Newsletter:20080823

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EcoReality Co-op Newsletter

You are receiving this because you signed up to be a member of our Advisory Council, or otherwise asked to be kept in touch.

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We're Almost There!

Looking down the Fulford Valley from Mount Maxwell with a 1000mm lens gives one a real appreciation for the wonderful property we've found -- only partly in view here.
It's been another incredible couple of months at EcoReality. I've always joked that, "Time is nature's way of keeping everything from happening at once." But Time itself seems to be broken these days, because things keep happening faster and faster. So we've had to be extra careful of the "dopeler effect" -- if bad ideas come at you fast enough, they seem like better ideas.

One of those bad ideas you always hear about is people committing to buy something they can't afford. "Yea, but that will never happen to me!" is what I always thought. After all, when it came to money, I had been sober, responsible, and never did anything foolish. (Well, not too foolish. Except for putting $5,000 into heating oil futures at the peak of the last energy crisis, just as Reagan came into office and convinced the Saudis to pump as fast as they could. That $5,000 dissipated like a shot of whiskey in an irrigation pond, and within months, my life savings were gone.)

There's a funny thing about history repeating itself, only instead of petroleum, it was the peak of the housing market, and we had a binding offer on our dream property, while still holding EcoReality Lite, our "starter" ecovillage. What sort of fool writes a real estate sales contract without a finance clause? Perhaps one who unconsciously knows that no bank was ever going to loan us a cent -- which we later proved quite decisively. If we had put in a finance clause, the deal would have collapsed at the end of May, when we swallowed hard and removed conditions of sale, hoping, praying, that EcoReality Lite would sell, or that Some Other Miracle Would Occur(TM). So, oblivious to the relentless push north of the US sub-prime crisis, we counted on selling EcoReality Lite before August 1.

Espi Contreras gleans hay to help our goats get through the winter.
But a miracle did not occur. We fretted while the showings of EcoReality Lite dribbled off to every other week or longer. We had too many sleepless nights before slashing the price. And then we turned to begging, asking you, our advisors, for any possible help you might be able to render.

But then, a couple minor miracles did occur. The seller agreed to loan us the closing funds until EcoReality Lite sold, something no bank was willing to do. There would be crushing interest payments of nearly $4,000 a month, but only until EcoReality Lite sold, which was the second minor miracle: after weeks without any showings, we got an offer. It was way lower than even our reduced price, but we were not in a position to argue.

To make a long story even longer, the conditions of sale of EcoReality Lite were removed just last week, and closing of both properties happens next Wednesday. Whew!

But we aren't out of the woods yet. On Wednesday, we'll have 53% equity, with a balloon payment coming no less than one year from now, after successful subdivision of the 63 acre community farmland. Watch this space for updates, and continue to envision talented, resourceful people coming our way who want to live in a sustainable intentional community!

S.E.E.D.S. Resurrection

Tom Billings makes a presentation at a S.E.E.D.S. meeting.
Carol and I first came to this island through our involvement with the Saltspring Ecovillage Education and Development Society, a group formed for the purpose of starting an ecovillage on Salt Spring Island. Founded and held together by Tom Billings and Irja Kriegel, SEEDS had become inactive as Tom and Irja and other members travelled.

When they heard the news of our new property, Tom and Irja gathered together some of the original SEEDS group, and voted a new board that includes a majority of EcoReality members. Carol and I will resume our former SEEDS roles as Treasurer and Secretary, and Shannon will begin a new term as President.

A common model for intentional community legal entities is a non-profit closely associated with an equity organization. This is precisely how Occidental Arts and Ecology Center and Sowing Circle, a well-established ecovillage in California, is organized. The equity organization allows people the option to leave with their investment, while the non-profit can conduct proper non-profit operations on the site, such as education and public service.

We have been considering such a legal entity model for some time, but are grateful for the opportunity to carry on the work of SEEDS in a way that will allow a proper division and synergy between equity needs and public service.

Thank you, super-WWOOFer Jess!

Jess Andrews, WWOOFer of the year at EcoReality.
Of all the new friends we've made during this adventure, Jess Andrews has been one of the greatest. With a dairy-farming upbringing and a new degree in Womens Studies, Jess sought out community to see if her farming roots still called her.

An observant, tireless worker, great self-starter, and wonderful work companion, Jess whipped the garden into shape, as well as organizing the workshop tools and numerous other tasks. She also enjoyed learning beading and pine-needle basketry while here, and worked on a couple puzzles, as well!

