Sunday, November 29, 2009

Re - re - re - re - re

No, I'm not singing Aretha's anthem, though it's one of my favorites.

I'm thinking about our lengthening list of re-'s, which began with reduce, reuse, recycle, and now features repurpose, rethink, reskill...

And, of course, the biggy, relocalize.

Scanning our local post-petroleum monthly email compendium the other day, I saw a magazine, partially available free on-line, Resurgence.

And in the recent issue, an article suggesting that the new key work is "resilience".

In it Rob Hopkins of Britain's Transition Network (raising consciousness and doing training in relocalization) suggests that not sustainability, but resilience, is the key property of systems which we should be emphasizing if we are to take the disruptions of climate change and post peak oil seriously.

Let's see if I understand this well enough to explain it. If we look at our local food system, sustainability has us paying attention to the fact that we are using few external inputs, that we are decreasing the number of seasonal jobs in favor of more stable year round employment, that our crops are in harmony with our local environment, and not a detriment. That sort of thing.

Now in a resilient system, we pay attention to biodiversity in our seed stock, so that we can face the coming drought (due to climate change) hopefully. We look at food storage strategies that are not energy intensive, as a hedge against crop failure. We help our workers learn a variety of skills, to enhance their chances of finding useful employment year round as weather patterns change. We look not only at sourcing agricultural inputs locally, but at marketing our product locally, too, perhaps with value added, as a hedge against escalating prices for transportation.

It occurs to me that the two things most necessary to building resilience in our systems are diversity - especially nurturing diversity locally, in eco and human systems - and community. Surely these are things good Christian people know something about. My own work with Total Ministry congregations has emphasized identifying and nurturing diversity, especially diversity of gifts, and strengthening people's capacity to work together, to achieve a more deliberate practice of community - not just for the sake of getting along, but for working and envisioning together. So I wonder why so few congregations are involved in this work or relocalization, of helping the communities in which they exist become more vibrantly resilient?

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