In our Autumn 2021 issue, our sustainability correspondent Davie Philip explored how Buddhist teachings can help us find our way towards planetary healing. Read his reflections below.
In our Summer 2021 issue, Davie Philip shared some insights into how we can begin to embrace a more inclusive and sustainable worldview. We are in the process of moving from an ‘ego-system’ paradigm to an ‘ecosystem’ paradigm. Enjoy his words below.
By Davie Philip
In the ground beneath our feet, out of sight and out of mind, microscopic communities of bacteria, fungi, protozoa and nematodes are working away providing vital functions upon which our very lives depend. The health of our soil, therefore, is key to the health of our plants, our food and, as we are now discovering, exposure to it has many other benefits for our wellbeing. It is likely that our disconnection from the living world is at the root of our present mental health crisis and many of the other challenges we face today. We all know that being in nature makes us feel good, and the health benefits of gardening, working or even just taking a walk on the land are becoming more apparent. Soil is alive; a teaspoon of it can contain billions of bacteria. There is increasing proof that contact with a specific strain of bacterium in the soil, Mycobacterium vaccae, makes us happier and smarter. This triggers the release of serotonin; reducing anxiety and making us feel more positive.
Some soil bacterium can also be helpful in preventing or treating diseases. Our future really does depend on healthy soil. With intensive agriculture and an increasing urban population, soil degradation is a serious problem. It takes approximately 500 years to replace an inch of topsoil lost to erosion. Half of the planet’s topsoil has disappeared in the last 150 years, and 10 million hectares of productive land is lost annually, the equivalent of 30 football pitches per minute.
If we want to counter the damage, we must begin by fostering awareness and nurturing a reconnection to our land. To reverse further degradation of soils we need to accelerate the shift towards more sustainable, regenerative agricultural models and increase participation in the stewardship of our land. Cultivate, the civil society organisation I work with, are the Irish partners in GROW, an EU-funded project setting out to empower citizens to become active guardians of our soil. Commercial organic growers, students, community gardeners and all sorts of growers will use sensors and other equipment to complete experiments and monitor and better understand their soil. They can then share their own data and learn from the results of the wider community. Increased availability of low-cost sensing technologies has opened up all sorts of new possibilities for collaborative data collection and sense making. GROW is a citizen observatory, where people of all ages and backgrounds can help with the monitoring of our soils at an EU-wide level, assisting organisations like the Met Office and policy makers in climate change adaptation and sustainable land use. As well as measuring soil quality, these engaged citizens will develop knowledge and practical skills to regenerate depleted soils. Do you have an allotment or own a small farm? Are you involved in a community or school garden? Do you want to develop your knowledge on soil and skills in growing food? Do you want to be part of a movement preserving soil for future generations? If the answer to any of these questions is yes then email email@example.com to get involved.
davie Philip firstname.lastname@example.org is a community catalyst at Cultivate cultivate.ie and is based in Cloughjordan ecovillage, thevillage.ie. He is curating the Convergence festival in September 2017 on the topic of Citizen engaged, Community Led Transitions. To join the conversation email email@example.com
“In a world of change, the learners shall inherit the earth, while the learned shall find themselves perfectly suited for a world that no longer exists.”
~ Eric Hoffer
By Davie Philip
Innovation is a buzzword that is overused and increasingly misused. If we are to adapt to the challenges we face today we have to nurture a culture of innovation that is about more than developing a new app or just staying ahead of the competition. To have real impact in addressing the environmental, social or economic vulnerabilities confronting us, we need an approach to innovation that is collaborative, holistic, and has the potential for transformation.
Over the next thirty years, as we make a rapid transition to a low carbon society, we are likely to see more change and disturbance than at any other period in recorded human history. As the business educator Peter Drucker stressed, “the greatest danger in times of turbulence is not the turbulence – it is to act with yesterday’s logic.” In many ways it is our thinking and the way we learn as well as the environments, practices and processes that foster cooperation and creativity, that we have to innovate if we are to be resilient with the capacity to adapt to change.
System change and innovation at the scale required needs a mindset change. As George Bernard Shaw said, “progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” Recently Pope Francis has called for a “global ecological conversion”, emphasising that it is not enough for us to go through the motions of change – we need a cultural overhaul and a spiritual revolution. Dr. Otto Scharmer, a senior lecturer at MIT, believes that we need a monumental shift of consciousness, a transition from an outdated “ego-system” way of thinking, focused on self interest, to an “eco-system” awareness that focuses on the wellbeing of the whole.
