By Greg Paine

PROBLEM

8 April 2010 –To include awareness in all choices takes dedication, commitment and discipline.  Good friends can pull you back on the track when you stray.

Peer support and interaction can be important in stimulating thought, and then in translating thought into action. It is consistent, for example with the notion of a “deschooled” but nevertheless much more educated and aware society:

  • given it is not possible to “know it all” (Pattern 2), there can be a sharing of knowledge. “One of us will usually bring up a topic and all of us will discuss what we are to do, what is being done … And if we don’t know, someone will take it on to find out.”
  • although there is often a desire to make good environmental behavior “second nature.” (“Things I have changed, you don’t need to rethink.”) Sustainability can demand a continuous process (Pattern 2) whereby habits are changed in response to context, and where the hard changes, not just the easy ones, are progressively tackled. A group can provide a prompt – and a mirror for oneself: “Improving the quality of my thoughts. Mental discipline.”
  • introducing an environmental presence within existing peer groups can be a way of “Being seen to be green” (Pattern 11), but in a non-threatening way: “It’s not about preaching.”

The potential for such groupings is many and varied and assists the creation of community and opportunities for people to “put their hand up” (Pattern 3).  Existing groups can be utilised (“Trying to get speakers in [to our mother’s group] to keep brains active. Suggested some environmental speakers.”); or new groupings can be established, possibly using a “learning circle” or discussion group model.

However, it also needs to be remembered that there is always two sides to the coin (Pattern 8). “Group think” and “reality by consensus” are inherently negative and coercive possibilities in any group (Pattern 13).  Groups need to be aware of these possibilities in order to maintain their pragmatic and reflective objectives.

Refreshments (“breaking bread” with fellow participants) is also an important component. “… all of us will sit around a coffee …”; “Think with friends. Think over lunch”.

SOLUTION

Utilise existing liaisons with friends, peer groups and work-mates or possibly form a new group, to stimulate thoughts.  Be open to new possibilities and knowledge, and encourage concerns to be turned into actions.  Be aware of the negative attributes of ‘group think’; and use the ‘breaking of bread’ as convivial support.

This is part of our Walk with the Elephant Series – on the lessons, or patterns, on how to remain mindful to the task of sustainable development through personal action and change.

Greg Paine is an urban planner interested in sustainable development.  These articles draw on his research work in the field.