Catalyzing personal empowerment, societal transformation, and environmental sustainability
"The major problems in the world are the result of the difference between how nature works and the way people think."
Mission & Vision
Naturally Sustainable Community
Dave Ewoldt, May 2005
Nature provides a model and the metaphors necessary to embed the principles of sustainability into the ways we live, work, and play together. In fact, bringing our lifestyles into alignment with the natural systems processes that we are an intimate part of is a first step in our quest for sustainable community.
Humans are natural creatures who have evolved out of 14 billion years of experience about what works and what doesn't when it comes to organizing and sustaining living systems. The balance we strive for in our lives is the same balance ecosystems strive for in order to remain healthy and productive. It just makes sense to pay attention to how Nature does it and follow Nature's example by using those processes to build healthy relationships in our own lives and communities.
Fortunately, the principles that create and sustain a healthy and thriving ecosystem are few: Mutual support, reciprocity, increasing diversity, no greed, and no waste. In human terms, this means cooperation, compassion, nurturance, and no waste.
Just like an ecosystem, a community is also a system of relationships, of interdependencies. While mainstream communities don't explicitly address this aspect, perhaps it's time they started to, and there's an available example. It's the growing intentional community movement. Although not identical to the ecovillage and New Urbanism trends, these movements all share many values and goals.
While there's a tremendous amount of diversity among intentional communities, there are many commonalities. Shared land and housing are the ones most people think of. More important, though, the members of an intentional community share a vision and work together on common goals like sharing resources, creating vibrant family neighborhoods, and often today, living ecologically sustainable lifestyles. Intentional communities can, and should be, spiritually eclectic to model nature's diversity in yet another way. Intentional communities often focus on voluntary simplicity, mutual interpersonal growth work, and lifelong education and mentoring.
People attracted to living in intentional communities tend to be hard working, peace loving, health conscious, environmentally concerned, and family oriented. They tend toward a way of life which increases the options for their own members without limiting the choices of others. Most intentional communities tend to be democratic, and often use consensus to reach group decisions.
Today we are faced with an immanent global economic and environmental meltdown. This is due to dwindling supplies of cheap and abundant fossil fuels, atmospheric carbon buildup due to burning fossil fuels, the Industrial Growth Society's consumer culture of cheap throw-away plastic goods created from fossil fuels, and an agriculture system dependent on fossil fuel for pesticides, fertilizers, cultivation, transportation, and processing.
The food on our dinner tables traveled thousands of miles to get there and most likely didn't come from a family farm, let alone an organic one. Most of our consumer goods traveled tens of thousands of miles to appear on the shelves of a big box retailer--which had driven your favorite local retailer out of business. The U.S. corporate logos these goods are branded with came from outsourced manufacturing jobs in overseas sweatshops. Without cheap and plentiful fossil fuel, none of this "free-market" globalization will remain possible.
Relocalization can protect our communities from these global crises and the economic failure that a staggering foreign debt and trade imbalances are exacerbating. Perhaps nonintuitively, state mandated "growth management" actually moves us in the wrong direction by refusing to address these realities. The more we allow growth (whether we call it smart or not), the less we'll be able to meet the needs of our existing population.
Relocalization means creating (or rebuilding) an alternative public infrastructure for essential goods and services that can be produced and distributed within bioregional boundaries. Generating and distributing renewable energy at the local level, and doing much more to conserve energy is another important aspect of relocalization; a need made more apparent when one realizes that half the electricity sent through the centrally controlled national power grid is lost in transmission. Skilled trade jobs in environmentally friendly industries will be needed to invigorate local economies, and cities need to be rebuilt to reduce transportation needs and expenses.
People are starting to gather in communities to find ways out of the waste-producing economy and into sustainable lifestyles. They are experimenting with new models and processes for organizing and networking that are non-hierarchical, inclusive and equitable.
By taking the above concepts of shared land, resources and other sustainable goals, Bellingham, or any other city, could consciously strive to become the world's largest intentional community. In fact, there's a group working on bringing that vision to reality in Bellingham.
The Intentional Bellingham group is working on the formation of affinity action groups in a number of very broad categories such as food, transportation, health, energy, city design, and education. Besides facilitating the process of forming the affinity groups, the Intentional Bellingham group is helping with information gathering and sharing, as well as networking among the affinity groups and with the wider community.
By building coalitions that are based on the natural systems processes of mutual support, reciprocity, and sustainability, that nurture creation and increase diversity, the Intentional Bellingham affinity groups will help prepare for the interdependent self-reliance that relocalization requires. But equally important is to inspire hope and spread awareness that viable alternatives and solutions to global crises exist within our community today.
The key to global transformations in the personal, social, environmental, and economic realms is not a simple matter of right or wrong actions, but a matter of building right relationships, and nature provides a model for doing so. The more closely communities are aligned with natural systems, the more successful and sustainable they will be.
By consciously reconnecting community members to Nature and to each other's inner nature, we overcome our separation, strengthen an atrophied part of the self, and build sustainable lives that are both fulfilling and thoroughly enjoyable.
If you would like to schedule an introductory consultation session or arrange a presentation or workshop for your group, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or give Dave or Allison, co-founders of Attraction Retreat, a call at (360) 756-7998.
"You didn't come into this world. You came out of it, like a wave from the ocean. You are not a stranger here."