Topic outline

  • The Story Behind Bridgedale360


    I just had to leave…


    I had been walking aimlessly, as if my body just carried me along, for what seemed like forever. I still didn't know where I was heading or what was propelling me forwards. Except the reverb of that thought - I had to leave - and a name. Bridgedale360. My fist tightened around the scrap of paper on which it was written. I didn't have to open it, again, to see it. By now the name and the X that marked it on the spidery map was already etched into my mind. Instead, I looked up and wondered whether the turn in the road was starting to look - not exactly, but still - like the curve of one of the lines on the map. Like one of the spider´s legs. All roads lead to Bridgedale360? I first heard about it from a friend a few months ago and then later, overheard it in a bar. Just people talking over loud and dull pop - but I heard it for sure - and then I found this map, or it found me. I had to leave, my heart needed to believe, I had to believe.


    I picked up the pace, my heart beating out a rhythm for my legs to follow, and my right side stung. Exhaustion and fear tugged at me, and perhaps it was regret that made me look back every now and again, but this time I wasn't going to let it get the better of me. Not this time. I threw some of what was left over from my bag of dried fruits into my mouth, hoping it would hush my hunger. My feet yelled out in pain; my new boots had still not been broken in. Instead, the boots seemed bent on breaking me in. Blisters and all. My insides screamed at me in revolt.


    Suddenly I heard voices. I got cautious, a bit afraid, but my curiosity brought me closer. My ears twitched like antennae, trying to figure out where the voices came from. I stood still. There. “Bridgedale360”, I heard it. My heart rattled my ribcage. “Over there, not so far anymore.” I had to get to them. “Wait!” I think I said and cut through the row of trees, hesitantly at first, but then found myself pushing and shoving shrubs aside, until I saw them and they saw me. “Hi,” said the woman, smilingly. I gasped and smiled back and my insides kept quiet, for once.


    We were walking for days, mostly quietly. But there was a sense of unity that I had never felt before. We were all following our dreams somehow, but without really knowing what it was. Layla showed me some pictures of her family, and said that she didn’t know any longer where they were, if they were alive. Could we blame the “system crisis”? But I also felt conscience-stricken, because I saw how privileged I was. Yet, I was unhappy. But happiness does not come with abundance, I learnt it the hard way. I could not imagine myself continuing like before. I desperately needed Bridgedale360 to be more than a silly fairy tale…


    Once we started off together, everything fell into step so to speak. We moved as if we were one, people from the west, people from the east, just people...fleeing the old system and searching for that unknown place. Conversations bubbled up here and there, naturally without any haste, but then we would retreat into a silence again, as we mulled over things we had just heard, and I imagined how life was for them before in the countries where they were coming from, and how much it sounded like my own in some ways; while in others, mine was completely foreign to theirs. I remembered the things I used to enjoy, but that was in the past, I told myself, as I shook off an all too familiar sense of heaviness. Excess does that to you, somehow. But, here on this dirt road to Bridgedale360, I was just like them. Bridgedale360 was and will be the great equalizer for us all.   


    Arriving happened by surprise. We came to a stream and a little further up a girl was playing in the water, singing for herself. We came closer and when she saw us she smiled. “Ahoy there, comrades!”, she said. And she smiled and waved at us. I was surprised by the openness with which she was greeting a bunch of strangers. In the middle of nowhere! But it wasn’t in the middle of nowhere, we soon found out. Further up the stream we saw a mill and some mechanism pumping water. And then it all just opened up. Without waiting for us, the girl skipped ahead and we followed, not skipping like her, but feeling a slight hop in our own step. We exchanged glances and before we knew it, buildings and gardens and people working appeared from behind the trees. Everybody stopped to greet if only briefly, and smiled before they got back to doing what they were doing. Cows grazed past us. Even they seemed to smile.


    Our little guide, we could see, had come to a stop before the most impressive of all the buildings that we had passed. A man stood there rubbing his hands and then approached us, as if he couldn´t wait for us to get to where he stood. “Welcome,” he said, while his hands rubbed and patted our weary shoulders, ”first some rest and then I´ll show you around Bridgedale360, ok?”

  • The Bank

    GLOBAL ECONOMY, DEBT, INTEREST-FREE BANKS

    “Anyone who believes in indefinite growth in anything physical, on a physically finite planet, is either mad or an economist.”

    -Kenneth E. Boulding



    Introduction

    Ivan, consultant at the interest-free bank


    Just so you know, here in Bridgedale360, we have abandoned the previous banking system altogether. So now the bank is not really a bank. For us it’s more like a museum! We set it up to remind ourselves of our heritage and mistakes of the past. After all, in this new town, we’re all refugees of the global financial system! Perhaps it wasn’t that horrible for everyone; some left for other reasons. But many were drowning in debts and mortgages, and even those lucky ones with money in their bank accounts were witnessing how the world around was falling apart and how the old growth-based financial system was destroying people and nature. Maybe it is a bit far-fetched to place the blame on the old banking system for all the misfortune in this world, but indeed, people were put into such a vicious circle of earning, borrowing and paying off debt that they focused their entire lives on money! Let me guide you through “the bank” and make my points clear. It can be illustrated well with some stories that are depicted on the walls. Let’s go inside!


    Story 1. Money is Debt

    A visitor comes to the town and is looking for a place to stay. He goes to a hotel and asks if he could have a look at the room before booking it. The hotel manager asks him to leave the money before the visitor sees the room, adding that she will give the money back if the visitor does not like the room. The visitor leaves the money and goes to see the room. The manager is so sure that the visitor will take the room that as soon as the visitor goes upstairs to see it, she runs across the road with the money and uses it to pay for the food she needs for next week. The shopkeeper then gets the money and uses it to pay for his daughter’s violin lesson. The violin teacher gets the payment, goes to the milkman and spends the money. The milkman then takes the money back to the hotel and makes reservations for his parents, as they are coming to visit next week. The visitor comes back downstairs, says he does not like the room, takes his money off of the counter and leaves with it. Despite the fact that real money has not been left in the town, temporary money (liquidity) allowed for the transactions to take place, creating wealth in the town. In this story money is used for the exchange of goods and services, where they are available for all, and it is good. But in reality, money is not used for exchange but is concentrated in the hands of a few who use it to earn more money through interest rates. It leads to debt of others. If there was an interest rate in the story, it would mean that the visitor coming to the hotel would ask for 20% more money to be returned than what he left, as the price for using his money, and the manager would be in debt. Now imagine that these are not people in a town, but whole countries trading with each other on a global scale. Moreover, in a real economy system, instead of actually paying each other money, they just write out I.O.U’s (I owe you) papers, thus creating a system of debt (capitalist global economy). Moreover, the countries that own the biggest debt (“money”) get to make rules when creating more of it, and they force interest rates on the already poorer countries, putting them in even more debt while making the rich countries richer.


    Story 2. Globalization. Disparity between Global South & North

    Poor Abraham is a Kenyan shoemaker. He makes shoes for a big shoe corporation in Europe run by Jonny. To make shoes, he must borrow money from Jonny’s bank. Jonny lends him the money, but at a 10% interest rate. Jonny’s shoe company then demands so many shoes at such a low cost that Abraham has no choice but to buy the cheapest materials from local polluting factories. He also can’t afford to hire anyone to help him, as he can barely feed his family on top of paying the interest rates for the debt he now owes Jonny.


    This means Jonny gets the shoes and the money from selling them at a high profit as well as the money from the interest. Abraham gets no shoes, no money, no resources, but all the pollution. This leads the whole country to get poorer and poorer, creating conflicts. Abraham and his family are forced to seek out a decent life in the country where his money and resources have gone to. However, Jonny knows that if Abraham leaves, he will lose his cheap labor, so tries to make him stay. Jonny persuades everyone that Abraham will cause problems, bring about violence, conflicts and diseases if he comes to Europe.


    In this story Abraham and Jonny are not individual people but whole countries and governments. Economic relations create the massive disparity between the Global South and North.


    Stay for a while, and you can learn about the different aspects of the current economic system. Economy isn’t easy but neither is it that hard. Stay at least to understand enough to see that before we changed our economy, the system in the old society was unethical, unfair and irrational. It was impossible to continue exponential economic growth on a planet with finite resources, therefore we decided to switch to de-growth initiatives. If you would like to learn how we think about economy here in Bridgedale360 instead, have a look at the Marketplace or the Free store and the Bike Pool.


    Learning Outcomes

    • To understand the basics of how the global economy functions

    • To understand that “money” is debt

    • To grasp the disparity between the global South and North and understand the (socio-economic) roots of the issues of migration of people

    • To develop critical thinking regarding the issues of the global system


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  • The Free Store and the Bike Pool

    GIFT & SHARING ECONOMY

    “I discovered that my security no longer lay in my bank account, but in the strengths of my relationships with the people, plants and animals around me.”

