At the end of the world:
Stories of hope, resilience, and truth


To the few gentle blog readers,

It’s been such a long time since I’ve written. I have to admit that the last thing that I swore (SWORE) to you I would write was about bees. I was excited to explore it as a place of resistance and resilience at the end of the world. I imagined long stretches of me gazing at my bees at one of those old school typewriters (which I don’t own but was planning on buying for just such a moment), occasionally sighing longingly while they took cute little bee naps with their bee bums in the air in the multitude of flowers in my garden. Yet, here we are….

SPOILER ALERT: Climate change killed my bees. I know, it’s a terrible ending. It’s not GoT last season's horrible ending or Joss Whedon’s sexist, racist behavior but it was still, as is the way of bees, decisively horrible. When orange skies blanketed the west coast for weeks on end, my bees found refuge in their homes. One of the first things we learn as beekeepers is that we smoke bees to make them think that there is a fire nearby and that they need to stay home to protect their queen. This allows us as beekeepers to check up on the hive or extract honey or honeycomb without a swarm of them attacking us. Now imagine if that fire and smoke lasted for weeks and the hunger that must have ensued. Bees, unlike the majority of their human counterparts, believe in the union and union democracy. They decided the leader, the Queen Bee, should pay that they were starving and so they killed her. When I next checked my former health colony, they had already regicided their queen and had created the spawning cells for a new queen. I urgently ordered a queen who arrived a week later. Her attendants and my formerly healthy colony was not strong enough to support her emergence. I watched my colony slowly die as they had no queen who could provide what they needed in terms of direction, leadership, and smell. This, I was told by bee experts, is the reason why you always get two colonies…..

And so, instead of bee knowledge, secret propolis, and queen intrigue, I offer this piece born of my soul and here for your careful consideration. Drop a line in the comments if it resonates…...

I’ve been struggling a lot with motherhood during these hard times. I am a working mother in a pandemic whose work is climate change preparation. As a mother with anxiety, I often struggle with the ways in which I am not there for my children, the places I choose to prioritize, the places where I pour myself out so that I may fill up my cup. Even before the pandemic, we normalize the pedestaling of individual stories of motherhood while our corporate and government institutions routinely deny us our humanity. I am profoundly grateful for the ways in which intersectional feminism rooted in race, class, and gender rejects the super-hero mom dynamic and at the end of the day, it is still a difficult reality.

COVID19 has exacerbated the already straining work of motherhood. (See NY Times amazing series on Motherhood in Crisis if you’re confused as to what I mean). The statistics of motherhood and COVID19 are serious and should be alarming (there are many more but without putting additional labor on myself, I will only share that 32% of women say childcare was the reason for their unemployment). Democracy Now reports that women lost 5.5 million jobs in the first 10 months of COVID19, more than a million jobs than men lost, as women bear the primary responsibility for childcare and are working in the hardest hit sectors. This amounts to what researcher C. Nicole Mason, President and Chief Executive of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research refers to as a 'shecession'. These alarming statistics don't take into account interlocking issues such as class, gender identity, and race which are a lot harder to report on. This ‘motherhood in crisis’ lies on top of Gen Zers and Millennials documented fear of bringing children into a climate challenged world as well as current parent’s fear of how climate change will impact their children. Readers, it's a lot. So, what to do with all of this?

I never imagined working with or even having children. My own mother personified traditional motherhood - selflessness wrapped in a hard working immigrant shawl. Her softness was shared for moments after long hours on feet in shoes that weren’t expensive enough to mitigate back pain. She was incredibly busy supporting not just me and my brother but in supporting to plant the seeds of what is assumed to be the American Dream not for herself but for her family. My mother planted her seeds with careful fragile hope and watered it with the sweat from her brow. ‘Here’, she whispered to the rest of her family escaping a civil war, ‘here, we will plant seeds.’ I have the honor to be the only one between my brother and cousins that I’m close to without a doctorate of some kind.

I couldn’t imagine selfless motherhood with a strong vision of the future the way that my mother can and does embody it. I was still too caught up in the places of my identity that were seen and not seen, invisibilized and marginalized to ever think of bringing a whole new being into the world. I fell in love with the worlds of feminist icons like bell hooks, Audre Lorde, and Gloria Anzaldua before I ever imagined creating a type of world for myself where motherhood could be explored.

