Capitalism, unfortunately isn’t working out for us. In fact the economic-based system we’re living in is pushing our world towards 2 degrees of warming; with large inequality, injustice and profit-favourable governments kicking society further into the face of collapse. As we begin swimming in the pool of corporate irresponsibility, we need to start thinking of solutions to end this trail of mistrust. A world moving beyond our current capitalist system needs representation by all. Establishing what has been lost -- a connection to our natural world, realising the Earth is the sustainer of life, and giving back the same love we have been granted. But how do we achieve this vision?
In the inner Melbourne suburb of Brunswick, lies a community environmental park. Established 35 years ago after a community decision was made to reclaim the land accommodated by landfill, CERES is now a social enterprise and educational hub for the community to learn spiritual ecology -- reconnecting with and loving the land.
Sieta Beckwith, Communications manager at CERES park and environmentalist by existence, began her work at the park after creating environmental policies at her previous rock climbing workplace in London. The big question ‘What did you do to help?’ created an intense want to create positive change as an environmentalist, and so CERES’s message was born: When faced by the philosophy of what makes CERES, 'CERES', Sieta truly captured the ideal of falling in love with the land again as the change-making principle of the park.
“A change of mindset is what begins the process of change”, Sieta believes. As the story of CERES is shared, grass-root actions are contributing to making a positive change in the face of environment ignorance. The community social enterprise -- ethical grocery, plant nursery, and educational programs helps fund the continuance of the community, and provide jobs and volunteer opportunities for its’ members. The park, with the love and care from its’ workers provides ‘meaningful’ alternative work -- an opportunity to provide love to the land, and practice a passion for the environment. From gardening, to maintenance, teaching, and innovation; all skill sets contribute to the running of the community programs.
A common myth is that the park has adequate resources to sustain the visitor demand. But in reality, with 450,000 visitors each year, only a small percentage of the visitor consumption is able to be provided for by what is produced inside the park. To keep up with the huge demand, other resources needed are sourced from ethical, local sources (especially bananas that cannot grow well in the Melbourne climate).
As my minimalist self I was quite curious about the waste program on site to keep up with this production demand. So I asked Sieta about CERES’s plan for the near future in order to further move the community towards a zero-impact plan. A recycling program has been in-play since the beginning, and is constantly changing to keep up with visitors’ trash per year. Having an aim to implement a zero-waste program in the near future, CERES is aiming to reduce landfill waste by 30% by 2020, and have already closed the loop on composting!
Up the road from the park, 150 year-old Joe's market garden is located. Continuing with the tradition, customers also have the opportunity to purchase produce from the local garden. This garden, along with the full area of the park plants 3,000 plants a year on site -- with such a whopping number, Sieta told me that there were plenty of tomato options! As the most unique program running alongside the nursery, the propagation garden sells heirloom seeds -- entirely pesticide-free, selectively grown vegetables and fruit.
And like the heirloom seeds, traditional knowledge has also been passed down from generations to CERES. With a large array of native plants and local knowledge, the park offers Indigenous and cultural courses to educate the community about edible plants, and the importance of native Australian biodiversity. A practice of environmentalism and equal representation of the community is what creates a sustainable community.
Listening to Sieta’s story of CERES not only has inspired me, but many others to realise the possibilities of influencing communities to re-establish their love of Earth. CERES, a place where environmentalism is in active play is moving itself beyond capitalism. In it, meaningful work for the land, as an equal playing field, and a love for the land has inspired a movement in the surrounding communities to start altering mindsets.
Though this blog may not do CERES justice, I wanted to share one last piece of my inspiration from Sieta’s story. As inspired by our conversation, a quote to capture an important message: “We don’t need what we have now more than when we love something so deeply, because our love is prioritised first”.