Archive for the ‘community’ Category

The Black Death

I’m standing on the cliff overlooking Christies Beach after a brief downpour.  Suddenly a surge of black water bursts from the outlet pipe below me.  It thunders over the rocks, and fans out across the beach.  The white beach becomes black.  The ooze reaches the sea, and forms a dark mass that moves south through the water, across the reef.  The Black Death.  A blob of motor oil, organic matter, topsoil, garden chemicals, and plastic trash.  Killing everything in its path.

The suburbs smell fresh, look clean and new.  The downpour has washed away the dust and debris.  Washed into someone else’s home.

Cleaning the streets is killing the neighbours.

This is happening in my home.  This is where I swim and snorkel the reef.  The reef-dwellers – fish, kelp, shellfish and starfish, rocks and rays – are my friends and neighbours.

I imagine their feelings as the black death arrives.  An inescapable, oily, choking cloud appears with the rain.  Breathing and feeding stops.  Many die quickly.  The poison stays.

The abundance of life on the reef has visibly diminished the last few years.  I see nowhere near as many fish this year as I did last year.  Bright green algae (or seaweed, I’m not sure of its name) is more prominent than it has ever been.

When I was ten years old, I wrote a story very similar to this.  It was about returning to visit Jervis Bay, where I had lived as a younger child, and enjoyed swimming in a pristine lagoon.  On my return, the beach had changed.  The lagoon was smaller, and darker, and sported a warning sign – polluted water, no swimming.  I remember my feelings of anger and sadness at seeing the impact of the industrial world on a place that I was attached to, that was so far away from the cities and factories.  An untouched beach, neighbouring bushland.  Now too toxic to touch.

And now, 25 years later, it’s the same story all over again.  But a whole lot worse this time.

It’s not just this outlet that’s spewing black death into ocean communities.  It’s every creek and stormwater drain along the Adelaide coast.  Maybe the whole gulf will soon be a dead zone.

And the same must be happening in every city in the world, after every rain.  Coastal cities are massacring their marine communities.  Inland cities murder their rivers, with the black death going all the way to the sea, harming all human and natural communities who live downstream.

No-one left alive.  This is biological warfare.

This is my breaking point.

This is real.  This is my home.

I considered blocking the outlet, but realised that the result would be that the black water would just flow over the street and the cliff and then onto the beach and into the sea.  So I scrapped that idea, as I’d just be polluting the land above the beach.  Mycoremediation or a wetland could filter the water.

A more practical response would be to prevent chemicals from entering the catchment [watershed], and every catchment, which would require preventing chemicals from being manufactured in the first place, and also directing water into the ground rather than sending it out to sea.  And that takes acknowledging and challenging global power structures.

I can’t do that by myself.  Will you help me?

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Who speaks for the land?

Who speaks for forests, for mushrooms, for birds and the sea?  For all those whose home we share?

I hear only the voices of money and genocide, of those who believe themselves entitled to destroy all living things to make luxuries for themselves.

I shall speak for the beings of the Earth.

“We want to live.  Now, and in the future.  We don’t need technology.  We don’t need progress.  We don’t need renewable energy.  We don’t need a low-carbon future.  We need the destruction to stop.  We are being killed at a rate of 200 species a day.  We are quickly being consumed, bulldozed and poisoned out of existence.  What we need is a home, community, clean water and air.  Sustainability won’t help us.  Transition won’t help us.  Fighting back to defend ourselves and our home will.  We need your help.

“We don’t care if people are alienated.  We don’t care if our fight harms the economy.  Our lives are more important.  We ask you to always act in our interest.  As you belong to our community, what is in our interest is also in yours.

“Ask us what we need, and what you can do to help us.  We are all around you, we are living in your neighbourhood, as you are living in ours.  We are the trees, the rivers, the mountains and plains, the mammals and reptiles, the rocks and the wind.

“Please help us stop the destruction.  The mines, the economy, the electricity, the burning of our ancestors, it all needs to stop if we are to live.  We invite you to come home.  Join us.”

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For anyone wanting to develop their ability to listen to the land, I recommend participating in a Council of All Beings, and studying Kamana Nature Awareness.

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A quote from Derrick Jensen, in Endgame: “I’ve heard that before making important decisions, members of many native cultures would ask, ‘Who speaks for wolf? Who speaks for salmon?  I ask that here.”

Let’s start involving all who are affected by our actions in the debate and decision making.

