There Will Be No Return To Business As Usual (Day 136)
I spend the morning perusing my host’s new book “Beyond Crisis”. Tricia Lustig and I met very briefly at the Resurgence Gathering where she told me to get in touch as she had a book to give me. The book I am looking at is not that one though, for I find I am far more engrossed in Tricia’s book, co authored with Oliver Sparrow and Gill Ringland, and published by Wiley this year.
“Beyond Crisis” gives something of a picture of a transition future, but in business-speak, so with a fair bit of inevitable emphasis on techno fix. It is both enlightening and stark in its presentation, the no holds barred facts but with pragmatic suggestions towards which an organisation might move. Tricia describes it as a guerrilla approach to bring about change, and I am struck by the similarity with which this resonates with the transition “under the radar” approach.
I am delighted that the fox and the hedgehog types are a beautifully non gender way of explaining how we must value equally both the traditionally feminine skills of understanding and valuing nature and human responses, and the traditionally masculine skills of focus and drive if we are to survive and remain strong in a changing world.
It is also useful to have the three main narratives running through society as understood from a business perspective described; the traditionalist, slow to change, maybe poorly educated, possibly elderly, and quick both to defer to authority, and to blame it, the consumer, pragmatic and living in the present, very focussed on their own immediate family above everyone else, great followers of fashion, very judgemental and quick to blame if things go wrong, and the systems rationalist who is concerned with the future, and finding solutions, a category that the book says many environmentalists fit into, if they are not traditionalists.
The story of how we got here, with the description of banks going into “own account trading” is concisely outlined in the first chapter and a clear summary of what steps an organisation must take if it is to follow the “high road” and not the rather more alarming low road or return to traditionalism, or the “my road” of the consumer narrative believers. Not that the “high road” is a catch all happy ever after scenario either, but it does show that there is a way through provided organisations are prepared to heed the writing on the wall and change, be adaptable, and value a much more balanced and inclusive approach to life.
I find I have been given a language though which to communicate with a sector of society that I would not have otherwise known how to engage with, and am delighted to see simple scenario diagrams, like the ones used in transition too, that explain what is going on economically, and the societal shifts we can expect if certain trends are followed.
The book’s strap line is “there will be no return to business as usual” and comes with testimonies from top corporate executives. It is also heartening to note that both Tricia, and Oliver Swallow have backgrounds in working with large oil companies. They are not the first people I have met who also have this background and do not advocate business as usual; in fact quite the reverse, as Ainsleigh Rice, in Hay-on –Wye, demonstrates beautifully with his solar powered water, hydro powered electricity, totally insulated home, and his garden full of home grown food and pantry full of jams and preserves. Tricia and Nick’s home in the centre of Stroud is also completely insulated, and the food we eat comes from their allotment and breakfast from their store cupboard of home made jams. They, as most transitioners I have stayed with, are making their own bread, and over breakfast we talk recipes from the war, sparked by my question of making jam without refined sugar. Family friend Peggy suggests carrots and a recipe is found in an old cookery book, but it still required sugar. I am intrigued though, and will try experimenting with it out once home, in just about a month and a half from now.
It feels as though some of my focus now, at this three quarter stage of my journey, is looking towards home coming and the life I plan to lead. I am fascinated by Tricia’s use of the business word “stakeholders” to include everybody and not just those that have invested money in something. It is the first time I have been able to hear this word with a positive connotation and when she explains that a stakeholder system is a non hierarchical system, where everybody holds a stake in everything they are a part of I begin to understand my previous discomfort with the word, used as it so often is to refer to those whose stake in something is money, and to refer to those with that type of stake with more respect, bestowing on them more value than those who stake is something other and whose contribution is not valued in the same way.
I recall Ken Allan’s gorgeously productive no-dig winter garden, shared with his neighbour. They take equal amounts of produce from it, but their stakes have been different. Ken supplied the money for the things that needed buying, for he had that money available, his neighbour does much of the tending of the garden, for she has more time available. She also learns from Ken what skills he has when he works in the garden, for he has years of experience to pass on. This non-competitive, cooperative way of working with each other has produced a small garden able to produce all the winter produce these two families will need, and makes both happy. Neither are concerned with who put money into the project to make it happen; money was simply recognised as an intermediary, to acquire a resource, the land, some netting to protect the raspberries from the birds, for example, and time put into tending the garden is based upon time available, and any skills that either have are shared, and all of it used for the benefit of all.
It is this towards this type of approach to the future that Tricia’s book hints at, and one which I very much want to spend my life working and living in. The traditionalist hierarchical systems that I have found so challenging are so clearly part of the current problem, and I feel positive that I am amongst good company in recognising them as such.
Day 137 What Kind of World Do You Want?
Jim Lord’s book “What Kind of World Do You Want?” is the book Tricia wanted to gift to me. It seems fitting that this is the title, it is very much the question asked by the Quest game developed by Transition Tales for schools and community groups to play. The book is a collection of stores of ordinary people who got up one morning and started making a difference; just like all of you lovely transition folk are doing, all across our land, all across the globe, right now.
In the evening I go along to Star Anise (http://www.staraniseartscafe.com/) , where Fiona Eadie, storyteller I met at the New Forest transition tales event in April, has organised an evening of transition tales. I have asked my friend Herewood Gabriel to accompany the tale of my journey with his amazing array of percussion instruments, and he does, beautifully. Afterwards we hear the tales of Transition Stroud of which there are many for Stroud was one of the early transition initiatives, and had a lot going on that was transition in nature anyway long before the name transition was ever thought of.
