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Building Community

In times past, you couldn’t be an individual and live in a town or city. There wasn’t TV or the internet to distract us from the necessary task of making friends in a community. The community was the lifeboat you could trust to rescue, it was the means of commerce and service. It wasn’t just the group of people sharing a common location, it was a group of people sharing a common goal or set of ideals.

The interior of BC was established by pioneers, whether they came for lumber, farming, gold or something else, when people arrived in BC at the turn of last century, it was the wild west, and you’d better belong and get along, or you’d be out.

This “cooperate or die” scenario quickly weeded out those who were loners or out to screw someone over, unfortunately, it was in the growth of the industrial age, and the rich were just getting richer, while everyone else made a living. Communities looked after their own, there were social groups that looked after trades or those with the same religious beliefs – society wasn’t a luxury, it was a requirement of survival in cities and towns.

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So who has changed? Instead of relying on our neighbours we rely on our cars, the internet, “the government”, and all manner of external tools to keep us safe and comfortable. I’ve said it before, Oil removes the Toil, and it applies once again to community building.

The best models for digging ourselves out of the oil saoked mess we’ve created over the past 150 years are those that involve and engage communities, initiatives like Transition Towns bring community to the front of the discussion, rather than technology and alternative energy solutions. We don’t need someone else’s solutions, we need home grown effort in local economy, small scale industry, food production and processing, and culture all of which grow out of a community that understands it’s role in determining the prosperity of a region. We can no longer rely on mega corporations and government to provide stability down to our individual lives, instead we need to build resilient communities that thrive not on conventional growth, but on relocalization efforts.

Are you part of a community? Is there a  group of people where you live that you could imagine forming community with?

Mike Thomas

Mike Thomas P.Eng. ENV SP, is the author of UrbanWorkbench.com and Director of Engineering at the City of Revelstoke in the Interior of British Columbia, Canada. If I post something here that you find helpful as you navigate the world of engineering, planning and building communities, that’s wonderful. But when push comes to shove: This is my personal blog. The views expressed on these pages are mine alone and not those of my employer.