From the head, things to know …
The first thing to know is that you don’t need the SSA. It’s in us already — living with greater conection to each other and to nature is about the deepest purpose and meaning of our humanity.
1. The 1st Understanding.
Our People, Our Earth, Us ...
The very first thing to know, is that nobody really needs this handbook. If you’re reading this, the truest aspects of an authentic, rewarding and ecologically sustainable life are already within you. You are already moving in the direction of hOPeTIMISM. Ideas and ways for a new future are already percolating. So, follow your heart on this most wonderful journey. Trust what you feel about your non-human brothers and sisters. Ultimately, the best sustainable lifestyles and communities will emerge from what comes naturally to us.
As SSA communities do grow and emerge, they are (bio) fuelled and propelled by their own very existance. They sink their roots into a deep, deep source of nourishment ... which is, two of the most profound realities of our humananity. ... namely, that we need each other and we need nature!
These two absolute truths are deeply, deeply embedded in our species being. When these two wonderful, authentic aspects of “life’s longing for itself” are re-discovered in our communities, magic happens. Being evolutionarily structured for survival, as we ourselves and all other species of life on Earth are, just scratch the surface and these two powerful forces will surge back to revitalise us.
Until recently, both have been smothered under five or six decades of materialism, consumption, conflict and a media overload of externally imposed values.
Firstly, we have been socially atomised then brainwashed into believing that it’s a jungle out there. In so many ways, this mentality and the competition it spawns, suit the consumption based cash culture. Secondly, we need to re-discover that we need nature, not just for food, air and water! We need the Earth because it is beautiful. Our sanity depends on ecological sustainability. Some of the deepest experiences and sense of peace and meaning in our lives comes from the Earth.
The rediscovery of both the power of joining together and the power that caring for (or re-uniting with) nature can have on who we are and how we feel … creates an energy within us which represents the “Earth’s immune response kicking in”! Bringing social connection and the joy of nature back into our lives and communities creates a seedbed for new, personally rich and meaningful values, which are supremely relevant, because they’re crafted by us.
So. Take the time to get to feel the SSA and to know it is basically a blank canvas for you and yours to create your sustainable future, thereby having an impact you can scarcely imagine possible on the ecologically sustainable future of the broader community and society ….
2. The 2nd Understanding.
The power of social connectedness … on Learning, Change & Growth ...
The SSA invites us to discover that the passion, ability to engage and knowledge we need are already within us. This discovery enables us to learn how to learn. The SSA then invites us to entertain the fact that protecting and enjoying the environment is something we used to do as a matter of course. This package of social learning, change and growth is the best nourishment, fun and immunisation against “burn out”.
Above all, the SSA conveys that we can do it. It is as simple as friendly, environmentally focussed gatherings around the kitchen table. Instead of expecting government, science or industry to “save us”, acknowledge that really, ... we all know what the waste and pollution in our lives looks like. The doable, human scale and common sense lifestyle choices we make will inevitably be right, because sustainable living just ain’t rocket surgery.
Sustainability Street is not about providing environmental information per se, that’s why Google was invented. In any case, all the answers are out there already. It is not about whether we have the information it’s about having the will to get it and apply it.
The SSA is about principles, concepts, templates and shortcuts … all held together by the wonderful, intangible building blocks of “community making” and “learning how to learn.” These intangibles are key. We can’t “touch” or “see” or “measure” the intangibles of life ... such things as truth, beauty, friendship, joy. However, we know they are REAL. The intangibles are the meaning, the juice, the energy that make something just what it is. The intangibles provide the wiring for a Sustainability Street Village.
And, enough of your circle is ready!
A vast number of people (the awakening mainstream) want change. Yet, the oceans of information, political bluster, and increasing eco-brouhaha are not moving us forward adequately. There are already enough people to make a massive difference to the wasteful, earth phobic culture which runs our society and economy. Scratch the surface and you’ll find them close by. People you know who want something true, authentic and ecologically safe in their lives. Maybe they don’t yet realise that this can derive from having a whole new relationship with each other and with the glorious natural systems of the Earth. The SSA enables entre` to this discovery. Just you and couple of others who get this ball rolling are a crucially important part of this social trickle which is gathering to a joyous landslide of change ...
Whether a landslide or a trickle, either way, the aim of the SSA and the job ahead is to craft new habits, norms, taboos, values and behaviours ... through living them. As Mahatmi Ghandi once said “be the change you want to see in the world”. We need to come together, to “behave our way into social change.” The effect and influence of such “modelling” is palpable. Getting together for a chat is the best way to start designing this new culture for the better world which we know is possible, and which we can already feel emerging.
