When Nina and Marcus search for a new roommate, they employ an unusual plan to ensure local applicants from the neighborhood.
“You should probably know a little something about the place you call home.” -- Marcus
What does Kendrick Lamar have in common with Bill Nye the Science Guy? Besides their impeccable fashion tastes, they are both expert practitioners in the field of ecology.
The word “ecology” comes from the Greek word oikos or “eco,” meaning “home.” Ecology literally means “knowledge of home.” In this way, we are all grassroots ecologists – from dockworkers to scientists to rappers who chronicle their neighborhood stories. We all have extensive knowledge of the people and places we call home. Our hyper-capitalist system aims to keep us as ecologically illiterate as it can (not knowing where our food or water comes from, erasing entire histories of communities and cultures), but more and more people these days are committing to keeping that knowledge alive and relearning what’s been forgotten.
Like the Amazon rainforest or the Arctic tundra, Oakland is an ecosystem worthy of study and protection. Our ecosystem here in Oakland contains taco trucks and redwoods, scraper bikes and Lake Merritt – all the living organisms and concrete structures in our natural and developed environment. The idea that “humans are separate from nature” is not only a false dichotomy, it reinforces the colonizing myth that humanity can and should dominate the natural world.
Gentrification is displacing whole communities in cities like Oakland. In the process, it is erasing the cultural history and collective memory of what makes this place unique. Neighborhood heroes are forgotten, community stories are whitewashed. This isn’t just a question of inequality and appropriation, it’s a matter of collective power and survival. As climate change intensifies and social conditions turn even more oppressive in the Trump era, we need communities that have strong social ties and a deep relationship to their local and global ecosystems -- the places and planet we all call home.
As our friends at the Climate Justice Alliance say, “It takes roots to weather the storm.” Our job is to strengthen those roots where they already exist and plant new ones to weather the many storms to come.