Archive for the Category ◊ Community Organizing ◊

• Thursday, October 10th, 2013

Source: Post Carbon Institute

As a friend of Post Carbon Institute, I want to make sure you know about “Climate After Growth: Why Environmentalists Must Embrace Post-Growth Economics & Community Resilience,” which Rob Hopkins (the founder of the Transition Movement) and I just released.

In it, we argue that as long as our elected officials continue to prioritize economic growth above all else no meaningful climate policies will be enacted. The risks of further inaction cannot be overstated.

But chasing after robust economic growth is a fool’s errand. Those days are over. In fact, we are are experiencing dramatic “new normals” in our energy, climate, and economic systems that require whole new strategies.

In the paper, Rob and I make the case that the environmental community must recognize these “new normals” and adjust its strategies accordingly. A key component, in our view, must be a focus on building community resilience.

By making community resilience a top priority, environmentalists can offer an alternative to the “growth at all costs” story, one in which taking control of our basic needs locally has multiple benefits. Community resilience-building can create new enterprises and meaningful work, and increase well-being even as GDP inevitably falters. It can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and dependence on fossil fuels, while addressing social and economic inequities. And it can strengthen the social cohesion necessary to withstand periods of crisis.

I hope that you can take the time to review “Climate After Growth” and share it with others.

• Tuesday, April 30th, 2013

Indiginous rights

Pledge your support for the Earth and Indiginous peoples at the Skills for Solidarity web site.

Source: The Guardian

…contrary to the myth that Indigenous peoples leech off the state, resources taken from their lands have in fact been subsidizing the Canadian economy. In their haste to get at that wealth, the government has been flouting their own laws, ignoring Supreme Court decisions calling for the respect of Indigenous and treaty rights over large territories. Canada has become very rich, and Indigenous peoples very poor.

In other words, Canada owes big. Some have even begun calculating how much. According to economist Fred Lazar, First Nations in northern Ontario alone are owed $32 billion for the last century of unfulfilled treaty promises to share revenue from resources. Manuel’s argument is that this unpaid debt – a massive liability of trillions of dollars carried by the Canadian state, which it has deliberately failed to report – should be recognized as a risk to the country’s credit rating…

The stakes could not be greater. The movement confronts a Conservative Canadian government aggressively pursuing $600 billion of resource development on or near Indigenous lands. That means the unbridled exploitation of huge hydrocarbon reserves, including the three-fold expansion of one of the world’s most carbon-intensive projects, the Alberta tar sands. Living closest to these lands, Indigenous peoples are the best and last defence against this fossil fuel scramble

Implementing Indigenous rights on the ground, starting with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, could tilt the balance of stewardship over a vast geography: giving Indigenous peoples much more control, and corporations much less. Which means that finally honouring Indigenous rights is not simply about paying off Canada’s enormous legal debt to First Nations: it is also our best chance to save entire territories from endless extraction and destruction. In no small way, the actions of Indigenous peoples – and the decision of Canadians to stand alongside them – will determine the fate of the planet.This new understanding is dawning on more Canadians. Thousands are signing onto educational campaigns to become allies to First Nations. Direct action trainings for young people are in full swing.


• Sunday, March 24th, 2013

ValhallaThis local inspiration combines some excellent ideas. Hopefully, there is synergy in the combination and their vision can be achieved.

However, the Valhalla “movement” appears high on marketing, youth, style and organic weed. When I contacted them to offer my services to help teach them Aquaponics  (something people in the U.S. are paying me to do), I received a polite, “Thanks, but no thanks. We got that covered.”

So much for the “come join the movement” hype.

Every generation believes that it holds the answers to our societal ills and that they are uniquely modern and equipped with new technology to solve our pressing environmental and social problems. This is one of the benefits of youth.

Ideas spring with great life force when we are young. But ideas are a dime a dozen, we eventually learn. And execution is what separates the dreamers from the real sustainable builders of the future who are able to create replicable  models to be used by others.

I hope their enthusiasm and idealism can carry the day, but history tells a different story about communes, outside of the Kibutz model in Israel which was born out war and the need to defend land.