Be aware that there are millions of us out there, and, even more empowering is that we all have two mighty human traits. They are ... imagination and common sense … a “bottomless source of power” which far outstrips the top-down enviro-info obsession, political bluster and greenwashing sustainamatazz floss. Everybody has imagination and common sense in varying degrees, we can cultivate them and no one can take them away.
Imagination is key to re-inventing the future. Common sense empowers us to rescue and re-craft the culture and values which have been hijacked by the madness of modernity.
But, the best and sweetest news is just how close we are! The marketing and advertising world tell us that only 5% to 15% of a population is needed to become a “critical mass”. This number is able to create a cultural “tipping point” thus becoming a defining influence on the whole population. Extrapoulated, this holds for 5 – 15% of a local community, town, or a nation. Just ask Nick Christakis ...
Dr. Nicholas Christakis! Harvard University.
In recent years, Christakis has done groundbreaking research in understandings about our connections to each other. Quoting the website ... This research engages two types of phenomena: the social, mathematical, and biological rules governing how social networks form (“connection”) and the biological and social implications of how they operate to influence thoughts, feelings, and behaviors (“contagion”). http://christakis.med.harvard.edu/
Christakis’ work shines a searchlight on what has long been the raison d’etre` of the Sustainability Street Movement - recognising and augmenting the social connectness which is core to our species being. The Sustainability Streety Institute corresponded with Dr Christakis, who emphasised that … ‘every thing we do affects not just ourselves, and not just our friends and relatives, but also dozens, or hundreds, and sometimes possibly thousands of other people.’
On his TED talk, Dr Nick says ... "evolutionarily, our connectedness has been about spreading the good and valuable among ourselves …. and if we understand just how connected we are and that these networks have great value value … we’d spend more time nourishing them". The Sustainability Street Approach is one way of doing just that. It is a tool for Civic Invention as Putnam would describe it. The SSA meets the Rawlston Saul criteria of “common sense” and “a reasonable way forward”. It is part of the accumulation and trigger effect which has always allowed us to move into the next “epoch” of humam history. Be very nourished, bouyed and inspired ... by the knowledge that we, in our daily lives, are the midwives of the wonderful, prosperous, clean, green, abundant and authentic epoch which is “knocking on the door”.
Ross Garnaut opines …
… facilitating sustainable behaviour change is one of the best options we have for addressing climate change … “Ross Garnaut described the issue of climate change as ‘wickedly complex’. Understanding human behaviour and the psychology of what motivates people to take action, or not to take action, is arguably even more complex. Bringing the two together — using behaviour change to tackle climate change is a significant challenge to say the least, but a challenge that we have no choice but to take on. Facilitating behaviour change for ecological sustainability is one of the best options we have for addressing climate change, working in tandem with, but independent of science, technology and politics and giving individuals and communities a sense of relevance and control”.
So, Garnaut acknowledges that jumping the shy gap and building connections is not necessarily easy … however, it is so worth the effort! The SSA experience has been that working with others in whatever small way we can is such wickedly complex FUN ... and fullfilment.
This is probably because it is about being involved rather than just being told! Academics who have studied the SSA describe it as being Transformative rather than Transmissive. Building Village relationships, learning and local projects have a deep and “life-changing” effect. Billboards, edicts and reams of information supplied top down can never do this. The SSA is not about a new body of “information”, so much as it is a new take on using the information already out there, in spades, to enable change through the empowerment of ourselves ... with the support of each other.
The Approach has no answers itself. The SSA can't tell anyone what to do. The SSA encourages a lateral, creative and self generated responses. It's about our own take on the entire environment debate, a different way of seeing each other and a new, refreshing re-alignment of the relationships between government, science, commerce, society and we local folk ... through innovative environmental education, sociology, psychology, human ritual and local, human scale “generosity and kindness” toward each other …
3. The 3rd Understanding: We can only do what we can do …
Local, enjoyable and bite-size is a total triumph! Paul Hawken says, “we only need to be humans, good humans, not heroes”. One does not have to start a new action group, global peace & green movement or the hot New National eCampaign. Just connect and act with folks close by. The wisdom of the group will take over and what you all make will be exactly what's needed. And perfect.
