening. Even a drawing. We were five people planning this. And then it always ends up in pretty much chaos and completely different. And in the end they were screaming, "Sam! Go! Go!" And I was like, I even had shoes on and the first sheep I was pulling, just one sheep, with all my strength through the river. And then all the sheep follow.

**Margaret ** 09:14
Okay, okay. I have friends who keep sheep but in the city. And they just keep like six of them or something. And it’s just a very different thing than like a free ranging sheep. And so it’s hard for me to conceptualize. 

**Amadeo ** 09:30
We had 400.

**Margaret ** 09:32
Yeah, that’s more than six. I’m good at numbers. That’s amazing. Okay, cool.

**Sam ** 09:38
So part of the daily routine is also to do the basic medical care. So we were introduced to that. Sometimes they have claw problems. [Claws are sheep toes]

**Amadeo ** 09:38
Problems with the claws. 

**Sam ** 09:39
Problems with claws. So this was a regular thing. And sometimes using antibiotics against….

**Amadeo ** 09:58
Yeah, and we had to clean the pen every day, which was like three to four hours of work for one of us. Like shoveling shit.

**Margaret ** 10:09
Yeah, okay. But you didn’t answer the second question. Did you have a shepherd’s crook? Do you know what that is? [Laughing]

**Amadeo ** 10:17
Not a real one. We had like umbrellas. Big ones that were very useful against the sun. And so preparedness thing number one, if you stay in the high alpine areas, the altitude of the higher pastures were 2500 meters [8,200ft], you need something to cover you against the sun and against the rain. So big umbrellas were pretty handy.

**Sam ** 10:46
And also the sheep have horns so it’s easier to catch them. You have to learn this also, but you throw yourself on the sheep and then you tackle them down. I got really good at this. And also the blacknose sheep in the valleys, they have very long hair. And, I mean, it’s breeding, right? They do it for breeding, the sheepherders. So the wool, it doesn’t get any money. It’s nothing. It’s not worth anything anymore. But for the beauty contests that the sheep go to it’s really important. It’s a tradition. And they let it grow….

**Amadeo ** 11:26
They have very long face hair so some of them are basically blind. Most of them have like, how do you say something that rings? What is it? A bell? Yes. 

**Sam ** 11:39
Yeah, but they get lost because they don’t see anything and our job was also to make them hair ties and to tie the hair. And also the sheepherders would come to do this because we could not do this for 400 sheep. Yeah, so that was also part of the job, Yeah, it adds up. There are some different tasks. And yeah, since we would move with the sheep, maybe also that.  So also the moving is part of. You’re always packing your stuff. You need to think, okay, how much food we need to…how much will we eat and how much do we need to take to the next hut. So organizing this is part of it. And then we had a small hut that was flied in with a helicopter. It was…

**Amadeo ** 12:12
Flown in. Flown with the helicopters for the most remote places where we would stay with the sheep because otherwise you would have to walk a long way, like 45 minutes to the cabin every day. So they brought in a tiny hut for one person, actually. 

**Margaret ** 12:47
For you all? 

**Amadeo ** 12:49
Yeah, yeah. Flown with the helicopter so we could stay next to the sheep. 

**Sam ** 12:55
But it was so small. Like one was sleeping on the floor, the other on this little bed. And also you always need to organize this hut when you come with very wet clothes. You have no space in there. We had a little solar panel. So this was doing…. We had a fridge at least. Very high tech. I guess 20 years before, we would not have a fridge. And some light even in the cabin and a stove. A wood stove. It got crazy hot because it’s so small and yeah. So organizing this hut was also not so easy. And we were lucky because there was a lot of water in this valley. Like it’s full of water. And so we would get water from the…

**Amadeo ** 13:43
From the springs around.  Wells? How you say?

**Margaret ** 13:48
Well, I mean, a well is a hole dug in the ground and then a spring is usually a natural spring or it’s like a pipe stuck in the side of a hill that the water comes out of.

**Amadeo ** 13:57
Yeah, it was a natural spring. No pipe, though. Just some moss and it was nice.

**Margaret ** 14:04
And so you can just go straight from that or do you have to filter it?

**Amadeo ** 14:08
It depends. We had, at some points, we could just drink it from there. We didn’t filter it. At the cabins we had covered springs, wells. Or springs? So we could…it was okay. But the open ones, we had to take care of where the sheep were. If the sheep can go around then it’s not so good. It was better if it was higher up where they wouldn’t go.

**Sam ** 14:42
Yeah also good that there were a lot of springs so the sheep would get water. They need to drink. And sometimes there were pastures where they could only drink one time in the day, so they also learn when they have to drink in the morning because we had really hot days also where these blacknose sheep with all the wool, they really get hot. And yeah, then also we learned how the sheep walk in every pasture. They have the same kind of routine that follows the sun also. And you kind of learn their ways. And also maybe when it’s time to act to get the sheep back, I mean, without a dog. Yeah, you need to learn this also, I guess, when it’s time.

**Amadeo ** 15:33
I always said, if you want to move against their will, you are the dog, you have to run around like crazy. They have their rhythm and they have their ways, you know?

**Margaret ** 15:46
So, did you all use dogs? Like also? Or is it sometimes dogs, sometimes no dogs?

**Amadeo ** 15:54
No, we had none. The thing is that this kind of race [breed of sheep] is very used to people and they’re not moving that far. So you can walk with them. It’s okay. It’s just the problem is you can have two kinds of dogs, right? You can have dogs to protect against wolves, for example. Then they live with the sheep. They’re inside of the flock all the time. But it’s a problem with hikers and so on. Because they attack everyone that comes near, right?

**Margaret ** 16:33
This explains a little bit about my dog. 

**Amadeo ** 16:36
Yeah, and so you can really have them there because it’s also like a recreational area. This area, like a lot of people go hiking there and so on. So you can’t have dangerous dogs. And the other thing would be like dogs that help you move the flock. 

**Margaret ** 17:01
Herding dogs? 

**Amadeo ** 17:02
We didn’t really need it, right? Because we would have not…. I mean, it was big areas but still we would stay in one area for two weeks and then we would move on to the next area. So you didn’t really need dogs to guard them the whole day.

**Sam ** 17:23
But it’s really a calm…. The blacknose sheep are really really calm sheep. We learned this also because like certain sheep breeds, you say, right, they run way more. They run all day. And you really need dogs there. Yeah, so we….

**Amadeo ** 17:40
But with the blacknose, no, they are kind of calm. Yes. And they have a long…during the day they have a long break time. 

**Sam ** 17:48
Resting time.  

**Amadeo ** 17:49
Yeah, because if it’s getting hot up there, the sun is very strong. It can be like, I don’t know…. Like I mean the degrees don’t get up that much like in the flat areas but the sun, how you say…the sun rays are really strong.

**Margaret ** 18:11
Yeah, because when you’re at a higher altitude there’s less atmosphere to protect you, right? I know what I mean. But I don’t know the words for it.

**Amadeo ** 18:22
Yeah, the sheep have some…if it’s a hot day, they rest for four hours during midday. They try to find, you know, shady spots and just rest. And so at that time, you can also rest. If it’s rainy, you can’t rest because then they are moving too. Yeah.

**Margaret ** 18:48
It makes me…the no dog thing, I’m like…. My dog was bred to have a million different jobs. My dog is just a complete mutt of a lot of different working breeds. And so Rintrah, my dog, is never quite sure whether he’s supposed to be herding, or chasing, or retrieving things. He just wants to do all of it all the time. And one of the proudest things I’ve ever had, my proudest dog mom moment, was staying with my friend who has goats and sheep and one of the baby goats just got out of the pen and was running around the yard. And so Rintrah just herded it into a corner and then like calmly barked to inform us that he had trapped the goat. And I was just like, no one taught you how to do that. He wasn’t a year old. He just was like , "This is what I do." And so like, I imagine how happy my dog would be as a sheepdog, a herding dog, which isn’t necessarily true because he has adhd. This is a complete tangent. I just like talking about my dog. But you all, one of the reasons I want to talk to you, you talked about how a lot of this ties into preparedness and how it feels you’ve learned a lot about preparedness that you’re like taking into the rest of your life by having done this work. I was wondering if you wanted to talk more about that. As a complete, look how expertly I tangented…pivoted from one topic to another.

**Sam ** 20:11
Yeah, yeah, actually your podcast was really a bit with us in this time. It was cool, the topic of preparedness. And yeah, for me in this way, thinking about preparedness, what’s also weighed in with this work was to get somehow familiar again with the conditions of doing this work, of ways of living in this open environment, of existing there with the sheep and in this non-human environment. And also, maybe, in this threatened environment that somehow you would…. And also the organization structures, how this work is possible, that it needs a lot of people and it needs a lot of people who do this. I mean, there’s the farmers or sheepherders, they do this because they love this work. Because they have done this all the time. It’s tradition. And yeah, that they somehow save something.

**Amadeo ** 21:17
I mean, to talk about the practical side, if you stay outside the whole day, every day, seven days a week, you learn a lot of what you really need and what you don’t need. I think that was big. Yeah, it was like very valuable to me to see what I really need. And I remember listening to your podcast, and you talk a lot about being prepared in a way, like having podcasts on your phone, for example. Because if you have to stay with sheep for 10 hours a day, you need to…you had a lot of time to think. And I loved having a good book because I could read and then think for hours about it and have like, I think, yeah, more time than in the city where you are distracted from one topic to another. So this really is good to have more, I don’t know, space in my head. This was a good thing. And yeah, I think looking at, how you say, like, being outside in nature everyday and witnessing all these little changes from day-to-day. This was very, very, very special. And I think I learned so much about life and also about survival because all the animals and the plants there, they are…like, they have to survive in a very harsh environment with very short growing period, for example. I mean, lots of snow during…. Winter lasts, I don’t know, for 10 months, or like, let’s see, nine maybe? You know what I mean? Like when we came mid June, there was still snow. And in August before we…the end was the 16th, I think, of September, but we had to leave the higher pastures at the end of August because it was starting to snow heavily. And yeah, it’s like very different too. 

**Sam ** 23:30
But still to also learn about the fears and the sheepherder have. And also, yeah, it’s an environment that’s threatened and that will change through climate change for sure. Like it is changing. And I thought also on some days that it gets hotter and hotter every summer. And also last year, the grass was really dry. So the sheep would get this disease called, in German, Lipinkin [cannot translate], which is little bit like herpes. Yeah. And yeah, they had to be treated, every sheep, and give some….

**Amadeo ** 24:05
Some cream. But do that for 400 sheep, man.

**Margaret ** 24:11
Yeah, that sounds like it would take a while. 

**Sam ** 24:14
Medication for 400 sheep. So yeah, they have struggles they face. And then the wolf, of course, is a new topic. And yeah, they have to deal with a lot of stuff. Yeah.

**Margaret ** 24:27
Well, let’s talk about wolves. Let’s talk about–you all mentioned beforehand when we were getting ready to talk about how wolves have maybe either been reintroduced or are coming back in that area to a certain degree and how that threatens this way of life but like not as much as climate change does and how it all ties into the right-wing and I kinda wanna to hear about it.

**Amadeo ** 24:51
Yeah, since a few years, since I was like…. 2020 was really when I was first introduced to this life, to these people in Switzerland. First of all, I came from the city and I didn’t know that it’s such a big topic already. Because in Austria, we have a few wolves. But not to mention, you know, maybe a dozen. But I learned that in Switzerland since the last, I don’t know, 20 years, from a dozen they now have, I think, 250. Around 250. And, like, I don’t know, 25 packs or something, or something like this. Which doesn’t sound so much, but it’s like…it’s not such a big country. And they are a lot in these areas. For example, in Valais where we stayed, we knew that the nearest wolves are just two kilometers away. And they have offspring. So for them, they need meat and so on. And I mean, the sheep are puffy, you know. It’s like, go get them.

**Sam ** 26:01
Also, on the other side of the mountain, actually, there was another shepherd with a, I think, also around 400…. Fuck, I don’t know exactly how many sheep. And there the wolf came. And he killed, I think, seven sheeps. And also one of his dogs was attacked. So it was really close. And also the fear that we might face an attack was also really with us. And also there was a guy who takes care of the area. 

**Amadeo ** 26:34
A ranger. 

**Sam ** 26:35
Yeah, and he came and told us, "Hey, you really have to watch out. They’re really close." So yeah. 

**Amadeo ** 26:42
But the thing is, the crazy thing for me is that, of course, this threatens, in a way, people that are used to putting their cattle, putting their sheep just in a meadow and leaving them, you know. Have a look once a week or something. Of course now with the wolves, it’s not possible because a wolf would kill many. They start to, you know, get into like…. If they can they kill 10 and then just take one, you know. They just…. If they [sheep] don’t run away and they don’t run far, you know, 100 years of, I don’t know, living with humans and being petted and so on, they don’t have–you know what I mean? They don’t have it in them anymore to really run. Because normally, if a wolf attacks a  deer, for example, the pack can’t find any deer for another week or something because they’re all alert. They’re alert as soon as there is an encounter. With the sheep, it’s not so much. So now it’s a problem, of course, but there would be solutions. You just, you need to adjust. You need to change the way it works. Yeah, you need protection. You need people to look after the sheep and so on. And for many areas, this is really hard. Because if you have an alpine pasture that is very remote, steep hills everywhere, you know, it’s so hard to really fence it off or something. It’s not possible. So I can understand it for the farmers. It’s hard. And when we talked with them about it, they were always like, "We have to kill the wolf," you know? And it’s now protected. It’s under national protection. You cannot just shoot them. Even if they kill some of your sheep, you can’t. And there was a big–in Switzerland you have more, how you say, basic democracy. So many of the laws are decided by a vote of everyone. So there was a big vote about if the protection status of the wolves should be loosened in a way. Not that you can just hunt them but loosen in a way that you can, I don’t know, shoot some if they’re attacking cattle or….

