- Written by Ayla Mullen, Springhouse Faculty -
What does a sustainable community look like? We don’t have to look far for models of sustainable interdependence - healthy natural ecosystems are living examples of what it takes to sustain the web of life, and we have a lot to learn from these living systems as we work on building our own socially and ecologically sustainable communities. One of the biggest lessons of living systems, according to physicist and Systems Theorist Fritjof Capra, is that “both ecological communities and human communities derive their essential properties, and in fact their very existence, from their relationships.” Vibrant relationships within a community allow for complex feedback loops where individuals and the community as a whole can learn from their mistakes by directly experiencing the consequences of their actions. As every action ripples out from its source through the complex web of relationships, it eventually comes back around to affect its origin. The principle of feedback is essential in ecology, as it allows for a system to self-correct behaviors that undermine the health and sustainability of the community. The implication here is that what damages the self, or what harms an individual, also harms the community as a whole. Feedback loops also allow for celebration of growth and success and a deep affirmation of belonging within a community.
In our current unsustainable culture, which often lacks vibrant communities, we are rarely held accountable for our actions when they are damaging to ourselves or to our social and ecological communities. We are rarely told that our own health is integral to the wellbeing of our community, or supported in our personal inner work towards that end. We are rarely celebrated for our positive effect upon our surroundings as we grow and develop. Our participation is rarely acknowledged to be an essential, formative element of the community, and we are rarely empowered to access our innate capacities to create new solutions and offer unique insights within the context of our community. The principles of Living Systems Theory tell us that building sustainable communities involves doing all of these things. It involves supporting and nurturing each individual as they build and sustain a vibrant web of relationships, and, through that, “building up and nurturing a network of communications with feedback loops” (Capra, 2007, p.14) to sustain the health and vibrancy of the community as a whole.
Springhouse is committed to building a vibrant, sustainable learning community. Living systems principles are part of our core pedagogies, and we seek to build a web of healthy, deeply fulfilling, and authentic relationships, both within our learning community as well as the larger Floyd community. The practice of being in right relationship with oneself, one’s community, and the Earth is foundational throughout all of our program offerings as well as through core practices such as mentoring and embodied living.
Published on July 9th, 2018