Deep Democracy With Riki Ott

Riki Ott lecturing at FLC in March 2012

Riki Ott lecturing at FLC in March 2012

At the end of March, I had the privilege of attending the Deep Democracy Workshop with Riki Ott. The workshop was an incredibly valuable opportunity to learn more about community organizing and social, political and environmental activism. Riki has a lot of experience organizing communities, and played an integral role in organizing communities to help deal with the vast environmental devastation caused by both the Exxon Valdez and BP Gulf Coast Oil Spills. She is both inspiringly motivated and full of energy, and works hard to bring about positive change.

During the workshop, many different issues and movements were discussed, as well as tactics and models of social movements that could be utilized to affect change. Among the topics discussed were the Occupy Wall Street and corresponding Occupy movements within the states and around the globe. Riki was highly enthusiastic about the revolutionary potential of the Occupy movement, as well as its peaceful, decentralized and diverse nature.

Riki also talked about the Transition Town Movement, which has also been spreading quite widely lately. Transition Towns are taking initiative and rebuilding their local economies, focusing on sustainability, interdependence and autonomy. Some Transition Towns have even gone so far as to draft their own Bill of Rights, oftentimes rejecting corporate personhood and proclaiming that sovereignty is for human beings, not corporate social constructs.

In terms of tactics, Riki was very adamant that peaceful coordination and nonviolence were key to creating movements with significant impacts. She argued that nonviolence gives movements a moral advantage and also brings new people into the movement. Nevertheless, she was equally adamant that civil disobedience is necessary to bringing about change, so long as it stays nonviolent. When injustice is law, it becomes a moral imperative that we disobey it. She gave the example of the Civil Rights movement, and tactics such as the sit-ins at lunch counters, even students peacefully getting attacked by police and dogs. By allowing themselves to be attacked and victimized by these unjust laws, people brought attention to the shockingly cruel nature of laws perpetuated by the state and civil authorities. Even the Transition Towns drafting their own Bill of Rights were a form of civil disobedience, as they are technically illegal and not recognized by the state.

Along with stressing nonviolent action, Riki also emphasized the importance of not only revolution but evolution. In other words, rather than just tearing down or reacting to systems and structures that perpetuate injustice, we need to have a vision of what we hope to replace them with. In other words, movements shouldn’t get too caught up in what they want to fight against, but what kinds of positive goals they hope to accomplish. She explained her opinion that times of great crisis, such as we seem to be experiencing now, also bring about the most potential for positive change and creative opportunity. Over all, one of the most powerful and encouraging messages she had to offer was the revolutionary power of creative and constructive thinking.

At the end of the day, we organized ourselves into two groups and created new teams to tackle issues in our community. We formed a committee to create a Free Health Care Clinic for LaPlata County Citizens in need, as well as a campaign to help bring more local foods into Fort Lewis and other schools in the area. We came up with a coherent action plan to help us solidify our goals and obstacles and to get these projects rolling. Hopefully these new initiatives will blossom into full-scale community programs, and we can implement our positive visions for the community.

Overall, I’m really glad I had the opportunity to attend this workshop. I took a lot from it, especially a new sense of enthusiasm for evolution and revolution, and it gave me hope to see so many other people passionate about creating change in the community.

~ Randy Newkirk

Recycling Trash with Style!

“Miss Understood and Mr Meanor” 1997

“Miss Understood and Mr Meanor” 1997

London based art couple Tim Noble and Sue Webster use a different type of media for their sculpture work,

Dirty White Trash (With Gulls), Tim Noble and Sue Webster, 1998, 2011

"Dirty White Trash (With Gulls)", 1998

a variety of personal garbage and trash collected off of city streets.

The couple created their first “shadow sculpture”, called “Miss Understood and Mr. Meanor” in 1997, and another piece titled, “Dirty White Trash” in 1998, where a pile of trash is assembled so that when a light source is set at the perfect angle, the pile creates a silhouetted image on the background wall. Without the light source, the thoughtfully congregated sculpture looks just like a huge pile of tras

h on the gallery floor, which the artists loved as a statement questioning the definition of real art. The materials include anything from broken glass to used cue tips, all recycled from personal or street found garbage, and even two seagulls from Noble’s father’s old taxidermy collection to create a silhouetted image of the artists sitting back to back enjoying a cigarette and a glass of wine.

Noble and Webster, after receiving great attention with their assemblage sculptures went on to create many more featuring a variety of found and recycled items, scrap metal and even mummified animals. Other artworks that the couple is known for is their painting, ceramic work and large scale light installations that often deal with themes of self-portraits, social connection, pop culture, grunge and rock. Check them out at

So next time you feel like you’re in need of some creative release but are lacking the material, go pick up some trash around your street or river and make a sweet sculpture that all your friends will dig! You’ll not only be making wonderful art, you will be playing a part to help clean our beautiful planet! Cheers!

