Monica Albizu completed the Ecological Literacy Immersion Program (ELIP) in 2013. She has since joined the Long Spoon Collective, named for a well-known parable that illustrates the difference between hell and heaven. In hell, the people are starving because they can't lift food to their own mouths using the long spoons. In heaven, the people are well-fed because they use the long spoons to feed each other across the table.
Omega: Tell us about the Long Spoon Collective that you're involved with.
Monica: The Long Spoon Collective is a group of individuals in Saugerties, New York, that started working together a year and a half ago. We have a two-fold mission: We’re looking to help people meet basic needs, like food and housing, and we’re trying to help people be less dependent on money. The main focus is to create an abundance economy—whether that’s having materials stored for building projects for whoever might need them, or growing as much food as possible so that we can share it.
We have a network of 12 people who have seven gardens at different sites. Certain sites might be more conducive to growing potatoes, whereas others might be better suited for growing berries, or plants that need more water or more sunshine. It’s all done under the lens of land restoration, trying to rebuild soil, to plant things that are long-term investments.
At the beginning of August 2015, we had our first food share event. We set up big tables and tents to give food away. We went around the neighborhood and invited people. It was a word of mouth, organic thing. We had open house hours. People brought food to exchange. Other people just came to get fresh fruits and vegetables. It’s a free farmer’s market, but we wanted to get away from both the word "free" and the word "market," to begin to really change the language, to get people to begin to think of things in a different way.
Omega: Is it true the collective has been deconstructing houses and putting the reclaimed materials to new use?
Monica: Two of our guys started this movement when they were having breakfast one day at a local cafe. They heard a contractor talking about a neighbor who wanted a house taken down, but he didn’t want to take the project. They approached the property owner and said, "If you want this house taken down, we can take it down for free in exchange for keeping the materials." The landowner thought it was a great idea, so a group of us got together and deconstructed the house in about 15 days. We reused as much material as we possibly could. The only things we had to throw out were fiberglass insulation and some of the sheetrock.
We stored all the materials and used them on many different projects, two of which were full houses for individuals. We used everything from nails and screws that were taken out carefully, to siding and windows, sinks, and copper pipes. In doing this we began to build a relationship with the landowner. He was so impressed that he offered us the land the house had been on to build a garden. This season that property has been our main focus. We’ve been really focusing on turning it into a community space.
Omega: How was it coming back to Omega for the ELIP reunion?
Monica: It was a wonderful opportunity to link back up with people whom I had spent so much time with, had shared a lot and grown a lot with. It allowed us all to connect with one another, to give advice to each other. It was very productive because you could go right into talking about deep issues.
The ELIP program is creating a language we all share. It really begins to highlight how humans and nature are connected. A lot of the classes I took were demonstrating systems thinking, how we’re all interconnected. ELIP gives you the tools to think about society and the environment in new ways.
Omega: What was your biggest take away from ELIP?
Monica: It left me feeling called to rise to the challenge. The most important thing I took away from the program is how to live a life where actions reflect values in order to lead by example. Alone, consciously making the decision to change can be a daunting task, but when you join forces with others and build community, you become part of something larger and more meaningful. Community is a support network that allows you to share, teach, learn, and inspire others.
© 2016 Omega Institute for Holistic Studies