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The Importance and Complexity of Community

I deeply believe that people are the only critical resource needed by people. We ourselves, if we organise our talents, are sufficient to each other. What is more, we will either survive together or none of us will survive.

–Bill Mollison, from Permaculture: A Designers’ Manual

 

Community is paramount to permaculture. This is not a practice for isolationists because isolationists can’t change the world in a positive way, and ultimately that is the goal behind every garden, eco-home, and water catchment we build. In fact, the “culture” part of the permaculture term cannot be realised without a social group that shares values, traditions, and practices. In essence, those gardens, homes, and dams are all embodiments of that culture, and without people—that’s plural—to create, utilise, and share the fruits of these efforts, permaculture can’t exist.

While we may be attempting to individually take responsibility for ourselves (and, yes, that’s a wonderful thing to do), it is our collective effort that matters most. If we each live in our own sustainability bubbles, then we are doomed to repeat mistakes, to use more resources, to fear others, to limit our potential… and that’s not even getting into the basic psychology of person-to-person social interaction, something COVID quarantines have revealed as principal to a happy existence. For better or worse, we need each other.

Even so, community can be a difficult thing. It’s often wrought with rules and ruling classes. Conflict is inevitable. Belief systems become complex and spiritual: How many versions of Christianity/Islam/Judaism exist? How well historically do they all get along within the respective religions and outside of them? Designing sustainable homes, productive landscapes, and water catchment systems is a far easier undertaking than deciphering the mysteries of human interaction. Nevertheless, it’s every bit as important. After all, it is one of the three ethics of permaculture: People Care.

 

 

A Call for Community-Based Seed Diversity During the COVID-19 Pandemic

A Call for Community-Based Seed Diversity During the COVID-19 Pandemic

With every passing day without further action, community seed diversity and access—and therefore food security—is being placed at increasing risk.

So You Want to Leave It All and Create a Community?

SO YOU WANT TO LEAVE IT ALL AND CREATE A COMMUNITY?

If you want to leave it all and start a community, you should focus on inner work first. If you focus only on action, you risk building yourself another prison. You might just change one form of unhealthy lifestyle and toxic relations for another as a result.


Living in less and less livable cities to attain an unhealthy lifestyle with a toxic job situation makes many wonder, what if they started a community? You may have talked about it with people around you. Congratulations! Seeing what you do not want is the first step out of helplessness and stagnation. You’re so much further than many who just endure unbearable situations. They keep going in the wrong direction by numbing and relativizing. However, the fantasies of moving to a farm and living in a community need to be considered carefully. Boldness is good. It drives potential for change. However, an action needs vision. Otherwise, it may end up as a nightmare as a Japanese proverb warns us.

I am sharing with you some reflections that came into my mind when talking with people who want to create a community and be self-sufficient. One might argue that I have no expertise because I have not done it myself. I have not even tried. The reason why I have not undertaken such a project is not that it is a bad idea. To the contrary, I have met many people who lead a fulfilled life in egalitarian communities. And it has been beneficial for their health.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Surviving 2020 #3: Plans A, B and C

Surviving 2020 #3: Plans A, B and C

Readers ask for specific recommendations for successfully navigating the post-credit/speculative-bubble era and I try to do so while explaining the impossibility of the task.

As the bogus prosperity economy built on exponential growth of debt implodes, we all seek ways to protect ourselves, our families and our worldly assets. There are any number of websites, subscription services and books which offer two basic “practical recommendations:”

1. Buy gold (and/or silver) and don’t worry about timing the market as everything else will become worthless.

2. Establish a heavily armed and well-supplied hideaway before everything implodes.

My problem with these suggestions is that they are predicated on a decisive “end of the world as we know it” collapse of civilization.

While I am alive to the possibility of this cataclysm, an analysis of the many feedback loops which will slow or counteract such a decisive collapse suggests other alternatives are even more likely: my term for the slow, uneven decline of the credit/speculative-bubble era is devolution.

I cover feedback loops, historical cycles and why a lengthy devolution is as least as likely a scenario as abrupt collapse in my book Survival+ (free downloadable version is linked below).

