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Posts Tagged ‘Self-Sustaining Community’

How many times have you heard people who lived through the great depression say that?

shooting marbles
I have heard that phrase countless times from my parents and many of “the greatest generation”.  What a blessed state of ignorance that phrase describes. It is a state of profound and pervasive lack.

  • lack of self-judgment
  • lack of social judgment based on material wealth
  • lack of material pride
  • lack of selfishness
  • lack of spiritual depravity derived from excess
  • lack of covetousness, that nagging need to have more than someone else
  • lack of NEED

It inversely describes a state of abundance, both perceived and real. An ABUNDANCE of:

  • Friends – Real Personal Relationships, not phony, material ones
  • Mutual Good Will and Generosity
  • Confidence that your friends and neighbors, who are in the same boat, are with you, care about you and are watching your back
  • Peace and a sense of Well-Being
  • Focus on things that really count

I’m sure both lists could be extended, but you get the point.

Yesterday, around the Village Thanksgiving table, I don’t recall a single reference to Black Friday or even shopping other than for basic needs or how to do it efficiently. Maybe I just missed it.

I think there is an inverse relationship between real wealth and the preoccupation with buying more stuff. The person who perceives no need is not needy. Regardless of the number of zeros in one’s bank balance, a person who can hardly wait to go shopping for the latest ego-boosting bling, gadget or fad is the one in deep need, and therefore, poor.

That is not to infer that Villagers are financially poor. We’re not, although I’m sure some have more than others. The point is, nobody seems to care too much about who has what. A community that doesn’t continuously focus on or remind us of things we want, either vocally or by the things they flaunt, gives us spiritual space to appreciate things that matter more and that cost little.

In the things that matter, I think we’re on balance, a very wealthy bunch.

Are we blissfully ignorant of our poverty? I don’t think so. In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I would rather be intensely and joyfully aware of our wealth, but maybe it’s the same thing. As I often remind students in my marketing class at the University of the South, Perception is more important than. . .       NO. . . Perception IS reality.

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To End All WarsTo End All Wars is a powerful, gut-wrenching moral tale that lays bare the core dilemma of True Christians.  Starring Robert Carlyle and Kiefer Sutherland, the movie is set in the hell of a WWII Japanese POW camp in Burma, where a war rages between two factions of prisoners.  It is a philosophical war between justice and mercy, complete with the crucifixion of the leader of the mercy faction.

Since 2011, our world is at war everywhere.  By definition, the war against stateless terrorism defines the battlefield as having no boundaries.  It is, therefore, already an undeclared, unrecognized World War III on the verge of exploding into something even larger.  Every citizen of the world is now a soldier in some sense and a POW in another.

In a surprising twist, this powerful movie makes the case that the real war is not over territory or strategic resources.  It is a war over the soul of every man.

To end all wars;  It is a perennial quest and the hollow justification for all wars.  Is there a resolution, a real answer?  As with most profound questions, the answer is, “it depends on your definition”.

Here is the dilemma:
To take up arms in defense of family, freedom, justice and righteous principles?
Or,
To lay down arms and bear with unbearable courage and unconditional love, the hate of Satanic forces and by so doing, to overcome hate and evil in the only way that it can be ended?
These are the profound questions asked of each of us in this tale based on true events.

These questions are not unique to Christianity.  Gandhi based his life work on reaching a Machiavellian balance between an aggressive but non-violent war and surrender to love.  Thereby, he won India’s independence from England.  But he did not achieve a lasting peace on Earth or even for India.  The realist says such an earthly peace is beyond possible.  And that is true until the war for the soul is won for all mankind.   THAT is the only War with the potential to End All Wars.  It is a costly and intensely personal war.  Few are willing to wage it.  The sacrifices it requires can not be placed on others.

New Testament, Mark, Chapter 8:
36 For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?
37 Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?

For anyone who has struggled with the question, “why do we need a Savior to atone for our sins?”,  To End All Wars offers the answer.  Because the Savior’s example of perfect, unconditional love changes us. It saves us from ourselves.  But as the movie shows, it does not work for everyone, only those who embrace the example and live it.  For these, the war for the soul has a happy and permanent ending even if the price is high.  For the rest, war may be an eternal reality.

I highly recommend this film with a warning that neither its Christian ideals nor the graphic violence or language in it are for the faint of heart.  I’m adding it to my list of the Top 100 Movies for Troubled Times.

