For the Love Of Bees: Auckland

Sarah Smuts Kennedy, an inspiring social artist, introduced me at a breathtaking pace to the ‘For The Love of Bees’, a bee social sculptural project that is animating bee life in Auckland. We went to the Bee School at the historic Campbell Free kindergarten at Victoria Park. This is a carbon reducing, biological and community art project to strengthen inner city living conditions for humans and our long suffering bee population.

ART BUZZ: Art buzz: Sarah Smuts-Kennedy and Taarati Taiaroa.

Sarah Smuts Kennedy and Taarati Taiaroa

For The Love Of Bees is a living social sculpture that imagines Auckland as the safest city in the world for bees. Our project offers opportunities for businesses, students, individuals, schools, community gardens, brand partners and beekeepers to collaborate and produce a vision that will live on through the city of Auckland for years to come. By working in collaboration with Auckland Council Parks and Activate Auckland we are creating an ecosystem that supports thriving beehive colonies by introducing hives and focusing on the quality and quantity of flowers throughout our city. Sarah animated a wide-ranging conversation, inviting a young teenage beekeeper along to teach children about bees, talking about the developing OMG partnership with  CRL over leasing a ‘waste’ lot for a bee garden, education and organic pocket park, explaining the biodynamic peppering approach to deterring slugs and snails-and more included . Questions explored the scarcity of organic and biodynamic produce in NZ, how NZ communal land needed re-imagining, ‘some land is never owned’.;land access for gardening, allotments and community gardens and Maori views of the very notion of ‘ownership’ being problematic..guardian, or custodianship better?How to introduce more profound biological knowledge? How to rebuild models  of collaborative action, and support others initiatives, but in a linked up way.

Commoning – perspectives on conviviality – Farm Hack

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Commoning – perspectives on conviviality – Farm Hack

‘On commoning and the commons

Commoning is a social practice within a framework set by the commons as a structure and common arrangement. The commons can be seen as the foundation of a convivialist society, commoning as its living expression. Hence commons are not goods even though they are often described as such. And goods are not commons because of their “natural” properties but because we treat them as such. Therefore we can essentially describe the commons as an institutionalised, legal, and infrastructural arrangement for a practice – commoning – in which we collaboratively organise and take responsibility for the use, maintenance and production of diverse resources.  The rules of commoning are (ideally) set by equal peers whose needs are at the focus of a shared process. Opportunities for individual growth and self-development are combined with the search for shared solutions, meaningful activities with extended and deepened relationships, and the creation of material abundance with the care for others and for nature. Living together like this was and still is practised to various degrees all over the world. In the process, commoning has to be repeatedly scrutinised, updated and rehearsed in order to remain embedded in every day life. This can never be taken for granted, and needs a suitable framework which currently we can rarely find.

Common wealth

The results of commoning traditionally consist of the sustainable use of natural resources such as forests, water or soil. For example this is the case with irrigation systems for which the people affected (commoners) give themselves rules for the shared use that enable a long-term fulfilment of needs (irrigation of fields, protection of water quality etc.). At the same time commoning can serve as the basis for the creation of something new: knowledge, hardware, software, food or a roof over the head. Basically there is nothing that cannot be thought of and designed as a commons. In the end our perspective may be to even view human society itself as the shared good – as our Common Wealth – which we have to make our own in practise and shape together according to our needs. In the end our perspective may be to even view human society itself as the shared good – as our Common Wealth – which we have to make our own in practise and shape together according to our needs. However, at present, humanity seems to be very distant from this perspective.’

Commoning – perspectives on conviviality

Breakthrough Action Research Questions for co-creating a threefold commonwealth society.

‘What kind of society we want, and how do we get there?’ were the burning questions that emerged from a November 2016 US Lecture tour. This took me from New York City, through NY State, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, then California to finish in Santa Fe, New Mexico, at the Biodynamic Association Conference.

This research and lecture tour was originally about Rudolf Steiner’s social threefolding vision for society and land trusteeship. However it was ambushed by the surprise election of Trump on 8th November. Just as the Brexit referendum shocked Britain on June 23rd, the Trump election also shocked many Americans. People even talked of ‘8/11’ as a follow up to ‘9/11.’

So with a Sacramento audience we discussed the relevance of Rudolf Steiner’s social threefolding at a seismic time. We asked, ‘ What kind of society do we want, and how do we get there?’ We explored what they saw as the Trump, Clinton and Sanders’ visions for the USA, and then relevance of Rudolf Steiner’s threefold commonwealth.

