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Urban Homesteading

For those of you who have somehow avoided the controversy until now, the Dervaes family has trademarked the term “Urban Homesteading.”   I don’t know exactly what their intentions were for doing so – it may have started innocently as a way to protect the term from more insidious corporations, it may have been an honest belief that they coined the term and made it what it is, or it may have been for some other reason entirely.

The Dervaes are very press savvy.  Full disclosure – back when I was in film school, I featured them in one of my thesis films about peak oil and climate change.  I don’t want to violate any of the trust they put in me by revealing their innerworkings behind the scenes.  So suffice it to say that it was clear to me that they have ambition and understand how the press can help them get where they want to go.

Trying (it seems twice) to trademark urban homesteading is something that they probably knew would make many fans more loyal, turn a few away, but in general give them some additional press to spread their word.  I’m sure they had no idea how much press – actually I imagine they probably view it as a misstep now, but I don’t know.

But whatever the reasons they did it, it has divided us.  Again.

We have a multitude of very real, very severe planetary problems around us.  Yet we are fighting about a terminology, fighting about owning a thing that isn’t really a thing at all – just utterances in air and ink.  Instead of uniting against much worse things out there: Congress that never passing much in the way of planetary protection, oil drilling in Alaska, butterflies and birds that are going extinct, terribly unpredictable weather around the world this season, wars that never cease, world poverty that is devastating whole cultures….

Don’t get me wrong – I think the Dervaes did make a mistake in taking a seriously bold step to trademark a lifestyle that so many people are proud of.  I will use the term urban homesteading – along with permaculture, biodynamic, four square gardening, simple life, local living, and so on – because I believe it is more important for us to unite around such terms. These define our movement, the movement we have built together over many years.  We are all in this together, hoping to impact the world in a positive way, as our predecessors did in the 70s, the 40s, and all those before them.

Let’s not lose sight all the many important reasons to harness our anger before it’s too late – before the planet changes irreversibly, our lives change irreparably, our children don’t have the same planet to grow up in.

Dervaes family, you know I respect you all for what you have done.  I hope you, too, can see this controversy is leading us off our important track together.  I wish you the best in making a decision that is good for the planet, good for the movement, and good for us all.

And for the rest of us, if this is really making you angry, ok – put your anger there.  But reserve a bit of your anger for something bigger than all of us.  Today, consider putting an equal amount of anger toward helping an important planetary cause that you really believe in.

It took me 45 minutes to write this post today.  I will spend 45 minutes signing petitions, calling Congress, and finding other ways to inspire positive social change.

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17 comments to Urban Homesteading

  • I never realized that caring about this misuse of trademarks is mutually exclusive to caring for the environment.

    Your post almost seems apologetic for them. The fact of the matter is that they trademarked Urban Homesteading and Urban Homestead and then *wrongly* shut down Facebook pages that used those terms including business that relied on them. They sent cease and desist letters to bloggers and businesses that used “their” terms. I have friends that have received a letter and are now faced with having to lose their brand or be sued.

    BTW, I haven’t stopped caring about the other problems going out there and I’m sorry you think that those of use concerned about this single issue have lost interest in everything else around us.

    • Hi Rachel, not intending to be apologetic at all – I think it’s ridiculous and a mistake on their part. I also believe, however, that incidences like these end up dividing people with ultimately the same goals, rather than uniting us to reach those common goals.

  • Go girl!!! I am with you 100%. While I am shocked and disappointed by the behavior of the Dervaes family and while I think we need to make our opinions known on their trademark registrations and subsequent enforcement efforts, we cannot go too off track. We really need to keep focusing on bigger things. The House yesterday blocked the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases. That’s a pretty big place to start.

  • Glad to see you’re back!

    From what I’ve seen, this trademarking issue hasn’t really divided us at all. It’s pretty much the whole homesteading community standing in united opposition to the Dervaes. What’s sad is that they’ve squandered so much good will with this move From this point forward, instead of being known as leaders of this movement they will be those greedy Dervaes, the people who tried to take ownership and profit off the sustainability movement.

