Sunflowervillager's Blog

Growing into community

Patience, Compromise, Focus October 11, 2011

Patience, compromise and focus seem to be the order of the day.

A couple of weeks ago, I was at the University and I was fortunate enough to snag a few minutes with the professor I respect most. We had a conversation about where I’m at and where I’m determined to go. I told him my thoughts and plans. He understands me well. He helped me re-recognize that my classic obstacles is that “you want it, you want it all, and it you want it yesterday”. He helped me set it straight. “Get yourself the job, give yourself time to get used to it. Build your living community. It is going to take time and all of your energy as it’s no easy thing. THEN when that is somewhat established, you can do your non-profit or maybe go to grad-school. But if you try to do everything at once, you aren’t going to do any of it well”. This is hard stuff for me to hear, but I can listen and get myself to change when this man says it. It works: that its, it helps me polish myself so I can accomplish what I want to. So I keep going back, tears or no (usually some tears).

The other thing that Prof and I talked about, echoed in conversations with others I trust and respect, is the need for compromise. Hypothetically it is clear to me that I cannot wake up tomorrow in the world of which I dream. I have to compromise with the world as it exists, or I will become paralyzed in dreamer’s theory and never able to move it to action. The tricky part is how to compromise without feeling like I’m selling out. What is key here is to remember that I have a transformative drive. That is to say, my desire to build a better society is not affected by what work I do or who I do it for. Still, there are some things which I would find entirely too hypocritical in light of what I have concluded so far, such as working for a fast-food, factory-farm supplied establishment.

Recent events on a national scale, the Occupy movements, are something of growing interest to me. At first I felt only mildly interested – up til now, widespread perception and my personal experience of the effectiveness of demonstrations is that they don’t seem to accomplish much. Partly because in contemporary decades, they are too often too easy to ignore and dismiss. This time it is different. The protests on Wall Street have spread to other cities and towns across the USA. It is exciting to see so many Americans uniting around this kind of action. It is sprouting critically needed dialogues, between people’s convergent needs and suffering, and their diverse voices and experiences and concerns. My appreciation for this dialogue is accompanied by adrenaline rushes of excitement, this is the kind of dialogue which makes me feel happy, hopeful, excited.

This morning, a convoluted thought process brought me around to an epiphany about how my personal struggles are reflected on a wider scale, and vice versa. It was a torrent of thoughts and visualizations and experiences, and suddenly I found that my brain had rewired to allow a broader perspective, for compromise. For a long time, I have been very suspicious of all corporations. But what I came around to this morning was that we now have corporations which empower us. Without the companies that develop and make my laptop, my phone, my internet service, etc, I would be a lot further away from my dreams. I would not be now sharing this post with you, or having dialogues between towns or states or countries at the ease of touching my finger to a button or a screen. Some of these companies don’t just provide world-changers with tools, but themselves offer a renewed hope to families and individuals. There are companies with real benefits (not that fake bare-minimum stuff), with unions and potential for living wages. That’s not to say that we should not Occupy, ask questions, have dialogues. I still aspire for new economic systems (note the s), which provide greater stability and self-reliance in Americans. But we need some of those corporations, and I need to start being nicer to those. Wall Street is not going to go away tomorrow, and we’d be in some trouble if it did. I want to be clear, and encourage protesters to be clear, about which corporations (I will not say “who”) we protest, and why. I’m not mad at AT&T

Patience, me. Job first, practice wise compromises, continue dialogues and building relationships.  Patience world-changers, non-violent social revolution is needs be a slow process, full of dialogue and self-reflection. It also needs meaningful, sustained action and well-considered development of alternatives. Keep it up!

 

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S Definitions June 21, 2011

I’m working on getting the vision for SVI into one coherent document. I’ve started by defining the three “S” primary values of the Initiative. I’d love feedback, and I’m sure these will be edited in the future. Thanks for reading!

Sustainability:

Sustainability is literally the capacity to sustain over time. Term used by the environmental movement to refer to practices or series of practices/systems which support the capacities of ecosystems to continue to function properly while providing resources for human activities. This term has become highly popular, to the point of having such broad definitions and use that its use is often meaningless, having been co-opted into many other contexts. Sustainability in the sense of SVI refers primarily to ecological sustainability. This means reducing the impact through encouraging the use of products and systems which are locally sourced, locally produced, repairable, multi- and re-useable, recyclable, biodegradable from least-at-risk habitats, land managed for the benefit of the broad whole with best environmental practices

Subsidiarity:

Subsidiarity is the Principle that tasks and activities should occur at the most local level practical. The most important quality of Subsidiarity is that it argues that local people should have the greatest say in local issues. Of course everything is interconnected and people from local communities have the responsibility to not negatively impact neighboring communities or the well-being of the larger society. Without restricting access to human rights, local people should decide the rules for their community in terms of economic principles and social practices. Unfortunately, at present, many decisions are made at such a “high” level that the people who are most affected by those decisions in their daily lives have little voice, despite votes, ballots, and public forums.