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Food Skills Day

Snails, wine, sundried olives, yogurt, weeds, sauerkraut, green smoothies, paneer and sourdough.  All in a Saturday afternoon.

Ferment, cook, eat, share, experiment, learn, enjoy and play!

Elise and I organised a food skills day to share skills, recipes and ideas with anyone who would care to join us.

On the invitation, the event was declared to be a self-organising, DIO (do it ourselves) event.
I took a chance on the idea of collaborative learning, and asking participants to bring recipes they had never tried before, so we can all learn how to do it together.  Bringing tried and tested recipes was welcome too.
Here’s a couple of recipes that were new to me.

Escargot

I gathered a few snails from my garden and front verge.  Regular garden snails are the same as the ones in the fancy French restaurants.  They are nocturnal, so easier to find and collect when they are out at night.  After rain is a good time.  They develop a lip on the front of the shell when they are mature.  Gather only mature snails.

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Letting them out to play before they are cooked is entirely unnecessary.  They seemed in a playful mood as they came out of the jar, and the water took a few minutes to boil, so we released them onto the playground.

Before cooking, give the snails a rinse.  Then throw them in a pot of boiling water and let them simmer for 15 minutes.  Skim off the foam that forms on the surface of the water.

Take the snails out of the pot, and out of their shells.  A fork and a twist should do it.

Give them another rinse.

Fry ’em up in garlic butter.  We served them with pasta and spinach because it was available, but bread and salad could be good too.

This recipe is a composite of several found on the internet.  I knew nothing about cooking snails before this, and had never thought to eat them.

Paneer

Paneer is Indian-style cottage cheese that is really easy to make, it needs no fancy ingredients or equipment.  The whole process takes 15 minutes.

Bring 1 litre of full-cream milk to the boil.  Add lemon juice or vinegar and turn the heat to low.  The quantity of lemon juice required varies from half a teaspoon to half a cup in the recipes I’ve read, and apparently depends on the type of lemon, as some are more acidic than others.  I guess use the amount of juice that causes the milk to separate.

Stir continuously as the milk curdles.  It should take about two minutes for the milk to separate into curds (the solids) and whey (a clear yellowish liquid).

Place a muslin cloth in a colander, which is over a large bowl.  Strain the mixture through the cloth, then hang it above a bowl for a few minutes to let all the liquid drain out.

Place the cloth full of cheese between two dinner plates, with something heavy on top.  This will squeeze out any remaining moisture, and form the paneer into a firm block.

Paneer is traditionally used in Indian recipes, both curries and desserts.  We fried it in butter and ate it with salt.  It should keep for a few days in the fridge.

An idea for an app: free stuff!

I don’t know what an app is, really, but someone somewhere could take this idea and do something with it.

If you have something you don’t want, or you want something you don’t have, write it in the app-space.  Anyone that wants the thing you have, or has the thing you want, can see, and can take it from you or give it to you.  Are you following?  And you could browse and see things that it hadn’t occurred to you to want, but since it’s available, you could make use of it.  And you could see what other people want and realise that the thing in the shed or the cupboard that you haven’t used for years might be better off with someone else.  You could set it so that you only connect with people who live close by, or people you already know, or if it’s some specialised thing you could connect with people who have an interest in such specific things.

When my mum or dad has some useful thing they don’t need, they ask me “do you know anyone who would want this thing?” and maybe I do someone who would want it, but I don’t know that they want it.  I would like to know, so I can give it to them.

So in conclusion, I want this free-share-swap-things app.  If you have it and can share it, will you give it to me?

And I have lots of peaches and grapes right now, do you want them?  Also there is a mouse living in my kitchen that I don’t want.  You can have it if you like.

Moving beyond sustainability – living within ecosystems

Sustainability as it is commonly understood is based on flawed assumptions.  It assumes that by making small changes in our lifestyles, we can continue to live as we have always done.

Do we even want to continue to live in a way that makes us stressed, ill, and isolated?

It’s a façade, an illusion, out to convince us that if it looks good on the outside, we don’t need to think about what’s underneath.

It assumes that technology will solve all our problems, although the problems are in their underlying nature cultural, psychological, and ecological, not technological.

Sustainability advocates tell us we need to change our behaviour.  If we can only reduce and minimise our actions enough, we can continue consuming and wasting, but in a reduced and minimised way.

Consuming the earth’s resources and creating waste and pollution can never be truly sustainable, no matter how much we reduce and minimise these activities.

