This post is my contribution to Sustainablog’s Pedal-a-Watt Powered Blogathon this weekend. The long-running green blog (and new green shopping site) is publishing for 24 hours straight to raise funds for the Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage in Northeastern Missouri. Go join the fun: read post contributions from around the green blogosphere, leave a comment to be entered in a drawing for some great green prizes, and join in the Tweetchat at #susbppb.
Worldchanging’s Alex Steffen says that in our world, optimism is a political act, and one that is necessary if we are going to make any progress towards reshaping our systems into sustainable alternatives. A positive and optimistic view of the future is also a fundamental part of the Transition Initiative process. And if you take a look at the Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage or media from many other intentional communities, you will find this same deliberate optimism. Sometimes it is directly stated and sometimes it runs just below the surface, but it is always there.
Because sustainability needs optimism.
Ordinary People Need Optimism Too
It is no secret that Americans are unhappier now than we were 30 years ago. We – all of us – are radically in need of happiness. We really need optimism right now. But optimism can seem so elusive.
The official reason for this void of optimism might surprise you. It’s not because of the recession, unemployment, Congress, or the crummy results of American Idol. In fact, we are unhappy because of a “decline in social capital.” In other words, our communities are broken or, in some cases, nonexistent. The lack of community leaves us feeling starkly alone, alienated, scared, cynical and pessimistic.
Intrinsic to new urbanism, Transition, and intentional communities is the deliberate development of healthy social structures. This is no coincidence. Each of these proposed solutions is based on optimism. And each recognizes the same brokenness of something fundamentally necessary. We need community to be happy. We need community to be optimistic. We need community to build a sustainable future.
Once Ordinary, Now Radical
It’s sad that we’ve come to a point where creating community has become an act of radical sustainability.
But there is so much awesome to be found in the fact that this act of radical sustainability is actually an act of radical happiness. We have the power to make ourselves happy, and to make the world a better place at the same time. It’s something that anyone can do. And it’s completely free.
The first step can be something as simple as inviting your neighbor over for dinner, volunteering at the community food bank, or patronizing your local library. Start a neighborhood produce exchange or a yard-share, join a CSA, become a member of a co-op or plant a rooftop garden that will grow more than you can eat.
Beyond that, support activities that build community and advocate for development that facilitates people interacting with each other. Bike trails, walkable cities, and useable community spaces will help us battle our feelings of alienation and isolation. Developing for community and for optimism is developing for happiness. And community-supported optimism is necessary for sustainable development.
I know you’re just an ordinary person. So am I. But isn’t it about time for us to be this kind of radical?