Monday, May 6, 2013

Presentation for the Growing Project on May 6th.

Common Learning For Common People

Fort Collins is nearing a point of transition, in its rapidly developing local sustainability movement. Today there are many projects active between the bookends of starting up and being self supporting. The success of this season for Fort Collins sustainability will be measured in the movement of these projects toward the latter bookend of stability. It is generally known in the local and organic food movement that our current way of life cannot be sustained, and the signs of the unsustained aspects are showing themselves. We see then in unpredictable and extreme weather; in erratic and unstable economics; we see it in our forests, aquifers, soil, and our social institutions. Time and again these problems trace back to a tragedy of the Commons. What has been called "rational self interest" has again and again exploited resources which served whole communities.

The defense of the Commons has been the traditional duty of community, at duty that has been taken up in ways as diverse as the ways of life on Earth. But in our society's living memory this duty has been neglected to the point that the very skills, values, and traditions of protecting the commons - themselves commons of a sort - have suffered.

Those in Fort Collins aware of these difficulties have a duty to take roll model positions by beginning the great work of reforming and defending our local Commons. Some of that will involve protecting and regenerating systems, but they is also much which will need to be invented from whole cloth; likely a long and era prone process.

Many people are taking up this work, each in their own way or with friends, but it is inhibited in many ways. Complicated lives limit our time available to do work. Time consumed by jobs that too often produce little of lasting value; our minds often running on the ragged edge of information overload; our social networks which reach great distances spanned by too many gossamer threads that break under stress or neglect. Even the most impassioned are tied down in time, thought, and commitments to other tasks, often by chains of habit.

More generally the uncertain path of rediscovery and invention toward creating a regenerated and protected commons is difficult and uncharted. To break from at least some of the chains preventing this exploration this summer will, for myself and others of my generation I know, be an ongoing experiment in deliberate poverty. For me it makes possible the time and energy for a small, yet I think important, part of the a responce to this task: an attempt at a School of the Commons.

To Start a School be its First Student

An education of the virtues, skills, and duties needed to foster a commons, which I suggest takes the form of having the students regenerate, maintain, allocate, and manage a commons, the school itself. Working for existing projects, and gathering together a commons of infrastructure, communal structures, resources, and information that can usefully contribute to re-localizing our dependencies. Since the ways of life that will have to be practiced are still unknown, this summer is an experiment of being an untested schools first student.

I look forward to continue supporting and working alongside The Growing Project and many other worthy builders of a locally resilient commons around Fort Collins. If you are interested in such a project stay alert for how you could support and enable the work, or look into becoming a part of the experiment, even using your current work that may contribute to our regions commons as paradigms for future curriculum. Suggesting projects where a few motivated people can help you develop a bit of local resiliency is always appreciated.

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