Have you had your “oh, shit!” moment yet?
After months long process of conversations, in meetings and in typing, this strategy was agreed on 11 April at the 2019 ECOLISE General Assembly in Križevci, Croatia and online. Being one of the contributors during the whole process (hence “we” in this commentary) I would like to share some points about it, both for active ECOLISE contributors and for people not familiar with our network.
ECOLISE, the European network for community-led initiatives on climate change and sustainability, recognises the unprecedented ecological, social, economic and political threats to dignified life on planet Earth. These threats have been provoked by centuries of ongoing extractive and exploitative institutional systems and practices, a structural dependence on unconstrained economic growth, and the unfettered spread of unsustainable lifestyles.
We mean all of life on the planet Earth, not just humans. We are in Anthropocene, all of life on the planet is dominated by Homo Sapiens and our globalised species is causing sixth mass extinction. Our dominant culture of industrial consumerism and our ways in satisfying our needs are literally destroying the planet. Us causing extinctions in planetary ecosystem does not mean we are excluded — destructive and self-destructive patterns of human societies are historically known. At this point in time things look very bad ONLY FIVE TO TEN years ahead.
At the same time, ECOLISE sees hope in the rich seam of solutions that are being continuously developed by community-led initiatives across Europe and the world, including those that encompass inner growth, inclusive approaches to collaboration and to the governance of commons and stewardship of ecosystems. Furthermore ECOLISE is inspired and motivated by the growing interest in these life-affirming approaches.
“Adults keep saying we owe it to the young people, to give them hope,” Greta Thunberg said at the 2019 World Economic Forum in Davos, “But I don’t want your hope. I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. I want you to act. I want you to act as you would in a crisis. I want you to act as if the house is on fire, because it is.”
So… that’s it on hope at this point in time, as far as I’m concerned.
On the other hand, actions and changes done by community-led initiatives need to be complemented by systemic, planetary changes. Bottom-up meets top-down was popular project proposal tagline in ECOLISE from the very beginning. Right now, top-down is failing us all, on a planetary scale. There are no global institutions effective enough to deal with the planetary crisis.
“We need global systems now. Not just systems which operate at the level of “countries” anymore, which are largely fictional things to begin with. We need global systems to stop climate change, mass extinction, inequality, social collapse — all the great problems spreading across a troubled world. We need those global systems to nourish and protect and safeguard every life, so that it can reach its fullest potential — whether those lives are yours, mine, a river, a poor child, or a little insect.” — umair haque
In this context ECOLISE’s purpose is to engage in, support and facilitate accelerated learning and collaboration among community-led initiatives, their networks and partners in order to catalyse systemic transformation within and across society.
The emphasis here is on “accelerated” in accelerated learning. We have decades of learning and collaboration behind us and all that we stand for is now under biggest threat than ever. Whatever we are doing we need to spread widely and quickly, extremely quickly… in spite of systemic inertia — acting not only in systems around us that we want to affect, but also in ECOLISE itself (being a human system too).
The work of ECOLISE is inspired by the vision of a compassionate, equitable and regenerative society of empowered and resilient communities that thrive on diversity and inclusion and live within planetary boundaries.
This is nice ideal to strive for. To me, under the circumstances and based on my life experience (I’m 56), this feels like unrealistic utopian vision. Being an idealist as I am, I have had too many “oh, shit!” moments when I have experienced that what is actually happening is VERY different from what I would want that is happening — and I don’t mean small stuff… I mean really major stuff… like intimate relationships or living in war-thorn society. These moments were extremely emotionally charged, very difficult to live through and really hard to process without actual changes in my… personality (ego?), I guess. But with my social permaculture lenses on I know that utopias have very special function — to be tried as prototypes and experiments that might influence the wider cultures — and that’s the only approach that actually makes sense in complex, adaptive systems like our societies and in VUCA world of today!
Guiding Principles (to be expanded)
- social justice
- ecological integrity
For me, these three are identical or close fit to three permaculture ethics: Earth Care, People Care and Fair Share (sometimes named Future Care). No need to be expanded as far as I’m concerned because these three are perfect heuristic (self-learning) rules for our times… or any other times.
ECOLISE pursues three strategic goals:
- Cultivating a cohesive, integrated network of change-making networks, organisations, groups and people that co-create and inspire a holistic culture of regeneration.
- Expanding public and political awareness of the potential of empowered communities to positively transform societies and to help reach ambitious local to global level policy goals.
- Developing a dynamic and inclusive framework for collaboration, sharing of knowledge, research, learning and capacity-building to support communities to engage in and spread transformative action on the ground.
Could it be that networks of networks are global systems we need now? There is a “…global movement that it is leveraging technology and the power of community to connect local and global action and form networks to work on systemic challenges”, Francesca Pick suggests. Can trickle really become a river?
If what you just read makes sense to you and you would like to help spread the word, I encourage you to click the 👏 button and hold down to 20–50 claps as this will help invitations and calls to action above get more exposure. Also, please share this widely in your social media channels… Thank you in advance! :)