By conference convener, Stephanie Mines.
The Findhorn Foundation has held approximately 80 conferences over a 40 year period. And yet, Climate Change & Consciousness in April 2019 will be unique in that, for the first time, we are asking participants to ‘pitch’ for their place. They are required to write about their background, roles, activities, interests and passions related to climate change. We also want hear how they intend taking whatever they harvest from the conference back to their neighborhoods, communities, associations etc.; whatever their networks happen to be.
There are two broad reasons for this request. We wish to achieve a diverse and balanced range of interests or ‘voices in the room.’ And also, we seek engaged participants who are passionately committed to addressing climate change with real follow-on action.
To date we have accepted over 100 applications. It is clear that the event will sell out at some point this year. But what has been truly gratifying is the extraordinary quality of the applications. Yes, we have eminent key presenters, but equally inspiring is the passion, strength and wisdom of our participants. This event is really going to rock!
With apologies to Gurdjieff, we now invite you to ‘meetings’ with some of these remarkable men and women in the next few blog posts.
It strikes me as meaningful that our first participant portraits will be of a mother and daughter who will come to CCC19 as a family, yet their applications are strongly individuated, each following their own calling to honor and support Mother Earth and all humanity. These women come from a lineage of generous community service; they are steeped in a sense of belonging to place and to people, and are strongly drawn to extend the comfort of community to others.
The Art of Generosity: The Story of Crop Swap and the Genius of Franziska von Hünerbein
When I asked Franziska von Hünerbein how she got the idea for Crop Swap she told me about her mother and the apple trees in her home village in Germany. “I watched my mother collecting fallen apples and making many wonderful things from them and also sharing them with others.”
“My parents are generous people,” Franziska continues. “And they taught me how to make the most from what was available. From them I learned that if I am living in a sharing relationship with others there is no need to hold on because whatever I need will come back to me.” This, then, is the non-business, business model for Crop Swap.
“The purpose of Crop Swap,” Franziska tells me, sitting even taller as she speaks about her innovative and now expanding idea, “is to relearn generosity and sharing and the joy that is connected to that.” Perhaps because English is not her mother tongue, Franziska strikes me as being particularly mindful in how she selects the language she uses so that she speaks precisely and authentically.
While attending an organic gardening class in New Zealand several years ago Franziska heard her fellow students describing how some people they knew exchanged their home grown produce, e.g. cucumbers, carrots and herbs along with flowers, gardening tips and recipes. No money changed hands. Franziska became intrigued and researched how she might bring something like this to her community. “This appealed to me because it was easy,” Franziska reflects, noting that as the mother of four children ease had a strong appeal.
“My enthusiasm is not just for a small group. It goes out to a larger community. I want this kind of sharing to happen in the neighborhoods and cities, the countryside and the villages of New Zealand and the world. While I was feeling daunted by the scope of this big vision, a friend who was listening said ‘Just do it.’ So I did. And so the first Crop Swap was in my living room.”
Franziska printed leaflets and placed them in neighborhood postal boxes. She talked about the Crop Swap with everyone she met. Pretty soon the Crop Swap offerings outgrew Franziska’s living room. She secured the meeting hall across the road from her home. This was the birth of Crop Swap Merrilands (her neighborhood), which led to Crop Swap Taranaki, from where it grew to Crop Swap Aotearoa. Now Crop Swaps are springing up across New Zealand. Every time a new one forms Franziska receives a message as the Crop Swap Aotearoa vison holder. She got one whilst I was interviewing her.
People bring vegetables, fruits, flowers, empty jars, egg cartons, recipes, baked goods, canned goods, foraged foods…whatever they want to share from their kitchen and their garden. Each Crop Swap community works collectively to set up and clean up the space. The first thirty minutes are spent chatting and surveying the goods. Then for the next thirty minutes, everyone selects what they want to take home. At the end of one hour the Crop Swap is brought to closure.
“We practice the language and behavior of generosity in Crop Swap,” Franziska explains. “We are mindful of what others may need and no one takes too much of anything. We are relearning the community spirit through this practice. Everyone participates. When the hour is over people go back out into their world with a refreshed sense of community and abundance. In just one hour, life gets better.”
