Posted by steve on March 14, 2009
It has been striking me more and more recently how the positive developments in sustainability are coming from a spirit of volunteering. ”Going along” is a central theme of my book, ”Inventing for the Sustainable Planet”. The book was imagestreamed and insights can take a long time to sink in. I see how I have emphasized the few technical solutions that came up rather than the social ones, even though these are the central thesis of the book.
Then there are the countless numbers of websites run by volunteers, with everything from Peak Oil to sustainable gardening.
I am getting a sense that the funnymoneyfest we have all been complicit in has brought a lot of people to their senses. The only business worth having as business as usual is the voluntary, or go along, business in a society that offers security. From the research in my book I’d suggest a number of reasons why this could be so.
One has to do with basic human nature and the need for security. If your security comes from the tribe, then you will gladly ”pay taxes” to the tribe, in the form of helping out, encouraging and teaching others.
For many years Sweden’s high rate of taxes was defended by citizens as actually giving good value for money in terms of social security and free schooling, low cost local transport, medical care, etc. Nowadays the level of service has been eroded, the burden is nearly as high, and there is much less a feeling of security. In fact, the tax authorities see it their role to ”make sure everyone does their bit” which sounds like extracting a pound of flesh with a modicum of threat.
Another reason might have to do with our genetic propensities. The reason you need to be in a group is because together the mixture of personalities, perspectives, feelings, inspiration of the moment, all combine to create an ideal pool from which to handle a situation.
In volunteering, the feeling comes from within each individual and whatever the person does is an expression of wanting to do something and feeling inspired to do it. Contrast this to the situation of work. Even work functions better when people can volunteer for jobs within their areas of responsibility.
I like the Transition Handbook’s approach of mutual planning of what could be done or needs to be done, and then asking people to consider what they would LOVE to do, would feel UNCOMFORTABLE doing and what they would be GOOD at doing.
The prospect of Peak Oil, Peak money, Peak everything in a world that seems to be running on a delusion that economic growth is the only fix-it in town, seems daunting and cause for depression.
My advice is: look at what could be done, how you feel about it, and go out and volunteer for something you’d love to do. Who knows, it might just be the small effort that helped turn the tide.
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