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!



The stress you risk by wanting a different world as a poor person August 31, 2011

Filed under: economy,risk,solidarity,wage — Saera @ 7:50 am

After I read Walden Two, I gave it to Daniel to read. We talked a fair bit about intentional communities over the past couple of weeks. We came to the conclusion that to really move the Sunflower Village Initiative forward, we need to develop a village. This will allow us to demonstrate that a solidarity-oriented village can work. It will give us credibility with individuals, families, other intentional communities, donors, and other interested parties. While this plan makes sense to me, its implications for my personal life are somewhat mixed. On the one hand, it is bringing the village back to a very personal level for me: I can move forward on creating a village for me personally to live in. On the other hand, I am unsure of how to best make my living in the mean time.I had planned to develop SVI to the point that I could hire myself and then others to work on the project full and part time.

My personal situation lately has been feeling rather desperate. While I was in India, finances became very difficult and complicated for Daniel and myself. As I had difficulty finding a compatible job after my return, I didn’t find work until late July. Between Daniel’s hard work and my position as a nanny with a new family, it seemed that we were about to stabilize financially. Unfortunately, the physical challenges of Daniel’s work have led to some chronic health difficulties, and he hasn’t been able to work much lately. Additionally, we have had to spend some money on doctors fees. I’m not looking for sympathy or advice on the work situation here. It’s just that this is the nitty gritty reality of what goes on when you’re poor and idealistic in America. I feel frustrated that, finally having got together enough income between the two of us to start attacking our mountain of bills and debt, a source of income has been reduced by the way that income is gained. This is the sort of cyclical expletive garbage that makes me just want to quit America. I couldn’t sleep this morning I felt so stressed from trying to figure out how to deal with this cycle of poverty and work conditions. That kind of stress is one of the most ignored effects of poverty and one of the grinding and degrading conditions I hope for villages to eradicate.

Personally, I’m nauseous from work where either I sit on my hands and do almost nothing, or grind my body through repetitive and numbing actions, and at the end of the day, I still don’t know how two people working a total of at least 70 hours a week are going to pay for basic necessities, let alone attack the debt. One of the things I thought about yesterday was carpentry. It’s a possibility I come back to from time to time when I feel frustrated by school or idle work. I looked up carpentry in Massachusetts. The union offers training… which takes four years. I found that upsetting, like I should have listened to myself and quit college for technical school years ago. Here I am, with a degree, and still no jobs I want, except to ddvelop and run the Sunflower Village Initiative. Had I gone for a carpentry apprenticeship, I could be making money and building a village.

But there’s no changing that now. But I’m feeling a little calmer and, after writing all of this, my headache is gone. Because I’ve decided what I’m going to do. I’m not going to set an order, because all of these things need to move forward and all need current attention. So, starting with the most personal:

I need a new job, or at least a second job. I need to make more money, and far more reliably too. I need to work towards making enough money that it doesn’t matter if Daniel works or not: for now so that he can quit a job that is literally, according to doctors, wearing his body out, and for later, so that he can fully focus on school. In other words, I need to make a grown-up’s salary.

I need to actively form an intentional community. I have already put out feelers to a few people whom I think it would be great to start a village with. If you want to build a village with me, in all seriousness, let me know.

I’m going to continue working towards making SVI a tangible reality that can pay. This is the job that I truly want, and no one is making it but me. Maybe I could have gone about this differently, but I’m almost 27 and it’s time to act on what I’ve done, not what I might have done.


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 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 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 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.


New Perspectives May 19, 2011

Filed under: community structure,solidarity — Saera @ 1:41 am

I’m back from India. You can read about some of the things I did there at my other blog, There is a lot more to say about what I saw and experienced and learned while on my study abroad program. A lot of things gave me new thoughts and ideas about the Sunflower Village Initiative, including the physical layout and economic organization of villages, the importance of common lands, and, surprisingly, a lot of new thoughts about the expression of class amongst Americans.

While I was cavorting about Rajasthan, board member Katie G took the Grassroots Community Development at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She seems to have learned a lot about Solidarity and community and changing things on a community level. Discussing other things that have happened while we’ve been apart, we realize that we really need a day or so to get on the same page about SVI again. We also agree that in some ways we need to start from the beginning again and lay a deeper foundation. Hopefully that will happen in the next week or so, and then we can take some fresh steps forward.


Principles May 27, 2009

Filed under: solidarity,subsidiarity,sustainability,transparency,values — Saera @ 3:07 am

After the preceding post, I went back and worked through some definitions of things I’d said I’d write about awhile ago. It seems like a long list maybe, but these things linked together and my explanations say a lot about just what it is I’m trying to do. Obviously these aren’t generally things I have come up with myself, but describe what I feel and value just as authentically as if I had. I am so grateful for those who explicated this vocabulary and gave it meaning to me.

Self and Inter Reliance – Self reliance suggests that people have a number of traits which propel them towards greater achievement. Dependency suggests that a person cannot take initiative or be motivated unless they are pushed by another person. While both conditions occur, neither is really healthy, and it seems to me that most people blend a combination of these two, primarily centered on a third type of reliance, which I term inter-reliance. Inter-reliance is when people encourage, inspire, and help each other, sometimes physically and materially, to create value together that benefits both.