She left us on July 31st, just after my sister and family arrived for a visit. She's off on other adventures before returning to her family farm in Saint Thomas, Ontario. If you come to visit, be sure to check out the thoughtful thank-you booklet Jess made for us, which includes photos, poems, and touching thoughts pulled from her stay.

Come back any time, Jess!

Adam Perry to present natural building August 31

Natural builder and humanitarian, Adam Perry
Natural builder and EcoReality Advisory Council member Adam Perry has been making buildings out of mud and fibre for a number of years, throughout southwest BC, the US, and Africa. Carol and I have had the privilege of working on three projects with Adam, and have been hoping to get him over to EcoReality for a presentation or workshop ever since.

Adam will start with a short movie produced by his collaborator, Elke Cole, who has designed and built numerous natural buildings throughout south west British Columbia, India, Tanzania, Germany, Costa Rica, and the US. Elke, schooled in architecture, lives in Victoria and is the Project Leader for Earth Rising Foundation’s Tanzania project.

Adam will then present a slide show on the work of Earth Rising Foundation in South Africa and Tanzania, followed by a discussion period about Earth Rising Foundation’s work, and natural building in general.

“Adam was such a wonderful spirit to work with,” said Adina Hildebrandt, who together with Andrew Haigh, owns Salt Spring Books and lives in one of the local natural buildings Adam worked on, “His knowledge and compassion made a challenging project go much easier.”

As with June's talk by Mike Nickerson, there will be home-baked cookies, refreshments, socializing, and fascinating discussions after Adam's presentation.

The presentation begins at 7PM on Sunday, 31 August. A contribution of $5 to $15 is suggested. Net proceeds go to the charitable work of Earth Rising Foundation.

Tree Bresson workshop at EcoReality

Carol and I attended one of Tree's two-day workshops in 2005, and loved every minute of it. We've been pining to bring her to EcoReality ever since. Now, Shannon has taken the lead in making it happen, and on September 27, we'll have Tree here for consensus and facilitation training. Tree specializes in working with intentional communities, and is one of the most gifted and experienced consensus and facilitation trainers out there. EcoReality uses consensus in our agreement-making, and we strongly encourage all members to take such training, ideally with the rest of the group.

This workshop is open to members and advisory council members only. (You can join the advisory council if you wish to attend.) Registration and deposit are required by August 31. Please see our web page for this event, or contact James Cowan, our Program steward, for details

Please contact James for questions or registration. Spots are limited for this workshop and it will fill up very quickly.

-- Jan Steinman


Baby Knees and Aspen Trees

On Human Nature and Green Nature

Quaking Aspen, Mount Moran, Grand Tetons, Wyoming.jpg
Our little girl is 1 and ½ years and 7 days old (not counting womb time). She climbs incessantly, speaks excessively, eats successfully, and smiles profusely. She is oh-so-healthy and her health in turn strengthens ours. Everyday I marvel at what she shows me about the relationships between her nature and what some call green nature.

It’s been some many months now since she began to speak in a language that we could understand. Overjoyed and perhaps over zealous, we new parents took this as a sign that it was indeed time to teach our little one the popular labels of our culture. After mommy and daddy and the appellations of those humans closest to us, we branched out to the next closest corporal reality – body parts. And this is when my education began.

Yes I do know most of my own body parts and even those of others (I studied anatomy while learning massage therapy). It wasn’t even her rapid grasp of individual body parts that grabbed my adoring attention, rather it was her play on perception, her reality of relationship. Allow me to explain.

She easily learned eyes and ears, knees and nose, elbows and hands, head and toes. What intrigued me was her difficulty, perhaps resistance, to seeing her knees or her nose as separate from any others. When asked she could “correctly” point to mommy’s nose or daddy’s toes or her own elbow but often as not she would mix up whose nose was whose or which knee belonged to whose leg. So over and over we reinforced the distinction, the separation, clearly defining who owned what. And eventually she learned or ……acquiesced.

She now knows her nose and recognizes or accepts that it is separate from mine. We new parents were proud …. and saddened at what seems to be a necessary developmental learning stage.

As I daily observed the human nature of my daughter I was reminded of a recent learning in the world of green nature. This is the world to which I often turn to make meaning from my own experiences. It concerns my favourite form of Yukon gold, the trembling aspen, Populus tremuloides to use its botanically correct, widely accepted label. Exactly what does the aspen have to teach us about relationships? Plenty so it would seem.