**Margaret ** 29:11
Can you shoot them if they attack you?

**Amadeo ** 29:13
No, we had no gun. I mean, they won’t attack  humans but…

**Margaret ** 29:20
I’m an American, so I’m like….Okay, so like, I think about this a lot. Okay. I’m really…the wolf thing is so interesting to me for a thousand reasons. And one is that the destruction of wolves is such a emblem of civilization. It is such an emblem of the conquest of nature, right? And you have, for example, the no wolves in Ireland thing. You know? And that the British were very into killing all the wolves in Ireland and part of that even…. Like, so you even have the Irish rebels who would be to a certain degree, would be like, "Oh, we are the wolves. Like we are the people that they’re trying to conquer," because it’s like they are the unconquered, you know, wild folk, or whatever fucking bullshit colonial thing that gets thrown at them, you know? But at the same time, it’s like…. So I’m kind of rooting for the wolves here with what you’re describing, right? I like sheep. I don’t specifically want the sheep to die. And where I live, we have coyotes, right. And we don’t really have wolves where I live, but we have coyotes. And they kill, you know, they kill livestock. And they also kill dogs, right? And I have a dog. And I very actively want my dog to not be killed by coyotes. And apparently coyotes will do this thing where they’ll befriend a dog, and be like, "yeah, totally, come hang out with us," and then kill and eat that dog, right? And so I have a neighbor who oversees about 400 acres. And he’s from France. And he carries around a handgun. And he’s so confused by this. He’s like, "I came to America and now I have to carry around a handgun." But he carries around a handgun in case he’s attacked by coyotes. Right? And it’s like, interesting to me because it’s like…. The urge to be like, "Oh, we should kill all the wolves so we can happily raise our sheep in peace," like fuck that, right? That, to me, is like the example of a negative form of peace, where you have conquered and like flattened everything. Sorry, it’s a little bit of a rant, but I’m going somewhere with it. I promise. And then, but at the same time, there’s this balance, right? Like, I’m not going to let a coyote kill my dog. Or if I was around wolves, I wouldn’t let the wolves kill me, right? I mean, whatever I…as much as I can control that, you know? The coyotes are kind of on the other side of the hill. So I don’t carry a gun around my property. But that would be a thing that I would need to consider in certain circumstances. So, it’s just really interesting to me that, like, I get why the sheep farmers are like, "Oh, we got to get rid of all these wolves." But I’m also like, "Whatever. Fuck you. Let the wolves be." But then I’m also like, it’s complicated. And I get why you have to defend the sheep. But I don’t know. Anyway, that’s where I’m going with it. I guess I wasn’t going anywhere with it after all.

**Sam ** 32:15
Yeah, no, I think it’s a really complex situation. Yeah, there is not an easy answer to like kill the wolf or…. Yeah, I’m also pro Wolf. And there needs to be a different solution. And yeah, like to see what the sheepherders really face, what kind of struggles they face with this was really interesting. And also, I think the problem is that it’s super instrumentalized [wonders if that’s the right word]…instrumentalized by right-wing people politically. 

**Margaret ** 32:55
Weaponized? [Offering a different word]

**Amadeo ** 32:58
Yeah. In a way. I mean, the thing is, it also turned in Switzerland, for example, into a city versus countryside. Because at the vote, most people from the cities would vote for the wolf for what keeps the protection. But many people in the countryside, with also more like conservative political beliefs–and the conservative parties–said, "No, no, no, we have to change that because it threatens our way of living around in the remote areas in the countryside. And so this is somehow so stupid because….

**Sam ** 33:37
Yeah, that’s also covering certain other threats, right, like climate change. They don’t talk about climate change. The only thing they speak about is the wolf and the wolves. And yeah, that’s really…. So it’s somehow a weird thing that it’s so taken over by this discourse, which is, yeah….

**Amadeo ** 33:57
Yeah, you can shoot climate change. That’s the thing. It’s easy to say, "Oh, it’s all the wolf. We have to kill the wolf. And then we get rid of this problem." But on the other hand, climate change…. [interrupted]

**Margaret ** 34:11
I can think of some ways to solve climate change with guns, but…. Anyway….

**Amadeo ** 34:16
I mean, I got so sad up there because it’s so special. I mean, this area was a natural reserve too. And it has golden eagles. It has vultures, it has marmots, it has like….

**Sam ** 34:35
A lot of marmots. Everywhere. [Laughing]

**Amadeo ** 34:38
And some protected bogs, some plants that are really like really rare, like at the brink of extinction. And I know, I stood there and I saw this, I don’t know, this beauty and I know in 50 years from now it will be gone. Probably. It’s very, very likely. Because…. I mean, some species can move…. Like, seen on a global level, they move north because it’s getting warm. But on the on fucking mountain, there is an end. There is no moving more up. Because at 4000 meters or something, it’s….stops, you know? Like there’s nothing there. And all the farmers there, for example, if you ask them, they see these changes. They witness it. They say, "Yes, it’s so much different than it was when I was a kid." And the glaciers, for example, in Switzerland–I read about it–there were since the 70s, 800 glaciers are gone. And there is still 1400 glaciers in Switzerland. And they say 2100 [year], they will be probably most of them, like 95%, will be gone. And it’s so sad. But still, if you say something like, "Climate change," even those farmers there, that witness it every fucking day, they say like, "Well, you know, I don’t know if you can call it that." It’s ridiculous. And it’s because the discourse, the political discourse, is framed by conservatives mostly. And they say, "Your problem is the wolf. We can shoot the wolf." So…. [Margaret starts talking and apologizes] No, no, it’s, I’m, I’m done with ranting.

**Margaret ** 36:40
No, this is so interesting for a thousand reasons. And one of them is that we always…. It goes back hundreds of years that leftists will be like, "Oh, the countryside are all right-wing. Fuck them." And this is not true, right? This is like…. The most interesting leftist revolutions have generally involved also the rural folks, right? I mean, like, famously, the fucking Russian Revolution was all rural people. And to be fair, Marx was…. I think he owned up to getting that wrong, because he was one of the people who started this myth that "The peasant is not the revolutionary subject, only the proletarian worker in the city is," right? "And the peasants are always reactionary." And I think he owned up to, when he looked at Russia, he was like, "Oh, I got that one wrong. Okay, cool." You know. It’s true if we let it be true, because you have this thing where…. I think it is actually a flaw that we have to be careful with in democracy–and majority rule in general–is if people in the cities make the rules for the people in the countryside, and they don’t understand the people in the countryside and they don’t understand their way of life. And so it’s like, really easy–even though I’m still on the wolf’s side–I see it as complicated. Whereas it’s like really easy to live in a city and be like, "Whatever. Fuck it," you know, because it’s not their livelihood, or dog that is being threatened, right? And so I feel like, to me, it’s this thing where we can’t cede that ground to the right-wing, you know? And I really, I think it’s cool that you all…. And that’s one reason I want to talk to you about it is that there’s like all of these…. It doesn’t have to be this inherently conservative space to be in the countryside, to be in a rural area. And then the other thing that I was thinking about with what you’re talking about, about mountains and how things retreat, is that mountains are so interesting to me because they’re always where people run to, right? And you look at…. I mean, you look at Switzerland as a country and as the history of the country is people fleeing there in order to–well, I don’t know enough about how Switzerland was formed–but in World War II, every time I’m like reading about Dutch revolutionaries, or whatever, they’re like, "Fuck!" and they all run over to Switzerland and climb up the glaciers with their bare hands, or whatever the fuck. I don’t know. I clearly know what I’m talking about. And in the United States, you have. where I live in Appalachia, that is the place that people would retreat to. That is the place where people losing wars against the conquest of the United States would go to. And it is. It’s that weird thing where you’re always free in the mountains, but there’s only so far you can run. And that’s just so heartbreaking to think about, you know? There’s only so far up the mountain that these plants can migrate. On the other hand, I have a feeling that’s what we’re all going to be living. We’re all gonna be in Antarctica. Antarctica bloomed this year, I think. I think we’re being on Antarctica and on the mountains. So… 

**Sam ** 39:39
Yeah, but it’s interesting how it’s idolized and romanticized. I mean, we had like…and how extreme, actually, the weather really changes. I really didn’t know. I had never lived for three months so high up. And yeah, but also, they’re so romanticized. There’s this huge hype around survivalist shows, at the moment on TV, which is also really interesting and comes with this. And on the opposite for me the…Yeah, the question was how does being there in the Alps, what does this really change with me and what does it do to experience this? And yeah…. 

**Amadeo ** 40:20
Yeah, what does it do? 

**Margaret ** 40:23
We’re asking.  

**Sam ** 40:23
It’s still settling in. And it’s about reconnecting and really realizing what it takes to do this work. And I have a lot of respect…. Also, to be in a very patriarchal space where the shepherds were only older men. Yeah, they have their ways of acting. They have their ways of being. And for me, this was really difficult. Yeah. And still, somehow to not say, "Hey, I won’t enter this space," but to go there and…. Yeah, also see what community they have, you know. Yeah, to also go beyond this, I think, that they have their tradition and they have to face this, but yeah, it was also…. [Interrupted]

**Amadeo ** 41:11
Maybe you can maybe explain a little bit this, I don’t know, this group of people we worked for, because it was actually pretty interesting because it’s a conservative area, but they were very working class and very, very nice to us. I think. They treated us really respectfully. And I know, in my other place where I worked as a shepherd, it wasn’t like that. I was treated, actually, a little bad. And that’s…I don’t know.

**Sam ** 41:45
Yeah. And to see how they are with the animals. I mean, for them, that’s…they are their life. And it’s this encounter. 

**Amadeo ** 41:50
They love them.

**Sam ** 41:51
And for us, to get to know every sheep personally, it’s really interesting what connection you get. You watch them all the time. You learn, hey, they are totally different. They have totally different characters. 

**Margaret ** 42:09
Yeah. Okay, my question to you is how do you, when you’re working with people who are seeing this climate change happen, how do you–but but can’t acknowledge it–do you have any insight or thoughts about how to connect with people about that, about how to talk to people, you know, who want to focus on the wolf instead of the bigger wolf, the climate wolf? What’s the name of that wolf that’s gonna eat the sun and Germanic paganism? Wow, how do I not remember that.  Anyway, whatever, at the start of Ragnarok. Someone’s gonna get really mad at me for not knowing this. Fenrir!

**Amadeo ** 42:51
I think we had some very good discussions at times. Right? With the guys…. Sorry? [Margaret interrupting]

**Margaret ** 43:01
No, no, no, I was just…I remembered the name of the wolf that eats the sun and starts Ragnarok. It’s Fenrir. Anyway, or Fenris? Oh, God, no people gonna get mad at me. Anyway, please continue. Tell you something. 

**Amadeo ** 43:13
I think also, even though some of them were a little bit panicky about wolves, and so on, I think the system with the night pens and with having shepherds like us, since a few years, to look after the sheep, day and night, basically, it works pretty well. I mean, they told us they have one to five, maybe, sheep per year that are getting killed by the wolf. But that’s okay. I mean, they’re realistic about it, right? And when we talked about climate change, of course, it was–I mean, for me, it’s not much different–I mean, they acknowledged that things are changing. They didn’t use the, I don’t know, scientific vocabulary or whatever. And they acknowledged in a way–or some of them at least–that there are new problems that we have to face. For example, it’s too dry, and so on. Water issues.  Dying out of certain plants, animals in certain areas, and so on. They all see this. More avalanches in the winter. All of this. But, I mean, they were a little helpless. And I mean, we are also often a little helpless, because it’s getting individualized. How should you react? Not drive a car? Great. I mean, we have to, you know, rise up and change all of the economy, you know, and this is hard to do.

**Sam ** 44:53
But I guess, I mean, I also came there with my artistic background and as an artist and I also was filming a lot–more some of the sheeps but also us–and I think for me to show as someone coming there with a city background, but also with our backgrounds as biologists and artists, and showing how this encounter happens maybe from us as city people with also another perspective in encountering this world. I think I find this really interesting. Also showing some part of this being not exactly in this. I think that’s an interesting perspective, also, for other people to see. And yeah, I’m probably cutting a bit of a movie out of this. And I think it can…. Yeah, it’s good to go to this place and to show our perspective. 

**Amadeo ** 45:53
I mean, I’m so grateful for what these people taught us, right, and that we were accepted and we did this job. And I think we did a good job. But also they trust us, right?

**Sam ** 46:06
And what the sheep teach us. 

**Amadeo ** 46:08
Yeah, the human and non-human individuals that trusted us. And it was, I think…. I’m very, very grateful. But on the other hand, also, for them, I think it was kind of interesting to have unorthodox people there, people who didn’t grow up around the corner with animals, and sheep, and so on. Because for them, they all grew up with this. They inherited this from their parents and grandparents. And we came…. Actually it was a meeting of different worlds, right? We came…. 

**Sam ** 46:45
And I want to show this, also, this discrepancy that there is some dialog or some encounter that needs to happen. And I mean, many people are so disconnected to this world and don’t know. They have lived in Switzerland all their life and they don’t have so much connection to this work. Yeah. And it’s cool to…. 

**Amadeo ** 47:05
I think, yeah, it was really…like we came from 1000 kilometers away. But even what made more of a difference was that we live in a city of 2 million people and they live in tiny mountain villages. But we came. We had a good time together, right? They were like helping us. We were helping them. It worked out. And I mean a lot of prejudicism, I had also, as a young radical from the city, dogmatic, and so on, about people back in the days. I mean, it changed over the years, but more and more when I encountered these, I don’t know, social places, I have to say, yeah, they were very social with us and very helpful and very, I don’t know, cool. Very cool also. Even though they have like strange habits like drinking coffee that isn’t coffee but…. [Laughing]

**Margaret ** 48:04
Wait, what do they drink that isn’t coffee?

**Amadeo ** 48:07
It’s called Lupinion. It’s made out of Lupin, I think. I don’t know the English word, like some grain. And it has no caffeine at all. And they always say, "Let’s have a coffee and then they drink this."

**Sam ** 48:21
But with a lot of schnapps. 

**Margaret ** 48:24
I don’t drink caffeine. So I’m like, I want to drink that shit. That sounds great.

**Sam ** 48:28
That would be the place for you to go. 

**Amadeo ** 48:32
They put Apple booze inside like apple schnapps instead. 

**Margaret ** 48:38
Okay, well, are there any last things that we didn’t cover that you wish we had? Or things that you’re really excited to say about sheep and climate change? Oh, does it make you want sheep? That’s my…that was like the question. Like, are y’all gonna get sheep? Do you have a yard? I don’t know where you live.

**Amadeo ** 49:00
We live in the city. But we are planning to move in the coming years. And actually, I would love to have some sheep. 

**Sam ** 49:10
Maybe not 400.

**Amadeo ** 49:16
Some 20 or something? 15.

**Sam ** 49:18
Or we will continue doing this work. It’s cool to also work with them and then for a long time be with them. I guess we’re…. And then also say, "Hey, gratz [congratulations], that was the summer." . And give them back.

**Amadeo ** 49:35
Yeah, like sometimes it’s nice to play with kids but having your own kids it’s kind of a different cup of tea.

**Sam ** 49:42
Like co-parenting. [Laughing]

**Amadeo ** 49:45
Maybe some sheep co-parenting? Yeah. Right.

**Margaret ** 49:51
Alright, well, is there anything that you want to plug, that you want to direct people towards, either your work or something else that’s going on that you want to draw attention to. 

**Amadeo ** 50:01
I wanted to say, because I always said while I was there, that it needs more people to help the little farmers deal with the wolves, because if we don’t help them then they will always tend to the parties that say, "Oh, let’s just get rid of the wolves." And I found out that there are some NGOs to do that, that come from an environmental side. There’s one group called Au Pair. I think they’re in the French speaking part of the country, mostly. And they actually sent volunteers to alpine pastures where there are wolves nearby, to help, to guard, and also monitor the wolf activities. So it’s for research and also to help the farmers. And if I can’t go next year to work as a shepherd, I will volunteer there. And I think it’s a great, great thing and somehow a solution for how ordinary people can get in touch with the small farmers and help with maintaining the alpine pastures that are also so important for biodiversity. Yeah. And to help save the wolf from people.