    BTW, Monday has been designated “Urban Homesteaders Day of Action” – all bloggers are encouraged to “blanket the web with the words ‘urban homestead’ and ‘urban homesteading’ through blog posts, web pages, and articles.” I plan on participating. If nothing else, we’ll keep the Dervaes’ so busy firing off letters to all of us, they won’t even have time to feed their chickens.

  • Oh dear…and I had such respect for the Dervaes family too.

    Well – sorry – but “urban homesteading” is a description for a way of life – and NOT “your private property”.

    Time for everyone to carry right on in there calling urban homesteading “urban homesteading” – because it IS a generic term.

    After that – back to important topics and not getting diverted by anyone’s ego tripping/personal publicity seeking.

  • This issue brought me out my more than a year long hiatus from the eco blogging community.

    I concur 100% with what you have said melinda.

    I have only a few things to add. If they were looking to protect the term from corporate influence, creative commons or GNU GPL, allow an individual to protect what they percieve as their own work from someone else taking credit for it, while simultaneously allows free and fair use. (This is what protects Open source software that was developed in community from being used by microsoft or apple and incorporated into their own work, thus forcing people to pay for something that should have been free.) Creative Commons can and has been applied to a myriad of things like music and written text. There is no reason someone could not have applied for a creative commons license for the terms and applications the Dervaes family claim as their property.

    I find the hypocrasy of a man who by his words on film has little faith in the governmental system now using it for his own purpose to be quite disheartening.

    Perhaps we should remind him of his radical roots. Just because he has an official endorsement from the patent office does not give him any more right to claim ownership than Monsanto has over seed that has existed for years and years before they came along.

    I am an Urban Homesteader.

    Sue me, I dare you. Sue us all, show us what you really

  • Jace

    I love the Dervaes, and I still have respect for them. Who cares about trademarking? And who says one mistake makes you evil? I hope you don’t disown your kids when they spill a glass of milk. Gosh, maybe we should stop discounting people as soon as they slip up.

  • Jules must be going senile and he’ll be lucky if they all don’t end up bankrupt.
    It’s going to take Professional Spin Masters to control this s**t storm.

  • Ok, y’all – just make sure you’re being constructive here. Thanks!

  • Beautifully said. I was quite disheartened by their actions. I have been an urban homesteader for much longer than I have heard of them. I do respect them for what they have manage to accomplish but I can’t believe they would throw away all the good will that they have garnered in something as foolish as this. They don’t have a legal leg to stand on and it’s really rather sad.
    And I haven’t let this distract me from the other things that need doing. I planted my first ever leek seeds today- a something new for my 4 season garden. I don’t have the luxury of the California climate that the Dervaes Family does, but I don’t do too bad with what I’ve got. At least the snow has melted here- until the next storm… after all, it is only February.

  • Thanks for your take! Interesting! I agree that they certainly have gained a lot of (negative) publicity. But, publicity is publicity and I guess that works for them.
    I have a little different thought on it (http://growandresist.com/2011/02/16/urban-homestead-act-2-1/). What I am excited about is the collective outrage it has brought and seems to be binding together so many people from so many diverse lives. If we can remain a strong community and harness the energy what can happen? Big change!

    Anyhow, great post and interesting insights!

  • Somehow I missed this. Just makes me sad…. I’ll be planting seeds today.

  • I am not at all happy with what has gone down but I think that we are overlooking one thing-a trademark is only a trademark if the originator goes all out in defending it’s use. It is up to THEM to show/keep the term separate. Let me explain. When Xerox company invented their coping machines, everyone loved the process so much that they started to say “I’m going to xerox this and mail it to you.” (Previous to Xerox was the veri-fax machine and everyone said “I’m going to veri-fax this and send it to you”) Anyway, I do believe that “xerox” is used in everyday language so much that it has lost it’s trademarkability.And I know of other instances which I cannot recall roght now. I’m sure each one of you can think of some.
    Now I am not a legal buff or anything, but I do believe if the word is used by everyone to have the same meaning (as in urban homesteading-it means the same who ever says it) and if the people/company cannot defend it’s use in every instance that it will break it’s trademarkability. It is a case of them having to bring to court everyone who uses it in every instance. It’s up to them to defend their “trademark”.
    So I will use it when ever I feel the need and so should you.
    Mary Ann K

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