I hear of the by now pretty famous community farm situated in the grounds of Hawkwood College, which has been going some 8 years, and was founded on biodynamic farming principles (http://www.biodynamic.org.uk/ ) and of all the things it has done over the years and how things have changed with the times so that now the farm is quite large and has a second site a few miles north of Stroud where some of the field crops like potatoes are grown, to cope with the veg box scheme that operates from it.
I hear of the community shop in the nearby village of Horsley where I will be staying tomorrow night, that is now set up as a co-operative by the community and run by volunteers, since the shop and post office were closed down, and about nearby Chalford community shop too, that would deliver produce to you by donkey, though no one seems to know if it is running still. On the subject of saving shops and post offices the group gathered are very proud to tell the tale of Upton post office, the town post office that the inhabitants of Stroud saved by campaigning; it only closed for two weeks and then it was reopened.
I am told of the open house scheme where eco houses can be visited, and that the house of Claire and Paul, where I will stay tonight is one of the participating houses, and hear from Diane of Transition Thornbury that this is done in Bristol too and Helen, founding member Transition Stroud tells of how proud they were to have more than 40 eco homes that could be visited and then they heard that Bristol had 500, but they laugh, it is a city after all.
I hear of the cycle group that have arranged cycle days that have got both a terrified 9 year old and a scared 60 year old both on to bikes and loving it, and from the canal association group about their plans to raise money to reopen more and more of the canal paths so that people can walk along them, and about the group that arrange walks to teach people about the pleasure of walking and the stories associated with the different places walked through.
The enthusiastic textile group talk about how much fun they are having and some of their projects which include a trashion show where all the local fashion artists who work with recycled materials could exhibit, and their great bring and mend evenings where they share skills and socialise and usually end up having a big clothes swop. The man in facilitating the skill share project “SkillsGain” talks about all the skill sharing they have planned for this season; including growing food in small gardens, sewing and mending, nutritional health, composting at home, knitting, woodland skills and making willow Christmas decorations.
In the new Transition Stroud leaflet I am given I read and remember the tale of TripSwitch, the transport group, and the car pool, and the Stroud food hub, organised by Nick Weir, and all about using the local primary school as a collection point for local farmers and producers to bring their produce to sell to the public and the pack that has been put together so that any other town can replicate the model.
I hear about, and see the Stroud currency; there are various denominations; £1, £2, £5 and £10, and the pictures on each illustrate different people and things of local importance; such as the teasel, once used to card wool, the man who invented the lawn mower and famous author Laurie Lee on the £10 note. I have read on a leaflet in town that there is a stall on the market where produce can be bought only with the Stroud pound (www.stroudpound.org.uk ).
After a break and lovely Star Anise vegan food, including butter bean humous, and local bread, we hear the tale that Anthony the storyteller has created to describe our descent into where we now find ourselves, recounted all the way from the receding of the Ice Age and the first agriculture. It is passionately told, and seems to end in doom and gloom, but it doesn’t, it offers an alternative, and it s one of cooperation and sharing, and very much a world that transitioners would find familiar. It is a wonderful tale and after that we open up the circle for discussion and people talk about apple days, and hedgerow picking, and the love of groups of people to congregate around greens away from cars, and our fear of cars and heavily urbanised regions where it is dangerous for old people and children to go, and our love of story, and tales of sharing, and recognition of the seasons, and we talk about how everyone listens to story and the best way to spread the word of these great deeds that are being done all over the country.
People think my story should be told and that it is more alive that way than in a book, and I am aware I have had that thought too, and we decide that the book will be a good vehicle for getting invited to places tell the story.
Fiona tells us an old tale, the tale of the sleeping King Arthur and his knights, who will one day awake in times of great need, to fight for us; she tells it magnificently, and I wonder, it has cropped up over and over and over again on this walk, this tale, and I wonder what it is about it that captures storytellers’ imaginations so much they choose to tell it now, in these times, and what its ancient roots are, and what the message we should take for us, now, in our times?
Fiona invites any who would like to start up a Transition Tales group in Stroud to let her and Anthony and Kristie, her fellow storytellers, know, and also invites us all to a bring and share supper at her house the next evening. I present the keys from Hay to the group and read Dave Prescott’s beautiful 3 o’clock in the morning story to everyone. It tells the tale of a beautiful permaculture inspired garden that temporarily graced Hay during the festival that was inspired by his participation on a three month permaculture course at Easton near Bristol. Diane of Thornbury tells us of that course, for she was there too, and delights in hearing the tale of the keys, the three piano keys of B G and E that came from the old piano meant to grace the garden but died before it could, now revitalised as pieces of a tale to inspire other such projects, maybe in the town of Stroud.
We sing Bella Mama to finish our evening and as we pack up Herewood and I talk a little about our old life when we both lived at Bowden House community, and the other songs we remember singing there, and about story, and Herewood is struck by how I am connecting up people’s stories, and I tell him how I nowadays think of myself as a Story Weaver, rather than a Storyteller.
I go home with Clare and Paul and hear a few more tales; of Paul and his membership of the local woodland group and how they get ten bags of logs each for the winter out of thinning the woods of the ash and the sycamore and replanting hazel, and the local bio fuel company that Paul is a member of. I hear of Clare’s seat on the local council where she can be a transition voice, and about “Stroud Life” the local paper that reports positive news. I learn how to make a device for making paper logs for kindling out of a bit of old tubing and a thin log. It looks fun to do and they say their grandchildren love to make them. They tell me about “Nightstop” a scheme they participate in that gives homeless young people a bed for the night and am feel heartened that such things exist, for I have known homeless people, and know how desperate they can feel.
We drink fresh mint tea, and I retire to my room to write a while, before the magical tales I have been told slip away into the night.