Wednesday, 28 March 2012

what we learnt from Nicole Foss' lifeboat tour

Yesterday Lyttelton hosted Nicole Foss and Raoul Ilargi of AutomaticEarth as part of their Lifeboat tour around New Zealand.
You can hear Nicole here with Kim Hill last Saturday morning or watch her here and here.
It is named the "Lifeboat" tour because Nicole is here to speak about how best to prepare our communities as the economic collapse continues to unfold and dovetails with the energy crisis.
If you need any convincing, you can also here Nicole speak about it here.
It's difficult to imagine a world so radically different in our future than the one we are living today. We struggle to reconcile the story we are fed by Government and the national media each day with the bigger picture behind the scenes. And then there is our common sense: we know that all bubbles blown large enough will pop.
In attempting to reconcile all of this information we sway from hope to fear and back again.

Personally we can begin preparing: you can read here about what we need to do personally to build ourselves a lifeboat.
And in terms of our communities her main message was to just get on with what we need to be doing.
Take matters into our own hands and build those horizontal networks across our communities that will provide the trust, the shared resources and the skill base in times of crisis.
Here in Lyttelton we saw those networks automatically embrace the community after the February earthquake last year. The buildings fell but the community held hands catching any people who were falling. We were able to hold hands because we had networks in place through which we could communicate and access our skill base. We could gather together and quickly find the solutions we needed because the networks had previously done a lot of the groundwork through building trust and belief in our neighbourhoods and our community.

Build your community's resilience by:

  • Beginning a Timebank. If your community has one, join it and get involved.
  • Write a regular community newsletter to communicate the good news and how people can participate in community activities.
  • Do all you can to relocalise the money in your community: support local businesses, take steps to develop a local currency, gather together a few people to begin a savings pool, start a cooperative in your community that will benefit all the members.
  • Do all you can to relocalise your food security. Start with your own backyard and planting that which you can eat and will bring you joy. Remember the joy. Have a look around for some space for a community garden. If you have children in school, dig up some of the grass and plant some veges.
  • Nurture a culture of gifting, sharing and possibility in your place. Start a wee stand to share produce, seedlings and friendship. Start a group to give out welcome bags to those new to your community. Get to know your next door neighbour and be interested in their well-being. 
The benefits of these networks give far more to our well-being than the sum of their parts. Trust increases, anxiety falls away, burdens are shared, love grows: the fibre of the lifeboat begins to knit together.
We won't be managing the crunch alone, hold hands and begin to build your lifeboat.

Written by Jacinda Gilligan, aso occasionally writing at


  1. I'm sorry to have missed this tour, the Kim Hill talk made for interesting listening and I wanted to share my thoughts.

    In the interview Nicole Foss dismisses the possibility of positive change occurring at a governmental level, saying ‘it doesn't matter who is in charge’. Instead, she favours relocalised ‘bottom up’ change. While I agree that relocalisation is vital, I think ‘who is in charge’ matters very much in regards to the scope and depth that relocalisation can have…

    Imagine, for instance, that in the interest of local food security, our city council decided to hand over all of the red zoned land to the commons for community food forests. They could also train and employ people to upskill our communities in the arts of food production, bee keeping, seed saving and preserving, enriching both our knowledge and local economy. They could also provide the compost from our green waste bins to us at no charge (especially useful for people without gardens to use to grow in pots), and incorporate edible species into every park and street planting. This would greatly increase food security, and the carrying capacity of our lifeboat would then increase to include less economically privileged people (like myself) who don’t own land and won’t ever be able to afford to buy 40 acres to become more self sufficient like Foss herself has done.

    I think it’s important that we demand the kind of governmental change that will allow for greater resilience, relocalisation and a just transition away from fossil fuels (alongside, of course, creating our own alternatives). This is especially important for those of us on low incomes, and anyone who lacks long term access to land.

    The Incredible Edible Todmorden is an inspiring example of grass roots action that gained council support to create greater food security. Another example is Cuba after their access to oil was cut and the government opened up unused land for people to grow their own food on.

    I say forget the lifeboat - a rather flimsy small contraption that presumes someone is coming to the rescue - let’s build lifeships that, like our relationships, will enable us all to weather out the future together.

  2. I guess my immediate response is that I don't have enough faith in the electoral system and Government to wait for them to provide the solution. I think the solution is in the hands of each of us and our dreams, wishes and hard work to make that happen. We have arrived at a place that often Government is in the end a mouthpiece for large corporate interest. There is a larger discussion we could have here but what I really want to say is community is where I have my faith. In the small acts every day by people all across our communities; our ability to recognise our shared stories, hold hands and build love and trust in each other again.
    I think the 4o acre solution is only for a tiny minority of people and is only part of the solution. Unless the owner is able to build relationships there may be tricky learning curves to negotiate when hundreds of people decide to go and begin to live on that land.
    I think that the concept of self-sufficiency is a myth but rather I understand strong, regenerative communities.
    Just tonight my family gathered with a group of people and we celebrated paying off the mortgage of one of the members. A group of 8, all on low-middle incomes managed to realease a friend of years of interest payments simply by collectively pooling resources and depositing mostly small amounts of money each week (I do plan to write about this very soon).I know that when the collapse gets steep enough that my family is kicked out of our humble abode (because of the likely scenario that we will be unable to meet mortgage payments), we will be able to move in with someone in that group and just keep doing the good mahi - growing food, growing our children, sharing the living and finding solutions together.
    That's enough for tonight:-)
    Thanks for the fabulously thorough comment and I hope you have been enjoying your black beautys.