**Margaret ** 51:22
Yeah. No, that’s so good. Because instead of just abandoning people to being like, "Whatever, the wolf is good and you suck," just being like, "Hey, what will it actually take? Like what resources do you actually need in order to be able to continue to do your work in a world full of wolves?" That’s cool.

**Amadeo ** 51:40
Yeah, I think it needs a lot of growing together, the countryside and the cities, in understanding and talking and like supporting each other.

**Sam ** 51:51
Hey, thanks for having us, Margaret. 

**Margaret ** 51:54
Yeah, thanks so much. And good luck next year with the sheep season. And I’ll talk to y’all at some point soon I hope. Thanks so much for listening. If you enjoyed this episode, go try to convince sheep and wolves to be friends. No, that’s not going to work. Hang out with sheep and then separately hang out with wolves. Actually, you probably just shouldn’t even hang out with the wolves. You should probably leave them alone. That’s pretty much what we want. But that’s what you can do. You can also support this podcast. You can support this podcast happening by helping us pay our transcribers and our audio editors. I say this is if there’s a plural of each, but there’s actually one of each. And thanks to those editors. And thanks to everyone who helps us do that. And the way we do that is through Patreon. This podcast is published by Strangers in a Tangled Wilderness. We have several other podcasts, including one called Strangers in a Tangled Wilderness, as well as one called Anarcho Geek Power Hour. And if you support us on Patreon, we’ll send you a monthly feature that we put out. We’ll send it anywhere in the world. And if you pay us $20 a month, I’ll read your name out right now. In particular, I’d like to thank Eric, Perceval, Buck, Julia, Catgut, Marm, Carson, Lord Harken, Trixter, Princess Miranda, BenBen, Anonymous, Funder, Janice & O’dell, Aly, paparouna, Milaca, Boise Mutual Aid, theo, Hunter, S.J., Paige, Nicole, David, Dana Chelsea, Staro, Jenipher, Kirk, Chris, Machaiah, and of course, Hoss the Dog. I hope everyone is doing as well as you can and don’t let the people divide us along cultural lines because we just shouldn’t let that happen. Talk to you all soon.

S1E94 – This Month in the Apocalypse: October, 2023

Episode Summary

This time on This Month in the Apocalypse, Brooke and Inmn talk about revenge, strikes, bad decisions about water, the economy, interesting victories around water, and funny things about tanks.

Host Info

Brooke can be found on Twitter or Mastodon @ogemakweBrooke. Inmn can be found on Instagram @shadowtail.artificery.

Publisher Info

This show is published by Strangers in A Tangled Wilderness. We can be found at www.tangledwilderness.org, or on Twitter @TangledWild and Instagram @Tangled_Wilderness. You can support the show on Patreon at www.patreon.com/strangersinatangledwilderness.

Transcript

Live Like the World is Dying: This Month in the Apocalypse: October

**Brooke ** 00:14
Hello and welcome to Live Like the World is Dying, your podcast for what feels like the end times. This is your monthly installment of This Month in the Apocalypse, where we talk about the shitty news from around the world.

**Inmn ** 00:28
But also some cool stuff. and some funny stuff.

**Brooke ** 00:32
And some funny stuff. I am one of your hosts today, Brooke, and with me is….

**Inmn ** 00:40
I’m Inmn and my brain is in a horrifying state today, which only comes from researching heavily about, unfortunately, mostly bad things that happened but also some cool things that happened in the last month.

**Brooke ** 00:58
Alright, let’s talk about those. But first, let’s give a shout out to one of the other podcasts on the Channel Zero Network of anarchist podcasts to which we also belong. But here’s some words from some of our friends. Doot doot doo duh doo doo dooo. [Singing the sounds like a simple melody]

**Brooke ** 01:54
And we’re back. Welcome back. So many fun things to talk about. I’m sorry you’ve also had to spend the morning reviewing all sorts of terrible events in the world.

**Inmn ** 02:30
You know, I ran into a friend last night and they made a joke, they were like, "Oh, what have you been up to?" And I was like, "Oh, I dunno, mostly just work, you know, doing podcasts and things." And they’re like, "Oh, yeah, you’ve you’ve really like professionalized doom scrolling. [Both laughing]

**Brooke ** 02:54
Yeah, that sounds about right. Sounds about right.

**Inmn ** 02:59
Yeah, I don’t know if I felt good about that or not, but….

**Brooke ** 03:04
It’s complicated, right? Like, I don’t want that to be my job. But also, I guess it’s nice that somebody does it.

**Inmn ** 03:11
Yeah. And I just want to shout out for like a lot of people who have sent us messages fairly recently about enjoying these segments, which I think we were on the fence about them for a little while, I think, about whether we liked them or whether they felt useful or whether they just like inspired dread and despair and a lot of…. Thanks everyone who’s reached out to be like, "No, no, I really like these segments, and they do the opposite of despair." So thank you, everyone.

**Brooke ** 03:46
Yeah, I’ve got something that’s the opposite of despair.

**Inmn ** 03:49
Oh, really? What is the opposite of despair?

**Brooke ** 03:53
Revenge travel.

**Inmn ** 03:55
Oh?

**Brooke ** 03:56
Do you know what this is?

**Inmn ** 03:58
No, I have no idea what you’re…

**Brooke ** 04:00
Okay. So if I say the phrase to you, revenge travel, what do you assume? Like what would you guess that I’m talking about?

**Inmn ** 04:08
Um, I think what my assumption is–I feel like it is related to remote work. Is it related to remote work?

**Brooke ** 04:18
No, it’s not.

**Inmn ** 04:20
Okay. I have no idea what it is then.

**Brooke ** 04:23
Okay. I saw it in the headline. And then of course, it was wonderful clickbait and I had to click on it. And I assumed it meant traveling to get revenge on somebody. Either like taking a trip to spite them or like, going somewhere to exact revenge. I don’t know. Like, I’ve never heard this phrase before. But apparently, it’s travel that people have done since covid because they weren’t able to travel during the worst of the pandemic.

**Inmn ** 04:23
Okay, I see.

**Brooke ** 04:27
I know, it’s way less exciting. And like the article that I read about it mentioned revenge travel multiple times but it never specifically explains it. I had to like glean that from the rest of the text of the article. So it’s not the fun thing that you think it is but maybe we should make it a fun thing. Revenge travel.

**Inmn ** 05:15
Oh, okay, so now that you say that, the thing that it reminds me of is–which I’m totally guilty of–have you heard of bedtime revenge procrastination? I think that’s what it’s called.

**Brooke ** 05:31
I can guess what you mean, but I have not heard of it.

**Inmn ** 05:36
Bedtime revenge procrastination is when you stay up late even though you have to wake up very early because…. It’s due to a sense of lack of control over the autonomy of your time. It’s called bedtime revenge, meaning that you’re revenging yourself upon time, but the cost is still your time and energy because, you know, you get less sleep.

**Brooke ** 06:08
I psychologically understand that, you know, resting control thing, but at the same time I’m a person who really needs my full night of sleep consistently or else I quickly deteriorate and also become a horrible human being so I also can’t imagine doing that to myself. Because that sounds awful.

**Inmn ** 06:27
Yeah, I did it to myself for like the entirety of high school because I had an absolutely unreasonable schedule. Like, I got on average five to four hours of sleep a night for like the entirety of highschool.

**Brooke ** 06:46
Wow, I feel bad for young Inmn.

**Inmn ** 06:49
Me too.

**Brooke ** 06:50
Sorry, you did that to yourself. Okay, well let me finish saying this about revenge travel. It’s nothing major, mostly the headline’s hilarious and the phrase. But there was a huge boom in travel and 2022 as covid restrictions eased and people were able to travel again. So, they were taking their, I guess, revenge against covid, maybe, is what they were taking revenge on? Or just revenge on not being able to travel. Anyway. And that continued to get into 2023. But the boom seems to have slowed and we’re kind of back to more normal pre pandemic levels, especially places that do surveys of consumer demand to figure out, you know, people’s intentions to travel and their plans for it. And people are sort of back to normal, i.e. pre pandemic levels of intention to travel, so.

**Inmn ** 07:39
Okay, golly, can I do a little mini rant about that? I’m replacing Margaret’s rants today.

**Brooke ** 07:50
Okay, good. What would this episode be without a rant or two?

**Inmn ** 07:57
It’s just like the…. I don’t know, like I remember after, you know, like the summer in the northern hemisphere after mass vaccination occurred and people feeling like they could move around, travel, and do a lot more in what felt like a safer way to do that. And I don’t think–this isn’t targeted revenge travel as much as it’s targeted at a lot of people’s mentalities throughout COVID were like being upset at like things the government or being upset at like society for making them like be cooped up in their houses or whatever, or making them have these like lower modes of travel. And it felt really weird to hear it from a lot of people, like people who were like, really angry about it. And it’s like, I get it, it was hard, and it sucked for a lot of people but like, I don’t know…. I remember when lock down started that I was like–you know, I’m never thrilled for a government imposed lockdown–but what I was thrilled for, I was like, people just have the chance to like–or, you know, some people–just have the chance to chill a little bit and have some space from their lives. But like, I’m not upset that we were doing the right thing by slowing down. You know?

**Brooke ** 09:39
I feel like in that first couple of weeks too, you know, there was at least a couple of weeks that pretty much everyone stopped doing everything and we all got to slow down for a minute. And there was something special in that time before all of the, you know, rage and conflict and conspiracies and everything blew up. But there was a brief moment, I think, for pretty much everyone. Maybe a little bit horrible but also special.

**Inmn ** 10:00
Yeah. And, you know, obviously it’s way more complicated than that, but I’m like, I’m never upset that like, yeah, it was a hard year and a half and it continues to be really hard for so many people and I’m thrilled to have been doing the right thing.

**Brooke ** 10:25
Yeah, for sure. No, I hear you.

**Inmn ** 10:28
Anyways, you know, who doesn’t do the right thing?

**Brooke ** 10:32
Oh, boy. Do you want a list? Should I? Or should I just do a whole rant here on? Maybe you should just tell me. There’s too many options.

**Inmn ** 10:43
Okay, so, hypothetical situation, you’re faced with a problem. So here in Arizona,

**Brooke ** 10:51
Who you gonna call?

**Inmn ** 10:55
Here in Arizona, there are weirdly not that many regulations around groundwater usage and stuff.

**Brooke ** 11:04
That’s wild to me.

**Inmn ** 11:05
It really is wild. But, if you lived in a town that had halted new construction, new development, but you really wanted to build a mega city, what would you do?

**Brooke ** 11:24
Oh god, I’m a billionaire, aren’t I? Aren’t I? I’m a billionaire in this scenario.

**Inmn ** 11:30
In this scenario, no, you are actually not a billionaire. Although, there’s a weirdly similar thing happening with a billionaire.

**Brooke ** 11:39
Okay, well, then I would do the right thing if I’m not corrupted by having way too much money.

**Inmn ** 11:45
Okay, would you but would you consider building a 1000 mile pipeline to the Missouri River?

**Brooke ** 11:53
Oh, fuck. No, because? No, no. [Laughing]

**Inmn ** 12:00
Or would you…

**Brooke ** 12:01
Water is sacred. It should not be forced to travel like that. That’s wrong.

**Inmn ** 12:08
Okay, so your other alternative is to build a 200 mile pipeline?

**Brooke ** 12:13
Nope.

**Inmn ** 12:14
To the Gulf of California.

**Brooke ** 12:16
Nope. It’s also not…. The water’s not supposed to travel that far. We go to the water. The water is not supposed to be made to come to us. That’s how it works.

**Inmn ** 12:28
I’m waiting for a Qanon person to comment, What about rivers?" [An uncomfortable silence]…. Anyways, so the town is…

**Brooke ** 12:31
I’m just going to sigh in anger and sadness for a while. I’m gonna mute myself and just sigh for an hour while you explain. [Audibly sighs]

**Inmn ** 12:50
Okay, so this is where normally a rant about the city of Phoenix would occur. But this is a rant about a city that is literally adjacent to Phoenix, which some would argue is actually a part of Phoenix, but is really hell bent on not being a part of Phoenix because they want to be their own mega city. And this is the city of Buckeye, Arizona. And Buckeye, it’s basically a suburb of Phoenix and they hope…. Their population’s like, I think it’s like 170,000 right now. And they aspire to grow the population to over 1.5 million, which is about what the population of Phoenix is.

**Brooke ** 13:43
I was gonna say, that’s a lot of people.

**Inmn ** 13:47
Yeah. Yeah. And it seems to be just because the local politicians and city council, or whatever, want to be like big deals. Like they just want…

**Brooke ** 14:01
I’m sorry, if your city is called Buckeye, I think there’s not hope for you. You need to start by rebranding the name of your city if you want just a chance in hell. But Buckeye, Arizona, I think is never going to be No, just the name, just that’s it. It falls flat on its face on the name.

**Inmn ** 14:20
Yeah, but they, for some reason, want to grow their city. I think it seems to be wrapped up in like those local politicians wanting to be big deals.

**Brooke ** 14:29
Capitalism and ego.

**Inmn ** 14:31
Yeah, but they can’t. They’re…. So the state has kind of halted construction, like new construction, or new development, in those areas because the groundwater use has hit a limit. And this comes after some developments in Phoenix were halted because of a lack of water security. So, there’s very little regulation about groundwater in Arizona, but there is this thing where water has to be guaranteed for 100 years in order to build a new house, for example. So like if a new housing development is going up then water has to be guaranteed to be at that house for 100 years.

**Brooke ** 15:17
That sounds great, but I have a lot of follow up questions for Phoenix and Arizona and how that actually maths out. But do go on.

**Inmn ** 15:24
Yeah, yeah. I mean, how it maths out is that, you know, Phoenix heavily relies on the Colorado River for water usage. And the city of Phoenix–which to put in proportion to what the city of Buckeye is aspiring to do–is the city of Phoenix uses about 2 billion gallons of water a day. Like a new fun thing–because the more that we talk about water on the show, the more I’m like trying to visualize what water looks like–what do you think 2 billion gallons of water looks like?

**Brooke ** 15:25
I’m trying to imagine some body of water that I am familiar with in order to conceptualize that and I’m wondering how big Crater Lake is because that’s maybe…. Wait, wait, well, wait while I inefficiently Google things. Okay, that’s way too much water. Okay. Tell me. I can’t.

**Inmn ** 16:37
It is one inch on Lake Mead. One inch of water is 2 billion gallons of water.

**Brooke ** 16:43
Okay, I don’t have a good reference for how big Lake Mead is but I hear you.

**Inmn ** 16:47
Yeah, you know, that lake that everyone references when we’re talking about water scarcity in the West is the constant depletion of Lake Mead. It’s weird how that has become the gauge, it’s like our gauge for fear and disparity is what the water levels in Lake Mead are. But do you want to know a fun thing about Lake Mead?

