Morgan Fitzgibbons isn't thinking small when it comes to goals for his Western Addition sustainability group, the Wigg Party . “We want to make our community a leader in the transformation in resilience,” he tells me during our coffee date to discuss the group's upcoming anti-boycott “carrotmob” at Matching Half Cafe (Sat/23).
It's no coincidence that his language sounds a little new age-y. The basis for Fitzgibbons' vision for the Wigglers seems grounded in the PhD of Philosopy, Cosmology, and Consciousness he received at California Institute for Integral Studies. “We're these sacred beings,” he tells me earnestly of his San Francisco community. “This is a sacred movement – I want people to look back in a hundred years and see that.”
Woo-woo? Well yeah, but hold your jaded mutterings until you hear what the guy's done with his convictions in “cosmological evolution,” as he puts it. Fitzgibbons has assembled a core group of Western Addition residents who operate in four different arenas of turning the area around SF's “Wiggle” (the well-trafficked bike route through the Panhandle and between the hills in Lower Haight and Duboce Triangle) into a leader in scaled-back, neighborhood-focused living.
Bicycling barristers: Morgan Fitzgibbons and Wigger Dave Bryson on a city-wide urban farms bike tour. Photo by Jenny Sherman
Their areas of attack, you ask? There's a sustainable business group, who works on incentives for local outfits that find ways of greening their ways. For example, this Saturday's carrotmob (you can read more about the nationally recognized concept here ) is a concentrated effort to storm Matching Half's doors with business in support of their pledge to buy a bike trailer to transport farmer's market-purchased goods, switch to organic milk, and chuck the plastic wrap for reusable food containers.
There's also a local food group who works with local markets to freecycle unpurchased produce at the neighborhood's Hayes Valley Farm, a “rescaling” group focusing on ways to limit commercial consumption, and the Wiggle Transformers, who are collaborating with the SF Bike Coalition on the Wiggle portion of their Connecting the City Initiative , a comprehensive plan to improve bike passage throughout San Francisco.
Like I said, comprehensive. And most of the core group – which Fitzgibbons pegs at around 20 party members – are under 30 years old. Which is neat-o, and most likely made possible by the group's party ethos when it comes to fighting for what they believe. I mean, I say fighting but I think I really mean loving, or something equally hippie. A bunch of them live in a place called the Sunshine Castle, for god's sakes, where they throw “shenanigans” (according to Fitzgibbons) after-parties for their events, like the recent 10/10/10 day of action that saw the Wigglers conduct a 50-60 person bike tour of the city's urban farms and a coordinated garden plant in collaboration with Kitchen Garden SF .
In the works are plans for a Bernal Bucks -esque local currency, which the group hopes will inspire Western Addition residents to patronize more heavily the wealth of small businesses along the Divisadero Corridor and surrounding areas (holler, happy hour at Bean Bag).
Fitzgibbons says the hyper-localism of the Wigg Party is perfectly suited for the history and relative youth of the Western Addition neighborhood.
The Wiggle itself provides a apt symbol for the group. The Wiggle Transformers' work is making bike traffic better for everybody, but also a physical passage that Fitzgibbons hopes will say “you're stepping into a different place now” to bikers entering the Western Addition.
“San Francisco has always been a seed of revolution,” he reflects. “Of the younger neighborhoods – the Mission and Western Addition – Western Addition is a lot less nihilistic. With University of San Francisco near the area, there's always going to be a lot of young people living out here, and that's who our message resonates with. It's such a new community.”
This last comment raises a red flag in my mind. The parties, the bike tours, it all sounds grand, but given that all this is coming from a twenty-something guy with a complicated mullet and a hoody, how much does the Wigg Party truly represent the Western Addition, an area that's been wracked by recurring waves of gentrification and is subject, like everywhere else in the city these days, to ever-increasing rent prices and displacement of long time residents? Despite the free food at Hayes Valley, are we being sustainable, or are we being hipster-sustainable?
“To be a truly successful movement, we'll have to organize everybody,” Fitzgibbons says, who himself has lived in the neighborhood for three years. Among those that regularly attend Wigg meetings, there is but one long-time resident, he tells me, who plays an active role advising on how to better integrate with the neighborhood's ongoing goals and activities. Past that, “there's tacit support among the long-term residents, and we get a lot of family participation in our Wiggle events,” Fitzgibbons tells me.
But I trust that he's learning as he goes. After all, in explaining his philosophy on activism to me, Fitzgibbons appropriates that sustainability champion himself: Socrates. “The only thing I know is I don't know everything,” he smiles. “We don't have to have all the t's crossed and i's dotted, but we can whip up excitement and hopefully inspire people to do this in their communities. Create that showcase.” And if figuring it all out looks like a party in the streets, sayeth the Wigglers, so be it.
Wigg Party Carrotmob
Matching Half Cafe
Sat/23 3-6 p.m., free
1799 McAllister, SF