Notes from Windward: #68


Common Goals

Andrew reflects on his first week

working on expanding the summer pasture

     When I first came to Windward, I had a desire to learn how to live a sustainable life. I realize now that I had a very small window into what "sustainability" is, or what it might look like.

     What surprised me at first was the level of incompleteness here at Windward. The land isnít pretty in any aesthetic sense; Interns sleep in old campers and buses, tools lay strewn throughout the land, the "Depot" on the West hill resembles more a junkyard than anything practical or beneficial.

     As Opalyn told me as we approached Windward nearly a week ago, "Windward isnít a sustainable community, It is more a sustainability research facility."

[Walt: Sustainable systems require significant capital investments--you pay up front in terms of money, skill and effort, and then reap the benefits over the long haul. The re-use of discarded materials is one of the important ways that sustainable systems will come together since systems which can be put together from "obtainium" will be more readily adopted than systems which require new, additional expenditures of energy and resources. There is nothing quite as "green" as taking something that was heading for the land-fill and using it in some creative way that meets our needs without further depleting the earth.

     Finding new ways to use old resources is a key part in developing ways to manifest our creativity. As people transition to sustainable systems, they'll need to keep in mind Thomas Alva Edison's observation that "To invent, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk."]

     In this first week at Windward, what I have realized is what this word "sustainability" really means. It is not merely growing your own food, building your own shelter from what is around, or living plainly or simply. It is a series of interwoven processes that enable people to continue living together within their environment indefinitely. It is not independence as much as interdependence. Realizing your own strength and limits, and recognizing that you cannot do it alone. As well as realizing the limitations imposed on you by nature and the seasons, and learning to work with them.

     When I talked with Karen during her visit for the Love Based Living Circle and workshop, she told me something that really stuck. Essentially it was that we need not simplify everything to whether or not it is "sustainable." Some people will stop using plastic bags, their reasoning being "because they arenít sustainable." But really, the paper bag they are holding isnít really any better. Instead of using this noun "sustainability," we could replace it with a verb and a qualitative statement like, "how sustainable is this thing, or process?" Neither paper nor plastic has a high degree of sustainability, so neither is a great option. In this way our language better represents what we mean. And by shaping the way we relate to the world through our use of language, we come to a clearer and more authenticate depiction of our reality.

     As far as I understand it, Windward has four primary projects/objectives:
  1. SECURE ENERGY by means of transforming the energy of woody biomass into steam, methanol, and heat; Also, using as much energy from the sun as possible in the form of photovoltaics, parabolic solar collection troughs, food crops, and grass for animal feed.

  2. SECURE FOOD by means of sustainable animal husbandry, aquaponics, greenhouse and seasonal outdoor propagation of vegetables, legumes, fruits, and nuts.

  3. SECURE WATER from the water table Windward sits above. The infrastructure for the wells and pumps that bring water for drinking, and watering has mostly been put in place. It is a sight-unseen, but is crucial to developing any piece of land.

  4. SECURE RELATIONS meaning the structuring of Windwardís society by its Bylaws, such that only people with a vested interest in the community make decisions for the community and that everyone who participates has a voice. No one person has proprietorship of everything, and disputes can be settled within an arena of discussion.

     As Walt explained to me, ďsustainabilityĒ is as much the construction of sustainable social dynamics of the group/society as it is the construction of physical infrastructure. Sustainability is not hard work, as much as steady progress. If you wear yourself out, you loose your pace, and must stop to recover. This is not a "sustainable" way to approach work; in a sense, because you are running a marathon like a sprinter. I feel this is part of the reason why Windward is full of so many unfinished projects. By not rushing to complete everything, there is more time to analyze and discuss possible alternatives, also not to put off dealing with the most pressing projects when there is only a short window to do so.

     At the end of this first week, I am still a little jostled at the volume of possibilities laid out in front of me. I find myself asking, "What does Windward need?" I bring myself back to the four primary objectives in hopes of making a useful and thoughtful addition to this wonderful work in progress.

Notes From Windward - Index - Vol. 68