    -Mark Boyle, the Moneyless Man



    Introduction

    Zhang Wei, shopkeeper at the Freestore


    I remember reading John Steinbeck's “The Grapes of Wrath”, which is set during the 1930s depression in the United States. There is one chapter where the family comes across an orange plantation, to find that all the oranges are being destroyed. It has been decided that this is the most economically viable thing to do, less oranges in the world = higher price. The despair of the family, who had travelled from one coast to the other to find a living, was unimaginable, and while reading, I could feel it in my bones: “A million people hungry, needing the fruit—and kerosene sprayed over the golden mountains. And children dying of pellagra must die because a profit cannot be taken from an orange. And coroners must fill in the certificate—died of malnutrition—because the food must rot, must be forced to rot. And the smell of rot fills the country.”


    It struck me, this is not just a dystopian novel, this is how our economy actually works! Its main objective is to increase the circulation of these abstract paper notes called 'currency' rather than catering to the real needs of human beings. It’s both absurd and inhuman!


    In Bridgedale360, we are trying to think of the economy differently. Its main objective here is to meet everyone's needs to the greatest extent possible - “from each according to her ability, to each according to her needs”. If you have an extra orange, you give it to a neighbour - as simple as that! These values and ideas in practice are manifested in the Free Store and Bike pool. The Free Store supplements the market economy and is based on gifts. There is no formal exchange involved; instead you take what you need and leave what you do not need, both money and possessions. It’s all based on trust. But as much as the Free Store requires trust to function it also generates trust. To put it simply, if you feel that the economy is there to help you and cater to your needs, you will want to contribute to that economy. Such an economy makes you trust, and you’ll want to give back to it. Thus, the most important commodity, instead of money, becomes your relationships. Can you imagine how this different approach to economy can radically change a community, society, life? A gift-based economy can also be a real personal challenge, it forces us to consider the needs of other people before our own egoistic wants. But when successful, it invites a new dimension into our lives, the joy of giving. As a result, we’ll also be able to enjoy the quality of a real community.


    The bike pool, the carpool and the other pools that we’re using are really about practical common sense solutions. Pooling resources like this is also about basic humanity and equality, it is about distributing resources to maximise their utility. Efficiency. While the proponents of a market economy tend to argue that it’s (market economy) highly efficient, we ask how can a system that destroys oranges and is prohibiting vacant buildings to be used - even though there are people in dire need of a roof over their heads or hungry people - seriously be called efficient? Well, from a common sense perspective, it can’t! That’s inefficiency! In the bike pool you can ride a bike when it’s available, and when you’re done you return it to the pool. It’s about sharing and shared ownership. In the best of worlds this should be easy, but in this world shared ownership is a real challenge. It’s because in the old culture our sense of ownership is so deeply rooted. What’s mine I care about while what is yours I care about less. If it belongs to a person that I don’t know, I may care very little. Therefore in the beginning you may have a lot of broken bikes in the pool, many flat tires that people didn't bother to fix. But people start to evolve their attitude with time.


    When entering the Free Store or the Bike Pool, it is always good to pay attention to your own attitudes towards money, ownership, giving and sharing. You would find out that in the end, our little Bridgedale360 economy is all about relationships and our attitudes towards one another. It touches upon deep human values. So let yourself be selfless, let yourself care about others. Why? Because you deserve it.


    Learning Outcomes

    • To have a wider notion of ownership

    • To familiarise yourself with ideas about minimizing consumption/excess stuff

    • To practice basic concepts of gift economy

    • To understand local possibilities for sharing in your area

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  • The Marketplace

    LOCAL ECONOMY, ECONOMIC RESILIENCE, ENTREPRENEURSHIP

    “Small is beautiful.”


    “Think globally and buy locally.”



    Introduction

    Hans, baker, economist


    The global economy has its advantages. In the blink of the eye, we can get anything we want from the world. One click on the screen. Almost any product, service, or experience… legal or illegal. It’s like an endless combination of everything out there on the market, for sale, to anyone who can afford it. This might bring a certain sense of freedom. After all, the choices are endless. However, monetizing everything also restricts our freedom.


    To begin with, we only have freedom if we have money. There is a small segment of the population that has an endless amount of money, but the vast majority struggle. Some struggle to have  their basic needs covered, and others their dreams, desires, and self-realisation. As more is monetized (even things like fresh drinking water & plant seeds) - we move power and freedom away from people to a small number of powerful people and corporations. This is called capital accumulation. Take debt and interest, the very basis for the economy, and you’ll see that the whole system is set up to move money from the borrower to the lender. In other words, from the poor to the rich. Therefore, the gap between the rich and poor widens; the rich grow richer and the poor grow poorer.


    Here in Bridgedale360, you could say that we have mainly ‘unplugged’ ourselves from the old monetary system. We still interact with the old financial system in certain ways, to buy goods we can not make ourselves or to travel. But in the town and the marketplace, we do not use ordinary money. Instead, we use our own currency named “Local is Beautiful” (LIB). It can be exchanged from the Euro at the stall. With our own currency, we make sure that the money stays within the system, and does not disappear into middleman banks. We also do not use interest so the money is less likely to accumulate in only a few places. Because of this, the economy does not grow and brings a lot of stability to make significant steps toward a de-growth system. Everything you see in the stalls is locally produced, and can only be bought with LIB. This allows us to keep the circulation of money and goods within our local territory. With this transparency comes a peace of mind: that all products are ethically and sustainably produced, and that no money is trickling away to banks and multinationals. It also brings independence and resilience, since our economy doesn’t rely on the global economy to be healthy. There are, however, times when we buy from the outside. But when we do, we insist on buying fair-trade and organic, so that we know that no workers from other countries were exploited.


    The good thing is that you don’t even need money to live here. Apart from our local currency-based economy, we also use bartering a lot; exchanging things. For instance, if you have problems with your plumbing you would normally check with your neighbours first and often someone will be able help you. Perhaps you give a few litres of fresh apple juice in return, or something else that is of value for your neighbour. Even here in the marketplace bartering is common. Just have a look around! You can see that also the customers often bring their goods, so that they can trade them. As you see, it makes up for a very lively atmosphere, and good relationships are created along the way. But our bartering “rules” are not in the form of: “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” - actually, we try to foster solidarity among all the inhabitants here, so if you need help with the plumbing in your flat, someone might offer to do it even without expecting anything in return, because we know that mutual aid is intrinsic and important for our survival as species.


    Psst.. a little secret… not everybody here knows about it. I worked as a stockbroker in Frankfurt before I came here. It’s true. For many years I was living an illusionary life. I was measuring success in how much money I made and my status in the company. I enjoyed driving my Porsche and living in my fancy flat. My ego was growing and growing while I was enjoying more and more success. I was “content”, but only on the surface. There was something missing on the inside. I wasn’t genuinely happy after all, even though I thought I should be. One day, after many years, I just couldn’t bear it anymore. It became absolutely clear to me, that this was all worthless. That my idea of happiness was flawed. Totally. I am thankful I found this place. Now I’m a baker! And I have flour instead of blood on my hands, if you know what I mean. I get up at ungodly hours, but on the other hand, seeing happy people with a healthy economy where there is enough for all helps me sleep like a baby! So… Would you like a baguette? Or this sourdough rye bread? How’d you like to pay? In LIBs, massage or broccoli?


    Learning Outcomes

    • To form a healthy attitude towards money and the means of exchange

    • To identify the local sprouts of change in the direction of alternative economy

    • To experience alternative economic systems

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  • The Workshop

    RIGHT LIVELIHOOD

    “Most of my parents' friends and most of my parents' friends' children also have degrees. This doesn't mean that they've managed to find the kind of work they wanted. Not at all; they went to university because someone, at a time when universities seemed important, said that in order to rise in the world, you had to have a degree. And thus the world was deprived of some excellent gardeners, bakers, antique dealers, sculptors, and writers.”

    -Paulo Coelho



    Introduction

    Moustafa, social entrepreneur


    Look at our gigantic socio-economic-cultural system. I call it a system because it’s man-made. There isn’t anything given about it, nothing in it that follows directly from natural law. It’s man-made and therefore it can also be changed, even replaced. When you went to school, the education was designed to equip you with certain skills and knowledge, answering the needs of the system. Ultimately shaping you into a cog in a gigantic machinery. It’s understandable, it makes sense. Because without people carrying those distinct intellectual resources, the system just won’t work. And we as individuals don’t have much choice, do we? Even if you disagree with the system, or if your passions are in a completely different direction, you need to survive, right? And you don’t want to be left out, end up on the street or even be perceived as unsuccessful. Most of us, are therefore ultimately driven by fear and we do everything to conform our own ambitions to the needs of the system. “Try to fit in, try to love what you do, don’t think too much!”, we tell ourselves. But at the end of the day there is a risk that we start scrutinizing ourselves and see just how much of our wishes and inherent drive we have compromised to be able to fit in. Just to fit it! And to see that can be rather painful.