The current sustainability paradigm makes us feel guilty about our activities that have a negative impact, so sells us products and services with the label “sustainable” attached, to allay our guilt.  Now that we have these sustainable products, we can continue consuming, and feel good about it.  Now we can say that we have achieved sustainability.  Mission accomplished.

Sustainability concepts create a belief that there is scarcity, that we need to be frugal, to deprive ourselves for the greater good.  Actions taken with this motivation have little if any effect.  Is that one minute less in the shower really going to help anyone?  These attempts at frugality often lead to anxiety, disillusionment, and strained relationships.

Installing a solar panel, buying new lightbulbs, energy-efficient appliances and compostable cutlery might make you feel good, but when you think about the resources that went into making, transporting and selling these things, you start to see that they are the opposite of sustainable.  Consider a solar panel:  it contains metals extracted from an energy intensive mine, on land which has been taken by force from the original inhabitants, assembled by underpaid labour, transported across the world, and sold for high profit by a corporation.  Do you really support these activities in the name of sustainability?  The amount of energy that goes in to making the panels is barely less than the amount that they produce in their short lifetime.  And what are you doing with this energy?  Running refrigerators, televisions and plenty more unnecessary and resource-intensive appliances.  But hey, they’re energy-efficient, so they’ve got to be good, right?

This belief about sustainability reinforces the dominant paradigm of consumerism.  It encourages us to buy more, waste more.  It is nothing more than a marketing tool to sell us more crap.  The beneficiaries of this scam are the corporations, not the environment.  Environmentalists have bought in to the scam, free labour to promote their products.

None of the technologies or behaviour changes that we use in the pursuit of sustainability can ever achieve this goal, as they exist within the belief that economic growth is the only way forward, and growth can continue indefinitely if we make ourselves believe that it is sustainable.

And even if it was possible, do we really want to make it sustainable to live in a world where inequality, obesity, isolation, bureaucracy, wage slavery, debt and oppression are the norm?

Convincing the masses that growth can be sustainable, if only we make a few small changes, allows the system to continue to oppress and destroy, because we feel comfortable and trust what they say.

Current technological and policy approaches require that things continue on the way they always have, that the global economy grows, the electricity grid stays connected, oil keeps being pumped, water supplies from massive infrastructure remains available.  These services can’t exist without massive input of resources. Without these unsustainable foundations, all the solar panels, water-saving devices, carbon taxes, and other products and policies, are completely useless.

Everything we do is assigned a footprint, and if we’re told that if we just make our footprint small enough, we will be sustainable.  We’re instructed to reduce and minimise ourselves down to nothing, act like we don’t exist.  Shrink ourselves down so much that nothing we do has any impact on anything around us.

So what’s the alternative?  Do exactly the opposite.  Change our assumptions and our worldview completely.  Instead of aiming for minimum impact, aspire to maximise the impact of everything you do.  Rather than reducing the amount we consume and waste, let’s maximise our potential, and expand the possibilities of what we can create. Stop consuming altogether.  Instead of basing our actions on the assumption that everything we do has a negative impact, and aiming to reduce these actions, we can eliminate these activities entirely, and replace them with positive actions.

 

The only way to effectively address the issue of humanity’s continued existence is to identify ourselves as living within nature, not separate to it.  If we view our earth as nothing but natural resources to be exploited, we will never sustain ourselves.  To instead change this view to becoming part of the ecological communities on the land where we live, and nurture and enhance these ecosystems, is the only possible way forward.  Meeting the needs of humans, and those of other beings, can be a symbiosis rather than a conflict.  We need to learn from the world around us, and place our lives in the patterns and cycles of nature.

We can regenerate, rather than destroy, the ecosystems and natural processes that make it possible for humans to exist.

Instead of small, ineffective technological responses to isolated problems, we need an integrated understanding of our place in nature, to see the issues we face in context of the culture that has created them.

We need to stop being motivated by the rarely-defined entity we call “the environment” which seems to be something that exists far away from where we live, in the oceans and rainforests, that we don’t engage with and doesn’t provide anything for us.  Start being motivated to create for ourselves everything that we need to sustain ourselves.  We need to feel a deep connection with the land that is our home, and dedicate ourselves to making it as healthy and robust as possible, for our own sake.  We must conserve and enhance the webs of life that are immediately around us, within our homes and bodies, and the land that provides our food, fuel and shelter.  Only by meeting all our needs in our immediate vicinity, while regenerating the land, can we anticipate human existence surviving and sustaining itself more than a few generations.

