Learning Communities Are Sustainable Communities

Carbon-neutral living. Is it about technologies? Well, it is and it isn’t. Technologies facilitate this new way of living. Solar and wind power and even water-saving toilets all play a part. Yet there’s an esoteric aspect to creating a new way of life too. If we’re asking people to re-localize, how do we build communities where people have the skills to become more locally-reliant and self-sufficient?

Schools have a role to play, of course. However, the education system is a large beast, and it’s hard to move. It’s important to consider how we learn outside the education system: how we learn as preschoolers, how we learn as adults, how we learn as students in our time outside school. How can we create life learning opportunities that facilitate the development of sustainable and self-reliant communities?

Think outside the box. Stack boxes on top of each other and nest them inside. Create puzzles and take them apart again. Instead of prescribing solutions or following solutions that are prescribed for you, think about what you and your community really need and try to make that happen, even if it’s not what everyone else is doing.

Learn by doing. Books are lovely things and they can be very inspiring and instructive. However, we also need to revalue the apprenticeship. People who can do things are important. Building a rain barrel, creating a green roof, and spinning wool are all important skills, and we need to value those who practice them and learn some of those skills ourselves.  We are talented people: we can give birth to children and nurse them, we can build our own houses and grow our own food. We need to rebuild our trust that we can do these things.

Learn what is relevant to you and what inspires you, not what someone tells you to learn. Discover what you need to know about your home and the land around it, then seek out opportunities to create this learning. Invite others to join you.

Accept everyone as an expert and everyone as a learner. In these days of experts, few people want to accept the role of the expert, and few people feel that they are credentialed enough to do so. Build a community of people that is involved in learning and sharing, and you take the pressure out of teaching, and it flows.

At the same time, honor those who share what they know. This might be something like baking bread or weaving a basket. Those who do things that are not socially valued may be unused to being honored for sharing their knowledge. Yet this knowledge is important, and it is important to be thankful for it.

Remember how to involve everyone in learning. Children and grandparents are part of our communities too. Instead of segregating everyone into age-appropriate learning environments, we need to remember how to learn together and how to craft learning opportunities that work for everyone in different ways.

How is your community becoming a learning community, one that is prepared for shifts in global climate and energy use and one that is prepared to become more self-reliant?

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