Re-defining Community

Are you as interested as I am to observe current global explorations of “transitional” lifestyles?  I mean those that are responding to ecological instability and social problems via lifestyle modification with the goal of preserving life on planet Earth.  You may know people who are motivated by scientific evidence about climate change or environmentally caused health problems; perhaps you know others who worry about the economic effects of the predicted decline of fossil-fuel energy.  Others are feeling personal dis-satisfaction with industrialized life, and still others are motivated by secular morals or spiritual beliefs regarding defense of the natural world.

What’s noticeable is that a segment of the global population is making lifestyle and career decisions according to convictions that inter-relationships between the natural world and human life require repair.  Think of the people you may know who are participating in the work of diverse environmental organizations, from Sierra Club and 350.org to the No Impact Project.  Maybe you know others who are involved with organic or biodynamic agriculture, food justice, or alternative fuel transportation.  You may have neighbors who are part of the urban/suburban homesteading movement and are growing their own vegetables or keeping chickens or bees.  If you want to get a sense of how many and how diverse are the organizations world-wide that are leading what I call “transitional lifestyles,” take a look at Paul Hawken’s book, Blessed Unrest: How the Largest Movement in the World Came into Being and Why No One Saw It Coming  (New York: Viking, 2007).

Activists, politicians, scholars, and other interested observers are just beginning to examine how a sustainability transition may look in practice.  What I believe is key to the sustainability transition is what appears to be a global effort to re-define “community.”  Activists and scholars all over the world are re-thinking which living beings should be included in our understanding of “community.”  Granted, this may be happening more in the developed world, because it’s in the developed world where we’ve most tragically lost our awareness that all people and all members of the life community count within “community.”

Let me explain.  Scholars in science and religion, and international leaders such as the authors of the Earth Charter, have spent the past few decades pointing out that community really is best understood in its largest context: Earth community, life community, and/or Universe community.  You can find some statements of these views on-line in the Earth Charter (2000), The Assisi Declarations (1986), The Global Forum’s Appeal for Joint Commitment in Science and Religion (1990), the Union of Concerned Scientists’ World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity (1992), Earth’s Climate Embraces us All—A Plea from Religion and Science for Action on Global Climate Change (2004), and The Blue River Declaration (2012).  And these are just a few of countless similar documents!

Assertions that maybe our understanding of “community” should include a lot more than just people also have developed out of 20th century science and its discoveries that Earth is composed of many living systems that are intricately inter-connected.  I’ll discuss this more in my next post.  For now, please let me know what you’re noticing, or what questions you have, about new definitions of community.

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