Subsidiarity as an economic principle offers stability of employment, containment of recessions/depressions, and stronger currency by virtue of being backed up by closer approximations to the actual value of goods and services. In some cases, the efficiency offered by engaging in subsidiarity may reduce costs. Subsidiarity supports sustainability by encouraging the use of local products and businesses before ones further away. This reduces the amount of gasoline burned in transportation, the packaging of products due to shipping, wear and tear on roads (and thus reduced need to use petroleum in their repair). From a health perspective, locally grown foods are often fresher and exposed to less chemicals. They are also at lower risk for the spread of disease through the industrial food chain.

Solidarity:

Solidarity is the idea that the struggles for justice faced by other people are just as important as those which affect us personally. Genuine solidarity is not patronizing or merely agreeing with the principles of equality and fairness. It recognizes the equality of all people. By identifying oneself with those afflicted by injustices, people who express solidarity contribute to shifting opinions which create the foundation of change. When people who express solidarity take action in partnership with those directly affected, they become an important factor in the achievement of social, economic, political, and cultural justice.

Today, economic and cultural justice are often missing aspects of intentional communities oriented around sustainability. Because of this, many people who would like to participate in the sustainable lifestyle opportunities offered by intentional communities are directly or indirectly denied access. Economic barriers such as income requirements prevent hard-working, intelligent people with low-paying jobs from entry, while people from diverse cultural backgrounds may be made to feel uncomfortable in communities which shun meat or dairy or are primarily Caucasian in composition. There is a critical need for existing and forming intentional communities to reflect on how they can integrate social justice into a broader vision of sustainability.

 

Reflections on Meat, provoked by the Nearings. July 21, 2010

Filed under: anthropology,Buddhism,food/agri/garden,interconnected — Saera @ 9:34 am

Nearly through reading Living the Good Life by Scott and Helen Nearing. This couple achieved much of what I am interested in from the 30s through the 70s. They left New York due to the Great Depression, determined to be self-sufficient, humane, skilled, thriving, and cultured, while debt-free and increasingly independent of wage-labor and money. While they achieved much of this, they did not find a strong sense of community in the Vermont they experienced at that time. They were strongly community/communally minded, far ahead of their time. I do not agree with them on every single point, but there is a great deal of inspiring knowledge and wisdom in their writing. Some of it makes sense to me personally, such as eating almost exclusively uncooked vegetables and fruit, but seems like a bit more than I’m presently willing to give up, and more than most people are willing to do. For them, this was a priority, but I am more interested in developing a functional community and adjusting diet later. While I myself am vegetarian, I do not expect that anyone else become one, and certainly people will not have to be vegetarian to live in a village. However, the production and acquisition of meat does present challenges. First for me is the inefficiency of meat production. That is to say, that in order to have meat, first grasses and grains must be grown and then fed to the animals. This not only is an extra step in food production, but also reduces the food produced, as happens in any transfer of energy. Cows produce the worst ratio, but even with chickens you have more input than output. This amounts to one basic thing: you can feed more people on vegetables, fruits, and grain than you can if you include meat. It leads to another challenge. If meat is to be provided to those who cannot (medically, culturally) or will not give up meat, how is this to be compensated for, since both energy-wise and financially, the meat-eaters will be bigger consumers. I may come back to that in a moment.

The second thing is the slaughter of the animals. For many people this is a purely ethical issue of whether or not it is alright to kill another “living being”, by which many people mean mammals, fowl, and fish. While I personally have not been courageous enough to kill my own meat, the consumption of the meat of other creatures has been a part of human cuisine for millenia. It is an important and valued thing for many cultures, and I would not pass judgment on culture.  Too, there is the fact that I do not see a inherently clear line between the life of an animal and the life of a tree. Both live, both have their own meanings until human imposition. Then we disturb both for our use. The ways in which we use or do not use animals affects plants, and the ways in which we use plants affects animals. Our nature as humans leads invariably to the alteration of our environment. Buddhism (among many other teachings) explains that self and the environment are one and the same.