    When we were creating Bridgedale360, we decided the first thing to do is to refuse to just “fit in the system”, refuse to conform. We decided to dream of the possibility of a better world. Here, contrary to the old society, to dream is not a sin - it is a must. Of course, we were confronted with many challenges. How to do things differently this time? Can we lead a life that doesn’t begin with the needs of the system, but rather with our own deep longing and the longings of the world? A life where we put people before profits? Are we able to perceive ourselves as co-creators of an organic, living whole, rather than cogs in a machinery? Can we be doing what we love and at the same time be beneficial for others?


    This is exactly what we try to do, to combine something that is beneficial for us and humanity on the whole. Have you heard of social entrepreneurs? Bridgedale360 is all about social entrepreneurship; as a matter of fact, I would say most of us living here are some sort of social entrepreneurs! That is what you get when you combine Steve Jobs and Mother Teresa - a hybrid of business and social value creation. There are plenty of good examples where people have turned their passions and their wish for a better world into businesses. By doing this, they are transforming the system from the inside, adding new values and humanness to it. Instead of living in a system ruling us, we as humans should be free agents constantly co-creating and shaping our surrounding and the world we live in. And everyone is an entrepreneur! Because everyone has something genuine and valuable to offer. We just need to find it out for ourselves!


    For these kinds of “projects” to work, where we combine our living with helping others and the planet, we need to constantly remind ourselves of what we seem to have forgotten in the old competitive society - mutual aid and cooperation among humans are of crucial importance for our survival. When creating Bridgedale360, we reinvented the (or rather went back to the true) meaning of “survival of the fittest”. In the old world, it was those who are the strongest and most competitive. Here, it is the other way around. Can you read the board at the entrance of the school? Yup, it is the inspiring words of Kropotkin guiding our Bridgedale360 youth: “But if we resort to an indirect test, and ask Nature: "Who are the fittest: those who are continually at war with each other, or those who support one another?" we at once see that those animals which acquire habits of mutual aid are undoubtedly the fittest. They have more chances to survive, and they attain, in their respective classes, the highest development of intelligence and bodily organization."


    Learning Outcomes

    • To understand that there are different paths in your life

    • To see possible alternative livelihoods

    • To find your passion

    • To connect your work to a resilient future

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  • The Compost Pile

    WASTE, CLOSED-LOOP CYCLES & RECYCLING

    “Where is away?”

    -Julia Butterfly Hill


    “There is no waste in nature.”

    -Unknown



    Introduction

    Leticia, rubbish entrepreneur


    This is a very easy subject. Easy to see and to solve. Well, in principle. Of course reality has turned out to be, hmm… unpredictable. I will get to that in a minute. Think about the words first. What is waste? It is stuff you do not need anymore. Chew on that sentence for a while. Stuff you do not need anymore. Stuff, any stuff can become other stuff if you allow for flexibility. You don’t need it anymore, but others might. Anymore, why? Did it already break? Is there a way to fix it? In any case, in the long run, waste is not an option. Because we live on a tiny planet with a lot of people. Throwing a wrapper over your shoulder might get it out of sight, but it’s not going to go up in smoke… well, it might, but that will cost you your atmosphere.


    When you still lived out there, in your cosy on-grid stinking western town, you could fill a bin with waste on a calm day, a container on a bad day. This is not strange if you consider that even a toothbrush is packaged in two thick layers of plastic. In the meanwhile, in the Pacific Ocean a floating plastic soup is growing, consisting of billions of water bottles and toilet brushes, all once discarded but not processed. Perhaps they bounced on the outside of the bin and ended up in the canal. The ecosystem is not sending its regards for this, if you would like to know. Don’t be surprised when you choke on a plastic bit while eating a fish you thought was safe because you caught it yourself.


    In the meanwhile, farmers sprayed their land with artificial manure, causing the groundwater to turn all kinds of funny colours. Institutions then cleaned this water with high technology and much energy, transported it to our homes, where some of it was drunk, and then used the rest to flush our personal manure down the toilet. The plants in the window screamed with horror when observing this absurdity. Everything ended up in a big pile, which some day, you may find on your way, if you start to wander around. You will recognise it by the chemical odour and the orange soup seeping from the cracks in the ground. Turn around and run, that’s my advice!


    In Bridgedale360, we have gone about it quite differently. Just look at the compost toilet in front of you. That’s where we put our manure. We separate the poo and the urine. The urine is an absolutely amazing fertilizer; it just needs to be distilled with water. And don’t pour it straight on your plants! We bring the poo to long term composting at the side of the woods there. After two years it has become excellent nutritious compost to put straight on the fields. The veggies will grow without any artificial stuff, and all the inputs come from around the area. That’s what I call a closed loop system. Besides, we’re not wasting water or energy to flush away our manure. Heh, why would we ever do that? And what about clothes? I remember back in my old town there was a “recycling centre” to sort out the garbage. There were always two containers full of clothes! Every single day, and this was a small town… and most of them were perfectly fine. Here we recycle our stuff of course, but you will rarely find any clothes. Used clothes that are fine generally go to the community wardrobe. It’s great when you put something there and months later you see someone walking around in your old sweater!


    Have you already visited the community café? It’s called “Waste actually”, right beside the Town Hall in the centre. Every single teaspoon in there is waste. The funny looking furniture, the bar, the cider bottles, the windows, the roof. Waste! And the art on the walls. Waste! There are always different local artists exhibiting there, all bringing their garbage! A friend of mine that’s an artist, went back to her old town and sold a bunch of welded together tin cans to some art collector. For a lot of money. Talk about increasing value.


    But of course, for us, it is not just about increasing value or even saving the planet from piles of garbage. These factors do play a big role, but let’s not forget the human factor. As someone that grew up in the slums of Brazil, we would go scavenging in the landfill sites with other kids quite often. We used to come across wonderful items that were considered garbage. What started as a simple altruistic act of collecting sofas or cups from the landfills so that we can give them to poor communities or use them for ourselves - has now turned into an entire rubbish entrepreneurship career. In Bridgedale360, we run pay-as-you-feel courses with a special focus on the poor so as to empower them to turn garbage into things that might actually earn them a sustainable living - and of course, earn all of us sustainable world as well!


    Learning Outcomes

    • To get an expanded notion of waste management and recycling possibilities

    • To be able to separate different kinds of garbage

    • To get a notion of the repairability of products

    • To become critical about the  lifespan of a product
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  • The River and the Sea

    WATER & ITS NATURAL FLOW

    "1 billion people in the developing world don't have access to safe, drinking water.”


    “Nearly 1 out of every 5 deaths of children under 5 is due to a water-related disease.”


    “Water is Life.”



    Introduction

    Lovisa, an old lady, one of the first settlers


    When we first came here, oh my! It was many years ago now. When we first came there was no river here. Just a muddy groove in the ground. Of course we understood that once there had been a river. One day there was a massive rainfall; the day after there was plenty of water in the groove, and the water moved fast and violently. Soon the river flooded the place. We had to run with our things; some of our early settlements were destroyed by the water. Luckily no one got harmed. Of course we moved our camp, up on the hill there. But even though we solved the problem with the flooding, we still didn’t have proper access to water, especially for our gardens, since the river was dried out most of the time. So we started to inspect our surroundings. Most of the land was barren, absolutely bone dry, and most of what seemed to have been forests had been turned into huge clear-cuttings. By whom, we still don’t know. We slowly started to connect the dots. One day my husband came across a book by Viktor Shauberger, and from the first sentence I couldn’t put it down. I was mesmerized.


    He viewed water as "a living entity which he termed <the blood of mother earth>, which he perceived as being born in the womb of the forest; water had a life and death”. Clearly, I had already seen that the forests were gone and understood that it had a connection to our droughts and floodings… And I understood how ignorant I had been, how ignorant we all had been. Surely I had always loved water, the rivers and the lakes, but I didn’t really know anything about water. Reading this man, who had spent a big part of his life in the forest, witnessing first-hand how the water behaved, with such love for this subject and with such vision , gave me the goosebumps, literally! Water, as we all know, is an absolute prerequisite for life on this planet. You could say that water is life, and water is alive. Everywhere where there is healthy water, nature is thriving. We are taught in school that water can be explained by the formula “H2O”, an inanimate chemical compound. But if you drink such water, sterilised, distilled, for a longer period of time, it’s actually poisonousIt’s because water in this form will absorb anything it comes in contact with, and thus will soon leach out the minerals and trace elements in our bodies and eventually kill us. Such water, like a growing child, is not in a position to give, only to take.


    For water to be healthy, it needs to be kept cool, devoid of excessive sunlight, and it needs to be in constant motion. The function of water is to give life, and to do so it has to move slowly, so that it can be enjoyed by more life-forms before it eventually reaches the ocean. How is this happening in nature? Exactly, through the forest. From the forest, water begins its long life-giving cycle. With its natural motion, it maintains its health and purity, absorbing all the necessary trace-elements and minerals from the forest. Once appearing at the surface, as a fresh spring, it has already become the nurturing beverage for which all life is longing.


