“This Changes Everything”

by Terry Sterrenberg

I’ve been finishing Naomi Klein’s book This Changes Everything.  I was reminded that I hadn’t finished the book when I heard the name several times on television referring to any number of popular causes, events, or facts.  Even a car ad used the phrase.  It seems that Klein hit on a title that everyone feels entitled to use in regard their own pet thing.  Anyway I am finishing it.  Reading books like hers awakens my mind to new thoughts.  Sometimes not even related to what I am reading.

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In this case I began thinking about what it means to grow older and about my relationship to my mother who died last year at the age of 94.  She had a stroke and died 10 days later.  The night before she died her children and grandchildren and some of their spouses gathered around her bed and her three children told stories of their childhood.  Some had been secrets.  It was a wonderful family gathering.

Since her death I have wondered if we did the right thing not taking her to the hospital.  This was her request and although we all knew what that could mean, we nevertheless felt a deep agreement and desire to do her bidding.  She had been to the hospital and she wanted none of that.  So when she had the stroke that we all knew was coming we were ready and so was she.

So at this reading of Klein’s book my thoughts drifted to her and to what it means for me to be growing older, and also to what I want to be doing with my life at this point.  Reflecting for me always is a kind of sad experience as I think about the great plans I had to change the world.  And how now feeling older I still have ideas (as a contrast to plans) of how the world can change.  I feel a lot like my mother when she said at the age of 90, “I don’t really feel old,  I still feel like I am 16 on the inside”, and then when I look in the mirror and am reminded of the life I have lived, I feel sad and I know I will not see those changes I know are possible.  Sometimes it seems that my life’s dream is just slipping by me.  And I remember times of missed opportunity that would have made “big changes” for everyone, and I remember a life I wish I had lived.

I need to let you know that I really love my life.  I am not despondent.  However I have a lot of disappointment when I see and hear how some people treat each other these days.  As I read in Klein’s book  about the extent of damage that has been done to our planet in the name of progress and what seems to be mindless, reckless abandonment  of logic and compassion in regard to planet earth and its inhabitants, and  I feel that in the USA we may have tipped the tipping point  for recovery.  There is so much division, lying, blaming, and suspicion of those that are different from us that I cannot see a way out of the mess we are in.  Where are the people who value honor, compassion, truth, cooperation   and the common good?  Where are the people who take responsibility for their actions and own their weakness and mistakes so the problems of society can be solved?   Where are the people whose hearts are full of life and (dare I say) love that are the midwives of our common future.

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I don’t think I am the only one who is looking for these people to have in my life.  Such a group generates trust.  Such a group generates affinity.  Such a group is the basis for a new kind of economy   that starts with the question “How can every person have what they need to thrive and excel in life?”  Not “How much does it cost or how much money can it make me?”  Such a group shares life stories and ushers in new life for all those who are around them.  Such a group does indeed change everything. Such a group is the foundation for the Villaging Project.

Fed Up

by Terry sterrenberg

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I saw the movie “Fed Up” a few nights ago and came home  rejuvenated about the Villaging project and our Villaging America movie.  There is of course a tremendous amount of information about how the food industry has contributed to the problem of obesity in the USA.  The main point of the movie is that sugar is the culprit that is the prime contributer to our weight problem as a nation.  There are several tragic examples of obese childen who get caught up in the food castrophe of this country.  The movie describes how when in the  1970’s fat was denounced as the menace to avoid,  the food companies started making low fat processed foods.  But as one person in the movie said “when you take out the fat, food tastes awful”.  So to make food taste better and  to keep up sales the food industry started adding sugar to everything to make the food more appealing.  If you are not aware take a look at the sugar on your food labels.  You will notice that sugar has no daily percentage listed.  That is because the food industry lobbied to omit the inclusion of the percentage of sugar as a maximum daily value.  That means when you buy a product you can see the amount of sugar in the product, but unless you are in the know about sugar you will not know how that amount of sugar will contribute to your nutritional needs.
Even “the healthy” foods have added sugar. The movie shows how the food industry has lobbied and testified before Congress consistently denying that there is any proof that sugar causes children and adults to be obese.  In order to make that case they need to ignore the evidence.  I came away from that movie experience thinking that this is just another instance where the profit motive has led big corporations to continually look after their own interest by ignoring what is good for the common good in favor of profit.

