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Photographer admires a healty specimen of 'Sequoia Humanus' found growing at the Albany landfill.
"Now I see the secret of the making of the best persons,
It is to grow in the open air,
and to eat and
sleep with the earth."

All excerpts from Walt Whitman's Song of the Open Road, published in 1856.


Welcome to the 20th century, pal. Try eating and sleeping anywhere *with the earth* around these parts, and your keister will end up in the hoosegow pronto. That's the story for people like you, buddy, with your "leaves of grass" and songs of freedom. That's illegal now too. You're in lot of trouble, buster. But, wait, what's this?!


North America's answer to the problem of the "ethnic cleansing," PEOPLE ARE TREES TOO! supports the natural right of people everywhere to "eat and sleep with the earth," to put down roots and have those roots respected, to walk freely upon the earth without check or charge, to stop and stand when and where they want, to fashion shelter or not as they choose. We in America recognize the value in allowing stands of trees to put down roots and grow in the open air undisturbed. PEOPLE ARE TREES TOO! asks you to consider the right of human beings to live free as important as that of trees. Think this view radical? Take a look at this again from Song of the Open Road by Walt Whitman, America's "poet laureate," favorite of presidents since Abraham Lincoln:

"To see no possession but you may possess it--
enjoying all without labor or purchase."

You wonder how these old codgers survived walking around taking things without asking, like they must have thought God had promised to provide for their welfare and angels would look after their needs. Right, Geez. Oh, no! Here comes another:
"To take the best of the farmer's farm and the rich man's elegant villa, and the chaste blessings of the well-married couple, and the fruits of orchards and flowers of gardens..."

It's a bit difficult to wrap our minds around such sentiment. Farms and villas, orchards and gardens nowadays are tightly controlled and meticuously guarded. We realize there must have been a far different outlook in those times (mid 19th century) for such a respected figure as Walt Whitman to blithely espouse what now would be automatically considered tresspassing and theft or worse. But this poetry is so free, these sentiments so intuitively right that we must know the secret. How can Mr. Whitman walk so freely upon the earth, and we not?
"Listen! I will be honest with you; I do not offer the old smooth prizes, but offer rough new prizes; These are the days that must happen to you:
You shall not heap up what is call'd riches, You shall scatter with lavish hand all that you earn or achieve..."

Is he a fool? Or does he know something we have forgotten? PEOPLE ARE TREES TOO! supports the re-examination of our accepted concepts of private and public property, moral and socially acceptable behavior.
We know that some believe that the earth and most everything on it, including ourselves, are creations of the Divine, and that ultimately ownership rests with the Creator. This view gives rise to the notion that we are but "stewards" of the land, charged by the Almighty with preserving and enhancing His handiwork. We don't how this philosophy could be re-integrated into law** - maybe it couldn't, at least not right away. There seems to be a strong force taking society in the other direction. There is great "taking away" of the public domain and transferring it to private domain. The public airwaves are auctioned off and sold off like cattle. You and I will never see a penny of that money, either. And you can bet our children will have to buy them back at great loss if, no when, they wake up and decide they want them back. Public access to the pool of human knowledge and creative resources is also quietly being restricted by Congress through irrational extensions of copyright, trademark, and patent laws. Locally, poor people can not bed down anywhere, without incurring either a fee or courting arrest. Should one have to pay another to walk or sit or sleep upon the earth? Is mere existence an condition that should require the transfer of wealth to another?


Honestly, I don't know. Begin by just being aware, I suppose. Aware of how you feel, aware of how you feel when elements of these issues come up in your life. If you're paying another for living space, if you pay rent or a mortgage, how does that feel? Can you freely pick up and go? How would your life be different if it were really possible to live as freely as Walt Whitman recommends in Song of the Open Road. Could it actually be possible? Do you want it to be possible? And if you are currently charging another for living space, if you're a landlord or a morgage holder, how does that feel? Are you comfortable with the morality of what you do? Can you imagine not charging for what you do, or doing it with less of a profit motive? What would you rather be doing with your life, if your own right to live where you want was less conditional on the permission of others?

PEOPLE ARE TREES TOO! is yet a small seedling of an organization, conceived at a confab with some of the long-time "residents" of the old Albany landfill near Golden Gate Fields horse racetrack, who are being formally evicted by the city and county on June 15th. Some of these folk have lived there for as long as 10 years or more. They have built handmade shelters out of castoff building material, and get up and go to work like you or I. Some are recyclers who go to pick up stray bottles and cans at four in the morning. Some are laborers or carpenters or trained in other manual arts. Some can not work due to illness or disability and collect a small stipend from the government. They are mostly shy people, extra sensitive to the unnatural demands of modern society. They live in that place because it's the best they can afford. PEOPLE ARE TREES TOO! holds forth no solution, only possibilities. Maybe a way could be worked out to allow some of the more established residents to "purchase" the land and hold it in stewardship. Maybe they could be hired by the city as resident caretakers or groundskeepers. Maybe it is not even legally "land" at all (actually it's just a heap of garbage, the original surface was beneath the bay); maybe the traditional laws of salvage apply. One of the longer term residents is obviously part Native-American, maybe this "land" could be returned to his stewardship. Was it ever legally signed away by his ancestors?

PEOPLE ARE TREES TOO! invites any interested parties to show up at the landfill any/every Sunday at 2pm or so in the afternoon, until the posted eviction date of June 15th, to meet other interested parties and exchange poetry and possibilities. This is not an "organized event." PEOPLE ARE TREES TOO! has no official permit, nor knows of any requirement for one, at least not yet. PEOPLE ARE TREES TOO! can be contacted by mail by writing c/o John Lionheart; 2342 Shattuck Ave., Suite 108; Berkeley, CA 94704. Online information about PEOPLE ARE TREES TOO! can be found at the www.iPoet.com website, click on the vertical "FEATURES" bar in any the iPoet "cafes". The complete Song of the Open Road can be found through the iPoet site as well.
Henceforth I ask not good-fortune--I myself am good fortune; Henceforth I whimper no more, postpone no more, need nothing, Strong and content, I travel the open road.

(All excerpts from Walt Whitman's Song of the Open Road, published in 1856.)
published by: www.iPoet.com and Street Spirit newspaper

ADDENDUM: Posted June 4, 1999
**re the phrase above: "re-integrated into law" upon reflection was probably this writer's lazy use of a cliche when the actual picture of the process occurring is "yet a bit out of focus." It's generally accepted by most everybody, and we do buy into the argument, that we have too many laws and too many lawyers already. We're like the Titanic, top heavy with captains and prideful architects, but damn short of lifeboats and good folk to man them. That we *should* erase a part of the legal code, may be closer to the truth than proscribing another layer of laws and then more laws. Everybody say "Amen":-)