    Do you see the forest over there? Before, that was a big ugly clear-cutting. Now we have a forest, and thus we have a river all year round. Before, when the ground was bare, it became dry and warm. In that state it’s not able to absorb water, which resulted in rapid surface run-off. It didn’t recharge the groundwater; instead the water quickly ran off to the river in a horrible condition... I read that there are about a billion people today without daily access to healthy water. It’s not at all surprising when most of the world’s virgin forests have been cut down or turned into forest plantations. If we want to live, we better understand water and start planting trees for our very lives. Of course we should also take a close look at how we’re using water in our daily lives. Here in Bridgedale360 we know the value of water, and we always try to use it wisely. No flushing toilets of course! And when you take a shower here, the water won’t just disappear with the pipes into some treatment plant, no. Instead, it will continue its journey through our gardens and fruit forests. Sooner or later it will reach the ocean, but with a revitalised eco-system behind it. Then there is food. Agriculture and livestock consume an enormous amount of water. Can you imagine that you need 15,000 litres of water to produce one kilo of beef? Maybe in a country where water is scarce. That is about 60 bathtubs of water! Think about that next time you have a bath. Or I mean the next time that you’re having beef. Oh, I’m getting old!


    These days I sit a lot here, just watching the water pass by. Often I imagine its journey from raindrops to the underground caverns of the forest, making its way while animating all vegetation, trees and animals around it, until it eventually reaches the river, passing by my gaze within the fraction of a second. But every single drop has its unique journey and its unique story to tell, if you’re willing to listen.


    Learning Outcomes

    • To understand the interconnection between humans, nature, and water systems

    • To understand your own water footprint

    • To reduce your personal water consumption

    • To understand water as a whole planet system

    • To understand the biological function(s) of water

    • To have a personal experience of water

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  • The Garden and the Farm

    FOOD SYSTEMS, SOIL, PERMACULTURE

    “If you look out your window and don’t see food growing, you have a problem.”

    -Bill Mollison



    Introduction

    John, organic gardener


    As I got here, I really came from the Eat, Sleep, Work, Repeat. Eat, Sleep, Work, Repeat culture... I was physically and emotionally drained. For me, it felt that food is not as scarce as the time it takes to eat it! Actually, I was so disconnected from my food and the people I bought it from, that I started ordering it online and had my pesticide-gmo-rich food sealed in seven layers of plastic wrap delivered at my doorsteps in a jiffy! Sometimes I was wondering if it was even people that produced it and wrapped it up so nicely in plastics for us... Looking back, now I see how absurd it is that even the breakfast I was eating was brought to me through a gigantic global food system, operated and handled by machines and hundreds of people severely exploited and underpaid; so that it can then be transported all over the world. To reach my table. For me to enjoy those wonderful early mornings, stressed and totally exhausted. Before literally running to work!


    When I came here, the thing that first fascinated me was that everyone here is involved with handling the food - in one way or another. Not everyone is a farmer, of course, and some are sitting in front of the computer most of the day, but everyone seems to have a direct connection to food. They might have a small garden; they might be part of a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) and help the farmer a few times a year, for example during the harvest, or maybe they just bring their kitchen waste for their neighbour’s chickens and receive fresh eggs in return. At least everyone gets to witness that no workers get exploited or exposed to chemicals, as we personally know the workers that produce our food. We all live with a general awareness about the seasons and the natural cycle of life and death. Every year a new cycle begins, seeds are being put into the ground, animals are being born -  nature is doing its best to grow strong enough to survive the rapidly approaching winter. Summer is full of life, but already in autumn, the cycle ends for many. The harvest begins and calves and lambs are being slaughtered. The ducks have hopefully grown strong, but the winter is harsh and many are caught by the fox or other wild animals. All of this was of course commonplace for most people in the history of humankind; but for me, who had lived all my life in a city, it was a revelation. I didn’t know anything about gardening or how nature “works”, but I was mesmerised. Soon I joined a neighbour to help out in her garden, and she gave me my own little patch to experiment. Such a joy to see the first pumpkin seedlings sprouting out of the soil! Ever since, I’ve become addicted to gardening. It’s true, every time I see one of my plants really thriving, I’m filled with a deep sense of joy! Isn’t that love?


    You should meet my friend Tim. He’s actually more obsessed with gardening than I am. He also came here without knowing anything a few years ago but soon got hooked on permaculture. The concept of permaculture was developed by Bill Mollison in the 70ths and came out as a response to the western monoculture food system. It’s a philosophy and a practical design tool on how to create holistic food systems and human habitats. Tim has now designed his house and his land using permaculture principles. That means that many different species and plants are growing together, supporting each other, like in a natural ecosystem. There is a forest garden where vines are crawling up fruit and nut trees, and bushes that give shade to strawberries cover the ground. Chickens are tilling the soil, and the ducks help eat snails and insects. Water is flowing through the land and is retained in ponds and swales. Bees are pollinating the trees and producing honey while wild birds help spreading the seeds. The result is an incredible garden and a living ecosystem producing food that doesn’t need much maintenance! But to make it work well, you really need to know your land. And you need patience. The first year you have to just observe your land, how it behaves, how water is running through it, which wild animals are there, how the wind and the sun are moving throughout the year, etc. Tim is dedicated to it, and now it’s his life.


    Moving through the farms and the gardens in Bridgedale360, don’t hesitate to put your hands in the soil. You can see how the worms are processing the soil and how much life there is on this microscopic level. Building up the soil and keeping it healthy is really important for anything to grow. When you eat here in our community restaurant, you’ll know that it all comes from around here. Every carrot, every potato, every tomato or aubergine. From here. No chemicals, no artificial fertilisers, no GMOs! And certainly no workers’ rights abuse! Brought to the table by people you know, who are happy and well-fed, by the care they’ve put into their work, and by the rain and the heat of the sun. That’s quite a different story from how I used to spend my lunches and dinners! Instead, here, you see permaculture ethics in practice - it is all about earth care, people care and fair share!


    Learning Outcomes

    • To experience that you are what you eat - know what you eat

    • To understand the global industrial food system

    • To have a somatic experience, an embodied experience of food

    • To understand the basic principles and ethics of permaculture

    • To recognize qualities and importance of healthy soil

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  • The House

    RENEWABLE ENERGY & SUSTAINABLE BUILDINGS

    “If you want to find the secrets of the universe, think in terms of energy, frequency and vibration.”

    -Nikola Tesla


    “We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us.”

    -Winston Churchill


    “Good buildings come from good people, and all problems are solved by good design.”

    -Stephen Gardiner



    Introduction

    Tom, young permaculture enthusiast


    This is my house! It’s what’s called an earthship. I know, it’s pretty cool. And I’ve built it myself! It looks hard, but really, it isn’t that difficult. The original vision of the earthship is simple. It should be a house that uses local and reused material wherever possible; it should rely on natural energy sources and be independent from the grid; it should be easy to build. Even for a person like me, who had never built anything like it in my life! The basic principles are quite simple. The walls here are built from old car tires packed with dirt; local and reused materials that provide a lot of thermal mass. The windows are south-facing to use the heat of the sun. The walls are sucking up the sunlight during the day while the heat is released during the night. Thus the temperature stabilizes and is kept nice and comfy most of the time. You can also see how the house is sunk into the earth to provide extra insulation. Energy is absolutely essential. Except for the energy that is passively stored in the walls from the sunlight, electricity is harvested from the sun and the wind. If you look at the roof you’ll see photovoltaic panels as well as a small wind turbine. Electricity is stored in batteries and later converted and used for house appliances such as a washing machine or a vacuum cleaner. It’s absolutely enough for me. Also, it’s designed for water. Rainwater is harvested from the roof, filtered and stored in a cistern. The water can then be used for drinking, cooking, showering etc. In an earthship, the grey water, used water from cooking and showering, is often used for flushing toilets. I don’t have one; to me it doesn’t make sense since I need both the manure and the water for my forest garden. Besides, no one is using flushing toilets in Bridgedale360. What is important is that I love to live in this house! I view it as a living system, totally integrated in its environment, and I can feel how energy, humidity and water is moving through it, meeting all my needs without wasting anything! I can’t change the entire world, but I know that if the world would start applying this kind of thinking, many problems would be solved.


    Of course, it’s a fact that the world needs to adapt to a more natural and energy-saving mindset. Energy might have been an infinite resource in the past, but it’s not anymore. At least not in the form of fossil fuels. Peak oil and global warming are a wakeup call that our old ways  are unsustainable, incessantly taking from the earth without ever giving anything back. Energy must once again be regarded as something valuable and finite and our ways of harvesting energy must change dramatically. The global energy consumption increases every year and that needs to turn around very soon. At the same time, we need to develop our means and capacity for harvesting renewables. And be smarter! Here in Bridgedale360, we take used olive oil from the restaurants to run the local bus. That is the type of clever design that the world needs.


