1.a point or level that is a designated limit of something.“1 p.m. is the cutoff for being out of the woods”
2.an act of stopping or interrupting the supply or provision of something.“a cutoff of aid would be a disaster”
OK, so I don’t usually resort to dictionary definitions in these infrequent blog posts. But this one is of linguistic interest. I am part of the Cutoff Coalition. Some folks have questioned why we choose to call ourselves this as it seems a bit, well… negative.
It’s simple really, the MTA’s Request For Expressions of Interest (RFEI) for the adaptive reuse of the Montauk Cutoff just led us to the name. We had our first meeting and no one seemed too very concerned about what we called ourselves. So Cutoff Coalition it was.
But folks have asked, why the negative terminology and I have had a moment to reflect upon it. I speak for myself here but would hope that (at least some) others in the Cutoff Coalition would agree. “Cutoff” is terminology that has been handed to us by our post-industrial society. It was innocuous in it’s day, primarily referring to land that was held as a Right of Way (ROW) for the MTA’s Long Island Railroad (LIRR). So we have adopted and become stewards of this abandoned land. The ROW and all the negative connotations it brings with it, including the name have been lovingly adopted by us. As we reappropriate the terms and conditions of our completely human toxic legacy, we also embrace that legacy and the baggage it brings with it. We bear the name of our despicable past and do not wish to greenwash what it was. In our work toward bioremediation of the land, air, water and ourselves, we do not deny the fact that it is currently toxic, for that would be ignorant and foolhardy. We become hyperaware of the perils we step into. In that process, we become those perilous agents of change, but we start exactly where we are. No window-dressing needed.
Only in becoming the thing we loath can we begin to understand and hold empathy for these things. we do not work from outside, we work from within. As we become one with the site we employ our deep green jiu-jitsu.
There are lots of things that could happen here. I for one would love to see less reliance on semi-truck traffic in NYC’s industrial areas. But the fact of the matter is, not all business can be serviced by train. That said, the locomotive holds a strong place in the developmental history of NYC. In fact, the Montauk Cutoff was the last place that a steam powered engine ran in our fine town. Rail-lore romanticism aside, this place used to be a sacred hunting ground for the Lenape. An ecotone where fresh water ran into the brackish water of the harbor creating a rich and biodiverse ecosystem. Native peoples revered this place, modern peoples dumped fill on top of it and laced it down with creosote ties and iron rails to run coal burning trains, carrying extracted resources from distant lands to and fro.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the industrial revolution just as much as the next guy. The fact remains, we have a toxic legacy on our hands. This persistent toxins disrupting our endocrine systems, killing smaller organisms, collapsing ecosystems and causing cancer. What are we, as a society, going to do to offer reparations for the environmental chaos we have caused in the name of progress? I cannot answer that question. But I can tell you what the Cutoff Coalition plans to do…
Cut-it-0ff. That’s right. We will use the waste off of the machine, in this case land itself, to cut off machine at the pass.
We will cutoff the lead and arsenic laced urban soil issues with bioremediation technologies.
…cutoff the sedentary, consumption based lifestyle by cultivating active producers in our community.
…cutoff the waste of food, water, land, and people by recognizing these resources for what they are and valuing them accordingly, not based on what some corporate entity says they are, or are not, worth.
The Cutoff Coalition, challenges the everyday idea that environmentalism is forever happy and gay. The cutoff Coalition sees the challenge as it is and wears the mask that was handed to us. We refuse to purty up our name so others can be comfortable with it. We demand that the atrocities of the past be seen and dealt with.
I am grieving over the environmental tragedies we have cause and must face today. Popular knowledge tells me that there are five stages of grief, these include: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.
We have denied the fact that global eco-crisis, climate change and overpopulation is happening for years, some continue to do so despite mounting scientific evidence.
Some of us have gotten angry about the ramifications of the raping of Mother Earth. Lashed out against the true eco-terrorists with media campaigns, civil disobedience, and direct action.
Others have resorted to bargaining with carbon credits and REDD+s, petitioning our policy making and governing officials for sanctions or slowdowns of the overconsumption and degradation of our natural resources and ecological services.
Many live in a constant state of depression at the outlook of global climate change, the challenge of feeding our growing population with diminishing soil quality and quantity, pain of not knowing how to solve huge issues like drought in the Western states, deforestation in the Amazon, and general malaise over our implicit participation in the industrial/prison/corporate/military complex by simply going about our daily lives of consumption in America.
But this acceptance of the terms given to us is transformative. We understand the underlying ramifications of the past and walking into negotiations for the future with our eyes wide open, our hearts at the center of our work, and an unwillingness to compromise or repeat any of the previous stages of grief. This is not a new era of activism, or a new way of working together towards solutions, but it is a propositional method. Instead of working together against those things that have caused us this grief to begin with, we work together to create reasons for celebration so we no longer have to dwell on the grief.
I cannot, and will not, say that; denial, anger, bargaining, or depression are things of the past. In fact these are important motivators in the environmental, social justice, and class movements among other struggles. What excites me is the capacity to work towards positive change with social provocateurs who have experienced the other stages of grief, acted upon them in meaningful ways both internally and externally, worked through them and have come out on the other side ready to make positive change working with the tools, terminology, technology and skills that we have been given.
The Cutoff Coalition is building the new world from the hollowed out shell of the old one. The shell may not be attractive, but your gonna like what grows from within.
Dec. 2015, from the Flux Factory, NYC