I live on unfenced land on a dirt road in Joshua Tree, not far from the national park. Our house is next to a large swath of unblemished-by-humans BLM land. We live amongst wild beings, in natural quiet. We’re very lucky. It’s nice for us here, and we’re doing our best to steward the land we own.
But. Down by the four-lane highway just a few miles from the park’s border, an Indian tribe wants to build a massive, off-reservation casino. A predatory out-of-state corporation wants to build a pseudo-general store on open land to make easy money off our fixed-income and low-income neighbors. The economic crash has sent the unemployment and food-stamp numbers here through the roof. Weird water policies have meant that we have to look beyond our own local aquifer for water. Energy companies want to build fields of solar panels and windmills to supply power to the cities that will not supply power for themselves. Off-road vehicles are driven illegally on county roads and in BLM land regularly, crushing animals and plants, disturbing the landscape and breaking the hard-won silence.
In other words, almost everybody here is hurting. Almost everything here is in danger. Needs defending.
I thought of my friend Dave Reeves. Dave wrote many great columns and articles for Arthur Magazine (which I edited) and provided much raw fuel and blazing inspiration for that project. But his real claim to fame and fortune is that he was the originator of the Defend Brooklyn T-shirt in 1996. The “Defend [where you live]” concept is a brilliant one, in and of itself — read Dave’s essay series if you want the background philosophy, history and some great riffs on how culture works. But the “Defend” concept is also brilliant because it can be applied anywhere, which is one of the reasons why it’s been ripped off so many times.
I went to Dave to see if there was a way that we could use his Defend idea here in Joshua Tree. We figured out a deal. And now, my partner Stephanie Smith and I have started a Defend Joshua Tree blog, which is being updated regularly with news and views on what’s going down here and what we can do about it.
Meanwhile, artist Arik Roper, who did so much gorgeous work in the pages of Arthur Magazine through the years, as well as on posters, T-shirts and album covers, has made two designs for a Defend Joshua Tree T-shirt. Here’s one, starring a pack of local coyotes, protecting their young:
We want to start manufacturing these T-shirts as soon as possible. Last week, we started a Kickstarter campaign to raise $1500 in 21 days. A pledge of $25 gets you a shirt; $50, two shirts; $75, three; and $100, five.
If you want to support the project but don’t want a shirt, that’s fine: we’ll use your pledge money to give a shirt to a deserving neighbor.
With fifteen hundred dollars’ worth of T-shirt orders, we can put in place a sustainable Defend Joshua Tree wholesale/retail microbusiness that won’t be dependent on pre-orders, pledges and so on.
If “Defend…” works here, in a town of less than 8,000… Well, we think the implications beyond this one campaign are obvious.
Please participate. The campaign ends Dec. 27, 2011.