Over and over we discover that in every area of our lives there has been a string of history that has developed an attitude of “screw the public, it can’t be truth if it does not make a profit.”  Don’t get me wrong I am not one who believes in conspiracy theories.  However as I look into the development of the corporation over the last century I see a common thread of diminishing public good in favor of profit.  Our life style in the USA is a direct result of how industry and business has developed in this country.  David Graeber in his book “Debt: the first 5000 years” describes how this happened.  He describes how going into debt become a way of life in the US.

Watching the movie and reading Graeber’s book made me ask the question “How has the Corporationing (a word I just made up) of America affected us?”  Perhaps Corporationing is the opposite of Villaging.  I turned to the six elements of villaging we have outlined for the Villaging America movie. In general “corporationing” takes us away from direct involvement in the core processes of life.  For some reason we have let this happen and have actually made it OK for our corporations to be morally numb in  their business practices.

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1. Food Production: Toward the begining of the twentieth century “Mechanization brought farming into the realm of big business as well, making the United States the world’s premier food producer–a position it has never surrendered”  (http://america…ra/3_657.html)  Big farming has meant a vast reduction in the amount of family farms and local food production which means that most households get their food from over 1300 miles away. This reduces nutritional value of the food and has resulted in an abundance of processed foods full of added ingredients (preservatives and different forms of sugar).  Communities providing their own food supply would be a threat to food corporations.

2. Energy:  Reliance on fossil fuels is a direct result of our lifestyle.  Just as we are dependent on oil to stay warm and to go places, big oil companies  are also dependent on our lifesyle for their profits.  It doesn’t take much thought to realize what would happen to the petroleum business if alternative forms of energy were developed or if we found ways of living to use less.  Turning to local energy grids to service local communities would be a threat to energy corporations.

3. Perimeter:  The model for villaging we are using is the human cell.  Each cell has a function and a perimeter that defines its identity.  At present where people live – our house and location – is largely determined by our income. We have to be able to afford the house we live in as well as the transportation to our work.  Affordability of housing has resulted in people living in suburbia, at a distance from where they work, and has led to isolation and disconnection.  Feeling safe and secure in one’s neighborhood has also become an issue for many people. Having a village perimeter creates a sense of identity, and promotes connectedness, a feeling of safety and an appreciation for diversity.  The perimeter also sets a limit to the capacity of the village in terms of caring for its population.  The model of business in the USA is one of growth.   Graeber comments that  “Just about everyone agrees …  that capitalism is a system that demands constant, endless growth.. Enterprises have to grow in order to remain viable”.   The concept of a perimeter as a container for a set number of people that a village could support seems to be a threat to the very core of a capitalist system focused on growth.

4. Automobiles and Roads:  When Henry Ford developed the assembly line to produce automobiles, life in America was changed forever.  People  could now more easily travel to other places for recreation,  social support and income.   “By the time the Model T was withdrawn from production in  1927, … 15 million units had been sold, and mass personal “automobility” had become a reality”. (http://www.history.com/topics/automobiles) All Americans had their own individual transportation system. Every year car manufacturers have built stronger and better cars that keep us separate from one another.  This freedom of movement, however, has created the dependency on fossil fuels we live with today. Constructing walkable communities where individuals do not need to drive to work creates green living space rather than dangerous concrete pathways that reinforce isolation rather than community.   Localizing economies to reduce the need for commuting to work, and providing public transportation alternatives present a challenge to the automobile industry.

