Patch Me In, Borrowed Time!

Beginning in January 2020, the Mill Valley Public Library embarks on a year-long quest to examine, understand, and respond to climate change. We’re putting out the call to every citizen interested — read, watch, discuss, listen, write, reflect, and act at whatever level you’re comfortable taking part. There will be documentary screenings, suggested books to read and discuss, guest speakers (our first speaker, Brian Fisher, is an entomologist with Cal Academy of Sciences and will present on January 3rd about the awe-inspiring power of insects as global-warming indicator species, and how we might learn adaptation lessons from our gryllidae friends).

We’re also offering a badging program to inspire you to go one step further in living thoughtfully and sustainably. Simply put, perform a few actions in different categories and you’ll earn a specific, custom-designed, sewn fabric patch. These patches are amazing. Consider them badges of honor – for stretching your boundaries, for examining your actions, and taking steps towards taking care of our natural world. Each patch represents a different challenge or task. Recall the Brian Fisher talk I mentioned above? The first 150 attendees will each receive the fantastic Feeding the Future patch.

There’s a story behind most of the patches, many of whom bear a fantastic (or depending on your humor) punishing title. Take, for example, The Last Straw. Inspired, of course, by the colloquialism, we don’t need to paint much of a picture for you to recognize the connection to how much plastic (in the form of straws and everything else) ends up in the oceans. We’ve had it. More importantly, our planet has had it. So, combat it.

You’ll earn The Last Straw patch when you commit to reducing your personal plastic usage – by adopting and using reusable cloth/mesh produce bags at the supermarket, refusing bottled water and using your own water bottle instead, using your own to-go containers and portable utensil set rather than the plastic ones at the store, bringing your own silicone/metal/glass/bamboo straw. If you swap out a few of these items and put the alternatives into practice, the patch is yours. 

Read at least 4 of our recommended reading books for Borrowed Time, such as The Uninhabitable Earth by David Wallace-Wells or Salmon by Mark Kurlansky, and you’ll earn the Read it and Weep patch. I’ll let the name speak for itself, though please don’t let it deter you from the stellar reading list we’ve assembled.

One of our patches, By Leaves We Live, holds a particular meaning to me. You earn the patch by finding a plot of rich earthy soil and planting a tree (young, old, sapling) amongst it in the hopes of raising a magnificent carbon-eating, life-giving organism. The act on its own is beautiful, but the title of the patch comes from a line by 20th century Scottish botanist, town planner, and conservationist, Patrick Geddes.  “How many people think twice about a leaf? Yet the leaf is the chief product and phenomenon of Life: this is a green world, with animals comparatively few and small, and all dependent upon the leaves. By leaves we live. Some people have strange ideas that they live by money. They think energy is generated by the circulation of coins. But the world is mainly a vast leaf-colony, growing on and forming a leafy soil, not a mere mineral mass: and we live not by the jingling of our coins, but by the fullness of our harvests.” By leaves and trees, we live. Nature feeds us. But also, particularly for those of us who read, who relish books and stories, we live by the leaves of written words, as well.

Alexandra Birnbach of Mill Valley Public Library