Motherhood when it approached me came in the form of my partner. He was and remains absolutely effortless with children. It’s the kind of effortlessness that happens when you're watching people who are truly great at their craft at connecting with youth. I would watch him play or teach youth and be amazed at the ease of it all.

For years into our relationship, we would check in tentatively. Conversations would go somewhat as follows:

Me (after watching him play with children): You make me want to have children.

Him (watching me watching him): Absolutely no pressure. If and when you're ready, I’m ready.

Me: Let’s talk about if I’m ready to have conversations about possibly having kids in a year.

Him: Sounds good.

Cycle, rinse, repeat. Until one day eight years into our relationship where I looked at him and thought, ‘I’m ready.’

What does this mean for preparing youth for climate change? How are we supposed to support our young people unless we are fully committed to supporting our children unless we fully consent to the what this moment will mean for them and for us as parents?

This, for me, is interesting to consider as I go into the 11th month of a pandemic. We now know that the stories of dolphins returning to the Venice Canal were greatly exaggerated. Despite record drops in airline travel, we are still reaching scary levels of emissions that will stay cause us to go over the climate cliff. Everything we have been told about individual impacts of curtailing climate change are a lie.

Shockingly (SHOCKINGLY) despite lower than ever individual actions on climate change, we are no closer to mitigating our way out of it. It’s almost as if as a collective society, we need to give up our individual notions of climate mitigation and harm reduction and start applying attention to those who are politically and institutionally responsible for climate change and take actions to address this reality. Like I said, shocking, right?

What does this have to do with motherhood? Well, gentle blog reader, I’m glad that you are committed to keep reading to find out. As a mama with high levels of anxiety, with a mother who was, to be quite frank, selfless and giving oftentimes at her own expense and where we are facing a future in which young people are increasingly isolated and hopeless, to have children or not is a political choice that can have real implications. (Side note: parenthood is ALWAYS a political choice which is why certain groups work so hard to deprive us of that choice).

And so, motherhood comes hard to me. How do I balance the actions that are needed to ensure we are prepared for climate change and the needs of my children? As a person of pragmatic anxiety at times, I know that this is impossible. There is no preparation for climate change, just as we can’t prepare our youth for racism, sexism, homophobia, etc. Parents since time immemorial have faced this issue and still those ancestors planted seeds with the hope that their children or their children’s children might be better able to respond.

It may be naive of me but I see the long arc of justice that we are on. I see what my family and so many countless others have given to plant seeds of future growth. I recognize the multitude of -isms that my kids will face because of their ancestral background, who they chose to love, or presentations of gender. And the idea that they can also be facing the end of the world is devastating to me. The fact that they can witness it for their children or their children’s children is abhorrent.

So I work, push, give. I dive into climate change news that is devastating day after day to find out how to prepare. I over-numb to let go of that anxiety so that I can show up for my amazing children in a way that is joyful. I constantly stress about their futures even as I do my best to inject meaningful presence into their lives and teach them to do the same. (I recognize the impossibility of this as a parent with anxiety. I am grateful to Gloria Anzaldua’s work on nepantla and the borderlands space that taught me that our lives are always at a crossroads with different realities).

Even if climate change hadn’t been a major consideration, there probably would have been some anxiety in me. I will never fit into traditional Western conceptions of motherhood. I am a working mother. I am an organizer / activist mother. I am a mother who loves to disappear into other worlds to imagine the impossible. I am a mother who rejects colonial nuclear family dynamics. I am a mother who has a hard time breathing in nature and breathes deepest when on protests chanting with others. I am a mother who believes Angela Davis as she writes that we need to act as if we can radically reimagine the world and that we need to do it everyday. I am a mother who is trying desperately to believe that this belief will be enough for my children personally, enough for my organization professionally, and that I will be welcomed in the hallowed halls of my kin after my death ancestrally.

Sometimes grace is easiest to extend to others. So this blog post is to you mothers. Who struggle beautifully, who fail tragically, who get up the next morning and feed the babies. We may or may not have chosen this life but we are here. We are doing our best. We are doing our best. May our fruits live long after we do in worlds better than we can ever imagine.

