Erica and I were invited to present our project to over 40 undergraduate students and academics at the Center for Applied Behavior Systems (CABS). This was an opportunity to share our past involvement as student leaders and to rally support for building eco communities.
The Center for Applied Behavior Systems helps undergraduate and graduate students learn how to conduct research that combines the technology of applied behavior analysis with theories from experimental, social, and applied psychology. Their research not only provides opportunities for real-world, hands-on experience for students, but it also works towards improving quality of life in the community.
Erica and I started by sharing our past involvement as student leaders, and we listened to students share their own involvements. Rohan focused on how Actively Caring For People transformed his morals and everyday actions, while I talked about leading the Environmental Coalition. We then talked about the radically sustainable design of Earthships and the Uruguay school build, sharing the photos below.
Students had questions about the feasibility of Earthships. How do they collect water in a drought? How much do they cost to build? We explained how Earthships are well suited for desert environments, and their cost is similar to any conventional home, but made with recycled materials. We have a general idea of design and affordability, however, there is much more we can learn and customize for our own purposes of building eco communities.
We ended the presentation with the "World Changing Wall" activity, an original activity created by Erica, which is super cool for everyone to use!
How to play the World Changing Wall:
1. Give everyone two note cards.
2. Say, "Everyone in the world is listening to what you are about to write on your cards. Write one thing on both cards that if everyone would do, then it would make the world a better place."
3. Everyone writes their response.
4. Place one note card on the board.
5. Have participants keep the other note card handy.
6. Share the following quote:
"When I was young and free and my imagination had no limits, I dreamed of changing the world.
As I grew older and wiser I discovered the world would not change, so I shortened my sights somewhat and decided to change only my country, but it too seemed immovable.
As I grew into my twilight years, in one last desperate attempt, I settled for changing only my family, those closest to me.
But alas, they would have none of it.
And now I realise as I lie on my deathbed, if I had only changed myself first, then by example I might have changed my family.
From their inspiration and encouragement I would then have been able to better my country.
And who knows, I might have even changed the world."
~Quote found on a tomb of a Bishop in Westminster Abbey
7. Debrief participants by paraphrasing the following, "If we want to change the world, it starts with ourselves. Keep your note card in a place where you can see it everyday, as a reminder for what you must do yourself first before you can change the world."
Responses from CABS students
It was a privilege to share our journey with the members of CABS. Rohan is inspired to include the principles of Actively Caring For People in a model for how people would interact in a sustainable, compassionate community.
Affordability of Earthships
Mike Reynolds, founder of the Earthship Academy, says the cost of an Earthship house is comparable to any regular house. Also, the cheapest Earthship design we've seen is a small bunker design for about $15,000. Depending on your location and access to labor/materials, there is a lot of variation on price.
For our purposes we need to consider a few things:
Location, LOCATION, LOCATION!!!!!! Where are we going to build this first eco community? What are the land use policies? What are the potentials and obstacles of each location? There will be a large investment of money and a lot of research of location before we lay the first tire.
Resources. Can we get free or cheap access to tires and other materials? Can we get volunteers to help us build? Can we raise money through social entrepreneurial means or get funding from established systems? All costs must be considered and made affordable without cutting corners.
Ongoing use. Will people buy homes in the community? Will they rent properties? Will there be opportunities for jobs within the community? Whatever we decide, it will be dependent on location, and it must be profitable to sustain and grow.
An AC4P Eco Community
Actively Caring For People (AC4P) comes from the field of Humanistic Behaviorism, combining the good nature of people with their every day behaviors. The idea of AC4P is simple: we must go above and beyond to act with kindness everyday.
It's simple to act with compassion, right? It's actually not.
People are faced with a variety of mental and social obstacles when making a decision to act with kindness or not. There is general unawareness of problems; and if a problem is realized, people don't know what to do. There is social stigmatization for those who break norms. If someone goes out of their way to help another, the kindness might be received as awkward or ill-intended.
So, what can we do?
Well, it takes practice. You have to intentionally make extra effort for the people around you. Smile at strangers. Wave to cars that stop for you. Do your roommates dishes. Call an old friend and ask how they are doing.... BUT, whatever you decide to do, you have to do it for the act of it. You are not doing it to receive anything back or to please anyone else. You are doing it because it is kind and you are a kind person.
It takes competence. You have to know how to help someone to be effective. It might take a few trials and errors, however, you just need a growth mindset. View mistakes as learning opportunities. It's like riding a bike. It takes getting used to at first, but you will never forget how to do it and what it feels like.
It takes courage. I'll be the first to admit that IT IS UNCOMFORTABLE to go out of your comfort zone. But I will say you are a courageous person every time you do it... When you feel uncomfortable, that is a signal for something else. That is a signal for courage! Don't get bogged down in details like why this, what that, who said what, and what is "normal." Stand up for what you believe in! It might feel weird at first, but moving through that develops confidence.
How do include AC4P in eco communities?
AC4P can be the foundation of every culture and community, however, an eco community is a unique opportunity to develop specific principles. I will be conducting further research. My initial thoughts are below.
Sharing of resources
Encourage self discovery
Encourage intrapersonal growth
If the values and practices of an eco community are established with the principles of AC4P, the community will have a better chance of sustaining and growing.
More to come.