This year’s Mushroom City Art Festival hosted in connection with Bloom Baltimore is online!! That means you can attend from wherever you live. Head to their website to register and see the schedule. October 1-4, beaming to you from Baltimore on the East Coast of the U.S.
At Mushroom City Art Festival, you can experience mushroom foraging, nature art trail walks, lectures, live music, all ages art workshops, interactive art installations and more!!
Sculptures, paintings, film, and music inspired by this mysterious mycelial life form will be featured alongside hands on workshops and educational discussions revealing the many real world applications for mushroom cultivation in contemporary urban life. Mushroom City is also a space to build community aligned with and beside the wonders of our natural world.
This year’s festival theme:
“Reciprocal restoration is the mutually reinforcing restoration of land and culture such that repair of ecosystem services contributes to cultural revitalization, and renewal of culture promotes restoration of ecological integrity. Based on the indigenous stewardship principle that ‘what we do to the land we do to ourselves’ restoration of land and culture are inseparable. This approach arises from a creative symbiosis between traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) and restoration science, which honors and uses the distinctive contributions of both intellectual traditions. Reciprocal restoration recognizes that it is not just the land that is broken, but our relationship to it. Reciprocal restoration encompasses repair of both ecosystem and cultural services while fostering renewed relationships of respect, responsibility, and reciprocity. All flourishing is mutual.” Dr. Robin Kimmerer ∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞ #mushroomcityartfestival#mushroomcityvirtualartfestival2020#plantmedicine#reciprocalrestoration
With panelists Kevin Carson, senior fellow of Center for a Stateless Society & author of The Desktop Regulatory State Josephine Watson, a researcher organizing regional food system networks Lorenzo Kristov who facilitates transitions to localized renewable energy grids.
2020 has been a year of impetus for localised production to start happening, and we have seen across the USA, and indeed the world, people with 3D printers creating much needed Personal Protection Equipment for their local hospital using open source designs. We have also seen a surge of interest in and support for regional food systems. This emergence is known by a few names, distributed manufacturing, localised or bioregional production. Our August call discusses theoretical and real world examples of this work. For a fuller version of the text head to the truncated minutes here.
Localized production is a form of production that gives people control over their own livelihoods and the material preconditions for life. It keeps materials, production and consumers within the local context of a bioregion. It uses less materials and has less overheads compared to traditional mass production. It follows a ‘just-in-time’ production model and doesn’t need to invest in marketing or shipping because consumption stays close to the point of production. Because it has evolved in a resource constrained context, needing to extract maximum value out of every unit of input, localized production usually has less waste and tends not to engage in planned obsolescence.
‘Common Space’ or the ‘commons’, is often discussed with distributed and relocalized manufacturing. This is because capitalism purports the artificial idea of abundant materials that are ‘free’. Common space means the local economy is reintegrated into the natural surroundings and production is oriented towards local resources and watersheds and what it can handle. There is more incentive toward things like circular economies, recycling materials, cradle to cradle design.
Open Source is a big part of micro-manufacturing. It actively facilitates the rapid diffusion and use of knowledge, cooperation and collaboration with no monetary exchange. This more agile response can rapidly change and adapt. When new innovations arise they can continue to be shared rapidly, because there’s no intellectual property and other legal monopolies to create barriers.
Examples of Open Source production: Open Source Ecology and their Global Village Construction Set uses open source 3d printers that can be built for $500 worth of materials. Routers, cutting tables, laser cutters, drill presses, farm and construction machinery that can be built for less than $1,000, much cheaper than their commercial counterparts. It is now possible to build a garage factory in six months, instead of building giant factories with million dollar mass production.
“The old mass production economy is like a T-Rex floundering around in a tar pit. It’s just dead.” – Kevin Carson
Every aspect of the regenerative movement would like to see more citizen and community participation shaping the policy and the law that governs the way they live. Bioregional conversations are at the core of this and are going to be important in our future.
“Whenever we’re talking about bioregional distributed manufacturing in a farming context, we are talking about giving communities agency over the food that they’re eating, which is such an intimate part of our lives… working towards a feedback loop, that connects with the way communities would like to eat and how they would like to have relationships with their land” – Josie Watson, Northeast Healthy Soil Network
Bioregional conversations can be tricky without a level of coordination and shared values. Josie shared about the response of the Northeast farmers to the pressure of the government subsidizing monoculture growing. This flow of cheap food to the Northeast is making it tough for local and organic growers. Many collectives, associations and networks have sprung up at local, regional and state levels to address this problem. Inadvertently, multiple movements have formed without communicating with each other, and each of them hold a piece of the puzzle they are trying to solve.
