Grappling with these emergent threats will build the structures necessary to contain them effectively. However, the traditional reliance on state governance to overcome these challenges looks increasingly unreliable, and it remains unclear whether corporate solutions will offer trustworthy substitutes. More likely, responsibility will fall on local efforts, distributed collectives, community governance, and investment and championship by benevolent economic elites.

My Big Ideas

Communities of Place
Sustainability readers

Inconvenient truths

- Transition towns

Sustainable population

The Human unit
Prehistoric villages

Sustainable agriculture - Community managed fisheries

Community Capacities and Community Necessities

There is a new worldwide movement developing, made up of people with a different vision for their local communities. They know that movements are not organizations, institutions or systems. Movements have no CEO, central office, or plan. Instead, they happen when thousands of people discover together new possibilities for their lives. They have a calling. They are called. And together they call upon themselves.
In many nations, local people have been called to come together to pursue a common calling. It would be a mistake to label that calling “ABCD” or “Community Building.” Those are just names. They are inadequate words for groups of local people who have the courage to discover their own way — to create a culture made by their own vision. It is a handmade, homemade vision. And, wherever we look, it is a culture that starts the same way:
First, we see what we have individually, as neighbors and in this place of ours. Second, we know that the power of what we have grows from creating new connections and relationships among and between what we have. Third, we know that these connections happen when we, individually or collectively, act to make the connections — they don’t just happen by themselves.
We also know that these three steps leading to our way can often be blocked by great corporate, governmental, professional and academic institutions. They often say to us, “You are inadequate, incompetent, problematic, or broken. We will fix you.” It is our calling to ignore these voices that create dependency, for we are called to find our way — not follow their way.
We are striving to live in a democracy. A democracy is a politics that gives us the freedom to create our vision and the power to make that vision come true. We strive to be citizens: people with the vision and the power to create our own way, a culture of community capacity, connection and care.
Unfortunately, many leaders and even some neighbors think that the idea of a strong local community is sort of “nice,” a good thing if you have the spare time, but not really important, vital or necessary. However, we know strong communities are vital and productive. But, above all they are necessary because of the inherent limits of all institutions.
No matter how hard they try, our very best institutions cannot do many things that only we can do. And what only we can do is vital to a decent, good, democratic life.
People in the new movement know what only we have the power to do as local neighbors and citizens.
First, our neighborhoods are the primary source of our health. How long we live and how often we are sick is determined by our personal behavior, our social relationships, our physical environment and our income. As neighbors, we are the people who can change these things. Medical systems and doctors cannot. This is why scientists agree that medical care counts for less than 10% of what will allow us to be healthy. Indeed, most informed medical leaders advocate for community health initiatives because they recognize their systems have reached the limits of their health-giving power.
Second, whether we are safe and secure in our neighborhood is largely within our domain. Many studies show that there are two major determinants of our local safety. One is how many neighbors we know by name. The second is how often we are present and associate in the public space outside our houses. Police activity is a minor protection compared to these two community actions. This is why most informed police leaders advocate for block watch and community policing. They know their limits and call to our movement.
Third, the future of our earth — the environment — is a major local responsibility. The “energy problem” is our local domain because how we transport ourselves, how we heat and light our homes and how much waste we create is a major factor in saving our earth. That is why our movement is a major force in calling us and our neighbors to be citizens of the earth and not just consumers of the natural wealth.
Fourth, in our villages and neighborhoods, we have the power to build a resilient economy — less dependant on the mega-systems of finance and production that have proven to be so unreliable. Most enterprises begin locally — in garages, basements and dining rooms. As neighbors, we have the local power to nurture and support these businesses so that they have a viable market. And we have the local power to capture our own savings so that we are not captives of our notorious large financial institutions. We also are the most reliable sources of jobs. For in many nations, word-of-mouth among neighbors is still the most important access to employment. The future of our economic security is now clearly a responsibility, possibility and necessity for local people.
Fifth, we are coming to see that a part of our domain is the production of the food we eat. So we are allied with the local food movement, supporting local producers and markets. In this way, we will be doing our part to solve the energy problem caused by transportation of food from continents away. We will be doing our part to solve our economic problems by circulating our dollars locally. And we will be improving our health by eating food free of poisons and petroleum.
Sixth, we are local people who must raise our children. We all say that it takes a village to raise a child. And yet, in modernized societies, this is rarely true. Instead, we pay systems to raise our children — teachers, counselors, coaches, youth workers, nutritionists, doctors, McDonald's and MTV. We are often reduced as families to being responsible for paying others to raise our children and transporting them to their paid child-raisers. Our villages have often become useless; our neighbors responsible for neither their children nor ours. As a result, everywhere we talk about the local “youth problem.” There is no “youth problem.” There is a village problem of adults who have forgone their responsibility and capacity to join their neighbors in raising the young. There is a remarkable recovery movement that joins neighbors in sharing the wealth of children. It is our greatest challenge and our most hopeful possibility.
Seventh, locally we are the site of care. Our institutions can only offer service — not care. We cannot purchase care. Care is the freely given commitment from the heart of one to another. As neighbors, we care for each other. We care for our children. We care for our elders. And it is this care that is the basic power of a community of citizens. Care cannot be provided, managed or purchased from systems. Our way is made possible by the power to care. Democracy is the way we care for our freedom and responsibility. So it is the new connections and relationships we create locally that build community because in joining each other together, we manifest our care for the children, neighbors and the earth.
Health, safety, economy, environment, food, children and care are the seven responsibilities of our movement. They are the necessities that only we can fulfill. And when we fail, no institution or government can succeed because we are the veritable foundation of the society.
Fortunately, at the heart of our movement are three universal and abundant powers.The three basics of our calling are:
  • The giving of gifts: The gifts of the people in our neighborhood are boundless. Our movement calls forth those gifts.
  • The power of association: In association, we join our gifts together and they become amplified, magnified, productive and celebrated.
  • Hospitality: We welcome strangers because we value their gifts and need to share our own. Our doors are open. There are no strangers here. Just friends we haven’t met.
Ours is the movement of abundance. There is no limit to our gifts, our associations, and our hospitality.
We have a calling. We are the people who know what we need. What we need surrounds us. What we need is each other. And when, we act together, we will find Our Way. The citizen’s way. The community way. The democratic way. We are called to nothing less. And it is not so wild a dream.
Opening remarks at the “From Clients to Citizens Forum,” Coady International Institute, St. Francis Xavier University, Antigonish, Nova Scotia, July 8, 2009