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5. Work:   Large business/coporations often seem to buy their way into communities with promises of providing local jobs and increases in local revenue.  This promise often is very hollow.  After construction, the company  transfers in its own managers from other places and purchases products from far away, thus taking revenue out of the local community, and providing no respite for local unemployment. One’s job  or career is a huge element that determines individual identity and purpose.   Still as Graeber points out, the relationship between an employer and employee tends to be impersonal.  This is particularly true in large businesses where profit consistently trumps the well being of the worker.  Strategies such as hiring people part time to avoid providing healthcare insurance or days off are becoming more common.  The impersonal nature of the work place strips the employer-employee relationship of any moral responsibility on the part of the employer. The employer’s only loyalty turns out to be related to the level of employee production.  Graeber describes how this happened in the last century as big business has grown and grown.  Worker-owned collectives give the moral imperative back to the workers who have a direct relationship to each other and to the success of the business.   If local businesses are thriving, there is no need for big corporations to infringe.

6.  Governance:  .  Democracy was originally intended to provide representation of the people in decisions affecting them.  In big business, governance is profit-oriented, and not necessarily in the best interests of the people.  Government in the USA has been influenced by financial considerations and big-business lobbying to the point that the voice of the people is no longer a determining factor.  Local governance that gives a voice to each individual in a Village allows for the ability to make decisions and solve problems for the local community.  This ability gives local communities the power to give preference to local workers rather than corporations,  develops trust and affinity, and addresses the issue of inequality locally.  Inequality dissolves when everyone ‘s concerns are taken into account. Who knows better the best solutions to issues than those who live in a particular community?   People need to learn how to solve problems non-violently.  With effective problem solving as a core value, self-governing Villages are able to particpate peacefully within the larger network of Villages.

Do You Have Enough

by Terry Sterrenberg

Not long ago we  traveled to the southeast  where we filmed at a small worker owned collective called Opportunity Threads in Morganton, NC.  The collective has six worker owners with 21 additional sewers and workers who are in the process of becoming worker owners.  After working for a number of months and having many peer evalutions which include not only their productivity but also their ability to get along with their other team members, they are given the opportunity to buy into the collective. In this way new owners get “vetted” by the other owners. All workers including Ms. Hemstreet who initiated the collective are paid the same wage. We asked her why she decided to form a worker collective instead of a for profit bussiness with her as the owner.  She would clearly make more money if she hired employees.  “We have the best sewers.  I could never do what they do,” said  Ms Hemstreet. The implication is that likewise they could not do what she does.  “Everyone is an owner, has a stake in what is produced,  gains when things go well, and bears the loss when production falters.  We all have pride in what we do. Furthermore, there comes a point when one has enough.”

Wow! What a concept, HAVING ENOUGH.  Some people I’m sure would argue that one can never have enough. We always need more in case we lose what we have. What is enough anyway?  Enough of what? Money? Food?  Rooms? Stuff?  If you have enough does that mean you don’t want (deserve) more?  Is it the same for everyone or do some people need more than others or even deserve more than others?  And how is ‘enough’ determined? Do some people get to have enough before others have enough?

What happens when there is more than enough for everyone? What happens to the surplus?  In traditional business models this constitutes profit and goes to the owner.  In worker owned collectives the surplus goes to the worker owners or back into the business.

On another stop we went to a community called Village Homes in Davis CA.  This was a sustainable community designed and developed in 1979.  The original group was very committed to sustainability and built what has become the most luscious permaculture community I have ever witnessed.  The community is beautiful and the property values have risen to be the highest in the entire city.  What is “enough” for this community?  For the visionaries “enough” was an affordable  geographic setting that sustained life and nurtured not just the residents but the entire community.  They built a cost effective innovative environment. However, presently, unlike at the start of the project, the property values are now too high for young families to afford. This is a wonderful place to live and so property values went up.  Many of the original residents have moved out of Village Homes.  The new residents are attracted to the beauty and the organic gardens, but many do not know or understand the original vision.  They just want to live there and they feel entitled to do so because they have enough money to buy in.  But they feel no need or obligation to get to know the neighbors in their community, as did the original residents.

