What are Transition Towns?
How are they working (and playing!) to bring in the new paradigm of justice and sustainability?
What is resilience?
How can we strengthen our own resilience as individuals and communities?
What role can our education systems take in preparing us for peak oil and climate change?
Last week, members of the local sustainability organization, APPLE (alliance for a post petroleum local economy), came in to expand and deepen the conversation that we have been having in Global Issues class around how to weather the upcoming storm of peak oil and climate change. With just a few weeks left of the semester, we are now thoroughly immersed in the solutions and alternatives portion of this course.
At Woolman, the first half of Global Issues is spent analyzing our current global economic model and it's role in creating and feeding the social and environmental crises that the planet is facing. Those classes are challenging and sometimes discouraging as we explore multiple perspectives of topics like Free Trade, globalization, corporatocracy (the idea that corporations are more powerful than governments), and capitalism.
In this analysis we are constantly seeking out potential root causes like greed, systems of power-over, and a false sense of scarcity. Then we moven onto the consequences, such as sweatshops, modern day slavery, ecological destruction, over-consumption, and a sense of separation between humans and each other and humans and the natural world.
That work is frustrating and can lead to sense of despair if not coupled with opportunities for action--which is where our project class, Activist Toolkit, comes in. Activist Toolkit class is a workshop based course where students are introduced to frameworks for activism, skills for creating change, and role models that are out making a difference in our local community. This semester, we studied artivism, The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Rights of Nature, the power of poetry to be used as activism, and more. But, we can't just skip past those hard truths. It is absolutely necessary to see how we got to this place in human history in order to create solutions that will be just and long lasting.
These solutions are all around us and the task of revealing them (and visioning others) is incredibly exciting. Over the past few weeks, we have delved into topics including the power of cooperatives, the benefits of community credit unions, Time Banks, local economies, local currencies, cradle to cradle production, biomimicry, corporate social responsibility, Fair Trade, homeless eco-villages, and so much more!
The visit from the APPLE folks gave us the opportunity to see people out in the community who are really living this work. We gained a sense of possibility and an understanding of the joy than can come when people coordinate with their communities to become more self-reliant. A member of our Quaker meeting, Dave Barnett, was able to give us an idea of exactly what effects we may see when oil becomes too expensive for the average person. The president of the organization, Joshua Lichterman, gave us a run-down of the specific challenges that this county will face in the transition, including the fact that we are at the end of the supply chain when it comes to food trucks and other services. Mr. Lichterman also explained a myriad of solutions that Nevada County residents are already working on, too. Finally, Shea Smith, from HAAlo (Health Alternatives for All Locals) spoke eloquently about her experience transitioning out of a 25 year career as an airline stewardess to heading up a nonprofit which utilizes a unique economic model with a heavy focus on barter and trusting relationships. Students were inspired by her advice to not let money get in the way, but to find win-win situations for creating nonprofits and other transition businesses.
In our closing circle, students shared a take-away from the panel, as well as a short description of one of their final projects that they are working on here at Woolman. As the youth listed off undertakings such as bee-keeping, producing a film about "freeganism", building a giant puppet to incite conversations around happiness, designing a methane bio-digester, a 'Zine on open source and community knowledge, growing a natural dye plant garden, and other amazing pieces of work, it occurred to me that a Woolman Education is truly a Transition Education.
The New Economics Institute writes:
"The Great Re-skilling continues the emphasis on re-localization, starting from the position that greater local production will require us to relearn many skills that have been forgotten. From agriculture to manufacturing to the provision of local finance, returning to appropriate scale means equipping ourselves with the means to do so. Becoming less passive in terms of consumption and production we will start to regain our autonomy, which will extend to culture and arts, where we see the beginning of a life-enhancing renaissance. This is not the case only for the economy and for the arts, however; local decision-making based on active participation will be most effective when people are well informed about what makes their local economy tick and what makes public services able to achieve the best outcomes. Achieving consensus requires as full an understanding of these issues as possible."
Whether we are farming in our organic garden, cooking veggies from the seeds that we have sewn, enjoying a night in fiber arts club, working out conflicts in community meeting, or walking like a fox throughout our forest, life at Woolman is an active example of the Transition Town movement. In addition to gaining a political awareness and self confidence in becoming an agent of change, it feels wonderful to know that the youth who come here are receiving an education that is truly relevant to this unique time in history. We can only hope that this model will spread in time to reverse the destruction of "The Great Unraveling". Perhaps that is yet another task for our alumni.
At Woolman, we teachers are often much more pleased when our students leave our class feeling more confused and full of questions than before they came. And so, with that in mind, I leave you with these queries:
- With Peak Oil imminent and the effects of Climate Change already in our backyard, how can we justify education systems that ignore the reality that we are living in a rapidly changing world?
- Will skills for improving standardized test scores serve this generation as they fulfill their roles as active community members amongst these global crises?
- What is the purpose of education in this new era?
- What steps can you take to become more resilient?
Feel free to respond to any of those in the comment section below!