C'mon people now
Smile on your brother
Ev'rybody get together
I love the Internet. It has provided me with eye opening information, fueled my passion, spurred me on when things seemed too hard, given me an outlet for my hopes and fears, and connected me with "my tribe" - other folks who also care about the environment and living lightly. The Internet is my friend.
I can't share a bottle of local wine with the Internet though. As wonderful as message boards, yahoo groups and blogs are, the conversations are, in a fashion, cramped by the miles of cables that connect us, the fact that we couldn't recognize each other in an empty room, and that few of us even reside in the same state.
To really get conversation flowing and to create a physical support system, we must meet face to face. To inspire real change, we need to do more than eat local and shop local. We need to connect local and not just over the super highway. We need to build a community within our own community.
I speak from experience. Last night, I attended the second meeting of our fledgling Green Book Club, a group of local mothers who meet once a month to discuss ecologically relevant books. This time, we discussed The Omnivore's Dilemma, a blow your mind book about what we eat. I had only met two of the other seven members once before but the conversation quickly flowed. We started talking about the book and then related it to our concerns about our own food sources, shared information on local growers, laughed over the desire by some to have chickens, confessed our first efforts at preserving food, offered to share fruit from our own backyards, bemoaned our generation's tendency to be "umbrella parents", and talked about the benefits of letting our children make mistakes. We built a community.
It was a wonderful thing to look in the faces of other women who live a stone's throw from my house and realize that I am not alone. There are members of my tribe, here, within my own community: other people who care about the same stuff I do, muddle through the same quandaries. I truly enjoyed those two hours and look forward to the next meeting.
I didn't just stumble upon this community however. Normally, I am not the type of person who joins clubs much less starts them. I do love to read though, and I gobble up green books on a weekly basis. Might there be other moms out there with similar interests? Wouldn't it be more fun, educational, insightful, meaningful to discuss those books with them rather than with myself? Starting the club has not required much effort though it did require follow through on my part. I started it with a few simple emails to some local moms groups.
Each of us who cruise the Internet daily can look for ways to build connections in our own community. If the organizations aren't there, we can start them. No one else will. We can start book clubs, edible gardening clubs, neighborhood swaps, carpool groups, habitat restoration organizations, groups that work toward making our own cities greener. The list is as endless as our interests and goals.
Sometimes, we'd all prefer to stay in our own dimly lit, cold homes, typing furiously away on the computer than to venture out into the dark unknown. It's worth it though and it is the only way we'll ever really make a difference. So, get on it! Go clubbin'.