    Being independent in terms of energy, as I am now, is a great freedom. Over the last hundred years we’ve built a society where we as individuals are totally dependant on it to cater to our daily needs. Shut down all the provisions from society: no water, no electricity, no food, and you’re most likely dead within a couple of days. Not only do we lack the infrastructure and design to live independently, we also lack the skills, knowledge and confidence. I feel much stronger now, harvesting my own energy. It gives me a sense of autonomy and confidence. And less fear, since I know how to use the earth and sun to keep me alive. After all, they are much more reliable than any government, economy or welfare system could ever be.


    But for us it goes beyond one’s own independence. Do you see any beggars or homeless people here in Bridgedale360? If you wonder how we managed to do away with homelessness or poverty, the answer is pretty simple - all resources are owned by people for the people, not by governments or corporations! Everyone here is empowered to cooperate with and rely on nature, houses of natural materials that are much more energy efficient, using solar energy for solar cookers so nobody is hungry, solar showers which do not run on electricity at all, and everything is being re-used in closed loop systems, even our poo! There is simply no room for social injustice or economic inequality!


    By the way, are you hungry? I’ve put some rice in the solar oven; it should be ready soon. Come with me outside, and I’ll show you. On a great sunny day like this, it should be done in a jiffy!


    Learning Outcomes

    • To understand the house as a system

    • To be aware of your own energy / ecological footprint

    • To have an experience of building something using sustainable methods

    • To have an expanded notion of your habitation needs

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  • The Town Hall and Community Centre

    DECISION-MAKING, FACILITATION AND COMMUNITY

    “No man is an island.”

    -John Donne


    “We have global minds, but not global hearts.”

    -Thomas Huebel



    Introduction

    Rita, sociocracy trainer


    Living together with other people, which we virtually all do to some extent, we need strong social bonds. If we’re living with others without strong social bonds, we’re asking for trouble. Because without it, we tend to act selfishly, with a lack of empathy and understanding for others. In society, it’s impossible to have strong social bonds with everybody; at the same time it’s possible to feel like a member of a greater whole that is cared for by all its members. But for that to happen, a lot of trust is required. Again, trust is created from social cohesion and a sense of mutual benefit. Enjoying time with others just for the sake of enjoyment is a powerful and necessary component in any community, small or large. Therefore, the community centre is of great importance here in Bridgedale360. It was the first house we built, while most of us were still living in tents! But we knew that without a community space, we might lose the interest of really being together. It was such a joy the day the building was completed. Because it’s a manifestation of our togetherness, our gratitude and love for one another.


    That’s all sweet, but when it comes to decision-making, things get tougher! It requires trust, patience and sincerity, but it also requires a lot of knowledge and experience. In the beginning none of us had any of that. We all came from a society that is very hierarchical, and we wanted to create something different. We wanted order, but no ruler and no one to be ruled, so we had everybody deciding on everything. We tried to organise it in a kind of a consensus fashion and went into it with a lot of enthusiasm and energy. Turns out - it can actually work! We did not do away with hierarchy altogether, but what we have is horizontal hierarchy where we make decisions together, instead of vertical hierarchy.


    The Town Hall and the Community Centre could be described as the mind and the heart of Bridgedale360. You could say that in the Town Hall we make decisions, and in the Community Centre we make bonds with one another. But the two places are also intimately interlinked, just like the heart and the brain. If we don’t have a strong social sense of unity, if we don’t have community, we won’t be able to make good and well-balanced decisions either - ones that take everyone into account. And if we’re not able to make good decisions with the whole group in mind, it will generate a lot of conflict that will affect the harmony in the group. So, just like the heart and the brain, the Town Hall and the Community Centre are seemingly separate, but at the same time they are intimately connected and equally important for our social life here. It’s the same with everything we do in Bridgedale360. We try to do it in a balanced and conscious way. In the old world, the brain is regarded as superior to the heart; for us they must work together to produce anything of value. Dragon Dreaming is a good example. It’s a tool for creating projects together, that tries to incorporate the right part of the brain - our intuition, creativity and emotions - into the process. So there is a dreaming part, a planning, doing and celebration part, all equally important for a successful project.


    Tonight we have a sharing circle in the Community Centre, and later there’ll be some music jam. Almost every day there’s something. You can come if you are interested. Sharing is very important since sharing what really matters to us makes us understand each other on a deeper level and helps us foster the spirit of comradeship among us. And of course music is important, too. Some people even say that a third of the time that we spend together we should celebrate! By celebrating we appreciate all the hard work that we’ve done, and we’re letting ourselves enjoy and relax. It’s really necessary to keep an energetic and vibrant energy in the group. And fun, of course! For if it’s not fun, it’s not sustainable, right?


    Learning Outcomes

    • To learn about the grounds on which trust is built and how to bring trust to a group

    • To learn how to build a collective vision

    • To learn how to celebrate individuals and their contribution to the group

    • To realize the meaning of your engagement and the effect of our individual actions in group work

    • To develop team building skills

    • To understand the influence friends and peer groups have on people, especially youth

    • To understand the beauty of collective work

    • To see the power of collective work for a fair and equal society

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  • The School

    EDUCATION, COOPERATIVE LEADERSHIP & EMPOWERMENT

    “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

    -Nelson Mandela


    "The whole purpose of education is to turn mirrors into windows."

    -Sydney J. Harris



    Introduction

    Mattia, 40 year old teacher and pedagogue


    Do you remember your old school yard? Do you remember which material it was made from? Asphalt? Concrete? Were there bushes or grass? Do you remember the classes, your teachers, how you usually felt in school? Were you generally happy, bored, scared? How did you feel when you graduated? Was the world full of possibilities or were you confused and didn’t know what to do? Try to remember. While remembering, also acknowledge that what you took for granted could have been totally different. The buildings, the rooms, the teachers, the subjects, the classmates, the surroundings… the whole culture, different. Play around with it, change something in your virtual school and see how it makes you feel. Now you’re there! Is there something in the school that makes you feel unhappy? Is there something that you feel is missing?


    This is a typical exercise we do with the kids, it usually stirs up a lot of creativity and enthusiasm. In Bridgedale360, we have built our school on three fundamental cornerstones: empowerment, education and cooperative leadership. Empowerment is the most important thing. Because if an individual doesn’t believe in her own power to bring change, to contribute, then it doesn’t matter what she knows, she will be passive and she will be unhappy. So how do you teach someone to believe in themselves? Hopefully you don’t! Kids come to this world that way, confident, and they will grow strong and with a real sense of agency if we just give them the right support. Every kid brings a unique set of gifts, talents, interests and curiosity into the world, our primary job as teachers is to give them what they need so that they can explore in a safe environment. Do you remember how it felt when you really loved the subject that was taught? That’s where we want to bring the kids, because that’s where they should be! To know as a kid that your interests and your will do matter. That is empowerment!


    Every kid will thus choose their own educational path, and develop as naturally as possible. Still we do have obligatory classes. The school’s other purpose, except for supporting the development of individuals, is to support the development of society. And the development of society needs a certain common understanding and common knowledge and skills to function. Our modern society has taken this to the extreme, where the education is modelled primarily to fulfill the specific needs of society and the economy, thereby stifling children’s creativity. The flaw of such a design is that it views people as bricks in a gigantic machinery rather than as dynamic change-makers. We must always allow the new generation to feel that they can change the current order of things. They are not here to fulfill some mechanic program set up by people that are long dead! At the same time we need them to have a basic common education. So what we try to do is to balance the individual freedom with the responsibilities that society requires. We do teach writing, history, math, of course that is important, but we focus far more on self-expression, creativity and what we call “life skills”. Instead of building the house for them, we give them the toolbox. Things like how to ask questions, how to listen, how to resolve conflicts, how to speak from the heart, how to express yourself, how to learn, how to teach, how to lead together, how to change ourselves and how to change the system. And most importantly, how to cooperate and help each other - that is why we refuse to use grading systems that encourage competition.


    Right, that brings us to cooperative leadership! The third cornerstone. To partake in society and in our communities we need to be able to lead and to be led. In our school we’re redefining the old idea of the leader. We don’t see leadership a characteristic of an individual but as a function in a group - it means that all of us work on developing co-leadership skills and co-leading together. Here in Bridgedale360, we cherish our egalitarian values and believe in equality, that’s why we try to encourage everyone to develop leadership skills. Every group is different and requires a different kind of leadership. Imagine you want to teach a dance class, then you don’t want the old military veteran do the stepping. On the other hand, the old military veteran is great for the fishing expedition, since she knows how to sustain herself in the wilderness. Which knowledge and type of co-leadership is required varies greatly. And as strong, empowered individuals there will always be situations where our co-leadership is asked for by the group. We practice this a lot, using different games and scenarios. It’s a matter of seeing that the leader doesn’t have to be the person that’s the loudest or most confident. We’re all leaders, and when we co-lead, we grow.


