Living the New Economy: A Learning Journey

The City Repair Calgary guild of 2014, (l-r): Alla Guelber (Meaningful Work Project); Lindsay Meads (reGenerate Design); Kym Chi (Giggling Chi Tree); Natalia Zoldak (Great Public Spaces).

The City Repair Calgary guild of 2014, (l-r): Alla Guelber (Meaningful Work Project); Lindsay Meads (reGenerate Design); Kym Chi (Giggling Chi Tree); Natalia Zoldak (Great Public Spaces).

Living the New Economy: A Learning Journey to Victoria and beyond

Every once in a while, there comes a time and a necessity to break away from the day-to-day and step into a space of wandering in the halls of creativity and inspiration. As we take in the gallery of ideas and possibilities, rub shoulders, share hugs and open our hearts to the wide spectrum of social, cultural and economic transformation, we let go of the reality as we know it, and can dream a new world into being.

Every couple of months, I feel the need to slide out my routine of feet-on-the-pavement, doing-the-work to yet again step back into the space of visioning and exploring.

This summer, by creating a new guild with my friends and colleagues coming with our own projects and organizations, but all sharing the dream of engaging Calgarians in a creative re-imagining of public space, we planted the seeds for new projects to spur on the culture of innovation and creativity that is rapidly taking shape in Calgary by revitalizing the group City Repair Calgary.

DSC_0214 DSC_0219From July 17-20, 2014, City Repair Calgary hosted four separate learning events that brought out more than 400 Calgarians with hands-on, interactive learning opportunities with Mark Lakeman and Mighk Simpson, and linking that with current initiatives and future opportunities in Calgary. Mark is a visionary architect and permaculture teacher and instigator of City Repair Project and Communitecture in Portland, Oregon who we had the honour of hosting along with Mighk for five intensive days of teaching and presentations in Calgary this past July.

Following the  successes of our summer engagements, we had to take some much needed time to rest, regroup and focus on other things moving forward…but now it’s time to dive in again!

For the next two weeks, Lindsay Meads, founder of the urban design, permaculture, and placemaking firm reGenerate Design and I are stepping out of our day-to-day to tour around the West Coast, meet with friends and colleagues, share ideas and document the inspirations we encounter along the way. We will continue to build on the various projects we have spear-headed and continue to envision what is our place within this emerging new economy that we so eagerly want to contribute to.

LivingNewEconomyThe Itinerary

To start our trip, we will arrive to Victoria, BC, where we’ll be reconnecting with our dear friend Mighk Simpson. Following five years of living and learning in Portland at the Planet Repair Institute, Mighk recently started a PhD at the University of Victoria. He makes his new home at Mason Street Farm, where their motto is “education through cultivation.”

Starting on Monday morning, we’ll be joining in to Living the New Economy (the LNE), a week-long gathering focused on breathing the new economy into life.

“LNE Global Live is your access point to creating a new economic reality. It’s a conversation and exploration of new ideas, new ways of living to create abundance, equality and sustainability.”

Mark Lakeman will be presenting on the final “Integration” day of the conference while Edmonton-based Tad Hargrave, owner of Marketing for Hippies, will offer a full day of interactive workshops on Marketing the New Economy.

Tad has been innovating in the domain of ethical marketing and communications, and we’ve learned a great deal from his practical yet deeply thoughtful and intuitive approach. Finally, we are excitedly looking forward to finally meeting and hearing from Charles Eisenstein, one of North America’s leading authors and philosophers who is helping shape the vision for the “More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know is Possible.”

That’s just part 1. Following our time in Victoria, we will venture to the charming village of Roberts Creek to spend time with our colleague, permaculture educator and artist Kym Chi, founder of education company Giggling Chi Tree, as we dive deeper into strategic planning and visioning on future projects into 2015.

Finally, we’ll end our trip in Vancouver, visiting innovative places such as the Hive, Sole Food Street Farms , the Vancouver Tool Library and City Commons, and interacting with our community-change counterparts.

Follow our adventures through the Meaningful Work Project Blog, on Facebook through City Repair Calgary, The Meaningful Work Project and reGenerate Design, and through Twitter: @MeaningfulWkPrj and @reGenerateDesgn.