**Brooke ** 17:13
I do.

**Inmn ** 17:14
Um, Lake Mead, the water has…. There was like this crazy low point in 2022. And this is actually a fun thing, but the lake has risen 23 feet since that low point in 2022.

**Brooke ** 17:29
I mean that’s normal, right, because of the season that we’re in?

**Inmn ** 17:33
Yeah, yeah. And after like, you know, a recent pretty dry spell this summer, in August, due to record snowfall, I guess the previous winter, the lake rose 13 inches in seven days. Which, is like, you know, 27 billion gallons of water sounds like a lot.

**Brooke ** 17:58
Yeah, that sounds a lot. Like a lot, a lot.

**Inmn ** 18:03
But to like put that…. 27 billion.

**Brooke ** 18:07
Like a foot and stuff? No, two billion is one inch? Is that right?

**Inmn ** 18:13
Yeah, two billion’s one inch.

**Brooke ** 18:14
And 13 inches, a foot. A footish?

**Inmn ** 18:17
Yeah, right. A footish. Which is only like seven days of water for the city of Phoenix.

**Brooke ** 18:24
[Laughing] Okay, I’m like a foot of water in the lake is a lot. And then yeah, you say…. Just kidding! Do go on.

**Inmn ** 18:38
No, yeah. Sorry. The city of Buckeye story is jumping all over the place. But in one of the more weird moves that they’re considering is they want to build a pipeline from Puerto Penasco in Mexico to Phoenix, which it’s about a 200 mile pipeline that would be built. And it would go right through the Organ Pipe National Cactus Monument.

**Brooke ** 19:12
No big deal. National monuments, no big deal.

**Inmn ** 19:20
But this is being heavily pushed for not just by the city of Buckeye but by a contractor company called IDE, which is an Israeli company, who thinks it’s a really great idea to build this 200 mile pipeline between Puerto Penasco and the city of Buckeye. And it’s part of this like growing, seemingly growing, trend of instead of like, instead of dealing with water resources on a, you know, a local level, or any kind of resource, on a local level, we’re in this age of industrialization of like, "Well, they have this other resource 1000 miles away or whatever, what if we move to that resource so that we can sustain this absolutely unreasonable population growth in…." And not like a natural population growth. Like the city of Buckeye is like, "We want to grow the population." This is not what the city’s naturally doing, you know?

**Brooke ** 20:29
So they’re bringing in water to support and…. You know, sorry, I want to go off on a whole side tangent because I have many questions about Buckeye, but I’m going to stop and we can talk about it another time. Sorry, I’m just so curious.

**Inmn ** 20:44
But yeah, so some of the bigger problems with the pipeline are that it would…. They don’t have a plan for dealing with…the desalination plants, they don’t have a plan for dealing with the salty material that they remove from the water, except to dump it back into the Gulf of California.

**Brooke ** 21:09
Oh, my God.

**Inmn ** 21:11
You know, people in Mexico are not stoked about this because it will destroy ecological centers in the Gulf of California. Oh, okay. I remember the other bit. So IDE, the Israeli company that’s building…who wants to build the pipeline, they also build desalination plants in Gaza.

**Brooke ** 21:32
And that’s where the money is.

**Inmn ** 21:38
And yeah, it’s just…it’s a very strange idea. They want to put it through the Organ Pipe National Monument, which, like, there’s a lot of pushback because that’s a national monument. It’s this federally protected wildlife area. And there’s a lot of pushback from an environmental perspective. Do you know what else is in the Organ Pipe National Monument?

**Brooke ** 22:05
Besides the cacti?

**Inmn ** 22:07
Yeah.

**Brooke ** 22:08
Let’s see. Are there birds? Flowers?

**Inmn ** 22:10
What is a great thing to have near a federally protected wildlife area?

**Brooke ** 22:18
Oh, wildlife that needs special protection?

**Inmn ** 22:22
A bombing range.

**Brooke ** 22:23
Oh, shit! I see. You were being sarcastic. Here, silly me. I was trying to guess the real answer.

**Inmn ** 22:35
Yeah, It is a bombing range.

**Brooke ** 22:38
Of course. Of course it is. Yes. That’s what Arizona’s for is blowing shit up.

**Inmn ** 22:44
Yeah, blowing shit up. And….

**Brooke ** 22:49
I just saw Oppenheimer, sorry.

**Inmn ** 22:51
Okay. It only gets worse because the other thing that goes on in the Organ National Monument is that it’s like a heavily trafficked corridor for migration between the US and Mexico for, you know, for animals and for people. And it is also one of the most deadly corridors along the US Mexico border for undocumented migrants coming from Mexico, South America, Central America, like up through Mexico and the US Mexico border. And so it represents this strange thing where the government, or people, or like whoever, they have large problems with things like a pipeline going through somewhere, but they have–and Organ Pipe National Monument as like an agency–has no problem with ramping border militarization or a bombing range that’s like right next door. So.

**Brooke ** 24:00
Man, I will never make sense of people’s priorities.

**Inmn ** 24:05
Anyways, that is a very long rant on city of Buckeye,

**Brooke ** 24:10
That’s more attention than Buckeye deserves, ever. But here we are.

**Inmn ** 24:17
What else is happening in the southwest? There’s some stuff that happened in Vegas.

**Brooke ** 24:23
That’s right. There’s some looming…there’s a looming strike in the hospitality industry in Vegas. I don’t know how well known this is amongst people but Vegas has a very strong union for various hospitality workers. It might be multiple unions. Forgive me for not knowing exactly. But your housekeeping workers, your bartenders, your food servers, all of those service industries that are so central to the hospitality industry, which is central to the economy of Vegas, and a lot of Nevada, have very strong unions there that do a great job representing them and getting them fair wages and those kinds of things. So one of the major contracts expired in June of this year, 2023, so negotiations for new contracts started back in April. They did not reach an agreement in June. So they extended the contract deadline to September and that has now expired, and they are still negotiating. But the union has voted to authorize a strike if necessary. The union is asking for higher wages, more safety protections, and stronger recall rights, meaning rights to return to their work. So on the issue of safety for the union’s, abuse of hospitality workers is on the rise in the US and particularly in Vegas. And I like to think that all of our listeners are the kind of folks who have had a service industry job at some point in their lives and would never ever throw something at a housekeeper.

**Inmn ** 26:10
Oh, God.

**Brooke ** 26:11
But, you know, just in case it needs to be said, If your room is really dirty and you’re upset about it, don’t throw things at the housekeeper who’s just trying to clean. It’s not…it’s not a great way to go.

**Inmn ** 26:23
Yeah, don’t do that.

**Brooke ** 26:27
Yeah, there’s increasing reports of housekeepers getting yelled at, having things thrown at them, being threatened with abuse. Because there are–it’s a complicated thing–so this also ties into the recall rights that they’re asking for. Hotel workers, hospitality workers, saw significant decline in the number of people doing those jobs during the pandemic, partly because there was significantly less travel and then also restrictions on how many people you could book on a floor or in a hotel, or etc, etc, etc. So, hotels, you know, laid off a lot of their workers. And then, like many other places, have had a hard time rehiring. So they’re not back up to the staffing levels that they used to be. So there’s fewer people spread around, you know, a wider workload. And then part of that, the reason for the lack of rehiring, was because they didn’t have recall rights. So, there was no reason for people to assume that they would be able to go back to their jobs or get their jobs back. So they, you know, left…stayed or left the industry or what have you. So, there’s fewer workers to do the work, especially cleaning work. And then also, consumers are demanding less frequent cleanings for the most part in their hotel rooms. I don’t know about you, when you travel, or the last time you went to a hotel, I am the kind of person that does not want housekeeping at all during my stay, whether it’s one day or five days. I put out my Do Not Disturb sign. And I guess that’s true of about 40% of hotel guests, they choose not to have housekeeping. The downside of that is that when housekeeping does come in after someone’s left, the rooms are usually messier than they would be if they had a daily cleaning so housekeeping asked to do a deeper clean and they don’t necessarily have–because they’re short staffed, and it’s a deeper play than they would plan for–they don’t have the time to really turn over the room as thoroughly as they should. That difficult contrast between trying to get all the rooms at least a little bit versus doing a few rooms and doing them well and then not having some rooms. Yeah. So that’s the other thing, if you’re a person like me out there in the world and and you’re staying at a hotel and you don’t like to have housekeeping, do try and do them the kindness of whatever bits of cleanup you can on the way out so it’s faster for them to turn over the room. Anyway, so they are continuing negotiations, but the union has…the union workers have authorized a strike or intermittent work stoppages if needed, and, you know, we fully support them doing that if that’s what they need to do. Yeah, yeah, they would not be the only ones that have done that even in the last year or even super recently. Kaiser Permanente, you may have heard about this, had a three day walkout at all of their locations, appointments canceled. That kind of thing. So the Kaiser Permanente Health care workers went on strike and they’ve reached a tentative deal. And also somewhat recently, but a little bit longer ago, was the Writer’s Union in Hollywood went on strike. And they were on strike for quite a bit. But they are back to work, having gotten a lot of what they wanted. The United Auto Workers Union is in negotiations for contracts with the major….sorry, with the major car manufacturers in the US. They have had some work stoppages throughout the negotiation process and may have a full stoppage or full strike at some point as well. So, yeah, lots of worker strikes going on, or have gone on and have been successful, in recent times and we support those workers, not only in their right to strike, but also in treating them well when we are traveling. And encouraging others to do the same.

**Inmn ** 31:03
This kind of relates to my mini rant earlier about, like, you know, things shutting down or being less available, which is like, one of the really cool things that I saw out of the Writers’ Guild strike was people whose like, you know,–whether it was talk show hosts, or like, whoever, who were like, during the strike, and then like, after the strike, are like, "Yeah, it was hard to not do the show for however long, but like, what is far worse and much harder, is that these very simple demands were not met before the strike or on day one of the strike." And like, I don’t know, just like…it’s like shifting this mentality from like, I’m sad that the new season of Stranger Things is on hiatus with that these strikes are very important and these people’s lives matter and them getting the things that make them able to continue doing their work and surviving is like, incredibly important. And that’s more important than my desire to see a fucking TV show, you know?

**Brooke ** 32:24
Yeah, and it was really great to see, you know, a lot of actors and so forth, who weren’t necessarily striking but were standing in support of, you know, their fellow Hollywood workers going on strike and getting their demands met. It was really cool.

**Inmn ** 32:41
Yeah. Is there some other stuff that got shut down recently?

**Brooke ** 32:46
No, the government talked about it, like they do.

**Inmn ** 32:51
They always talk about it.

**Brooke ** 32:54
Yeah, and we talked about this last month, and we said, hey, if it happens, we will follow up and talk more. At the last minute a continuing resolution was passed right before the deadline of when the government would have shut down. And I’m being overdramatic, because it’s fucking every single time, basically, with very few exceptions. The downside of the continuing resolution form of passing a budget is that it’s basically like buying them another 30 days, or however long the continuing resolution was for. So they still haven’t passed a budget. They’ve just agreed to continue operating based on the old budget for a limited period of time. And I think their next deadline, I want to say, is mid November or so. The whole situation is complicated a little bit by the fact that they outed…the Republicans outed their speaker of the house. They don’t have one. But they did pass this continuing resolution without having a speaker. So it is possible, it’s just that they’re dealing with the other chaos of trying to elect a new speaker and they have, at least, their fourth person that they put up for a vote, is up for vote. So they’re focusing on that a lot rather than dealing with the budget issues they need to deal with. So I still, you know, I continue to say the same thing that I have said about this, which is that the government shutdown is very unlikely. If it does, it’s likely very short. And even if it is very short, it probably won’t affect very much because they have plans and programs set up to automate a lot of their stuff for at least a short period of time. It’s only a major problem if there’s a longer term shutdown like we saw back in 2019, which is very unlikely. And if it happens, we’ll talk about it.

**Inmn ** 34:48
Yay, talking about stuff.

**Brooke ** 34:52
So that’s about them not shutting down. I hear you have some good news, though, that we can talk about.

**Inmn ** 35:00
I do have some good news. But I kind of have like a question about the economy for you while we’re like on the subject,

**Brooke ** 35:11
Give it to me, baby, you know I love talking about economics.

**Inmn ** 35:14
I read this article this week about this growing trend, which is not surprising to me because it’s like seeing…because it’s something that a lot of us are just seeing in the world, but–or experiencing ourselves, depending on where you live. But there seems to be this big growing trend in large cities, especially like, you know, the Bay area where there’s been a huge, huge housing crisis for a very long time, which is driven by the tech industry being horrifying. Um, but I read this article recently talking about this thing where it has reached such a crisis that cities like Santa Barbara, and like some cities in Oregon, have opened up parking lots that are there for people who live in their cars. And it’s catering to like a very specific like demographic of people, which is like people who make too much money to apply for government assistance, like housing assistance, food assistance, anything like that, or even Medicaid or Medicare–I always forget which is which–but they do not make enough money to afford rent. And it’s this growing thing in the economy where like, like…. And these are people who make like $72,000 a year at government or state jobs who can no longer afford to live somewhere. And so they have to live in their car. And that is, yeah…. That’s less of a question and more of a what’s going on? What’s going on?

**Brooke ** 37:20
Yeah, that level of problem where someone is making that much and still can’t afford is definitely more specific to larger cities and places where housing costs are significantly higher. And housing is expensive everywhere right now. It’s out of control. But you do have some places like the Bay Area, LA, parts of Seattle, where it is just ridiculously inflated. So yeah, making $70,000 a year is definitely way too much money to be getting any kind of assistance. You’re well above the poverty line, even in your allegedly high income area, but it’s nowhere near enough to afford a housing payment for how much houses cost right now. And I think there’s always been some amount of people that live in that strange margin place of above the poverty line, can get little or no assistance but below what it takes to afford where they’re living. That’s not an entirely new phenomenon. But it’s definitely much larger than it used to be. You know, because we’ve seen this astronomical increase in the house of pricing…in the price of housing. And inflation, overall, has increased the price of a lot of other things as well making it harder to afford all aspects of life and living.

**Inmn ** 38:47
Yeah, and, you know, it’s like this…. It’s the thing where it’s horrible to me that it’s something that people are paying attention to now that it’s something that is affecting middle class people. Where it’s like this, you know, this has been a lot of people’s like realities for, you know, decades and decades, is living in this nebulous zone of like, for whatever reasons, not qualifying for government assistance or for qualifying for government assistance but that assistance not being enough to actually change anyone’s life or get them housing or things like that. And that’s more what interested me about the article, was like less than that this is like a newer growing thing and more that it’s something that is starting to shift up the wage scales and stuff, from something that has always affected lower income people and is now starting to affect people who like would have not considered themselves low income before.

**Brooke ** 40:01
Yeah, the poverty line, what the government defines as being, you know, what they call the poverty line and then they use that to measure, you know, how far above or below it you are and then different services say you qualify based on your income relative to that position, that poverty line does not change rapidly. The government does not make big changes to that. They make very small changes to that. But meanwhile, we’ve seen in the last few years very rapid changes to the cost of living. And it costs so much more for so many basic things right now but that has not been accurately reflected in a higher poverty line, particularly with houses.

