Extreme weather events like the brutal heatwave engulfing much of Europe in July 2022, highlight the urgent need to foster community resilience. Much like the mutual aid groups that sprung up all over the world in the midst of the global pandemic, bringing communities together to build enduring support networks to help everyone through extreme weather events, in all their forms, must be a vital strand of rapid transition. It’s long been understood by people on the front line of dealing with natural disasters that community level work to strengthen preparedness, map vulnerabilities and have the most resilient livelihoods, is the best long term protection, as well as the best way to minimise damage from extremes in the short term.
For many people, the daily reality is dire: As of May 2022, 58 percent of Americans (approximately 150 million adults) are living paycheck to paycheck. Inflation recently hit a 40-year high, with prices for food, rent, energy, and basic consumer goods increasing by the day. Despite this, the federal minimum wage remains locked in at $7.25 an hour — a rate that hasn’t increased since 2009 — and while wages have been increasing, they aren’t keeping pace with the cost of living. Meanwhile, the mitigation and management of excessive waste is a concurrent issue. As the initial impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic wane, families who are downsizing their lives or cleaning out their closets face the challenge of finding a new home for their excess stuff — or simply dumping it in a landfill.
With food costs at near-record prices, the idea of growing your own food has never been so attractive. But food production requires space, and space can be a precious commodity — even a rarity — for people who live in urban areas. For decades, communities in cities around the U.S. have created urban farms and gardens. These spaces make use of empty lots to grow low-cost produce or flowers for communities. These urban farms are not always in high-profile or easily accessible places, however. But, what if your urban farm was in a central location? Perhaps your local library? The Cicero Branch of the Northern Onondaga Public Library (NOPL) in Upstate New York has explored precisely this question. In 2011, they created the Library Farm — partly the brainchild of Meg Backus, then the adult programming director and public relations coordinator.
Transition Berkeley has cultivated a community of practice that hits close to ground zero – a “culture of repair,” that demonstrates a way to live with more humility, making do with what we have by sharing knowledge and skills, one repair at a time. Repair Cafes harness a library-system supported methodology that touches a diversity of people and interests. The bells that ring on the repair grounds throughout an event celebrates the completion of each repair – and total up to 100 in any four-hour event. Repair Cafes and fix-it clinics produce an excitement not unlike a dopamine-pumped day at the derby with your besties. This elegantly simple community-based solution draws support from people across all cultural, gender, age and socioeconomic lines and provides a unique opportunity for them to gather, connect, and build relationships.
Sometimes the older folks forget what it was like to be a newbie—even though everyone was one once. For most new folks, joining an intentional community is an adventure unlike anything they've done before. So much so that it's unreasonable to expect them to even know what questions to ask. This task is further complicated by the richness of community culture. While it's one thing to create and disseminate to new arrivals a book of agreements (it's a good idea for everyone to have a copy BTW), that's just the tip of the iceberg. The vast majority of norms or customs will not be delineated in a handbook—which means that someone has to be available to offer community in translation, or you are essentially deciding that it's OK for the new folks to figure it out by trial and error. (Hint: this is a poor choice.)
On August 17, 2019, a coalition of antifascist and progressive groups in Portland, Oregon organized a rally to protest a Proud Boy event planned in the city. The rally had a carnivalesque atmosphere created by PopMob — an antifascist group of concerned Portlanders which seeks to “resist the alt-right with whimsy and creativity” — and brought on a diverse range of organizations, from labor and religious groups and civil rights groups like the NAACP to more militant organizations like Rose City Antifa. During the protest, the latter, along with autonomous black bloc organizers, acted as a buffer between the crowds at the carnival and the hundreds of Proud Boys amassing at the other side of the waterfront park both groups were occupying.
We know that unions promote economic equality and build worker power, helping workers to win increases in pay, better benefits, and safer working conditions. But that’s not all unions do. Unions also have powerful effects on workers’ lives outside of work. In this report, we document the correlation between higher levels of unionization in states and a range of economic, personal, and democratic well-being measures. In the same way unions give workers a voice at work, with a direct impact on wages and working conditions, the data suggest that unions also give workers a voice in shaping their communities. Where workers have this power, states have more equitable economic structures, social structures, and democracies.
Today's world is complex and messed up. All the suffering among the great majorities for many people is just one more number while an increasing number of human beings are or feel isolated, depressed and alone, burdened down by the social consequences of decadent capitalism. However, in this hostile context Nicaragua, physically small but morally gigantic, is making real efforts to rebuild the country's neighborhoods as social and political units, a mutual support network based on solidarity. Many people who have grown up within the walls of residential or prestigious districts the world of the barrios is a distant, hostile and even scary place. However, for those of us who grew up and live in these neighborhoods, the barrio is our native territory, the place where we all know each other and greet each other, eye to eye, the place where there are no secrets because people have natural journalistic insight.