In other words, I do not see planning for eventualities as “either/or.” I look at it in terms of three levels:

1. Plan A: dealing with devolution: government services are cut back, prices for essentials rise over time, fulltime paid jobs become scarce, the State (all levels of government) becomes increasingly repressive as it pursues “theft by other means,” i.e. the stripmining of private assets to feed its own fiefdoms and Elites; most assets fall in purchasing power (value) as the system’s financial props erode.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Search For A New Community

The Search For A New Community

A look at intentional community in a world who may be calling for a reimagining of collective actions.

Every intellectual had a “draft of a new community in his waistcoat pocket.”

— Ralph Waldo Emerson
Shaker Meeting, an early Utopian Community, New Lebanon, New York, Engraving circa 1804. Photo: Wikimedia/Public Domain

We have reached a new epoch in our planet’s history. Few can look at the increasingly authoritarian tendencies across the globe, the mass stress-fueled migrations, the degradation of the environment, the increasingly chaotic climate, and the fragility of systems exposed by the current Covid-19 without pondering upon what are authentic responses in these times. I would like to offer some observations and perhaps some questions regarding the role of intentional community in a world who may be calling for a reimagining of collective actions.

I have been part of a number of communities tied to independent schools and political and activist-driven movements. I want to look at three primary examples of communities that I believe are relevant to reimagining the ‘New Community’ and provide an insight into the taste of community.

The Abode of the Message

            For many of us, the ideal of living in an intentional community was a vision that led to a quest for such. Personally, an early experiment lasted several years in the later 1970s at a Sufi community, The Abode of the Message, in upstate New York. Situated on 350 acres of a former Shaker utopian community and based on the idea of the universality of all religions, our band of just over one hundred individuals and families strove to put into practice the ideal of “spirituality in everyday life.” We farmed, baked, led retreats, and worked in a variety of jobs in surrounding towns. The Abode spawned the Omega Institute, a mechanic shop, a private school, and a fledgling computer business set in a former Shaker workshop.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Gathering in groups as society falls apart – by Vicki Robin

Gathering in groups as society falls apart – by Vicki Robin

“Everyone wants community. Unfortunately, it involves other people.” I used that line in lectures on frugal living when talking of the loneliness of consumerism and the benefits of sharing resources. We idealize the good old days of people helping people out. But can we live them, given who we have become?

Individualism is one of the many privileges of ‘the privileged’ in Western society. We have options and choices about where we live, with whom, of what genders, ages or races, whether we are child-free or have a brood, what we eat, what we believe, jobs we’ll accept, and on and on and on. As people look at civilizational breakdown in detail, though, they realize that to survive, other people might not be optional – joining a group, a farm, a small town might be necessary.

Survival is not a solo sport. If it happens, it will happen in community – intentional, multi-generational family, accidental – where we can share the work, grow food, trade, defend ourselves, socialize, learn, teach, repair. Civilization, it turns out, has a lot of services built in that will need to be maintained as long as possible or created anew… or done without.

How do we, who are so accustomed to individualism, enter into a new reality of living in concert with others? Not as a condiment but as a necessity. Not through idealistic eyes but as a sober process of surrendering attachment to the ego’s demands and entering a state of belonging to a people and a place.

I’ve lived in several communities and learned many lessons, surprising ones and hard ones. Here are some ideas for those of you contemplating moving to an existing rural community or forming your own, given your perspective of deep adaptation.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Responding to Collapse: Uncertain Future Forum Wrap-Up

Responding to Collapse: Uncertain Future Forum Wrap-Up


When we invited Dahr Jamail, Meghan Kallman, Taylor Brorby, and Winona LaDuke to answer the admittedly difficult and emotionally charged question that is this forum’s topic, we didn’t expect to get the “right” answer from any of them. There is no “right” answer. What’s “right” is subjective—very much dependent on our individual circumstances and how we define “collapse.” I would venture that the answer is also fundamentally unknowable. It will be a moving target as the complex, adaptive systems of energy, climate, economy, and politics interact in ways that we can neither predict nor fully prepare for.

But that doesn’t mean the question—how do we respond to collapse?—is futile or that the attempt to answer it is pointless. In fact, it may be the most important question each of us needs to ask—and re-ask—ourselves and one another over the coming days, months, and years.