In any case, humans must eat as best as they are able. For a community aimed at self-sufficiency, I believe that animals may be humanly kept and used for their eggs, milk, manure, and labor. This may include meat, but that brings us back to the question of slaughter. You may or may not have heard, but the methods used for slaughter in the United States are, in a word, appalling. Many people seem to think that the slaughterhouse days of Upton Sinclair are long since gone. I pose that they never left, only altered appearance to sate public demand for increased “decency” in wages and some measures of safety for people. But there are other laws now too which were not so dominant then. Now slaughterhouses are few and far between, with only one or two for entire states, and this by federal decrees and standards. Meant to improve safety, they actually increase the danger. The fewer slaughterhouses are not an indicator of less meat, but of more. All the meat is going through a few places, making the risk greater. The sheer speed necessary to process all these animals creates more accidents, potentially leading to contamination of food and injury to humans. I will not write more on the process here, it is easily found in many places now. The relevance to a village is that while, in many places, it is alright to slaughter chickens for one’s own family consumption, or for a small business, most other animals are required to go through a slaughterhouse, which would likely result in participating in problematic practices. It is also expensive and not practical for a subsidaristic, economically self-reliant community. Meat purchased elsewhere, despite promises of grass-fed, organic, and local, still generally goes through the same slaughterhouses. Therefore, while cows may be ethically raised, their use is not recommended for an intentional community until such time as meat processing is reformed. Other meats may be considered by an intentional community, but it should be recognized that, other than as a health need for specific people, meat remains a luxury.

Another time perhaps, I will write on my disagreement with some vegans regarding honey.

 

Dialogue, Writing, India, Gardening July 12, 2010

Chris and Marcia came over to chant this evening, and it was wonderful to hear from them about their dreams and ideas, particularly from Chris. They listened to me too. Although the phrase “make the impossible possible” didn’t come up so directly, much of the discussion was about how we actually go about doing that, about dividing huge dreams into smaller, connected goals that make the dream seem more possible, and therefore more exciting and tangible.

I’ve been doing some of this already. Through a book on How to Start a Nonprofit, I’ve been working through some important details and motivations. I’ve typed up a bunch of it, and perhaps I’ll post some of it too, with a little more editing.

I don’t know how much I’ve written about it here, but I’m working towards spending next semester studying in India. The program I’m in is called Sustainable Development and Social Change, through SIT, (The School for International Training, located in Vermont). The connection between this and the Sunflower Village Initiative is that I believe that my thinking and actions about SVI will be clarified through this program. By making a connection to Sustainable Development and Social Change in India, I will strengthen, from experience, the ability for intentional communities to positively impact interactions with impoverished countries, as well as making the village inclusive of multiple cultural experiences and non-white perspectives. So in my application for the program, I wrote a good deal about how I think that the program will do this. Something else I can add here.

My friend Mamta is gone for a few weeks, and she has offered me a great opportunity. I get to water and harvest her vegetables while she’s gone! I go the first time tomorrow. I’m going to bring home some basil, and hopefully a tomato or two will be ready! I’m sure some zucchini will be set, since they were coming ripe last week. It will be good to get out and do some garden work. I haven’t done much gardening in a long time, so this will feel wonderful, and save us some money too!

 

recognizing the inherent interconnectedness March 9, 2010

Filed under: interconnected — Saera @ 1:12 am

When I started my sunflower village blogs, I felt like I would keep my theories and ideas and experiences separate. But lately I’ve been feeling more powerfully the reality that nothing is ever separate, and that  what I think about and experience and hope to do in the future, and my perceptions of why I want to do those things aren’t genuinely separable. It’s alright if people don’t always like everything I write. I am grateful for those of you who read my blogs, but ultimately this writing is my reference for what I’m thinking and doing and collecting and attempting. So this might be too much for some people, perhaps someday construed as unprofessional or too personal or chaotic or unclear. I am willing to accept those possibilities and be radically me. This wasn’t what I meant to write about it, but I’ve been mulling it over for awhile and I’m glad I had the chance to get it out.

 

Child’s Fall, Rediscovered first version. November 24, 2009

Filed under: Demeter,interconnected,intergenerational,social investment — Saera @ 8:00 pm

I remember when
pretend was enough,
All we needed in a few elements:
a place to warm up and rest,
enough food to fuel us,
the simple props we
discovered around us,
(ready at hand –
something to spark the imagination)
and, often, each other

Now I dream and imagine,
and wonder how to leap the gap
between my biggest dreams and the stark realities

 

Notes from cashiering

Filed under: community structure,economy,interconnected,organization — Saera @ 7:55 pm

Ziplines
Source of energy: human muscle + gravity
function: transportation of people and light – medium loads between central house and satellites (and between satellites?)
Avoids walking in snow/rain, unnecessary trips.
Further research: potential for carrying children/sick/elderly/handicapped

Blog Topics:
-giving and getting
-The relevance of Spiritual development
– Religion and Respect in a village setting
-the grand scale/international level
-Fiction and Inspiration
-Family and Social Structure
-Expectations of accomplishment
-Shifting ideals into reality
-planning a collective future.

Giving: types
-Reciprocal gain: expected return of investment in terms of personal expectations of behavior and benefit
-Fostering/Care: giving with the vision of inspiring and demonstrating compassion similarly.
-Giving of true appreciation: giving inspired by the presence of a person in one’s life

Risks and complications of giving and receiving: dependency, incurred debt, competition, complex relations, taboos.