The Value Of Community
Kim’s Journal Entry: 2/3/11
Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the value of community, of people coming together to get through hard times, like the times we are in and the times that are coming, as food, water and energy become more scarce. We Americans are very independent, self reliant folks and we like to have our space, privacy and entertainment. But often we are lonely, isolated and we miss out on the richness of true community. It’s normal in my middle class neighborhood for everyone to own a spade, shovel, car, tv, computer, wrench, rake, you name it, everyone has one. When I lived in Indonesia and in Africa, the people in those cultures had a different mindset about things. They were happy to share what they had with their neighbors because not everyone could afford one of everything or had the space to store it. People knew what was going on with each other and they took care of one another. Yes, being poor often necessitates sharing. People in the neighborhood all gathered at Mr. Dani’s house to watch TV since his was the only one in the area and they would pass around Yotji’s guitar so everyone could play. In poor communities it’s not uncommon to trade and barter, my chicken eggs for your goat’s milk.
Of course to share in this way requires trust and relationships and that’s one thing we Americans are often short on. I’m thinking that it’s time for me to get to know my neighbors a whole lot better because in the days and years to come I’m probably going to need them and they are going to need me. Transition communities are all about building resilience together because we all know deep inside that if things really go bad we can’t make it on our own. In light of what we are facing I believe that we should be proactive as a community and work together to create a better future for ourselves and our children instead of fearfully waiting for the inevitable. Peak oil provides a strong incentive to do this.
Yesterday I watched the documentary, ‘The Power of Community, How Cuba Survived Peak Oil’. Due to artificial plunges in oil imports, the Cuban people had to radically cope with the hardships of profound change. Cuban’s faced starvation because the lack of oil imports meant the end of conventional farming in Cuba and at that time more than 80% of the food came from conventional farms. The people of Cuba survived because they came together and started gardens and shared what they had. They learned how to grow their food organically, without chemical pesticides and fertilizers which had so devastated the soil that it took between 3-5 years to revive the earth to where it could support life again. So they started by turning their yards, roofs and shared community spaces into gardens and small farms. As a result they now have stronger communities and are much healthier. There is still much suffering in Cuba but the people there have shown a great deal of resilience. I was inspired by their story. Could we do that here? I think so.
So this year I’m going to work on my relationships, on bringing people together in my community. I truly believe that as food and energy prices soar, our lives are going to become much more localized and we will be more dependent on our immediate community to meet our needs. I hope that I will have something to offer to them. The more resilient we all are, the easier the transition will be as we move from our dependence on fossil fuels to renewable energy sources. I have no idea how painful that transition will be, how long it will last, what it will do to our economy, our food system and our lives, but I’ve read enough to know that it’s going to happen (it’s already happening in many places) but if we are proactive we can be prepared, gain strength from each other and build a better future together.
What’s encouraging to me is that there are many transition communities all over the world that are doing this. Here’s an excellent example of just such a community in the USA.
Video: Transitioning Whidbey a Transition town in North America
Video: The Transition Movement Comes to the USA