Thursday, July 21, 2011

What if we're wrong?

Hello again,

What if we make all of these plans and preparations and 50 years from now some industrial knight in shining armor has come to our societal rescue with the next new cheap energy?  Well, where would we stand.  If we could put together a situation where daily life included clean healthy water and food.  Organic fruits, beautiful forest, a fine organic farm and the sharing of community with friends.  If while you are walking out to sit next to some beautiful flowers and read a book you are interrupted by someone sitting and softly playing a folk guitar while singing Joan Baez.  Would this be a bad trade for the next new video game console or a nice new hybrid or alternative car?

I believe that we suffer every day that we struggle to comply with the need to satisfy a modern economy that most of us will never earn enough to feel secure in.  Why not stop the suffering now while we can and begin to enjoy a healthier lifestyle and a saner approach to getting by? 

Just some thoughts from a conversation with my 14 year old son, Micah, about how to make life plans in the face of some of what's going on.  He really wants to do something that matters and would continue to matter.

What is Consensus?

Hello Folks,
There are some great books on consensus decision making and we will be posting a reading list for community forming and processes and for learning more about peak oil and the changes that face us.  For the time being, if you are interested in consensus, the Wikipedia article is quite good.

Thanks for looking.

Friday, July 15, 2011

A Beginning

One Possible Future

We are writing this to share our idea of a possible escape from suburbia and a loosing of the shackles of the “nine to five” modern economy.  Included are our visions or reasons for desiring a change, who we are, what we are prepared to offer, an idea of the kinds of things that could be included in a community environment that would allow for a healthy sustainable lifestyle, and a sample of a community charter.  Where the specifics of the community and the charter are concerned, we put these sections here to flesh out the idea but these are things that would be worked out by consensus (not majority rule) with the group.  Please take the time to read on and consider the possibility.

Our Vision

We believe in a better future.  Many things may change about what we consider to be ordinary in our lives but it is possible to start now and create a positive alternative.  It is doubtful that our youth today have the same options in life that their parents and grandparents had as a result of unbridled use of fossil fuels.  Not the same options but they do have options and we would like to be pioneers in that field; forging a new paradigm on an anvil created in the petroleum age so we have the correct tools for the next stage in the evolution of human civilization.  We do not anticipate a collapse back to the Stone Age or the dark ages but rather a freeing of the soul from the grasp of the demands of the industrial age.  It would be much too involved a topic for so short an introduction but if you have questions as to the stability of our current Western lifestyle we encourage you to do some research.  You might look up some books such as James Howard Kuntsler “The Long Emergency”; R. Heinberg “Peak Everything: Waking Up to the Century of Declines” and “The Party’s Over: Oil and the Fate of Industrial Societies”; Rob Hopkins “The Transition Handbook: From Oil Dependency to Local Resilience”; and the DVDs “The End of Suburia: Oil Depletion and the Collapse of the American Dream” and “Escape From Suburbia”.
The 40 hour or more work week which has characterized the wage slavery of the past 200 years has been a long dark tea-time of the soul.  We work for a day off or maybe for some with the hope of a week or two off.  A 50 year work life results in about 2 years off for most people.  Then we find out that our bodies have been damaged by unseen occupational hazards and much of our free time has been wasted on recreational shopping or mindless electronic entertainment so we don’t have free time to contemplate the uselessness of our situations.  We generally know all the while that many social arrangements are amiss but our best efforts always fall short of correcting them.  Let’s take back our time!!!  The best estimate of a low impact self sufficient lifestyle is that it takes about 4 hours per day to meet all of your needs.  Even these 4 hours don’t need to be drudgery.  Working alongside friends hoeing weeds or building furniture while discussing nature or philosophy, is more like a social life than like work.  The folks who ran our agriculture during the last period of “lower” technology farming were by and large un- or under-educated.  Please be clear here that we are not saying stupid, they knew how to provide all of our needs in a much more healthy fashion than our current corporate, college graduate agribusiness professionals.  The work itself was not unpleasant.  It is simply that an aristocratic and merchant class had determined that dirt under the fingernails was below them and it was easier to keep people on the farm if they had no alternative.  We have choice and the opportunity for self-determination.  In 110 years in America we have gone from 1 in 4 people directly involved in food production to 1 in 100.  In the process of industrializing our food we have become sickly from poisoned food and we have destroyed the health of our soil and water.
We envision a 100% organic food lifestyle with the added spiritual benefit of healing the land and working together with people who have chosen their place rather than being forced into it.  So, you may ask, what if science finds a silver bullet and society has the free energy to go on the way it is?  We would say, let them have it.  It is a proven failure.  Let’s move on to health, fellowship, and peace.