The 1960′s communes taught us that the real world of life is socially complex and needs more than just the fantasy of new technology creating a better life without conflict or injustice. Further, it has to be rooted in the here and and now rather than built on the hopes of a new tomorrow.

Our lives will be transformed, I firmly believe, on the existing infrastructure and built environment of today. The world does not need to be re-built, but rather retro-fitted to our new ideas and values that reflect cooperation and sustainability.

To create a new way of living and a new world does not call for breaking away from the existing world. Quite the opposite, it requires a deepening involvement with the world as it is, no matter how flawed. Because if they succeed, they have transformed the lives of only the people who manage to move and live there. What about the millions of other people who are stuck in the old cities, stuck in the old buildings, stuck in the old jobs? What is to come of them?

Please comment if you disagree.

Source: The Valhalla Movement

• Friday, February 01st, 2013

This is a path to true prosperity without any gimmicks or solar panels or fancy technology. It is the path that our ancestors relied upon and it is the path that most indigenous societies use today. We cut out the middlemen (banks, financiers and government) and deal directly with each other to fulfill our needs.

The only trouble is that generosity requires a leap of faith. With the other person reciprocate? Will I be seen as a sucker? Will people laugh at me? And the inner dialog of objections continue…until you realize that you have nothing to lose and a lot to gain.


Silas Hagerty is a gift economy filmmaker in Kezar Falls, Maine. His most recent work is Dakota 38, the moving story of the largest mass execution in US history – - that of 38 Lakota Indians in 1862. He spent years doing the film and had no hesitation in essentially giving it to the Native American community when it was done. It was a natural part of his evolution in doing gift economy projects over many years.

After graduating from film school, Silas was looking for the rungs on the ladder of a conventional film career but began to see his passion for filmmaking could be a gift to be put in the service of others. The shift was powerful. Here’s how Silas explains the change in the way he thought and acted: “If I come into the room and am basically asking ‘how can you help?’ it creates a certain kind of energy. What I challenged myself to do was to walk into every encounter and instead ask, ‘what can I do for you? It’s a completely different energy. That basic structure started to change in me.”

This shift from a “me” to “you” – how can I serve you rather than how can you help me – is radical in today’s context, but really nothing terribly new. Anthropologists remind us that a communal sense has deeper roots than does our modern self-centric, individualistic social structures… has been working in the “pay it forward” arena for more than ten years. Its Karma Kitchen, for instance, has operated in Berkeley, California for several years on a model where patrons are charged nothing, but are told their meal was paid for by the generosity of the person who came before them. They are asked to contribute in order to keep this experiment going. And it not only has kept going for several years, but has inspired similar restaurants in Chicago and Washington DC. The gift economy model here is something like a large circle spooling forward. Though patrons don’t know each other, their mutual generosity is essential to keeping the restaurant alive. They, in a sense, are paying each other and learning that generosity does indeed beget generosity. This builds trust that ripples outward, a trust in generosity that does not remain within the confines of the restaurant. The collateral good here is incalculable.

• Wednesday, December 12th, 2012

Dark Mountain, an alternative to Transition TownFor anyone who ever attended Transition Town meetings and was driven nearly insane by the huge efforts to generate community consensus…and for artists who need to express the raw emotion of witnessing this slow motion train wreck we call “civilization.”

Source: Transition Network

Dark Mountain Project is neither a political campaign, nor a community group. In some ways it is as hard to define as Transition. Stemming out of a manifesto written by Paul Kingsnorth and Dougald Hine in 2009, it soon developed into a book, then a festival, then a movement. It is both a cultural response to a collapsing world, and a network of people who gather to make sense of that collapse…

… There’s all the intensity of a Transition debate here but without the concerns of the Village, worrying about whether “the community” is going to come to your event, or understand you, or fund you. No battle with the Council, no struggle to get Other People to do stuff. No psychology or sitting around in a circle talking about your feelings. Everyone understands you.

