Defending where you live

We live on unfenced land on a dirt road in Joshua Tree, not far from the national park. Our house is next to a large swath of unblemished-by-humans BLM land. We live amongst wild beings, in natural quiet. We’re very lucky. It’s nice for us here, and we’re doing our best to steward the land we own.

But. Down by the four-lane highway just a few miles from the park’s border, an Indian tribe wants to build a massive, off-reservation casino. A predatory out-of-state corporation wants to build a pseudo-general store on open land to make easy money off our fixed-income and low-income neighbors. The economic crash has sent the unemployment and food-stamp numbers here through the roof. People who bought homes from predatory lenders are stuck paying mortgages for much more than their homes are worth. Weird water policies have meant that we have to look beyond our own local aquifer for water. Energy companies want to build fields of solar panels and windmills to supply power to the cities that will not supply power for themselves. Off-road vehicles are driven illegally on county roads and in BLM land regularly, crushing animals and plants, disturbing the landscape and breaking the hard-won silence.

In other words, almost everybody here is hurting. Almost everything here is in danger. Needs defending.

I (Jay) thought of my friend Dave Reeves. Dave wrote many great columns and articles for Arthur, a magazine I founded/edited/pub’d from 2002-08, and provided much raw fuel and blazing inspiration for that project. But his real claim to fame and fortune is that he was the originator of the Defend Brooklyn T-shirt in 1996. The “Defend [where you live]” concept is a brilliant one, in and of itself — read Dave’s essay series if you want the background philosophy, history and some great riffs on how culture works. But the “Defend” concept is also brilliant because it can be applied anywhere, which is one of the reasons why it’s been ripped off so many times.

I went to Dave to see if there was a way that we could use his Defend idea here in Joshua Tree. We figured out a deal. And now, we’re doing this blog, about what’s going down here and what we can do about it.

Artist Arik Roper, who did so much gorgeous work in the pages of Arthur Magazine through the years, as well as on posters, T-shirts and album covers, has made a design for a Defend Joshua Tree T-shirt, starring a pack of local coyotes, protecting their young.

We want to start manufacturing these T-shirts as soon as possible. Last week, we started a Kickstarter campaign to raise $1500 in 21 days. A pledge of $25 gets you a shirt; $50, two shirts; $75, three; and $100, five. If you want to support the project but don’t want a shirt, that’s fine: we’ll use your pledge money to give a shirt to a deserving neighbor.

With fifteen hundred dollars’ worth of T-shirt orders, we can put in place a sustainable Defend Joshua Tree wholesale/retail business that won’t be dependent on pre-orders, pledges and so on.

If “Defend…” works here, in a town of less than 8,000… Well, we think the implications beyond this one campaign are obvious.

Please participate, if you can. The campaign ends Dec. 27, 2011.

About Jay Babcock

I am the co-founder and editor of Arthur Magazine (2002-2008, 2012-13) and curator of the three Arthur music festival events (Arthurfest, ArthurBall, and Arthur Nights) (2005-6). Prior to that I was a district office staffer for Congressman Henry A. Waxman, a DJ at Silver Lake pirate radio station KBLT, a copy editor at Larry Flynt Publications, an editor at Mean magazine, and a freelance journalist contributing work to LAWeekly, Mojo, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Vibe, Rap Pages and many other print and online outlets. An extended piece I wrote on Fela Kuti was selected for the Da Capo Best Music Writing 2000 anthology. In 2006, I was one of five Angelenos listed in the Music section of Los Angeles Magazine's annual "Power" issue. In 2007-8, I produced a blog called "Nature Trumps," about the L.A. River. Today, I live a peaceful life in the rural wilderness of Joshua Tree, California, where I am a partner in with Stephanie Smith.
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4 Responses to Defending where you live

  1. Greg Davis says:

    Great concept, take a stand and contribute your part in preserving our desert. Greg

  2. Diane Best says:

    Rattler Ranch supports Defend Joshua Tree – what a great project! Would be happy to sell t-shirts here to out-of-town visitors…spread the word.
    Diane Best

  3. Diane Best says:

    oops – 2 websites run together in last post..

  4. Thomas Ando says:

    These idiots (the corporations) and even these “Native” Americans” have no idea what they’re
    going to ruin. Being from the east, but a frequent and caring visitor to Joshua Tree and the desert, I fully support and will order a shirt…..The town and surrounding area MUST BE preserved!

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