They contrasted Clinton’s neo liberal, market fundamentalist, business as usual, establishment approach with the Trump xenophobic, macho, racist, narcissistic, tax avoiding, protectionist, ‘America first’, approach. The Sander’s vision of free higher education, better healthcare, jobs, fair taxes, social inclusion, affordable housing and solidarity was seen as different, as positive, as was his personal integrity.

For me, a breakthrough light bulb moment was on the one hand to distill the comment, opinion, and analysis coming from the Brexit shock with the 11/8 Trump election, and Steiner’s social threefolding vision into four action research questions. Individuals can then choose to answer these questions, or a particular personal reformulation of a question question. So, instead of feeling powerless and confused, we can   take constructive action. The questions are as follows:

How are we developing a generative, mutual economy that works for all?

How are we caring for the earth?

How are we engaging politically for human rights, a more participative democracy, social justice, social inclusion, equity and peace?

How are we enabling creative, dynamic cultural life where every person can develop, and maintain, their whole human potential-so that they can freely contribute?

At Sacramento we also discussed the historic opportunity offered by the collapse of the neoliberal ideology to draw on Steiner’s seminal social thinking. Inquiring using the above four action research questions as individuals, as groups and organisations can make a difference culturally, politically, environmental and economically at a local, city and state level. We can start, or build further, from where we are. The Burlington, Vermont ‘model’ where Bernie Sanders had been the mayor came up as an example close to social threefolding. Some people said that we face such dangerous times with the Trump election that we consequently need to prepare realistically for the worst, yet also prepare for the best.

takingcareofearthourselves

However, I saw signs of hope everywhere I went, the ‘blessed unrest’ of individuals, groups and movements making a difference. There were thriving social businesses, biodynamic farms, creative schools, community gardens, and social movements like the Dakota pipeline protest, innovative housing schemes, civic initiatives and impressive evidence of good old American ‘can do’. In New York, the cityscape has been changed by the work of green guerrilla gardeners transforming waste lots, city parks, growing good food, addressing food poverty, increasing human security and community building. In small towns, you can see things like co-ops, community farms, free medical and dental services and signs of a thriving cultural life.

These green shoots can be seen as openings for a ‘commonwealth society. ’ This is happening all over the world. We only need to see what is happening, inquire, understand what is emerging, and connect up the dots. We live in a creative, enterprising age, and the lid just cannot be put on this social ferment. Just think how the invention of community supported agriculture, an application of Steiner’s associative economics, by Trauger Groh and others at Temple Wilton Community biodynamic farm in New Hampshire, has gone viral round the world? CSA offers a radical alternative economic model to the ‘free market’, where consumers, distributors and growers agree to associate together for fair prices for growing good food, guided by clear agreements.

Why a ‘commonwealth society’? ‘Commonwealth’ is an old word for society or state, meaning much more than just money. Massachusetts and Canada are formally called commonwealths. ‘Commonwealth’ includes our commons, such as land, air, water, language, relationships and culture, as well as industry, the economy, health service and our democracy. ‘Commonweal’ is connected, meaning common good.

farmworkerscanaries

I observed how social threefolding lived in the will of many people- seemingly just below the surface. They had an intuitive grasp of boundaries between culture, politics and economy and how to clarify these. This was expressed by proposals such as, ‘Lets get the money out of politics’, or ‘Get the state and corporations out of education’. The shared understanding of the threefold separation of powers in the US Constitution, of the judiciary, legislature and executive, led to a similar distinguishing of the tripartite dynamics of the political, economic and cultural systems.

Therefore, as we British and Americans need to see how things work, a number of people whom I met are writing up case studies for a 2017 anthology of how they are working with Steiner’s social threefolding in practice, for example on their biodynamic farm, in their school or bank[i]

However, the threats Trump poses also need recognizing. Just as it is hard for us to now view a film of Hitler speaking at the 1930’s Nuremberg rallies and not think, ‘How could they be taken in?’ so our grandchildren may view Trump in the same way. How can we understand those who voted for Trump? (Note: i.e. only 24% of the electorate voted for Trump, Clinton got 2.75 million more votes, and just less than 50% of the US electorate actually voted)

To answer the question of why people voted for Trump, it is vital to analyze the role of the corporate and social media. These were expertly used to manufacture consent and votes. Many people now get their news and ‘information’ from the social media, from friends‘ recommendations, and from the automatic recommendations of algorithms. ‘If you like this, then you will like this.’ Many people see uncritically through the lenses of their social media and personal ‘filter bubbles. ’ Just as with the Brexit campaign, it was possible to ruthlessly spread malicious, unfounded rumours, factoids, lies and half-truths. The more vicious and shocking, like the allegation Hilary Clinton was a paedophile which originated with some Macedonian youths, the more people clicked and forwarded their friends with a message, ‘Have you seen this?’ And the more negative the information, the angrier and ‘pumped up’ people got in their social media echo chambers. This was ‘post truth politics ‘ in action.

