The Community Level Solution is Just Right

Posted July 7, 2011 in Blog

“The community, not the individual, is the basic unit of human survival.”  That’s according to John Michael Greer in The Long Descent: A User’s Guide to the End of the Industrial Age, which I’ve recently been reading with my Transition Book Club.  It’s a pithy and memorable way to get at much of my work with Resilience Circles, and it applies equally well to Transition initiatives.

It’s also a refreshing and empowering notion to find in a book.  Many of the “solutions” we read about elsewhere are either at the itty-bitty individual level, or the super-huge global policy level.  These are equally disempowering.  Sure, we can change our light bulbs to fluorescents, but at some level we all wonder how much impact my few bulbs really have.  Even harder, how can I possibly get world governments on board with a fair energy descent plan?

GoldilocksBut like that third bowl of porridge Goldilocks found, the community level solution feels just right.

Transition and Resilience Circles are right at that level, albeit at different sizes.  Your Resilience Circle is your small “affinity” support group of about 10 – 20 people.  They’re the folks who you can turn to for support, motivation, and mutual aid.

As Rob Hopkins explains, it’s in this small group context that people find an antidote to overwhelm: “people exposed to the issues of peak oil and climate change can find themselves overwhelmed by the scale and the implications of the information they are being presented with.”  In Transition language, a small “Home Group” helps you process it all without resorting to fear or denial.

Transition initiatives aim to transform the larger communities we are a part of.  For example, here in Boston, we have been experimenting with community forums on the rising costs of food and fuel.  Members of Resilience Circles are taking part in these discussions, and bringing new information back to their Circles.

At both levels, we’ve been thinking about the assets our community has that will enable it to transition off of fossil fuels, like vibrant community organizations, lots of local food options, and awareness of climate change.  And we’ve been tackling the gaps:  we, like most folks, need more useful skills, and we need to bridge the divides in our community that have existed for generations.

Coming up, we’ll be talking with folks from Transition US about how Resilience Circles and Transition initiatives can work together.  While there’s clearly no one-size-fits-all approach, this is a chance to learn from folks who have been piloting both approaches in their communities.   Join this conversation on July 12 at 7 pm EDT by registering here.

And next time you read a book whose only proposed solutions are eliminating corn subsidies and/or changing those bulbs, write to that author and tell them they’re missing the Goldilocks level:  the community-level solution.