~ Hannah Burleigh

Welcome to the Rocket Composter

The Rocket

The Rocket Composter at it's current location at the Student Union loading dock.

Just in time for spring, Fort Lewis College is becoming “greener”. It began at the Student Operations Summit in fall of 2009, when students declared sustainability a top priority for future funds. A study done in 2010 unveiled that Fort Lewis College students generated a collective .24 lbs of waste during each meal. Over the 31 weeks in academic year, the cumulative waste generated is 102.977. Based on this knowledge, the students decided their college’s waste problem was a pressing issue. Thus began a search for a composting system that could meet the sizable demands. Now after a long period of gathering support, funds, and research, the Rocket Composter is now up and ready to run. This new edition is predicted to eliminate 75,907 lbs of discarded food per academic year. This is waste that would otherwise occupy a landfill. This huge stride in waste management has helped the school meet its goal to reduce food waste by 70%, one of many goals found in the college’s Suitability Action Plan.

Presently, large-scale composting is relatively uncharted terrain. The United States has only nine campuses with Rocket Composters, making Fort Lewis a pioneer in campus composting. The composter is partly operated by the student organization the Environmental Center, providing unique opportunities for environmentally minded students to work with and learn from the composter.

Collaboration makes operation of the Rocket Composter possible.  Sedexo’s participation has been the key in making the the compost dream a reality. Their staff sorts the disposed food from the dishes, putting it into their pulper machine, and preparing it for its micro-organismic journey to become compost. Sedexo’s eagerness to work with the school’s Environmental Center has created a great climate for positive change on Campus.  We hope that our partnered success sets an example for other campuses, communities and businesses to explore the benefits of large scale composting.

~ Melanie Weber-Sauer

Have a Beer and Stimulate Local Business

BeerWe all know the Silver Bullet Train and that magnificent Clydesdale bunch.  We even know when our beer’s cold because the mountains turn blue!  Come each and every January, our brains are riddled with competitive Super Bowl advertising campaigns triggered to bring in great revenue for the upcoming year.  If asked what 5 beer companies first come to mind, I’d bet Coors, Miller, Blue Moon, Bud, and Michelob would be among the most frequent.  Coincidentally, the first three are “crafted” by Molson Coors Brewing Company and the latter two by the Anheuser-Bush brewing powerhouse.  These several companies have a relentless grip on the advertisement and distribution of beer throughout the U.S. and most other parts the world.  How did this happen?

With regards to the North American market, in 1919, the U. S. government passed a national ban of the sale, manufacture, and transportation of alcoholic beverages in the United States.  This ban shutdown most all of the over 3,000 breweries, only the several largest were able to stay in business by brewing soda.  In 1933, when prohibition was lifted, these large companies began mass-producing beer throughout America.  Smaller brewers weren’t able to compete with these companies that could mass-brew and distribute product at an extremely low price, remember prohibition was lifted in a time of economic crisis.  As time went on, the largest companies became even more powerful and the idea and art of craft brewing was lost.

Not until 1978, when Jimmy Carter legalized home brewing, was this art again seen on a large scale.  Home brewing allowed for brewers to perfect their skill and create products that could compete with the larger beer-manufacturing giants.  It’s around this time that we see the modern microbrew pioneers, such as Sierra Nevada, emerge.  This new wave of microbreweries brought not only competition to the larger companies, but also new products for the consumer.

Due to economic feasibility, the largest companies tend to mass-produce only one style of beer, usually the pale lager.  Microbreweries have the ability to expand their products, brewing many ale-style alternatives.  To understand the basic differences between the two major styles of beer, ale and lager, we must first understand the biology.  The major differences in biology have to do with the species of yeast that separates the two styles.  Ale yeast is the species Saccharomyces cerevisiae.  This species ideally ferments in warm temperatures, 65-80 deg., and produces a flavorfully, fruity product.  On the other hand, the lager species, Saccharomyces pastorianus, is a hybrid species that prefers low temperature, around 45 deg., and produces a much different flavor seen in products like Budweiser and Coors.  There are also some differences in the barley and hop preparation/addition.

Since 1978, America is seeing more and more microbreweries, recently reaching over 1,700.  Durango alone hosts four and soon to be five microbreweries as well as a large congregation of home-brewers and a Home-Brew Store.  All of the beer bought from these Durango breweries provides jobs for Durangatangs as well as revenue that stays within the city limits.  Buying local brew also greatly reduces your carbon footprint because there is minimal shipment of the product.  To even further reduce your footprint, save, wash, and de-label your glass bottles and offer them to a local home brewer, possibly in return for some home brew.  It is up to us to continue the movement from large beer-manufacturing machines to local-based craft beer breweries.  So next time you crack open a cold one, make sure it’s a Durango or Colorado local brew.