Committing to Place: Re-making the Urban Landscape (pt. 2)

Part 2: Re-making the Urban Landscape

(Read Part 1 of this article, Committing to Place: Intentional Rural Living)

By Alla Guelber

After five rejuvenating days off-grid at Breitenbush Hot Springs, my friend Lindsay and I – and five of our new friends from the course – loaded into a white van for the two hour ride into Portland to get dropped off at our next destination. DSC_1309

We arrived in South East Portland, where a remarkable gem of community living can be found innocuously concealed on a quiet city block. Our host, Jordan Fink, himself one of the original founders of City Repair, eagerly welcomed us to Fosterville.

Prior to arriving at Fosterville, I’d learned from their fundraising video (as well as online discussions with Jordan), that this was an urban eco-village of three houses, 12 people, 10 chickens, four ducks, two bee hives, and more than 100 species of plants and trees. With two combined lots, the ecovillage takes up nearly 1/3 acre of land. Started 10 years ago as one house situated on a gravel lot, it has grown through their collaborative efforts into a food forest, a resource for neighbors and other people in the community on sustainable living practices, a habitat for migrating birds, the home of the first fully permitted straw bale house in Portland, a gathering place for community and much more.

Welcome to Fosterville

Welcome to Fosterville

Lindsay and I were welcomed with open arms, as we were invited to join in for shared community meals, philosophical conversations, sight-seeing, a political organizing potluck, as well as to share our own work in community economic development and social permaculture.

Several days after we arrived, we hosted a Sunday afternoon workshop on meaningful work in the Purple ‘Art house’s living room, called Meaningful Work: Creating Opportunities in the New Economy. We had connected with our hosts initially through the Meaningful Work Project (an initiative that I founded in 2009, and Lindsay has been involved with consistently since she attended the first Meaningful Work Retreat in 2010).

Throughout the rest of the week, Jordan graciously toured us throughout the 20 year history of Portland’s urban revitalization. We visited the place that began it all, Share-it Square, where neighbours have gathered every year to host a block party and re-paint their intersection. In addition, they have created shared bulletin boards, the longest running free public tea station in the world, and an outdoor, covered play space for the neighbourhood’s children.

We stumbled onto Oak’s Bottom Forge, an urban forge, located in a visible storefront, where patrons can purchase hand-forged knives or take hands-on classes to learn how to do their own blacksmithing work.

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A community-run playhouse at Share-It Square in Portland.

We visited a number of other sites, showing the true power of community when neighbours feel empowered to gather and act toward a common goal.

Eager to create functional public spaces as well as experiment with green building techologies, Portlanders built benches and green roofs on neighbourhood notice boards until technology regulations caught up to allow for larger-scale projects that now pepper the Pacific North West.

A community message board helps neighbours connect

A pac-mac inspired Little Library offers up VHS for anyone interested in retro videos.

They are all examples of placemaking, one of the most effective tools available for community building that brings neighbours together as part of the project planning, consultation and construction processes. These projects have successfully made neighbourhoods safer by slowing traffic and lowering crime rates and helped to create resiliency through continued community engagement.

(left-right): Jordan Fink, Alla Guelber, Mark Lakeman and Lindsay Meads.

(left-right): Jordan Fink, Alla Guelber, Mark Lakeman and Lindsay Meads.

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Students at Oaks Bottom Forge learn how to work with metal

There is more to share on the many outstanding examples of community collaboration in Portland, but the question remained: what could be glean from all of this inspiration, and return back to our burgeoning city on the other side of the Rocky Mountains?

Inspired by our experiences in Oregon, we decided to partner with Kym Chi of Giggling Chi Tree, an artist and permaculture teacher as well as urban designer Natalia Zoldak to bring Mark Lakeman to Calgary.

We wanted to offer Calgarians an opportunity to hear firsthand about the way communities can gather to create long-lasting, tangible change on the neighbourhood level. Community bookshelves, impromptu street tea parties in the street, neighbourhood “water coolers”, community gardens, and more helped shape Portland’s vibrant, village culture. These smaller projects gave way to major changes in the public right of way, leading to ever-greater support for citizen-led projects from the municipal government. Eventually, changes to public ordinances and bylaws dramatically shifted what was possible in Portland, and led to the creation of the innovative green city we see today.

For the City Repair Calgary team, it’s realizing a long-time dream to bring Mark back to Calgary to share his unique brand of urban revitalization.

