There is an abrupt cultural shift taking place at this moment in history. From renewable energy and waste elimination, to living wages and housing rights, we are seeing a rising tide of support within city and regional governments to take serious actions on issues of sustainability and social well being.
What were once sparse community-based movements are now interlinking, and working in cooperation with each other to spur change quicker, and to support a larger, global shift in consciousness and action. All of this is likely much bigger than you and I know, and certainly bigger than the little blips of ‘good news’ which the mainstream news media shows us.
From a wide-lens view of our situation, the success-through-cooperationapproach is emerging as the way of choice when compared to the frankly archaic success-through-competition view. People within communities of all shapes and sizes are coming together, they are working to achieve things together, and they are in turn inspiring global change as information of local success stories spread to other communities.
If we look at a country such as the United States, we see a leadership in power which apparently has little or no interest in these issues, yet ironically, progress on critical social and environmental fronts is moving by leaps and bounds in spite of this disinterest. Today, it is more clear than ever, that the real ‘leaders’ are the individuals and small community groups, and the local and regional government bodies, alliances, and cooperatives where direct influence from small, issue-focused groups have greatest possibility to make change happen.
Each one of you reading this are the ones who are making a difference.
Even just by reading and sharing and supporting the efforts of organizations like SocieCity, you are making a difference. Keep at it, and please consider making a donation when and where you can to help keep our work going. Finally, please enjoy this latest issue of Environment in Review, featuring stories of local movements that are inspiring global changes!
Prince of Wales: We Must Re-Connect to Nature
In the category of inspiring and truthful speeches that don’t get a drop of press coverage – it’s okay, that’s why we’re here – HRH The Prince of Wales just delivered a keynote at the Harmony in Food and Farming Conference that dispelled every common myth regarding industrial progress. The Prince reinforced the idea that the majority of our issues today, whether they are social or ecological, come from our social tendency to separate ourselves ‘humans’ as entities separated from the rest of this living world ‘nature’. “Re-forging that critical relationship would, I suspect, improve the chances of us making progress in all these other areas…” said the Prince. Far from a gloomy talk, he remarked often on our progress as a society, saying that “When once there would have been a discordant chorus of outraged abuse for talking about there being a comprehensive systemic relationship between all things, now eminent bodies in science and learning acknowledge there is truth in this.” The entire 20-minute speech can be seen on Youtube, or read on the Prince Of Wales’ official website.
Sharing Economy: The Seed-Protecting Grandmas
Walk into the seed library in Sebastapol California, and ask how much the seeds cost. With a smile, an older woman will tell you they’re all free. “It’s the real sharing economy” says seed libarary volunteer Sara McCamant. A recent Made Local Magazine story reports on just one of the thousands of local efforts in this part of the world to reinvent their local economy by going full-circle; tying everything from seed to shelf, into a community-based model where sharing is a foundation, rather than an afterthought. Far from being an isolated eco community that has cut ties with the rest of the world however, these farmers and seed savers work closely with national organizations, such at the Open Source Seed Initiative, a collective of farmers who make a promise to keep their seeds free of patents, licenses, and other restrictions on freedom of use. Indeed, this is the spirit of the real sharing economy. For more gardening grandmas – honestly, we can’t ever have enough of them – you might have heard that we recently penned an article for YES! Magazine about the secret city-building skills of gardening grandmas and grandpas in South Korea. You can read about the Korean grandmas here and if you enoy it, please share the inspiration widely!
Boston’s Fresh Food Truck
The Fresh Rx program, a cooperative effort between healthcare providers and a nonprofit called Fresh Truck, is bringing buses full of fresh fruits and vegetables to Boston neighborhoods that typically suffer, not only from lack of fresh vegetables, but an inability to know how to cook them simply and efficiently. The fresh vegetable bus aims to create long-term wellbeing in these communities, reports Civil Eats.
There have been many efforts to make good food available in what we call ‘food deserts,’ but solving the problem isn’t as easy as putting some carrots in the corner store next to the potato chips. When the people who frequent a market have no idea how to use a carrot, you’ve got far wider problems than food access. Young people especially need a bit of help to manage cooking simple and delicious meals that fit with what is often a hectic life schedule.
All of this takes a concentrated effort led by local people, neighborhood by neighborhood, to push cultural change, to make healthy growing, healthy cooking, and healthy eating a priority in our lives. “It’s a long-term play, but we are trying to help our families get to a place where they’re developing a more balanced diet and repertoire of cooking skills.” says Josh Trautwein, executive director of Fresh Truck.
Urban Farmers in Detroit Farm “for Survival” not Profit
NextCity reports on urban farms that are supporting the health and wellness of disadvanaged neighborhoods. When the idea for farming in their east side neighborhood was introduced, it wasn’t about following a trend, it was about the fact that moms don’t want their kids to grow up on poison junk foods. These small backyard farms might sell extra produce a few times a moth at the Eastern Market, but the bottom line for measuring the farm’s success, is in their ability to provide healthy foods to the local community. The farmers are trying to get the city government to pioneer what they call a “grow first cooperative economics model” where urban growers can support each other to increase access to healthy food and garden space in communities where fresh food is lacking, rather than having to compete for space with urban farmers who are growing primarily for expensive upscale restaurants.
Where Can I Dream? Stories of Life and Nature in Bogota
Even ‘environmental’ urban planning projects can end up turning their backs to local community members who rely on the environment of a place. That’s one of the reasons why a colleague in Colombia recently took on the beautiful project called Sketches of Life. The work is an effort to dig deep into the soul of a community, asking them to envision the ideal ecological landscape in context of their lives and cultural traditions. The project offers some insightful accounts, including this one:
“I am Hernan Garcia, from the Barrancas-Quebrada el Cedro neighborhood located in Bogotá’s eastern foothills. I envision a movement that would revolve around the entire watershed basin … a territory that would take in both the brook and its basin … I dream about all of us forming a harmonious bond, one based on mutual interests and symbiosis with all the communities that live in the foothills, as well as with those located in the mid and lower basins which the Cedro brook flows through; I believe this is possible.”
There is so much wisdom in cultures who have lived closely with the land for generations, and their voice needs to be heard in all places around this earth, by all people. It’s beautiful to see when urban planners, architects, and environmental development projects start listening to these voices.
Thank you for reading this issue of Environment in Review. See you again soon, and until then, don’t forget to send your tips and thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org on what’s happening in your area of the world so we can feature them in the next issue!
Yours in Nature,
Patrick M. Lydon and Suhee Kang