by Theresa O’Donohue
This is a follow-up to Theresa’s earlier post on preparing your home for a currency crisis.
Now that you may have considered what you need to do as a household it could be time to consider how well your community is prepared. Are you the only household prepared for a crisis? Have you stocked up on food, water, clothing, medication and heating. What will be happening outside while you tuck into food and drink inside your nice warm home?
How many of us can say we don’t care about the rest of our community? How many of us can say that we do not need to interact with others in our community during a crisis? When there has been extremely bad weather how many of us can say we sat inside, oblivious to the outside world, not caring about our elderly or infirm neighbours?
Besides the obvious fact that having supplies makes you a target for those seeking them, it is unlikely that the majority of us could sit back and allow those around us suffer. Bearing in mind these two points we are left with no choice but to wonder how our community can best prepare for a time of scarcity?
This poses the same questions as household preparedness when you consider a break with the euro. What happens if international trade stops because international credit is withdrawn – the system trade depends upon? How will shops be restocked? What happens if our energy supply cannot be purchased? What will power the electrical grid? Who will the government decide should get the emergency back up – hospitals, prisons, government buildings, schools, water treatment plants, waste services, pumping stations, care homes? It will probably be up to communities to coordinate the response in their own area as the authorities struggle to cope. Nobody knows the area and its inhabitants more than the locals!
There are many steps a community can take but the main driver is awareness. So many people are oblivious to the consequences of a supply chain breakdown which can happen for many reasons, a currency crisis being one. Most people assume that the government has it covered. The facts are that if you ask your local council how prepared they are for an emergency they will explain their major motorway accident response plan or how to cope in extreme weather. Systemic supply breakdown rarely registers on their radar.
So what can a community do to best prepare for a currency, or any supply chain, crisis?
Aim to be food secure as soon as possible. This means to ensure there is a local sustainable supply of food to feed everyone in the community, indefinitely. There are all kinds of fun and creative initiatives that can be started now.
- A community garden. This is a place where people can gather, grow food, learn from each other and build relationships. Irish facebook network.
- Garden share. This is where someone with an idle garden is paired with someone who would like to grow food but has no space.
- Guerilla gardening. This is when the community decides to produce food on otherwise unproductive land at their own discretion.
- Edible landscapes are areas sown to be food productive rather than solely decorative.
- Allotments are a more deliberate step towards food production.
- Community supported agriculture. Effectively this is an arrangement whereby the community buys into a share of a communal farm. They may decide to work it themselves or pay someone to do it. They then own a share of the produce. Dependent on the scale of the project, produce can include vegetables, fruit, cereal, livestock, dairy produce, preserves etc.
- Compile a list of sustainable food producers in the area. Take steps now to support them. You may need them in the future.
- Start a farmers market promoting local produce.
- Open an OOOOBY store – Out of Our Own Back Yard. This is a space for everyone to sell their own produce.
- Start a tool share co-op or “rental” scheme. This would be a low cost solution to everyone having access to gardening tools without having to pay out vast sums of money to get started.
- Start a Meitheail group – help each other in the garden. Many hands make light work and it is also a great community building activity.
- Set up a Grow It Yourself group as a source of support to home growers.
Get acquainted with the wild food available for free in your area.
- If you have one, approach your local adult education facility to provide horticulture, seed saving, seasonal food preparation and preservation courses.
- Get organic food growing on the agenda of the local schools. There are plenty of resources to help schools start up organic gardens. It also links in with a lot of the curriculum and green schools initiatives. The Round Organic School Garden is a wonderful book for primary schools.
- Save or store organic seeds locally. Growing food that has evolved in our climate leads to better results. Irish Seed Savers works at restoring our heritage seed varieties supplying seeds likely to succeed in Ireland.
- Set up a food security group to co-ordinate projects and information.
- Encourage rain water harvesting.
- Buy water barrels in bulk and install them as a community project.
- Investigate manual pumping solutions in your area. There are many abandoned manual pumps in the country – is there a way of reinstating them or is the water too contaminated? What can be done to reverse the situation?
- If a food security group exists then they may consider community based water treatment solutions. Storage of plain bleach to treat water could be an option. Humans can go without food for a time but water is vital and water security is the most pressing item.
