Why and How Emerald Triangle Turned Green: A Talk with Sociologist Paolo Stuppia
Press release from Cal Poly Humboldt:
The community is invited to a talk at 6 p.m. on Friday, March 24th at Founders Hall, room 118 on the Cal Poly Humboldt Campus in Arcata by sociologist Paolo Stuppia. Stuppia is an affiliate researcher with the Department of Sociology and the Cannabis Studies Program at Cal Poly Humboldt.
Stuppia’s local research is connected to and informed by his prior research on back-to-the-land movements in France, where he met the French-language filmmakers who made the only documentary (so far) about the San Francisco Diggers, released in 1998. He followed their lead to Southern Humboldt, where he found and interviewed Digger veterans who ended up here in Humboldt.
In the last several years, Stuppia has collaborated with other organizations and people in the area to stand up the Countercultural History Coalition, a group of organizations and individuals working on collecting and preserving the memory and legacy of the 1960s primarily associated with the back-to-the-land movement.
His presentation revisits late 20th century counterculture and the back-to-the-land (BTL) movements as they appear in the U.S. West Coast. It argues that they didn’t die with 1980s yuppies and that understanding of their past is a prerequisite to understand the present and future struggles (e.g. LGBTQIA+, racial, and environmental justice movements), social behaviors (family, sexuality, Marijuana medical and recreational use…), and economic (revitalization of local communities, development of solar systems), as these have developed in the last four decades in Mendocino, Humboldt, and Trinity counties in particular. The speaker will also present two current related efforts, the BTL Project, investigating the persistence and generational transformations of this movement in the area, and the Counterculture History Coalition, reuniting five archive and research projects to preserve the memory of the original counterculturists from the 1960s to present in Northern California and Southern Oregon.
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A key to understanding a subcultural pulse like the back to the landers is by understanding how they funded their lifestyle.
To me, ‘Emerald triangle’ refers to how the supposedly idyllic back to the land culture was a complete manifestation of the illegal marijuana economy.
Price gouging comes to mind, but it was ok because We The People were doing it
The fabled prices of yore weren’t price gouging (jacking up prices when demand exceeds supply) as much as it was a reflection of artificial value based on risk. There was never a shortage of weed but there was always the risk of getting raided or ripped off resulting in loss of property, freedom or your life.
But you’re right – the Emerald Triangle was primarily defined by the underground weed economy that sustained the back to the landers and the successive waves of green rushers that followed them – not the green ideals they brought with them.
There were also back to the landers who had normal jobs and lived in the hills, and didn’t grow. I can think of a handful. The greed rush didn’t start until the late 90s, I think.
read ‘ outlaws in babylon’, about pot/benbow/garberville and the 1960’s.
Yeah that book was a pile of sensationalist bullshit that made a quick buck on dramatizing the worst aspects of the grow scene in the early 80’s and advertising it outside of our area. We threw it in the fire- a big stalk fire- and cursed the author…
Haven’t read it, but I was here in the early 70’s when ‘growing a few plants for some cash’ started as a thing. So no, I don’t think there was weed proliferating in So Hum in the 60’s.
Yes, a few of the back to the landers had regular jobs and didn’t grow. And until Prop 215 in 1996 most of those who grew did so discreetly and with respect for the environment. But after 215 it gradually shifted from a few plants to pay the mortgage to make as much money as quick as you can.
The original back to the landers may have birthed solar energy and been politically and socially progressive but the ET was defined by the outlaw culture that was increasingly driven by greed. But now that the BTLs are aging out they’re trying to rewrite history and their personal legacies. But only greed explains back country algae blooms and sucking streams dry.
Many back-to-the-landers grew small and as environmentally sound as they knew how to be, changing practices as they learned. Of course, there are bad actors in every group. But blaming all back-to-the-landers for the actions of some isn’t any more accurate than blaming every cop for all bad cops. And it isn’t rewriting their personal history if a back-to-the-lander was environmentally sound.
Greed of some growers AND some logging operations among other changes (dams, bad government policy) coupled with drought and overall climate change explains the algae blooms and dry streams. Placing the blame completely on one sector misses the broader problems.
Most of us understand that, for sure.
Similiarly, there wouldn’t have been a redneck culture without logging and fishing.
It doesn’t make us bad people, it just illustrates how people are trapped by economic concerns.
Another good reason not to rip on the past any more than the present.
