January 6, 2014

A Pocket Full of New Year's Resolutions

A die-hard nerd like me isn't typically into "community". The image of the solitary scientist working late nights in the lab on a world-changing idea is iconic in my field, sort of the geek version of the lone ranger.

But in my middle age, I am waking up to the possibility that there is enormous value in community. Even, that community may make the difference between perdition and resilience.

If you look at stories of disasters - the real, on-the-ground stories, not what you see on the evening news which follows a mythical storyline - you find that what makes a real difference in the immediate aftermath of an earthquake or a hurricane is the community that springs up to help neighbours.

Rebecca Solnit's book "A Paradise Built in Hell" shows that amazing feats of altruism are accomplished in the wake of disasters, and supports sociological research that finds that, unlike the Hollywood stereotype, people hit by disaster as resourceful, kind, and very, very generous to neighbours and even total strangers.

Still, even though community will flower in the aftermath of a disaster, recovery is much easier if community is already in place.


Because of climate-change we can expect formerly "freak" weather events to occur more frequently. We will get to deal with frigid weeks as well as more hurricanes that make landfall with greater strength and, increasingly, drought and fire hazard.

Resilience is the name of the game if a series of extremes is the new normal. And what made our species thrive in the first place is our gregarious nature, our ability to form communities that form a source of support in uncertain and unpredictable times.

We need to get back to living that way.

Surprisingly, it doesn't take a whole lot. A few neighbours. A circle of friends. We're all probably doing a bit of it already, most of you probably more than me! We all just need to turn it up. I found a huge amount of inspiration in this video that's just stuffed with ideas. Showcasing the ideas and accomplishments of Transition Towns around the world, it's like a ready-made menu of resolutions and good intentions for the new year.


In Transition 2.0: a story of resilience and hope in extraordinary times


"If we wait for goverments, It will be too little too late.

If we act as individuals, it'll be too little.

But if we act as communities, it might just be enough, just in time."


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