Posts Tagged ‘transition’

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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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