Well, I predict a new profession in the future - email list group psychologist
and dynamics facilitator - to manage the emotional and group dynamics that occur
and support the group in evolving to the right next step.
Well, until that field sufficiently evolves, I guess we'll just muddle our way
through, each adding our two cents worth until it adds up to a dollar. So
I hear two things going on -
1) An emotional dynamic triggered by an outsider who gave us unsolicited insults
without any connection to heart, understanding, humility, or constructive
support for change. "This is what's wrong with you all" from someone else's
position of superiority is hard to receive (and, I personally feel, an
inappropriate communication) and a number of people had a variety of different
responses, from conciliatory explanation to attempts at logical discourse to
anger and frustration to counter-attacks....
All very human and reasonable. But since that person has positioned himself as
an outsider and made no attempt to be constructive or cooperative, I agree with
those who recommend not letting it keep us from the work we'd like to do. We're
not going to change his mind, he's made that clear. Sure, if it brings up
issues that we want to constructively discuss among us, that's fine. But let's
make a choice that we will discuss things constructively among ourselves and not
let his negative harmful attitude and tone determine our own.
2) The other thing that might be going on is a call within our group to step
back and re-examine of what we want this list to contain and focus on.
One of the things I find most interesting about online email lists is that they
start from a pretty undefined state - "we're all going to get together and
discuss sustainable ag" - which is of course a huge topic with many different
points of view and focus areas. On many lists, I see there then occurs an
ongoing process where the list starts to better refine its focus at various
points along the way, and some people find more or less value in that evolving
definition. Quite a sophisticated process to do with only words, no facial
expressions or much of a chance to develop personal rapport.
So I first want to just note that this is a reasonable process we're in, to
refine this list's definition, and not necessarily a trivial one, so we should
have patience with it.
Perhaps it's time we think what we'd really like this list to be and start
sharing our visions, not just our negative assessments and defenses. Although I
appreciate Chuck Benbrook's constructive comment about splitting the list, I
think it's early to decide that that's the remedy. I myself don't find it so
easy to split practical matters from philosophy, as I find they can quite
fruitfully feed each other. I might determine limits - how much practical stuff
I want, vs. what doesn't relate to my interests - how much philosophical stuff I
want, vs. what doesn't relate to my interests - but I don't know if it's wise to
split the two entirely just yet.
So I propose, if it's ok with Andy and the group, that we start sharing our
visions, and see what emerges from this. What's a common vision we all would
like this list to be? Are there some divisions that would separate naturally
without removing something important from the split lists?
>> Then maybe we can come up with a vision statement for this list that fits
most of the group well, so we know what to expect from the list and have some
sense of agreement about it. This vision statement could also be sent to all
people who join or express interest in the list, so they choose what they're
getting into. We can't be all things to all people, nor should we try to. But
perhaps we can set a vision that includes enough of us that this list is a
fruitful adjunct to our work, and then we can work together toward that vision.
MY THOUGHTS ON WHAT THE VISION STATEMENT MIGHT INCLUDE (just as my 2 cents
- Our vision of this list is to create a mutually-supportive place where people
committed to sustainable agriculture, in the U.S. and globally, can discuss
their ideas and present facts to support that happening. That might include
information about: sustainable ag techniques, solutions to common problems,
research results, and studies (either sharing your work or other work you hear
or know about); prominent or useful people or resources to know about (events,
books, newsletters, web sites, etc.); current news events that relate to
sustainable ag; thoughts about sustainable ag trends; etc.*
- We welcome a variety of input and ideas, as long as they're expressed
constructively and respectfully to the group of people on the list.
- We may debate freely about ideas - including ones that seem new or "crazy" -
and each of us may see and approach things in different ways, but our intention
is that we always remember the value of different viewpoints, and thus the
importance of treating each other with a basic level of respect.
- We prefer constructive conversation about what we can all do over "sounding
off" about "what someone else should do". Useful facts and information to
suport this work are always welcome.
- Our definition of this list's vision is ever-changing. Please feel free to
offer ideas on what else you might like to see included, for public discussion,
either by making requests or offerings to the list. This list isn't "a thing" -
it's a group of human beings having a conversaion, and each one of us can help
shape what this list is and becomes.
* NOTE: Other related lists that might also interest are:_____. <This would be
a place to refer people to lists beyond our chosen scope, or in more detail on
certain aspects of the topic.>
So whatcha think? Something positive we can work towards perhaps....
P.S. Personally, I'd love to see people offer information about resources
they've found particularly helpful in their work on sustainable ag (books, web
sites, courses, etc.). I'm thinking not really from the people selling the
resource (though that's not ruled out), but from people who've found something
useful and want to share how it's been useful to them. I'm sure the people on
this list have quite a lot of knowledge of what's out there...
P.P.S. Another thought I have is that any change has both a factual and an
emotional dimension. If we want to support change in the world, it helps if
we're conscious of both aspects. Change can be challenging and bring up
emotions in people, including ourselves. We can present facts strongly while
being compassionate with the people needing to make changes. It thus seems to
me that one of the most useful things to offer are constructive methods for
making change that reflect the realities of those needing to make change. Just