Davie Philip – one of our regular columnists – is a community catalyst and facilitator at cultivate.ie, the sustainability cooperative based in Cloughjordan Ecovillage. We love this article he wrote for our Spring 2020 issue, discussing how community resilience, caring and connectedness are key to tackling climate change. Read on to find out more.
In this sneak peek of a powerful article from our Spring 2019 issue, Davie Philip discusses how we can use new stories of hope and resilience to inspire ourselves to tackle the challenges facing our planet. To read the full article, pick up a copy of the magazine at your local stockist or subscribe here.
In this extract from our Autumn 2018 issue, Davie Philip talks about how we can change our collective mindset to one of collaboration and openness.
“With our thoughts we make the world.” – Buddha
By Davie Philips
Change is constant. However, recently the pace seems to be accelerating. To cope with this, and to make the transition to a healthy society based on fairness, wellbeing and sustainability, we need to shift worldviews and open our minds and hearts to fresh ways of thinking. So what kind of thinking would enable us to flourish in uncertainty?
Currently, we are locked into an individualistic worldview where reductionist or mechanistic thinking dominates. This mindset breaks everything down into parts to be analysed and measured. By understanding the parts and how they function, we presume we can understand everything important there is to know about something. This reductionism is useful for understanding inanimate things, or simple systems like machines, but can be destructive when applied to living systems. It also tends to lead to a silo mentality, which is inward looking and resists sharing information and resources.
We justify our superiority over the environment when we think we are separate and with this worldview we create fragile, linear systems. Through the diversity and complexity of their webs of relationships, and by sharing resources across their boundaries, living systems increase wellbeing and resilience. Observing these patterns and principles of natural systems might provide us with vital insights into how to redesign our socioeconomic systems to be collaborative, regenerative and resilient.
So, how might we shift our thinking?
Our current way of thinking is rooted in the industrial revolution. This period of human development was dependent on a mechanistic worldview and has dominated and influenced our behaviour ever since. In integral philosophy, worldviews evolve by including and transcending preceding worldviews. So rather than an ecological mindset replacing a mechanistic one, instead it provides a different perspective and access to another type of knowledge with which to navigate the world.
We cannot make the transformation the world needs without making an inner transformation in our thinking. With an ecological worldview we think in terms of process, pattern, flow, connectedness, and relatedness. I believe that as we become more conscious we evolve to hold an ecological worldview. According to theologian Thomas Berry, we will then realize that we live in a world which is a “communion of subjects,” not just a “collection of objects.”
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, do send him an e-mail.
In this sneak peek of Davie Philip’s article from our Spring issue, he talks about the hidden gifts that introverts have to offer to the world, and how they can learn to embrace and express them. The full article is available in our new magazine, which can be obtained at your local stockist or through a subscription.
By Davie Philip
“Everyone shines, given the right lighting. For some, it’s a Broadway spotlight, for others, a lamp lit desk.”
“David was a quiet wee laddie,” according to someone I went to school with whom my mother met recently in the Scottish town where I grew up. Although I now intentionally live in community and work as a group facilitator, I definitely have introvert tendencies. In an extrovert-dominated culture that appreciates the loudest and most outgoing, how do we ensure that the voices and contributions of people who are not as comfortable putting themselves out there are valued?
Over the years I have managed my social awkwardness and overcome a fear of public speaking and am now very comfortable addressing and working with large groups. That is, as long as the focus is on sustainable community or another topic that I am passionate about. Outside of my bubble I can lose my flow, be very quiet and sometimes be severely inhibited.
It was Carl Jung who first coined the terms introvert and extrovert, to describe his observations that people tend to be energised either by going inward in quiet reflection, or outward and are invigorated through interactions with people. Of course, it is a spectrum and our personalities and ways of navigating the world are a lot more complex. It is commonly perceived that all introverts are reserved, constantly quiet, and unsocial, however they are actually a very diverse group with a lot to offer the world.
I recommend reading Susan Cain’s book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking. It outlines the advantages and disadvantages of each temperament and the positive aspects of being an introvert. Cain cites research in biology, psychology, neuroscience and culture to explain that introversion is both common and normal, and notes that many of humankind’s most creative individuals and leaders throughout history were introverts.
