Take dandelions. You can plant a perfect lawn but if your neighbors don’t eradicate their dandelions, you’ve got them again. Or take the common cold. You can take vitamins, eat great food, work out, but if your co-workers have the flu or if your kid’s kindergarten has the flu, you’ll likely get it.
We are told we are all powerful individuals. With enough intention and work we can climb any mountain, solve any problem and even change any ills of the world. As Colbert would say, this is “truth-y”. or truth-ish. But common sense says that absent collective changing, personal efforts can only do so much.
Community is the only sensible context for change-making. A permaculture of community is an approach to shifting not just your body or yard or retreat center, but shifting the energy that flows through your community to make change that sticks because it is woven into a larger supportive system.
Personal change is necessary but not sufficient for building the scale and depth of the change we need. Without a personal commitment to practice sustainability, efforts to change others or the system will ring hollow and not take root. Authenticity speaks louder than words. Real stories with aspirations and challenges and achievements speak to us. However, this is not enough.
The era of hyper-individualism – for all the creativity and empowerment it brought us – is waning. The world doesn’t need more spectacular heroics. Heroics now comes from humility, the willingness to release specialness and focus on service. Our most respected individuals aren’t focused on standing out, but rather on standing up for what feeds the collective. Change is not sustainable if it is not embedded in a community. And that’s really really really hard! Social change takes years to build a movement that ca change a law or regulation. Culture change is the work of decades. Culture change alters identity – who we think we are as a people.
Living in a small village on an island teaches me this every day. If you don’t shrink your ego, if you don’t understand yourself as one-of-many who makes this place together, you live in a house on an island – but not here.
I’m trying out “a permaculture of community” to hold this perspective. I’ll be developing it over the course of many posts.
I’m now part of a permaculture club. We’re watching the free online videos here and a local deep permaculturist, Eric Conn, is conducting a 12-session discussion and demonstration group. Each week we go to a different classmate’s property to learn from their choices and challenges. Many of us want to create bountiful edible landscapes and gardens on our land, but it has led me to believe that if we build an awareness in ourselves that we are permaculturing the island and our properties are squares in a quilt, we might see something far more radical and interesting. We’re already starting to volunteer on one another’s properties. It’s a beginning. I hope to grow this seed of a permaculture of community and see what comes of it. My years of being a social change agent myself re money and dialogue gives me this perspective on food production. Next post: linking permaculture principles to community organizing and challenging structures of ownership (in our minds and in our laws).