The Northeast Healthy Soil Network was formed focussed around Healthy Soil, to help bring all these groups together, because healthy soil is a common goal across the organisations.
“We wanted to incorporate working with soil as a living complex entity with millions of microbes. This is something that was not studied during the Green Revolution. We didn’t ask how the soil system lives and breathes and functions. We need to relearn and embrace these things rather than focussing on pure food output”. – Josie Watson
You can read more about the Northeast Healthy Soil Network here
Often State policies and ownership models need to be changed to achieve bioregional success. Lorenzo Kristov has been working hard at shifting State structures to allow local energy planning and production to take place at the neighbourhood level. This planning would be tailored to the energy needs of that neighbourhood. The plan also utilises existing energy companies to provide funding and expertise to teach local neighbourhoods how to plan and run their own power grids and/or develop resilience requirements when the grid goes out. Shifting ownership models enables the revenue that would normally flow to monopoly structures to stay in the neighbourhood.
“Rethinking how we do energy becomes a critical enabler of just about everything else we want to accomplish… When I think of bioregional, I think of the many local communities and neighbourhoods that participate in that bioregion. Part of this transition is to go beyond the economic dogma of the individual household as the unit of analysis, and shift to a neighbourhood as the core unit of analysis”. – Lorenzo Kristov
Lorenzo firmly believes that neighbourhoods, and the relationships that people have in them, are crucial to the next step of bioregional production. In those relationships we can develop collaborative projects that make our neighbourhood better and stronger. Neighbourhoods is where we will start to create the alternative to what’s happening. Lorenzo encourages us to get out and build relationships with the people that live around us, and see what projects flow from that.
“Neighbourhoods are seeds for creating a successful way around the extractive dysfunctional systems we have now. Rather than obliteration, of seeing the systems failing and going through their end of life and self-destructing, we can view them as compost, which becomes fertilizer to grow the new thing.” – Lorenzo Kristov
There were mutual calls to make sure that people of colour and Indigenous nations’ leadership is visible in helping lead the way in these transitional times. It is recognised that it is a difficult time to reach out to Indigenous communities and ask for aid and research when they’re so financially strapped. But we know that Indigenous groups throughout the world are bastions with the most important knowledge about how to steward ecosystems. Josie reminded us that the United Nations perpetuates this idea that members of Western academic institutions are the ones to create global policy and law. Media groups need to bring Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour leaders to the forefront and put spotlights on their knowledge and projects.
The FAO has a project called World Agricultural Watch (WAW), which is creating a database of collected knowledge and setting members of indigenous groups who are willing to engage as the experts that they are.
2020 has sprung upon us an incredible number of Black Swan events; no one could have foreseen that and the incredible impact they have had. There is also no way of anticipating what other unforeseen crisis events are going to happen over the next 15 years.
In the last 15 years we have had two major recessions, both of which were the worst at that time that the United States has been through since World War Two. Kevin expects to see more of these tumultuous events over the next 15 years. There has also been an arc of movements like Arab Spring, then Occupy, the anti-pipeline movement and Black Lives Matter movements. Large left-wing movements are on the rise, as are right-wing ones. The municipalist movements across Europe are interesting trends to watch as well, and these are expected to continue.
“We’re going to see continuing chronic unemployment and underemployment. That makes it a matter of necessity to turn to all these economic alternatives that we have all talked about today”. Kevin Carson
All the panelists agreed, there is a lot of work to be done, but it can be done. Moving from thinking in the old mass production capitalist mindset is what needs to be shifted, and necessary relationships and economic alternatives need to start being understood and worked on by more people.
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Kevin’s Observations about Federated Cooperatives around the world:
The Mondragon system and the Antigonish both have a federal structure with their own financial arm that provides capital for enterprise incubation.
New municipalist movements are springing up all over Europe, in Spain formed by post-M15 and activists, Barcelona and Madrid.
Bolonia has had a really strong cooperative economy for the last couple of decades.
In the United States, Cooperation Jackson, and the Evergreen project in Cleveland which was influenced to some extent by the Mondragon system.
Anarchism is something Kevin Carson is well known for, so we asked him “How does anarchy sit with bioregionalism?”