That’s why we wanted this to be the very first topic of the Uncertain Future Forum and invited Winona, Taylor, Meghan, and Dahr to answer the question (and respond to one another’s answers) in whatever way they felt compelled. And it’s why I would like to invite you to grapple with the question and share your answer in the comments section below.

Though there are as many answers to this question as there are people asking it, I did notice some common themes in the responses of our authors. One is the need to be honest with ourselves and each other about the reality we face. Another is the need to contend with our own grief, as Dahr Jamail shared.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Why Are American Communities Dying?

Why Are American Communities Dying?

Most Americans who have been around for a while know life is nothing like it used to be. When someone wanted a job one was found with a little bit of searching. Today jobs are difficult to find, especially in small communities. 

When I was growing up in the 70’s, there were several car dealers in my community. There were three tractor dealers and too many mom and pop stores to count. Today there are two used car dealers and the nearest tractor dealer is twenty miles away. So how is it that we now have more people, but fewer businesses to employ them?

A nations wealth is derived from having a product to sell. That wealth needs to circulate in towns and cities to compound the wealth effect and create jobs and businesses. When wealth is not created or it is siphoned off to other places, the wealth effect can not happen, and in many cases goes into reverse. A community needs a certain amount of service related jobs to function but it also needs some type of production jobs to bring in money from the outside. This can be mining , agriculture or manufacturing type jobs, but they must exist to insure a healthy economy.

America has two major problems today. A large amount of our production is done outside the country eliminating production jobs in local communities and many of the small local businesses that kept wealth within communities have been supplanted by large corporations that siphon wealth out of communities and send it to wall street. 

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Excerpt From “De-growth in the Suburbs, A Radical Urban Imaginary.”

EXCERPT FROM “DE-GROWTH IN THE SUBURBS, A RADICAL URBAN IMAGINARY.”

Over the next 4 weeks we will be sharing with you excerpt from Samuel Alexander and Brendan Gleeson’s new book, “Degrowth in the Suburbs: A Radical Urban Imaginary”.

This book addresses a central dilemma of the urban age: how to make suburban landscapes sustainable in the face of planetary ecological crisis.  The authors argue that degrowth, a planned contraction of overgrown economies, is the most coherent paradigm for suburban renewal. They depart from the anti-suburban sentiment of much environmentalism to show that existing suburbia can be the centre-ground of transition to a new social dispensation based on the principle of enlightened material and energy restraint.


Prelude: The Great Resettlement

This book opens, as it must, by acknowledging that the human species stands at the precipice of self-made destruction. At the very hour when modern humanity arrived at the pinnacle of triumph – a global market economy promising riches for all—the skies have been darkened by the terrible spectres of ecological and social threat. Global warming is only one of these storm clouds, but this alone has the potential to lay waste to our species, as well as most others. At the same time, vast oceans of debilitating poverty surround small islands of unfathomable plenty, exposing the violent betrayal of the growth agenda, euphemistically (or just deceptively) known in public discourse as ‘sustainable development’. This is a race leading towards an abyss, both enabled and entrenched by a sterility of imagination.

The late German scholar Ulrich Beck spoke of how triumph and crisis simultaneously emerge and remerge in a world pervasively and con- tinuously remade by capitalist modernisation.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Disaster collectivism: How communities rise together to respond to crises

Disaster collectivism: How communities rise together to respond to crises

When Hurricane Maria slammed into Puerto Rico on Sept. 20, 2017, Judith Rodriguez was asleep in her home. Or rather, she was trying to sleep, but the sounds of the deadly storm blowing over the island woke her up.

“That whistle was the ugliest I’ve heard in my life,” Rodriguez said. “A whistle that was never silent. It was endless. … I thought that my house was in good condition, at least I thought that. And as I woke up at 2:30am, I felt scared. The first scare was when the back door went flying off — a metal door in the kitchen.”

Like much of the island, the town of Cayey, where Rodriguez lives, was plunged into darkness for months, as winds reaching 175 mph destroyed power lines and tore roofs off houses. Already in the midst of a crippling debt crisis, and with no immediate relief in sight, communities like Cayey had to make due with the few resources they had.

