WEEKLY VIEWS, REVIEWS & NEWS FROM THE OKANAGAN INSTITUTE|
|Clearing the Mental Flotsam|
NUMBER 158 ll LATE FEBRUARY 2015
Of Passion, Permaculture & Proof
As winter reluctantly shakes off its crusty and overcast spell over our imaginations, our thoughts turn to the season, seasons and seasonings ahead. In this bioregion of cultural, culinary and creative diversity that usually means our dreams of getting our fingers into the slumbering soils and other visceral diversions start to stir around the same time as the seed catalogues start arriving. Here at the Okanagan Institute, we've been making our new season plans as well, and we have some announcements to share with our friends and supporters.
Our regular Express series of community conversations will get off to a rousing start this week, and we look forward to having you join us to engage with the people and ideas that animate our community. We're in the process of developing another stellar roster of speakers and presenters to address topics around creative and cultural affairs, the life of the mind and spirit, the culinary arts and agriculture, the natural and the built environment, as well as social and community issues. Our first event is this Thursday, February 26th - Living with Art is the Best Revenge - which features a unique insight into the visual arts. That will be followed on March 12th by an exploration of the process of innovation and how we as a country stack up. Watch for our announcements on our website, in your email inboxes and in press announcements.
Creative Aging is a powerful new social and cultural movement that is stirring the imaginations of communities and people everywhere. Often called Sage-ing, it takes many forms: academic, social and personal. It includes festivals, conferences, classes, group sessions and individual creative pursuits. Our recently published book, Creative Aging, brings together more than 50 essays and galleries of images that showcase the power of the imagination expressed and enjoyed. The book is 320 pages, 6 x 9 inches, paperback with french flaps, with 32 pages in full colour. Published in association with Wood Lake Publishing, the Okanagan's publisher. Available at quality independent bookstores, and online HERE.
Re-Earthing the Neighbourhood is a unique learning program made available in association with the Wildcraft Forest School. It carries participants to a Permaculture Design Certificate as well as entry towards achieving a Wildcraft Practitioners Diploma for becoming a Master Wildcrafter. Participants will be guided through core wildcrafting teachings that they can apply to their approach to permaculture, and places special emphasis on introducing wild dynamics into urban, suburban and agricultural "edge" areas. The program, the first of its kind in Canada, will take place starting in late April at the Proof Centre. More information is available at the Wildcraft Forest School website HERE.
Our new Passionate Plates culinary arts program will introduce participants to the local food movement and engage them in expanding their healthy food choices and knowledge of sustainable local food sources. During the program, participants contribute their favourite traditional recipes and we will redo them for single serving, cold storing, and age-appropriate healthy nutrition profiles. The results are presented in interactive cooking classes and demonstrations and shared at the end of class. Chefs, farmers, food artisans and food security activists will share their ideas for building the local food economy. With support from the Society for Learning in Retirement, Urban Harvest and others, the program will begin in late May. Look forward to further announcements.
Thanks to the hundreds of people who have signed up for Club for Creatives information and memberships. We are now working through the process of reaching out to each of you to determine how best to achieve our goals and meet your expectations. It's no small thing we're trying to accomplish with Proof. We're all designers now, and that's a good thing. The tools of creation and collaboration are open to all; the opportunity for everyone to tell their stories through every medium is only just beginning, and many of are taking full advantage of it. Like any innovation, the social exercise, the intellectual effort, the rethinking, reworking and starting again pays real dividends. In the end, it's better eyes, better brains, and ultimately, better communities of practice. Proof is all that, and more. We now have architectural drawings and are sourcing equipment and furnishings, among many other tasks. Everything about the process of realizing this dream of a community-driven creative and learning centre requires attention to detail and no small amount of patience. We appreciate yours as we work our way through this - thankfully creative - process. If you haven't already, you can join us HERE.
One last thing. You may have noticed that we are a little more irregular with these missives than we've been in the past. There's an explanation for that, and it's not just the grey days of winter sucking the creative juices dry. It's also that we, like many similar small nonprofit volunteer-run organizations, need time to recharge our mission and mandate batteries occasionally, and we've taken the winter opportunity to do just that.
Invoking the Trees for the Forest
The threats we're seeing to both our economy and to our environment grow more numerous and fearsome. In response, progressives of all stripes need to coalesce, find their voice and their strength, and pioneer the development of a powerful set of alternative ideas.|
A path to a better world does indeed exist. At the local level, people and groups plant the seeds of change through a host of innovative initiatives that provide inspirational models of how things might work in a social economy devoted to regenerating human and natural communities. Sensing the direction in which things are moving, our wiser and more responsible leaders, political and otherwise, need to rise to the occasion, support the growing movement for change, and frame a compelling story or narrative that makes sense of it all and provides a positive vision of a better balanced worldview. It is a moment of democratic possibility.