“The importance of distributed manufacturing and relocalized economies leads to anarchism in a sense, at least that’s true the kind of anarchist model that I subscribe to. How real localization takes shape, will inform the direction that post-capitalist and post-state transitions are going to take. We are seeing commons-based institutions (like community gardens, neighbourhood workshops, local currencies, co-housing projects for sharing costs and risks, pooling income and localizing energy production) forming out of necessity right now and these are basically the seeds of a successor society. But they are forming out of sheer necessity for survival rather than any particular ideological motivation. I think it is important for anarchism as an ideology to be moving in the same direction that people are spontaneously moving in already out of material necessity and do things to facilitate that”. – Kevin Carson
Cover image by Ane Eline Sorenson and David Hodgson
For the first time, the number of people in the southern hemisphere equaled those in the North on this community call! Our topic this month was focusing on climate change messaging and the vision casting we wanted to create as an alternative narrative to the future.
Why the narrative is important? – fromClimate Justice Alliance – “The narrative: our story and vision for the world we want and know is possible. Short, medium and long term organizing strategy—indeed, entire movements—grow and are derived from narratives… The seeds of our narrative form the roots to weather the many storms ahead.”
Language used in climate change campaigns began our conversation, comparing agencies and the words they used on their websites. You can read the research presented here. In the conversation that followed, the participants highlighted the following things as important:
Main Observations and Concerns
Concern in greenwashing by interest groups, an emphasis on technology, or using narratives of fear with alarmist language. Focus too much on tech to save us, or focus on the problem rather than the solution generating ‘warning fatigue’. “People are sick of the alarm, it’s been sounding since we were born.”
People who use alarmist messaging don’t tend to have a stable connection with nature. They can have lack of grounding or a clear message about who they want to reach, eg they want to shake you into ‘waking up’ and are often aggressive about it. Receiving alarmist language sets off the nervous system, making us anxious, tired, desperate.
We’re collectively doing things no one wants to do individually. Colonization and commodification of nature is still happening. Language can be racist, divisive. ‘For and against’ arguments do not help.
The carbon cycle is abstract. It also doesn’t capture the full spectrum of problems arising from human activity. Some research shows it only affects 4% of the Earth’s heat cycle, and the focus would be better restoring the disrupted hydrological cycle.
There is a need for:
A narrative that is irrefutable. This is because the “climate change” and ‘global warming” terms can be too easily argued with because the Earth is naturally in flux with temperature and conditions.
Elevating the messages of indigenous people.
Changing our relationship to nature/planet. We’ve lost that connection to ourselves and to the planet through the narrative of separation. We need to understand the barriers that are stopping people having this connection.
Understanding the co-dependent relationships between life and living creatures and that we need to include other beings in our sense of self. Shift focus to care of ourselves and other beings.
Connection pathways to help people connect to Nature/Mother Earth.
The call ended with the question “How do you personally connect with nature?” Nervously, people shared the activities they do to connect. Internally, we thought we were weird (some voiced this too). Through sharing stories we realized we all had a deep connection to nature, and take time to commune with it regularly. We are not weird, but actually share a common thread which we believe is part of the answer. We only think we are separate and weird, but we are actually united. Being ‘weird’ is becoming the new normal.
The conclusion of this conversation reflects what Daniel Christian Wahl, regenerative author, talks about. When you are in a ‘regenerative’ mindset you understand that humans are part of the system. We are not apart/separate from it. More individuals are remembering this connection. And now we are remembering how to also transform the systems we hang our lives off.
With New Zealand is entering its 3rd consecutive week with no reported Corona-19 cases, conversations around the island nation are rising about how to use this time as a spring-board into a better and more just society.
Since April 15, young local councillors Tamatha Paul (Wellington City Councillor) and Thomas Nash (Greater Wellington
Region Councillor) have been convening panel discussions with some of New Zealand leading researchers, thinkers and politicians covering a range of topics, which all have Ti Tiriti o Waitangi* at its heart, (*the Treaty of Waitangi, New Zealand’s founding
As the Covid-19 lockdown closed everything in NZ down, the inspiring meetings and conversations that Tamatha and Thomas were having in real
life ground to halt. They decided to regenerate those conversations in the digital world, creating a weekly panel called “The Aotearoa Town Hall”.
“Being on council means that you hear from awesome people all the time, locals with deep knowledge, high-level experts, people working hard
in the community. We wanted everyone to be able to access the korero” says Tamatha.
“We know there can be no change without constitutional transformation, and this only comes from spreading the knowledge and having conversations”.
Conscious that only a certain type of people engage with the current political system, they wanted to find other ways to share about how change can come through leveraging off Ti Tiriti o Waitangi, as it is the foundational document that NZ laws can give effect through.
Some panel topics have covered Economics (with guest Kate Raworth author of Doughnut Economics), Universal Education and Income, Public Health,
Whanau (Family) Focussed Responses, Climate Justice and Transportation and Urban Design.
