Name: Judy Goldhaft
Age: “I haven’t looked lately.”
City: San Francisco
Title: Director, Planet Drum Foundation
J.: Your late husband, Peter Berg, founded the nonprofit Planet Drum Foundation in 1973 at a time when no one had yet heard of global warming or climate change. How has Planet Drum’s mission changed?
Judy Goldhaft: Even the word environment wasn’t used back then, and we barely knew the word ecology. We’re still an educational nonprofit whose mission is to encourage people to recognize and understand the bioregions in which they live.
What is a bioregion?
The planet is composed of many different bioregions and we are trying to get people to recognize them and live sustainably within them. Planet Drum has educated and encouraged people to think about where they live and how they might live there sustainably in a deep way. This means thinking about the history and resources of the place in terms of its flora and fauna, the creatures that live there, how the wind is, and what direction the storms come.
In 1966 you helped found the Diggers, a group of activists that evolved out of the San Francisco Mime Troupe and distributed free meals and “surplus energy” at the Free Store to support all of the young people flocking to the area. In what ways did the Diggers and Planet Drum intersect?
There’s a direct line from the Diggers to Planet Drum to local food. In the ’60s, the Diggers wrote articles about food as place early on. Peter always felt that the most successful activist work was done if you took a good idea and gave it away to people, and maybe even convinced people that they thought it up themselves. He was very successful at doing that, and consequently, the idea of eating food grown near you has moved from being a wild, radical idea to being someplace in the center right now.
You participated in a rather interesting seder during that period.
For the first time since the crucifixion, there was a total lunar eclipse on the night of the seder in 1968. That apparently happened also on the night of the Last Supper and we were all aware of this. We had a seder near Duboce Park. The Hells Angels were there and the Diggers were there. My son asked the Four Questions, and he asked [poet] Allen Ginsberg why this night was different from all other nights. Allen’s answer was: “Look around you.” We had tables all over the floor where people could lie down, and we ate the traditional foods but had no ceremony. I think I made around 15 sponge cakes.
Weren’t many of the people involved in the Diggers Jewish?
Some were Jewish, some were not. My husband, for example, one of the founders, was not. I was raised more culturally Jewish, and I’m not an expert on Judaism, and I never know if what I do is a result of being culturally Jewish or not, but I do believe that I have always placed a great emphasis on education, and that’s a very Jewish thing.
The Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart’s solo project is also called Planet Drum. Is there any connection?
Of course we knew the members of the Grateful Dead from when they played free concerts [organized by the Diggers]. Some years later, a mutual friend asked if Mickey could use the name. Peter said yes initially, but after awhile he trademarked it and asked that Mickey stop using it. We’re in some negotiations now over trademark infringement.
We are awash in nostalgia for the Summer of Love right now. How does it feel as someone who lived it, 50 years later, especially given the state of our country right now?
There were some very intense things going on then, and there are today as well. Not being able to make compromises or talk intelligently or make forward-looking decisions in the government is both hysterically funny and extremely sad. You could not have suggested some of the things that are going on, it’s so unbelievable. And I think that so many of the changes that happened as a result of the awakenings from the ’60s are taken for granted by people now. It’s very surprising for them to realize that things were not always like this.
You were also a dancer back in the day. Are you still dancing?
Yes! In addition to still running the Planet Drum Foundation, I teach exercise classes to seniors at several residence hotels and at the Noe Valley Ministry.