    The school is at times chaotic, sometimes I even long back at my old teacher desk. But that is also because we’ve taken on a much greater and more complex task than to produce predictable streamlined bureaucrats. Our task is to support individuals to express their talents and their uniqueness to the maximum, and to invite them into society as co-creators, not as passive observers. Seeing a person learning to express themselves in new ways, with all the joy, zeal and energy, to see that happening in front of your eyes is one of the most beautiful things that exist. At least for me. I’m actually really lucky... oh, I’m teaching a class in the woods today actually. Together with the students, we’ll be doing some role playing games on gender equality. That’s another important one! We spend a lot of time raising awareness about our gender roles and making sure that girls and boys are treated the same and are co-leading - after all, transitioning to a fairer, sustainable society could not happen if 50% of the world population is left unempowered! If you fancy, join us!


    Learning Outcomes

    • To become empowered and to empower

    • To have an experiential understanding of different educational styles

    • To develop cooperative leadership skills

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  • The Town Square

    SOCIAL ACTIVISM, CIVIC ENGAGEMENT, YOUTH EMPOWERMENT

    "The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything."

    -Albert Einstein


    If I were to remain silent, I'd be guilty of complicity.”

    -Albert Einstein


    “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

    -Margaret Mead



    Introduction

    Linnea, civil society activist


    Even though our lovely Bridgedale360 might seem like our own little heaven - we are far from being isolated. Of course we know that we’re not alone on this planet.  That there’s a whole big world out there that is struggling and deeply wounded, that there is a lot of injustice and if we remain silent and just avert our gaze - we would be nothing short of accomplices in perpetrating this injustice. If we don’t help change the world around us - the world will eventually change us, in ways that we don’t agree with. We are all deeply interconnected, with people in far-flung places of the world, with our environment. We are part of the world, or the world is part of us and therefore the world concerns us. This is why we have the Town Square, where public debates and social/political protest normally take place.  


    It’s quite big as you see and right in the centre of the town. Not that there was a need for social protest at this time, our views were in line on most things, but we use it mostly to discuss/organise political action as to what is happening in the outer world. It is also a symbolic act, a reminder. We had all seen how power had been abused and corrupted in our past and we knew that our new society, like every society, was in risk of the same abuse. I encouraged everyone to read Orwell’s “Animal farm”, so in the end we all got quite paranoid! But it’s so true, power can easily corrupt people, so we try to to do away with big power structures and have self-organised groups mostly. Of course, there are remnants of the old system and we are still experimenting with what the most adequate system is. So we must allow for critique, or not just allow, but to really encourage it! Of our institutions, our system, our collective decisions. The Town Square is sacred in that way. This is the place where we make it a point that the (horizontal) power lies within the hands of people - not institutions.


    Our town is of course an act of protest in itself. We’re here because the old ways weren’t working. We’ve created something that we think is better, and we’ve done it because we care. But of course, we try to spread the ideas as much as possible in the old society. For example, in Bridgedale360, it’s like we have almost done away with the class system, there are only minor class differences among people. But in the beginning it was difficult as we had homeless people sleeping on the streets and begging for food in the old society (to be fair, some of the inhabitants here were also homeless in the old society). So we tried to come up with sustainable solutions for poverty alleviation, we retook abandoned buildings and old buses and turned them into housing, we created pay-as-you-feel zero-waste restaurants etc. However, there are still many homeless people in the old society, so we try to spread ideas like these outside Bridgedale360. We organise courses and workshops here and outside as well, we even initiate discussions with and make proposals to the authorities (just yesterday we had a meeting with the local authorities and surprisingly, they loved our idea about transforming the abandoned post office into a social centre, where volunteers would offer courses for the unemployed!) Of course, we make it a point that none of this is charity, but solidarity-focused - we are all one, and as such, oppressed by the same system that we are trying to reform.That is why it is important that we don’t just give food to beggars and feed the old capitalist system, but rather, that we actually empower people and aim for structural changes (now it is actually a previously homeless friend managing a zero-waste restaurant here - talk about empowerment!). Oftentimes, our social commentary can get more radical, if we are trying to draw attention to a cause, especially with politicians or the police. For instance, last month we made a fountain in a nearby city sprinkle red-coloured water, wanting to place emphasis on all the refugees and migrants that lost their life at sea. One time, several of us literally stripped naked and we had others pouring black colour onto us in protest at the oil industry!


    However, what we have grown to understand is that it is never Us against Them - for the very simple reason that we are all One. Have you ever tried to smile to a policeman at a protest? I have, and guess what - they smiled back! So today our protest might be against something (the system) but it’s never against someone. We believe that deep down inside everyone is bleeding. And everyone dreams, everyone wants a different world. That everyone has something inherently good in their hearts. No one really wants hunger, war or injustice. It’s just that some of us may have forgotten that the suffering of the world is also a part of us, and therefore our concern. But I know, that if we speak to people as fellow human beings, with love and empathy authentically in our heart, there is a chance that they will remember that we are all universal sisters and brothers, not enemies. And since we don’t have any enemies, the prospects of succeeding in changing the world do seem much more promising.


    Learning outcomes

    • To learn how to interact with the local authorities in alternative ways

    • To initiate positive change in society

    • To learn how to connect with grassroots social & environmental movements and initiatives locally

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  • The Fire Circle

    COMMUNICATION AND CONFLICT

    “Man ruins things much more with his words than with his silence."

    -Mahatma Gandhi


    “No one would talk much in society, if he knew how often he misunderstands others.” 

    -Goethe


    “The biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has been accomplished.”

    -George Bernard Shaw



    Introduction

    Muhammed, conflict-resolution specialist


    Come over here, let me tell you the story of how we have been dealing with conflicts. It seemed like we all had good intentions and fought for the same or similar causes, but we couldn’t manage to get it right. To get along! To really understand each other… well, we didn’t know how to communicate... Laura, one of the first inhabitants in Bridgedale360 (she’s no longer with us, but she really made a difference while she was here), came up with an idea: we would all meet regularly here at the fire circle, sit in the circle and and just try to communicate in a non-violent way. Easier said than done, right?


    This is where Laura spoke about her idea; this very fire circle is where it all started. A fairly large group of people were sitting around a huge bonfire. A brave, young woman stood up and started speaking. Everyone was listening, and their eyes were lit up by the fire light.


    “We’ve all had the experience of childhood. Most of us have experienced growing up with a mother and/or a father and one or more siblings. Most of us also have the experience that it’s not always that easy, that it can be tumultuous and sometimes even chaotic. People are going nuts in families! They can’t understand each other, can’t tolerate each other. That’s almost become the norm! That’s not to say that there aren’t a lot of beautiful things in families! Of course there are. But often the challenges can seem overwhelming, especially when the relationships are just too plagued by old grudges, irritations and judgements that it seems solutions are impossible. I remember growing up... Why were some things so difficult? For example, why did I feel such tremendous resistance doing something as simple as filling up the dishwasher while waiting for my dad to come home from work? And why was he always irritated and on the verge of an angry outburst while crossing the porch? Why was my mom always quiet and self contained? And my little brother Ludvig so apathetic, lazy and disengaged? Why did we start seeing the vices in each other without compassion? Why did we start blaming instead of trying to support each other? It’s like we had stopped trying to really communicate with each other. And clearly, communication was what was missing.


    If we’re going to live together in any meaningful way, we need to communicate. A lot. But it isn’t as easy as it might seem to really communicate, to understand each other on a deep level. Right there is where many families and relationships fail. Because to understand others we must first understand ourselves. At the same time, we must allow others to express themselves as they are, without our instant reaction or judgement. And in conflict it gets even harder. Because then we’re usually starting from the vantage point that we are right while the other is wrong, which is a hopeless attitude for resolving anything. So what do we do?


    What if my brother, my mother, my father and I would, for once, sit down at the kitchen table and really talk? And instead of going in with the attitude that someone is right or wrong or that there is a particular problem to be solved, to simply speak and to listen to each other. To listen without judgement, without projection, without trying to come up with a response or to answer anything. To appreciate everyone’s experience as valid. To listen deeply with empathy. Would that change anything? Compared to any of the hundreds of quarrels and arguments about trivial matters we’d experienced in the past? Surely it would...


    I guess that we could say that the kitchen table is a modern equivalent to the fire circle. At least it should be. For thousands of generations humans have been sitting around the fire in the dark, when the activity of the day is over, listening to each other, telling stories, singing, dancing, resolving conflicts within the group or discussing what to do the next day. The circle is a symbol for community, and the fire is what is holding the group together. The fire is connection, compassion, unity and love. For those virtues to blossom, truthful and sincere communication is necessary. If we learn how to really communicate, it will have a transformative effect on our relationships with others and on our relationship with ourselves. For instead of hiding ourselves from each other, we can use others to better see ourselves. And that’s the real fruit! We’ll begin here and now. Let the talking stick go around and let everyone speak. The rest listen, just listen. And when it’s your turn to speak, ask yourself, what is real, what really wants to come out?”