**Inmn ** 40:42
And wages. But yeah, I don’t know. I feel like my hope for articles like this are more hoping that it like increases the amount of empathy and compassion that like more people have for other houseless populations. Which it sucks that it takes…. It sucks that that’s what it takes for people to have empathy, but we live in a hell world.

**Brooke ** 41:18
Yeah, we do.

**Inmn ** 41:19
But you know, sometimes in this hell world that we live in, cool things can happen too.

**Brooke ** 41:27
Are there wins sometimes?

**Inmn ** 41:28
There are wins sometimes.

**Brooke ** 41:31
Like union workers winning and also…other things winning. What are they? Give me hope.

**Inmn ** 41:36
Hope. So this was a fun thing that I came across this month. And this has been less like this month and more like a thing that’s been happening for over two years. So in 2021, in O’ahu, in Hawaii, there was a fuel leak from, you know, naval bases.

**Brooke ** 42:02
Wait, I was there in 2021.

**Inmn ** 42:05
Oh, yeah. Well, depending on where you were 93,000 people had jet fuel laced water introduced into their homes and their water drinking supplies.

**Brooke ** 42:22
I feel like I would have known that when I was on my little vacation there, if that was when I was there. But damn.

**Inmn ** 42:28
Yeah, the symptoms for ingesting it were people having migraines and nausea and vomiting. And while for a lot of people, those were short term symptoms, for like huge amounts of the people who were affected by it, a year and a half to two years later people are still experiencing symptoms and complications from having ingested jet fuel laced water. And some of those symptoms include severe anxiety and depression.

**Brooke ** 43:08
Maybe I did ingest some. Wait, I already had those symptoms, but they’re worse. Okay, go on.

**Inmn ** 43:14
Yeah. And this sounds like it’s grim, but there was recently a victory, which is that this initiative led by, I think it was like the Sierra Club and O’ahu Water Protectors have been waging this battle against the US military to drain these fuel reservoirs, which it’s like miles of tunnels underneath O’ahu that are like filled with jet fuel, you know? So it’s like the possibility of leaks are just astronomical. Like, it’s so easy for it to…for that shit to leak.

**Brooke ** 43:55
I’m gonna guess they were rapidly built in World War II or something like that as well.

**Inmn ** 43:59
Yes, they are World War II era jet fuel tanks. That after like an extreme period of inactivity are finally being drained. And this this was a quotation from someone from the O’ahu Water Protectors, who said, "We got here not because the US Navy woke up one day and said, ‘Oh, we’re gonna do the right thing,’ we got here because of the collective voices of the people who are calling for a shutdown." Which is like, you know, time and time again, the thing that we find in these situations, is like if there’s an environmental catastrophe that is also a human catastrophe, it’s like…it’s not…the government isn’t like, "That’s bad. We should do something." It takes like it takes thousands of people for two years like screaming and yelling at people and fighting for a change. And this is like…you might think too, that people exposed to jet fuel laced water who are having like pretty severe reactions to those things, that the local government might offer–or the US military–might offer some kind of help with that immediately, you know?

**Brooke ** 45:27
No, come on now.

**Inmn ** 45:29
It took a year and a half for the Navy to set up a clinic to treat people who had been exposed to these chemicals. And, you know, it is 100 million gallons of petroleum.

**Brooke ** 45:47
Holy shit,

**Inmn ** 45:50
That is sitting in these tanks. That wasn’t the size of the leak, but like…. And like, yeah, two years later residents are having their water in their houses tested. Because a lot of people’s houses weren’t flushed, the system wasn’t flushed. It was never really dealt with. And so like two years later there’s these low but persistent traces of these chemicals in people’s water. But hopefully, that is…. At least the larger threat of another leak is hopefully not going to happen because of this victory from indigenous water protectors in O’ahu to like, get the fuel tanks drained. And unfortunately, you know, they’re not just like…. I’m happy for O’ahu, but they’re just moving the fuel to Singapore, the Philippines, and San Diego. So.

**Brooke ** 46:51
So, yeah, it’s just gonna spill somewhere else. I mean, what do you do though? Is there a safe way to dispose of it? Probably not. Use it up, create more carbon emissions? I mean, yeah, lose-lose. Lose, lose, lose. Pour it down a volcano? What could go wrong? Pour jet fuel into a volcano, I’m sure that’ll be fine. I do. I just want to say I never trust the federal government when it comes to drinking water and people. I just don’t. That’s one of those important things that we, you know, as we live like the world is dying here, that we all have to prepare for and plan for on our own and collectively. Do not ever trust the government to keep your water supply safe and consistent. It’s just not going to happen.

**Inmn ** 47:47
Nope. Yeah, we protect us. It turns out.

**Brooke ** 47:53
Turns out. Alright, other water things: El Nino. So this is funny to me–I’ll tell the shortest version of the story that I possibly can–when I was growing up, there were heavy rains in 1996, in the town that I–well, not just the town but this whole occupied Kalapuya territory that I live in, suffered from extreme rainfall. It’s the Pacific Northwest, so we have a lot of rain anyway, so when I tell you there was extreme rainfall, that tells you something about how much rain there was. And lots of flooding, lots of water damage. There was a point when it rained for, I don’t know, like, I think it was 16 days straight or something like that. Just…anyway. And it was ascribed to El Nino weather events. And so for most of my life until like the last few years, you say El Nino and I think lots of rain. That’s all I understood about the El Nino weather events. But we’ve been talking a lot about it this year because globally, we have been in one since the springtime. And it actually has to do with water temperatures in the Pacific and airflow and stuff. And actually has very diverse effects on weather patterns around the world, really, especially right now in North America and parts of Europe, too. So we may be heading into a winter that is colder for some and warmer for others. And it was really funny in reading the reports on this that came out from NOAA and then were disseminated by others with input from this or that meteorologists, climatologists, whatever, about what was going on. And it’s…you look at the maps and it’s like, "Oh, the northern US is going to be much warmer or it’s going to be slightly warmer. It’s going to be in the Northeast. No, it’s going to be the Northwest. The southern US is going to be colder in the southeast. No, in the southwest. No, actually it’s going to be close to average. So all that I’m really getting from any of this as I read multiple sources is that we really don’t quite know what the winter is gonna be like. No one is being consistent. And we’re also in the middle of…we still have a polar vortex that’s pushing cold air down from the Arctic. But also average temperatures are on the rise globally because of climate change. And this year, we’re higher than average for much of the year. So all of that is to say, who knows what winter weather is going to do? Whatever winter weather prediction you’ve read, it might come true. But there’s another one out there that will say the opposite thing. And, you know, who knows?

**Inmn ** 50:36
Golly, yeah,

**Brooke ** 50:39
Just funny things. So many headlines about it. And then they’re all being totally contradictory. Yeah. Except that possibly, the central so-called United States of America–not like what we call the central US but if you literally draw a swath through the middle of the country–that seems to be consistently predicted to have roughly normal winter temperatures. So Kansas…Kansas, everything is probably going to be normal for you and maybe Colorado too. I don’t know about the rest of us.

**Inmn ** 51:14
Hell yeah. I’m excited.

**Brooke ** 51:17
Isn’t that great?

**Inmn ** 51:18
It is. To kind of get towards the end of the episode, I did remember this other thing that I wanted to tie in, which was we talked a little bit about like border militarization and like how that relates to this water pipeline, and this is in no way a new thing but like just to build this larger linkage. So, I, you know, I live here in Arizona and like border militarization is absolutely ridiculous. It’s terrifying. And I was thinking about this thing that I’ve encountered a lot. And people who live here have encountered a lot, which I realized a lot of other people might not know about, which is that one of the big defense contractors that the US military uses here in Arizona is Elbit Technologies, which is this Israeli defense company. They designed shit for the IDF. And they, you know, a long time ago at this point, they started to build this virtual wall here in Arizona. And it’s this…it’s this series of fixed towers that build this AI controlled map of the entire border in Arizona. And the development on this is that we used to, in doing humanitarian aid work out in the desert,we used to joke that the towers that monitor infrared and shit would get set off by a cow or a hot rock or something. And since the development of AI technology, that’s shifting. So they are now plugging into these monitors a lot of AI technology. And I think the effectiveness of it, which like at different points was laughable, is going to change a lot soon.

**Brooke ** 53:41
Okay, that’s a lot.

**Inmn ** 53:43
Yeah, it is. It’s just wacky and terrifying. And it’s like a thing that’s being felt especially by people on the Tohono O’odham Nation who have these towers completely covering the reservation. And, that makes people who…. You know, these are people who also faced large amounts of government repressio, becoming fearful to leave their homes and shit. Because they’re like, "Well, I can’t go to that place that I normally go to. Because all those towers are there now." All of this is to connect this thing that we aren’t…. We’re not going to talk a whole lot about it, but as I’m sure everyone knows, Israel recently invaded Gaza and…. Or, you know, their continued invasion of Gaza has reached new and horrifying levels. And, we’re not going to talk about it too much, or we didn’t cover it too much, because there’s so much information. And there are a lot of really great sources to get a lot more information than we can responsibly provide on a segment on this show. I have been reading stuff from Jewish Currents and I’ve been reading some stuff from the Palestinian Youth Movement. And those have been really awesome places to see more like…. Like if you want updated timelines and things like that of events, or like ways to support people in Palestine through this genocide then highly recommend people like learning more about this and finding any way that they can to support people on the ground in Palestine. But some kind of cool things have happened because of it. Like, in Eugene, over the weekend, there was this big pro-Palestine march.

**Brooke ** 57:04
Eugene, Oregon.

**Inmn ** 57:05
Yeah. Eugene, Oregon. There was this big pro-Palestine March. And this guy and a fucking Guy Fawkes mask gets out of his pickup truck in the middle of it and pulls out a handgun and, you know, starts firing it into a crowd. And then two antifascists come up with their own handguns and to like successfully deescalate and disarm this person.

**Brooke ** 57:33
Awesome.

**Inmn ** 57:34
You know, without shooting him. And,you know, it was later revealed that the gun this person was firing was like a…. it was not a live ammunition gun. It was called a splatter gun or something. But if you see the pictures of it, it looks like a fucking hand gun. So like, hell yeah to the people who intervened in that situation to like, hopefully prevent, to prevent something that’s become a horrifying regularity.

**Brooke ** 58:06
Yeah, it could have been a real gun. Yeah, we protect us. Yeah, speaking of war and conflict, can I tell you a funny thing from war?

**Inmn ** 58:19
Yeah, you have another funny thing. O, you know, these previous things weren’t funny. But let’s end on a funny thing.

**Brooke ** 58:26
Well my first thing was funny. Okay, I hope this will brighten up everyone else’s day too. So, of course–this is not happy–there’s a war going on against Ukraine right now. We’re at, you know, 20 months, 22 months, getting close to two years on it. Ukrainians are continuing to fight and be bad asses and still doing things stealing equipment from the other side, including tanks. I don’t know how much that they’re still doing that, but we heard about that a lot in the beginning that the Russians would abandon tanks and Ukrainians would take them. So there was a Ukrainian officer, this was earlier this month, early October, who was driving around in his captured tank and started having technical difficulties with it. So he took it to local experts, whatever that means, and they weren’t able to fix what’s going wrong with it. It had some oil leakage and it was doing some other things. So he called the manufacturer of the tank, which is a Russian manufacturer, and he called them–and they’re in Russia where they make them–and they called the Russian people for tech support. And they answered. And the person tried to help him problem solve the problem going on with the tank. He just called up and said, "Hey, I’m driving, you know, I’m involved in the war and I’m driving such-and-such type of tank and I’m having these problems." And he was…he was generally having the problems with a tank but the call to tech support was just to troll them. I mean, he didn’t really expect them to answer or get help, but they did. And then they were trying to help problem solve through the issues that he had and let him file a complaint about the issues with the tank. And also passed him along to a manager at the manufacturing plant so he could further discuss the problems that he was having with this stolen Russian tank.

**Inmn ** 1:00:19
Oh my god. Did he get the…did he get the tank operational?

**Brooke ** 1:00:24
It doesn’t sound like it because I think that really wasn’t his end goal. He was really just, like I said, trolling them. And yeah, so he ended up talking to a manager about it. And then, you know, finally let them know, "Oh, by the way, I’m Ukrainian. I’m fighting against you guys. This is a tank that we captured, you know, earlier this year, that’s giving me trouble. Thanks."

**Inmn ** 1:00:48
Oh my god. That is one of the biggest, hilarious, you know, whatever, modern technology society things that I’ve ever heard.

**Brooke ** 1:01:02
Yeah, and you know, he’s speaking Russian. They have no idea. It’s just great. It’s really…. So there you go, troll the bad guys. When all else fails, just maybe, maybe troll them a little bit for the lols.

**Inmn ** 1:01:19
Okay, well, I think that about wraps it up for This Month in the Apocalypse. Thanks, everyone for tuning in.

**Brooke ** 1:01:32
Yay October! What joys will November bring us?

**Inmn ** 1:01:37
So many more.

**Inmn ** 1:01:44
If you enjoyed this podcast then live like the world is dying. Because it probably might be. Um, but you can also tell people about the podcast. You can support us in a bunch of other sillier ways, but you should really just tell people tell people about the podcast and talk to people about like, you know, if stuff like this happens where you are, if you are affected by any of these things, like figure out ways to deal with it as a small community that can help your larger community. And you can also support the show by supporting the publisher, Strangers in a Tangled Wilderness. Strangers is a media publishing collective. We put out books, and podcasts, and zines, and a bunch of other stuff, and zines [said to rhyme with "dines"], and you can find us at tangledwilderness.org And you can support us on Patreon at patreon.com/strangersinatangledwilderness. And that money goes to paying our audio editor. It goes to paying our transcriptionist. And it goes towards supporting the publisher so that we can do lots of other cool stuff. And in particular, we would love to thank these folks. Thank you, Patolli, Eric, Perceval, Buck, Julia, Catgut, Marm, Carson, Lord Harken, Trixter, Princess Miranda, BenBen, Funder, Janice & O’dell, Aly, paparouna, Milica, Boise Mutual Aid, theo, Hunter, S.J., Paige, Nicole, David, Dana, Chelsea Staro, Jenipher, Kirk, Chris, Michaiah, and Hoss the Dog. Thank you for growing this list to such an extent that I’m out of breath by the time that I am done saying it. We hope that you’re everyone’s doing as well as they can with everything that’s going on and we will see you next time.

S1E93 – Last Born in the Wilderness on Anarchist Public Health

Episode Summary

This week on Live Like the World is Dying, Margaret and Patrick talk a lot about covid, public health, the role of anarchism in public health, and the weirdly similar origins of the names of two projects.

Guest Info

Patrick (he/him) can be found hosting the Last Born in the Wilderness podcast. You can find it at www.lastborninthewilderness.com or wherever you get podcasts. You an also find Patrick on Instagram @patterns.of.behavior or on Twitter @LastBornPodcast

Host Info

Margaret (she/they) can be found on twitter @magpiekilljoy or instagram at @margaretkilljoy.