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Here we are at possibly the end of the world and I’m writing about bees…

Full Disclosure that Will Surprise No one: I’m a bit of a nerd. Growing up in a working class immigrant Latinx home, I was obsessed with comics, video games, and fantasy / science fiction. There was an absolute freedom in diving into a world not my own and feeling powerful even if the characters didn’t look like me. As I aged into high school, I discovered Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer. While there are very legitimate critiques of portrayals of characters of color, I appreciated it’s feminism. Female characters were written with a depth and complexity not seen elsewhere (check out Whedon on why he writes such strong female characters).

As I got older, I ‘branched’ out to Joss Whedon’s Angel. My favorite part of Angel is that the show explores the banality of evil (how I love you, Hannah Arendt). What is the most damaging is not evil acts done by evil people but everyday acts where people are ‘going along’ with the status quo. Angel taught me that our goal should be striving to resist, to commit to the struggle, and that, at times, the struggle is more important than the winning.

Case in Point: In Angel’s last episode, Not Fade Away, two characters, Gunn and Annie, are talking in South Central LA. She’s in the midst of packing up and moving from one location to another to provide psychiatric services and support to low-income communities and he’s asking her how things are going:

ANNIE: It's not so bad. We've had some really decent donations, and it's helping. (they hand off the boxes to the men on the truck) We actually have a part-time paid psychiatric staff.

GUNN: What if I told you it doesn't help? What would you do if you found out that none of it matters? That it's all controlled by forces more powerful and uncaring than we can conceive, and they will never let it get better down here. What would you do?

ANNIE: I'd get this truck packed before the new stuff gets here. (Gunn nods) Wanna give me a hand?

GUNN: I do.

Right there. What matters is not assured victory but that we will consistently fight against what is unjust to create something better. Why bring this up? Because here we are at what feels like the end of the world and I’m choosing to keep bees. Bees.

Why? There are few things more revolutionary than planting seeds and caring for life that is not your own even as the bombs are falling, the guns are blazing, when children who look like your children are locked in cages, and your community is dying exponentially from a novel disease. I’m choosing bees because in large acts and small, we must all continue to push towards life, towards the beautiful struggle that is resistance even if we are not alive to reap the rewards.

We have so much to learn from our bee relatives on what resistance, struggle, and cooperation look like. Did you know that bees are one of the most important species on Earth,70% of the world’s agriculture requires bees for pollination AND bees are the only living species who don’t carry any pathogens and they are dying off at an exponential rate, almost 90% in the last few years. The list of why bees are incredible and necessary to support all life on earth.

We must return to our plant and animal relatives and to our own ancestral knowledge. If we are to survive, we need to learn what has been lost during the violent process of colonization. Imagine a Puerto Rico where there were thousands of community gardens, where everyone knew how to rebuild, and water purification was the norm. Imagine a California where public education meant that youth were trained in creating defensible space against wildfires. Imagine a New Orleans where bayous were national treasures so that when hurricanes hit, they slowed down enough to pose minimal danger. Activities that should be as natural as breathing are now foreign, scary, and dangerous.

Beekeeping was one of those foreign activities. No one I knew kept bees and it wasn’t until I saw a post on Nextdoor (yes, they sell more than racist propaganda and surveillance) that someone was selling all new (not used) beekeeping equipment for $150 that I was sold. Beekeeping became an accessible reality to me. It was the equivalent of creating a beekeeping avatar of myself on a video game. All of a sudden that entire world became possible. While none of the images of beekeepers looked like me, I was well-versed in using my imagination to imagine myself in all kinds of different skins - organizer, academic, founder, and now beekeeper.

[Important Bee PSA: if you are looking into keeping bees NEVER buy used boxes and wax. There is something called American Foul Brood and there is a chance that your equipment can be infected with it. It’s not worth it.]