But such social media manipulation by Trump would not have resonated with people if there had not been real grievances to address. His campaign targeted a  mixture of social conservatives from all backgrounds- some with white supremacist and racist views, and ‘left behind’ working class people who were economically more radical. Many jobs had gone to China and   to Mexico, communities were run down, people were afraid for their jobs, health, houses, security and their children’s education. Trump was able to get through to such people and successfully blame the liberal capitalist elite such as Clinton for the loss of jobs.

From a deeper point of view, Trump also tapped into the many people who are suffering both psychologically and spiritually. [ii]They feel they have ‘failed’ to achieve the American dream, they feel losers, half human. Having internalized the neo liberal ideology of competitive individualism and Social Darwinism, they have no one to blame but themselves. Secondly, there is a deep lack of self worth, self-respect and human dignity coming from not feeling that their work, if they have any, is respected and has value. In any case, their labour is treated as a commodity to be bought and sold on the market, a point Steiner makes strongly in Towards Social Renewal. Consequently, they feel bad, self-hurting, afraid, failures. Moreover ‘the liberals’ try to make them ashamed of their socially conservative values. For example, this is a pivotal September 2016 quote (gaffe?) by Hilary Clinton, that was used with deadly effect by Trump:

‘You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right? The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic – you name it. And unfortunately there are people like that. And he has lifted them up. He has given voice to their websites that used to only have 11,000 people, now have 11 million. He tweets and retweets offensive, hateful, mean-spirited rhetoric.’

Trump was able to mobilise ‘left behind’ peoples’ spiritual and psychological injuries, and direct the hurt and anger at   scapegoats such as the immigrants, liberals, big Washington government, Muslims, even war heroes like Senator John McCain and ‘crooked Hilary’. The use of social media, where you get constant confirmation of your views and grievances, really ‘pumped up’ people. We saw the same phenomena here with Brexit, where the Gloucestershire millionaire Arron Banks spent £7.5 mn on a toxic social media campaign that pumped up enough people to swing the vote to Leave.

neoliberalsocietydiagramDiagram of the Capture of Politics and Culture by the kleptocratic Plutocracy, Corporatocracy, Mediocracy for the Acquiring Private Wealth and Power. [iii]

So, from Steiner’s analysis of the social question, a key part of the answer to these deep human spiritual injuries is profoundly cultural. We need a dynamic renewal of creative education, the arts, sciences, spirituality, health, and our food culture so that people can develop and maintain their spiritual, creative, human, and social potential. If you think of the cost of this, consider the huge costs of not educating people for creative human freedom and dignity.

Creative cultural life is breaking through, despite the capture of large areas of culture by the corporate media and by government. (If you want to control people, command the pulpit, the schoolroom and the media.) But until we see culture, such as free creative education as centrally important, then the conditions for proto fascists like Trump and Farage will continue.

And the immediate future of the US looks dangerous. Firstly, Trump appointed the ruthless Steve Bannon as his chief of staff. He is ex-Harvard and Goldman Sachs, and an architect of the white supremacist leaning Breitbart website. Secondly, Trump has the police and military on his side. Thirdly, he can bypass an anyway Republican Congress if necessary with executive orders to push things through. And it only takes a ‘Reichstag fire’, a terrorist incident to exploit, so as consolidate power.  I already heard several personal stories of racist and sexist intimidation before I left the USA, as indicators of a conflictual, fragile social climate.

What are the positive ways ahead?

There is hope in the dark, as Rebecca Solnit writes so movingly. [iv]Preferring not to react by becoming an alcoholic or committing suicide, I choose to remain an optimist. People across the USA told me that its time to wake up more, to keep creating positive alternatives, whether in our own lives, with those we meet, with biodynamic farms as green oases for social, cultural spiritual, economic and ecological renewal, or creative Waldorf schools, ethical banks and our various projects.

We have significant capabilities, not least to address the spiritual and psychological questions of people seeking creative personal renewal. And the current situation offers an opportunity for us to answer in our own different ways the four action research burning questions that emerge from Steiner’s societal thinking:

How are we developing a generative, mutual economy that works for all?

How are we caring for the earth?

How are we engaging politically for human rights, a more participative democracy, social justice, social inclusion, equity and peace?

How are we enabling creative, dynamic cultural life where every person can develop, and maintain, their whole human potential-so that they can freely contribute?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Note: My US lecture and workshop tour, 1-23rd November, took in New York, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, California and Santa Fe New Mexico, was made possible by friends and hosts. One outcome will be a Collection of articles about social threefolding to be published in Sum

[i] For more details contact martin@hawthornpress.com.