    These days we’re meeting here as often as we can. To ensure everyone shares their feelings/thoughts, we use a talking stick; it is actually really helpful. After a long night here, deeply listening to each other, singing, I feel like new again! We found that listening is one of the keys we had been desperately missing! After all, Laura used to say these brainy quotes..uhmm..what was it again?: “We have two ears and one mouth, so we should listen more than we say!”


    Learning Outcomes

    • To understand conflict as a gift / evolution / possibility for growth

    • To experience a variety of communication styles

    • To sit in a circle

    • To look at one's shadows

    • To develop tools for relating authentically

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  • The Woods

    DEEP ECOLOGY, RECONNECTION WITH NATURE

    “Use nature as a teacher and as a classroom.”

    - Naturakademin



    Introduction

    Graham, 26 years old, forester and architect


    When I was studying in school I was wondering why all subjects were taught separately from each other like if it was not about the same world. I always thought there is something more than they were teaching us in school, something that brings everything together. I lived on the edge of the town, close to the forest. While it was difficult to explain what was missing in school lessons, it was easy to feel it when I was going for long hikes in the forest on weekends. Being in the forest or by the river alone I could observe so much more than in a classroom, and moreover I could feel that I am a part of it, part of something larger where everything and everyone are interconnected. One cannot explain everything verbally, often to understand something, you need to really experience it. Think of relations, cycling or swimming. We cannot learn from the books how to do it, we need to dive in and practice it. The same is with the world and nature – to understand it you need to experience it.


    We are all constantly exposed to so much learning, but our learning is often shallow and we do not get deep insights about why the things go as they do. What is that barrier that hinders us from deepening our understanding? When I was studying architecture, I realised how much our surrounding affects our way of thinking. Apparently, living in urban environments, we always think in the frames of the social identities imposed on us - what we should do, how we should look and act, what people expect from us. Are my clothes good enough, is my smartphone modern enough? But going to nature we start to release ourselves from the social identities. Nature does not care about your social status, your school grades, how much money you earn, which relations you are in and what color your pants are. We are no longer bombarded with opinions and therefore we can see things more clearly; being outside of the social identities and all tasks of busy life, we are more free to explore other things. We finally get a chance to reflect on the information we receive daily. Reflecting and processing the information we start to discover understanding, the inner knowledge. We start to feel what is right and wrong, how everything is  interconnected in the world, understand our own life situation, how to deal with a certain problem and what our real strengths are.  Nature is a great teacher. Nature doesn’t use language and therefore we start to listen with a "different pair of ears" – with our intuition and senses. Relaxing our intellectual part, we immediately open up to take in the wholeness of the situation rather than focusing on details. We start to feel that nature and us are one.


    Expanding cities and agricultural fields over the last thousands years we, humans, started to become more and more disconnected from the natural environment and from one another. For a long time however we were still in tune with natural rhythms. Only with the industrial revolution did the humankind become convinced that we are the power of the world and we reign over nature. We have developed worldviews, religions, sciences, a way of life, that put humans in the centre and disregard nature and all other living beings. We’re the pinnacle of life, right?


    There is a great loss in all this. With the humanocentric worldview, we have decreased the number of other species and natural territories, treating nature as a resource bank; but above all, this assumed human supremacy has been a great loss for ourselves as human beings as well. We have forgotten that we are a part of a huge interconnected system, interdependent and living together. Losing this intuitive understanding we find ourselves in a state of alienation, lack of belonging, insecurity; which results in depression, psychological issues and purposeless consumption as an attempt to fill in the empty spaces.


    This all would sound pretty depressive if we did not realise our alienation from nature on time. Luckily we did. There are so many studies on ecotherapy, green rehabilitation, the positive effects of biomimicry architecture, on well-being etc. that people have started to value their connection with nature more and more, resulting in a radical shift in our culture. We are still confronted with big individual and social crises, but we are learning how to avoid additional crises, by reconnecting with our roots.


    Here in Bridgedale we tried to build everything in a way so we have the natural environment all around. You can see trees, small animals and water everywhere. Greenery and interwoven plants crawling up the building walls in fantasy shapes, intoxicating smells of vertical gardens hanging by the walls in recycled bottles, cats purring on our window shelves, flowers in vivid colours blossoming around the wooden window frames...It is part of what we call biomimicry - you see for example that the window frames are often resembling dancing, blue creeks! We also have big old forests all around so everyone can go for a walk to observe the life cycles, the unity of dead and newborn, the interconnection among all the parts.


    Learning Outcomes

    • To experience extended period of time in nature

    • To begin to perceive yourself as a part of a larger story and a part of nature

    • To get embodied experience in natural environment

    • To develop empathy to nature and non-human beings

    • To find artistic ways of expression of these concepts

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  • The Dojo

    MIND, BODY & SOUL

    “Doing for having, without enjoying being, is the sole cause of all our misery.”

    -Ramana Maharshi


    “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

    -Gandhi


    “As human beings, our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world - that is the myth of the atomic age - as in being able to remake ourselves.”

    -Gandhi



    Introduction

    Pilar, 46, mindfulness and movement mentor


    Come in, friends, come into our Dojo, I will explain what it is. The Dojo is a very important place for Bridgedale360, although it took us a while to realize that to change our society, economy and politics we need more than a change in our system - we need a change in ourselves. When we understood how significant the body practices and mindfulness are for our well-being and how big of a role they play for change to happen, we built the Dojo. Now we come here to revitalize the dialogue with ourselves and others. Nothing external is produced in this place, instead, we turn our gaze inwards, towards our inner being, our health.


    Traditionally, in the Japanese culture, “Dojo” meant a place for practicing inner work, ranging from martial arts to zen meditation which are the combination of physical, mental and emotional sides of us. But in our Dojo, we use a lot of other methods developed throughout the millennia, for instance, yoga and tai chi or dancing, singing and even running! Everything that brings our attention to our body, mind and soul, making us feel present, can be used for cultivating inner space. New techniques are coming up all the time, such as 5rhythms or Biodanza.


    Bodily practices are the basis for our physical and mental well-being, our “inner resilience” and “inner sustainability”, allowing us to handle failures and develop ourselves in changing conditions. Cultivating our inner space makes us less vulnerable, which is vital for being able to stand steady in a world where many things seem to be out of our control.


    For centuries and centuries, humanity has been separating the mind, body and soul, forgetting that they are three inseparable sides of the one. Now we try to bring them back together and understand how they influence each other. Accepting and working with our emotions and feelings, with our thoughts and bodies, we make them beneficial for our actions instead of seeing them as constraints. Learning about ourselves, we understand the world around and we see what we can do to make it better.


    Just remember, we’re not talking about religion here. People believe in all sorts of things and that’s fine! Different belief systems don’t necessarily divide us. Here in the Dojo we can meet people of different cultures and worldviews and understand that there is something uniting us all. It is interesting to see differences and analogies between cultures. Look at all the great religions, they all draw on similar ethics and in many cases similar theology. It’s up to us whether we choose to focus on our division or on our unity. With more self-awareness we’ll be less eager to judge others. The world is so diverse and we all have a lot to learn from each other.


    You know, I used to be a very ordinary person, I had a well-paid job as a manager in a big company, I lived in the center of the city and used to spend my weekends in shopping malls. But when I came to Bridgedale360 I realised that I had been living my life unconsciously: I was working with what I had been taught to do, without understanding the bigger picture. I was a little element in a constant mechanical machine where people earn money to spend money only to earn more money. It was like some enlightenment for me when I entered the Dojo, it dawned upon me that all my life I was doing things automatically without thinking of other possibilities, without understanding what kind of a world I was creating. I was not living mindfully. This is why I think it is important that we have the Dojo in Bridgedale360, so people can come and reflect on their own life and choices.


    As you see, the Dojo is the place of mindfulness and reflection. Mindfulness means being conscious about our thoughts and actions. Why we think the way we think, why we live the way we live, what are the consequences of our actions? How often are we driven by fears determining our choices?  We need to be mindful in our lives and in our work instead of doing things habitually, repeating the same patterns because they were taught to us or because we are afraid of something. Then we start to see what and how we need to change to have a better world. To understand these things and the whole complexity of the world we need reflection which takes time, stillness and focus. And they can be found here, in the Dojo.


