Notes from Windward: #69

Notes To Windward

Andrew checks in from Phoenix

[Walt:      A key aspect of how we set up our sustainable systems involves cross-training so that the work can go forward even while our team members come and go. One of the great traps in sustainability is that gardens and animal systems need regular attention, a demand which can tie one to the land so tightly that it's difficult to get away. Most people, and especially the innovative and curious sort who are attracted to the challenge of creating an alternative to the status quo, have a strong desire to travel and connect with other people. By setting up our systems so that more than one person can manage them, we enable our crew to go out and explore the larger world while retaining a key role in the work that's going forward here.

     Long ago Windward made the decision to not develop a company business for our members to work in. We reached that decision for a number of reasons, one of which is that we already knew how to be cogs in some corporate money machine; we were hungry for a different, more human way to live and work.

     Accordingly, we undertake to teach our members how to build financial independence by creating their own businesses, by creating value that they then market to others. Admittedly, this isn't the quickest way to build a large community since our focus on self-employment limits Windward's size when compared to communities that pay their people to live and work there, but we don't see that as a bad thing. In the long run, it's a good thing since running one's own business requires creativity, commitment, persevernce, planning and an interest in meeting the needs of others--the sort of positive qualities that we're looking for in new members.

     Windward operates by consensus, a process which demands care as to the qualifications of the people who are admitted to the group that has to arrive at operational agreements. By first demonstrating that they can manage their own funds responsibly, new people are able to establish the financial credibility they'll need if they're going to be good Stewards of organizational resources.

     As I write this, it's the dead heat of summer. The gardens are laid in and soaking up the sunshine, and the lambs, goats, ducks and chicks born this past spring are growing rapidly. It's a quiet time when we work in the mornings and evenings, and often wait out the afternoon heat down in the cool waters of the Klickitat.

     In short, high summer, like high winter, is a good time for most of our folk to be off doing other things before returning in the fall to pitch in putting away the harvest.

     Windward came together during a ten-year stint in Las Vegas. After we decided on where we wanted to locate permanently, the moving process took another three years, and even when the majority of our gear and people where here, there were Windward folk working in Nevada for another ten years.

Notes From Windward started out as a way to keep those people updated on what was happening here. Now, we're starting to get Notes To Windward as our "Away Team" writes to update us on what they're up to.]

Andrew writes:

     I want to relate to you some experiences from the Transition Training seminar I recently attended here in Phoenix.

     First off, it was a great honor to be able to represent Windward and Intentional Communities at the meetings. I shared a lot of bits of wisdom and my specific experiences from living in community. These thoughts were well received, and everyone there seemed to greatly appreciate having a voice of communities there. The "Walt-isms" served as a real grounding force for the discussions, bringing them back to the practicalities of the actual situation here in the Phoenix area. I feel like everything that Walt has been trying to relate to me about the nature of sustainability, the problems of building community, the necessary reversion of technology back to a smaller scale, etc. came out in these meetings. For the knowledge and the welcoming forum to discuss them in, I am very grateful.

     I got to meet a lot of excellent people who are working toward sustainability in some way; perm culture experts, farmers, foresters, non-profits, engineers, community organizers, business people, marketers, and more. The group was about 15 people, small enough to have good discussion without chaos, but large enough to have a wide variety of input. Everyone was very interested in what Windward is doing, and I directed them to the web site and blog. I am unsure if any of them are at a point in their life to join Windward. In the least, I have built a powerful network of individuals that I may draw upon now, and in the future, for employment or dialogue.

     One woman works with the Inter-Tribal Council of Arizona and said she would love to hook me up with the Hopi people and other native groups. She expressed that many native communities would be interested in the kind of practical technological research Windward is doing. I am hoping to learn about their social structure, cultural stories, and lifestyle in the process of such an exchange.

     I view the training as much like a workshop we would have with Karen. The Transition Trainers don't care if we use the title of the "Transition" organization in our approach to making our various communities more resilient. The training really exists to relate skills and tools that have been shown to work in the past. But they recognize that every community has its own obstacles; institutional, environmental or otherwise. And thus the transition movement necessarily has to evolve out of the needs those in each specific place.

     The tools that they shared in the training were about a wide variety of aspects of transition. From how people who are immersed in the current culture psychologically react to hearing about the perfect storm of peak everything/climate change/and economic instability; to how does a movement most effectively utilize the energy of its volunteers without wearing people out; to how to overcome institutional barriers to sustainability. I added a little bit to the discussion of the role that non-profit cooperatives can play in transition. Pointing to the benefits of Windward's structure in terms of meeting everyone's needs with far less money and energy than individuals trying to do it by themselves. And the legal benefits of incorporation.

     What I found most difficult about the movement is how big a role language plays. A lot of people are turned off by some of these key words "climate change" "peak oil", etc... While others see no practical significance in concepts like "sustainability" or "perm culture". I think that most conservative Arizonans respond positive to "community resilience" and "energy independence" and "self-reliance". Any successful movement will have to understand how people respond to such words, and change their language accordingly; emphasizing the underlying ideological similarities of the goals of all groups of people.

     Conservatives are not opposed to a reintroduction of a higher level of community sovereignty, like that in the past. Consumers respond to this whole "green" phenomenon. For Al Gore followers climate change is a big motivation. For industry, the emerging industry of renewable energy, recyclable design, and energy efficient construction is a positive because it is defined in economic terms. Cities like this too because it is a way to bring jobs in and reduce to operating costs of government.

     These are just some of the ideas I have about the semantic shifts necessary in any movement to bring many different, and often times historically opposed, groups together to get things done now. I think this applies somewhat to Windward, in that the language we present to the outside world, definitely defines the kind of constituent groups that come to us seeking to join.

     I am looking forward to tapping into the energy of the Transition Portland in the Future. There is bound to be an opportunity for exchange between Windward and those in the Transition movement. Either as a resource for prospective interns, apprentices, and stewards, or an already existing group that would be interested in using the Windward campground as a place for seminars or workshops. In this way, it saves Windward members the hassle of trying to create a group of people. Once we have some more energy systems operating, Energy Independence Day could be a big draw for Transition people.

Notes From Windward - Index - Vol. 69