This case presents a basic dilemma for long term sustainable communities.   How can the vision sustain itself over many generations?  And how can we make the property affordable for young families and not lose  the original vision? Some have looked at the community land trust as a possible solution to  this issue.  (see winter copy 2015 of YES Magazine, Urban Farming, One Vacant Lot at a Time.)  

Perhaps to have enough is a personal declaration rather than something to be calculated.  Certainly for me a declaration has much more personal power than an external limit placed on me.  Everyone has enough if they say so. But clearly there are people who have too little, not enough food, housing, and life necessities; and those who have much more than the rest of us.  What is enough for these people?

For me, having enough is not about possessions.  We have given most of our stuff away.   Presently we have enough because we choose to have little.  Like a lot of other people we have enough  to live comfortably because we adapt our life to what we have.  We realized that the stuff we had and the lifestyle we were living was making our life more chaotic and stressful than connected and joyful. I have come to believe that the sense of “having enough”  is also a function of the community in which I live.  It is a product of participating in an interdependent, caring community.  We are looking for that community.    What we have done in the last few years with our life has not totally given us “enough” and that is why we are continuing our search..

I realize I have raised more questions here than I have answered,  but then again that is the journey we are on.

Preservationist Villages

by Terry Sterrenberg

There is an extensive history of groups of people who have set themselves apart from the rest of the culture to try to become independent and develop sustainable communities .  Many groups have tried to go “off the grid”.  This has been happening for decades.  So when Laurie and I decided to put forth a project called “The Villaging Project’, part of me questioned if it had any value.   Making a movie about intentional communities seemed a bit mundane and archaic. We decided very quickly that the project was not just about intentional communities and eco-villages.  Villaging is not about “going off the grid” although that may happen.  Villaging is not about being defiant or angry.  It is about taking care of ourselves and restablishing trust, cooperation and understanding of our diversity in our  communities.

When I say it is about taking care of ourselves you may think I am talking about moving out into the country, going back to the land, stocking up on food.  As Chistopher Mare says there often is a “predisposition toward imagining sustainable community experiements, especially ecovillages, as isolated rural outposts with ‘survivalist’ tendencies’.”  However, such communities at some point can only survive by constructing walls around themselves and arming their children with machine guns.  That is not the future I want to help create.

There is another kind of community that has a much more beneficient existence.  These communities exist not in isolation with their neighbors but in active, collective relationship with them.  Their goal is to provide a safe and thriving existience for those that live there.  Borrowing from Heinberg, Mare calls them “preservationist communities”.  “Preservationist communities, … will persist through acts of service that will make them indispensable to the regional population. Members of such communities will teach important skills – food growing and storage, tool and clothing making, house and boat building, renewable energy generation, and more; and provide healing, entertainment, general education, spiritual leadership and counseling, exchange depots for food and other commodities, seed banks, biodiversity refuges, and more. Survivalist communities will need to protect themselves from the people around them; preservationist communities will be protected by the people they serve” (Heinberg, 2004, p. 160).

Mare goes on to say  “The first groups to consciously move in this direction and have the wherewithal to successfully set up viable working models just may become the protected ‘preservationist’ communities that Heinberg envisions – for they will be pioneering lifestyles, life ways, and life knowing that will become the guides from which others may learn.”