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
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.
One Planet Living – Supporting the Planet Supporting Us. By Dave Philip
This is taken from our spring 2015 issue. | Subscribe in time for the summer issue and three more.
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.
Our objective in having the footprint analysis done was to benchmark our activities and give us a measure that we can work at reducing over time. This was very important to do, as the Ecovillage is now a destination for learning about how a community reduces its carbon emissions and its environmental impact.
You would expect us to have a low footprint, with 6.5% of all of Ireland’s ‘A’ rated houses and 2.5% of the ‘B1’s in the Building Energy Rating scheme, our own farm, renewable energy heating district system and a car share club, but one of the surprising reasons for our low footprint was our high level of social cohesion and our ability to work together.
With climate change now seen as one of the greatest areas for us all to do better in, we require examples of what can be done to transition to a low-carbon society. To ensure a planet that can sustain life, we need to take immediate positive action to improve health, social, environmental and economic wellbeing. New technologies may contribute, but this will be best done through strong communities that can build resilience and be able to collaborate to reduce consumption, protect and restore biodiversity and learn to live on one planet.
Davie Philip is a group 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. Cloughjordan Ecovillage offers free tours at 3pm each weekend, leaving from Sheelagh na Gig bookshop on Main Street, Cloughjordan, Tipperary. thevillage.ie
This is taken from our spring 2015 issue. | Subscribe in time for the summer issue and three more.
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
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.
A Sangha for our times
By Davie Philip
Sangha is a word in Pali and Sanskrit meaning “association”, “assembly,” “company” or “community” and often refers to the monastic community of ordained Buddhist monks or nuns. When Buddha’s disciples asked him, “Isn’t Sangha half of the path to awakening?” the Buddha responded, “No, it is the entire path.” To realise our fullest potential we don’t have to join a monastery but I think we do need to live closer to one another and to collaborate in meaningful ways.
We have sustained ourselves in ‘communities’ of one form or another for millennia. Sharing resources and creating a supportive environment to live in is at the heart of what it is to be human. Since we emerged from the caves, we have lived in large extended families, tribal networks or small villages where we were deeply connected with each other and to nature.
Considering our basic needs for shelter and community, is there an alternative to just buying a home and hoping that you might get to know your neighbours?
Although I’ve been involved in Cloughjordan Ecovillage since the project began, and the sense of neighbourliness is extremely high there, I still don’t own a house. Like many people currently find themselves, I don’t earn enough to secure a mortgage, and, as the literal translation of the word is ‘the grip of death’, I don’t think I even want to! So what are my options?
One-way to re-grow community and take care of our housing needs is the concept of cohousing. This is a way for a group of people to work together to co-create and co-own places that offer both privacy and community, along with the values of solidarity and mutual concern. I believe this approach could create a richer way of life with lower running costs and reduced environmental impact.
We recently launched ‘Cloughjordan Cohousing’. It’s a cooperative company that will build and manage a cohousing development within the Ecovillage. We want to address the issues of affordable housing, attract a diversity of ages, especially younger people, and fulfill a desire to live in smaller units with shared facilities. As well as terraces with one and two bedroom houses and studio apartments, a ‘common house’ will include cooking and dining space, guest rooms and a laundry, as well as meeting and relaxation spaces. Shared energy, a car pool, and green spaces will also help reduce costs and make this a warm and welcoming place to live.
But you don’t necessarily need to relocate to an ecovillage or a cohousing project to live more cooperatively, lots of options are emerging for securing housing together. Cohousing might not suit everyone, but it could provide an alternative to the growing number of people who are struggling to purchase a home and want a simpler, greener, more sharing way of life that helps create a more collaborative atmosphere overall.
Cohousing offers space for transformation and a community where we can build trust and rich, enduring relationships. It creates a healthy environment where we can develop our potential and where we can collectively find the responses to the social, economic and cultural problems we face. If the overarching goal of cohousing is to provide an authentic space to support our flourishing, I do think it is a Sangha for our times.
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