Publisher Info

This show is published by Strangers in A Tangled Wilderness. We can be found at www.tangledwilderness.org, or on Twitter @TangledWild and Instagram @Tangled_Wilderness. You can support the show on Patreon at www.patreon.com/strangersinatangledwilderness.

Transcript

Last Born in the Wilderness on Anarchist Public Health

**Margaret ** 00:14
Hello, and welcome to Live Like the World is Dying, your podcast for what feels like the end times. I’m your host today, Margaret Killjoy. I say it that way because there’s other hosts now and I’m very excited about that. But sometimes, apparently, we have the same voice. And so people think that we are each other, but we’re not. We’re different people. And you can tell because my name is Margaret Killjoy and Inmn’s name is not Margaret Killjoy. It is instead, Inmn. But that’s not what we’re talking about. What we’re gonna talk about today … Well, we’re gonna talk about a lot of stuff today. I’m really excited about it. We’re gonna be talking with the host of a podcast you should probably be listening to if you’re not already called Last Born in the Wilderness. And it’s like the [laughing] smarter thinking version of this show. And so we’re gonna talk about that. And first, here’s a jingle from another show on the network, which is … the network is Channel Zero Network, which is a network of anarchists podcasts, and here’s a jingle. Buh buh bah buh buh bah [singing like a simple melody]

**Margaret ** 02:09
Okay, we’re back. Okay. So if you could introduce yourself with your name, your pronouns, and then kind of maybe introduce this other podcast, this project that you do.

**Patrick ** 02:18
Yeah. Thanks for having me on. My name is Patrick Farnsworth. Pronouns are he/him. I’m the host of Last Born in the Wilderness. It’s a podcast I’ve been hosting for quite a long time now and I … I don’t know how to describe it. Someone described it once as a podcast about death and dying, which sounds rather bleak. It’s an interesting way to describe it. I mean, it’s, uh, you know … I certainly come from a radical leftist and anarchist, or as someone else has said about me, "anarchistic adjacent perspective." I’m talking about collapse. I’m talking about the implications of global climate change, climate disruption, the so-called sixth mass extinction anthropocene, like these kind of big, heady, huge global subjects around, you know, extinction and mass extinction events and so on. And I kind of also explore the history of settler colonialism and issues around whiteness, or I should say, white supremacy. I talk about a whole bunch of stuff. And I think the point of it is to really get at the question of: what are the roots of these kinds of broader biosphere crises that we’re in the midst of? Why is it that human beings, or the dominant culture of human beings that we are part of, producing a mass extinction event? And what does that portend? What does that lead to? What can we expect to happen in the coming decades? And kind of wrestling with really deep … "Deep." [said with an introspective laugh] I mean "deep" in the sense emotionally and spiritually with the question of what does extinction mean for our species? And how do we grapple with that? It’s a big question. So yeah, that’s more or less what the podcast is kind of addressing.

**Margaret ** 04:03
Yeah, no. Okay, wait, so with extinction, do you run into this thing …. Okay, well, no, first I’m gonna ask about your name, then we’re gonna come back to extinction. Where did you get this sick name? It’s such a sick name. It’s obviously … As someone who is part of a project called Strangers in a Tangled Wilderness and then has a show called Live Like the World is Dying, I’m clearly a fan of this slightly long and poetic style of naming. But Last Born in the Wilderness is a sick name. I’m curious about its background.

**Patrick ** 04:28
Sure. I mean, the name itself came–it’s a funny origin story really–when I came up with the name, I was homesick and I didn’t know what to call this thing. I didn’t even know what I wanted to make. But I was thinking about what my father would call me because I’m the youngest of this large Mormon family. No longer LDS but grew up in this LDS family, LDS environment. He would call me his "last born in the wilderness" because being kind of … he’s kind of a lovely but very quirky man who would have these very strange nicknames for his kids, including me being the youngest, being the, quote, "last born the wilderness," meaning he was paraphrasing from the Book of Mormon. There’s a verse in the Book of Mormon about this family going through the wilderness and something about being the "last born in this wilderness of mine afflictions." Like it’s really dramatic kind of bleak Mormon scripture stuff and it’s weird. So, I don’t know, I guess I thought of my dad, I thought of that, I thought of my history, I thought of … it sounded like it could have multiple meanings. And it does because as I did the podcast more and more I started to really think about the other layers of it, of, "Okay, are we the last generation?"  Like is this the end of this idea of wilderness. Wilderness itself is kind of an interesting idea. And the kind of colonialist notion, the dualism of civilization versus wilderness, and that in and of itself is a problematic idea. Like, there’s a lot of layers to it that I’ve discovered, which is actually what I love about really cool names or titles of things is when you name something and you realize over time that it actually has other meanings that kind of come up, and you’re like, "Oh, that actually means this as well. I did not know that." So that’s where it comes from.

**Margaret ** 06:13
Okay, I really like that for a thousand reasons. One of the things you talked about …  I’ve been reading more and more stuff that’s critical of the idea of "wilderness," right? Because you’re creating an artificial distinction between humans and everything else, right? As if, like … I mean, we’re not capable of doing things that are not natural because we’re literally, natural beings, right? 

**Patrick ** 06:33
Yeah, exactly. 

**Margaret ** 06:35
And the idea of untouched wilderness as this very colonial concept where it’s like, actually, a lot of forests are managed by people and we’re …. And it gets humans off the hook if we treat ourselves like we’re bad, like, inherently, right? 

**Patrick ** 06:51
Yeah. 

**Margaret ** 06:51
Because like, "Ahhh, well, we’re human, so of course we clear cut." And we’re like, "Well, that’s not true. A lot of people lived here for a very long time and didn’t clear cut everything," right? 

**Patrick ** 07:02
They didn’t. No. 

**Margaret ** 07:03
Okay. And then the other reason I like it, it’s kind of the same background as Strangers in a Tangled Wilderness. 

**Patrick ** 07:09
Oh, really. 

**Margaret ** 07:10
I was once, when I was a weird "look at me, I’m so strange, oogle kid" running around and pulling books out of the trash, I dumpstered the Christian Science holy book. I don’t know what it’s called. And I just started cutting it up to make new assemblages of words and things, right? And one of the pieces that I cut out of it and then put on this piece of art I was making just said "strangers in the tangled wilderness." And I really liked it. And so I named my first zine I ever made like 20 some years ago–well not the first zine–but the first zine that I called Strangers in a Tangled Wilderness because that’s how I felt is like this wander, right? And then but since then I’ve learned, I think, I’m not an expert on Christian Science, although I can claim, my great grandmother was raised that way and then she was like, "This sucks," and then she just became an agnostic atheist pagan person. She was cool. It was like 100 years ago. She applied to college and she got so mad that they asked her what her religion is and she wrote "Sun worshiper," on the thing, which is complicated. But for a woman in the 1910s, I’m fucking into it. Anyway, the next line in it is "strangers in a tangled wilderness, wanders from the parent mind." And so it’s using wilderness as a negative conception, I believe, in the traditional thing. And so yeah, it’s like this interesting thing where Christianity … Like, okay, so this "last born in the wilderness" seems to be implying this negative conception of wilderness. Which is this very negative version of Christianity producing such a thing. I don’t know. That’s what I’ve got.

**Patrick ** 08:46
Yeah, I think the wilderness in scripture and Christian literature, or whatever, it’s very much this …. Like, if you’re wandering the wilderness, you’re not in a good place. You’ve kind of either been banished or God is leaving you alone, giving you distance to figure your shit out for a while. Like, there’s good things and bad things with that. But I think that the wilderness can …. Yeah, there is this implication in it of it being symbolic, or whatever, of it being not the best place to be in. You’re not in paradise, that’s for sure. You’re not in the Promised Land, that’s for sure. You’re maybe on the way there, but you’re not there. Yeah. And certainly, in that passage, if I remember, it’s like, "In the wilderness of mine afflictions." Like, it’s very, it’s not … you know, it’s not a good place to be. But they were on their way to the Promised Land, I guess, in that scripture. So …

**Margaret ** 09:42
Okay, so you’re like the last one before we reach paradise or whatever? 

**Patrick ** 09:46
I guess. I don’t know

**Margaret ** 09:47
Like you’re the last people who have a concept of wilderness and everyone else is going to live underground growing their food in very controlled environments because everything’s hard.

**Patrick ** 09:55
I guess so. I mean, yeah, I don’t know. I think that certainly the world as we know it, the world that you and I were born into, is like kind of no longer here and we’ve entered into a new earth, which is not one that is hospitable to human, or much of the more than human life, unfortunately and it’s gonna get progressively more and inhospitable. So, being the last born is really … it’s not a … it’s all of us. It’s not like ….  You’re not the last man on the Earth, or whatever, or the last person on the Earth. You’re one of a generation, or several generations, that really remembers what it was like before the climate was completely chaotic and everything was on fire and everyone was coughing in your face with a plague. You know, that was a nice time. Remember that? That was cool. And now we’re in this new place, or this seemingly novel place for us at least, of, kind of, amplifying crises. And it’s …. Yeah, so anyway, sorry, that’s rather bleak. But it’s a little bit of what I talk about, I guess, or bring up in the podcast. The overarching sense. 

**Margaret ** 11:04
No, no. Okay. Well, let’s talk about coughing in people’s faces with the plague. [Laughing] One of the topics that we wanted to talk about was kind of a little bit of where we’re at with Covid. And not just a like, "Hey, there’s a new wave coming. And there’s new … or here." And there’s also like, you know, "Time for your yearly booster," and there’s the non MRA [struggles with the letters]

**Patrick ** 11:27
Non MRNA. 

**Margaret ** 11:28
Yeah, thank you. Vaccines that just got approved and like all this other stuff. But, more about, I want to kind of ask you about what you’ve learned through your work about the fact that we are living in this place where community care has been left to individuals and smaller organizations, by and large, with some larger institutions trying to do good, while the, at least, federal level care and things like that have largely abandoned us to fend for ourselves.

**Patrick ** 12:00
Yeah. You know, it’s weird. This has been a disillusioning period, I think. Pandemic has been really rough for a lot of reasons. And I think I’ve talked about it a lot through a variety of lenses. I think there’s a baseline of trust that’s been lost among myself and a lot of other people. Like, I feel like to kind of continuing to keep up precautions and to avoid catching Covid is really a difficult thing at this time. And it’s weird because there’s been a normalization on such a broad level. And there’s people on the left who really have given up and don’t really care about it anymore. And seemingly, it sort of seems like we’ve kind of turned a corner. It feels like culturally, socially where it’s kind of unacceptable to continue to care about it in this way. But I think if you are a leftist, in the broadest sense, not just a radical anarchist, or whatever, you really need to kind of get the facts straight about what Covid is and how it’s still impacting people. How many people are becoming effectively disabled as a result of Covid infections? And then normalizing it is really fucked up. It’s eugenicist, frankly. It’s ableist. It’s wrong. And I was just thinking, I don’t know if I want to call …. I don’t want to …. I don’t know. I was thinking recently about how my partner and I moved up to Canada. Actually, we’re in Victoria, BC right now, the city that is called Victoria, on Vancouver Island. There was an anarchist bookfair here. No mask requirements at this fair. And I think at other book fairs around, I don’t know if around BC or just in the US in particular, masks were a requirement, like respirators were required. It’s just a basic thing I think we need to kind of do now as leftists or anarchists is just to have, if we’re gonna have a public event, these types of things just need to be kind of there. Like we just have to do them. Because there’s a lot of people who are immunocompromised or disabled that just can’t show up because this is not a safe, "safe," these [unhearable word] words, but like literally, it’ll harm their bodies.

**Margaret ** 14:09
Yeah, it’s like full of spikes that are shooting out of the ceiling. You know, it’s not…

**Patrick ** 14:14
Yeah, exactly. So I think just the act of community care on that level–I mean, you don’t have to be an anarchist to do this of course–but I think particularly for anarchists that are supposedly about communal acts of care and mutual aid, like this is a really basic one, a pretty easy one. It’s interesting how it’s not– you know for anarchists, there’s no like … I don’t know if there’s a global anarchist Federation that has doled out some kind of guidelines. That would never make sense. But it’s interesting how in every place around North America there’s different kinds of cultural temperaments, or certain attitudes, around certain things and particularly around Covid. It’s interesting how in Canada, how maybe anarchists in Canada don’t maybe care as much about it. I don’t know. I guess I can’t speak for them, but it’s an interesting thing to experience the ways in which the normalization of Covid has affected different regions. And it’s … Yeah, so anyway, I just wanted to kind of bring that up because we are still in the midst of this thing. I can get into reasons why it’s still a problem, why it is still a threat to people’s health, but it shouldn’t be. I don’t know. I just think it’s really imperative that anarchists kind of get with the program if they haven’t already.

**Margaret ** 15:26
Yeah, and like, I’ve been fairly proud of the fact that overall I’ve found anarchists and punks and different sorts of subcultural folks and political folks to be more on top of it than the average person or place, but not …. I haven’t been blown away either, you know? And we have had …. Most of the book fairs that I’ve been aware of or gone to, or whatever, this year have had some kind of masking requirement. Sometimes it’s a rigid requirement. Sometimes it’s like, here’s the masks at the door, and someone’s going to kind of be like, "You should really wear one of these," but not like kick you out without a mask. Like, I …. Shout out to the anarchist space called Firestorm in Asheville, North Carolina that during COVID, they actually moved into a new building, and part of why they picked the building, as far as I can tell, is that it used to be an auto shop so the doors open all the way, like one wall is open. And they still have a mask requirement inside of the store because they’re like, "Well, they’re still a pandemic. So you should wear a mask. This isn’t complicated," you know? And like …. Okay, have you ever seen the TV show The 100?

**Patrick ** 16:42
I think I’ve heard of it.

**Margaret ** 16:45
I watched the first two or three seasons a while ago. And I …. But there’s this thing that I think about all the time. It was not a particularly important TV show to me. But there’s one thing that seemed kind of hackneyed at the time where basically almost no one can live on the Earth because there was a pandemic. And a lot of people live in space. And then some people come back down from space. And then there’s people who have "lost their minds" and "lost civilization" who, you know, have adapted. And then there’s these people who live inside a mountain. And they’re like, "Oh, we can’t go outside the mountain except with, you know, full suits that protect …." I forget the word for this, like the chemical suits or whatever. 

**Patrick ** 17:23
Like hazmat suits or something like that. 

**Margaret ** 17:25
So yeah, you can’t go outside without a hazmat suit and a gas mask. And like, you know, when you come back in you have to go through decontamination and all this stuff. And I remember watching it and being like, you just sort of take it for granted. You’re like, yeah, you know, if there was a thing in the air that killed people or made people disabled, people would like, take it seriously, you know? And then now I’m like, "Man, that was a utopian piece of fiction right there." Like, within the first week someone would be like ‘Fake news. There’s nothing in the air outside," and then the whole mountain would have been destroyed. 