Such models do indeed exist and they are providing direction for  a future world.  We have found elements of all our characteristics of a village  in many of the intentional communities we have researched and visited.  So far we have found only one that has all of our elements- Auroville, and it is in India. Villaging is a way to change our culture and where these ecovillages have been functioning well they have had an impact.  For example, a few days ago we watched an inspiring video about “the Urban Farming Guys” from Kansas City, MO.  This video illustrates how establishing urban farming can combat homelessness and poverty.  This is not the only program  that does this.  We also discovered “The Millionair Club” in Seattle WA. and “Opportunity Village” in Eugene, OR.    From the little we know these programs all seem to be doing a lot of good and helping a lot of people with shelter, food and jobs.  They are breakthrough programs that help people at a fundamental level to change their  lives, and they illustrate  how  “villaging”   can be designed to help elimanate poverty.  We do know that where basic needs are met, poverty and homelessness disappear (Utah).  We need to know more and we plan to visit some of these programs. They do fall under the category of charity which is very different than “villaging”.

Breakthrough

by Terry Sterrenberg

It was a breakthrough when we discovered that when something is possible all we need to do is do it (no comparison to Nike intended).   For us “doing it” meant taking away the barriers to moving forward, i.e. our stuff in life. When we reduced “the stuff” Life began showing up differently. We began perceiving life differently particularly in the areas of common good and in the arena of jobs and  wealth.

Not long ago I realized why I get so upset when I hear Obama and others say that ” if we work hard we should be able to make it.” Every individual should be able to work hard and make it. Whatever “make it” means. I get upset because it is absolutely untrue that working hard is what brings success to people. I know people who work their butts off with 2 and 3 jobs and still can’t “make it.” There is little relationship between working hard and “making it”, at least financially.

“Making it” means earning a lot of money and being like rich people. Deifying the rich may be our most destructive illness in this country. It’s an illness that is inevitable in a society ruled by profit motive. Those that  have not are marginalized.

I realized  that the other side of working hard and making it is not working hard and not making it.  If someone doesn’t make it, it must be because they did not work hard enough (those lazy bums).  Also working must always be productive or else it is worthless, consequently if someone works hard and is unproductive what he does is not considered work. It is not even considered good. The value and rightness of an activity is judged by its monetary worth. All valuable things thus become commodities for sale or purchase. If I can’t buy it how do I know how much it is worth?

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Healthcare is a commodity in this country. If I don’t have enough money to buy healthcare then I am an inferior quality human being.  From this point of view there is no distinction between things made and things given to us by nature. Thus all our natural resources become commodities to be used up for profit. There is no inherent goodness in nature except what price it brings in the market place and the goal in the market place is to get as much money as possible for every sale. Even human need becomes a commodity for sale and profit. Food, water, health, shelter all become commodities. Where there is no profit they vanish.  Naomi Klein describes in her new  book “This Changes Everything”  how this has worked in the world to create a mindset that rationalizes  profit trumping  human wellfare in every case.  Presently we are at a choicepoint. Our choice  is to look at economic models that are life positive or to proceed toward ending  life on this planet as we know it. It appears that we are chosing the latter.  Otherwise we as a country and as a world would be much more upset and radical about what we are doing and make sure that the life-giving mechanisms of our world are being protected.

One thing has become clear to me.  We need to prepare to take care of ourselves.  For me that also means creating structures that take care of everyone.  The Villaging Project is an effort to point in that direction.  As the climate shifts throughout the world we need to adapt our living to that which works for all of us.  My next blog entry will explore this adaption and it has little to do with working hard to get ahead.

From A Treadmill Existence

by Terry Sterrenberg

I want to share with you how we got to the point of doing “The Villaging Project.”

It started in 2007 when we sold our condo. We left our life behind and set out to create something profound. Part of me thought this was a bit crazy and irresponsible; part of me celebrated getting out of a treadmill existence. I remember being at work in my counseling office and saying to myself “Terry what are you doing here.” Same old same old, every day and not really making any more money than in the past and expenses going up. When Laurie got her own office we really became strapped financially. Seemed like a step up at the time. The weird thing about that as I reflect is that nothing seemed wrong on the surface. I was really doing what I thought I should. And Laurie too. We were staying afloat. We were making it on a daily basis, but as one person said in a seminar we went to, we were not thriving. I was unhappy and living in a malaise of stress and worry. And really didn’t even know it.