[ii] See also Rabbi Michael Lerner in http://www.tikkun.org/nextgen/psychopathology-in-the-2016-election-3

[iii] Large, M., Common Wealth, 2010

[iv] Solnit, R., Hope in the Dark, 2016

3breakthrough-questions-from-america-for-social-threefolding

How can ‘commonwealth’ provide an original alternative to narcissistic, acquisitive economics and politics?

Preparing for coming back to the USA in November 2016, I recalled that the first time that I visited was March 1972, at the height of the Vietnam War, amidst the Great Society programmes such as  Head Start, which I volunteered on in Kansas City, Missouri. It was a time when working and middle class incomes were good, people were prosperous, but have fallen in real terms ever since.

So I asked an old friend, Barton Kunstler, what he thought of the current situation and this is what he wrote about how I could get more informed.(Quite a book list!) I thought  was well  worth sharing, as his insights helped my steep learning curve:

“ Counterpunch has a web site Counterpunch.org, while nationofchange.com and opednews.com have many good articles. Our Massachusetts senator, Elizabeth Warren, is the most outspoken public figure on banks and government, even more extraordinary as a first-term Senator. The thinkers and doers are numerous, especially in the area of alternative food sources. I see food as the US millennials’ keystone issue from which they attack corporatism, environmental degradation, etc., which is the class Millennial combination of Baby Boomer idealism and the pragmatism of so-called Gen Xers. In any case, their strength is their energy, pragmatism, idealism, skepticism, and their beautiful minds. The downside to their approach is that  the strictly political side is often distorted by being misinformed, sentimentalized (spikes in concern for feel-good quality of life issues that are important but often isolated from meaningful political context), and frankly, overly simplified.

How the minnows repelled a shark, by Ken Sprague
The fish and a shark:  Ken Sprague

“We can see all of this in the Bernie Sanders campaign which I view as having been a wonderful, almost entirely positive political experience for a nation in desperate need of such. Bernie has pledged to continue the fight for the issues he has raised and that is precisely what we need. The so called “Bernie revolution” will not be furthered by young people turning away from the election or further political engagement. I can deconstruct Hillary’s record with the best of them but she is a rational human being who understands politics and if one disagrees with her (as I do and many other Sanders supporters), then elect her and other Democrats and hold their feet to the fire. This is one more area where the social three-folding idea is helpful: by distinguishing the boundaries between activism in the three spheres. Some issues are primarily cultural but when advances are made they are seen as great political advances when in fact the political and economic power elites can adapt to liberal advances, for instance, in regard to legalization of marijuana, gay marriage, and transgender use of bathrooms.

The social media, digitized aspect is very powerful, obviously, in terms of both the younger generation’s approach to political and economic change and a more general social evolution, but it can also be over-stated. These kids still have strong friendships, great empathy, and so on, but the mediating impact of the on-screen life is profoundly unsettling, even to many of them. Yet as the Obama campaign showed so well, and in doing so was only the tip of the iceberg, public discourse in all realms is being transferred to the digital environment and the implications are vast and unreadable.

If real change is going to come, it will have to include those cyber-channels, as it has been in the mis-named Arab Spring, Occupy, and most happily, Bernie’s campaign. The Millennial generation in the U.S. grew up under the grotesque presidency of George W. Bush. Obama initially inspired but ultimately disappointed them by his lack of vision and his inability, even in his first two years, to marshall his political mandate, although in the past year or so he has somewhat redeemed his promise. Nonetheless, eight more years of war, Guantanamo, a weak and shaky economic recovery, and runaway corporate and financial power has disillusioned most young people on politics to a degree that older activists have trouble grasping, however iconoclastic we may have been.

My read on the US is that it is an absolute singularity in terms of historical conditions, not just “unique” as all societies arguably are, but utterly singular, operating according to laws that no one has ever observed before. The combination of wealth, technology, complexity, size, and military power alone—the sort of inorganic variables—would make it so. But the organic variables are toxic. By those I mean the distinctly cultural and historical qualities embedded in human experience: the anti-intellectualism, medieval religiosity, racial animus, swaggering self-image of the self-made gun-toting male. Also: celebrity culture which is really about everyone being their own celebrity and their identity being the primary object of worship; the decline in schools and public discourse; the way the right wing has managed to “tar and feather” the notion of a common good or common-wealth”; the sheer narcissism—weird in itself but how it has utterly saturated the political and economic functions; and so much more.