Coalition Of The Willing from coalitionfilm on Vimeo.

Contracting complexity -

1.Create a physical, sustainable community
by defining minimum design criteria for maximum selfreliance and minimum impact on the environment
  • high density housing, min15, max 30 homes within
  • self reliant in energy
  • self reliant in food
  • able to survive unsupported by the outside world for 3 months (cf Civil Defense currently saying 3 days)
  • waste managed on site
  • responsible for mitigation of negative effects with nett improvement of own land and the catchment.
  • building only on stable, flood safe land
  • see

by bypassing the profiteering and speculation of land development with the adoption of these criteria as permitted activity for rural land i.e. bypassing resource consent processes etc. (as for papakainga development reducing costs and barriers to building sustainable housing; includes mitigation of effects on neighbours -
  • have "buffer zone" specifications e.g. no residential development within 50m of boundary with neighbours
  • Corral development in one patch with a maximum of 10% productive land used for residential development (to protect economic integrity of property); minimum 10 ha property.
  • Limit to within 100m of existing sealed road (to avoid burdenning district with further roading requirements)
  • Comprehensive emergency plans approved by fire service, civil defense and hospital

2. Provide for the sustained existance of remaining local endemic species and ecosystems and be actively involved in ecological restoration
by commitment to catchment councils that are responsible for water management, pest control, ecological monitoring, land retirement, land restoration
by strictly controlling non-native species (includes pets and domesticated animals)

3. Create an accountable, economically sustainable community
by designing community to meet
  • ECE center regulations (e.g. operating as a Playcentre or home based caregivers) - health and safety, building specifications, providing education to parents and children to 8 years old
  • Primary Health Organisation requirements i.e providing comprehensive primary health care for residents and registered members
  • Providing facilities that support home schooling
  • education provider certification e.g. provide apprenticeships, literacy training, food safety certificates
  • Old People‘s Homes Regulations
  • regulations specifiying standards required of health care providers and disability services providers
  • disability access requirements
  • organic certification
by meeting the needs of the dependents of the community and getting paid for that service to society (i.e. the community is paid to care for young, infirm, disabled, elderly and to rehabilitate those covering from illness or accident, convicted of a crime, addicts instead of the government paying institutions and individual social security benefits, neither of which work because it takes a community to provide their needs)
by gaining tax splitting across all members of the community such that the tax rate of the average income of employed members is applied
by gaining tax exemption for community currency -
Bill Mollison's workshop