On the wild and beautiful West Coast of New Zealand’s South Island, there lies the wild and beautiful town of Greymouth. It is a community that has had a very rough time lately with a mine disaster in which twenty nine coal miners were killed and now has come the announcement that a different mine is being closed because the owners have decided it isn’t sufficiently profitable.
On the television the mayor has been vowing to fight the closure and people have been talking about moving to Australian mines and “the end of our town” being nigh if the coal mine does close permanently.
As I listened to the mayor proclaiming “We are a mining town. Greymouth was built on mining. It’s what we are”, I immediately had the thought,” Wouldn’t the town be better served if their leader leader could lift the consciousness of his community above their confining definition? It has stood for over a hundred years, certainly, but so did the Stone Age last longer than a hundred years, and we are not clinging to the social structures and tools and economics of that era still. Why? Because people decided to move themselves on to more complex arrangements to meet changing environmental factors.
*What if Greymouth were to say, like a young person moving out from his family and beginning to define himself/herself in the world, “I was established on a base of coal mining, but the world is changing and I need to change with it and look into ways of making a living on my own terms.”
* What if, instead of falling into the duality trap; i.e.have mining and have a town vs no mining and having no town (one of the local business owners said “this will become a ghost town”. Well, yes it will if that is how people continue to think) they dropped this limiting self definition and began to say to themselves and each other, “We are a community built upon mining and this has given us resilience and strengths and skills and personal qualities that we can use to build a new, world leading exemplar of a community based upon those qualities…….
* what if they began to realize the world cannot go on relying upon fossil fuels and to hell with the future of the planet?,
*what if they began to say to each other,” so how else can we define ourselves as a community?”
*what if they began to look around and see what else exists in the environment and in the people?
*What if they began to look at the talents and strengths that exist in their community and how these can be deployed to create a new way of living and earning money?
*What if, instead of holding meetings to keep things as they are, they held meetings to identify the strengths already existing and to brainstorm ideas for a different future, free of the definition of “coal mining town”.
To move forward does not mean to leave behind heritage, but to honour heritage for what it was and for what it has taught and forged in the people emerging from that heritage. The “good bits” can still be carried forward in many cases, just deployed in a different manner.
Just as it is necessary for individuals to drop our self-limiting definitions in order to thrive and provide creative thinking to preserve the future, so must collectives of individuals, i.e. communities, begin to shift their thinking to new paradigms, new self-definitions if we are to collectively thrive and the planet to regain its health.
Of course there is a process involved. People need time to absorb the shock, to grieve with all its stages and then to move forward. They absolutely could do this if they were to throw up from their community, people who can provide the leadership and model the courage, optimism and free, creative thought needed to go forward into new adventures, or even if they can come up with the idea to bring in help from outside in the initial stages.
I shall be watching with great interest what unfolds in that very special little nook of the world.