Gotta do what you gotta do if you want to live in the country
I agree with Kym and Truth Be Told but unfortunately post 215 I would say “greed of MOST growers”….We became a magnet for greedy liars from all over to arrive and blow it up w/ no regard for the environment or the community. Yes- a few new arrivals were genuine and cool wanting to get back to the land. Our fault was in welcoming and being friendly to all when we should have kicked their asses out of our neighborhoods…
I don’t disagree but the presenter’s thesis is that the Emerald Triangle was defined by the green values of the back to the landers when in fact it was named, defined and made famous by the outlaw weed culture.
wrong. weed culture came after the spirit of the 60s went back to nature.
Wrong about what? You think the ET wasn’t named, defined and made famous by the outlaw weed culture? Rip offs, vigilante murders and all the rest happened even at the peak of peace, love and groovyness.
Thanks Kym. Well said. Most of the pre-215 back to the landers came here to build a better way of life. Pot was a means to do that until it became a legal industry. And now that the pot chapter must take its place with other resources lets hope we learn to base our economy, not on one resource like gold, timber, or pot, but on restoring the natural resources we have so brutally damaged.
Gee. And I’d have thought you were a ‘free market’ advocate…..
The back to the land movement started before pot growing, and we early growers shared our pot with our friends. It wasn’t until homestead growing became an industry, esp., when big money moved in, that it became just another greedy monopolistic industry like most of America.
The university had a golden opportunity to create a cannabis science degree. Unfortunately they squandered it and instead created a degree about the social justice issues surrounding cannabis.
Humboldt state isn’t an ag school and federal legal strictures prevent universities from working with anything but hemp.
The inevitable California University degree programs focused on cannabis cultivation will likely be based out of Davis, Chico, San Luis Obispo, and possibly Fresno
Universities can’t work with scheduled substances? I think you are wrong.
Not an ag school, but cannabis is not traditional ag and there is FAR more the cannabis science than cultivation. Obviously no other university would be better situated to offer such a degree.
This is a silly discussion of phenomenon that are mostly known to be false.
Real back to landers and “hippie communes” didn’t last long, and quickly evolved into family groups which survived on Social Programs, like food stamps, AFDC etc, and then the “Pot Thing” got started for real about the time someone first imported some Indica Seeds and learned to wait for the flowers to mature and separate the male and female plants.
Mixing regular needs with agrarian hippie culture necessitated washing machines, dryers, houses, schools and healthcare… Back to the landers needed a family member who had a regular job with benefits. Given the distances between the secret pot plantations and the good bars, caused many losses and ACE’s…
You can probably get a degree in useless history as part of your Cannabis Studies BA, but most students will need a job soon, to pay off their loans.
Have fun in college, and I recommend courses in Behavioral Biology, and Altered States of Consciousness, because physical health and mental health are linked, and because, ultimately, society needs to reject all dependence on Addictive Substances like Monster Energy Drink (biggest gains in stock value over the last 20 years of all companies) and tobacco, alcohol and Cannabis…
Education itself is addictive, so know when to quit studying useless subjects, and focus on income and progression to Professional Schools.
How about courses about how to fit cannabis into the economy and ecology of the North Coast?
In one press release show you live in an ivory tower without saying you live in an ivory tower.
Great!!! It’s about time the history of the back to the land movement is well documented! Many of the founders of ‘the alternative community’, most infact, have either died or moved. We cannot wait longer!
We hear about the history of logging, fishing, earthquakes, native culture, and the genocide against it and the Chinese, but I have heard little about exploring and understanding, in a way to preserve it’s impact, about the movement that made big changes to this area.
Yup. SF and LA rip-offs invaded the area in the 1970’s. During the big ‘hey-day’ there were millions of dollars buried in back-woods coolers, bro-dozers were on the road, semi-cartels with big ranch houses and armed guards.
Nowadays, there is lots of dope growing elsewhere, with good soil, lots of water, ample sunshine and cheaper mexican ag labor.
Predict, if dope goes ‘nationwide’ the price will get down to $160 a pound on the street. Yup… $10 bucks buys an ounce.
Back to the future – full ounce lids were $10 circa 1968 – broken down from $25 for a quarter pound.
Yeah but in 1968 $10 was equivalent to $85 now.
Bozo. You are wrong about the decade, ‘in the 90’s’, maybe. But at the earliest.
Well, sort of. It started way back in the 70’s. “SF and LA Rip-Offs Go Home” was graffitied on the restroom walls of Humboldt State back in the 70’s.
But yeah, the bro-dozers and big money came a bit later.
Appreciate the response. What do you think they were referring to when they wrote “rip-offs”? I think of that as thieves. The people I knew back in the 70’s, the back to the landers, were not thieves. Stoners, yes. 😉 Maybe those in Arcata or at HS back then, might have been.