Article by Claire Ogden, first published in 'Eco Village Voice' (produced by Michael Ney)
I’ve just celebrated my 31st birthday. I have a vested interest in the future because I will be living in it… at least for another fifty years and quite possibly more considering my genetic track-record.
But there are some major changes occurring which make it hard to imagine what the world will be like in my old age. Big changes are happening already that could well cause global financial instability, food scarcity, water shortages and conflict to name a just a few symptoms.
Possibly these words would have been considered doomsday conspiracy theory talk a few years ago, yet even the most conservative people can agree that we live in uncertain times.
The changes will come in many forms. We know the extinction crisis is already happening which is sad beyond words and there are many other concerning trends like rising sea levels, more extreme weather and mass migration. But maybe, just maybe, some of the changes ahead will be regenerative.
This is not a popular train of thought at the moment. Apocalypse scenarios are capturing the attention in popular culture. “Cli-fi” is a new genre of science fiction that is painting a future world completely altered by climate change. We don’t see movies about how the people learn to overcome their differences and work together for a regenerative future. Maybe this future is more scary to people than the cli-fi scenarios. After all, we have been sold a lie that when we work together bad things will happen. It’s hardly surprising, because our culture of consumption, individualism and hoarding has completely disabled our connection to self, others, nature and spirit.
We are traumatised and are acting in the way that traumatised people act. Fear, mistrust, anger and ill-health are widespread. Our ability to heal is vital. When we talk about sustainability, we rarely think about relationships, and yet there is no sustainability if we cannot work together. There is no sustainability if we cannot first look at ourselves. Because as a good friend often says to me “the problems of the world are right here in this room”.
The cliche ‘change starts with us’ points to this but is often interpreted through the lens of neo-liberal capitalism which tells us that climate change is an individual problem. If we’d only purchase more eco products, change our lightbulbs and buy an electric car, we could turn the ship around. Clearly this is not enough. Structural change is the only real way to address climate change and many other injustices too. And we can’t do it alone. “Darn!” I hear you say. “It would be so much easier if we could just do it alone. It would be so much quicker and less complicated,” you say. And yes, I know exactly what you mean. I too have sat in committee meetings with frustration building almost to the point of tears. But this is exactly what I mean when I say that there is no sustainability if we cannot work together. And it’s the hardest thing we will learn to do. So let us start now. There’s no time like the present to learn the skills we need and ‘unlearn’ the things that have made our group experiences so traumatic that the idea of becoming a hermit seems like the only reasonable solution.
What does structural change look like, anyway? Well, for a start, it means we have to look at where the power is, where the leverage points are and how we are propping us a system that is choking our planet. It’s not easy to look deeply. There’s some stuff that we don’t want to see. We don’t want to believe that our choices are supporting this choking of the planet. It’s easier to change the light-bulb instead. But it is true that in our world there are winners and losers. There are people who have benefited from the system, such as those who bought and sold properties at the right time, and there are others who have been exploited, such as animals, nature, poor people, etc. Which are you? If you have read this far, you probably are used to reading long-form journalism. You’re probably well-educated. Maybe you went to university as I did. Maybe you’ve had real choice in your career as I have. Maybe you’ve received some money through inheritance as I have. Well, great news! People who have access to resources, with good professional skills and an understanding of the system, can start making the structural changes we need for a safe future. Everyone has some capacity to be the change they wish to see. Although, I’m sure you will understand, that some people have more capacity to do this due to life’s lottery. And what a beautiful opportunity we have. All we need is the will. The will to put energy towards solutions.
Solutions are everywhere if we start to look. There are not enough minutes in the day for me to list all the solutions available to us. The world of ecovillages offers many. These solutions are cultural, social, ecological and economic. They are regenerative. We no longer have to hate ourselves and others for choking the planet but we can actually give back. We can un-choke the planet. And un-choke the planet, we must. There is much work to be done, creating new systems of governance, building more appropriate housing, transforming the transport industry, creating alternative economic systems that distribute wealth. This is an exciting, creative time for those who have been thinking deeply about how the system fails us. We can re-build, regenerate and learn to work together.
The Global Ecovillage Network is an international organisation that is highlighting the solutions for regeneration. We can all play a part. Whether your area is mindfulness, health, working with waste as a valuable resource, celebration through art, honouring traditional wisdom, growing food and soils - there is a whole eco-system of solutions that can come together through ecovillages.
The concept of the Global Ecovillage Network is that eco-citizens, eco-projects, eco-townships, eco-regions, etc. can scale the solutions up from the grassroots. ‘Ecovillage’ is a concept as much as any physical place. It’s an idea that’s time has come. It’s about honouring traditional wisdom while integrating positive innovations. We don’t have to live a life of hardship or sacrifice. The myth of scarcity has been fed to us and yet, just imagine how many fruit trees we could grow and how much food we could save from waste and how much solar energy we could collect with improving technology. The abundance is mind-blowing. The real test is how we manage our resources. Water must be managed well in Australia. We know this and yet we still defecate into clean, drinking-water and use more clean water to push it away. We must become more clever. The solutions are everywhere. The people who want to make change are everywhere. Working together is our only chance and that is why ecovillages are important for our future.
Let’s experiment with what is possible and show people the results. Because people can’t see it until they can see it. This is pre-figurative politics. The regenerated world we want doesn’t yet exist so let’s make some examples of what it could look like. Maybe they don’t succeed, but what is the alternative?
The future isn’t here yet - our choices and actions are creating it every single day. Let’s use curiosity and courage to experiment. I urge you to join me in the regeneration so that in 2068, when I have just celebrated my 80th birthday, I can enjoy life surrounded by community, in a safe world where justice, abundance and purpose are not only possible but normal.