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What I Want For Christmas

I decided to move to OUR Ecovillage for the winter to rejuvenate after a long year of finishing my MBA and being present with the passing of my father Chris in the summer. I’ve come here because something very special about this place has lived in my heart/mind since I was first here in 2008 for a permaculture design course. In a nutshell, what I think it comes down to is that people here are striving to create alternative ways of being and living that establish mutually beneficial relationships between each other AND the natural world. The end result is a loving, supportive culture that thrives on diversity and is deeply integrated with the land, soil and water. People feel seen, included and are supported to show up fully, share their gifts and develop new ones. The land is developed with an aim to protect and enhance diversity, fertility and resilience while directly providing for peoples’ nutritional and housing needs. It is such a wonderfully positive story compared to the perpetual din of negativity evident almost everywhere from living without such a principled stance.
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Regenerative Communities: How big should they be?

Bill Mollison's Permaculture Design Manual I was reading some more of Chapter 14 in the Permaculture Design Manual and found some useful insight on village size. I’ve been asked many times and have thought about ideal sizes for intentional communities for some time. Some prefer small and others’, myself included think a larger group is more compelling. The Dunbar Number is often pulled into this conversation as Robin Dunbar theorized that there is an upper limit to the number of people we can maintain stable social relationships with. It is not an exact number but an approximate one – roughly 150.

Bill Mollison reasons it this way:

  • At about 100 income-producing people, a significant financial institution can be village-based
  • At about 500 all people can know each other if social affairs are organized from time to time
  • At 2000 people theft and competitiveness is more common and sects are set up in opposition

He goes on to add:

Perhaps we should start small at about 30 or so adults, build to 200-300 people, and proceed slowly and by choice to 500, then “calve” into new neighbourhoods or new villages

He supports this reasoning with the Mondragon Cooperative example from Spain which:

at first grew large (3,000 – 5,000), but later reduced to 300-500 to preserve the identity of every individual

This reasoning seems sound to me. Obviously, village-scale needs to be matched to the local environment’s ability to supply food, energy, water and other resources as well work for the citizens of the community.

What are your thoughts on this? Do you know of any communities that have followed this development path?

Help: Regenerative Communities Questionaire

Hello friends! I’m working on a school project exploring the idea of regenerative communities from a real estate developer perspective. My group is curious to know if there is a place in the market for real estate development infused and guided by the ethics and principles of permaculture. We are trying to validate our gut sense that there is latent demand for living in patterns of community that allow people to realize a fully regenerative lifestyle.

Most of the questions are close-ended so I don’t think it will take you more than 10 or 15 minutes of your time.


in gratitude

Ethical Basis of an Alternative Nation

Bill Mollison's Permaculture Design Manual
I started reading the final chapter of Permaculture: A Designers’ Manual with the hope of gleaning insight into how to create resilient and regenerative communities. The title of the chapter is: Strategies for an Alternative Nation.

It is basically about how we must develop an ethic and practice that places care for the earth at an equal footing to care for people. By doing so we can avoid the perpetual destruction of the global commons and bring about a sustainable society.

Here are some of the highlights from my reading so far:

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What is Community Resilience?

How will our communities adapt to global warming, peak oil and the confounding influence of global-scale resource depletion, pollution and continued economic upheavals? It will be different everywhere but the successful communities will share one thing in common: they will be resilient. What exactly is community resilience? Glad you asked. The Oxford Concise English Dictionary defines resilience as:

readily recovering from shock, depression, etc

When considered in the context of community, the definition becomes more specific. The Canadian Centre for Community Renewal (CCCR) defines community resilience as: [an] intentional action to enhance the personal and collective capacity of its citizens and institutions to respond to and influence the course of social and economic change. I would also add environmental change to the mix as well.

According to CCCR, resilience can be understood through four dimensions, each with their own unique characteristics:

  1. People
  2. Organizations
  3. Resources
  4. Community Process

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I LOVE Biomimicry

Wow, I just finished watching Janine Benyus: Biomimicry in action on ted.com. Thanks Timo! It was totally inspiring.

