Innovation in Communities: Overcoming ignorance about what is possible
Brian O’Leary, www.brianoleary.info, May 14, 2010

In the Phoenix Dialog chat group, Richard Moore wrote his preview about "the light at the end of the tunnel" of our political-ethical-environmental demise being the empowerment of communities. I share his hopes; there is a lot of work for us to do in designing a concept of communities nested within a global commons that works for everyone.

Moore wrote: " if hierarchy is the problem, then community empowerment is the seed of a solution. "

but that "...the 'movement' doesn't exist as a coherent whole, but only as the separate threads, each pursuing its own objectives with single-minded dedication..."

and "The movement-to-be is not yet aware of its inherent nature."

I agree and am eager to read about Moore’s and others’ forthcoming writings on what it will take to unify the threads. I can surely suggest one: integrating sustainable technologies at a local level that cooperate with, rather than act against, nature.

Communities are not only unaware of their enormous potential as threads of planetary transformation, as Moore suggests; they are also unaware of the innovations that could solve the problem of environmental sustainability both locally and globally. Most of us are unaware of what is possible in integrated local systems of energy, agriculture, water and waste management. For example, to some people, recycling plastic bottles, reforestating with eucalyptus or pine tree monocultures, producing ethanol from corn, or building windmills and solar panels, would qualify for authentic sustainability, where any of these fall way short of the mark when total life-cycle environmental implications are considered.

Communities will need to become educated much more deeply about the possibilities to go beyond the pop culture's impressions of what is sustainability, that they can make positive choices from a much bigger smorgasbord free of promotional biases so they can learn about which direction they can go toward for their own best answers and for the global answers to the sustainability challenge. They should be able to proceed with a clean slate of choices as free of vested interests as possible.

The recent breakthrough work on truly nature-cooperative solutions is flourishing, e.g., Gunter Pauli's recent book The Blue Economy and some of the more advanced research on breakthrough clean energy and water purification.

The trick here is to be able to disseminate the new information to local communities without being authoritarian or hierarchal about it or taking excessive profits from holding onto and selectively selling intellectual property within a scarcity paradigm. The technologies will also need to be benign. And can we trust all communities to make the right selections here in concert with the needs of the global commons? Community autonomy along with the willingness to become educated about the possibilities outside-the-box need to be brought forward with the highest ethical standards.

The key here is education and dialog. What we are dealing with here is a co-creation of concept designs for a sustainable future for all in a way that is fair to all. Moore is right that the new spirit of cooperation embodied in the the relocalization movement is unprecendented in our history. Are we up to combining the threads? We appear to have little choice in the matter.