Crop Swaps are radical climate change activism. They reduce waste and support local food sourcing. They keep alive the wisdom of gardening through oral transmission and intergenerational communication. They promote healthy eating and biodiversity. Because Crop Swaps happen in neighborhoods people often walk or bicycle to them. They provide free access to food for people who are struggling. They build connection between people and the land; between neighbors and between generations. They are a valuable contribution to a new way of living in a climate changing world. They are simple, self-organizing and delightful social events with an extremely practical outcome: the distribution of nourishing food.
Franziska sees herself as an advocate for these values. She is passionate about local food, generosity and community building. She wants to spread the word globally about how easy this is to do. She is extending her lineage of joyous community service that was passed down to her and she is transmitting it lovingly to her children. She sees the world as community. When she acts from this intention she finds that it gives her hope. She wants to expand her message internationally and that is why Franziska, along with her daughter Johanna, decided to attend CCC19. As she recognizes the pain and suffering in the world she rededicates herself to a simple truth: “We are only well when our communities are well.” She wants to participate in the movement towards wellness that is at the heart of CCC19.
Since its humble beginnings in her living room, Crop Swap has grown so big that Franziska has had to step down from organizing her local Crop Swap in Merrilands. She remains as the founding ‘mother’ and vision holder of Crop Swap Aotearoa. As she considers the abundance she has spawned, I see a winsome smile appear on Franziska’s face just before she says, “I guess I like growing things.”
CCC19 welcomes the spirit of kindness, possibility and inclusion that Franziska offers as an antidote to the complex and overwhelming threats of climate change. Fluid and rich exchanges of sustenance and language are the hallmarks of the Crop Swap environment. They set the tone for how we can reclaim what we yearn for by living close to the land and feeling close to each other.
CCC19 as a Rite of Passage for Youth
“I am magnetized by a sense of community and network,” Johanna von Hunerbein says to me as we sit together at the end of her work shift by the beach at Strandon on the North Island of New Zealand. Johanna has just received her acceptance as one of the youth delegates to CCC19 and she is over the moon with anticipation.
“I want to work with community to make a difference,” she continues, “instead of fighting against things.” Her eyes are full of impish glee, very much like the sparkle on the ocean just ahead of us. I am impressed with Johanna’s self-directed strength. She has, she tells me, been steering her own education since she decided at twelve that the public school system could not meet her needs. She is now preparing for graduation in November and CCC19 will be a big part of her threshold dance into freedom, expression and finding her place in a climate changing world.
Johanna is considering environmental law as her vocation. She is thrilled at the opportunity to be mentored by people like Polly Higgins, Mumta Ito, Robert Yuhnke and other environmental lawyers at CCC19. “I want to walk the path of environmental consciousness and awareness,” Johanna declares. “I want to be part of a community with a vision for the future.”
Johanna is a brilliant blend of youthful daring and mature intelligence. She lives in the place between stories with one foot in the imperative to finish her education and the other in the unknown, the world she is about to enter once the strictures of meeting assignment deadlines are lifted.
She attributes her ability to hold strong through this transition to the six times she has gone through a rite of passage called Tides at the Tui intentional community on the South Island of New Zealand. These immersions, she says, her eyes brightening, have given her “the faith that I can change the world as a woman instead of being dragged down by the commercialization of femininity.”
“Really beautiful things happen,” Johanna continues, “when women lift each other up in community. Everyone is stronger for it.” The Tides journey has given Johanna the confidence to stand in both her vulnerability and her strength. In this space of wholeness, she says, “my darkness no longer defines me and I am released to be of service to others.” Learning how to find empowerment through vulnerability and authenticity, feeling how the sacred and the profane unify, Johanna finds herself knit into the web of human experience. She sighs as she names the next bit: “The isolation of my self-directed learning and the stigma of youth were lifted from me in the presence of community.”
In regard to defying the stigma of youth Johanna is inspired by CCC19 presenter, Xiuhtezcatl Martinez. Like him, Johanna wants to change the way society relates to young people by participating in a youth inspired and youth led movement. She is part of a groundswell of this kind of passion, at a time when the youth of America are standing up to government and corporations as they protest gun violence in America, making the strongest statement on this issue that has been heard in decades.
When asked what motivated Johanna to apply to attend CCC19, she replied:
“To be mentored and be inspired;
To be encouraged to find my tribe;
To find my path upon which to explore;
To find my peace and my place in the world.”