“These conversations show how Ti Tiriti o Waitangi is relevant across all different topics and spaces, and the Town Halls show an alternative
reality if it underpinned everything. These conversations are keeping people motivated and pushing for change”.
A hot topic at this moment, Bloom Network’s Community Call about Future Economies was well attended this month. With guests, Shavaun Evans from New Economics Coalition, Nathan Schneider from Media Enterprise Design Lab (Colorado), and Manuel Maqueda from KUMU Labs it was a high level, but heart-filled discussion. All guests and their work were grounded in deep democracy and cooperative ownership and a culture for mutual aid and respect for the earth.
Our first guest, Shavaun Evans, spoke about the work of from New Economy Coalition. NEC is a coalition of 200+ organizations and works on small to large scales, building new systems or new economies that put people and planet first. It is doing an “important job of bringing together the economic models and the intersectional analysis we need that recognizes how the crimes of our current system are not equally distributed” (Nathan Schneider).
NEC has a website full of resources to help the transition of different groups to cooperatives, land trusts, mutual aid networks, time banks, intentional communities, revolving loan funds and public banks. NEC has policy tool kits on “Pathway to a People’s Economy”, climate justice policy, finance policy, worker ownership, community controlled housing.
“In thinking about what the new economy is… so much of the new economy and that next system that we’re trying to build is already embedded in many of our ancestries and much of our culture. It’s something I saw my father doing, bartering his okra for our neighbor’s strawberries, or my mother doing childcare swaps with her sisters or others in our communities. That consideration of community, that mutual aid and respect for one another and care for each other and the earth… So much of that is already a part of our cultures and a part of what folks have been doing and are continuing to do, especially in these moments of crisis. So much of that is embedded in what we call the ‘new economy’,” says Evans.
When commenting on NEC’s great successes, Evans talked of how last year USA saw federal legislation pass that supports worker cooperatives and increased energy around public banks, with public banking legislation in California. And in this COVID-19 moment there have been successful campaigns to cancel rent or mortgages.
“The system that we’re currently living under is not the system that we have to be in in the future. There are lots of options for us to move forward by putting people over profits. People have been doing it better and will continue to do it better, and this is rising between the cracks and [will] start to solidify into our next system.”
Nathan highlighted the crisis of accountability and data in the online economy, and the common issues around labour and persistent patterns of abuse, which the labour markets of online communities have exacerbated.
Like Shavaun, Nathan reflected on
the cooperative businesses his ancestors were part of, which were owned and
governed by the people they serve. The only way his
grandfather got electricity on his farm was through a rural electric
cooperative, because investor-owned companies had no interest in bringing
electricity to farms.
The new challenge of bringing cooperative governance into the online economy has old answers, Schneider says. At this moment, the economic structure of the tech economy is oriented against a cooperative model, as the policy framework is not there. A farm can go to a coop bank, but if you’re doing a tech startup for a marginalized community, access to the same capital is not available.
Nathan listed a number of organisations that have been trying new models and approaches which are available on our wiki here. He also spoke to how there is the option of ‘exiting to community’. Rather than starting as a coop from the beginning, companies can start as conventional start-ups and as they become things that people rely on, they can become owned and governed by that community. So he’s trying to make it an available option for founders and investors to build companies that their users will become the stewards for. It’s a work in progress that is not yet resolved. This was confirmed during recent work with the founder of Meetup, Scott Hyperman, in trying to turn Meetup into a coop instead of turn it over to another set of investors. They couldn’t figure it out.
Successful examples of a transition to a cooperative can be seen in local USA newspapers such as in Ohio, recently the Salt Lake Tribune converted to a nonprofit. “A mission-centric, community-centered approach is the healthy outcome for [a news organization]”, says Schneider. He also touched on the power of spiritual and religious communities for building these kinds of models based on cooperation. The North American credit union system and worker cooperatives in Europe were often motivated through religious communities. “In a very hard entrepreneurial sense, these communities were able to imagine and achieve things that others around them were not able to access”.
In response to COVID-19 questions, Schneider says there’s a craving for building what comes after this. “There will be many opportunities to introduce models of community-based entrepreneurship that we really need, but there really needs to be a society-wide commitment to say, ‘We’re going to support this because we know it’s important, even if it’s not going to be profitable.'”
In summing up, Schneider says that this shift to
more coopertative, democratic platforms are essential if we claim to live in a
democratic society. We should expect as a norm that the institutions we depend
on are democratic in their practice and structure.