~ Drew Walters

A Successful Water Day Event

River cleanup

Animas River Spring Cleaning.

We have just wrapped up No Impact Week here at the EC. The final event took place last Saturday, the Durango community came together at Rotary Park, to unite around the river. Fifty people came out to clean up the Animas, listen to great tunes, and spend a great day in the park. The amount of trash which was collected was surprising, but it was great to see what a few motivated community members could collect. After the event all the trash was sorted between recycling and trash, while listening to the Poetic Minds. The most exciting pieces of trash included a traffic cone, assorted reusable jackets, and some historic blacksmith material. Thanks to everyone who came out to clean up the river, and we hope to see you all and more next year.

~ Alexander Terry

Art from waste: An Interview with artist Vivian Krishnan

Artist Vivian Krishnan and works.

Artist Vivian Krishnan (left center) and friends modeling her work at the fashion show. (Photo by Hari Baumbach)

Reusing materials that would otherwise go to waste is becoming more common in the art world. Fort Lewis College art student Vivian Krishnan is one of these artists who decided to turn “trash” into art. Last week, her work along with other students’ work was showcased at FLC’s Art Department fundraiser at the Lost Dog Bar in downtown Durango. Here’s what Vivian has to say about her work.

Hari Baumbach: Tell me a little about yourself (background, hometown, major, artists who inspire you, art that you like to do).

Vivian Krishnan: I was born and raised in Kailua, Oahu HI. I live in Denver when I’m not attending school at the Fort. My major is in Studio Art with an Art History minor. For the time being I have been very inspired by multiple designers like Vallentino, Hugo Boss, and Calvin Klein. Robin Barcus Slonina who is a sculptor has had a huge influence on me. Besides sculpture, I love working with textiles and well as printmaking.

HB: How did the wearable art project come to be and how/ why did you decide to use materials that would’ve otherwise gone to waste to create your pieces?

VK: The first time I tried out this wearable art idea was when I started one of sculpture projects assigned by Jay Dougan. We were asked to find an artist we liked and produce work inspired by them. The artist I chose was Robin Barcus. She takes dress forms to a whole new level she makes a lot of her pieces out of natural things like pinecones and flowers so I thought I would use materials that were quite the opposite.

HB: What materials are used and what techniques did you employ to turn the materials into your pieces?

VK: For a few of my pieces I used plastic grocery bags from Walmart, Home Depot, and Lowe’s. By fusing multiples layers of the plastic with an iron I was able to create a sturdy fabric. Other materials that I used were hardware cloth, newspaper, bubble wrap, packaging foam and peanuts, and City Market paper bags.

HB: How did you envision the impact your work would have on your audience? Did you have a specific message in mind? If so, what was your message?

Vivian and I

Vivian and I after the fashion show.

VK: I haven’t really thought of the impact. People just kept telling me how pretty the outfits were so it doesn’t seem very different from making normal clothes. My message is mostly just that if we have these materials lying around why not just give them one last good use and make something out of them. All it takes is time and I think its time worth spending. Playing around with the idea of what is fabric is another key factor in my work.

HB: What part do you think artists play/ can play/ should play in creating awareness about social and environmental issues?

VK: Artists have a huge influence on others. The audience may not agree or like it but, if someone see’s work with a clear message they will probably remember it and tell others about it. Talking about the process we go through as artists is also important. When I was making my pieces, it was very important to me that I limit the amount of waste I created.

HB: In which ways do you feel your work could change people’s relationship to waste?

Rubbish can be pretty! Recycling can lead to beautiful things and I just hope that people can see from my work that if you’re not going to limit your waste at least deal with it properly.

HB: In your own words, how did you feel the fashion show on Thursday came together? Were you happy with the outcome?

VK: The show could not have happened with out all the students that helped and the handful of teachers who supported it. There was a lot of teamwork that went into the production of the show. I’m just really proud of all of the artists, students, and the Gallery Management class that helped Sarah Swoboda, Elizabeth Gand, and myself. I am so happy about how it went! I couldn’t have asked for a better night.

HB: What are your hopes for the future? Are you planning to continue working with “unusual” materials on future projects?

VK: Absolutely, I have become obsessed with using plastic grocery bags. My apartment is full of them just waiting to be used! I hope to make more clothes and perhaps accessories.

HB: Do you have any final comments or statements you would like to add?