- Where possible strive to have all public buildings as heat retaining as they can be. Lobby planners at an early stage or lobby the owners from now.
- If the opportunity arises install sustainable district heating systems.
- Explore waste to energy and heat options.
- Plan to use community facilities as communal spaces when there is a crisis. It will cut down on the need for individual households to be heated and it will boost morale.
- Use community facilities to feed and entertain people.
- Be aware of those living alone and put a plan in place before a crisis to ensure all residents are checked and cared for.
- Do a skills audit of your community. Know who can fix leaks, wire lights, repair roofs etc. This list can be used now to generate local employment and identify skill shortages.
- Arrange education in skills that are missing.
- Set up a community tool shed.
- Know the medical staff in your area including volunteer first aiders.
- Identify natural health professionals and ensure they are also involved in planning and emergency response. Their expertise will be useful in helping people through fears that may arise.
- Natural medical practice will be invaluable if conventional healthcare is curtailed.
- As awareness is raised encourage people on medication to stock up on supplies as they would for food.
- Start now to reduce the amount of waste your community generates. If there is a curtailment of landfill systems and waste collection the less waste in your community the better.
- Look at sustainable community sewage schemes.
- Consider a community compost scheme. This could complement a community garden.
- It is not feasible to expect every community to control its own energy supply but if your community can, then do.
- Consider a community generator with emergency supplies. This could power a communal space being used to share heat, food and entertainment in a prolonged crisis.
- Know how to store back up supplies of diesel or any other fuel you chose.
- Explore small scale renewable energy generation at community buildings.
- Lobby local government and transport operators to work together, with the community to better coordinate the public and private transport options.
- Most rural communities are heavily dependent on private vehicles. Incorporate car sharing or pooling practices now.
- Set up a community car club, co-op or rental scheme. This way people book time with whichever vehicle suits their needs for whenever they need it. It cuts down on the cost of owning a car.
- Assess the needs of the community and try to have as many needs satisfied locally as possible.
There are many household items that can be produced on a small scale which would encourage local employment and ensure resilience in a crisis.
Long term planning
Vital to a successful community response, in any situation, is communication. Current methods of communication need to be evaluated – will phones and the internet still work if the power is down? Will we be able to afford to pay our bills? A physical community noticeboard may be useful. Emergency planning often includes an arrangement to meet at a certain place at a specific times – e.g. town hall at 12 noon in an extreme snow event. Something similar may be considered in your community – some sort of communications plan to suit the people.
The most important step to getting some preparation off the ground is raising awareness. The ultimate aim is to have all of the households in your community as resilient as they can be and have some form of coordinated plan for any crisis. A good place to start is participative workshops with local groups – Tidy Towns, Irish Country Women’s Association, Irish Farmers Association etc. All of these organisations will have some awareness of the challenges ahead so should be open to some form of planning.
There is also funding available for initiatives. Local Agenda 21 funding is available for sustainable community projects and most of the steps listed above should qualify. These proposals are very real steps towards sustainable communities under Local Agenda 21. There are many other sources of funding and sustainable development is now on many of the criteria lists. Tidy Towns groups are scored on sustainable development projects so it may be something to run in conjunction with them. They may also be well established, have tax clearance and community insurance, all of which speeds up the funding process.
Work with your local council to get support. Discuss ideas with your local councillor and/or your Local Agenda 21 officer in the county or city council. Most of these steps will contribute to community spirit, a reduction in expenditure and greater local employment. They can be undertaken and are beneficial irrespective of the threat of a crisis.
Thank you for the invaluable contributions from members of Transition Ireland and Northern Ireland, the network for communities building local resilience.
Theresa O’Donohue, a systems analyst, has turned her focus from computers to community. A mother of 5, she has been considering family crisis preparedness ever since discovering the challenges posed by peak oil, climate change and economic collapse in 2006. Through this she has become involved in community resilience and the role of the wider community in a crisis. Like any mother she wants to best prepare her children for their place in life as mature, proactive respectful adults.
Featured image: Pumpkin seeds. Author: Michael Stocks. Source: http://www.sxc.hu/browse.phtml?f=view&id=1088430
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