In the end it all comes down to people and the strong possibility that we still have it in us to use our freedom and our democracy in powerful ways to create something admirable and rich in possibility for our children and grandchildren, one in which it is not possible to exploit the weak and destroy the environment.
We can realize a new dream if enough of us join together in the fight for it. This new dream envisions an country, and a world, where the pursuit of happiness is sought not in more getting and spending, but in the growth of human solidarity, real democracy, and devotion to the public good; where the average person is empowered to achieve his or her human potential; where the benefits of economic activity are widely and equitably shared; where the environment is regenerated for current and future generations; and where the virtues of simple living, community self-reliance, good fellowship, and respect for nature predominate.
As conditions in our country continue to decline across a wide front, or at best fester as they are, ever-larger numbers of people are losing faith in the current system and its ability to deliver on the values it proclaims. We have to start taking that seriously if we have any hope of making a better story. |
A series of shifts are happening in our economy and communities. Millennials are trading in conventional career paths to launch tech and food start-ups, start small businesses that are rooted in local communities, and freelancing their knowledge, networks and skills. We are sharing everything, from bikes and cars, to extra rooms in our homes. We now create, buy and sell handcrafted products in our local communities with ease.
Community and neighbourhood level change makes good sense. Many quality-of-life issues that concern us are concentrated and reinforced at the neighbourhood level; Focusing there allows us to deal with the many interconnected factors affecting our quality of life at a offer a more manageable scale. It is easier to tap into - and mobilize - many under-utilized resources, skills, knowledge and networks. Neighbourhood-focused work can kick-start a sustainable process of renewal and community change. It builds citizen ownership and shared responsibility for community issues. It can help inform policy-making at the local level. It helps build and strengthen trusting relationships between neighbours which contribute positively to individual health and well-being and are essential in times of emergency.
THE WORLD IS STILL WILD AND WONDERFUL
The Social Life of Community
The meaning of "community" is different depending on the cultural and ideological context of the person using it. Community is one of the values on the rise of the world that is coming out of the financial crisis. |
Cooperative housing. Communities with services and facilities shared among homeowners. Influenced by the ideas of the German social-democratic theoretician August Bebel, since the beginning of the twentieth century, a part of social housing and housing cooperatives in European countries begin to incorporate common services: kitchen, dining room, kindergarten, laundry room, etc. - as a way of building interaction and commitment between their members over time. The model endures, having spread to North America (where it took its current name - co-housing) and shaped neighborhood buildings custom-designed to develop a community social life of their own.
Ecovillages. A term that arose in the nineties about settlements founded on "community standards," whose objective is to minimize the environmental impact of the group. Ecovillages were created out of more or less sophisticated versions of housing cooperatives, with the group as a whole buying the lands, and later dividing it up among the members, normally after building a certain amount of basic infrastructure.
Theme towns. Beyond ecovillages,reconstructed or recovered towns, new settlements and even "experimental" cities like the famous "Auroville" in India or "Celebration," the town created by Disney within their initiative called Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow (EPCOT), work under a similar model, which mixes private property with a rigid internal constitution that seeks to maintain the continuity and integrity of a given community experience.
Egalitarian communities. This is the name for communities that hold resources that sustain it in common, starting with the land, and including the facilities and the product of the labor of their members. The distribution is carried out jointly as a function of the needs of each of members. They are mostly ruled by decision-making systems based on consensus.
Income-sharing communities. These are communities that share the ownership of housing - normally a large house, a building or a group of small buildings - in which members put their revenue into a common fund. Although this kind of community was born and became stable in Israel in the '70s, it soon spread across Germany and the Nordic countries. Their members not only seek a community life, but completely mutualize life risks and create strong solidarity networks. The model spread to the US with the real-estate crisis, when groups of youth were able to buy buildings at a low cost and establish themselves in them.
Productive communities. These are egalitarian communities that not only share their income, but also produce together. They are the product of the egalitarian European idea according to which the center of society, and therefore of social problems, is in production and in the manner in which things are produced. That's why the idea of producing together - which means learning together - under a structure of shared responsibilities, distributing the result according to the needs of everyone, is the common element of the communitarian model, which has been followed by egalitarian colonies of the nineteenth century, Israeli kibbutzim, and the large networks of European and American egalitarian communities of today.|
Agrarian communities. These are agrarian settlements that, while they have developed industry and services, continue to have a strong agricultural component and their life, products and relationship with their surroundings are marked by being outside of cities.
