David Bearg wanted to do something to help Occupy Boston. An environmental activist and self-described futurist who lives on a farm in Concord, he decided the Dewey Square protesters could use a few large white boards for communicating.
Bearg's rambling shingle home in the White Pond area is so energy-efficient that in late October, he is still picking lettuce and spinach from the two-level greenhouse he built 33 years ago.
“I’m trying to extend the growing season,” said Bearg.
But back to Occupy Boston.
“I think it’s significant in many ways,” said Bearg from the small outbuilding on his property that serves as a meditation or visiting room. "It is an incredible experiment in participatory democracy. There is electronic social networking, and here it is in real life. These people are developing trust, cooperation and communication, and I think something good will grow out of it.”
Bearg visited the Occupy Boston website and saw the list of needs such as food and money. He knows the tent city cannot erect any type of building, so plywood would be a no-no, but he saw a need for white boards that could be used for communication among the mostly 20- and 30-somethings in Dewey Square Park across from South Station.
Bearg noticed on a local website that a Concord woman was advertising free office furniture, including white boards, that she was giving away. So last Sunday, Bearg loaded up his truck with five white boards, and headed into Boston.
“It was something I could do,” he said.
“There was a heavy police presence, so I couldn’t park anywhere near the site, so I pulled over and yelled, ‘I have white boards,’” said Bearg. The cops told him no building materials, but he said the white boards would be used for internal communication. The police let him idle while OB participants unloaded his truck.
“It’s an uneasy truce with the police,” said Bearg. “But they never told me to move along.”
Bearg was unable to judge the size of the Boston protest, but he thinks it is a growing response to unsettling times.
“If a calamity comes, and it’s only a matter of time, the fear is that the national government will not be equipped to respond, and people will have to turn to each other and their communities,” he said. “That is what is developing at Occupy Boston and other protests in the hinterland. People are learning to communicate with each other and respond to their needs for food and shelter. I’m excited about where this will lead.”
“People are frustrated,” said Bearg. He thinks if there is, for example, a “disruption in the flow of energy, or a public health epidemic caused by climate instability, or a range of diseases we can’t treat,” that the response will have to be more local than national.
“We are teetering on the edge,” he said. That’s bad, but that’s also the good he sees in Occupy Boston.
“What we will need is a reliance on local and regional communities,” said Bearg. “People are organizing. It has touched a chord.”
What started out in New York City as a protest against corporate greed and the undue influence of corporations in the national government is turning out to be, in Bearg’s mind, an exercise in local reliance in cities and towns all across the country.
Betsy Levinson can be reached at email@example.com.