The festival struck a chord deep within me that Transition, for all its complexity, does not reach. It speaks of rain and birds and ancestors and everything I am putting myself on the line for…

…What the two networks have in common is providing a meeting place and platform for people who know that the story our parents told us about our world is not holding; that the socio-economic model we have taken for granted most of our lives is not only precarious, but is socially unjust and environmentally destructive. As a people, hemmed in by denial and illusion on all sides, that meeting place is crucial. As the manifesto state,s Dark Mountain does not seek solutions, it holds a space so that a different narrative can be created. Not another monoculture but an “uncivilised” culture that is diverse in its expression as an eco-system. To be part of that creative edge is what pulled me: to listen to the stories that people are telling around the fire, on the edge of the forest, in tune with each other, intellectually sharp as a scythe.

• Tuesday, October 09th, 2012

Source: Grist

Been jonesin’ for a Hollywood movie about a hot-button environmental issue? One without animation, penguins, or Al Gore?

You’re in luck: Promised Land could be just the ticket when it hits theaters on Dec. 28. Beyond being the first environmental-issue drama with Oscar chances since Erin Brockovich, this movie about fracking in small-town America comes from some big-name players. Matt Damon, Frances McDormand, and John Krasinski star. Gus Van Sant directs. Damon and Krasinski wrote the script based on a story by Dave Eggers.

• Thursday, August 30th, 2012

time bankWhile the old adage, “Time is Money” may hold true in a World where money rules our lives, time is really the only commodity we truly own. Time is far more valuable than money.

When people run out of money, they resourcefully turn to their other assets of value, like time, and look to maximize its usefulness. That’s where the concept of time banks come in.

There are no active time banks in Montreal or Quebec, according to the Time Bank Community Directory, although the NDG Time Bank was started here in 2009.

Source: Wall Street Journal

Even though she’s one of millions of young, unemployed Spaniards, 22-year-old Silvia Martín takes comfort in knowing that her bank is still standing behind her. It’s not a lending institution, but rather a time bank whose nearly 400 members barter their services by the hour.

Ms. Martín, who doesn’t own a car and can’t afford taxis, has relied on other time-bank members to give her lifts around town for her odd jobs and errands, as well as to help with house repairs. In return, she has cared for members’ elderly relatives, organized children’s parties and even hauled boxes for a member moving to a new house.

The time bank not only saves her cash, she says, but also lifts her spirits by making her feel “part of a community that’s taking some positive action during hard times.”

As Europe’s leaders struggle with a five-year-old economic crunch that has saddled Spain with the industrialized world’s highest jobless rate, young Spaniards are increasingly embracing such bottom-up self-help initiatives to cope. The diverse measures—some commonly associated with rural or disaster-zone economies—supplement a public safety net that is fraying under government austerity programs.

Research Credit: Cryptogon

• Tuesday, August 14th, 2012

Source: BioEverything

We could have a heaven on Earth, but what have we got? You’ve got to lock all your doors, all the time. Build something and you don’t know if somebody’s going to tear it down. Go to sleep thinking you’ve done everything you can for your loved ones, and you wake up realizing life’s thrown you another curve ball in the form of unexpected problems. Work your fingers to the bone, and what do you get? Boney fingers.

Why is this all happening to us – the economy tanking, the crops dying in the fields, extreme weather events? Could it have something to do with the fact that humanity, and we as a country, have gotten a little lazy about helping our neighbors? Or gotten a little greedy about the world’s resources? You have to at least admit we each ourselves haven’t always been completely loving. So why would we be surprised when other people and even nature smacks US around?

The fact is the Earth as a whole is profoundly disturbed, and we’re going to have to make peace if we hope to survive. We have to quit making money doing destructive things, such as war over resources rather than self-defense. We need to quit trying to beat nature into submission by e.g. mowing lawns, and nurture ALL plants to grow to soak up the carbon dioxide. We have to quit making and selling poison processed “food” to each other, and quit telling poisonous half-truths to each other to justify the destructive things we are doing.

So you have to say to yourself: What is really important? That reminds me of another thing my mother used to say – “Share and share alike.”