We as a species have to start asking ourselves the question “how would nature solve _________?” before we start to create anything. All the answers to live in harmony with the biosphere are there – we just have to develop the capacity to observe deeply.

Canadians: Let’s Adopt a 100 Litre Challenge

I awoke this morning with the idea of a 100 Litre Challenge. It looks like the memes driving me successfully mutated :) (see my last post). James and Alisa added to the popularization of local food with their 100 Mile Diet a couple years ago. They spent a full year eating only food that was sourced within 100 miles of their home in Vancouver. Their committed actions had a significant influence on the many benefits of local eating.

I think its time for Canadians to step up to a similar challenge with fossil-fuel usage. Our politicians have proven they are simply puppets for industry and can not be trusted to enact the visionary policies required to bring Canada’s anthropogenic global warming emissions down. This is not a surprise.

So I think it is time to commit to the 100 Litre challenge. It could work like this:

  • 100 litres max for the 1st month
  • 100 litres max for the next 2 months
  • 100 litres max for the next 3 months
  • 100 litres max for the next 6 months

The transition gives people time to ease in before making the big commitment at month 6. This may not be an entirely feasible for rural dwellers but for the majority of urban dwellers it is not an unreasonable consideration. Thoughts?

Regenerative Community Development

My terminology on the subject of community development has evolved a little since my first post on the topic. Since beginning at BGI and increasingly so, I’ve had the sense that “sustainable” is not a high enough ambition for our individual and collective pursuits. For example, in the relationship or marital realm, do you feel inspired to aim for “sustainable”. I don’t.

So what lies beyond sustainable? If sustainable is doing things in a way that will allow you to carry on doing what you are doing into the indefinite future; then what lies beyond that is the ability to experience and create more than you currently do. Considering the enormous environmental and social deficit human civilization has dug itself into, we better start designing systems that do just that, improve our collective social and natural capital, while producing whatever goods or services humanity needs.

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Prime Minister Harper – The World Doesn’t Want Canada’s Asbestos

A friend of my family, Jim Murray was recently killed by malignant mesothelioma – a form of cancer caused exclusively by exposure to asbestos. I really had no idea what asbestos was or why it was bad, where it comes from, who sells it, who buys it or what it is used for. I just read a short paper titled: ASBESTOS – CANADA’S POLITICS OF DEATH that was written by a good friend of Jim’s who was helping with his palliative care and addresses some of these questions.

It exposes that Canada is one of the major exporters of asbestos in the world and that the Conservative and formerly Liberal governments have gone to bat at an international level to protect this perverse industry. This is horrendous policy because every medical community on the planet is in agreement that asbestos should never be used. Even the WTO is in agreement and has supported Europe’s ban. Please contact your MP, ask their position on the issue and pressure them to understand the implications of supporting the Canadian asbestos industry.


An open letter to Yahoo to stop hosting a climate change denier’s website

For an economics paper I’ve researched how the PR industry has influenced the climate change debate by creating denial campaigns to cast doubt on the science and urgency of global warming and how all this activity has been funded by heavily polluting industries. Following the trail of disinformation, I’ve come to learn about Steve Milloy, his website junkscience.com and his Yahoo store: http://store.junkscience.com/index.html.

I find it insincere and hypocritical for Yahoo to be preaching green living and evangelizing carbon neutrality while supporting the work of a vocal climate change denier like Steve Milloy. I realize that Yahoo Stores and Yahoo Green are probably separate departments that may not collaborate on any work but this is not an adequate excuse forever, especially considering the significance and urgency of the crisis that is unfolding. All of our collective energies need to be dedicated to moving forward – creating solutions that solve the problems at hand, not dithering in indecision. These deniers have already been given far too much voice in the public realm. Please thoroughly research Steve Milloy’s background, see who is paying for his work and then decide if it is moral and just plain responsible to continue hosting his site.

In the spirit of transparency – I’ve posted this as an open letter on my blog at http://shibumi.net. If you respond by email, I will include your comments there or feel free to comment directly.

Thank you for your time and I look forward to your response.

Justin Tilson