Disruptors among us

Security Theater KnifeIt seems that every healthy and thriving community, city, social group or ecosystem remains healthy and thriving because they can handle having a disruptive element with an important role to play.

The disruptors are the people or events that shake up the status quo, question why things are done a certain way, or introduce an element of chaos or discontent into the system and forces it to evolve, change or adapt.  They are the people whose survival or well-being is not dependent on the stability of the system; revolutionary new ideas and significant change rarely come from those whose livelihoods and sense of security depend on things going along as they are.

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Sustainability challenges in Richmond

I recently met with a local organization involved in environmental education efforts to talk about the status of sustainability education in Richmond and Wayne County.  In preparing for that conversation, I put together a list of what I see as some of the challenges our community faces when it comes to becoming more sustainable and self-reliant: Continue reading Sustainability challenges in Richmond

Is personal lifestyle change effective?

Tree of LifeIs working hard to make personal changes in our lives, especially when it comes to living sustainably, a futile effort in the face of all the other kinds of unsustainable things going on in the world?  Is personal lifestyle change effective?

I've asked a version of this question before: Must we become the change we wish to see in the world? You can maybe tell that there's a theme here - impactful personal lifestyle change is not often convenient, and sometimes it is downright scary.  But that's not a reason not to spend as much energy and time as it takes to try to live more sustainably, right?  Change has to happen with each person individually before we can expect the system to change, right?

Or does it?

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Our fears around sustainable living

Let me think about that oneI attended a nice talk this morning that tried to answer the question "what is a sustainable community?"  It and some other recent exchanges I've had reminded me that there are a lot of fears we have wrapped up in exploring that question.  Sometimes those fears prevent us from exploring these ideas fully, or from considering new possibilities for our own lives.

So I thought I would start an inventory of some of those fears, and see what else you might have to add.  By exploring our fears and understanding what they are, maybe we can find ways to help each other address them.

When we have conversations about living more sustainably, what are we afraid of?  What makes us a little anxious, a little hesitant?

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Is eating locally produced food a bad idea?

Green Tomatoes 2In yesterday's Palladium-Item, editorial board member and local blogger Matthew Hisrich proposed that eating locally, and other kinds of localized consumption behaviors, might be ineffective, or even bad for us:

[W]here does this drive for relocalizing come from? Perhaps it has to do with a vague sense of ethical rightness more than anything scientifically verifiable. University of Virginia psychologist Jonathan Haidt classifies such efforts as attempts to attain (and potentially guilt others into) a sense of moral purity. "Food," he says, "is becoming extremely moralized these days."

The problem, of course, is that purity is hard to come by in a world as complex as ours, and simplistic answers often have consequences that their proponents do not intend. Consumers should think twice before jumping on the localvore bandwagon.

I'm all for thinking twice before jumping on any sort of wagon, but I think Mr. Hisrich's logic is flawed in a number of places. Read on for my point-by-point analysis of his column: Continue reading Is eating locally produced food a bad idea?

On practicing what you preach

Preparing for High RopesIs it really important to practice what you preach?

Must we really become the change we wish to see in the world?

As I try to work in my life and community to create a peaceful and sustainable existence, these are questions that churn in my head daily.

On a personal level, I think a lot of us struggle with living out the values we hold - we have aspirations and ideals about ourselves and the world we live in that can seem hard to enact, even when the path might feel clear.

But when you start to talk about how the rest of the world could be - even should be - the conversation goes beyond issues of self-discipline, time management, or having sufficient support and encouragement. When we talk about sharing a message with others about how we want the world to be and perhaps suggest they change their behavior to get there, it becomes a question of whether there's a practical or ethical obligation to already first be living out that existence well as the messenger.

Some people say you have to transform your own life first before you can expect others to transform theirs at your suggestion. Do we?

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First 100-Mile Radius Potluck a success

On Wednesday this week, I experienced the great joy of being a part of what might have been Richmond's first 100-Mile Radius Potluck - where all of the ingredients in the dishes you bring come from within 100 miles of Richmond. It was a great success, with delicious food, good company, and a strong sense of possibility about how local food ties into building a more self-reliant Richmond.

You can view highlights from the event, which was sponsored by ProgressiveWayneCounty.org, in this YouTube video:
Continue reading First 100-Mile Radius Potluck a success