4. The 4th Understanding Small group – big effect!!!
Know that we have incredible power. The asymmetrical and apolitical power of local people power and social change is a real game changer. People power is usually equated with marching in the streets. Underated is the quiet achievement of we little people and small groups. The science on the power to influence change that we have is mindboggling. Totally inspiring. Like Einstein’s discovery of the immense, Earth shattering power of the smallest particle in nature, we everyday folk and our day to day culture, values, objectives, norms and decisions can also have limitless and global power. The accumulation of small, transformative and lasting changes in lifestyle and purpose, is inestimably important. It is said that every letter that is sent to a Politician is deemed to reflect 20 or maybe 30 others … imputed as latent opinion in the wider community that will ultimately manifest as votes! equally perhaps, it might be extrapolated that every small group of people who choose to create and live in a Sustainability Street Village, reflect what hundreds or even thousands of others are latently feeling and wish to see become more mainstream? Societal transformation is so often a history of people plugging away, in small community groups, which slowly but surely create the “momentum for monumental change.” Like the collapse of the Berlin Wall, freedom for Mandela or the US Civil Rights Movement on on hand, or, the clean air anti-tobacco culture, gender equality and respect or the welcome abhorrence of negligent road traffic behaviour.
5. The 5th Understanding. Know that The Time is Right …
More People Watch Friends on TV, than Have Friends! Says US Sociologist Robert Putnam, whose research shows that our cohesion, grouping, bonding and sense of belonging is breaking down in modern society. We have become “socially atomised” and it is having a negative effect on our health and on our communities in terms of safety, crime and support. Putnam famously suggested that in America, more people watch ‘Friends’ than have friends – perhaps here in Australia, the corollary might be, that more people watch ‘Neighbours’ than talk to the neighbours. Putnam speaks of building ‘social capital’ through ‘Civic Invention’ that is, creating new, relevant and meaningful reasons to come together and enjoy each other’s company. Creating a Sustainability Street Village is an example of Civic Invention which is historically relevant, deeply rewarding and becomes a blueprint for others.
John Rawlston-Saul speaks of re-engaging the individual with public life through a judicious mix of values, common sense and the idea of a reasonable way forward, in preference to being driven by ideology. We hear often these days of ‘poll driven governments’ all around the world. In the 1970’s, French Sociologist Alain Tourraine put the view that in many ways, governments and industries are followers not leaders. They are moved to initiative and action based on the ‘pull from community.’ Tourraine spoke of an inherent community evolution and growth process. He suggests that society Transcends itself through its own day to day, week-to-week funictioning. Our society and culture are in a state of constant change. It is guided by the “consciousness” it has of itself and manifest through social movements ... large and small.
And, from the South American brains trust, we have Chilean economist/sustainability thinker, Manfred Max Neef, who talks of the need for life to return to being ‘human scale.’ Max Neff likened a human scale method for change to a swarm of mosquitoes that can bring down a mighty rhinoceros ... because the swarm is united, persistent, annoying and has no leader to be picked off. His book ‘Human Scale Development’ explores the concept of a re-evaluation of human needs, seeking to counter the “logic” of economics with the ethics of wellbeing.
Live Ten Healthy Years Longer! says Prof. Lisa Berkman, a social epidemiologist based in the United States. Her studies of populations have found that a basic level of social connectedness can be extraordinarily beneficial to health. She proves that “being more connected” can add as much as ten healthy years to lifespan. But then, deep down, we know this eh? Can there be anything more delightful than spending time with good people?
Dr. Nicholas Christakis! In recent years, Christakis has done groundbreaking research at Harvard, about the astounding degree to which we are all connected. On his TED talk, Dr Nick says ... evolutionarily, our connectedness has been about spreading the good and valuable among ourselves …. and if we understand just how “latently” connected we are, and that these networks have great value … we’d spend more time nourishing them.
Our own wonderful, cuddly Proffessor Ross Garnaut opines, that … facilitating sustainable behaviour change is one of the best options we have for addressing climate change … “Garnaut describes the issue of climate change as ‘wickedly complex’. Understanding human behaviour and the psychology of what motivates people to take action, or not to take action, is arguably even more complex. Bringing the two together — using behaviour change to tackle climate change is a significant challenge to say the least, but a challenge that we have no choice but to take on. Facilitating sustainable behaviour change is one of the best options we have for addressing climate change, working in tandem with, but independent of science, technology and politics and giving individuals and communities a sense of relevance and control”.
Lastly, the world's most nourishing, poetical, inspiring, and visionary storyteller of the future we are creating right now, Paul Hawken, totally captures what you've been feeling, in his magnificent book - Blessed Unrest. How the Largest Movement the World came into Being, and Why No One Saw it Coming. See the wee YouTube; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N1fiubmOqH4
So, be very joyed, bouyed, delighted and excited ... by the knowledge that we, in our daily lives are the midwives of the wonderful, prosperous, clean, green, abundant, fulfilling and authentic epoch which is “knocking on the door”.