Sunday, October 16, 2011

Utopia and Flying Pigs

Over the weekend two friends and I went to Fremantle to participate in a facilitator’s course so that we can offer a program locally on creating a more sustainable life. I really enjoyed the weekend and learnt a lot about my own sustainable journey, gained inspiration and direction. And of course I picked up some good facilitation tips which are what I went for in the first place.

We spent 3 days learning and discussing and one of the things that particularly stood out to me in conversation was people’s desire for Utopia. By our very nature we are constantly looking for ‘more’ and what stands out in the sustainability crowd is this idea of a Sustainably Holy Grail. A fictional place with lush green meadows, singing birds, rainbows and none of the ‘bad’ things we have in our current life that we are trying to get away from. A place that meets all our needs - physical, emotional and mental - and a good deal of our wants.

For some this is growing their own food, throwing grain to the chickens clucking around at their feet, plucking carrots from the soil, giving them a light brush off and taking a big crunchy bite. For others it is working in the office of their passive solar straw bale home, watching their kids play outside through their triple glazed windows while they tap away at the keys of their laptop that’s powered by the solar panels on their roof.

I understand the need to have a goal, a future, a direction that you can aim towards. But an important step in long-term goal setting is working backwards from that end point to today and creating measurable steps to lead you there. The fervent talkers, with a far off look in their eyes recite their perfect ideals and lofty dreams of ‘somewhere else’ and seem to miss this point. (Have you noticed how this utopia is generally in another location from where they are?)

Certainly no existing village, town, city or country has everything sorted in a way that can be sustained for the future. There is no place that is perfect – even if we could define what it would look like – and if there was, the world is a changing place so it is unlikely to stay that way. Peak oil, climate change, the re-emergence of certain diseases in our society, bacterial mutations, waste and natural disasters are just a few of the things that will affect every place on Earth.

There is NO Utopia. By focusing on Utopia you are actually preventing growth and change where you are right now. Every person, family and community needs to make changes that balance economics, society and environment and define what sustainability means to them. There is room for improvement and change in every setting and it’s up to us to make them happen.