Daring to dream a different reality

We were so thrilled that Sarah Fowler of the wonderful blog Eco Thrifty Sheffield reached out to us to write a guest piece for The Common Ground Collective. We were even more thrilled when we read Sarah's piece. We hope you enjoy reading Sarah's article as much as we did, as she empores us to dare to dream a different future.

I hope you like the cover photo for this blog, it’s of a local field that used to be a rugby pitch but recently became an animal holding. Personally, I love to see the different animals sharing the same space, it’s rather sweet.

I’d like you to cast your mind back to English Literature at high school. You may have studied George Orwell’s Animal Farm, the book the photo reminds me of. At the beginning of the book (before it goes downhill) the animals collectively overthrow the farmer in order to achieve their harmonious vision of the future for the benefit of all animals. They share a common goal and work together to try to achieve it. Wouldn’t it be nice if we humans could learn something from these intentions?

What would our vision of the future be?

As an individual, and although I vote, I don’t feel I have much of a say in how the country is run at a national level; I also don’t have a say in the direction of big business and corporations. What I can influence is what I do to affect the circumstances myself and the close networks of friends and family live within. That’s exactly where my vision focuses.

This weekend I met with some of my friends at a socially distanced get together. We have been bouncing around ideas of collective buying, skill sharing and growing organic veg somewhere locally. Despite the distractions of wine, the campfire and wonderful company, we focused in on how we could grow our own food and started breaking it down into small actionable questions. What would we grow? Where would we do it? How would we do it? There was talk of needing insurance and having proper roles such as treasurer. It looked like things were getting complicated. As the discussion continued, we asked ourselves, does it really need to be this way?

The answer we came to was no, we can form ourselves however we want. Whether we want to grow organic veg or host a regular bulk buying shop run, there’s no need to over complicate things. All we need to do is collectively decide on a common goal, collaborate with one another and work on our collective vision, just like the animals. Breaking it down into small steps makes this process easier. Why is this blue-sky thinking? I’m shocked that this is the world we are living in today. My Grandad, an avid gardener, would be saddened by this reality.

My Grandad came to the UK as a Polish refugee, escaping Poland at the start of WW2 at the tender age of 15 (the age my son is now). He spent most of the war living hand to mouth on the run in Europe. He managed to adapt and 'get on with things' in the most adverse conditions. He even managed to escape a death camp. I'm immensely proud of his achievements but sadly never got to tell him this. Grandad had to preserve in the hardest of times, making the best of what he had. In a time of little personal power, he took what power he had and used it to adapt and survive. I think we could all learn from him and others like him.

So I have an ask of you, for the sake of the planet and future generations, I'd like you to dare to dream a different reality. What would the world look like if you waved a magic wand? If you open your front door in 5 years time, what would you like to see, smell, touch, hear?

It can seem difficult to dream a new lifestyle when societies have lived a certain way for generations. It will require us to unlearn some aspects of daily life. We have to start somewhere, so I encourage you to think big and unrealistic because once you have this you can scale it back to sizable and realistic actions, just like I started doing with my group of friends and our vegetable patch.

Before I sign off this month, I’d like you to ponder 3 questions that I believe can help start you envisioning the future you’d like to see…

- What do you love? This is what gets you up in the morning. Maybe it’s your friends and family, your community, your health and wellbeing, your hobbies or your job. Recognising what you love identifies what's important and encourages you to maintain this, spending time with family is a perfect example. It can also highlight what power you have with something you love, for example I love the planet so I cycle as much as I can and eat local produce.

- What concerns you? This is what troubles you at night or what saddens you when watching the news, for example. Here you identify a motivation for change in your behaviour. One of my concerns is the volume of tax avoidance happening in the UK which is hugely relevant today considering the very over stretched nature of the NHS, the use of food banks and holiday hunger.

- What is your vision? With loves and concerns identified now is the time to dream. If you opened your front door in a perfect world, what would you see, hear, smell or even taste? What would be different for your family, community, the country, heck the world? You could even break it down further... what is achievable with your personal power and what needs to be done collectively? This will help you to identify when you can crack on with and what you might need to draw on others to progress with.

Get creative if you wish, draw or mood board your vision and share with me on Instagram if you want to as I’d love to see it. I’d also encourage you, if you feel comfortable and able, to ask the same questions of your family, friends, neighbours etc… anyone you feel comfortable with. Start a dialogue. Listen without judgement or agenda and I am certain that you’ll find like-minded people.

This is the beginning of something very special, a step towards a better future.

Sarah's blog Eco Thrifty Sheffield is packed with informative articles & resources. Make sure to also follow her on Instagram for all the latest updates!

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