Our unique position after WW II, when we were the sole engine of economic and military power, the heroic colossus that saved the world (in our minds), gave rise to the American myth of ever-expanding personal and national wealth. The de-regulation of the stock market and financial operations shifted the notion of wealth from affording the luxurious counterparts of items that everyone had—luxury cars, a house valued at maybe 10 times the average, a selection of excellent suits or gowns—to a horizon-less greed for the next power of ten: the ten-millionaire realizes how limited they are beside the 9-figure honcho, and once one can see the billionaire brand up ahead, one must achieve that. With the disparities in wealth the system begins to fracture and the values shift towards the narcissistic self-worship not of wealth but of oneself as a modern Sardanopolis. Not to mention the real cost as no economy can produce enough wealth to support that kind of greed without sucking dry the poor and middle class.

Globalization hit the US particularly hard, especially as we were so used to being isolated from its effects given three oceans to our east, west, and north (Canada is the northern ocean! haha), and poor broken Mexico and the fragemented Caribbean to the south. Today global events really matter. Even during Vietnam, when I was a very argumentative person, so many people would angrily tell me they were tired of us being pushed around by little countries and we should therefore bomb the hell out of Vietnam. I would ask for examples of these terrible bullies. Needless to say, they didn’t know of any actual cases or they’d rant about Castro and Cuba.

Is it possible that the American experience simply was designed to make people stupid? People who are intrinsically nicer or more delicate than I am go on and on about the middle class feeling betrayed and abandoned, etc., and I do understand how such devastating blows to one’s social and psychological self-worth can lead to the Tea Party or Trump. But that’s still too kind because face it, these movements are saturated with racism and with irrational attachments to politicians and policies that run contrary to their members’ self-interest. There is a simmering violence just below the surface and a mad infatuation the phallic compensation of firearms that is terrifying, especially when one poll indicates millions of Americans may go to the polls carrying a gun, though I’m skeptical of that. So it’s hard for me to adopt the condescension of those who would explain away these proto-fascist (I no longer use the term “crypto-fascist” as the “crypto” part seems outdated) reactions as largely reflexive. We are human beings and we have minds in order to avoid self-destructive, pathogenic behaviors.

At any rate, why does societal uncertainty result in such a bizarre set of responses as we see in the US today? Perhaps we are a singularity with a lack of models or orientating “memes” to guide us in such circumstances. Thus people who do initially have well-functioning brains with a strong potential to cultivate a mind wind up desperately seeking validation from the most “amygdala-friendly” sources: the repetitive rants of a Hitler or Rush Limbaugh or the venting of a Trump. In time, this does have a neurological effect, especially as there’s so little in the culture to counteract it. The myelin sheathes around the neuronal paths that feed amygdalic gratification grow thicker. Instead of many branching dendrites the brain is dominated by one or two superhighways leading direct to the red button. Violence and genocide are the result of the button being pushed over and over. (I use “amygdala” advisedly, as a schematic short-hand for whatever aspects of the brain are drawn into this closed-loop). Part of the disdain for Hillary, and the disappointment in Obama, is that people want authentic, clarion voices that can lay out a vision not only of hope but of effective action (Occupy). Most politicians can’t offer it because that’s not who they are. Why is Obama so adamant about the Trans Pacific Pact? It’s a horrible idea but his agenda, aside from wanting everyone to be nicer, splits off from those of most Americans on that sort of globalist issue.

I’m reading a great book that just came out, “White Trash” by Nancy Isenberg. I’m on page 50 and it’s already had an impact on me. \Two others are Takaki’s “A Different Mirror” about the immigrant experience, already 20 years old, and a book that’s been around about 30 years, Beyond Geography by Frederick Turner (not the late 19th c. Frederick Turner).

A book that was co-written/edited by a Stonybrook professor that I bought when it came out in the very early 70s is Rothenberg and Qasha’s “America: A Prophecy”. It’s a collection of primary sources that does something of what Galeano did in his books, presenting the sources in such a way as to create an alternative narrative of American history, unearthing hidden currents and showing what might have been and, at the time it came out, what people thought might still be. Speaking of currents, one of the all-time masterpieces of American historical writing is a book that was sidelined by the Cold War backlash against all the progressive scholarship of the 20s and 30s (even in the field of classics): Vernon Parrington, “Main Currents in American Thought”, which I have in the form of one of my father’s old college text books, though it’s not a “textbook”. Parrington presents diverse voices from the scope of US history with a brilliant commentary on each. It’s a unique, profound book and as a traveling companion in America, as good as a book can be.

The “self” itself is in play in US society, which is not only unique but still a pacesetter in many cultural developments world-wide. The self has devolved\ from an identification with “god” and cosmos and tribal or civic affiliations, etc. over the course of millennia. In the post-Marcuse world (one way to reference it), the self has become a profoundly unstable notion of an identity. The individual self is, when in balance with more extensive, “inorganic” frameworks, a wonderful engine of creativity and guardian of human dignity and social justice. In narcissistic contexts, the self cannot bear the full burden of all that is demanded of us as members of a complex society. We may worship the idea of ourselves, spend much of our income in enhancing the self and its image and most of our mental energy thinking about it, but the energy expended is a measure of the anxiety this multi-tasking selfhood inflicts upon us.