Minneapolis didn’t get here alone. The actions and decisions of many people created the challenges facing the city. Solving them will require the work of many people, too. But before anything changes, people need to start listening to each other. Imagine if Derek Chauvin had listened to George Floyd and let him breathe. A 46-year-old man and father of five would not have died. Minneapolis would not have burned. The city would not have had over $1 billion in damage. And communities would not have had to deal with the fallout of the most expensive civil disorder in U.S. history. After Floyd died in police custody on Memorial Day at 38th Street and Chicago Avenue in Minneapolis, the site of his death turned into a memorial to honor Floyd’s life.
Charles Caine has a dream. Just like Martin Luther King understood civil rights include economic rights, Caine wants to give all people an opportunity to prosper. That mission starts with his two sons (ages 16 and 13) and the other youth he mentors in North Minneapolis as the president and executive director of Brothers EMpowered. Caine founded the community mentorship organization in 2014 to help men of color overcome the barriers in their lives and the lives in their communities. His inspiration came from years of struggling as a young Black man in urban America. After overcoming many challenges and barriers in his life, from gang violence to chemical dependency, the turning point came when he became a father.
Frank Tortoriello was the owner of a popular deli on Main Street in Great Barrington. He turned to SHARE when he lost his lease and the bank refused him a loan to renovate his new location. But Frank didn’t need SHARE’s circle of grandmothers; he already had a circle of his own in his customers. SHARE suggested that Frank issue Deli Dollars as a self-financing technique. The notes would be purchased during a month on sale and redeemed after the Deli had made its move. A local artist, Martha Shaw, designed the note, which showed a host of people carrying Frank and his staff, all busy cooking, to their new location. The notes were issued in 1989 and were marked “redeemable for meals up to a value of ten dollars.”
The badges are both for security and for building relationships. We want our community corner stores to know us as those who are looking out for the people. And we want the people to know who we are in case they need help or can lend a hand. We want cops and other government entities to acknowledge and respect that we are essential workers getting supplies and services to our community. It is not a fail-safe, but for scrappy DIY mutual aid teams, nothing ever is. We roll with what comes as best we can. We are unpaid and many folks are brand new to this work. And yet, we still manage to do a better job than the almighty politicians and their corporate overlords. For instance, here in DC, several offices under the purview of Mayor Bowser, along with city-partnered nonprofit organizations, have routed calls for help to mutual aid networks around the city.
The Hoima-Kaiso-Tonya highway connects the Ugandan fishing town of Kaiso to Hoima town, the headquarters of the Bunyoro Kingdom and Hoima District. Kaiso is on the south-eastern edge of Lake Mwitanzige, in a region with an estimated potential three billion barrels of crude oil. The Hoima-Kaiso-Tonya road was built to enable access to the lake for oil prospecting and as an investment for future petroleum production, so the residents call it “Oil Road”. For many, however, the road takes away more than it brings. To carve out space for the road, the Uganda National Roads Authority took land from Kaiso residents. Valuation and compensation, handled by an outside consultant, were arbitrary and low (going by the number of doors on a house for example), without taking full account of past investments and future livelihood losses.
The damage COVID-19 is wreaking—in terms of deaths, sickness, business closures, unemployment, and misery—is incalculable. But this crisis is changing the world in subtle ways that may ultimately improve our lives. So…in the spirit of Winston Churchill, who once implored not to let a good crisis go to waste, here are the positives I’m observing. (1) Resilience – Never again will a sober economic developer argue that local resilience and self-reliance do not matter. Crises like this one remind us that a community with a rich diversity of businesses will survive a disaster better than one completely dependent on the outside. (2) Local Investment – Wall Street is toast (again). Even after a few positive days, the market has lost nearly a third of its peak value earlier in the year. Once families assess the damage to their life savings, I suspect millions will start thinking more seriously about how to reinvest in local businesses, projects, and people.
In dramatic effect, a Minneapolis resident dumps a bag of money onto a podium during public comments at the final City Council meeting on the 2020 budget last month. The person with them, who identified himself as David, is addressing the council members. “This is $193.40,” David says, then begins to explain that the money represents the $193 million budget Mayor Jacob Frey proposed to give the Minneapolis Police Department in 2020, more than one-third of the city’s general fund.