“Allow for the possibility of the seemingly impossible.” These eight words have been a kind of mantra for me the past six months. They have supported me in being able to move forward with manifesting my own vision for the future I would like to emerge, especially during a period of very stuck energy, locally and globally, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The phrase is one of the principles of Cultural Emergence, a toolkit for creating new futures, developed over the last few years by People and Permaculture author, Looby Macnamara, and her collaborators, and springing from her meetings and discussions with Jon Young, leader in deep Nature connection and cultural regeneration practices from the USA.
When I heard that Looby and Jon were in conversation, I was very excited for what might emerge. I have thought for some time that the deep Nature movement could benefit from more design and that the permaculture movement needed some deeper connection practices. When I began to explore the emerging result, I wasn’t sure – would it be helpful? Was it just a lot of new lexicon? As I’ve worked with ‘cultural emergence’, the terms and concepts have settled in me and become immensely useful helpers. I understand now that this is how it goes. When we put 1 and 1 together we don’t know what we’ll end up with. Emergence takes time and is a process.
Looby's book offers a comprehensive exploration of the toolkit as it has emerged so far. It feels whole and well developed, and it’s not finished. Like any dynamic system, the cultural emergence toolkit will continue to grow and develop as people use it and feedback into the system.
The book is divided into the three phases of Cultural Emergence: Challenge and Awaken, Move and Invigorate, and Nourish and Empower. Within each of these phases the core routines – ideas and practices – that activate each phase are explored and developed. Each section ends with some reflective questions and exercises that can help the reader begin to build relationship with the ideas. There is an awful lot of rich thinking here: culture, privilege and mindsets are explored; the design web is offered in detail as a tool for designing at all scales; deep Nature connection practices are set out and much, much more. At first glance the sheer number of ideas, routines and principles may feel daunting to some; they certainly were to me when I first encountered them. Whilst some people will no doubt get a lot from reading the book cover to cover, it will be just as useful as a set of tools for those who prefer to dip in and pick just a few ideas that resonate for them to feel into and use, going back for more as time allows or needs arise. Once you have an understanding of the phases and recognise them in your life, it is easy to use the book as a helper, turning to the phase you feel you need to activate in your life at any given moment and picking the core routines that feel good for you.
Readers of this magazine will no doubt feel deeply that the time for change in our world is now, if we want there to be a future for our great grandchildren. The Cultural Emergence toolkit is made for these times. It offers ideas, tools and practices to support us all, wherever our starting point, to step more fully into who we are and to bring our gifts to a world in dire need of them. It offers practical hope, that at this turning point in our human journey we can all be a part of emerging new ways of living on the Earth – ways that are connected, joyful, sustainable, that emerge from our gifts for the benefit of the future generations. What a gift to humanity.
Pippa James, mother, home educator, gardener, village builder