There is incredible untapped energy in our communities waiting to be harnessed. I live in Cloughjordan ecovillage, a sustainability project that is an emerging example of what Scharmer calls, “a living ecosystem of innovation”. With Cultivate I’m based in WeCreate, the ecovillage’s green enterprise centre, which is part of a growing movement of innovation ‘hubs’ that are emerging globally. These physical spaces nurture a culture of mutual support that enable collaboration among different change makers and initiatives. The creative space along with the processes utilised to facilitate collaboration, self-organising and adaptation is what makes these ‘hubs’ really powerful transformational environments.
This year our focus at Cultivate is to host events and offer courses that accelerate community-led innovation that will serve society and the planet. Some examples of this include community supported agriculture, community owned energy, car-sharing schemes, co-housing projects, and online platforms to enable peer-to-peer sharing. What is central to these initiatives is that they are citizen-led, and help us develop more resilient, social-ecological systems that allow us and our communities to flourish.
Davie Philip is a group facilitator and trainer who manages the Community Resilience programme at Cultivate. Davie is collecting stories of transformational community-led projects; if you are involved in something in your area send him an e-mail. firstname.lastname@example.org
Co-ops: The Original Social Enterprise
By Davie Philip
I spent my summer commoning, practising the forgotten art of co-operation. I am most alive when I am collaborating with others, and I believe change only happens as networks of relationships form between people working together on a common endeavour. As a business model, co-operatives are fundamentally different to conventional profit-driven companies. They are founded on the values of self-help, participation, democracy, equality, equity and solidarity. They are the original social enterprises and more awareness of their benefits may be incredibly beneficial to all of us.
Recently I moved back into the Ecovillage, the sustainable neighbourhood in Cloughjordan, which is now home to 130 people, 15 businesses, a communitysupported farm, Ireland’s largest community-owned, renewable-energy heating system and an enterprise centre. The biggest challenge we have is working out how we work together to ensure everyone’s needs are met. Through Cultivate, the co-op that I have worked through since 2000, I co-facilitated a number of events this summer on the topic of community ownership and resilience.
These included the Art of Commoning, a three-day summer school that brought people together to discuss the question: What becomes possible when we harness our collective capacity in service of the commons? Following this, we co-curated the Global Green pop-up ecovillage, the sustainability area of the Electric Picnic festival where commoners from 40 community-led initiatives demonstrated the art of commoning to 45,000 revellers.
By Davie Philip
Our planet provides everything we need to flourish. However, since the 1970s humanity has been consuming natural resources at a rate that exceeds the Earth’s capacity to sustain us. It is estimated that to support everyone’s current lifestyle globally we would need 1.5 planets. There are, however, significant differences between rich and poor countries; if we all lived like an average American we would need five planets. According to WWF’s Living Planet Report, Ireland has the 14th largest eco-footprint in the world.
An Ecological Footprint is measured in global hectares (gHa), the area of productive land and water required to support our consumption and deal with our waste. To communicate the impact of this in an easily understandable way, our footprint can also be represented by how many planets would be needed to support us. On average in Ireland our Ecological Footprint is just over six global hectares per person, and if everyone lived like us we would need three planets to sustain us all.
…Recently, the Cloughjordan Ecovillage, which has 140 residents, had its Ecological Footprint measured by Dr. Vincent Carragher of the Tipperary Energy Agency. Along with the University of Limerick, he has developed a rigorous Community-Based Ecological Footprint assessment tool. The analysis shows that the Ecovillage has a footprint of 2 gHa per person, which is a third of the national average and equates to just over the capacity of one planet.
A resolution for change.
By Davie Philip
“The mystery of human existence lies not in just staying alive, but in finding something to live for.” Dostoyevsky
So here we are at the threshold of another new year, traditionally the time we make resolutions and reflect on how we are doing. I want to explore here why a strong sense of purpose is important in living a good life and playing our part in making the world flourish. I want to look at what we might do to find and maintain purpose and meaning, and really live our lives by our principles and values.
If you haven’t heard the news, the world has a few problems to solve. We urgently need to rethink how we do almost everything and if we want to cultivate a good life – one in which we thrive, not just survive – it will be crucial to have a clear sense of purpose. Without it, our lives will lack meaning, we won’t get to do what we are passionate about and we may not get the opportunity to share the unique gifts we have to share.
Let’s begin by defining what we mean by purpose. A simple definition might be: the reason for which we exist or why we do what we do. Discovering the reason we are doing what we are doing is an active, values-driven pursuit, it is not just about discovering what we should do, it is about why you do what you love to do. In many ways you could say the purpose of life is living a life of purpose.
Philosophers have grappled with this subject for millennia. Purpose, and how it can bring meaning to one’s life, is related to the deepest existential questions we ask ourselves like, ‘Who am I?’ and ‘What should I do?’ Science has now discovered that a strong sense of purpose is associated with a revitalised sense of wellbeing as well as physical and mental resilience. We are at our healthiest and happiest when we have a purpose and the energy to pursue it.
