Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Take Back Urban Homesteading

Everyone else did this Monday. But I didn't because I'm a rebel. Better late then never, right? I've been out sick with a nasty cold and my third (yes, third!!) mastitis infection. I swear Tumbleweed did permanent injury with that first one because I've had problems since. But I am not here to write about breasts, I am here to write about something that has been on my mind for over a year, a movement I've been trying to become part of called urban homesteading. Or rather non-rural homesteading. I have to refer to it as something else now. You see, the Derveas family of Path to Freedom fame has decided to trademark the term so we have to attribute it to them. Numerous blogs were notified (including my favorite: rootsimple) and facebook removed many pages for the urban homesteading movement. The blogosphere has responded with a Urban Homesteaders Action Day. I missed it. Because I had a 104 fever. But here I am now to give my response to a situation I find ridiculous.
I'm a wannabe urban homesteader. Maybe I'll feel like I'm part of the group once we have honey bees or chickens. Or when I start canning more than jam. I'm not sure. If I make rugs out of old
sheets that counts, right? Regardless, of whether or not I get to be included in the club, I read a LOT of blogs and books about the subject.

A week or so ago the head of the Derveas family sent out some fairly polite letters to a handful of bloggers asking them to please refer to the Derveas Institute when referencing urban homesteading. Annoying, but whatever, I sort of get it since they own the domain name. But THEN they took it to facebook. And this was when they really took it too far. They closed down pages for grassroots organizations and farmers markets. The obvious point to everyone except that family is that when you are trying to promote a grassroots idea and promote education about the idea, the LAST thing you want to do is shut down other little guys who are also promoting that same idea.
They were denied in 2008 when they tried to trademark the words, so who messed up this time? Being able to trademark those words in the first place reeks of Monsantoism (I made up that word. Can I trademark it?). Who is Monsanto? Never heard of them? They're the ones genetically modifying all your food. The ones that sued the little farmers because their genetically modified soy had cross bred with their regular soy and so the little farmer was in violation of patent law (or whatever). I have another post about that I'm working on. The point is, it's just plain stupid.
And now there's a backlash. The Rootsimple folks wrote a book in 2008 called The Urban Homestead and have now obtained a lawyer to help them protect it and everyone else in this crazy situation. Almost 5000 people have joined the facebook group Take Back Urban Homestead(ing) and they're growing and they're mad. And that's something you don't want to do: piss off people who handle pitchforks on an almost daily basis.
Derveas are of course on the defensive and I can almost see where they're coming from with some of their arguments. One problem is here where they list a whole bunch of trademarked words that are also fairly ridiculous: simple living, honeybee, gardener....
The thing is, whoever owns these trademarks aren't shutting down facebook pages and google searches over them. THAT is where you crossed the line you guys. Now I'm just talking to the Dervaes family apparently. A lot of us really liked you. We wanted backyards like yours. We wanted bicycle powered blenders. Mostly, we wanted to know where our food was coming from and do our own little part to help this little planet we all call home. We're disappointed because the people who were fighting the man became the man, whether you intended to or not. When you shut down the free exchange of ideas you shut down and credibility you have gained as pioneers (sorry Jules, not "founders") in a wonderful movement.

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