Inspired by her film ‘The Economics of Happiness’ or perhaps simply curious about the ‘buzz’, sixty people attended the two Bellingen workshops with Helena Norberg-Hodge last week. And they were not disappointed.
The 68-year-old pioneer of the localisation movement, articulator of core ideas for counter-development and director of the International Society for Ecology and Culture shared her ideas about the suffering created by the impacts of globalisation with warmth and enthusiasm.
With the wisdom gained from 30 years of careful observation, she both demystified the mixed messages about the global economy and offered hope in what is often seen as a bleak future.
“We are told consumerism is the glue of the world and at the same time we are made to feel guilty for being consumers and therefore promoting global warming,” Ms Norberg-Hodge said. “We are prisoners of this global economy … but we are also able to liberate ourselves, it is not an easy thing to do but it is possible.”
Hers is a realistic voice of how that bridge can be built between the global reality and the lifestyles we desire that give us and the planet time to breathe. “I call it creative schizophrenia,” she laughed.
Her two-prong approach is simple: “Firstly we must actively raise the consciousness about holistic views that offer solutions. We need to build the numbers of people who are actively involved in order to help force policy changes.
“And secondly we need to work on connecting locally, connecting as communities and creating community-based solutions that empower people to create their own economies. The system we have now destroys jobs, local economies, our water, our health.”
She said local food networks were an excellent example of an alternative system that benefited many. “This is consumer supported agriculture… that shortens distances, offers more diversity, uses fewer chemicals (as opposed to monocultures) and results in greater productivity. This leads to a better lifestyle for both the farmer and the consumer.”
But the workshops were much more than a talk-fest. A session with local choir maestro Brian Martin gave participants a living experience of what connectivity feels like … in the space of 30 minutes he had the group tuned in and singing three part harmonies – and sounding pretty good!
Then the gathering morphed into a World Café (community-sharing forum) where ideas of what could be done were shared and honed.
These included everything from large-scale ideas like a shire-wide electricity generation scheme and a plant-based economy using hemp and bamboo to connecting people to harvest each other’s excess citrus or helping people identify bush tucker in their own gardens.
Co-coordinator Lisa Siegel said it was exciting to see so many people engaging with the ideas. “Helena’s message is so timely – many people have a real thirst for meaningful things to do,” Lisa said. “The workshop offered not only information but also the opportunity for people to start focusing on projects.”
Everyone certainly walked away feeling inspired and motivated. Participant Christel Wecker said for her it had been wonderful to spend a day with someone who knew how to explain the impact of globalisation so clearly. “And who is also offering hope and a path to counteract the impacts locally,” Christel said. “She offers a path that takes away the guilt and celebrates the beauty of diversity … and emphasises the importance of global co- operation as opposed to globalisation.”