Your purpose is your North Star, an invisible guide helping you navigate through the most challenging of times. In no particular order here are some steps to find your purpose and discover how it might align with the changes that are needed in the world.
READ DAVIE’S STEPS IN THE WINTER ISSUE OF POSITIVE LIFE. PICK UP A COPY IN ONE OF OUR STOCKISTS ALL OVER IRELAND. OR SUBSCRIBE HERE TO HAVE A COPY DELIVERED DIRECT TO YOUR DOOR.
Davie Philip is a facilitator and trainer who manages the Community resilience programme at Cultivate living and learning. He is based at the Cloughjordan ecovillage and is a board member of GIY Ireland. email@example.com
From our autumn 2014 issue
By Davie Philip
Sharing with others and working together is hard-wired into our very being. Today, however, the dominant social and economic systems we depend on are actually working against our ability to collaborate but a fresh approach for taking care of our shared resources is emerging. ‘Commons’ originally referred to land or resources belonging to or affecting the whole of a community. The old idea of the commons, which has been around since the start of human history, is now being supercharged with new ideas from the open-source software community and the cooperative movement. These may offer an egalitarian and collaborative approach to a more just and sustainable future.
The commons is a social practice for meeting our needs outside of the market. It is estimated that there are 2 billion people around the world who are currently managing land, forests, fisheries, water, seeds and creative knowledge as commons. In doing so, these commoners are not only the users and beneficiaries, but also the co-creators and stewards of these shared resources.
What is important is the process of commoning. A commons is not so much about resources themselves but more about how we work together and relate to each other. It’s a conversation about who we are and how we act. It involves taking your life into your own hands, rather than being dependent on markets to sell you what you need. Commoning allows people to make decisions and take action to shape the future of their own communities.
There is no blueprint for building and maintaining a commons as each place and community varies so much. Although all are unique, certain principles underpin all commons; participation, fairness, inclusiveness, transparency, co-operation, stewardship and concern for the common good. With these principles commoners negotiate their own rules of usage, assign responsibilities and entitlements, set up monitoring systems and introduce penalties to prevent abuse of the commons.
There is a lot of commoning going on these days, from Transition Town initiatives, land trusts, co-housing, community farms to community energy projects. Open-source software communities have created the infrastructure that allows the Internet to work, which is itself now one of the great enablers of the commons. Open source has spread from software to hardware and new sets of technologies have emerged from this culture of collaboration and sharing. There are open-source plans for everything from cola drinks to cars. Open source hardware utilises the digital fabrication machines of FabLabs (small-scale workshops offering digital fabrication) to allow us to make almost anything.
To really address the many social, economic and environmental challenges we face, more of us will have to act like commoners and be involved in the art of commoning. If we are to make the changes that we need to make to adapt to climate change, or to connect with each other in deeper ways and strengthen our resilience, we may need to rethink the commons.
If you want to be part of rethinking this topic, ‘WeCreate’, the FabLab and co-working space in Cloughjordan Ecovillage, is organising a series of events this September in Dublin, Limerick and Cloughjordan based on the question, “How can a commons-based collaborative economy strengthen the resilience of our communities?” and will feature international thinkers to bring us some to some new insights. openeverything.ie
Davie Philip is a facilitator and trainer who manages the Community Resilience programme at Cultivate Living and Learning. He is based at the Cloughjordan Ecovillage and is a board member of GIY Ireland. firstname.lastname@example.org
Open-source living from woodland to web.
By Davie Philip
Sharing with others and working together is hard-wired into our very being yet the dominant social and economic systems we depend on are actually working against our ability to collaborate. However, a fresh approach for taking care of our shared resources is emerging. ‘Commons’ originally referred to land or resources belonging to the whole of a community but the age-old concept is now being supercharged with new ideas from the open-source software community and the cooperative movement.
The commons is a social practice for meeting our needs outside of the market. It is estimated that there are 2 billion people around the world who are currently managing land, forests, fisheries, water, seeds and creative knowledge as commons. These commoners are not only the users and beneficiaries, but also the co-creators and stewards of these shared resources.
A commons is not so much about resources themselves but more about how we work together and relate to each other. It’s a conversation about who we are and how we act. It involves taking your life into your own hands, rather than being dependent on markets to sell you what you need. Commoning allows people to make decisions and take action to shape the future of their own communities.
READ THE REST OF DAVIE’S ARTICLE IN THE AUTUMN ISSUE OF POSITIVE LIFE. PICK UP A FREE COPY IN ONE OF OUR STOCKISTS, OR SUBSCRIBE FOR €15 AND HAVE IT DELIVERED DIRECT TO YOUR DOOR FOR A YEAR.