**Patrick ** 18:00
Speaking of like pop culture …. Like, sometimes it is. I watched that film Contagion a while ago. It came out before Covid. It’s like what, a Stevens Soderbergh film? Whatever, it doesn’t matter. It came out. And it was like "What would happen if a really, really dangerous, very contagious virus just started spreading? Like, what would the agencies do? What would the CDC do? What would global world governments do?" Whatever. And, you know, it was fairly …. It tried to be realistic while also being kind of dramatic. And it was a really nasty virus. Everybody is locked down, quarantine, blah, blah, blah. They make a vaccine, they do a lottery, people get it at the end, and it’s over. Like, that’s the end of the movie. Everybody gets the vaccine. Everybody gets the vaccine, everybody’s happy to get the vaccine. And no, you know, I mean, yeah, certainly …. Covid is in this weird, I feel like it’s in this weird space. And I’ve said this before on an interview with somebody, this epidemiologist, I was saying it’s this weird space where it’s like, it’s obviously really, really bad to get it, but it’s also like a lot of people get it and it doesn’t seem to affect them that much. They kind of feel like, "Oh, it’s kind of like the cold or kind of like a flu." It isn’t, though. I mean, looking at the actual virus and how it affects the body, it is not like those viruses. So it’s very different. But the fact is, is that, you know, percentage wise, you know, most people get it, they don’t die from it. So what’s the big deal? So, I think it’s in this weird space where it’s a very contagious, very nasty virus, but it doesn’t have the mortality rate of like Ebola or something so people aren’t going to take it seriously. So, it’s weird. It’s a weird thing. And we’re, you know, almost four years into this thing. So, people are obviously quite weary. We’ve been talking about it. So yeah, it’s hard.

**Margaret ** 19:53
No, totally. And like, I mean, it’s funny because it’s like I also get the … I get why people are over it and have to live their lives. And I think I talked about this in a recent episode, I can’t remember. I was talking to someone about it. I no longer have real conversations. I only have podcast conversations. It was like, okay, we can’t not have live music as part of our human experience of the world, or whatever, right? But to me it’s all about looking at these cost-benefit analyses. And by and large, with exceptions, like if someone’s doing hard manual labor all day I can see why wearing a mask is particularly hard, or like, you know, there’s complicating factors. But, overall, it’s just not a fucking big deal. Like to–Covid is–but to wear a mask–

**Patrick ** 20:38
Yeah. 

**Margaret ** 20:39
–for, I think, most people in most situations, And I think the main reason people don’t wear masks is because of the social aspect of it. Because they are afraid of being the only person wearing a mask. And I just like ask us to not act out of fear. I ask us to do what’s right. Or I think we are asked by being alive. I think that we are asked to be … to do what is right, not what is popular, or whatever, right? And, so that’s what’s so disappointing to me about it. And I mean, this is part of why everyone gets so mad at people who …. Because I also try not to be like …. You don’t really like gain a lot when you tell people like, "What the fuck? What’s wrong with you? You can’t do that." It’s not a very effective strategy, you know? And so I do think it’s like, overall, I really appreciate a lot of the phrasing that I’ve seen about being like, "Hey, even if you stop masking, here’s like a good reason to start again."  And like, you know, there’s no harm in just mea culping and just starting to mask again,

**Patrick ** 21:46
 Yeah, no, for sure. And I don’t know, there’s a lot of other things going on too. When you …. It really is fascinating to be like …. You obviously want to be like, you want to encourage this level of care and I think what’s sort of hard is there is a real lack of public …. Like, good public health messaging has been terrible. So, it’s an interesting dynamic. I feel like anarchists are people who are more on the ground organizing at grassroots levels. At a grassroot level, you are trying to fill a void, which is the government doesn’t really want to fucking deal with this shit. They just don’t want to deal with it. They have, they’ve learned enough. And they know that they can move on warm, more or less. And so they’re not going to do anything about it anymore. And so you have to take care of yourself, The rich are taking care of themselves. They have all the tools, They know exactly how to run a Covid-safe event. They’ve been doing it for a while now. And they have really good like …. In the way that you would pay for security or catering at an event, they pay for Covid Safety coordinators. Yeah, they’re really good at it. And if they’re doing that, and they understand this, then we should be doing it for ourselves because we as the poors, we need to take care of each other, take care of ourselves and learn basic information that unfortunately a lot of people don’t have. And actually …. I understand that by doing my podcasts or doing this kind of work that I am able to delve into some of these subjects more closely. So, I might know a little more about Covid than the average person. And honestly, the more I learn about it, the more I don’t want to get it and the more I would encourage people to avoid reinfection more than anything. If you’ve had it before, you don’t want to get it again. There’s so many intersecting issues here. I guess I just, I just really want to emphasize community care is the most important thing right now in regards to this. Need to really get on top of that, if we haven’t already. And a lot of people are. It’s amazing, actually, how many people are doing it, like mask blocks. There’s all kinds of people organizing around this subject. And they don’t have any particular, seemingly political ideology that’s animating it. It’s just they’re doing it because it’s right. 

**Margaret ** 23:57
Yeah, totally. One of the things you were saying about realizing like the government has abandoned us, so the government has moved on and things like that. It’s one of these … at the beginning of Covid, it actually kind of challenged, in some ways, it challenged a lot of my own anarchist thoughts, right? Because I try not to assume I’m right. I try not to look at a problem and say "What’s the anarchist solution?" I try to look at a problem and say, "What’s the solution?" I have a bias that lends itself towards non state, non capitalist solutions. But I try to earnestly look at every problem and say, "What is the best solution?" and so far in my life the answer is usually nonstate, anti capitalist, anti oppression, right? Well, and some of those things are also moral, you know. But at the beginning of Covid, you start being like, "Well, shit, someone needs to …. This needs to be organized on a massive scale, right?" And then, now what we actually saw instead gave me the opposite, whereas at the beginning of Covid mutual aid groups popped up everywhere, you know, and mutual aid groups like stepped into the void of what was not being met. Because people were locked down, they were like, not able to meet a bunch of other needs, and a lot of them, in the US, at least, we have, you know, we got stimulus money or whatever. And it wasn’t enough for most people. And, but I think that it becomes really clear that you look a year on and as soon as Covid  is over, you’re like, "Oh, you’re running some cold math about dead people in the economy, or disabled people in the economy, and you are deciding that getting people back to work makes the country more money even though a bunch of people will die or become disabled as a result," you know? And so it’s like one of those things, to me, it just lays bare the reality of government, that governments exists to make this kind of cold calculation, not take care of people.

**Patrick ** 25:57
Yeah, no, I think at the beginning there was a lot of ambiguity. We didn’t know what this would really be. So obviously lock downs–or what we would call lock downs but really just kind of stay-at-home orders–or just tell people, like, "Please just avoid social gatherings for a while." And then the masks came into the picture and things like this, that was implemented just because there was, you know, there was a lot of ambiguity. We didn’t know everything we know now. And once the, kind of, the cold calculus really came in, and there’s a lot of other things too, but really when that came in and it was like, "This is hurting the economy. This isn’t gonna work. You know, we have to really focus on jobs over, you know, everything else, over our lives. So, yeah, let’s just get back to work." And I don’t know. But I think it is kind of an interesting thing, though, because the anti-mask thing is very much an aesthetic choice. It’s not as much a practical, irrational thing, because we could have jobs and all this stuff running exactly as before but people are wearing high quality respirators. Sure, we could have all kinds of things implemented. It would take an investment. From a cold capitalist perspective, it’s rational to put an air filtration, it’s rational to have people wear respirators, and yet from …. I don’t know what it is, but just the idea of actually providing public health infrastructurally on that level is just not possible at this point for some reason. It’s just not feasible. I was thinking about the kind of origins of public health, as it were, and like John Sn–I think his name was John Snow in England–he kind of figured out where the cholera outbreaks were coming from. And that really helped kickstart this movement to, you know, kind of figure out how to provide clean water for people on a massive social scale, on the scale of a city, right? It took a long time and a lot of deaths for something to finally change. And now we just take for granted that when you turn on a faucet in most places around, say, North America, you’re gonna find you’re gonna have clean water. Like it’s pretty not always the case, certainly, but, you know, it’s kind of taken for granted that that’s almost like a right that we have. But clean air has not really entered into that same, that level of feeling like an entitlement that we have as human beings for a quality of life issue, that this is important. So, I don’t know, it’s interesting to witness how this has been playing out and also sort of an anarchist, or whatever, thinking about it from that level of like, if we want to move away from States and governments, how would an anarchist society deal with this issue? How would non-Statist, anti-Statists deal with this? And it’s interesting. I don’t know yet. I haven’t really figured that out. And, I was kind of thinking because you do a history podcast as well. And I’m wondering if there was anything you came across as, you know, kind of radical leftist movements that were like, "How do we apply the values of public health and health care from a maybe communal collectivist sense that does not rely on the institution of states and bureaucracies? Like, I don’t know, I wonder about this because we’re trying to just fill the gap of what the State isn’t doing. It’s almost reactionary, right? What would it look like to be proactive in that sense? I don’t know. I don’t have an answer to that. I just think it’s interesting.

**Margaret ** 29:26
Okay, no, that’s interesting. From a history point of view, there’s a piece that I read right near the beginning of pandemic–that I haven’t read in a while and I don’t remember as well–this Italian anarchist, Malatesta, wrote a piece called like something like "Anarchists and the Cholera Outbreak," and it was about anarchist public health responses to a late 19th century health crisis. But I also know that anarchists have been doing a ton of stuff on public health since the beginning. I think that like …. I mean, you can look at like … it’s anarchists who, at least in the US, pushed birth control and pushed information about sexually transmitted diseases and like sexual health. And it’s like, people are like, "Oh, yes, early feminists," and I’m like, "Yeah, they were early feminist anarchists." I mean, there’s some exceptions to that. And then of course, you have bad examples where Margaret Sanger, who founded Planned Parenthood, was, like, a "complicated figure" who embraced non-racialized eugenics. And that is bad. But it is spun to mean that she was different, that she believed in something different than what she actually believed. And, but it’s still bad. And she started off as an anarchist. She, actually, by the time she was really doing the eugenics because a lot of like–a lot of eugenics, you kind of need the State for, right, especially like the evilest parts of it or the like who gets to decide who has babies are whatever, right, and all that shit. But Margaret Sanger was an anarchist when she first started doing a lot of the birth control stuff. Emma Goldman got arrested a ton of times. The person who’s at the longest in jail in US history for advocating birth control was this guy–I just did an episode about this, I don’t normally have all these facts in front of me–was this guy named Ben Reitman, who was mostly an anarchist. He spent most of his life fucking around with the anarchist scene. But the anarchists scene didn’t like him because he was super horny and he kept cheating on Emma Goldman, which is impressive because they were in an open relationship. Yeah, but he still managed to sort of piss her off with how many people we slept with, even though it was supposedly okay. He spent the longest of anyone in history, in US history, in jail for advocating birth control. And he was also a … he was a hobo doctor. He was a doctor who went to medical school, became a physician, specifically so that he could treat STIs in the poorer classes and people who didn’t have access to public health. And so a lot … As far as I can tell, I see this thing, this pattern happen a lot where things come from the bottom up and then the top is like, "Okay, cool, we got that." And you can see this benevolently where you’re like, "Oh, it comes from the bottom up and then the State comes in and takes charge and everything’s okay." And, and there’s some advantages that have come up through that, but overall, I think it is to the detriment of these systems. And I think that… I don’t know, I guess I’m like, I think that decentralized networks that have some forms of centralized information sharing, are very capable of doing these sorts of things. Also, sorry, I’ll stop spitting out anarchist history in a minute.But the legalization of abortion, the first Western European country… Soviet Russia was the first country to legalize–I could be wrong about this–was one of the first countries, if not the first country, to legalize abortion in Europe. But then Stalin was like, "Just kidding. You must make babies," because he’s a bastard. Then Federica Montseny, the woman Minister of Health in revolutionary Spain, who was an anarchist–which is really complicated and there was a lot of arguing at the time about whether Federica Monseigneur and some of her peers should have joined the coalition government–she legalized abortion. And so it’s like, funny. So even the State idea of public health came from an anarchist who was part of the State, you know?

**Patrick ** 33:30
I don’t know, I think that it’s this thing where when we’re thrust into these big crises, like a pandemic, we start to really… we do have to reevaluate our ideological stances a little bit like. Because for me, you know–I think this is something we talked about when you were on my podcast like three years ago, or whatever–something about, like, it’s not our position to tell people how to do things. Like, if it’s another country and other people they’re going to figure out how to solve their problems in their own way. And, you know, I think a lot of revolutionary movements do lead to certain types of, obviously, State kind of action or States…. It’s directed towards the State or the State itself’s kind of response to it in a way that is actually beneficial to the people. But that’s not because the State is good. It’s just under enormous amounts of pressure. It’s just…. It’s complicated. I don’t think it’s one thing and I think that it’s a good thing that the government was able to mass produce or help mass produce vaccines, but I also think it was really fucked up that it was then decided that that was the end of the pandemic because everybody was vaccinated. It’s kind of this… It’s this thing. It’s not one thing. It’s very complicated. But I do think overwhelmingly, absolutely, if public health is being administered on this sort of ground level where the feedback between the actual public and the sort of people administering public health, if that feedback loop is shorter, where you’re able to actually hear what people are saying and you can actually see what’s going on in the ground, there’s an actual connection and it’s done democratically and collectively then you actually can administer public health in a way that is going to help people and not being imposed on people. Right? So yeah, I think there’s been, for me, a lot of questions and lessons learned from this pandemic up to this point. So, and also, I don’t know, I just throw this in there, they’re not necessary anarchist, but like the Black Panthers and the Young Lords, you know, they were very much about health care and administering health care on a community level and did forward a lot of things that even today…like I think it was something like the Young Lords were really pushing for patients having access to their own… like that the doctors had to explain to them what….Is that right? 

**Margaret ** 35:44
Yeah, they introduced the Patient’s Bill of Health that has since been used internationally.

**Patrick ** 35:51
So you know, and they were radical, you know, they took over hospitals, they occupied, you know, they did a lot. So, yeah. Anyway, I just, I think in regards to the pandemic, right now, whatever major breakthroughs that we’re gonna have in regards to dealing with cleaning the air or, you know, actually making sure that people have access to resources and information, it’s gonna have to come from the ground level, in pressure from the ground level because it ain’t good right now. It really isn’t.

