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Community, Belonging and the Polycrisis

Community, Belonging and the Polycrisis

Wherever I go and ask people what is missing from their lives, 

the most common answer (if they are not impoverished or seriously ill)
is “community.”
                     — Charles Eisenstein

ChatGPT, the A.I. robot, often gets things badly wrong

It even makes wildly false statements rather routinely. But sometimes I find it useful to ask the bot a question as a very small part of my research process. Today, I’m glad I did. Oddly enough, it gave me the words I found difficult to articulate.

I asked:

Author and speaker, Charles Eisenstein, has said “Wherever I go and ask people what is missing from their lives, the most common answer (if they are not impoverished or seriously ill) is ‘community.’” And yet, in some sense, most people do live in what are called ‘communities’ — be it a village, town or city. It’s not so easy to conceptualize and make explicit what is missing in the lives of people, which is often called “community”. What is this missing element which so many complain about?

The bot said:

The missing element that people often refer to as “community” is a sense of belonging, connectedness, and shared purpose with the people around them. While people may live in the same physical location and interact with others on a daily basis, this does not necessarily translate to a feeling of community.

True community involves a deeper level of connection, where people feel a sense of belonging and are able to create meaningful relationships with others. This can be fostered through shared values, interests, goals, and a sense of mutual support and cooperation. In contrast, many people feel isolated, disconnected, and disengaged from those around them, which can lead to a sense of loneliness, anxiety, and even depression.

…click on the above link to read the rest…

Micro utopias for an inclusive future

When Gijsbert Huijink, a Dutch national living in Banyoles, in the Catalan province of Girona, set out to install solar panels in his home he stumbled upon a legal labyrinth that criminalized energy self-consumption. “If I wanted to connect to the grid to recharge my batteries and supply my excess, I had to pay a fortune,” Gijsbert Huijink said in an interview.1 Huijink then hatched a plan to exact sweet collective revenge: he founded Som Energia,2 Spain’s first power cooperative. With the help of his wife, his university students, and some friends, Gijsbert laid the foundations to effect a change in the Spanish energy market. Som Energia has since grown from an initial 150 contracts in 2010 to 125,589 in March 2021,3 and it is currently the fastest growing energy cooperative in Europe. Hundreds of city governments have hired its services and dozens of new energy cooperatives are replicating the model.

Som Energia has a characteristic that sets it apart from most environmentalist efforts. It is not a project that merely reacts: it proposes. It does not focus on protesting, but on action. It does not stop at defending certain ideals, but puts those ideals into practice. It goes beyond criticizing an economic model based on fossil fuels: it sets a new model in motion. It does not just denounce the injustice of certain regulations, but goes on to experiment with new forms of democracy. It does not focus on the individual: it aims for sustainability with community and networked solutions.

Som Energia was one of the thirty-two initiatives that participated in the first edition of the Transformative Cities People’s Choice Award and the Atlas of Utopias, the unique coopetition4 launched by the Transnational Institute (TNI) in 2018. Having completed a total of three editions,5 it perfectly embodies the spirit that infuses all those initiatives…

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

The End of the Dream

The End of the Dream

There are times when the winds that shape the future blow strong enough to be heard over the jabber of everyday life, and this is one of those times. For a while now I’ve been mulling over a handful of often-repeated comments on this blog, and I find that if I look through them, into the landscape of ideas that structure them, it’s possible to glimpse some of the driving forces behind the history of our era.

The comment that set off this most recent period of reflection came a couple of weeks ago. The person who wrote it complained that he’d tried to follow the advice I’ve offered for some time now—“collapse now and avoid the rush”—by trying to organize an intentional community up in the Italian mountains.  His project fell flat when nobody else wanted to join.  Having related this story, he proposed that other readers of this blog join with him to create “a meaningful, synergistic community.”

I’m embarrassed to say that I lost my temper and yelled at him. In my defense, I’d note that all through my blogging career I’ve been pointing out that the notion of heading off to the countryside to found an intentional community is not a viable response to the crisis of our age.  I proposed “collapse now and avoid the rush” as an alternative to that fantasy, not an excuse for it.  Thus it was annoying to see my suggestion plopped onto the Procrustean bed of collective chatter and turned into yet another excuse to chase the same overfamiliar mirage.  It was particularly annoying because that sort of reflexive flight from unfamiliar ideas happens astonishingly often these days.

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

The Key Is Interrelated Communities

Part of the GTI forum on Can Human Solidarity Globalize?

Richard Falk’s engaging essay invites us to identify various “foreclosures of the imagination” that are blocking the emergence of pathways to greater global solidarity in the future. Any realistic thoughts about the future, though, must surely be set within the context of the physical conditions humankind will face in the Era of Disasters, which we have already entered. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is now easier for people to imagine a regional or planetary situation where forces of nature take over and humans are not in control. Still, the human tendency to ignore an almost unthinkable threat in the hope that it will go away or strike someone else is a very problematic foreclosure of imagination in our situation. Regardless, in the coming decades, every department and agency in every government in nearly every country is going to be focused on, in addition to its usual duties, the ramifications of frequent, massively destructive catastrophes causing cumulative, often irreparable damage to the economy, social structure, institutions, communities, and mental health.