    Learning Outcomes

    • To become more aware of our thoughts and beliefs, where they come from and how they impact ourselves and the surrounding world

    • To understand the interdependence between physical, emotional and mental well-being and our actions

    • To get to know the body’s potential and to practice activities improving our physical health

    • To realize our emotions, to learn how to balance them and to see them as advantage rather than constraints

    • To discover the diverse ways to look at the world, to realize that there is no one answer for all

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  • The Amphitheatre and the Studio

    ART & CREATIVITY, SOCIALLY ENGAGED ART

    “If I can't dance, I don't want your revolution!”

    -Emma Goldman



    Introduction

    Antonij, (protest) artist and dance instructor


    Art is creativity. Without creativity there is no art. And art also brings us into creativity. It’s like there is a constant human struggle between creativity and routine, between life and monotonous sleep-walking. Art is life, it’s being in alignment with life, the freedom of creating and manifesting. Art is about breaking out of the boxes in which we tend to live our lives. Imagine that right now you could do a little dance. Just let go of your thinking for a while, go into your body, your sensations, and freely express yourself. Maybe you prefer singing or screaming? Whatever comes out of you when it isn’t driven by fear or the mental recipes stored in your head, it’s in alignment with the life force, inner creativity, an authentic expression. Puff! And as simple as that, we’re out of “the box”.


    But personally I got into art for other reasons. I wanted to change the world and I thought that the most effective way to do that is to reach people through art. Incessantly repeated messages of poverty, worldwide suffering, global warming and our never-assumed responsibility didn’t seem to go through, there was no reaction. I was becoming increasingly anxious and apprehensive, I was angry at the world and everybody, it felt horrible to be part of a world that knows what is wrong but is paralyzed and unable to act. It seemed so irrational. In a society that always claims to be so rational. I could not get my head around it, I was perplexed.... But one day, a couple of friends were setting up a flash mob, a public, unexpected performance, and I said ok, I’ll join. We wanted to bring attention to the refugee (system) crisis and the many people that lost their lives at sea while trying to get to the EU. On the main square in town, we put on wet life vests and started pretending as if we are drowning. We were about fifty people and there was maybe hundred more on the square. Many of the random passersby started joining us. It was so powerful! Caught up in this moment of surprise, people were able to receive, to absorb with their hearts. I especially remember one middle aged man, stressing back home from work, with his suit and everything. He stood absolutely still for a while, then he started to cry. In the end I went to give him a hug.


    For me this was the beginning. I understood that through artistic expression I could draw attention to social issues, I could make people feel and ultimately - make them act. Make them join the fight against social injustice. I was tired, I had been hammering my messages into the heads of my family, grandparents, my old friends, for years. But oftentimes with very little positive results, to say the least. I had become  the source of negative energy for my surroundings. Thanks to art, I was able to channel that energy into something positive. Apart from continuing with flash mobs, protest art and different types of performances and socially engaged art, I started to work a lot with used and recycled materials. For me that was an obvious choice, since my main goal had always been to bring attention to what we labelled as “the sickness of our capitalist-driven consumer society”. We were destroying everything as if it didn’t matter. And it was driving me crazy. The used materials carried the message in themselves, without me needing to say anything, I thought. I remember one piece, a two meter tall peace symbol made out of used tin cans and pet bottles. It got a good response, went into the local newspaper, and then the city I lived in asked to buy the rights to show it in an exhibition. It was in relation to a peace summit, where UN and world leaders would be present. I thought, good golly, what are they thinking, the piece is after all an obvious critique of the establishment, of its hypocrisy and lies. That behind the sweet peace talk lies a malicious destructive force, woven into the very fabric of our culture. I thought that everyone saw that! But here I really learned a lesson. The piece was exhibited at the summit and I saw well-dressed men and women watching it, commenting. I never knew what they said, but at least they stopped for a brief moment. They stopped and stared, even if it was for a very brief moment. And all it took me to do that was...well, discarded tin cans and plastic bottles. In other words, garbage.


    A piece of art always brings its observer into it. This is what makes art so complicated. But also so interesting! You can never really predict what effect it will have on other people. So making political art is a real challenge, since it wants to affect people in a certain way. Here in Bridgedale360, some people’s social commentary can also be more peaceful. My art is about inspiring structural changes in society at a political level, but some other people’s art is more about recreating relationships to the planet and to each other. Expressing our innermost feelings. Healing. And that is ok, as we all have different ways to go around things. But there is one thing that unites us in Bridgedale360 in terms of art - we view art of utmost importance for bringing positive change, both to our inner self and the world. It serves both purposes - after all, “art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable”.


    Learning Outcomes

    • To share creative expressions

    • To use art as a driver for resistance to the system and structural changes

    • To understand the power of art in self- and group-actualisation

    • To perceive (social) media as a tool for transformation

    • To realise one’s own creative potential
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  • The Beehive

    ONENESS, INTERCONNECTIVITY; SYSTEMS THINKING & COLLECTIVE INTELLIGENCE

    “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”

    -Aristotle


    “There is nothing in a caterpillar that tells you it's going to be a butterfly.”

    -R. Buckminster Fuller



    Introduction

    Ana, beekeeper


    There is one fundamental misunderstanding in our world today. Its consequences are immense. You can see them all around you - they spell disaster. This fundamental misunderstanding is that we as humans believe ourselves to be separate entities in a cold mechanic universe that doesn’t care about us. That we are alone, basically, and as such, afraid. Being afraid we act defensively, egoistically, driven by primitive survival instincts. We care for ourselves, at least we think so. The millionaires’ gated communities, the refugees stuck and imprisoned at the border controls, the wars in the Middle East, the rising sea levels, the death of hundreds of species every year… it can all be traced back to the same basic misunderstanding, misconception, misintuition and mis-experience. Because it’s so deeply immersed in our culture that we can hardly imagine otherwise. But if we want a world that is whole and makes sense, we better look at it as a whole. And as making sense. Right?


    When we were creating Bridgedale360, we had a lot of these discussions about feelings of being alone. Isolated and separated from other humans and all other living entities in the world. We wanted to leave these negative feelings behind and create something better, a place where we all live in harmony and cherish each other, knowing that we are all interconnected. This is how I actually became a beekeeper. If we look at the bees we’ll understand how immensely and beautifully complex the natural world is. How everything works together. We understand that nothing, literally nothing, is separate from anything else. Being human “bee-ings” we are equally intertwined in the web of life. Without the air around us we would die within minutes. Is it then meaningful to see us as separate from the air? Why is the air outside my body not me when the air inside my lungs is? What about the thousands of organisms dwelling in my body? Are they me? When you go down this line of thought there can only be one conclusion, nothing is you, and at the same time all is you!


    So we’re moving towards what is often called a holistic worldview. It’s a perspective where nothing is seen as isolated and separated, where everything is interlinked. The zen-master Thích Nhất Hạnh used to talk about inter-being, referring to the ultimate oneness and unity of all beings. Many people in Bridgedale360 are actually practicing zen meditation, inspired by this feeling of oneness and interconnectivity.


    But also, we try to adopt this holistic perspective on a more practical level. When we’re designing systems, whatever they are, we need to keep “the whole” in mind, otherwise we’re destined to do the same mistakes that we’ve done so far, over and over again. Take the food-production system in the old society, for example. Does it produce food? Yes. Does it cater for the well-being of the whole? No! The consequences of the linear thinking monoculture food system is that it destroys the soil from excessive use of pesticides and fertilisers, in itself based on oil and other unsustainable resources, instead of slowly building up the soil and treating it as a living ecosystem. Moreover, when it comes to biodiversity, which is the basis of all ecosystems, the effects are horrendous. Just one crop, acre after acre, do you think that nature is happy like this? No! And how does it cater for the people? Maybe you recall the banana plantations where the cancer rates are booming due to airplane dumped pesticides.That’s a big no! So when we’re designing food systems and any other system in Bridgedale360 for that matter, we always remind ourselves that we think of the whole. A great holistic design tool that’s been around for a while now, even though you’ve probably never heard about it in school in the old society - is permaculture.


    To illustrate, if you look at a chicken, our industrial modern society would normally apply a linear system design. You bring in fodder from the outside, you breed the chicken, you slaughter them, and you produce meat. Instead, when looking from a holistic perspective, applying permaculture design, you would consider all the benefits the chicken bring, and even more, you would see the chicken as an integral part of the whole, with its intrinsic value. You then see that the chicken can help you prepare the soil for your garden and eat harmful snails and slugs, that they also produce eggs, feathers and valuable manure, as well as being fun fellows to have around. Then some will be eaten by the fox, which are needed to keep the rabbit population in balance. If you think about it - all is connected. And us humans are not the sole beneficiary of the system. No, we’re an integral part of it and our duty is to cater to the whole. Because if nature is happy, we’ll be happy. Because ultimately we are nature.


    Learning Outcomes

    • To see systems and understand that we are part of them

    • To recognize patterns in nature and human society and see them as complex vs. linear

    • To understand feedback loops and how to influence and restore them

    • To learn tools to evoke collective intelligence

    • To experience holistic thinking/systems

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  • Certificate

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