DIY is Bigger Than We Think

On the road for nearly two months, I’ve been talking a lot about Do-It-Yourself (DIY). I was up horribly early today, Sunday June 22, to be on KEXP radio at 7:30 a.m. in Seattle, and managed to squeeze in a bit about the DIY sensibility that I think embodies a deep rejection of self-referential “expertise” as foisted upon us by corporations, government, and mass media. The simple and relatively mundane examples, like fixing your own bike, or growing your own tomatoes, are important basic steps that anyone can take. But the deeper logic shows up in historic movements that precede our time, like the women’s health movement that started back in the late 1960s/early ’70s, and led to the legalization of abortion, the proliferation of women’s health clinics, the Our Bodies OurSelves book, and a culture of self-care among many women, and one that is available to anyone.

Another vital example, which we now have to reinvent, is the anti-nuclear movement of the 1970s and early 80s. Instead of accepting the arguments of governmental and corporate “experts” that nuclear power was the Answer to all our energy problems, a grassroots movement rejected that in favor of a self-education in alternatives like solar and wind and conservation. Help came from professionals who refused to remain silent and complicit with the corporate agenda, but instead “dropped out” and spoke up against the irrational and self-destructive agenda embodied in nuclear power.

The reversal just announced by Bay Area officials, that they now are NOT going to spray for Light Brown Apple Moth, but will use other methods to try to control the infestation, is a direct product of DIY science at the grassroots of society. Thousands of Bay Area residents informed themselves of what was happening, refused to accept the bland assurances of government officials that the 90% inert ingredients were safe, and figured out a lot of basic info on the risks associated with the gov’t. plans. Now they’ve had to come up with a whole new approach because of the popular revolt.

John Robb over at Global Guerrillas had a post recently which opened my eyes to some developments I only fantasized about:

The “Open Source Ecology” wiki (of which this design is a part of) is yet another example of the many efforts underway to accelerate DIY technology development for Resilient Communities (The RC). As personal fabrication improves, these tinkering efforts will become MUCH more sophisticated at an ever decreasing cost. We (collectively, those of us engaged in decentralized thinking/action) are in the process of reinventing how the global economy is structured at a root level — good thing we didn’t ask permission.

Yesterday I joined Russell Howze, my book tour travelling partner, for an afternoon of DIY stenciling here in Seattle. Below are some photos of our escapade, on a “legal” wall in a parking lot just north of downtown, with a small group of talented artists. (Yesterday Seattle also hosted a Naked Bike Ride and we were entertained by a dozen or more fully painted nude cyclists coming through while we were painting)…

I had to participate for a change, so I made my usual comment into a stencil, and Russell graciously did the painting, since I cannot manipulate a spray can to do what I want:

4 Full Njoymnt

Not Full Mploymnt

Here’s the iconic image of Russell’s Stencil Nation book and project:

And lastly, this mysterious image was at the other end of the lot… no mouth to look into, but what the hell…

1 comment to DIY is Bigger Than We Think

  • lee worden

    Chris – thanks for your shout out to the LBAM resistance. It’s really important to be clear that:

    1. They are still going to spray from airplanes everywhere but the cities – such as the forests and farms.

    2. They are still likely to spray the cities, probably from truck foggers, as well as more localized applications.

    It’s absolutely true that DIY science and old-fashioned organizing forced them to abandon the urban aerial spraying – but also that the change is primarily about fooling people and disorganizing the opposition – so it’s very important for us to be clear that we haven’t stopped the spraying and have to keep fighting it.

    Thanks again for covering this, and for all the good organizing and writing!

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