“In my house I had a lot of plates,” Rodriguez says. “What if I donate my plates that are laying in a corner in my home?” She wasn’t the only one with that idea. In towns and cities all over the island, from Cayey to Caguas and Humacao to Las Marias, something began to stir. Plate donations grew into community kitchens which grew into community centers which grew into a movement. With its furiously whistling winds, Hurricane Maria had awakened something in the Puerto Rican people, something that storms, fires, earthquakes — and all manner of disasters and catastrophes — have awakened in communities all around the world.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Feeling Isolated?

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Feeling Isolated?

If so, you’re not alone

Does anyone else in your life share your concerns for the future?

Is there someone you talk with regularly about the unsustainability of our current economic and ecological trajectories?

Do you have friends and/or family members who support your efforts to develop a more resilient lifestyle?

If you answered “no” to these questions, you’re not an outlier. In fact, the #1 most commonly-reported complaint we hear from Peak Prosperity readers is that they feel alone and isolated when it comes to the warnings delivered in The Crash Course.

The end of economic growth. Declining net energy. Accelerating resource depletion. These are MASSIVE existential threats to our way of life — to our species’ survival, even. Most PPers can’t comprehend why *everyone* isn’t obessively talking about these dangers.

But very few people are. Truthfully, most don’t want to; for a wide variety of reasons.

So that leaves us, the conscientious critical thinkers, alone by ourselves to worry and plan.

Does this sound like you? If so, read on…

Wired For Connection

Humans are biologically wired for social connection.

Until just recently, historically-speaking, humans typically existed in small tribal groups of 30-60 people, where the degree of unity and cohesiveness of the group directly determined its odds of survival. Facing constant adversity from the weather, predators, other tribes, etc — every member of the group had a role and a duty to perform.

We’ve delved into this topic deeply in the past, particularly in our podcast with Peabody Award-winning author Sebastian Junger.

In his book Tribe, Junger observes how far modern life is from the conditions our distant ancestors evolved from. We are so dis-connected from each other now that the lack of community is manifesting in alarming ways in today’s society.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Science Of Community

smallbusinessbc.ca

The Science Of Community

The 4 key success factors for bringing people together

The Peak Prosperity tribe is gathering.

Members from all over the country (including a few from Europe and Asia) are arriving in northern California today for our annual weekend seminar.

Chris and I are really looking forward to this. We’re introducing a host of upgrades this year: a better location, a better venue, new content and exercises, and guest appearances by many of the experts who appear on PeakProsperity.com (including Charles Hugh Smith, Richard Heinberg, Axel Merk, Wolf Richter, David Pare, Mark Rees, the New Harbor team, the folks from Farmland LP, as well as several others).

But as anyone who has attended one of our past seminars (or city Summits) knows, it’s the PP members themselves who are the heart of the experience. Having so many like-minded folks in one place at the same time is a refreshing and energizing rarity.

The community that has developed here at Peak Prosperity is truly special. It attracts members who are smart, curious, open-minded, open-hearted — and share a drive to create a better future for themselves, their loved ones, and the world around them.

Of all the elements of the movement Chris and I have worked hard to build over the years, connecting such amazing individuals together into this community is our proudest achievement. Given our mission of “Creating a World Worth Inheriting”, we know that the path to success depends on the collective action of many than on the efforts of just we two.

Which is why we take community-building so seriously.

As we write about often, Social Capital is very important for each of us to build in order to live a resilient life. And whether you’re building it on an individual level in your local neighborhood, or on a global scale as PeakProsperity.com does, there are several science-based factors that are key to success.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

George Monbiot’s Out of the Wreckage; A friendly critique

Few have made a more commendable contribution to saving the planet than George Monbiot. His recent book, Out of the Wreckage, continues the effort and puts forward many important ideas…but I believe there are problems with his diagnosis and his remedy.

The book is an excellent short, clear account of several of the core faults in consumer-capitalist society, and the alternatives advocated are admirable. George’s focal concern is the loss of community, and the cause is, as we know, neo-liberalism. He puts this in terms of the “story” that dominates thinking. Today the taken for granted background story about society is that it is made of competitive, self-interest-maximizing individuals, and therefore our basic institutions and processes are geared to a struggle to accumulate private wealth, rather than to encouraging concern for each other and improving the welfare of all. Thatcher went further, instructing us that there is not even any such thing as society, only individuals. George begins by rightly contradicting such vicious nonsense, pointing out that humans are fundamentally nice, altruistic, caring and cooperative, but we have allowed these dispositions to be overridden primarily by an economic system that obliges us to behave differently.