How did we ever come to make that decision to move out of the condo? We felt trapped in our situation. I was so stressed. Engulfed by credit card debt and using one credit card to pay for the other with those payment checks they sent us. We were literally living month to month a lot of the time. The housing market was deflating. We called a realtor to see what our place was worth. We found out that although the housing market was going down the condo market was still up. We decided to sell before it deflated as well. I was amazed that it sold so quickly at a higher price than we were asking. Got us completely out of debt and paid for much of our two sons’ college.

Turned out to be the best decision we ever made and set us on a course of no return.

We found “Surry Downs”. I really liked living there- beautiful setting, great place for our little dog, ducks in the pond. We thought we would rent until we got our lives together and then we would buy again. But the housing market never really improved. We reduced our expenses as much as possible, and still we weren’t making enough to build our savings. Still selling the condo and renting in Surry Downs gave us more freedom and a different mindset. I think it was that we finally got out of survival mode and starting thinking straight. We got out of debt. We got out of debt! Do you know what that feels like? Let me tell you the freedom I felt from that! The stress in my life melted away and I could smile again.

And then in 2009 we started making The Healthcare Movie. Making The Healthcare Movie began a new way of thinking for us. I don’t know if I ever did a project that was more heartfelt than that. I don’t know which was worse: The lies being told to the American people about the Canadian healthcare system or my growing awareness of the cruelty of the American “system.” Both became intolerable. All my beliefs about what it meant to live in America were being challenged. And I realized that what I defined as freedom and what some might call “the American Dream” was an illusion. Making the movie literally opened up a new way of life for me. We decided to really take control of our money and our lives.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Originally the movie was to be strictly about Canada for American audiences. Then we found out about the history of healthcare in the U.S. and about the many public relations campaigns designed to enhance the  fear of socialism to make sure Americans did not want a universal healthcare system. They were calculated, and very successful. They built on the notion of rugged individualism  which is a core value in this country. The result today is a deep suspicion of those who need help and of our government and a lack of real problem solving in regard to healthcare access and other issues in our country.

We decided to make the movie as a hobby and with our own money (being told by our sons that no one, unless you were Michael Moore, could make a living creating documentary movies). We discovered that the most difficult thing was telling Americans that when you live in Canada you have no stress about getting sick and going to the Dr. Then at some point we came up with the metaphor of having a jackhammer in our back yard. It’s as if we have this constant jackhammer going on and we have grown so accustomed to it that we think it is normal. We don’t even hear it until we cross the border into Canada and we say to ourselves “Whoa! What just happened? Something is missing and I feel wonderful.” The jackhammer stops. No worry. No mind chatter. Just peace of mind. I think we found a similar peace of mind when we became debt free. It was like heaven. And we wanted to keep it. We asked ourselves “Is it possible to create a life, to stop the jackhammer and to generate that peace of mind in all areas of life?

We said to ourselves “That sounds like another movie!”

We began researching innovative futuristic discoveries and inventions. We were not looking for that which could be, but rather that which already exists. We want to know what life could be like if these new ways of living were widely available and used. We explored new communities that do not have jobs and new economic systems that do not use money, new architectural systems that are weather proof. We interviewed a friend who was able to not work and survive very comfortably. How do you do that and not became a vagrant (whatever that is; something bad I think)?

We also became very aware that if one of us became ill all our money could be wiped away in medical bills. We decided that we did not want our money to be used in that way. We want to use our money the way we want it to be used not the way our medical insurance company decides. So after the movie was made, we became aware of what seemed to me to be a very odd characteristic of humanity. It was that knowledge and facts do not always move a person into action. Even though it is clear that life can be better, often times people choose what is familiar rather than what is best for them. If it was true that we wanted to have control of our lives and money what kept us from doing that?

