Building a Sustainable Future – Big Issue SW, June 2007
Photo by Victor-Garcia on Unsplash
© Cliona O Conaill 2007 Originally titled The End Is Nigh?
The daily news of climate change, peak oil, war after war, animal extinction, unpredictable weather, natural disasters, economic and social breakdown, paints a gloomy global portrait. So why is now actually a great time for celebration and optimism?
Rob Hopkins, originator of the TT movement and the Transition Network says, “I don’t see those things as inevitable givens. I see those things as worst case scenarios… if we can engage and respond sufficiently the worst of those things can be averted”.
This is a historic time, we are poised on the knife-edge of a fundamental change and you are lucky enough to have been born in time to be a part of it. Experts are calling this the biggest change since the Industrial Revolution. Deep Ecologist Joanna Macy calls this time The Great Turning, meaning a turning around of our unsustainable lifestyles to create a sustainable future.
“This is a hugely optimistic time, and also a challenging time. It’s a renaissance for the away we live and work, there is a huge potential,” says Karen Blincoe, Director of Schumacher College, a world renowned international centre for sustainable learning.
Photo by Tyler Casey on Unsplash
But things are likely to get worse before they get better. The world has already bought its ticket for the roller-coaster ride of a lifetime. Rob predicts that in the UK, “we’ll see rapidly rising oil prices within the next few years, disruptions to fuel supplies triggering a recession, and carbon rationing within the next five years.” And global water shortages will affect our water-reliant imports, for example biofuel.
Three environmental experts give us their recommendations.
ROB HOPKINS – Founder of The Transition Town Movement
Transition Towns (TT) work on the premise that, The future with less oil could be better than the present awash with it, but only if we begin to prepare with imagination, creativity and adaptability,” explains Rob. A year after its inception in Kinsale in Ireland, there are over 50 towns and cities across the UK involved in the community initiative, and its influence has already spread as far as Norway, North America and Mexico.
He says, “Building resilience into what we do is really important, so we are able to withstand shocks. The rebuilding of social networks is pivotal. If there is a Transition initiative process in your community get involved, if not start one.Learn how to grow food and grow some of your own.Try and reduce your energy dependency as best you can.Start learning to live with less stuff.Find other ways to derive happiness that don’t involve going to shops.Plant productive trees wherever you can.Do as much as you can to try and get out of debt.Re-skill: learn basic skills like digging, gardening and DIY.”
Photo by the creative exchange on Unsplash
JOHN CROFT, community development specialist and co-founder of the Australian Gaia Foundation, which has initiated 550 sustainability projects in Western Australia since it began in 1987. John recommends a six-step action plan:
- Build Community as if your life depended on it. Those living in a supportive and caring community will thrive. Turning your street into an ecovillage is a great way to start.
- Simplify your life. Find low energy ways to satisfy your own and other peoples’ needs. We need to have people competing to lower their consumption – not to increase it. Our lives are full of complex systems. For example, the UK imports 95% of its fruit. This fruit is grown, sprayed, air freighted, packed, priced, stocked in a supermarket and driven to your home before you eat it. No wonder it takes 10 calories of fossil fuel to create one calorie of food**. Plant a fruit tree. Reduce your possessions and buy only essentials. John recommends slow food*1 and slow money (see below).
- Maximise your creativity: that’s social, economical, political, technological, environmental, spiritual, artistic and cultural creativity. We are entering an age of huge uncertainty. Old methods no longer work and those who have the power, lack the capacity to solve problems. Celebration is a great way of getting the creative juices flowing.
- Cultivate non-violence in everything you do and get others to do the same. This skill is the only way to combat rising levels of fear. Sign up for a non-violent-communication workshop and practise co-counselling with a friend.
- Preserve knowledge, people forget a great deal and even forget that they have forgotten. We are losing one language every two weeks, and we lose our local ecological understanding with it. Look at ‘Study Action Circles’ *3 where people come together with the task of informing themselves, and then making a difference.
- Practise inclusive, inter-faith Earth-based spirituality and move away from exclusive dualistic Heaven-based spirituality. We need eco-spiritualities that motivate us to repair the earth and our communities, and don’t separate and divide us.
KAREN BLINCOE – Director of Schumacher College – Centre For Sustainable Learning
Karen says, “I think of the Great Turning in terms of enlightenment, the spiritual aspect. As humanity we are moving up to a different platform, if we don’t, then we won’t be able to embrace the changes.
- Mediate for half an hour every day.
- Give thanks for your life and what you have.
- Learn about climate change and how to live a simpler life. Test your carbon footprint, because if you don’t know, how to how are you going to make a change?
- Nurse your networks – any community you are part of – because that’s what’s going to sustain us in the future.
- Be mindful of your activities – be conscious of what you eat and what you do every day.
- Practise compassion.
- See your glass as half full rather than half empty. See the possibilities rather than the barriers.
- Know that every single human being can make a difference. Don’t give your power away.
“We have to move onwards with wisdom using not only our heads but also our heart. That’s where we have to go with communities and in society,” she adds.
Other ideas for a more sustainable future: start car sharing; get on your bike and learn to fix it yourself; get an allotment; be entrepreneurial; learn to run projects; stop eating meat; make your own clothes; buy locally; return all packaging and old electrical goods to the manufacturer; educate yourself: do a permaculture design course, watch the film The End Of Suburbia, read The Oil Depletion Protocol, log onto Transition Town Totnes for an extensive list of resources.
Woody Tasch, Chairman of Investors’ Circle says “More than $2 trillion circulates around the world every day. …As money circulates the globe with ever accelerating speed, it sucks oxygen out of the air, fertility out of the soil, and culture out of local communities”. He created the concept of ‘Slow Money’ to reduce the speed of the money-go-round. The Totnes Pound (a local currency experiment as part of TT Totnes) is an example of slow money. Using the physical money requires face-to-face contact encouraging us to take responsibility for our consumer power. As Susan Witt, of the E. F. Schumacher Society says, slow money “makes us conscious of the impact of our economic transactions.”
Most of the resources that we take for granted are running out: food, water, oil, gas, land, and we will need to be flexible and mature enough to act responsibly and start conserving everything instead of looking for someone to blame and waiting for others to change first. The future may be challenging but as Rob says this is, “An invitation to participate in a historic process, we only get one shot at it and it could be some thing that is exhilarating for everybody involved”. There’s never been a better time to celebrate creating our sustainable future.
** Fuelling a Food Crisis – a report by Caroline Lucas MEP, Andy Jones and Colin Hines
Slow Food: www.slowfood.com, 01952 727501 or 01584 891336
Study Circles: www.vcn.bc.ca/citizens-handbook/community_study.html
Permaculture Association: www.permaculture.org.uk/
The End Of Suburbia www.powerswitch.org.uk/portal/index.php?option= content &task=view&id=235&Itemid=2
The Oil Depletion Protocol by Richard Heinberg, Clairview, 2006.
Transition Town Totnes: www.transitiontowns.org/Totnes/, www.transitionculture.org
E.F. Schumacher Society: www.schumachersociety.org/
Schumacher College: 01803 865 934, www.schumachercollege.org.uk/
© Cliona O Conaill 2007 The End Is Nigh?
Title changed on re-publication