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TOPIC: Building Sustainable Community

Building Sustainable Community 08 Dec 2013 02:15 #1

  • syxx
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What does this mean? Not the same to all people, and not the same to all communities, but sustainable communities have several things in common. I'll begin with a simple thought, but please add other definitions and paradigms.

Sustainable communities rely on each other and work together exchanging energy, labour, ideas and resources to minimize their reliance on wider communities and global infrastructures and maximize their profits and resources, reduce their labour costs and strengthen their communities at a grassroots level. In these communities everyone contributes and is considered to have a worth and a worthwhile contribution; all labour, skills and abilities are valued equally as part of a whole.

Their tools can be skills, knowledge, or material resources. Their projects can be community gardens, community childcare or schools, barter exchanges of labour, goods, services or apprenticeships to teach those who wish to learn new skills.

I have lived in communities such as this. It's hard work and group dynamics cannot be escaped: often is the case where the original group evolves and by the time it reaches its goals the majority of initial members have left and new ones have taken their place. The process of group dynamics is an entirely separate topic, deserving of discussion in its own right.

The community that I lived in was rural and owned its own land. All housing there was built by sweat equity from the sawing of the timber to the finished result. Several members traveled to South America yearly in a beat up school bus and returned with refugees escaping ethnic cleansing. Community members helped them with all the required paperwork to immigrate, taught them to read, write and speak English; taught them a trade and basic business skills to become self-employed; helped with childcare at a community-run childcare centre and helped them enroll their children into public school or the approved home school in the community centre. They were helped to build their own homes and taught how to manage a sustainable woodlot for their home heating needs as well as help with starting their family gardens in the community gardening area. New members did not only come from this group of people; many were local or nationals and came from a very broad spectrum of demographics. Their commonalities were that they wanted to live in community with others, wanted to work and contribute and wanted a better life for themselves, or their families if they had family members.

It worked amazingly well, there was very little upheaval, and a lot of love and celebration for being in a community of people who cared about each other. Those that had set up their own businesses took in apprentices, or new members into their households if they had the room, and of course, as the community expanded, people gladly paid all that forward to new members. It was astounding to watch a house built in a matter of weeks, a community's winter's worth of fire wood sorted in another few weeks. And faces round a huge table or outdoor fire all eating together on a weekend, so happy, so content, so fulfilled at belonging and feeling that they counted, mattered and were valued -that was the most amazing reward.

But I think that some community models do not necessarily transfer easily between cultures. What may work in one part of the world may not work so well in another --for a lot of reasons, planning permission and local laws and cultural differences, are a few that come to mind.
That leaves me with the question of how building community or extended community in the UK would work. People here do not usually embrace the commune lifestyle. But that does not mean that other forms of community building would not work well. People in a town for example might live in their own accommodation and still participate in local sustainable community building projects.

A few that come to mind are:
barter clubs (goods, services, skills, knowledge or expertise, labour exchanges).
community gardens.
skill faires where people get together for a day or two and learn new trades or skills from those who have something to teach and knowledge of where to source materials or resources for making (say, for example) clothes,. shoes, heat lamps, what-have-you.

It would be lovely to barter for things I need, but I rarely get the opportunity. Not so long ago I bartered skills and education for a clothes dryer; can't dry clothes in a damp 2nd floor flat, and lucked out majorly as it is one of the last ones made with a simple old-fashioned timer dial. There was more to feel good about from this barter transaction: the person I helped learned a new skill they can use for free as much as they like; no financial gain was realised by corporations either by my getting an appliance I needed or by the other person learning a new skill. Win-win, all the way round.

So this is the beginning of a thread that I hope members will want to add to and expand on. Ideas of how we can help each other, become less reliant on the 'establishment', more self-sustaining and more community sustaining.
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Building Sustainable Community 08 Dec 2013 09:49 #2

  • hagrid
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I'm not really into "communities", I prefer to do my own thing, I'm very much a "loner", but in a "post collapse" society I see a place for bartering, maybe even bartering labour for things. the ideal community for me would be on the "AMISH" model(preferably without the religion), each family unit living separately but the whole community coming together to help with harvesting, barn and house building, and security.
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Building Sustainable Community 08 Dec 2013 10:54 #3

  • Worzel
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Think to a greater point that people have lost the concept of barter/exchange.
Will take a stab in the dark here and guess that’s why money came about, to even the discrepancy in value of the exchange?
Some trades & services will always be deemed more valuable than others, supply & demand and all that.
I don’t think money itself is evil but the prerequisite to make profit is.

