WELL calls first year review: Whats right; whats wrong; whats coming?
[ The Willits Economic LocaLization (WELL) efforts in California seem to represent one of the most organised local responses to Peak Oil worldwide. This report from the Willits local newspaper dips into the nitty gritty of WELL's activities and gives some insights into the kind of unglamorous but important issues likely to arise for other relocalisation efforts. It's great to see a local newspaper functioning this way - (some of my local papers don't seem to publish much except news of street crime) giving due credit to this work while reporting useful reflections on the process. -AF ]
It's been more than a year since the Willits Economic LocaLization (WELL) group began a major push in the direction of meeting local needs with local resources in a post-oil future.
The group is now inviting the community to a weekend of soul-searching, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. March 4 and 5, to address key questions about the past and future of WELL and the localization effort in the Willits area and beyond.
The conference was prompted by a variety of concerns, many of them raised or repeated by those attending a preparatory workshop Monday night.
While WELLs major accomplishments are undeniable - including working with the City of Willits toward installation up to 700 KW of solar equipment; and an agreement with the school board to explore creation of an on-campus garden to both feed and teach students - it isn't clear how these projects fit into an overall plan for localization and which projects to pursue next.
David Drell of the Willits Environmental Center said developing projects without an overall plan is what got the county into its current energy dilemma. City Councilman Ron Orenstein, on the other hand, warned against analyzing something to death while the economic Titanic is going down.
Both points of view are expected to be addressed and blended at the weekend conference.
According to the latest event plan, Saturday afternoon will be devoted to developing a vision of what we want our community to create in our valleyand a related vision statement for WELL. The work will continue Sunday morning with prioritization of long-term elements of vision and Sunday afternoon with a strategic plan for the coming year.
Other concerns expressed Monday included why WELL isn't taking a stand on such current issues as proposed residential development in Willits; whether WELL members should attempt to carry out major projects on their own or only define them for other groups - including investors - to realize; and why there arent more young people involved in WELL events.
Regarding the first issue, the goal of securing local food, water and energy sources to meet the needs of the Willits area is potentially in conflict with the rapid population growth taking place over the past two years. It remains unclear, however, how much growth the area could actually maintain.
The city is currently undertaking a study of drinking water capacity and reviewing options for a new wastewater treatment plant. WELL members have conducted inventories of community needs and resources in the areas of energy consumption and, to some degree, food supply. While the amount of agricultural land present and needed can be calculated, however, the amount actually available for food production is harder to determine given current ownership practices and land prices.
The second issue, the expertise and organization needed to carry out projects, raised further questions and suggestions. One man reported having attended workshops on a particular aspect of localization only to find the group of participants different each time, prompting the need to start all over. Others pointed out that while core groups of WELL members have stayed on to realize projects and/or coordinate efforts, the total number of participants has diminished.
* Setting a date for accomplishment of long-term goals;
* Allowing those with the expertise to conduct inventories and analyze results, leaving others free for other tasks;
* Supplying work groups with access to legal council, a mediator, and a fundraiser; and
* Drawing up a skills bank, including a list of who to contact with ideas.
Possible solutions mentioned for attracting youth offered by a 28-year-old participant named Gil included sponsoring music events that include a vision of a self-sufficient community. He and others also expressed a need for paying jobs within the localization effort.
If all goes as planned, Saturday mornings conference session will address what has worked, what hasn't. why people have left, as well as what the group has accomplished. The existing and future structure of WELL is expected to be incorporated into one of more of the Sunday sessions.
Currently, a steering committee of eight to 12 self-selected volunteers coordinates WELL activities. Discussion is expected to include who the committee members are, what they do, and whether or not the committee should continue in its present form.
The possibility of establishing an executive committee is also on the agenda as is the role, oversight and funding of staff.
The two-day conference will be facilitated by an outside professional. The place has yet to be determined. The event is free, open to the public, and includes potluck lunches.