We need to dispose of the work ethic, which tells us we need to be busy for the sake of it, and replace it with an ethic of caring for nature and people.  We need to replace our busy-work with time spent observing, thinking and designing ways for nature to do the work for us.

What does this way of life look like?  We can learn a lot from the world’s indigenous peoples, and base our vision on traditional worldviews.

In a truly sustainable human settlement, everyone is attuned to cycles of nature, because we know that our lives depend on it.  We know our water catchments, our food sources, the seasons, plants and animals, and we can forecast the weather.  We identify ourselves as part of an ecological community.

Water is taken only from the catchment where we live, and returned to the earth.  Water doesn’t need to be piped in from far away, and disposed of via sewers and stormwater drains.  There is enough water falling on our settled areas to sustain our homes, food gardens and ecosystems.

Learning happens by observing nature and culture, and practicing skills and crafts.  There are no experts or authorities on learning.

Everything is shared with neighbours, as there is nothing to be gained by having more than anyone else.  Value is given to relationships, not possessions and money.

Nothing is waste. Everything is useful and part of the cycles of nature.

Connections between everything in the ecosystem are recognised and nurtured, and used to design our own connections within the system.

Everyone takes responsibility for providing for the community and regenerating the land, and everyone has a niche where they can express their creativity and passion, and use their skills.  We do not hand over this responsibility to governments, or expect that someone else will do it for us.

Food grows not in intensively managed gardens, but forests modelled on native ecosystems.  After the initial designing and planting of the food forest, there is very little human work required to grow food, as the forest is largely self-perpetuating.

Building materials are sourced from the house site and nearby, and buildings are designed to integrate into the land that they have been built from.  Designs are inspired by the architecture of plants, and the structures built by animals, villagers and nomads.

Humans are embedded in nature, so everything that humans do is a process of nature, not imposed on it.

Local cultures evolve around the landscapes and natural processes of the region.

Seasons and natural cycles are celebrated.

Technologies adapt according to locally available materials, to meet specific needs.

Communities are organised in many different ways, and structures evolve.  There is no one best way to organise ourselves that will work for everyone.

We don’t need to discard what western civilization has created.  It’s all useful, and can be adapted and re-made into items that are valuable in ecosystem-based communities.  The technologies, knowledge and cultural practices that have developed in the industrial era are an abundant resource, to be valued and used wisely.

To make a truly sustainable life possible, we need to have a vision of what the transformed world will look like, and work towards turning it into reality.  This will be a gradual process, and the vision will change as we learn more.  Without a vision to move towards, we will continue to perpetuate the illusion that our small acts are all that’s possible, which only hastens us toward extinction.

What can we do?  Join the transition movement.  Learn permaculture design.  Stop shopping.  Live local.

 

 

 

Sustainability

Living within ecosystems

Minimise negative impact Maximise positive impact
Imposing from above Creating from within
Isolated, disconnected strategies Connected, integrated solutions
Linear Cyclical, closed loop
Motivated by fear and guilt Motivated by love and hope
Focussed on problems Focussed on opportunities
Technological innovations Cultural adaptations
Individual behaviour change, within existing systems that don’t support the change Create new systems and structures
Complexities are simplified, not explained or understood Complexities explained as patterns, can be easily understood
Concepts not easily understood Concepts make natural sense
Act without thinking, place faith in the system and experts Thoughtful, place faith in ourselves and nature
Benefits the current system Benefits people, nature and culture
Degenerative, wasteful Regenerative
Limiting Expansive, creative
Visioning a future the same as it is now Visioning a transformed world
Small ineffective changes Total transformation
Large, industrial-scale Small, human-scale
Scarcity Abundance
Deprivation, frugality Infinite natural wealth
Reinforces existing power structures Disregards or dismantles existing power structures
Boring Exciting, engaging
Reductionist Holistic
Homogenised Diverse
Static Dynamic, evolving
Reactive Proactive
Common response is apathy Common response is action
Illusory Real
Limited possibilities Infinite possibilities
Colonial Vernacular
Rigid Flexible, adaptive
Impossible Inevitable
Civilized Primitive
Forecasting Backcasting
No feedback mechanisms Constant immediate feedback
Humans exist outside of nature Humans embedded in nature
feelings of anxiety, depression and apathy Convivial, joyous and painful
Competitive Co-operative and collaborative
Delivered Interactive
Requires print-literacy Requires eco-literacy
Knowledge held by power structures and experts Knowledge held by human and ecological communities
Demands compliance Invites participation
Requires a large investment of energy for a small result Requires low or no energy investment, for a maximal result
Artificial Biological and ecological
Vulnerable Resilient

 

Adelaide Reskilling Festival

Where can you learn to make bread, juggle, use online networks, knit, play music, cook in a cob oven, conserve endangered plants, use a spinning wheel, keep bees, convert a diesel vehicle to run on vegetable oil, communicate compassionately, ferment food, raise a nappy-free baby, and lots more, all in one day, and all for free?  At a Reskilling Festival!

