Our culture is growing now into the next level of change, evidenced by social movements addressing the environmental crisis with direct actions toward revising how we live today. Urban homesteading is just one of many creative approaches to this problem. The Transition Town movement is another, as are the growing numbers of young people from all strata of society training to become organic farmers, solar installers, and water conservation experts. There will undoubtedly be setbacks along the path, but as the diagram illustrates, this kind of change is cyclical and continues to ripple outward, especially as new habits are created and maintained. Engaging in the cycle of change with compassion for oneself and acknowledging the magnitude of the problem will be necessary to successfully take on an urban homesteading lifestyle. No one can do all of this, but everyone can do something. Don’t worry about how or where to start. Just pick something you love, and do it.
In the wake of recent natural and man-made disasters like Hurricane Katrina and 9/11, research has been done on human resilience that reveals interesting trends for recovery. Dr. Alicia Lieberman’s studies on the brain development of young people who witnessed trauma or violence show that their experiences of spirituality, animals, nature, and creativity were instrumental in sparking their recovery. Judith Lewis Herman’s research into trauma reveals the following resilience factors: the ability to help someone else during the trauma (taking action, rather than fleeing or freezing); the ability to make meaning and purpose out of the experience, to understand its history and context; and the ability to stay connected to at least one other person. Recent studies of resilient people reveal some additional working strategies for recovery, including optimism, a sense of playfulness and generosity, the ability to “pick your battle,” and the ability to focus on things over which you have some influence. Staying healthy is important, as is the skill of finding a silver lining. In a recent article on resilience, Beth Howard writes, “Resilient people convert misfortune into good luck and gain strength from adversity. They see negative events as opportunities for change and growth.
These strategies mirror basic homesteading practices as steps toward healing and change: our renewed relationship to animals and the earth; our sense of meaning and purpose in the work we do; our connections to one another in community; and a spiritual understanding of our actions.
A sense of creativity, play, generosity, and optimism are all activated as well. Urban homesteading is a battle that can be picked—actions bearing on our local economies and our homes have real influence, and are a wonderful example of converting adversity into possibility.