Inner Values & Outer Action in Transition - a One Day Conference
On May 12th, three members of the Inner Transition Reading Group attended the Conference on "Inner Values and Outer Action in Transition", organised by Tim Gorringe, Professor in the Theology Department at Exeter University. We had to be intrepid to find it because it was not in the campus location indicated on the leaflet, however our efforts were rewarded not only by the quality of the speakers but by being offered a reduced entry fee which included lunch, due to our involvement with TTT.
The day consisted of presentations by three excellent speakers followed by our splitting into discussion groups after each presentation and a plenary session for questions. There was time for networking and we met representatives from the Exeter and Hertfordshire Transition groups.
The first speaker was Alastair McIntosh from the Centre for Human Ecology at Strathclyde University, a social activist and author of “Soul & Soil” and “Hell & High Water”, and director of the Gal Gael Trust. He spoke of his personal journey from a rural childhood in the Outer Hebrides and a strict Presbyterian upbringing to his present role as a radical ex academic involved in cultural criticism and Christian community action.
He spoke about consumerism as dependency, as the hijacking of freedom through the colonization of the soul and psyche. He criticised modern media and advertising that use subliminal techniques to create false needs that have created a societal false self. Instead of an “incarnation of Eros” this becomes a gesture of dis-incarnation or death wish. In his view this drains energy from who we really are by making money an ends not a means and by creating a consumerism that disconnects us from the real world, from place, from the land and from ourselves and from each other.
He described some of the work of the inner city project he runs in central Glasgow at the Gal Gael Trust - a learning community which offers opportunities for re-skilling excluded young people to navigate life and get in to good life habits by working with natural materials such as wood, stone metal and textiles. He spoke of recreating a sacramental approach to life through collaborative communion giving an example of how eating together is an integral part of community. They describe their work as “taking what society has debased and made profane and bringing alive what is precious and sacred in both the materials and the person”. Alastair has sent us a copy of the Gal Gale Grace that is said at each community meal.
The second speaker was Dave Bookless founder of A Rocha UK, author of “Planetwise” and former moderator of the Environmental Issues Network of Churches Together which has been developing environmental programmes and community activism in partnership with churches in the UK, Portugal and China. A Rocha is an international Christian organization engaged in scientific research, environmental education and community-based conservation projects and is active world wide in research and conservation projects.
Conservation is their main focus of their activity which involves working both with threatened eco-systems and the human communities who depend upon them for their well being and who hold their fragile future in their hands.
They see human beings not just as part of the problem but as part of the answer. They believe that a conservation project is only likely to be successful when a local community comes to value it. As a result, they have an extensive commitment to involvement with local people, whether in education or development projects.
Dave spoke of their mission as being “ To serve and preserve the garden” through environmental and community projects that focused on what people had in common rather than on their differences. He too spoke of how growing and sharing food was a process that brings people together that creates a deeper sense of belonging. The project they are working with closest to Totnes is at Belmont Chapel in Exeter.
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