 

The first Adelaide Reskilling Festival happened on Saturday April 16 2011 in a beautiful park at Glandore Community Centre.  In addition to the activities listed above, there was a music performance, community garden tours, capoiera dance workshops, and a skills marketplace activity.  The Friends of the Earth Food and Farming Quilt was stitched together and displayed, children created a multi-coloured brick road with chalk, grown-ups had their faces painted by children, Food Not Bombs cooked up a free vegetarian lunch, and permaculture books and fruit trees were on sale.

 

And then there was the Great Swap Meet: unwanted clothes and toys were brought and strewn in an orderly fashion over a few tarps amongst the shady trees, for passers-by to rummage through, try on and help themselves to.  There was a produce swap and a seed swap, recipe sharing and information sharing, and a few preserves and miscellaneous items came along for the ride.

Reskilling is learning the skills we need to build resilient communities. These are skills that our grandparents would take for granted, but many have been lost as the process of industrialisation progresses.  Reskilling involves learning from each other, and we build community networks and have fun in the process.

 

I had the idea of a Reskilling Festival after being asked by Transition Adelaide West to suggest topics for reskilling workshops, and people who could present them.  I saw a festival as a way for a community to share skills without a committee having to organise it, and without requiring the people who regularly volunteer their time to present these workshops, who then come to be seen as the only ones who can teach these skills.  I made a point of not requesting anyone to run an activity, but instead inviting people to be involved. This meant that everyone participated because they wanted to, not because they felt obliged to.  And I found that the skills that were offered were quite different to what I was expecting.

 Some of the activities were programmed in advance, and others happened spontaneously on the day.  There was a program board on display, with space for activities to be added.

 

The event was organised at minimal cost, and with minimal effort.  The organising was largely done by people who offered to present activities, so it didn’t take much to pull it all together.  Total cost was around $10 in phone calls, $5 to photocopy a few flyers, and $10 to be officially insured for the sake of official council regulations.  So it was all official.  There were some official forms I was asked to fill in too but I didn’t bother with those.  City of Marion provided free publicity, use of the venue, and lots of tables and chairs.

 

Reskilling Festival is an example of a gift economy, in which goods and services are offered freely, with no expectation of receiving anything in return.  Everyone contributed in different ways, possibly without even being aware of it, and everyone (hopefully) gained something from their involvement.

 I made a website with information about the concept, program, venue, the swap, what to bring, how to help, and a two minute film made by Andrew Yip to promote the festival.

 

The festival was intended to appeal to people from a range of cultures and ages, and give everyone opportunities to engage with each other in ways that they wouldn’t usually.  There were punks, old ladies, children, Brazilian capoiera dancers, community gardeners, techie-geeks and musicians.  Everyone learned from each other, had lunch together and washed their own dishes.  Then drew on the dishes in the skills marketplace session and washed them again.

 

Some outcomes of the Festival: a fermentation club has begun holding regular gatherings, meeting at each other’s homes to share skills around food fermentation.  A number of people have taken up making their own bread and sauerkraut.  A comment appeared on the website from someone in Shoalhaven NSW, intending to run a similar event in their town. 

 A woman phoned me a couple of days after the event to say that she was having such a good time at the festival that she would have preferred to cancel her afternoon engagement and stayed for the whole day, and felt the need to phone to let me know how much she enjoyed it.  There were requests for it to happen again.

A short film was made to showcase the festival, by the wonderful Andrew and Miriam Yip of ESMedia, who have made films of many community groups and events in Adelaide over the last year.  See the film at reskillingfestival.wordpress.com.  There are photos and more information about the event on the website too.

 

There are lots of possibilities for the future of the concept.  I’d like to see it become a more localised event, so that people can get to know their neighbours and experience the wealth of skills in their local communities.  It can become a regular occasion, with different skills on offer each time.