We survive or die where we live, so a place-based, community focus is ascendant as the planetary crises worsen. Perhaps it is time to dust off the decades-old, but marginalized, “alternative” vision of the global family of humankind as being a nested community of communities of communities. In this model, the United Nations would be restructured, which could be reflected in a redesign of the seating in the General Assembly chamber. Instead of alphabetical seating, why not have major groupings according to the continents? Within those groups, countries would be seated together according to regions…

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

Building Community by Buying Nothing

“It’s like a radical new economy, except of course it’s an old economy that has been around forever.”

Following knee surgery five years ago, Myra Anderson was having difficulty getting around. Living alone in Charlottesville, Virginia, she began asking on Facebook if anyone could assist her in getting a few supplies.

A friend suggested the Buy Nothing Project, a network for the free sharing of resources among neighbors. Anderson signed up, but unaware of the rules, offered to leave money on her front stoop to pay for supplies if someone could bring them to her.

By the time a message popped up in her inbox from the group administrator alerting her that’s not how Buy Nothing works, dozens of people had already offered to pick up what she needed—at no cost, of course.

Soon, people Anderson didn’t know began regularly checking in on her. She found a walking and workout partner in the group. When she’d post about feeling blue, people would respond with comfort, support, and encouragement.

“The love that has come from people I didn’t know, but just knowing they live near me, has been overwhelming and refreshing for my soul,” Anderson says.

These were the sort of genuine connections that Rebecca Rockefeller and Liesl Clark envisioned back in 2013 when they created Buy Nothing—a gift economy operated on a hyperlocal scale to bring neighbors together through sharing and community.

Neither a group, organization, association, or nonprofit, Buy Nothing is a movement that has doubled in size during the pandemic. It now has more than 4 million participants in 6,500 groups, located in 44 countries across the globe.

“It’s like a radical new economy, except of course it’s an old economy that has been around forever,” Rockefeller says. “We’re just re-presenting it.”

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

Collective Farming, Community and Connection

Collective Farming, Community and Connection

Cédric, Mathieu and Hervé of the collective farm (GAEC) La Ferme des 7 Chemins in Brittany. Image courtesy of La Ferme des 7 Chemins via Facebook

What does a socio-ecological transition mean for farmers? Farmers from the Nos Campagnes En Résilience project share their thoughts on social issues in farming, the role of farms in the community, and how Nos Campagnes En Résilience can help to build rural resilience in France.

In France, collective farms are quite common (known as a Groupement Agricole d’Exploitation en Commun, or GAEC). Social issues on the farm are central to farming in a collective set-up. But these farmers are also keen to look beyond the farm to build community and connection.

Cédric Briand is part of a collective dairy farm in Brittany with two other partners (pictured above). They manage a a herd of Bretonne Pie Noir, a local heritage breed of dairy cow. All of their milk is processed on-farm, where they produce artisan cheeses. 

Ludovic Boulerie is an artisan baker and farmer in a collective farm in Nouvelle-Aquitaine in the West of France. Together with his two farming partners (pictured below) they produce cereals and aromatic herbs and bake bread in the on-farm bakery.

Gilles and Marie Avocat are retired sheep farmers and cheesemakers who were part of a collective farm in the French Alps. They have always been very involved in the community as advocates for local organic food.

Ludovic (on the right) with farming partners Cécile and Youry of the collective farm GAEC La Billardière. Image courtesy of GAEC La Billardière

Farming can build community through food

Ludovic puts it succinctly: The end goal of farming is to feed the population. So there’s a direct link between farmers and their local communities. Farming can build community through food.

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

Social innovation for a just transition to sustainability

Social innovation for a just transition to sustainability

At a time of climate emergency and rapid biodiversity loss, the need for transformation to a more sustainable economy and society becomes ever more urgent. Rapid change requires social innovations of different types and at different scales, Prof Fergus Lyon writes ahead of the #ISIRC2021 conference—a just transition cannot be a top-down endeavour but needs community level initiatives and actions.

©istcok.com/Orbon Alija

How can we address the climate and ecological emergency while also maintaining and improving wellbeing? CUSP work shows how the two elements cannot be separated, but it also requires social innovation that draws together diverse evidence, breaking down the silos of knowledge that hinder the development of policy and practice.

This is a focus within the International Social Innovation Research Conference (ISIRC) with a stream on social innovation in a time of climate and biodiversity emergency currently inviting paper abstracts and ideas for panels from around the world.

Social innovation and the development of novel practices, approaches and institutions is desperately needed. This is accentuated by the pandemic and widespread calls to build back better and build back fairer. Questions remain about the best processes of encouraging the required changes.

One of the key elements of such processes is to make sure that the transition is socially and economically just: we need to ensure that certain places are not unduly disadvantaged. This requires identification of the places most at risk from negative consequences—whether it’s communities, regions or nations; we also need to be sure to work with the industries that are particularly affected. The transition to low carbon economies is an opportunity to create ‘decent work’—i.e. more stable, healthy sources of employment; and CUSP has been working on the matter in a number of projects over the past five years.

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

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?


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…

Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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