A lot of people (self included to a point) thing the idea of such communities is fantastic in principle.
But there will always be conflict of interest, those who seek to be on power trips and plain old people who disagree on a subject or best way to achieve something.
You could argue that the way around that is to start off with a charter/set of rules, but from the beginning the community is then that which it is trying to escape.
There was a thread recently on DIF why not set up a DI community type thing.
It would be a train wreck from the start – but imagine MSM would pay big bucks for the tv rights :)
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Building Sustainable Community 08 Dec 2013 11:59 #4

  • jonb
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Barter Exchange, There is an easy way to do this- use money.
Now that might seem an oxymoron, but it is not.
Now it is illegal to use money we create ourselves to pay for essential goods and services. So how can we have money which is not money?
What is money?
People started using small weights of metal because they were easy to carry and exchange with each other as tokens for barter.
The thing is though these bits of metal had intrinsic worth. A piece of copper is worth something. It is not like a paper note which has a value as long as people believe in it a lump of copper can be used an as such it has a value of itself.
What may surprise you is that metals and the value of metals has not only been very stable for the last 3,000 years, but that the relationships of what one metal is worth in proportion to another has also stayed fairly fixed.
What went wrong with just using weights of metal was that governments became involved and debased the coinage, now a penny is worth so little they cannot make the coin out of copper because the same weight of copper is worth more than the coin.Yes that is right a lump of copper pipe is worth more than its weight in coins.
The beauty of bartering with pieces of metal is that, if the group that is using it for currency breaks up all the members still have the metal and can convert it back into normal currency should they so wish, at any scrap yard.
So for any group of sufficient size which wants economic independence and wants to start having transactions this system, is not only tried and tested. but gives them freedom, and offers security to the individual in the group.
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Building Sustainable Community 08 Dec 2013 14:49 #5

  • Worzel
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Jonb
As I remember it from economics in school, money was explained thus.
A banknote is(well was) a bearer bond – that’s why it said ‘I promise to pay the bearer on demand the sum of ...insert note value’
So when notes were first issued by bank of England e.g. you could walk right up to their door, say here’s my £20 note, can you exchange it for £20 worth of gold.
Hence relevant to the bits of metal of which you speak.

The bank had to have that in reserve – so if in theory everyone on the same day chose to cash in, then the BOE had the gold there to pay out on the notes (the bearer bonds).
I haven’t done the research, but there was a change in the law all quietly (sorry I’m really not too well informed on the specifics) so the bank/government could issue notes without having that reserve – so they were no longer worth what they purported to be.
Think of some African countries where they have million or more notes, that are worth something one day, (literally a wheelbarrow of notes for a loaf of bread) and a fraction of that the next – thats the speeded up version of what is happening with our currency.
Think it’s something to do with the expression not worth the paper it’s printed on.
It’s also why Ikey is semi justified saying this money doesn’t exist – they just make it up from thin air (but we need whatever of it you can spare so TPV can keep going....)
A lot of preppers invest heavily into buying gold, on the premise that if anything will be worth something if currency collapses then it will be gold.
Bitcoins I just don’t buy the value of them, and like todays £££’s/$$$’s they are born from nothing.
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Building Sustainable Community 08 Dec 2013 17:43 #6

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It has only been a relatively recent development that money has been a promise rather than the thing itself.
People now wonder about finds of coins from mediaeval times, and before that they might have in them coins from all over the world. Before countries outlawed people using foreign coins they all were interchangeable. because they were no more than weights of metal and as such the piece of copper silver or gold had the same value in Finland as it did in china, which is why we see in Viking hordes, Indian and Islamic coins.
A coin was the weight of metal which then had a stamp on it as a mark of quality of the metal.
Those suppliers of coin which did not use alloys to reduce the quality of the metal and produced purer coin became preferred.
Before decimalisation the coins in Britain had names which still showed their origin.Like the florin a fine silver coin produced in Florence. The penny which was originally the silver penny of northern Europe but had been so reduced in quality that it ended up as a copper. the mark, crown or dollar which was a eighth of the fabled pirate coin the piece of eight from Spain.
That old system of exchange worked for intentional and national trade for three thousand years, the money we use now has no intrinsic worth and will only last as long as people believe in the governments which enforce its use.
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