 It doesn’t take much to organise a Reskilling Day in your area.  All that’s needed is to set a date and a place and invite people.  Make a few signs and a program if you want, cardboard and a texta is all it takes.  A website and a facebook event page can help with promotion, but the best way is always by talking to people in person.

 

Neighbourhood picnic

I’ve lived in my current house at Christies Beach for two years, but still know very few of my neighbours.  Those that I have met, I rarely see, and even then only to say hello.  Most of my neighbours I’ve never even seen – they get around only in their cars, so never walk along the street, and they don’t spend any time in their front yards.

I’ve been reading a lot about the process of economic collapse, about disaster planning and response, and about transition and community resilience.  Everything I read recommends building strong relationships with neighbours as a highest priority.  A sense of neighbourhood enables people to share resources, skills, develop trust and be available to each other when need arises.  As our current system of identities formed by occupation and purchases falls apart, and our dependence on large infrastructure makes us vulnerable to the slightest disruption, we need communities where people ‘turn to’ rather than ‘turn on’ each other in a crisis.  And anyway why wait for a crisis?  Life is much more enjoyable when its shared with neighbours rather than spent scared of them.

I figured that the best way to start building resilience in my own neighbourhood is to invite everyone in the street to a neighbourhood picnic.  I don’t want to push anything on anyone, and do want to make everyone feel safe and included, so a small gathering in a park seemed like the best place to start.  Not a meeting with an agenda, no expectations that it would lead to anything more, but open to any possibilities that might follow on from the event.

A picnic is easy to organise too.  No need to book a venue, do catering, or ask for RSVP.  All I had to do was drop an invitation in a few mailboxes and go to the park at the time.  This level of organising isn’t too intimidating, as it’s not an overwhelming task and I don’t have anything to lose.

I made a handwritten invitation, photocopied it, and dropped it in the mailboxes of the nearest 100 houses.  I chose to write it by hand to make it more personal, and less likely to be thrown out with the junk mail without being noticed.

I listed the date and time (a Friday evening in mid-December) and place (a park on my street with lawn, a playground, basketball hoop and soccer goal, and adjacent a tennis court), and drew a basic map.  I suggested bringing home-made food to share, games to play, and inviting friends, family and neighbours.  I wanted to emphasise bringing home-made food, to open conversations about recipes, home-growing, different food cultures, and be more interesting than party pies and manufactured sweets.

On Friday two families arrived at the park.  One was a young woman with a three-year-old stepdaughter, wanting to meet other families with children of a similar age.  She lived outside of the area I had delivered invitations to, but had been told about the picnic by another neighbour.

The other family had three older children, and had lived on the street for twelve years.  They brought lots of peaches from their backyard fruit tree to share, and offered us to come around to their house after to pick some more, as there were more than they could eat themselves.

My housemate and a friend who was staying with us at the time came too, and a neighbour from across the street who I talk to fairly often.  I had invited him personally when I saw him on the street.

We talked about sharing homegrown fruit, and the idea of leaving a box of excess produce out the front of the house, with a sign inviting passers-by to help themselves.  We considered the possibility of establishing neighbourhood beehives, and the potential market for neighbourhood honey.  We shared stories of bringing home items found in hard rubbish, the useful and those that look like a good find, but are not really needed and take up space in the shed.  There was gossip about the houses on the street: one is for sale, one has lain empty for years, one being bulldozed.  None of us knew many neighbours, which limited the scope for gossiping about them.

Everyone stayed for quite a while, despite the cold wind, which surprised me.

The outcome of the picnic for me is that I feel a bit more at home on the street, now that I know a couple more families.  I hope it is the same for them.  I wonder about all the people who received the invitation but didn’t come. I hope that having been invited makes them feel included.  They might give some thought to the concept of neighbourhood, and be more inclined to engage with neighbours.  Also the invitation might encourage them to use the park.

There are plenty of other approaches that have been used to build good relationships with neighbours.  Here’s two of them:

The Sharehood is a neighbourhood community building infrastructure, in which neighbours lend tools and lawnmowers, share compost heaps and garden space, help each other out with babysitting, gardening, and fixing things, give away garden produce and second-hand goods, enjoy shared meals, picnics and cups of tea, and teach each other useful skills. See thesharehood.org

City of Port Phillip council in Melbourne encourages residents to hold street parties, or block parties for those who live in apartment blocks.  They offer tips and ideas on how to organise a neighbourhood party, and can provide insurance and loan of a barbecue.  See www.portphillip.vic.gov.au/block_party_kit.pdf