In addition, there is something essential in human beings’ projection of the ego into and through the things we can control—mates, territory, possessions—and our deities usually reflect something of th nature of what we admire and how we control it (mingled with the natural forces we cannot control). So a weather god is also a god of laws that protect property and state power, or the post-Newtonian deity is basically a clockmaker whose work embraces nature and the human mind. In a consumerist, market-driven society the self and the deity both become dispersed through our objects, with some, such as houses and cars, most eminent in the pantheon, but all in all, the deity and the ego are fragmented and fractured throughout countless objects. This is interesting as the deity who is chopped up and distributed among the community in a feast or other fable-like catastrophe is as old as myth.

Anyway, this hits us from two directions at once: anxiety over each piece of ourselves out there (he stole a cookie from the store, he deserved to be shot!) and anxiety over the hollowness at the core of being. But we have entered a new era in which the proliferative self-image is taking precedence over the objects. Hence “information is power”, “quantum physics is about information, not energy”, etc. All nice sounding concepts but in the popular agora it means that the construction of a data-rich image of one self (see all the high-tech product ads for the idealized image of cutting-edge, liberated, gorgeous (of course!), people all living on the same screens using the same software) becomes the ultimate product. This is obvious in politics but is more insidious in human relationships and in all manner of exchange, such as currency, commerce, and communication. In the end, this leads people to grasp at the most illogical, irrational, amygdala-driven images, the Trump or the Militia Defender of the Republic or the “I’m not Left or Right, I’m Middle of the Road” vacuity, or just an unending stream of violent or trivial media images or actual acts of violence themselves.

 

How the minnows repelled a shark, by Ken Sprague
How the minnows repelled a shark, by Ken Sprague

The notion of “commonwealth” seems to me to have immense potential because it is far older, with a much richer history and legacy, than acquisitive economics and politics. Even the US militia movement resonates with it on some level. Black and Hispanic and Asian cultures, not to mention Native American, are still largely committed to it. It offers the vocabulary and the genetic and tribal resonance to offset, to some degree at least, current ideologies and compulsions. It is also, oddly enough, encouraged by the cyber-social-media revolution, an irony so massive it can define our civilization for the next century or so if it can survive that long. It is also squarely in the mind-set of the Millennial generation.

 

US Lecture and Research Tour :Building Commonweal 1st-2nd November 2016 Dates and Venues

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November 2016 US Lecture and Research Tour by Martin Large

 Hope, Fear and Building Commonweal: Rudolf Steiner’s Threefold Vision for Society

 What social future do we want and how do we get there?

This lecture and research trip is an opportunity to learn from positive US social, economic and political develoments, meet people similary engaged,   and also share questions arising  with those  working practically with Rudolf Steiner’s social ideas and vision for a threefold commonwealth or society.

Visiting the USA in October/November 2003 on a Winston Churchill travelling fellowship, I was inspired by New York guerrilla gardeners and by community land trust pioneers across the USA such as the Fellowship community at Spring Valley, Burlington Vermont CLT and Temple Wilton Biodynamic Farm. This led to working with others on  CLT National Demonstratioon Projects to help set up many UK community land trusts for social housing, changing UK law, innovative co-op community financing and farm land trusts in Britain, including the Biodynamic Land Trust.

At a time of great change and challenge, amidst the mess of market fundamentalism, I will ask, ‘How does Rudolf Steiner’s dynamic social thinking inspire us to build a more free, equal, mutual and earthcaring commonwealth…… One biodynamic farm, vibrant school and social business at a time?’ … However the starting point is, ’ What are your burning social questions?”

I work as a facilitator and live in Stroud, UK. Books include, Social Ecology (1981), Futures that Work (2002), Common Wealth (2010), which draws on Steiner’s social threefolding to map an emerging commonwealth society. Asked when working in civil war torn former Yugoslavia in the 1990’s, ‘What, then, is the alternative to communism and capitalism?’ I have been action researching this question ever since..

Dates, Venues and Times of Talks and Workshop

3 November; Anthroposophical Society  138 W15th St   New York NY 10011 . New York City 7pm: Hope, Fear and Building Commonweal: Rudolf Steiner’s Threefold Vision for Society-How do we get there?

More information: walter@wawrite.com

4/5the November talk/workshop in Spring Valley: Hope, Fear and Building Commonweal: Rudolf Steiner’s Threefold Vision for Society: How do we get there?

