Community: Teaching Resiliency and Self-Sufficiency, by Louise Brookes
We all understand that sustainability is a must, and yet how many of us feel that the options exist for us to live 100% sustainably here and now? For most of my life I’ve encountered successive obstacles to living a truly sustainable off grid life. For example, wherever I moved, I had to replace old failing infrastructure with the off grid alternatives, and to do that I had to gain permission from landlords, neighbours, planners and so on. Often my life was such that within six months I was forced to move again due to unreliable landlords or personal circumstances, and had no tenure over the lovely living green spaces I’d been privileged to nurture.
Everyone always says to me they’re looking for land, and when they get their piece of land they can fulfil all their dreams. I said this too for a while. Then I looked at my life. I’ve lived in terraces, mansions, camped on the verges of motorways, swung in my hammock from ancient hedgerows. Everywhere I’ve lived, I followed a pattern where the impact of my choices created more life or didn’t; the choices were conscious or ignorant. I planted trees or I flushed my waste into the waterways; my wrappers went in landfill, my leaves in the compost… if there was a light switch, I flipped it and either a nuclear power station would churn its boilers, or the energy of a windmill’s creaking vanes would allow me to see.
One of my inspirations is William Kamkwamba, a boy who built a wind turbine when he was 14 years old by looking at pictures in a book. His village was suffering drought and famine and he’d subsequently been pulled out of school. His wind turbine pumped water enabling them to grow food through the drought and he helped his family have lighting and power for charging the mobile phones and radios of the village. Yet here we sit in the luxury of a developed country, with all our ‘options’, all the information we could use and yet apparently not the motivation to do similar to William. Our need is veiled, our motivation unclear, the reward circumspect. We don’t have a famine fuelling us, we don’t have hunger, thirst, we haven’t been pulled out of school to help find food. But other people have because of us. Because of the bubble we live in, people all over the world are suffering the consequences of our daily actions. The world is suffering the consequences of our great unconsciousness.
I don’t teach going green. I teach people to blast away the ignorance or apathy, despair at what’s going on in the world, whatever it is that’s stopping us from growing our food forests already. Whatever stops us from returning our waterways to places where we can kneel on a bank, cup our hands, dip our heads and drink. It is a birthright to have a good home, to have nourishing food, clean air and clean water. I teach ways and means; aquacultures, perpetual gardening, low impact building. I teach methods of filtering and purifying water from the survival level through to lake restorers using phytoremediation. I rarely see these solutions being used to solve the world’s problems to the degree they could be.
I tell people about William Kamkwamba, or Geoff Lawton of ‘Greening the Desert’ (with the cunning use of swales, micro irrigation, mulch and shade trees!). I tell them stories, as many stories as it takes really for them to begin questioning what their life support systems are, to measure and quantify how long and how well their homes, towns and gardens can actually support their families? I help people to increase their own level of adaptive capacity to challenges, to changing circumstance, to the weather.
If you want to know more about the resilience training I teach, check out www.earthfrogs.org. The company is called EarthFrogs because frogs are a symbol of diversity and their medicine is about transformation, purification, turning negatives to positive. And because there just happened to be a whole lot of frogs around when I was looking for a name.
Louise Brookes is the founder of EarthFrogs, a Glastonbury organization that helps communities meet their basic needs using innovative, low cost, sustainable methods. Louise studied with Ecovillage HQ in Canada. She then joined the Woodcraft School in 2006 to become one of the first qualified Survival Instructors in the UK. She has received the Summer Mountain Leaders Training Award and Single Pitch Supervisors Award. She has also completed the Plas Y Brenin Alpine Apprenticeship, and studied Permaculture Design.