Our lives became full of many questions about what is necessary in life and what are our human choices. For example “if it is possible to  have transportation without accidents, why don’t we?” If it is possible to have health care for everyone, why don’t we?” “Is it possible to have a society where money is not our gateway to access for everything we have?” “Is human nature really geared toward war rather than cooperation?”

So there I was. 63 years old asking these huge questions. Maybe it was a late mid-life crisis, who knows. At any rate, what became clear was that life could be much better for not just me but for everyone on the planet if we made certain decisions.  “So what are we waiting for?” I kept asking myself. I’ve never been a patient man. The real question of course was, “What am I waiting for?”  When I got to that question the answer became clear. The only thing keeping me (keeping all of us) from leaping into that new life is hesitancy to step into it. All I have to do is choose it! “OMG!” I said to myself. “OMG!” When something is possible all it takes is the choice to let it happen or do it. If we want to get out of the rat race we need to choose something different than what we are doing. So we did and now we feel more freedom than at any time in our lives.

Why Are WE Doing This?

by Terry Sterrenberg

Educational Videos Plus is starting on a new project and as part of that project I will be writing a blog.  I will be writing about our discoveries along the way as we do research for our new movie and my hope is to create a dialogue about the creation of “Villaging” in America.

When we interviewed Dr. Paul Hochfeld for The Healthcare Movie, he said that healthcare was just a poster-child for all that was wrong in the United States.  We weren’t quite sure what he meant at the time, but his statement rang a bell which led us to the topic of our next movie. Certainly the issue of healthcare is multidimensional, and as we examined other social and political issues in the U.S. it became clear to us that Paul was right on the button.  Healthcare as a commodity is only one of the destructive outcomes of the socio-political machine supported by our for-profit system. That thinking led us on a journey of research that has culminated in what we are calling The Villaging Project, and our next film, Villaging America.

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We will be looking to address the following question:  “Can we in this country address many of today’s social and economic issues by creating communities that look after their own food, energy and economic needs at a local level?”   I have become aware that for decades  there has been a movement in the U.S. to do just that. However, in the last few years there have been new discoveries that make this movement a powerful and viable force for the future.

I must say that this project has already sent me into many areas of personal growth and cognitive disonance. For example my father was in the grain business in Illinois and I have always thought of myself as having an affinity for growing things.  So in the process or researching this project we explored aquaponic farming and discovered that Living Aquaponics (Zac Hosler) in Hawaii took on interns.  I’m sure that there are places closer to home, but Laurie and I have been looking for an excuse to return to Hawaii.  We signed up for the internship.  I immediately began having alternating experiences of anxiety and excitement as I looked at our bank account and heard warnings from Zac that our accommodations for the two weeks are very “rustic”, and there are lots of bugs and mosquitoes.   I can hardly wait to get eaten alive and maneuver the out door shower.

Such thoughts make me wonder again, “Why are we doing this?.  Oh yeah, sustainability and food production”.  Aquaponic and hydroponic farming seem to be doable in any location, and could be the answer to the world’s distant food supply.    Lyle Estill in his book “Small is Possible” states that the average meal in the U.S. travels 1300 miles to get to our plate.  What if the food trucks couldn’t make it to our town/city? We want to learn about Aquaponic farming so that we might be able to consult and help communities and households set up their own local food source and eliminate or reduce the need for distance shipping of food.

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Over Christmas we traveled to Brooklyn, NY to spend time  with our kids.  While there we also spent time at an intentional community called Ganas.  Ganas is one of the many intentional communities that have been designed throughout the years to bring people together to live communally.  They have a strong emphasis on providing the forum and mechanism to help their residents solve problems and get along.  They have been doing this for 35 years which makes them one of the longest continual communities in the country.  They have developed solid systems to have a community like theirs run smoothly. We thought that such communities might serve as models for the Villaging Project.  We loved visiting Ganas and will probably go back.  They have many of the qualities that we are looking for.