Solidarity – Solidarity is the idea that if someone else is experiencing social or other structural injustice, I stand by that person and work with them to change that situation.

Subsidiarity – anything that can be worked out at the most pertinent local level should be, before resorting to another level. For example, a school should have its own dialogue on curriculum and grades before having them instituted for them by the school district, or even worse, the federal government. Another way of saying subsidiarity is the “bottom-up” approach to leadership, rather than “top-down”, which is the most common approach. I, and an increasing number of people, argue that subsidiarity is much more effective (and probably efficient) than top-down. This is related to the fact that the people most proximate to a situation probably have the best understanding of how to solve that situation, as well as a reduced need for bureaucracy and excessive travel to work out arrangements from a “higher” level.

– many people have defined this terms so differently that I almost hate to use it. Its current popular use can be misguiding for a number of reasons. For me, Sustainability is still an adjective more than a noun that describes living in such a way that sustains the future of life. This is not just about the viability of the planet to support human life, although that is an important aspect. It is about being responsible for the way we do things so that the most life is able to survive, whether we think it currently profitable or not. This does not mean that we have to let pests eat all our crops or insist on the utter abolition of antibiotics or that we can’t cut down a tree to heat us in winter, but considering whether the things we do and how we do them are going to promote life or limit it. I do not see sustainability compatible with a number of words with which it is commonly paired, including corporation, and capitalism.

– life forms cooperating with each other to create a stronger existence for both.

– two things working together for greater effect, perhaps also one thing having more than one function.

– the capacity of a person, community, or other group of people to decided its own future based on its own values

– the idea that all people should be presented with equal opportunity and rights

– the pursuit of righting wrongs in human society by pointing them out and correcting them.

– discussion between two or more people to create better understandings, relationships, and solve disputes, among other things

Seven Generations
– the consideration of the effects our actions on the seven generations to come, as well as an understanding and appreciation of the efforts of those from the past seven generations.

– existing in such a way that those within and outside an organization, business, or other operation are able to see and understand what is happening and why, and that those carrying out an operation are accountable for their actions and the associated consequences.


Solidarity April 9, 2009

Filed under: interconnected,social investment,solidarity — Saera @ 3:42 pm

If all I wanted was to get myself off-grid and “free” from the many constraints of modern society, I could do it, fairly easily even. I could simply move to one of the (few) parts of the world where traditional lifeways still persist, although I might have to save a chunk of money to get there, or be willing to be an absolute and utter hermit in the more densely populated areas of our own country. But I want far more than that. I want for anyone who desires it and is willing to work for it to also have the opportunity to live a self-determined life. I want to offer a model anyone could use to achieve that. I want to create the means for American society to transform itself, and thereby the rest of the world.

This is where solidarity comes in.

Solidarity is the idea that if someone else is experiencing social or other structural injustice, I stand by that person and work with them to change that situation. Many people may be familiar with this through the history of the labor movements in Europe and the United States, and revolutionary movements of former colonies. Really this concept contributes to the strength of any community.

Around the world as industrialization and colonization have occurred and continue to occur, local communities often experience a breakdown in social cohesion. Much of this could be considered to be undermining solidarity by encouraging people to be primarily concerned with their own fortunes and not the whole of the community. Unfortunately, this process divorces people from the reality that the condition of a community’s solidarity reflects whether other conditions which support the success of individuals to be empowered are likely to continue.

I feel like here I’m about to get into self and inter-reliance. Just making a break here in case I decide they really are separate subjects.

Reliance can be viewed as 3 potential components: self, inter, and dependency. Often in our (American) society, reference is only made to self-reliance and dependence. This is of great concern because it suggests that only two extremes and no middle ground exist, which doesn’t reflect my experience of reality.

Self reliance suggests that people have a number of traits which propel them towards greater achievement. Dependency suggests that a person cannot take initiative or be motivated unless they are pushed by another person. While both conditions occur, neither is really healthy, and it seems to me that most people blend a combination of these two, primarily centered on a third type of reliance, which I term inter-reliance. More on that soon!


Pollan and the limited definition of "sustainability" Part 1 March 11, 2009

I’ve been reading Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma. I thought I knew a few things about food, and granted, I already had a good handle on a number of subjects. But the way Pollan strings it all together and makes many “invisible” processes relate to food aspects of our culture brings a number of vital issues and concerns to the forefront. I don’t want this to become a book review, but I highly recommend this book to anyone who is concerned about food, capitalism, or sustainability, among other things which I see as related, like the worry about surveillance I heard people discussing in the breakroom at work or classism.

One thing that concerns me about modern trends and efforts to integrate “sustainability” into a capitalist economy is that it tends to be primarily “available” to those who already have the greatest advantages in our society. In otherwords, sustainability as it is currently being interpreted in our society is only for those who can afford it. This contradicts every real meaning of the original definition of sustainability.

And now, back to working at “Big Organic”