More information: rafael@threefold.org

Sunday 6 : Restoring Hope: 

Rudolf Steiner’s Social Vision of a Threefold Commonwealth: 7pm Hawthorne Valley Waldorf School, Music Room

518-672-4465, x223 

or glamb@thecenterforsocialresearch.org

Thursday 9: Temple Wilton, New Hampshire evening talk Hope, Fear and Building Commonweal: Rudolf Steiner’s Threefold Vision for Society and Community Farm/Land Trusts

Contact: groh.alice@gmail.com

Friday, Nov 11, 7:30pm – 9:15pm; Rudolf Steiner College, Sacramento: Evening Talk: Hope, Fear and Building Commonweal: Rudolf Steiner’s Vision for a Threefold Commonwealth- What social future do we want and How do we get there?

Saturday Nov 12, 9:30am – 4:30pm , Rudolf Steiner College: Threefolding Conference

http://rudolfsteinercollege.edu/events/threefold-conferenceContact:

2016 Biodynamic Conference: Tierra Viva: Farming the Living Earth

November 16-20, Santa Fe, NM

 

 

Open Food Network for Developing Fair Farm to Fork, Buyer-Supplier Relations

How do we develop fair, farm to plate, buyer supplier relations? This burning question  will be posed at a Workshop that I will be attending at the upcoming Biodynamic Association Annual Conference from November 16-20 2016 at Santa Fe, New Mexico.

So often, farmers and growers see in the shops a big price mark up of the food they grow. At the same time, they are barely making a living. In the UK, aggressive supermarket buyers have sometimes forced the price of milk, for example, below the economic cost of production. So one response is for producers use various methods such farm gate sales points, community supported agriculture (CSA)  or  running a farmers market stall to reach the consumer directly, and bypass the middleman distributor, wholesaler or retailer. Not surprisingly, there has been a huge growth around the world in both famers’ markets and in CSA’s.food-drop-sorting-boxes

 

And great oaks form small acrons can grow! In Sweden, Salta Kvarn, one of the largest Swedish box schemes,  is run from Jarna near Stockholm and is biodynamic. They have now set up stores in Stockholm. The Salta Kvarn  bakery started in the 1930s in the basement of a treatment center for young people with mental disabilities, because they wanted to bake bread from organically grown grain. In 1964 they bought the mill next to the treatment center, and Salta Kvarn was founded. Several products have the Demeter label . In 2008 the company was rewarded with the award Newcomer of the Year, awarded by the Farmers’ National Association and Food Federation. In 2013 it  produced about 150 products sold in shops and health food trade. The company is owned by a number of Foundations.

However, in Stroud, Gloucestershire where I live, we have both a thriving Saturday Farmers Market, Stroud Community Agriculture Farm-a 290 member CSA co-op , and StroudCo which was set up several years ago by a group of local food activists as a distribution platform to link local buyers and suppliers who for various reasons wanted something different. It is a food hub.

As a food hub StroudCo sources local produce from local farmers, bakers, growers, beekeepers, preservers, fermenters and other suppliers. Through their website members can order from all these different producers and collect their shopping in one place. Many producer members are also shopper members and vice versa. The aim is to create a market place that facilitates a direct link from producer to consumer.

Nick Weir, one of the founding directors of StroudCo  food hub (www.stroudco.org.uk)  is working with other UK food markets, co-ops and hubs to introduce a UK instance of the innovative and amazingly practical, timely Open Food Network, which originated in Australia. https://www.openfoodnetwork.org.au

 

What is OFN? Open Food Network (OFN) is an open source (free) web infrastructure to decentralise the food system. OFN national “chapters” collaborate and have non-profit principles. The OFN enables producers to offer food and drink for sale direct to the public or through any kind of hub, market or retail outlet (collectively called shopfronts). Producers and shopfronts can then cross sell each other’s’ products and establish distribution arrangements. OFN also provides some sales reporting and and accounting functionality. By creating a “group” users can link various producers and hubs, where one hub manages a catalogue of products and coordinates logistics for other hubs. This allows for lower transport costs and reduced CO2 emissions. OFN also enables visibility of the food ecosystem on a map, allowing the actors to identify and create new links and partnerships.

Why OFN? The current food system produces many negative externalities (health issues, loss of biodiversity and topsoil, antibiotic resistance, low-nutrient food, waste, high suicide rates in the agricultural community, etc.). All these externalities are the symptoms of a sick food system. But what are the root causes behind this disease? All these problems are caused by two major root causes:

The growing distance between producers and consumers, primarily physical (urbanization, globalization, accumulation of intermediaries) and psychological (we no longer know where our food comes from or how it is produced, and we give little value to our food and easily waste it)

Increasing trends of centralization, concentration and vertical and horizontal integration during recent decades has shifted the power from producers to agribusiness, and now a handful of multinational agro-industries control the food system (seeAgropoly report) .