Urban communities. These were born at the beginning of the twenty-first century, associated with the development of cooperativism of new technological services, such as Uber. They produce services and products of high value-added linked to the green economy, the direct economy or P2P production. Over the long term, their social model is focused on building broader transnational networks with other agrarian and urban egalitarian communities, but also with cooperatives and small enterprises, to all together develop autonomous systems of social interaction for their members.
The concept of community has a certain bias and is mostly used for groups that, normally bound by a common social or religious ideology, and moved by the desire to live under under certain "community standards," decide to build a town together, inhabit the same neighborhood, or share a house. This almost never means that they share ownership of the houses more than temporarily, and only on very rare occasions do they work together in a cooperative or businesses owned in common. At the center is the idea of community standards, values and rules of shared co-existence in a given place. The creators of this kind of community create them to live in accordance with them, and normally, the most important part of the foundation is the founders designing of the set of norms, neighbourly practices, and decision-making systems that they will use in their coexistence.
The expansion of our notion of community informs many new business and city models, but also the new lifestyles and the objectives of the small groups and alternative models around which new ideas and ways of making things are catalyzed. Let's make sure we don't erode the meaning of the word, and with it, the trust and hope it transmits today.
THE PROOF CREATIVE & LEARNING CENTRE
A Gathering of Characters
Kelowna has long needed a place where smart and interesting people can gather to make good - if not great - things happen. Proof is that place. |
The former church building at the corner of Ethel Street and Cawston Avenue in Kelowna is in the process of being transformed into the Proof Creative & Learning Centre. In the process, the former sanctuary will also be transformed, into a private club for members of the creative community, the Club for Creatives.
The Club will be a warm and inviting space, and contain bar and table seating for up to 80 people, as well as a small performance stage. There will be a comprehensive and adventurous lunch and dinner, and special event food and drink service provided by the Proof Kitchen.
Membership in the Club is reasonably limited, with modest initiation and monthly fees, and special usage and guest privileges.
Here's some of the things we have imagined are possible at the Club for Creatives:
design a toy, conduct an experiment, meet interesting people, share a manuscript, enjoy a freshly baked pastry and a cup of coffee, invent a new product, compose a symphony, propose a solution to a problem, build a trapezoid, attend a
workshop, host a lunch, present a seminar on the fate of a species, show a collection of bones, participate in a ritual, make a jar of pickles, display a wall hanging, learn to write poetry, edit a journal, construct and finish a picture frame, paint a picture, code an algorithm, learn to cook, have a quiet lunch, conduct a roundtable, plan an event, sculpt a face, discuss a manifesto, write a manifesto, play a game of chance, demonstrate a magic trick, start a business, start a rumour, throw a party, listen, dry herbs, solve a logic puzzle, join a committee, observe a chemical reaction, shape an argument, conduct a review, curate an exhibition of lithographs of food, create an album of photographs, make a maquette, sing, share a harvest feast, form a group, ferment a liquid libation, foment a revolution.
Here's what it takes to become a charter member:|
First: You need to be creative. Tell us a bit about yourself and your current creative activities.
Second: You need to pay a membership initiation fee of $100. Once we accept your membership we'll send you a link to a webpage where you can send us this fee. Once you pay, we'll add you to our membership list and send your membership card and orientation package.
Third: You need to agree to pay a monthly membership fee of $20. Your credit card will be charged during the preceeding month, starting the month before opening date.
That's it. The membership orientation package we'll send you will detail all the rules and expectations (there are few), hours, amenities, guest privileges, and other matters. You'll also receive invitations to the pre-launch preview and launch party.
The Proof Creative & Learning Centre is an idea, a building and an opportunity for a small group of organizations who share a common goal of contributing unique, thoughtful and high-value services to the community. These organizations are - along with the Club for Creatives - the Society for Learning in Retirement, Rucker Archive, Proof Kitchen and Okanagan Institute.
Memberships invitations and requests for comment are being sent out now. Not signed up? Go to www.proofcentre.com
or send us an email today to firstname.lastname@example.org, to express your interest in becoming a charter member.
I should like to say two things, one intellectual and one moral. ¶ The intellectual thing I should want to say is this: When you are studying any matter, or considering any philosophy, ask yourself only what are the facts and what is the truth that the facts bear out. Never let yourself be diverted either by what you wish to believe, or by what you think would have beneficent social effects if it were believed. But look only, and solely, at what are the facts. That is the intellectual thing that I should wish to say. ¶ The moral thing I should wish to say is very simple: I should say, love is wise, hatred is foolish. In this world which is getting more and more closely interconnected, we have to learn to tolerate each other, we have to learn to put up with the fact that some people say things that we don't like. We can only live together in that way - and if we are to live together and not die together, we must learn a kind of charity and a kind of tolerance, which is absolutely vital to the continuation of human life on this planet. - Bertrand Russell