According to naturalist Wayne Lynch this popular species of poplar is particularly prolific when it comes to propagation. Yes, like many trees they will send off seeds whose cottony wisps are carried on the wind, but more often than not they simply send out horizontal roots from which new trees grow vertically. This could explain why I’ve heard more than one person complain about trying to eradicate aspens from their backyards. Their common root system is actually a single organism, sharing a common set of genes. One particular grove in Utah was counted by researchers to contain 47,000 individual tree trunks. They believe it may be the heaviest and largest organism on the planet. There is credible speculation that the Yukon may also have a grove or two equally as large.

To me this is remarkable. For years my formal schooling in “Forest Engineering” taught that a forest is made up of individual and separate trees. This is not always true; in fact it may come to be soon widely accepted that trees in a forest are more like fingers on the same hand. Whether it is through the discovery of the connecting role of mycorrhizal fungi or of actual root connections, science continues to provide proof of what spirit has been saying for eons.

What often appears on the surface as separate, when I dig a little deeper, can be shown to be irrefutably similar if not the same. Perhaps there really is no separation at all. Perhaps my little girl already knows this. For her, my nose or her mum’s nose is her own nose. And maybe baby knees and aspen trees are made of the same stuff.

I imagine that this developmental learning stage of labeling and seeing as separate will soon lose its luster. I trust that our human world will not need much longer before we again perceive people and places, wild and domestic, as body parts of a whole being.

Maybe this is simply a necessary stage of forgetting in human be-ing. May I soon remember to once again see through the eyes of a child.

Morris Lamrock


Moves and changes

Shannon has fun disentangling Maya and Shakti.
Shannon, James and Sienna moved from Vancouver to 2172 Fulford-Ganges Road on July 23rd. On July 24th, we learned that there was an offer to purchase EcoReality Lite! Having received consent from the membership, James, Shannon and Carol met with the realtor on Friday July 25th and created a fair counter-offer on behalf of EcoReality.

The result was that the buyers accepted our counter offer and a couple weeks later, they removed the conditions of that sale, and released their deposit, committing them to the sale.

The August 1st closing date for purchase of EcoReality Huge had been carefully negotiated by Jan, in his role as land purchase steward and communications steward. As a result of this negotiation, and generous loans by members to EcoReality for more cash payments to the deposit amount on Aug 1, EcoReality entered into a loan situation with Three Point for the remaining closing amount on EcoReality Huge. With the timely sale of EcoReality Lite, we will be in a position to pay the principal and interest on this loan at the end of August this year.

Money & the Times We're In

This portion of the message contains excerpts from some "Activating" rallying letters written by Jan Slakov, an EcoReality member who lives on Salt Spring and who has added EcoReality to her busy schedule of Peace Activism and Environmental Actions. It is a call for us to think deeply about our values and how to give life to them in the world we live in – by supporting EcoReality as an Advisor in whatever ways you are most called to contribute!

Although many of us participate in socially worthwhile causes, we are all involved in an economic system that does not reflect our values: In 1998 (according to the UNDP) the amount spent on ice cream in Europe was some $11 billion, one billion less than would be required to provide reproductive health care for all women in the world, 2 billion more than would be needed to provide clean water and sanitation for all. Even the Canada Pension Plan invests in tobacco, weapons manufacture and other dubious ventures.

According to the Stern Report on the economics of climate change, it would cost about $430 per person per year to prevent the most disastrous effects of climate change by cutting greenhouse gas emissions. In that same year, Canada spent some $490 per person per year on its military.

As citizens of this global economy, it is we who are financing the things we disagree with, that do not represent our values for a socially-just, ecologically-sustainable future.

To live by our own values in a real way, perhaps we could all take some time to understand our role in the economy; if we acquire money and spend money, if we have money in a Bank account/GICs/RRSPs/Pension and other investments, then we each have a role. Check out Mike Nickerson's "Life, Money and Illusion" for a clear explanation of the economic situation we have co-created.

Help bring financial and human capital closer to home, investing wisely and locally as much as possible.

Joining with EcoReality's Vision and Mission in whatever way you feel able to contribute (research, writing, building, donating time/money/materials/plants) is a way to make a difference in this economy. The world for our children will depend on people re-learning to co-operate and share resources, rather than to compete in the capitalist ethic. We can (and many already do) produce the necessities of life locally as we wean ourselves off of dependence on non-renewable resources, including fossil fuels.

EcoReality is purchasing good, organic farmland that is easily accessible and right next door to a large tract of farmland that is to be donated to Salt Spring for "community farming" under a community land trust.