He gives heavy and convincing documentation of- this theme. Chapters 1 and 2 deal with several indicators of the sad state of affairs. “ … this age of atomization breeds anxiety, discontent and unhappiness.” (p. 18.) “An epidemic of loneliness is sweeping the world.” (p. 16.) Chapter 3 deals with the way neoliberalism has caused the social damage that has accumulated over the last forty years.

But my first concern with the book is that disastrous as it is, neo-liberalism isn’t the main problem confronting us and likely to destroy us.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot


Gordon Parks Daytona Beach, Florida. Bethune-Cookman College. Football practice 1943
Here’s a delicious little rant from Dr. D., by now a regular contributor at the Automatic Earth.

Dr. D: The schizophrenia surrounding the tariff plan is really startling. But then I could just say, “the level of insanity everywhere is startling.”

Self-avowed schmartz-guys are all “doesn’t the U.S. know their empire is failing and everybody is cutting them off? What are they thinking starting trade wars with allies and raising prices???” Stop. So your argument is the U.S. is losing its influence, other nations are about to cut it off and end the trade deficit, and thereby basically halt imports? While the U.S. has no internal manufacturing? And your argument here is that, not if but when the world cuts us off we a) would like to have some steel and aluminum to build factories, washing machines and tanks or b) do NOT want to have access to the basic raw materials of society? Whiskey Tango Foxtrot.

I’m sorry that this generation burned down the factory, then retreated to the mansion, sold off and burned all the furniture there too, then ran up the credit card with cocaine and heroin parties while yelling “I’m a rock star! I’m a Contender!”, but they did. Now there are only bad decisions, like the ones real adults have.

And there’s nothing but work to put that factory back up, and that’s going to cost something, in this case, money and higher prices, using the thousand-year method of protective tariffs. Why not? Europe has 25% tariffs. China has a virtual lockout. If the U.S. machine then also has higher real wages for U.S. workers they can afford the tariffs. I mean, what’s their counterargument? If it’s better to not have steel and aluminum, perhaps we should shut down the few remaining foundries and have NO materials? I mean, if a little is bad, surely none is way better.

Mish for example thinks this way: if China is willing to give us cheap, under-market steel we should take it. No, not if you want to have a country, you don’t. Isn’t it a matter of national security to be able to make tanks, ships, railroads, and artillery? There’s more to the world than money.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

 

Introduction to The Community Resilience Reader

We’re pleased to announce the publication of our latest book, The Community Resilience Reader: Essential Resources for an Era of Upheaval, edited by Daniel Lerch and published with Island Press. Here is the Introduction chapter, which explains why we’ve produced this important new collection of essays.


For over thirty years, the world community has tried to resolve the combined challenges of environmental degradation, fossil fuel dependence, economic inequality, and persistent social injustice—largely under the banner of internationally brokered “sustainable development.” Despite some partial successes, it is clear today that the pace of these global trends has not been slowed, let alone stopped or reversed. Their scale has grown and their impacts have become so widespread that they now threaten the stability—in some cases even the existence—of communities around the world. The global sustainability challenges of the past have become the local resilience crises of today.

Resilience is the ability of a system—like a family, or a country, or Earth’s biosphere—to cope with short-term disruptions and adapt to long-term changes without losing its essential character. We depend on the resilience of all the systems that support us for life and well-being; if these systems falter, we suffer. A crisis is an unstable state of affairs in which decisive change is both necessary and inevitable. Today we face four major crises—environmental, energy, economic, and equity—that threaten to overwhelm the resilience of the systems we care about, particularly at the local level.

The failure of international sustainability efforts to thwart these crises means resilience-building efforts at the community level—working on all issues and systems, not just climate change and infrastructure—are needed more than ever. But the charge to build community resilience raises important questions: Resilience of what, exactly? Resilient to what, exactly? Building resilience how, and benefiting whom?

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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