Who Are “We”

Barb and Joe are 45 and 47 respectively.  We live in Macon County, Tennessee near the Kentucky state line on 5 acres that we own (as much as you can own anything) and a half mile as the crow flies we have another 4.25 acres.  Without excessive clearing we have about 2.5 acres of arable land.  Studies show that 0.1 acre per person per year is needed with fairly intensive growing to produce all necessary food including some meat or eggs if desired.  We are primarily vegetarian but not dogmatic about it.  This would say that without added land we can feed 25 people.  It would surely be more desirable to have more land and some is available nearby.  We are prepared to make our land and resources available as a seed for starting a community.  We are also willing to move if there is a better situation somewhere else but right now we have this place and it is fairly beautiful and peaceful here.
Barb graduated college in 2010 with a BS in Sociology and she is working at home doing freelance proofreading and weaving while homeschooling our youngest son, Micah 14, and gardening.  Joe has been working construction; specifically historic restoration.  He owns all of the tools needed for house construction and for a cabinet shop and these would be available for community use.  Both Barb and Joe have been professional European style bakers and will be park rangers at Mammoth Cave National Park for the summer of 2011.  We have some school debt and a little other debt but it is under control.  “I am willing and able to place my cards upon the table.” B. Marley
We are tired of the lie of the nine to five economy and would like to share a healthy, enjoyable community life with others who would like to be free of this lie and be a little more prepared to cope if some of our modern conveniences are no longer available as in economic failure or lessened availability of cheap oil (these two are really the same).
Our youngest son, Micah 14 is interested in permaculture, bird watching, conservation, gardening, photography and reading.  Our middle son, Dominic 20, is also interested in participating.  He has been working construction with Joe and he is trained in welding.  He and Joe maintain our vehicles and these skills would be available to the community.  Our oldest son, Eric 22, is working as a baker in Bloomington, IN.  He is happy there now but it would not be surprising for him to join us if something gets going.  He is a trained farrier and has blacksmithing skills.
As a family we have behind us the experience of a failed community.  Everyone was uncommitted and it didn’t work out but we still hold the dream and we feel the experience could help us avoid pitfalls this time.  That was 14 years ago.
The following is a list of some of the things we’ve considered but these are just our ideas.  What we really desire is to craft a way of life that shares the ideas of others.  Also we have included a concept of the kind of charter that could define the community.  Again, this is just a sample idea.  Life can be secure and beautiful.

Some Ideas For How The Community Might Function

We looked at the areas of food, water, shelter, heat, clothing, income, transportation, entertainment, and decision making.
Food:  Grow almost everything and at least retain the ability to grow all of our needs in the first growing season after modern food supplies are no longer readily available.
Probably buy flour, some soy products or at least beans to make them, spices, salt, coffee, tea, cocoa, chocolate, vanilla, oil, and sugar/honey.  We should focus on the supply side of what we buy.  Fair trade and similar arrangements should be the norm.
Grow diverse fruits and nuts.  Can and dry lots of stuff.  We could build a small scale commercial style food prep facility for group meals, community baking, canning and preserving, and maybe some things for sale.  We will farm organically.  We can use mechanization but we should be prepared to do without it.  We see being based on a predominantly vegetarian diet from the perspective of sustainability.  Keep chickens, a pond for fish, water, and entertainment, some hunting if that is desired, maybe a dairy animal or an arrangement with a neighbor who has one for fresh milk.
Water:  Hopefully acquire land with a good spring.  There may be one across the street that would be available.  One or more ponds.  Rainwater collection.
This may be out of order but it came up under the water heading.  Community land does not need to be contiguous but it would be nicer if it were.  As we said earlier we have 9.25 acres with approximately 2.5 acres arable so at 0.1 acre per person per year we can support about 25 people.
Shelter:  We can do whatever works but it would be best to focus on low impact easy to heat and maintain structures such as cob style, stone, and other rustic styles.  We should keep size reasonable, use green roofs where possible, and be off grid with maybe some limited solar or other alternative energy option.  We currently live with a small solar array.
Heat:  Primarily wood but limit the need.  Perhaps we can explore a Chacoan style apartment situation. (These had big, thick, quiet walls.)
Clothing:  Plan for a post modern economy situation.  Some stockpiled fabric, the ability to grow cotton, wool or linen.  Tools for working all of this.  Barb can spin, weave and sew and she can teach these skills.  Some shoemaking supplies.
Income:  Construction, Welding, Automotive, Weaving, Pottery, Green and other woodworking, Produce/Farmers market or CSA(Community Supported Agriculture), Baked goods, Any Arts or Crafts, Painting (as in house painting).  Anything else that someone is interested in or able to do.  These are some areas that we are prepared to help with by providing tools and/or training.
The whole concept of the income is to get everyone out of the nine to five world economy and out of the worry of meeting their economic needs.  It would be best if the skills and functions had carryover to the post modern economy scenario.
Transportation:  This may seem obvious but as the price of oil rises and the polar ice caps continue to melt it requires some consideration.  We as a family are all moving to 1981 VW diesel Rabbits.  We should combine traveling to meet as many goals as we can with each trip and minimize expense.  The community would probably need a good full sized truck but we don’t need one each.  We should have some bicycles, good shoes, maybe some motorcycles (efficient ones), and possibly horses or donkeys.  Maybe as a community we could have a 15 passenger van or small school bus for when we all want to go somewhere.
Entertainment and Community Interaction:  Live music, games, reading and discussion (out loud as a group), hiking, movies, set up a coffee house situation, whatever anybody really finds entertaining “just so long as it doesn’t hurt anybody”.
Decision Making:  Consensus decision making and we will learn how to participate in this properly.  This way 51% of the community doesn’t impose on the others.
Base our consensus on a simple charter which is hard to change.  Not unchangeable but not constantly morphing.
Hold a group meal at least once a week and a monthly actual “issues” meeting.

