Rethinking Sustainability

On March 19th, 2015, Transtion Snoqualmie Valley hosted a community workshop called “Rethinking Sustainability” with Ma’ikwe, the executive director of Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage.

Spoiler Alert! Before you continue reading, I invite you to do a quick exercise. Do you have 5 minutes? Take a piece of paper (or open a blank document on your computer) and write down the ten main things you give attention and energy to, now and in the last year or so. It may look like a list of how you spend your time. Just put down a word or phrase for each item.

Done? Ok, now imagine your life in a year or two. What ten things will you be giving your energy and attention to? Make another list.

Super! Now look at the color wheel, below. This diagrams the Four dimensions of Sustainability, originally articulated by the Global Ecovillage Network.  (Click on the image to see a larger version.)

sustainabilitymandalaNow figure out which quadrant would be the best location for each item on your CURRENT list, the first one you wrote. You can make a tally by just writing “social,” “worldview,” “economic,” or “ecological” next to each item. How many items do you have in each quadrant? Are some much fuller than others? Are some almost empty?

Now do this for the FUTURE list, the second list you wrote. Did your distribution shift? Is it heavy in some areas and light in others?

It is quite normal to have unbalanced wheels, but can you see where we’re going here? In the workshop, we combined all our future items on one large wheel and it was more balanced than the individual wheels, but it was still top-heavy (more in social and worldview than in economic and ecological). This shows where the members of the community who attended have been focussing and expecting to focus their energy.

Here’s the punchline: attaining ongoing sustainability is impossible unless all four quadrants of the wheel are addressed in a relatively even and thorough fashion.

So what can we do to balance our focus and therefore address sustainability more successfully?

Our hosts at Hawthorn Farm offered an inspiring example of one way they are addressing sustainability in all four quadrants: they are doing a “food challenge,” eating food that they or someone they know personally has grown and harvested by hand. Last year they did this challenge for several weeks. This year they did the first month of the year and are doing one week per month for the rest of the year. In 2016 they plan to do the challenge for the first 3 months and then two weeks per month for the rest of the year. And in 2017 they’ll do the whole year eating only what they and their friends grow and harvest!

Their food challenge nourishes their land (ecological quadrant), uses almost no cash (economic), relies on and nourishes community (social) and is thoroughly rooted in connection with nature (worldview).

Do you have a project you’d like folks to know about? Do you want help? Please join us and tell us about it!

About Transition Snoqualmie Valley

This is the official account for Transition Snoqualmie Valley.

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