A blog – 12 months into our journey as a local DA group in Hertfordshire, UK
“Find the others” Douglas Rushkoff
When I woke up to the climate and ecological predicament we face – I rushed around trying to find groups to join and actions to take. Compared to many of you reading this, I was very late to the party. It was early 2019.
I made it my business to educate myself extensively about what was going on – and it quickly became clear that all this was far, far bigger than ‘climate’. My background is psychology – but I’ve also learned so much over the past two years about so many other things: climate science, ecology, systems, economics, politics, sociology, the rise and fall of civilisations, and social justice.
I experienced the most profound grief of my life.
In those early days, as well as participating in a few Extinction Rebellion protests, I joined the Transition Town organisation in the village where I live, and was initially excited to meet local people who seemed to share my concern about the need to adapt as well as mitigate.
However, it quickly became clear that this group – whilst made up of delightful, hard-working and caring folk – really weren’t ready to look at how bad things really are.
Their stated aim was to help to make our village “a greener and nicer place to live”. They organised litter-picks, and the occasional market stall at village events, where they sold eco-friendly products, and some locally-grown vegetables.
Oh, and they organised some film nights in our local village hall, but would only consider showing films that had a ‘Happy Ending’. Nothing that might be depressing, please!
Pollyanna: a person characterized by irrepressible optimism and a tendency to find good in everything. That’s been me my whole life. To the extent that others have often told me I’m naïve, over-trusting, or ‘don’t live in the real world’.
At the age of 62, I found myself morphing into a Cassandra. Based on the ancient Greek myth, Cassandra was gifted and cursed by the God Apollo. The gifts were foresight and prophecy. The curse was that nobody believed her. Her valid alarms were ignored and disbelieved.
To be honest, it felt to me like this group were deliberately sticking their fingers in their ears. Keeping themselves busy and engaged so that they didn’t have to face the discomfort and pain of looking at the truth.
This was my first experience of people responding in this way – but I see it everywhere now. And I get it – it’s the way most people are wired. Until now, there’s even been an evolutionary advantage to prioritising what’s right in front of you.
I’m not judging them – all of us are doing the best we can with the thinking that looks real to us.
“After joining the DA online community and working through my emotions there, I felt a great need to connect in person with fellow members. Particularly as I absolutely believe the need to build resilient local communities. Reaching out to members who live locally has been a wonderful experience. We began our initial meetings by just being there to listen to each other, which helped enormously.
Over time, with our passion, synergistic skill-sets, and strengthening relationships, this has evolved into the formation of a local community group. Here, we are carrying out a variety of actions to contribute to community resilience, which we couldn’t have accomplished alone.
It’s been Life-affirming!”
Kate Swindells, HEART Community Group
By this point, I’d found the Deep Adaptation community – and it was a relief to find that there were others who felt the same as me. Lots of them. Maybe I wasn’t bonkers after all!
Throughout my whole life, my forte has been facilitating learning in groups, so I’d also started to facilitate workshops and retreats supporting other people who were also waking up to our predicament, and that we need to prepare and adapt now to what will likely be a very different future.
It was Kate who first reached out to me – using the ‘map’ function of DA, and a few of us met up in a local coffee shop. (Do you remember those days when we could meet up with complete strangers in coffee shops?)
We speak regularly with each other, and also with local leaders, politicians and other community groups. We offer webinars on Deep Adaptation for all interested parties. I use my coaching skills to support activists and campaigners one to one from a psycho-spiritual approach.
We came up with a name for our group – HEART, which stands for Hertfordshire Enabling and Adapting for Resilience Together. And a little logo. And our symbol is the Pasque Flower, which is the county flower of Hertfordshire, and is an endangered plant.
“After being introduced to Jem Bendell’s paper in 2019, I woke up to the climate crisis we are facing. Given that I have lived in the same area for over 20 years now, I have a great affinity with all things local.
And it only seems fitting that to address the challenges we collectively face, we have to begin on our own doorsteps. At least this is how it felt for me. I already had friends and neighbours who are passionate about adaptation and leaning into reality rather than looking away. This eventually led me to our local DA Group – and I feel I have a place where I can learn and contribute over time.
It’s evolving into something which I believe will hold a safe and dynamic space to create and support wider communities. I feel grateful to be part of this and what it yields.”
Chantal Burns, HEART Community Group
We’ve recently spent time exploring our “essence” as a group, which we summarise as:
- Focus on community – stronger together
- Connection and Safe space
- Action and Education
- Resilience and Well-Being
- Telling the Truth
We’ve almost finished creating a website, and have created a Facebook Group and Page and we regularly tweet as HEART Community Group.
One of the things that’s great about the group is that we all have our own individual strengths – some of us have a more ‘practical’ leaning, others a more psycho-spiritual orientation. The outer work and the inner work, if you will. One of our members works full time for Kate Raworth on Doughnut Economics.
We are now embarking on a recruitment drive to attract more members to HEART Community Group. Let us know if you’re a Hertfordshire resident, and we’d welcome you with open arms
It’s impossible right now to meet up in person, for obvious reasons (I write this in January 2021), but we meet regularly on zoom.
I believe that the future will be characterised by local, local, local. The advice “Get to know your neighbours now!” seems pretty wise to me.
If you haven’t already, we would highly recommend “finding the others” in your local area. For us, it’s been so nourishing and makes the whole DA journey less lonely.
Kimberley Hare – and the HEART Community Group