Sample Charter

It is our mission to use this charter to facilitate the creation and maintenance of a healthy, peaceful, and harmonious community environment.  We hope to be a blessing to the greater community around us and to help others who are seeking to establish community.
Property: We are not all things common but where some possessions may belong to the community, they must be treated with total respect by anyone who uses them.  Also if someone uses another’s stuff, it is respected according to the owner’s wishes.

Religion: It’s Okay, but it’s not codified.  We are tolerant of variety.  Don’t proselytize unless someone requests more information.  Don’t get weird. (blood is weird)  We respect each other.

Population Density:  At least 50% of all community land is undeveloped.

Barb & Joe:  We are prepared to make our property available for community including all uses but we are not prepared to be put off of our property by community decision.

Illegal Activity:  It is important that we not do things that cause the loss of the property, harm others, or encourage the authorities to want to search our premises.  Abuse of alcohol is a drag.  No hard or chemical drugs including but not limited to cocaine, crack, meth, heroin, or pills.  Keep it real.

Diet:  We encourage a primarily vegetarian diet from the perspective of health, land use and sustainability.  Any animal products should be from as friendly or natural a situation as possible.  All farming is organic.

Community Generated Income:  Although we are not communist, there will no doubt be situations where income is generated as a group.  This income will be dispersed by consensus.  We are open to the possibility of helping members overcome past debt so they can be free.

Building:  We will plan building projects and alterations as a consensus decision.  Respect and sustainability are the guiding force.

Firewood:  We can do a group treewalk and mark dead and damaged trees and other trees that will benefit the overall health of the forest by being removed.

Food Production and Community Projects:  Group projects require group participation but we expect this to be cool time anyway.

Sanitation:  All human and other organic waste is composted and recycled by safe and sanitary means.

Pets:  Pets need to be cool.  A violent animal will not be tolerated.  This said, dogs will often use violence with each other while meeting and sometimes this has unfortunate circumstances.  We will do our best to use gentle introduction techniques.

Guns:  Gun ownership is a private matter.  We are not a militia and we don’t want to present an aggressive posture to the surrounding community.  The group must agree on a way acceptable to all for gun owners to occasionally practice.

Termination of Membership:  This is an ugly and unfortunate topic.  A member can only be removed for reasons that clearly oppose the basic community core beliefs as outlined in the charter.  This is obviously by consensus except that the member in question while having a voice does not have the ability to influence the decision.  A member once removed is not entitled to community property.  In love, the community can choose to offer aid or compensation to the former member.  We will first always try to work through issues to a more positive result.

Members in Need:  Health or other burdens of a member are a community burden.  This is obviously subject to the community’s means at any given time.

Visitors:  Everyone can have visitors.  An individual member can’t invite someone to move in without community consensus.  If you want someone to stay for more than 2 weeks you should probably bring it up.  It is too easy for an extended visit to slide into residence.  Where personal relationships or family are concerned we will all be especially tolerant.

Decision Making:  By consensus and all members will receive training in the consensus process.  This will ensure that no majority group can drive the situation against the wishes of other members.

Our consensus process is guided and informed
 by human dignity, environmental responsibility,
 respect, love, and peace.

Closing Comments

Thank you so much for taking the time to read and consider this.  We would appreciate any input even if you are not interested in pursuing this sort of an arrangement.  It may seem as if we are paying attention to many areas of personal life.  Many communities fail by treating delicate subjects as if they won’t come up if we don’t mention them.  It is our belief that most controversial , for lack of a better term, are best put on the table and dealt with from a perspective of compassion and a desire for unity than put in the closet in hopes that they won’t come to light.

If you want further contact please email:
We look forward to hearing from you and discussing the possibilities.