The Village is for people who seek an end to war, specifically the war of the soul that leads to war against people and nature.  That spirit is embodied in our theme, “in harmony with nature and people”.  Gandhi would have been a welcome resident, though he was not a Christian.  If that kind of sustainable, self-sufficient neighborhood appeals to you, ask here.

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As a college student bout 40 years ago, I read Walden; or, Life in the Woods, by Henry David Thoreau. Like most people of my generation, I spent many years out of the woods, behind a desk, on planes, in endless meetings.  But, Thoreau’s message stuck.  From it, I learned ideas like

  • the importance of living deliberately
  • your stuff will own you, not the other way around
  • the true economics of Life
  • self-sufficiency is both possible and desirable.
  • the importance of living in and learning from nature.

After a career that paid well and exposed me to wealth and society, I have tried to live more simply and deliberately. In this excellent TED talk, Adam Baker does the best job that I’ve seen of recapturing Thoreau’s ideas for modern times. In the fragile, frenetic and uber-materialist world we live in, these ideas are more relevant than ever.

Inspiring experiences and memories are the rewards of a life well-lived. The stuff we accumulate gets in the way of real life.

If you are seeking to live “the Good Life” in the company of like-minded, well-informed, good and intelligent people, you might want to join us.  Inquire here

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This is a good industry article indicating that solar panel manufacturers will go through a major consolidation this year.

Consolidation is a weeding out of the smaller, less efficient manufacturers in favor of low-cost, high-volume, efficient manufacturers.  The remaining suppliers will benefit from lower supply and less intense pricing pressures.  It remains to be seen whether, in the aftermath of lower supply, prices will increase.  They may continue to decline, despite decreased pressure on prices, as new, more efficient technologies and manufacturing techniques are developed.  Or, it may signal the bottoming out of PV panel prices.  Also, there does seem to be some improvement in the economy, at least in some sectors.  This could release pent-up demand from people who have been waiting to invest in solar out of fear over a potential job loss.  If we have industry consolidation (lower supply) that coincides with higher demand, the remaining suppliers will benefit from even higher economies of scale, resulting in higher profitability and perhaps lower prices as low-cost suppliers further consolidate market-share.

By observing general trends in the high tech sector based on silicone chips, one could conclude that prices will continue to decline.  That is, unless there is some other major disruption in the supply chain (like war, political upheaval, etc.)  If prices begin to increase post-consolidation, this may trigger more government intervention and subsidization, which could also be an offsetting factor, although generally, once consolidation has occurred, fewer companies may use subsidies to simply pad their bottom lines, further strengthening their balance sheets and staying power in the market rather than reduce prices.

Industry consolidation is just one factor to consider in determining when is the right moment to invest in Solar technology that moves us further in the direction of off-grid self-sufficiency while staying fiscally conservative.  My sense is that now is at least a much better time to invest in solar than a few years ago.  I’m glad I waited.  Cost per KWh is still higher than grid-supplied electricity.  But the question remains, should I wait longer?  The economy looks to be improving in the short term.

I consider small-scale home based Solar PV not for its economic efficiencies, but more for its insurance value. Long-term, the world still looks extremely fragile.  With the short-term improvement in the economy, this may be the perfect moment to invest in self-sufficiency, whether it is a modest amount of solar PV or a more secure location on which to place it.

Achieving self-sufficiency and sustainability without bankrupting yourself requires a long-term, plodding approach.  Like Maslow’s heirarchy of needs, (remember that from college psychology or sociology classes?) one does not achieve self-actualization until the more basic needs are covered.  PV solar, is at the top of the pyramid.  First, you cover basics like food, water, shelter, Next is energy in the form of least costly and highest efficiency.  Energy for heat and cooling falls in this category.  Passive solar or bio-mass solutions are a much better alternative.    Never try to provide these using Photo Voltaics.  That would be like trying to survive in a famine on an all-corn-fed-beef diet where it takes 15 pounds of grain to produce one pound of meat.  Inefficient, unsustainable.

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Here, on the Southern Cumberland Plateau, there have been a number of recent attempts to establish a barter community.  One uses Face Book to publish barter opportunities, but it has become just an online yard sale.  A local farmer’s market accepts food stamps and engages in some barter.  Craig’s List offers a section for barter.  Old time rural residents of Grundy, Marion and Franklin Counties have been adept for years at striking good barter bargains.  But the fact remains that barter is difficult.  Matching two needs to two haves occurs rarely and usually with a lot of unsatisfying compromise.  All advanced civilizations rely on some form of universal currency to grease the wheels of commerce and stimulate trade within the economy.

