Culture

Published on November 26th, 2008 | by carolinesavery

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Sustainable Communities Series: Rhizosome Collective Inspires a Nation

“Our imagination is the only limit to what we can hope to have in the future.”  – Charles Kettering

a fungi networkWhoever said a sustainability was impossible?!

Sustainability, impossible?!? That kind of negative thinking is nowhere to be found among the members of the Rhizome Collective in Austin, Texas.  They see a problem with the way we are currently living, and damned if they aren’t going to fix it!

Rhizome Collective chose their name based on the meaning of the word rhizome

“An expanding underground root system, sending up above ground shoots to form a vast network. Difficult to uproot. “

–and the name couldn’t be a more perfect fit.  Rhizome Collective distinguishes itself as an exemplary resource center for sustainable efforts across the country, offering workshops, consulting and now even a book for others who wish to start up their own deeply green community.

What makes Rhizome Collective special?

Just one look at their Virtual Tour makes clear: Rhizome Collective is thorough and well-researched about the work they do.  They are also optimistic that the knowledge of natural systems can be applied to make the world far, far more sustainable than it currently is.

Furthermore, Rhizome Collective operates on what some would argue is likewise a “forward-thinking” model–a consensus-based, anarchistic (or “direct democracy”) organizational model.  Their hopes for environmental justice mirror their efforts for equality and fairness in organizing, too.

Sustainability in action

Anyone in the Austin area has probably heard of Rhizome Collective through its two-year transformation of the seemingly hopeless Grove Brownfield problem in the Montopolis neighborhood of Austin.  In just two years, the team of over 175 volunteers turned a decades-old landfill and illegal dumping site into an open space, on its way to remediation and reuse.  This outstanding accomplishment was honored with a major grant from the EPA Brownfield Cleanup Award, and Rhizome Collective’s emphasis on reusing the brownfield’s debris in creating an “environmental justice park” on the site garnered even greater praise.

What haven’t they thought of?

Cana lily, one of the water plants used for chemical remediation at RhizomeThe Rhizome Collective excels above other sustainability projects for accurately synthesizing vast scientific knowledge about the functions and inter-connected properties of various life forms (including protozoa, bacteria, fungi and plants) and providing simple, low-cost, easy-to-understand solutions for how to utilize these ecosystems comprehensively in your own home.

Rhizome Collective uses a blend of philosophies and tactics to craft its thriving sustainable community.  Their flexibility and multiplicity render them a uniquely successful project.  Instead of having an exclusive vision that might only apply to one type of area or one type of people, their goals are to provide systems adaptable to the widest number of people and in the widest number of regions.

Spreading hope and knowledge like branching mycelium

I selected the Rhizome Collective to highlight because I know, firsthand, of how inspirational their work is to many other sustainability-aspiring groups around the country.  Dozens of would-be urban utopias are springing up nationwide, in which the commune attempts to provide for all its own needs through cooperation, applied technology and a shared love for bettering the planet.

In the minds of many, Rhizome Collective is something of a prototype, an undeniable first success that we hope will lead to many many more offshoots (a pun I couldn’t resist!)

Truly, Rhizome Collective seems especially poised to fill a need in our current environment.  Like the most “fit” species of our planet, Rhizome Collective (and other visions like it) are thriving off of the opportunity created by the unfortunate effect we are having on the environment.  My hope is that Rhizome Collective will help to remediate the very toxic society from which it is based.

photo credit: Snežana Trifunović (fungus) and Catherine Munro (canna lily) under GNU Free Documentation licenses; both from Wikimedia Commons



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