OFN addresses these root causes by facilitating the creation & administration of local food ecosystems and by providing transparent information, thus bringing producers closer to consumers and enabling the decentralization of the food system.

The OFN guiding values are:

Land: we support farmers and producers using regenerative agricultural practices

Global Commons: all members of OFN co-create and share the responsibility for the Commons.

People first: we are building a human system, which defends at its heart mutual respect and empathy, as well as diversity, inclusion and tolerance.

Transparency: we are deploying transparency both on the platform we are building as well as in the operation of our organisation.

Constant evolution: we live in a world of perpetual change, which requires continuous adaptation and agility.

Empowerment: our project empowers individuals to create their own activity, and gives the freedom to choose the food system they desire.

Subsidiarity: decisions are most effective when they are taken at the most local level appropriate.

Systemic change: we believe in a global transition that addresses the root causes of a broken food system, not its symptoms.

Who for?

Farmers, market growers, artisans, breeders wishing to sell their products

Producer groups or farmer’s markets who wish to distribute their products collectively

Distributors and wholesalers who want to restore transparency in their supply chain

Grocery stores, independent shops, restaurants and cafeterias wishing to source directly from producers

Consumers who collectively purchase direct from producers (Community Supported Agriculture, buying clubs, cooperative grocery stores)

To find out more about the global OFN community visit https://openfoodnetwork.org/

To join the global OFN discussion forum visit http://community.openfoodnetwork.org/

If you want to follow this up, then Myriam, based in France,  is  a “global community gardener” for the OFN. She supports people who want to set up OFN in their country or region. She is an entry point for any info about the project (community, values, international development, etc.).  myriam.boure@gmail.com

In the USA, Mike Kilmer, mike@mzoo.org has  started investigating  the OFN for the USA, but there is not yet an official entity leading the project there. Mike has set up a US staging server and some other local people interested have started to play with it (https://staging.usfoodcoop.org/map)

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Finding and Celebrating London’s Hidden Orchards

Planting fruit trees and looking after  community orchards is one way of building commonweal. The community orchard movement is spreading rapidly as people connect to the often forgotten, neglected and secret orchards in their locality. One of the most moving, classic children’s book, The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett, describes how  two  traumatised and lonely children, Mary and Colin, come back to life through looking after a secret, special garden, with the help of Dickon who is totally at home with nature.

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The Orchard Project was brought to my attention by a friend Ella Hashemi, who has started working for them, and is fired up by the potential , not just for developing community orchards, but for community building. Her colleague, Stephanie writes that,

The  Orchard Project  believes that, ..” orchards in London are worth preserving because they connect people with their heritage and environment, act as oases of calm in a hectic city, promote health and wellbeing, are an attractive focus for engaging people and developing skills, and provide refuges for wildlife. If they are actively managed by community groups they are more protected from development threats, and more likely to thrive.

Today’s renewed interest in orchards in the urban environment may be traced to an upsurge in the environmental movement over the last 30 years or so. Common Ground, a charity founded in London in 1983, has promoted orchards and established Apple Day as an annual community event. As part of that movement, orchards are again being planted in London – no longer as private spaces but as community resources.

London is a mosaic of private and public land, housing developments, brownfield sites and green spaces, rivers and canals, roads and railways. The city’s orchards reflect that patchwork. They are tucked away behind school playgrounds and in pub beer gardens, or forgotten in overgrown woodland or the corners of parks. No part of London is wholly urban or rural, so even when orchards are situated in the heart of the city, surrounded by busy roads and buildings, such as Olden Gardens in Holloway or Ferry Boat Inn in Tottenham, they are close to the wildlife corridors of railway lines or canals.

Once a common sight within the landscape, orchards are now under threat, mainly because of land development pressure, neglect, a lack of skills and the absence of legal protection. Our old orchard trees are dying and they will soon be lost unless they are preserved through restoration and veteran tree management. London has already lost more than 98% of orchards since last century, and the conservation of the remaining orchards is a high priority. In recognition of this, orchards were made a priority habitat in the UK’s Biodiversity Action Plan.’

http://www.theurbanorchardproject.org/blog/finding-londons-hidden-orchards

One concern however, is how securely Community Orchards are protected from development, from the land being sold off and privatised? How does the  Orchard Project make sure that such orchards are held in trusteeship bodies that  capture and protect the community  value and benefits of such orchards in perpetuity as open spaces and commons?

http://www.theorchardproject.org.uk/

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