And what of “the economy”?  How’s it going out there?    Even a casual observer will notice that “the economy” is increasingly distant.  Globalization has expanded the marketplace for goods, services, finance, labor and everything else far beyond our reach or control.  One impact of globalization is that it seems the only export growth sector for America is jobs, especially those that are high paying, manufacturing or high tech.  For several decades we have been told that America is a service economy and that’s a good thing. It’s a good thing as long as you have a high paying job and can buy cheap things imported from China or India.  That makes you feel pretty wealthy.

Service economies function on lots of credit and lots of consumption.  That worked pretty well as long as the housing bubble and easy credit pumped up our false sense of prosperity.  When that popped, we bailed out the big banks and wall street investment firms with trillions of dollars of inflation generating fiat cash.  Oh yeah, that wasn’t a one-time thing as promised.  We’re still doing it.

Meanwhile, the government keeps telling us that inflation is low and under control.  But those of us not on food stamps have noticed a big difference in the cost of our every day expenses, things like groceries, gas, health care and insurance.  Meanwhile, tried to get a new loan for a house lately?  That huge cash infusion into the banking industry doesn’t seem to be trickling down.  Wonder where all that money went?  It’s still in the toilet and someone forgot to flush.  Can you imagine the inflationary impact if it had actually gone into our consumptive economy?

But the real elephant in the room is the US Dollar’s status as world currency tied to the petrol dollar.  There have been rumblings for some time that it’s time to change that.  In early 2012, Russia began selling oil to China without the intermediary US dollar.  The dike is cracked and many informed people believe it will take more fingers than we have to keep it plugged.   How many guns, fighters, tanks, air craft carriers and military bases will it take to force the world to continue using an inflated dollar?  When the dike fails and another currency becomes the global currency (Can you say Renmimbi or how about Yuan?)  what will become of the good old $US?   I have a framed 100 trillion dollar note from Zimbabwe on my book case as a reminder of what happens to all currencies when there is too much of them floating around to represent the value of their underlying goods and services.  Ever wanted to be a trillionaire?  Just move to Zimbabwe and you can enjoy that status.

These are just some of the reasons we have been considering alternative currencies for a long time.  We believe in proactively preparing for things.  We believe in being self-sufficient. And, there are many more benefits to stimulating the local economy by keeping cash circulating locally.  For a quick look at the benefits and how local currencies can work, take a look at this short video.

Surprisingly, there is nothing illegal about printing your own currency and there are a number of very successful examples of local currencies in the USA.  BerkShares in upstate New York are one of the most successful.  Here is a list of local US currencies.  You will note that, while there are several, they are still uncommon.

We think we have a unique approach to implementing the Sewanee Dollar at the Village on Sewanee Creek.  It can work initially in a very small economy based on systems already in place.  Over time, we hope to grow our economy and the benefits of participation to encompass business transactions in a much larger area.  Interested?  Inquire Here.

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I have often blogged on the importance of making a difference by thinking small, or rather, local.  Meaning, if you want to change the world, start by changing yourself.  Gandhi’s “BE the change you want to see” is the universal starting point.  Failing to do so has delivered to us a shallow culture of hypocrisy and deeply ingrained corruption from the highest levels of boardrooms to the shop floor, from congress and the presidency to the local planning commission or school board.  Epidemic corruption makes for profound distrust, breeding systemic, deeply ingrained cynicism.

The longing for Values and Integrity is why many Friends of Sewanee Creek have told me they are drawn to the dream of living in a community of people who genuinely care for one another, hard-working people of strong, traditional core values, people who are civil and respectful to each other even, or especially, when they don’t agree or have conflicting interests.  That dream can only be realized when each of us commits to be the shining example of the community we want to be in.

That starts with me.  As the obviously imperfect founder of the Village, the self-imposed burden of self-examination can be daunting.  The worst kind of cynicism can be the loss of trust or self-respect that comes from failing to meet one’s own standards to perfection.  And . . . nobody wants to hang out with cynics.

While each of us does our best to live to high standards and values, it is important to think SMALL as well as local.  We need to recognize that it is often the small acts of kindness or civility that can make the biggest difference.

This morning, I ran across an article titled, “The Power of Small Moments”. It got me thinking of the huge task I have set for myself of building a culture of goodness in the Village, let alone the daunting task of being a shining example of what I want to see.  I found it oddly comforting.  I hope you enjoy this article as much as I did.

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In this morning’s email is an article titled, STILL GROUNDBREAKING AND URGENT from nextworldTV.  Here is the text that accompanies an edited version of the original film.