We want to thank the Advisory Council for having the insight and inspiration to join EcoReality and to support us along our path up to today. Please, read our vision once more and give it some more thought. Together we can create ways to make this a reality at "Eco-Reality Huge".

-- Shannon Cowan


Recent Happenings

Here are some highlights of recent meetings and events. Click any entry for details.

Members' Meeting 
Rudy Sieger agreement, dwelling equity formula agreed, member labour requirements, real estate status.
Members' Teleconference 
real estate status, fall program planning.
Permaculture Design Certificate Course 
Jan Steinman led an intensive two-week course in permaculture design at O.U.R. Ecovillage, near Shawnigan Lake, an hour north of Victoria.
Jan's dad, George, turns 80! 
Sorry I missed your birthday, dad! Now you can say you didn't die in your '70's!
Members' Teleconference 
Tree Bresson workshop planning, real estate status, weekly questions.
Residents' Meeting 
project management, apportioning utilities, covering closing extension interest cost, covering WWOOFer costs, member weekend protocols, visit protocols, regular residents' meeting schedule.
Members' Teleconference 
Status of SEEDS non-profit, planning for Tree Bresson workshop, visitor's and guest's suggested contributions and labour, Adam Perry presentation planning.
Teleconference with Golden Shield Qi Gong 
agreements on sharing this valuable resource, imbued with years of Qi Gong energy.

Upcoming Events

For details, please go to the meetings page on our website. All activities are at EcoReality, 2152 Fulford-Ganges Road, Salt Spring Island (map), unless otherwise noted.

Saturday, 23 August, Weekly Tour, Potluck & Movie 
Tour at 5PM, potluck at 6PM, movie at dusk. Have a movie in mind? Please bring one!
Saturday, 30 August, Monthly Members' Meeting 
Theme: Local Eating. We are expecting a number of visitors and prospective members. Due to space restrictions, please let us know if you plan to attend.
Saturday, 30 August, Weekly Tour, Potluck & Movie 
Tour at 5PM, potluck at 6PM, movie at dusk. Have a movie in mind? Please bring one!
Sunday, 31 August, Adam Perry on Natural Building 
EcoReality Advisory Council member and natural buildier Adam Perry will give a presentation on natural building in Africa at the EcoReality meeting hall. Adam, a founder of Earthrising Foundation, builds houses, orphanages, and community buildings using natural building techniques in Tanzania and South Africa. This presentation is an information session and fundraiser for Adam's work in Africa. Come out and see how you can be involved in supporting these amazing projects. This event is open to the public and suggested donation is $5-$15. 7PM to 9PM, refreshments and social after the talk. 2172 Fulford Ganges Road, in the Qi Gong Classroom. Limited parking; please carpool!
Saturday, 6 September, Weekly Tour, Potluck & Movie 
Tour at 5PM, potluck at 6PM, movie at dusk. Have a movie in mind? Please bring one!
Monday, 8 September through 28 September, Permaculture Design Course, Blue Raven Permaculture Homestead 
EcoReality member Jan Steinman joins hosts and course leaders Brandon and Patti Bauer in this intensive course, also featuring the Bullock brothers, Michael Ableman, Dan Jason, Mike Nickels, and Adam Gold in its line-up of regionally-renown Permaculture instructors.
Saturday, 13 September, Weekly Tour, Potluck & Movie 
Tour at 5PM, potluck at 6PM, movie at dusk. Have a movie in mind? Please bring one!
Saturday, 20 September, Weekly Tour, Potluck & Movie 
Tour at 5PM, potluck at 6PM, movie at dusk. Have a movie in mind? Please bring one!
Saturday, 27 September, Consensus and facilitation workshop with Tree Bresson 
In this day-long workshop, you'll learn the basics of consensus and facilitation from author and trainer Tree Bresson, a regular columnist on the topic for Communities Magazine. Open to members and advisory council only; please join our advisory council prior to attending. Advance registration and deposit required by 31 August.
Sunday, 28 September, Monthly Members' Meeting 
Theme: Preserving and processing. We are expecting a number of visitors and prospective members. Due to space restrictions, please let us know if you plan to attend.


Thank you for supporting EcoReality with your interest, ideas, and good thoughts!

Want to write for this newsletter? Or want to see something written about? Contact the Communication Steward with your story ideas!

EcoReality Coop (directions)
2152 Fulford-Ganges Road
Salt Spring Island, BC V8K 1Z7, Canada
+1 250.653.2024
http://www.EcoReality.org
Info AT EcoReality DOT org

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