Please join us for two exciting learning experiences:

Cracks in the Pavement: Placemaking and the Remaking of a Modern City with Mark Lakeman

Thursday July 17, 7pm – 9pm | Doors: 6:30 pm
John Dutton Theatre, Calgary Public Library. 616 Macleod Trail SE
Advance Tickets: $20 Regular, $15 Student | Door Tickets: $25 Regular, $20 Student 100% Calgary Dollars Accepted

This presentation will provide an overview of how North American communities are retrofitting their neighborhoods through grassroots involvement. By gathering and discussing how they experience and feel about their own communities, residents are able to identify both strengths and places for improvement in the environments where they live. In short, we will look at how we can create the sense of living in a village in the city. This presentation will also illustrate detailed examples of new forms of shared community amenities, including urban agriculture, community gathering places, alternative transport amenities, youth-involvement projects and more.

More info and registration:http://cracksinthepavement.brownpapertickets.com

Weekend Workshop: Placemaking Nuts and Bolts with Mark Lakeman and Friends

July 18, Meet and Greet, 6pm – 9pm | Blank Page Studio | 1221 B Kensington RD NW
July 19 & 20, 9am – 5pm | ContainR in Sunnyside

Full Price: $250 | Student/Low Income: $150 | Scholarships available | Calgary Dollars accepted up to 25%

Portland’s Mark Lakeman and Mighk Simpson host a 2.5 day workshop together with local community experts. Over the weekend, we will learn:

-The foundations and theory of placemaking
-How to build more functional and creative relationships on the neighbourhood level
-How to assess the needs and wants of the neighbourhoods we live in
-To create our own placemaking activities or initiatives
-Ways to overcome and work with City bylaws and ordinances

To close our time together we will put our skills into action and facilitate a public placemaking festival at the ContainR site, in conjunction with the Sun and Salsa Festival in Kensington. This adventure has been designed for individuals or groups who want to make change at a grassroots level with the participation of neighbours and friends and through the deepening of relationships where they live.

More info and registration: http://nutsandboltsofplacemaking.brownpapertickets.com    

Poster-NEW

 

Committing to Place: Intentional Rural Living

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This gallery contains 7 photos.

“The most radical thing you can do is commit to your community,” said Mark Lakeman, one of the guest teachers in our 5-day long permaculture module at Breitenbush Hot Springs Retreat and Conference Centre. Continue reading

New Mexico Earthship Internship

By Marta

Solaria_Earthship

A look at custom tile work within the Solaria Earthship

This November, I had the opportunity to travel to New Mexico and study with the Earthships crew.

The internship was a month long opportunity to learn more about the potential for a sustainable lifestyle while living within the thermal mass walls of an Earthship. I was alongside about thirty other interns learning about concepts like thermal mass and passive solar heating with everything from the Water Organizing Module which allows water to travel to planters within the house called “botanical cells” to the cisterns that catch rainfall.

Michael Reynolds and his team of garbage warriors are challenging conventional systems to provide a lifestyle alternative that serves the people living on this planet. Reynolds’ philosophy is based on respecting the earth and its natural systems with his idea of Radically Sustainable Buildings.

In the first week of the internship, I quickly learned that the foundational theory to the earthship is that central utility systems such as power plants or water facilities are unreliable and lock us in to a rigid dependency on an outside provider (such as a municipal government). Decentralized utilities or homes that produce their own utilities save individual homeowners money and reduce the costs on the communities they live in.

Earthships are “self-sufficient living units that are their own systems.” These homes are built from old rubber tires, currently abundant in landfills, and other recycled materials, such as bottles and cans.

Phoenix_Earthsip

Inside the Phoenix Earthship you get a glimpse of a greenhouse and pond within a home

Working with the Earthships crew as an intern you can expect to get dirty as the leaders of the building sites give you access to all aspects of building, from plastering and glass cutting to tire pounding and framing. Their guided tours explain all of the inner workings and functions of the Earthship, which proves time and again to be a workable substitute to the orthodox home. And they show you just how beautiful these homes become with all of the basic amenities of your basic home plus custom building throughout including custom bottle walls, tile work, cob walls and more.

The Earthship home integrates a great deal of creativity and imagination, and can include such features as lush greenhouses within the home and even ponds. Taking part in an earthships internship can be a transformative experience on the journey toward meaningful work – and it gives you a chance to meet the guru behind the project himself, Michael Reynolds!