“The idea that we tolerate anything else is baffling to me… I’d hope it would be baffling to other storytellers who are broadcasting our stories. Instead of seeing these options as ‘alternative’, we should see democracy as the norm and look at capitalism as the odd alternative we’ve dead ended ourselves into”.
The good news is, there are ways out, and that is what Future Economies is all about.
Manuel Maqueda started his section of the call bringing into context to the brutal pandemic that is happening, a big shock and shared trauma spanning the world. Sending our hearts out in love, we paused for a moment in silence before Maqueda posed the question, “What does this mean in the transition to a new economy?”
“In terms of impact and likelihood, pandemics are a lot less significant than climate-related events. World Economic Forum does a risk assessment each year, and extreme weather events caused by climate have the highest impact and likelihood. Declining biodiversity and weapons of mass destruction have greater impact than a pandemic.”
On the day of the call, the price of oil dropped to negative value and Maqueda observed that the dangerous solution to the excess could be making more plastics. It takes some courage and skill to expand, explained Maqueda. The transformation of the economy is going to require a change of perspective with more vision and courage, moving from reactive to creative.
Maqueda moved into speaking about circular economies, which he is teaching world leaders in both Spanish and English.
“By making our linear economy more sustainable, we’re just extending its runway. Sooner or later, an economy that is tied to resource extraction, generation of waste and social injustice will implode when it rubs against the natural limits of the planet.”
“Waste is money wasted”.
“What we need to be aiming for is an economy that no longer requires extraction of resources and creation of waste to produce economic benefits to people. A circular economy means that you design out pollution, toxicity, and waste”.
Circular economy goes for effectiveness not efficiency. “It’s an economy for the next 10,000 years”, he says, and it requires a lot of systems thinking – or more specifically “ecosystem thinking”. A later discussion talked through how concepts of resources and language have been a limiting factor in valuing the environment and resources correctly. For example, the forest had only be valued as “lumber” for most of economic history instead of valuing the full scope and life of what happens in a forest. Uncovering the hidden costs that capitalism has ignored is a big step towards stronger future economies.
Maqueda reminded us that all around the world there are people showing up and interested, engaged and passionate.
“It important to remember that we are not alone at all in our desires to create something more just and regenerative. We’re absolutely surrounded by allies and we must keep that in mind.”
This Community Call on Future Economies is so rich in deep knowledge, this blog only highlights some important parts of the discussion!
For full minutes of the call, and video of the call, head here.
In New Zealand, in the small town of Whangarei (“Farn-ga-ray”) fabric rescuers are taking on the waste headed for landfill from second-hand stores.
The local Salvation Army Op-shop* receives roughly 3 wool bales of donated clothing a day. Even with a good crew of volunteers it’s impossible for them to process and sell everything, so the staff are selective with what will go to the shop floor.
Any item that needs to be ironed, washed or mended generally does not make the grade and is assigned to landfill. This means that good quality fabric is being dumped because it is too time consuming to work with. This store alone currently sends a skip to the landfill every few days – most of it textiles. This one store spends tens of thousands a year in dumping fees!
Intercept to the rescue! ‘Intercept’ volunteers literally intercept the skips heading to landfill and rescues fabric and clothing that is good quality, but needs attention.
With a small band of sorters, and seamstresses these items are reworked into spectacular garments or made into ‘t-shirt yarn’ for XL-crochet which will be sold within the Salvation Army store. Other clothing with life still in them are gifted out into the community, .
Cooperation between the store and Intercept is going well. The store has given a work room within the building and space and shelving on the dock for rescues and sorting to happen.
“Anything that I can do to help reduce our spending on landfill is good for everyone,” says store manager, Nick Garforth.
“We want your fingers!” says Jenny Hill, at the first official Intercept meeting. 17 volunteers are there. Jenny is a founder of Intercept and is referring to the ability of knowing quality fabric by touch. This is a skill I personally have, passed on through the mothers of my maternal line (my great-great-grandmother worked the cotton mills in the Manchester area at the end of the 18th Century). Until now, I didn’t appreciate this knowledge is not common. I’m proud to be a sorter for Intercept!
Watch: video sharing work of Intercept
In the weekend I joined a fellow Intercepter at the local “Children’s Day”. We set up a stall to give intercepted clothes away. We took 18 banana boxes and by pack up time, three hours later, all but one were empty. All of these clothes would have gone to landfill, but instead have been recirculated in the community.
We definitely encourage you to think about starting something similar in your town, to slow fast fashion and become more regenerative in our clothing choices. Also, it’s really smart to check in with charity shops what they accept (generally clothing that can go straight on to a hanger to sell), as sending them items which contribute to landfill costs is doing the opposite of helping people.