A publication by Pucón's Environmental Council February, 2012

by Rod Walker

'PUCON IN TRANSITION' is the product of a year of encounters (2011) where local residents shared their diverse experiences, all with the common purpose of generating more ecologically sustainable ways of living Prepared as a series of articles written by nine commissions of Pucon's local Environmental Council, its first and emblematic chapter - Transition - gives a vision explaining the principles and practise behind the Transition Movement in different countries of the world. The remaining eight chapters deal with related themes. 'Energy' gives useful practical advice for this present moment of 'peak oil'. 'Ecological Agriculture' goes to the central theme of food cultivation, emphasising the importance of following natural principles. Four others highlight the interrelationships in the natural web of life contained in the community. 'Forests and Fuelwood' looks at the riches of the forest, its vulnerability and the need to regenerate it. 'Water' focuses on this latter point with special emphasis on the subject of contamination, while 'Biodiversity' shows us the unique nature of the Pucon area for its high level of endemism of species. Three more chapters deal with specific human activities - 'Eco-Construction', Tourism' and 'Recycling'.

More than informing about community initiatives, the publication seeks to suggest simple lines of good practice - ideas that strengthen a community and improve its quality of life by following ecological principles.

New breezes of change begin to move the air. In many countries, ecological awareness is developing, growing more truly modern. The outdated concept of material and economic growth has been showing its weakness for some time now. Far from bringing 'modernity' in the sense of the best achievements of the human being, it is proving to be ever more dysfunctional and outmoded. The principal reason for this is that it was based on the illusory idea that unlimited growth is possible within the finite, limited system of the biosphere. This idea could only survive so long because of a collective lack of environmental awareness that has been intentionally fomented with the objective of creating and controlling hugely lucrative commercial markets of massive and irreflexive consumerism.

This flawed vision of growth suffered from a fundamental ecological ignorance. Every manifestation of life, including human activity itself, owes its very existence to principles of nature. To ignore them - be it on the scale of individual organism, population, species or civilization - is to invite extinction. When natural principles are respected, on the other hand, life enjoys a vital equilibrium and maintains its sustainability over time.

Only forty years ago, very few of us even suspected any danger. The Earth seemed so immense that it would be able to absorb any effect of the industrial revolution. That was the belief that contributed to establishing the practices of giant industrialization and voracious financial greed we see today. Becoming used to 'giantism' has other more subtle effects on our perception of reality, and one of them is in the language we use every day. For example, the term 'sustainable' has a strong unspoken economic connotation. Much of our environmental education, almost without our recognising it, pursues similar visions of the same consumerism merely tinged with a decorous greenness. We need now to go to the root of things and educate for consuming less, instead of ever more.

Fortunately, along with the expansion of the industrial system, concerns have also been steadily increasing. In 1967, the first photographs of Earth from space sowed powerful seeds by showing us our 'space ship' clearly to our eyes. In 1973 German economist E F Schumacher wrote his book 'Small is Beautiful' with the pointed sub-title (A study of Economics as if People Mattered'. What a revolutionary idea!

Now we know that people are what least matter to the system of commercial and industrial growth. At the same time, as individuals we possess the immense power of action, and through our actions generating healthier ways of relating with each other in community and with the Earth. By following natural principles and practices that identify real vital needs through ecological awareness, we can re-establish balance, step by step, day by day. This is the essence of ancient indigenous wisdom, and it is always available to us. Although it has been forgotten or suppressed, it holds the seeds of the new and real 'modernity' - more practical, solidarious and healthy - that is so necessary today.

When we ask ourselves what we can do with our collective addiction to oil, the answer sounds more clear and strongly every day - simply lower our consumption at all levels and increase our sharing of the resources still available. For the old system of continuous expansion, the twilight of the oil era seems a problem of complexity. On the other hand, for a system following the ecological principles of reducing, re-locating and developing alternatives, it presents an opportunity to be creative in many ways. Each small action of frugality - reducing consumption, sharing local resources and products in community - is a positive step along this path of transition. Even more, it leads towards the adaptability to change known as 'resilience' - something like flexibility in the face of pronounced changes. It is a characteristic shown by all species that are cologically viable, and is a fundamental objective of the Transition Movement that is now gathering force around the world.

"Progressing from oil dependence to local resilience"
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