 Learn more

  1. If you’re fascinated by the ideology behind the project, as I was, watch the Garbage Warriors documentary posted on youtube.
  2. Check out some of Reynolds’ Earthship books that take you through the process of building your own earthship
  3. Apply for an internship at http://earthship.com/Learn-More/internships.
  4. Michael Reynolds will be hosting a workshop in Calgary on July 19, 2014. Find out more here: http://earthship.com/icalrepeat.detail/2014/07/19/34/calgary-earthship-event

Commitments, Contradictions and Experiential Learning 101

Article by Susan Cousineau

Susan Cousineau

Susan Cousineau

Well, it’s been a few months. Since my last post, I completed my Permaculture Design Certificate in Jordan and spent my summer first working on a permaculture farm on Denman Island, then on a small start-up organic farm in Armstrong BC (where, in fact, I remain quite contentedly for the moment). I started off charging forward with the joyful prospect of heaping permaculture skills onto my academic background in evolutionary ecology. Heady stuff.

I just want to run out and do everything at once: designing sites, building swales and hugelkultur beds, harvesting water, and basically getting down-and-dirty adding hands-on work to my list of experience. As many of us do, I tend to fall into the classic trap of trying to do everything at once; and to just keep adding skills and experience(s) rather than develop existing ones.

Geoff Lawton, one of the founders of the permaculture movement, teaches the Berkley compost method at  permaculture course in Jordan.

Geoff Lawton, one of the founders of the permaculture movement, teaches the Berkley compost method at permaculture course in Jordan.

This summer was no exception. While I did add a heap-load of skills to my repertoire (and work on some muscles and a tan), I’ve been struggling to process what the few months have meant to me in terms of learning, personal growth, professional growth, and so on.

Some themes keep re-emerging::

 1) Test what you “know” by doing things. Do something. Do anything. The learning is in the doing, not in what feels like “learning”. As a scholar I’m great at getting caught in this trap: the potential for further learning is endless. It’s the doing that needs to be plugged in to make the learning stick.

2) Commitment. Choose something. Anything. But do it, keep moving forward, and all the things you were trying to choose between will either fall away, or fall into the framework of what you commit to. I kept getting hit over the head with this one this year. Everyone from my friends and family to distant voices of past exes to a radio show host used words and phrases like “making a commitment”, “setting down roots,” and “choosing a focus.” I learned a little more about why these phrases keep resonating with me; but also that sticking to an overarching commitment can result in conflicts between the minor goals (e.g. stay in one place and build on basic farming skills, versus drive across Canada and the US on a 6-week road-trip to learn about some alternative approaches to food security and production). And that contradictions are okay. Which leads to . . .

3) We are all full of contradictions. Recently CBC radio host Brent Bambury was discussing with director Errol Morris his documentary “The Unknown Known” on Donald Rumsfeld. Morris was reflecting that Rumsfeld seemed to have little comprehension of the magnitude of his decisions or influence during his time in office; that he seemed to frequently contradict himself without any awareness of having done so. Bambury goes on to quote F. Scott Fitzgerald: “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.” He then rephrased this to: “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and to know and acknowledge that you are doing so.” I guess that tells me I have a great mind, because I can never seem to move forward for the number of contradictory thoughts guiding my decisions! But recognizing the contradictions, and choosing which is more (or less) important to you, is part of life and successful learning.

Trying out the authentic camel-riding nomadic life-style in Jordan.

Trying out the authentic camel-riding nomadic life-style in Jordan.

4)    Understanding is dependent on the perspective you choose from which to view an experience. For example, looking back on the last few months, I could choose to view them from a perspective either of success or failure. First, I learned a lot, made some wonderful friends, spent a lot of time working outside, ejected some logistical fallacies and developed a much greater sense of practicality. On the other hand, I didn’t gain any financial ground, and feel like I’m about where I started in terms of gaining security, stability, forward direction, and so on. Either point of view could be taken as equally valid. Holding those two contradictory possibilities in mind is important so that I avoid deluding myself into a false sense of security that “everything works out” (sometimes it just doesn’t); or into an equally destructive sense of failure that “nothing ever works out” (sometimes it does, it just takes a little longer, or comes about in unexpected ways). Reality is a slippery fish!

Looking back I recognize the optimism of someone with a lot of ideas – and ideals – and not a great deal of time spent putting those ideas into the ground. In all honesty, after more than half a year, I still don’t have any kind of feeling like I’ve “gotten it together” or am ready to offer anything like a usable product to the world – but I do have a more grounded understanding of my own knowledge and experience gaps.

Along with that understanding came a greater humility, and simultaneously a greater confidence in my willingness to try things, watch them fail, try again, and keep working on learning. Things happen more slowly than we’d like them to. Our ideas, and ideals, exceed our abilities. That’s the point.  Otherwise we’d be stagnating. Physically putting our ideas and experience to the test is ultimately – for me, at least – the only way to go.