VK: I really just want to thank Elizabeth Gand (the art history professor) for taking an interest in my work and giving me the chance to push it further. Also, there is nothing wrong with being more aware of ourselves and our surroundings. Recycling is so easy!

~ Hari Baumbach

Making a Splash Upon… No Impact!?!

Animas River Cleanup

Participants of the Water Day at Rotary Park.

Hello there, campus community. Last week, a group of inspired faculty, staff, and students brought the No Impact Project to campus in a flurry of ‘trashion’ shows, river clean-ups, speakers, environmentally themed documentaries, energy conservation and activism. The week-long campaign of activities challenged each of us as individuals to embrace specific, impact-lowering shifts in our daily lives. The payoff to such actions as eating meat-free one day a week (who knew one day of vegetarianism would reduce your annual carbon footprint by 10%!?!) promised to positively affect each individual’s triple bottom line—people, planet…and personal happiness.

Running the Numbers…
At the week’s end, the numbers have been tallied and the impact of No Impact Week is just beginning to be seen. In total, our six theme days—Consumption, Waste, Transportation, Local Food, Energy, and Water—engaged over 875 student participants, saw collaborations between twelve different on-campus and community organizations, and pulled from the leadership of 85 student organizers. The scope of our campaign included activities, events, education & outreach, on-line platforms, social media, direct action, and assessment. The No Impact Experiment, a weeklong intensive carbon cleanse, provided a more robust experience for its 129 participants. While anecdotal, it was heartening to see a fairly diverse portion of the student body represented throughout all aspects of the week. Student participants came from the majority of majors on campus and represented both the traditional and non-traditional sectors.

How we are impacting Fort Lewis’ Commitments to Sustainability?
While the participation numbers and diversity of experiences reflect a highly successful No Impact Week, the question has to be asked: Successful at What?

In 2007, Fort Lewis College made sustainability an institutional core commitment by becoming a charter signatory to the President’s Commitment to Climate Neutrality. The campus’ Pathways to Sustainability campaign was born from this pledge and is currently being guided by a comprehensive Sustainability Action Plan (SAP). The SAP is a literal road map for how the college will move towards its sustainability and climate neutrality goals in future years. Some recent successes prompted by the Sustainability Action Plan have included:

  • Instituting a Green Building Policy in which all new buildings must meet LEED-certified standards
  • Participating in Performance Contracting geared at building retrofits and energy conservation. Over time, this will save the school money in operations and energy expenditures, in addition to significantly reducing our Greenhouse Gas Emissions
  • Purchasing and operating a state of the art Rocket A-900 Composter to divert 90% of campus dining wastes out of the landfill and back onto our grounds. In addition to keeping 167,000 pounds of food waste out of the landfill, FLC will have taken its first step to tackle the challenge of redefining our concept of waste.

And now for a hard argument… A recent audit of the Sustainability Action Plan identified that while we are doing a good job in allocating capital to infrastructure improvements, we have done little to address an equally critical area to achieving our sustainability goals: Working to foster a culture of sustainability that is an unavoidable part of the Fort Lewis experience. Such a charge is in many ways far more challenging to attain, because cultural shift is less tangible than a LEED-certified stamp, not to mention that its implementation requires the support of not just one decision maker, but of each and every one of us. To tackle this nebulous challenge requires not only a commonality in values, but also aligned shifts in behavior. As an example, if we at FLC made a conscious choice to value energy conservation and worked to build 100% compliance on simple energy conserving practices such as shutting off the lights when not using a room or unplugging our cell phone chargers when not in use, we could reduce our energy consumption by 30%—creating an annual savings of 1.05 metric tons of CO2 emissions per person or a cumulative of 4200 metric tons of CO2 emissions. To look at it another way, our collective energy efforts could have the same effect as planting 97,697 trees to sequester carbon over 10 years or removing 747 passenger vehicles from the streets for one year.

So, to answer the question, “Successful at What?”, it is incredibly inspiring to say that the No Impact Project campaign was successful at demonstrating to roughly 1/5 of our student body that sustainability is a core value of this community, that it was successful at showcasing some of the different ways that students can actively interact with that core value during their time here at Fort Lewis, and that through the collective efforts of individual behavior change and values identification, we as a campus-community have made a notable shift towards our goal of creating an FLC culture that houses sustainability!

Parting Shot…
The No Impact Week represents only the first step of what must be an ongoing, community effort. As a member of this community, each of us has the charge to act—What will you do to you shape our institution’s sustainability culture?

To learn more about Fort Lewis’ Pathways to Sustainability, visit our website at or contact the Environmental Programs Assistant, Rachel Landis, at, or the EC Coordinator, Rebecca Schild, at

~ Rachel Landis