August 21, 2015
"The framework of "capital" is one of the abstract concepts we find useful in explaining what it is we do here, and what is inherent to sustainable systems. It informs how we relate to our life and work, and how we are moving forward as a community dedicated to creating a working-model of how people can come together and live a life in balance with the forces at work in the world - ecological, cultural or otherwise."
We here at windward talk often about the need for any sustainable community to effectively steward it's "capital". For many of those not familiar with this word, we can be seen as "capitalist" (in the mean sense of the word). Conversation about capital can often be met with blank expressions or even disdain by many people. While we find this interesting, it is something which is also somewhat disconcerting.
While I'll steer clear from discussing whether or not we are "capitalist", and the lack of clarity on what the word means and implies, I'd like to offer a working definition of capital and why it is relevant to to creating community.
We can think of capital as those things which we create and sustain through our life-work, and which in turn shape and sustain us. Capital is set apart from any-old-thing, in the sense that we can invest in capital and get a yield or some form of support from it in the future.
In this sense, a sandwich can be regarded as capital is we are selling or bartering it. However, if one makes a sandwich in order to meet it then it is nt
There are many types of capital, not all are financial or even material. Below is are some types of capital which we here at Windward interact with on a regular basis:
Capital helps us continue to create value, as opposed to other assets which are merely consumed for personal enjoyment.
In many cases, the difference between capital and just some object is how we think about it and strategize about it's use. Thinking about our various resources as capital is a way we can make sound investments of those resources.
An example of the interdependence of capital
A well maintained chainsaw is a form of physical capital. The chainsaw is a tool that can be employed in the stewardship of Windward's forest which is a form of natural capital.
The knowledge of how to maintain the chainsaw, and how to steward the forest are examples of knowledge capital - something which is learned and past down from person to person. The ability of a person to safely operate the chainsaw is a form of skill capital.
One probably learned how about the stewardship of the forest and the operating of a chainsaw through a relationship through a teacher or mentor, a form of relationship capital
Being physically fit enough to use the saw, and work with the logs and slash is a form of health capital.
The legal structures which enable us to own and steward the forest are forms of organisational capital.
Having the money to buy the chainsaw in the first place, and then to operate and maintain it, are forms financial capital.
Even in this basic example it is clear that all the forms of capital expressed above are interwoven and interdependent. The failure of one of these forms of capital can result in a lack of integrity, and the whole web of connection to unravel.
When someone begins to see the interconnections between things commonly regarded as separate, it can fundamentally alter how they relate to the world.
Take for example, someone who is wanting to get started with sustainable forestry. That person may not be able to see how all of the above mentioned, seemingly disparate, things all play a role in getting started. But regardless, in order to get started, this person is going to need to have a fairly broad range of bases covered in order to even begin.
They can either try and cover all of those bases by themselves (which is very common) and that may take a lifetime to achieve to any significant degree. Or, they can look for an opportunity like Windward where many of those bases are already being covered, and begin to work in the areas they are most passionate about.
While you may not be able to do everything you want all the time, in a context like Windward you can begin working directly with the things you are passionate about while also learning and developing your skills and competency in the other arena's that are critical to the communities function.
To Sum it up
Sustainable systems by definition conserve and enhance capital. Sustainable systems conserve and enhance those things which they create through their processes, and in turn those things provision the long term needs of the system.
Thus, an enterprise like Windward working to create village-scale self-reliant community in deep country, we must sustain and evolve our "capital base", refining our social organisation and understandings, ensuring a broad skill base in our members, and taking care of the whole system as we move forward.
The framework of "capital" is one of the abstract concepts we find useful in explaining what it is we do here, and what is inherent to sustainable systems. It informs how we relate to our life and work, and how we are moving forward as a community dedicated to creating a working-model of how people can come together and live a life in balance with the forces at work in the world - ecological, cultural or otherwise.