March GoodPlanets Discussion: Facilitated by Norm Lee
Some Questions from Norm:

  1. . What prevents people from establishing very good friendships?
  2. What does the word "community" mean to you?
  3. How has community changed during your lifetime?
  4. How does Seattle community compare to other places you have lived?
  5. What can be done to increase community?
  6. How does community (strong or weak) affect the environment?

Recap of event by Norm Lee

Hello all, For those who missed the discussion last night, we had a lively and insightful talk about "community" and the effects on the environment. There were four attendees.

We ended up defining "community" as groups we belong to with levels of involvement (similar to the concentric circles idea where the deepest community exists in the center).

Community has changed during our lifetime as time and financial pressures (dual incomes just to make ends meet) of our modern day are a deterrent from us forming deeper community connections and being involved with various activities and groups which we would otherwise like to be involved. There is also a certain amount of pressure from our early age to inculcate children with a sense of fear of strangers (e.g. stay away from strangers, don’t pick up hitchhikers, don’t help people stranded on the slide of the road, etc) and to perpetuate materialism (e.g. corporations in elementary schools fostering consumerism).

Since many of us were from different parts of the country, we talked about how community is different in Seattle versus the Midwest, Texas, California, etc. Also we touched on how Europeans have it “right” by balancing work and life. A participant stated that as a result community in Europe is more vibrant because people have the time and vacation time to participate and keep up with events.

We talked about how the sprawl has hurt community as we spend much of our time in cars and at the same time this has hurt the environment. The lack of community also could perpetuate itself by fostering consumerism to replace that sense of satisfaction from relationships and community. For example, how many times have you heard someone say “I’m going shopping because I’m bored or to have fun”?

Yet, in all of this, we do see hope in community and the environment. Seattle is one of few cities in the US where it is desirable to live in the downtown area. This reduces congestion on our roads and encourages closeness. There are facilities which partner with business and the community. Examples include Third Place books in Lake Forest Park and Ravenna and Crossroads mall. At these locations people play games such as chess, have discussions, listen to music, etc. Also, one of the movements which is spreading in Seattle and other cities is Conversation Cafes. This brings people together as well. In the end, we have to rely on grassroots efforts to change on a personal level and that might hopefully spread as people realize that community and friendships are important in life.

Norm Lee
Seattle, WA