And now I want to share this knowledge with you so that I’m not the only person of color who keeps bees in the city. So, if you’re thinking of keeping bees, here’s some knowledge to get you started. Think of it like fairy dust in the form of bee pollen falling from the sky to transport you on the path to beekeeping:

  • Spring time is the best time to buy a nucleus of bees;

  • There are so many types of bees and so many places both in person and over the mail where you can get them;

  • Go with a reputable source - I got my bees from BioFuel Oasis. Their bees are bred for gentleness and are mite resistant. Also, if your queen dies within the first three weeks, they’ll help you out;

  • While you can catch your own swarm, I would leave that to the professionals.

  • Biofuel sold their bees either in a pre-assembled bee hive or in a nucleus box that I would need to transfer.

Feeling full of confidence (and possibly some wine), I paid for a nucleus that I would need to transfer in late 2019 and now here I am, a beekeeper at the end of the world in May 2020.

I’m not sure what’s going to happen - with Mycelium, my bees, family, and our larger community. What I do know is that every space I inhabit from here until I pass will be filled with life. You’ll find seeds stored, propolis and beeswax and chicken feathers in every space I inhabit. And I want to share this journey with you. I’m committed to growing together as a community. We are going to take back this space and plant a garden in it. This is our sacred right. Our resistance. Our ancestors died for us to be here. Let’s make it worthwhile.

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Updated: Mar 31, 2020

Mycelium Youth Network emerged out of deep hope and crippling anxiety out of where we were in this particular moment in the world. In my head, I keep hearing the quote, “My great-grandchildren ask me in a dream, what did you do when the world was unraveling?” This, I will respond. This. This wretched hard to beat hope, the love of humanity which many doesn’t live up to its full name. Another quote,

“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo. “So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

My anxiety pumps in and out of me. Sometimes, it feels like I am only made of mad hope, anxious dreams, and fierce passion. All tightly contained by a form that runs towards extremes. The fires were burning, the waters were rising. And us? What are we to do? What are we to do?

Historical Content

At the time, a hurricane had devastated Puerto Rico, multiple earthquakes had hit up and down Mexico, and the air was so toxic in Northern California that it snuck through the cracks and crevices and into closed door houses. I remember nursing my 14-month-old daughter, wondering about the world that she would inherit, the world that I was passing on to her. I kept remembering the quote from Chief Seaettle, “ We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.” What was this world that I was leaving from them? Working for a social justice school, where curriculum should be directly linked to the daily lives of our students and the communities we serve, I noticed that even we hit the mark, there was so much that we weren’t preparing our students for – namely how to live in a climate related world. No amount of activism, of organizing will erase the fact that climate change is real. There are processes in places that we cannot change. Given this reality, we need to prepare our youth to live in the newest incarnation of the world. No amount of positive thinking would change that reality. While we still need to fight to lessen the impact of climate change, it’s reality is no longer a hypothetical but a reality.

At my job, I had dropped to 80% to finish my doctorate in theology. I had received multiple emails from my program, ‘early registration now open,’ then ‘registration now open’, to ‘late registration now open’ and finally an email from the people at registration asking me why I hadn’t signed up for any classes. I realized that my pragmatic anxiety had prevented me from signing up for classes. Because if I signed up, it would mean that I was assuming a ‘business as usual’ model’ where the world would be the same in twenty or thirty years as it was today. And I firmly didn’t believe that. And that reality, for good or bad, is no longer a possibility. So, I quit my doctorate program. I wrote a letter of apology to my advisor and the teachers who had nurtured my intellectual spirit. It was the first time I had thought of leaving my PhD program without a feeling of loss.

At first, I was at a bit of a loss in terms of what I should during the 20% of the time that I was calling my own. I could relax, take a day to rest, restore, heal that which is always inevitably damaged at organizations posing as social justice organizations. Yet, no amount of inner peace would change the world that our children are inheriting. The week before my supposed break, I took a long shower, marveling at the wonder of having clean water, wondering when that would no longer be an option. Would no longer be a possibility for our children. And I decided that I would be part of the change. I needed to shift my world, my work to teaching our students how to survive in the world in which they are inheriting. More than that, they need to learn how to thrive.

Mycelium Youth Network is my answer to the question, ‘how will our young people face climate change with open eyes’. I, and others, will help them create a toolkit that they can use to make the necessary changes in their smaller communities. Join us in our movement to prepare our students for the world they will inherit.

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