“We’re literally stuck up a cul-de-sac in a cement SUV without a fill-up” – James Howard Kunstler
This is the film that years ago, inspired the spark for the creation of Nextworldtv. Released in 2004, it is still groundbreaking and urgent in it’s message and the questions it raises.
“Since World War II North Americans have invested much of their newfound wealth in suburbia. It has promised a sense of space, affordability, family life and upward mobility. As the population of suburban sprawl has exploded in the past 50 years, so too has the suburban way of life become embedded in the American consciousness.
Suburbia, and all it promises, has become the American Dream.
But as we enter the 21st century, serious questions are beginning to emerge about the sustainability of this way of life. With brutal honesty and a touch of irony, The End of Suburbia explores the American Way of Life and its prospects as the planet approaches a critical era, as global demand for fossil fuels begins to outstrip supply. World Oil Peak and the inevitable decline of fossil fuels are upon us now, some scientists and policy makers argue in this documentary.
The consequences of inaction in the face of this global crisis are enormous. What does Oil Peak mean for North America? As energy prices skyrocket in the coming years, how will the populations of suburbia react to the collapse of their dream? Are today’s suburbs destined to become the slums of tomorrow? And what can be done NOW, individually and collectively, to avoid The End of Suburbia?”

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Back in January of 2008, (remember 2008? Ugh!) I posted an article about the peak oil phenomenon.  In that post, I referred to this movie, “The End of Suburbia”.  On July 3, 2009, we screened it at the Village amphitheater.  Well, since its release in 2004, a fair amount of oil has gone under the bridge.  Something like seven or eight year’s worth.  Time tends to sort out the truth of predictions.  So, where are we now?  There are many who claim that we have passed the peak and global oil production is clearly in decline.  Predictions that oil companies would be forced to move to ever more exotic technologies and expensive extraction methods like fracking and oil shale or sand extraction, or ever deeper ocean drilling.  These predictions have proven true and with disastrous ecological consequences in the Gulf of Mexico, Canada and the Bakken oil fields.  Yet, the oil industry maintains that the newer technologies have made these methods of extraction cheaper, so there is still plenty of cheap oil.  OK, if so, why does gas at the pump continue to rise at such a steep pace, accented by short periods of relief?  And why is our military still in the Middle East with sabres continually rattling, now at Iran?

On the other hand, one of the claims of the movie is that we are also running out of natural gas that fuels most of our power plants.  That makes continued growth impossible and suburbia doomed.
But T. Boone Pickens, in a TED talk claims we are at the dawn of a new boom in cheap energy on the back of natural gas while reaffirming that “the days of cheap oil are over”.  Fact is, natural gas is incredibly cheap right now.  A financial newsletter that I track says that cheap natural gas, with the build-out of the required infrastructure to replace gasoline for trucks, buses and finally cars, heralds an investment opportunity not seen since the oil and suburban construction boom of the 50′s.  If cheap natural gas is here for the long term, are all our problems solved, with peak oil just a speed bump on the on-ramp to a global concrete superhighway?

Meanwhile, the great recession (depression) rolls on.  America is clearly overextended financially.  Talk of QE3 at the Fed is back in the news.  Is our current financial predicament an outcome of peak oil or, as some claim, evil banker boogeymen intentionally wrecking global economies to bring about a New World Order that will enslave us all?  The specter of hyper-inflation and social chaos still looms as the can gets kicked further down the road.

Hmmmm… Information, disinformation.  Booms, busts, fear, reassurance.  What’s real?  Still cloudy? Tired of guessing what’s coming down or when?  It’s mentally and emotionally exhausting.  But, embedded in this doomsday flick is a bright spot.  Notice that the precursor to the Suburban boom of the 50′s was a more genuine promise of grand country living in a few planned, rural communities where people actually had livestock and raised their own food, but still had access to cultural refinements.  These early communities were for the wealthy, while suburbia became a caricature of that dream.  Fast forward to today, the dream of self-sufficient, country living is not reserved for the wealthy.  It’s a more authentic, peaceful way of life available to the rest of us.

Ready to stop the hand-wringing?  I think there are better reasons to check out of suburbia than peak oil.  They go back to a time when people knew and trusted their neighbors, a time when life was less complicated and people lived closer to the beauty that is nature.  It was also a time of creative invention, when Americans were confident in their own practical skills and full of the joy of exploring and learning new things because they could.  Let’s rebuild that life together at the Village on Sewanee Creek.

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