Community is the Answer


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Photo by Getty Images/JanLeoKaak.

Everywhere I turn these days people are either warning about near-term climate collapse and social breakdown, or declaring how important it is to not give up hope. Or both.

Tech guru Douglas Rushkoff reports that a group of super-wealthy hedge fund CEOs from Silicon Valley asked him his thoughts about the future. Which region will be less affected by the coming climate crisis, they wanted to know—New Zealand or Alaska? Could they upload their minds onto supercomputers, as Google’s Ray Kurzweil plans to do, and thereby transcend the apocalypse? One of the CEOs, who was building his own underground bunker, wondered: How do I maintain authority over my security guards after the Event (a.k.a., when the Sh*t Hits the Fan)? Withhold their food? Electronic dog collars? Replace them with robots?

Rushkoff, author of a dozen books on media, technology, and culture, including Team Human, says, “It feels as if civilization itself is on the brink, and that we lack the collective willpower to address the very survival of our species.”

Feeling similarly bleak, two years ago my sweetheart and I joined our local Transition Town group. About half the 30 or so members are students at Macalester College, the rest are faculty, staff, and neighbors. We meet every few weeks to talk about what’s going on in the world, read aloud to each other from books like David Fleming’s Surviving the Future, and work on projects like a neighborhood pollinator path, campus food-buying coop, movie nights, promoting the Community Food & Water Farm Bill, spreading the Zero Waste message, and much more.

At a recent U.S. Transition Town national summit, linking local groups across the nation via video, the American writer and management consultant Margaret Wheatley gave a keynote address. Like Rushkoff, Wheatley believes that our global civilization is on the brink of collapse. “After September 11, 2001 I noticed a complete shutdown. Since then, in too many places, people have withdrawn into fear, aggression and self-protection. It’s increasingly difficult for mature, experienced leaders and younger, engaged activists to do their work without falling victim to exhaustion, cynicism and despair.”

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