**Margaret ** 36:22
No, and that, I really liked that. I think that’s a really good point. And when I think about it, the Young Lords are the perfect example of this. And they’re, you know, yeah, they were Marxist Leninists, but they were doing something from the bottom up and forced the city of New York City to take action. Like, for example, in the neighborhood that they lived in–they moved all over the place, but they first started in, I want to say, the Upper East Side in a Puerto Rican neighborhood in Manhattan–and no trash was coming. No trash pickup was happening there, partly because of some racism of some white labor unions and the trash union and partly due to just systemic poverty and other forms of racism. It wasn’t all just the trash workers problem…fault. But, you know, they just started dragging trash in the middle of the street and setting it on fire. And they did it in the parts of their neighborhood that rich people have to drive through. They did it in the through fares. And it worked. Trash pickup became a major issue in the next mayoral election. And then trash pickup, like they like, revolutionized how trash is picked up in New York City. And it was this major health issue. And then the other things that they would do is they would go door to door to do tuberculosis screenings. And they would also like–they’re so fucking cool. At one point, they hijacked an X-ray van that was going through these neighborhoods to like X-ray people for tuberculosis but wasn’t going to poor neighborhoods of color. And there’s like some arguments about whether that was because of what time the schedule was and didn’t work for people’s jobs or if it was a straight up, like, "Nah, we’re just hanging out in the white neighborhoods." But what happened was the X-ray technicians, they were like, "Sick, we don’t give a shit. We just want to fucking help stop TB." And that’s what’s so interesting to me about government workers versus non-government workers is that the people doing the shit, whether it’s for the government or not, they just want to get the shit done. They don’t care which system is doing it. Like the X-ray technicians were like "Sick, fuck yeah, we’re still getting paid. Like, it’s a little weird that you came in with guns, but whatever, it was necessary. You take us up there." And then they started. And they ended up with a fucking X-ray van parked outside the Young Lords headquarters several days a week, paid for by the hospital. And so it…. I got really worked up.

**Patrick ** 38:37
Yeah, no. It’s cool, though.

**Margaret ** 38:38
But I think that these questions about anarchist public health, one of the things that is so interesting to me is that it’s like systems allow things to happen but people are who do it. And so often people will ask, will be like, "Well, how will an anarchist society produce insulin?" or whatever. And like, well, part of the answer is, I don’t know how we make insulin now, but that’s probably how we’ll make it then too, right. You know? And so like, anarchist public health can look, in some ways, really similar in terms of like, well, we’ll have people who know a lot about public health directing these things, you know? Because it’s not the government that regulates things, it is people who design the systems of regulation. And anything that people can do, we are people, and also I’m not trying to disclude those people from my society. And I just want it to happen in a system that is actually anti-oppressive, that is horizontal, that is anti-capitalist, you know, that is all of these things. And so yeah, so what if instead of we build shit from the bottom up and the government swoops in and then kind of makes it shitty and watered down, we build things from the bottom up and then keep building and just keep those buildings that we make horizontal and keep them like…. Yep, I got totally worked up.

**Patrick ** 39:51
No, you’re good. No, you’re right, though. That’s exactly it. Like, there are, at every stage of the way, I think…sorry, I’m also kind of worked up…. I feel like health and healthcare is actually is a core and central component of any sort of revolutionary movement because it is so integral to everyone, obviously, our health and well-being is such an integral part of everyone’s lives. So how we treat disabled people, how we treat people of all age groups, how access to care is affect…you know, people’s sort of demographic that they exist in, the racial system that we have, it affects how people have access to certain types of care. I mean, all of this is so…it intersects with so many things. So, I think the pandemic has highlighted a lot of this. And I think it’s been a very upsetting and difficult time. And I think people kind of need to…they’ve tuned out. They need to kind of tune back in and I get why they tuned out, but they just need to try to tune in tune in a bit because it’s going to–I’m sorry, it sounds bleak and this is kind of my thing–it’s gonna get worse unless we make it better. And I think there’s an assumption that somehow got better and it really hasn’t. And again, this is just because I am, I mean, I am doing this sort of collaborative series right now. But also, I’ve just learned as much as I can about how Covid is affecting the body and it’s a nasty virus. It’s causing really wild complications in people’s bodies. It is a very strange thing. So, you know, it’s not enough to just tell you as an individual, "Please do this thing," or "Please do that." We need actual systems of care that really accommodate everybody. So yeah, to me, it is…and I know, we were kind of discussing how this, you know, what my podcast really addresses is a lot of it’s around climate and the implications of climate change. How we deal with Covid is indicative of how we’re dealing with…it’s like a Russian doll, you know, nested within itself. It’s like, "This is how we’re dealing with this? Well, this is how we’re dealing with ecological crisis and the climate crisis as well." How we adapt to the changes that are coming from this pandemic is how we are choosing or not choosing to deal with the changes that are coming from a rapidly changing climate system. So, this is all related. And I think, again, as radical leftists, you have to catch up with that and to kind of recognize that part of it in my opinion.

**Margaret ** 42:31
No, that makes sense. There’s kind of…one of the things that I do, I do a lot of crafting as my main way to decompress and stuff like that, right, and one of the things that I’ve like been learning as I get older is a random maxim, that’s a cliche, which is how you do one thing is how you do everything. And it’s not literally true. But I think about it when I want to cut corners. I think about it, when I like… I finished, you know, I’m making my raised beds and I’m like, "I’m going to not sand that corner. It doesn’t really matter. I’m not going to see that part" right? You know? But those all build up and more that by learning the discipline of handling things and taking things seriously, it puts me in the position for the parts that do matter, to not cut corners, to go at things systematically, to make sure I do things right. And I kind of liked this, this presentation of how we handle Covid is how we handle climate change. You know, they’re not the same problem. They’re related. They’re part of the interwoven crises we are facing. And so we shouldn’t freak out about either because that literally doesn’t do us any good. But we should probably be more alarmed than overall we are about both of these things and looking soberly at the problem and what solutions are and running cost benefit analyses but not cost benefit analysis for what saves the economy but what costs benefit analyses feed people. And to be fair, the economy is part of what feeds people, but there’s other methods of feeding people, which the government knows and that’s part of why they’re like "Shit, we got to make sure that we stay feeding people because otherwise people are gonna figure out communism." 

**Patrick ** 44:17
Yeah. [Chuckling]

**Margaret ** 44:18
But…No, I like this framework. I like this idea that we should…. You know, I mean, it’s a thing that I think I’ve talked about before on this show where I’m like, well, we should just be installing better HVAC systems. And even if you want to have…like, there’s certain things that are not conducive to masking, right? An inside restaurant is not conducive to masking. And personally, I just kind of avoid them because it’s not a big part of my life. I live in the middle of nowhere and I make all my own food. But that’s me and I can’t get mad at other people for making different decisions around that. But–well, I mean, there’s certain decisions I can get mad at people about but whatever. But at the very least, you can look at being like, "Okay, we have a restaurant, how are we going to build it for HVAC? How are we going to build it for, you know, cycling the air as much as possible, for keeping windows open, for patio service, for whatever. And this is still within a very not changing that much about society framework. I would prefer greatly to consider larger frameworks. But then again, a lot of things that we talk about within larger frameworks… like when I imagine how I think society would work is that personally, I’d be like, "Well, a lot of food is like people cook at home and eat with their family and friends and stuff, but also, you can just go to the big free restaurant that’s kind of probably a food line and they put food on your plate and then you eat it. And it’s great. You hang out with everyone. And I’m like, well, how the fuck do you do that in a Covid world? And it’s hard to know. And it changes what is possible and what is safe and what is good that we live in this different world. I’m done. This is the end of my rant.

**Patrick ** 45:51
Yeah, no, it’s…. I think, you know, while I do, admittedly, succumb to sort of bleak and sad and depressed attitudes around a lot of things, I actually think what you said there is interesting because it’s actually…you know, people look at it like it is a–what do they call it–a foreclosing of possibilities, right? And it is on some level. You are foreclosing the possibility of…like, for instance, I miss going to just coffee shops and chilling out and drinking coffee and working on my computer, reading, or whatever, and hanging out with people. And there’s this whole like social aspect to that particular thing. But it is also a business where people are probably getting paid too little and being treated like shit by entitled customers. And, you know, I’ve worked in the coffee business long enough that I know exactly what that’s like. That said, that is very much related to the restaurant business and all these other types of businesses and industries that people exist in where they’re exploited regularly and people don’t really, if they don’t have to deal with that type of labor and do that themselves, they often don’t really care. And so they just want that experience again, right? They just want to go back to being served again in a restaurant. That’s so cool. If you, of course, have a more, I mean, anti capitalist laboratory attitude, you’d be like, "Well, how do we have that experience without it being so fucking shitty for a certain group of people," right? And how do we also make it so that it’s Covid safe so that people don’t catch awful plagues sitting around and having fun together? And eating, you know, and drinking coffee or wine or whatever? It’s like, how can we imagine the restaurant/coffee shop experience without it being through this sort of…as it being a sort of capitalist enterprise? And that’s…I think, through crisis, or through this sort of thing of a pandemic, we can reimagine it in a way that is safer and better for everybody that isn’t exploiting everyone, or certain groups of people. You know what I mean?

**Margaret ** 47:48
No, absolutely. I…I don’t know, I agree.

**Patrick ** 47:53
I think you just said something that kind of brought up something for me because I have this tendency, and it comes through in the podcast that I do a lot, which is I am not a particularly optimistic person. And so I can tend to fall into a…. I mean, there’s certain things I’m just always going to have this attitude about, but you know, I think…. My partner laughed when I said that. [A third voice laughs in the background] I…I have the tendency, but I think I can kind of…it does foreclose possibilities and sort of radical action and things that can be done right now and can alleviate some of the suffering and misery that I and others are experiencing if we kind of just…I don’t know, it’s…I don’t know. I guess I just appreciated what you said because it just kind of opened a little door in my head where I kind of forgot, like, "Oh, yeah, like, actually, I don’t have to be that way all the time. Okay. Cool." 

**Margaret ** 48:47
I think it’s really funny that I took the name Killjoy and now I’m basically a professional optimist. I mean, I want to be a realist. But I’m like…. Well, like, I don’t know, one of things I learned from cognitive behavioral therapy is they’re, "Well, what’s the worst that could happen?" and you’re like, "Well, I could die." And they’re like, "Okay, what then?" and you’re like, "Well, then nothing," you know, and they’re "Okay, well, what do you want?" Like, you know, and it’s kind of like all this really terrible stuff is happening that’s absolutely true. We need to take that seriously. But like, well, we’re all gonna die anyway, you know? So…

**Patrick ** 49:22
Yeah, yeah. Well, I mean, there’s even something about..I think that what I’ve learned from doing my work is that, you know, I do get these responses from people that say, like, "I really appreciate that you’re saying the thing. You’re not looking away from it. You’re just talking about it. There’s actually a comfort in it." Because I think people feel kind of–and this word’s overused–but gaslit where there’s sort of this normalization of stuff that just feels like people aren’t quite…like there’s a glazed look in their eye when you bring up certain subjects and they’re kind of bothered…you know, it’s like…Um, it’s a difficult thing, and I guess I’ve always been one to want to talk about those types of subjects. And, yeah, death, if death is the worst possible thing that can happen then, you know, what else? You know, then what? Right? 

**Margaret ** 50:12
Yeah, what else you got? Like?

**Patrick ** 50:14
Yeah, exactly. So. But, I mean, Frankly, you know, I mean, you know, some of the subjects I deal with in a broad sense, you know, are about extinction and are about the implications of climate change. And that is a heavy thing. And I do think that it weighs on the minds and hearts of people. And so I don’t know if there’s answers…There’s no answer to how to like…. There’s no therapy that will fix that, right? There’s no like…You can’t go to a therapist to fix this problem. It’s just, it is what it is. And so then what? And that’s… I don’t have an answer, but at least I can talk about it.

**Margaret ** 50:49
Absolutely. Well, we are running out of time, but I’m wondering if there was anything that I should have asked you on this particular topic and then if not, or after that, I’m wondering how people can find your work to engage with it.

**Patrick ** 51:06
Yeah, well, I mean, I’m glad we could talk about Covid and it did kind of open some things up for me, so thank you for the discussion. I don’t know, I guess there’s a lot to say. I guess I would ask people, if you haven’t been masking, start masking again. We are in a wave. Learn more about that. It’s actually quite fascinating. So just do that. That’d be cool. It’d be good for your own health and the benefit of others. There’s a lot to say, I don’t know, I guess I guess we could have talked more about some other aspects of my work. But this is fine because I’ve been obsessively learning about Covid, so that’s probably on my mind more than anything. Yeah, no, I mean, I guess people can learn more about my podcast. I have my website lastborninthewilderness.com. Everything is there. You can listen to it wherever you listen to podcasts. You can support my work on Patreon. All that stuff. I have that…. I mentioned I’m doing a collaborative series with, his name is Joshua Pribanic from the Public Herald. He’s a journalist and filmmaker. And we’re doing a collaborative series on long covid specifically, so that should be…. We haven’t quite figured out exactly how that’s gonna play out. But we will have that out in the coming weeks or months, starting to release those episodes. So I would ask people to look out for that.

**Margaret ** 52:18
Hell yeah. Alright, well, thanks so much for coming on. And I have a feeling…yeah, there’s so much more that even was on our list of things we’re going to talk about, so I have a feeling I’m going to try and drag you back pretty soon. 

**Patrick ** 52:29
Okay, good. 

**Margaret ** 52:34
Thank you so much for listening. If you enjoyed this podcast then take public health seriously. [Said with a skeptically questioning tone] It shouldn’t have to be on us. But it kind of always does because everything is always on us because we’re all actually equals in this society that we all collectively build. So think about that, I guess, and listen to the Last Born in the Wilderness. And if you want to support this podcast in particular, you can support it by telling people about it, you can do…. You can tell machines about it. Just go to a computer and write on it with a sharpie and say like, "I like Strangers in a Tangled Wilderness, and then whoever’s computer it is, hopefully doesn’t run as fast as you, and then after that, you can also support us financially by supporting us on Patreon, by supporting our publisher, Strangers in a Tangled Wilderness, whose province of name you now know. Because I was cutting up holy books like a jerk. And you can support us on Patreon and it’s patreon.com/strangersinatangledwilderness. If you support us at $10 or more a month, we send you a zine every month. But if you support us at like $1 a month, you’re still helping this podcast have a transcript and you’re helping this podcast be edited. Those are the people who get paid currently. And one day it’ll pay the hosts and that’ll be sweet because I like eating food. But I’m not trying to pressure you about that. Also, if you don’t have any money, don’t give it to us. Just fucking spend it on your own food. Like whatever. From each according to ability to each according to need. It is a slogan that predates Marx, so don’t worry. But now I don’t remember who said it off the top of my head. In particular, I would like to thank a list of people. I would like to thank Eric and Perceval, Buck, Jacob, Catgut, Marm, Carson, Lord Harken, Trixter, Princess Miranda, BenBen, anonymous, Funder, Janice & O’dell, Aly, paparouna, Milica, Boise Mutual Aid, theo, Hunter, S. J., Paige, Nicole, David, Dana Chelsea, Staro, Jenipher, Kirk, Chris, Michaiah. And as always, Hoss the Dog was a very good dog. I’m not gonna tell you where Hoss lives, but I’ve met Hoss. Hoss is great. Okay, I hope everyone is doing as well as you can despite the fact that everything’s ending