For the most part our community gardening experiences have been a joy. We worked hard to build things, sweated working together, slept well knowing we did our best, and enjoyed that legal high you get when you do something out of love. But we have much more to do. For myself, neighbors are welcome to any food I grow, as long as somebody eats it. Unfortunately, some harvesters don’t know when to harvest, and so have picked cantaloupe, peaches, and pumpkins before they were ready. And children have been having food fights with tomatoes. It feels overwhelming sometimes to me that we as a society have become so disconnected with our own world that we don’t get it, for instance, that tomato plants growing in the dirt (fed by manures, composts, rotting dead plants and animals) are what goes into making pizza, spaghetti, tomato sauce, catsup, chili, etc.

Our roots are in the Earth. Every one of us. We need to eat. And we won’t eat if we don’t work together to grow food, which is not a given in this time of great change.

I recommend a book called City Farmer: Adventures in Urban Food Growing, by Lorraine Johnson. The hunger drama being played out here in Hazelwood, in which people of all income levels suffer for lack of healthy food (not knowing about nutrition and food growing), is being played out all over North America, and all over the world for that matter. This book chronicles radical efforts – from guerrilla gardeners planting places they don’t own to edible weed activists opening peoples’ eyes about unrecognized healthy food growing all around us – to regenerate our tattered web of life.

Rather than reacting to higher food prices in fear by being ever more cutthroat in dealing with our neighbors and environment, the only successful way to make healthy food accessible for all is for all the different kinds of people to try to be good neighbors to all the other living things – plants and animals and microbes – which are the source of our food.

The attitude of taking from other people and nature without giving has got to stop – or else.

• Tuesday, July 31st, 2012

cohousing in MontrealThis is the future, especially for empty-nesters and young adults, who seek social bonds but without children in the picture.

For more information on local co-housing opportunities, see: CoHabitat Montreal. They are looking to build a 40 unit cohousing facility.

Source: Yes! Magazine

The yearning to live in community is not a new one. Human beings evolved sharing common space, resources, and neighborly support, not only for physical survival but also for a sense of belonging and togetherness. 

But modern society values autonomy, often at the cost of the social connection offered by traditional communities. Cohousing, an idea that originated in Denmark in the 1960s, has been increasingly filling the gap. Each household in cohousing has an individual residence but takes part in the design process, consensus-based decision-making, shared meals, and socializing…

…“The common space is a key feature of cohousing, where people eat together,” says cohousing advocate Neil Planchon, one of the original members who helped get Swan’s Market off the ground. While each unit has its own kitchen, residents share three meals a week, with rotating cooks and opt-in attendance. Planchon points out the importance of setting up a good system of organizing communal meals and activities.

“We have a really good structure to support the sign-up system. The cooks post the menu four days ahead of time, and closing for sign-up is two days before. We’ve also got a good system with the money—a meal ends up being between three and four bucks per person.”

Opportunities to pool labor and resources present themselves in every aspect of cohousing. For example, the community decided they wanted shared laundry facilities, so nobody has a washer or dryer in their home. “We save a lot of space, time, and money that way,” says Planchon. They also built a guest bedroom as a sweat equity project and decided to only have two hot water tanks for the whole community, one for the heating system and the other for hot water. “It’s a radical concept,” Planchon smiles. “Even the architect said, ‘Are you guys crazy?’ But it honored the whole concept of sustainability, of having more space in our homes and reducing natural gas consumption. And it’s working just fine.”

• Friday, June 15th, 2012

Source: The Free Press

This spring and summer, Côte St. Luc is offering a series of free, hands-on workshops and lectures for citizens wishing to work towards building a sustainable future for their community. The series, called “Doing Your Part: Building a Sustainable Future Together,” will show how you can make small changes in your home, garden, and neighborhood that will impact the environment for future generations.

All events will be held at 7 pm in the Eleanor London Côte Saint-Luc Public Library, 5851 Cavendish Blvd. Upcoming dates and topics include:

  • Energy Smart: Tips and Tricks to an Energy Efficient Home (June 20);
  • The Enchantment of Trees, From Roots to Canopy (July 4);
  • Become a Locavore, Bringing Local Food to Your Table (July 18);
  • Leave the Car at Home, Get Walking and Get Healthy (August 1).

Admission is free to all events, and details can be obtained by phoning 514.485.6900.