Sustainability is:
a balance in environmental, social, and economic consideration of all components of the world's living and non-living systems. To fit into this balance, humanity must achieve resilience, continued learning, and consciousness of our relationship with the Earth.

Thursday, November 24, 2011


          I began the start of this past semester without a real solid idea of what to expect from the CELL experience aside from taking part in “experiential learning” for the first time.  My reasoning for working so hard to get into the program centered on my increasing drive to seek out greater personal and academic fulfillment as well as a smaller community in which to take an active role; something vastly different from the normal classroom experience I had been partaking in over the last three years of my college career.  What I got was a greater understanding of myself as well as what “resilient community” really means and why working towards a great increase in the number of these kinds of communities is vital to the reconstruction of a society which I have instinctually felt for a long time is fundamentally broken.  Community is one of the greatest ways we can work, through collaboration and continued learning, towards a greater awareness of how we as humans should participate as members of the global environmental community.

In our classes, “community” and “resilience” were two words which got tossed around an awful lot this semester, and although I liked the sound and idea of both of them, it made good sense to double check on the dictionary definitions (taken from to be sure I had the right understanding of them.


noun, often attributive
1: a unified body of individuals: as
b : the people with common interests living in a particular area; broadly : the area itself
c : an interacting population of various kinds of individuals (as species) in a common location
d : a group of people with a common characteristic or interest living together within a larger society
e : a group linked by a common policy
f : a body of persons or nations having a common history or common social, economic, and political interests
g : a body of persons of common and especially professional interests scattered through a larger society
2: society at large
3 a : joint ownership or participation 
b : common character : likeness
c : social activity : fellowship
d : a social state or condition

1: the capability of a strained body to recover its size and shape after deformation caused especially by compressive stress
2: an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change

From these two definitions, it’s safe to ascertain that my understanding of these terms is correct and it is possible to define a resilient community as: a body of persons linked by common social and economic interests with an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change while living together within a larger society

I have found great inspiration throughout this semester from a variety of sources, most notably my fellow CELL members and the individuals who have graciously invited us into their homes throughout our stay in Iceland in order to think, converse, and share meals as a family.  From our readings in the Northwest Earth Institute series, I got the most from a piece from Scott Russell Sanders; this article spoke simply and beautifully of the importance of building our communities by reaching out to those around us and taking responsibility for our place in the world.

Excerpts taken from “The Common Life” by Scott Russell Sanders

“There are days when I can see nothing but a spectacle of cruelty and waste, and the weight of dismay pins me to my chair.  On such days I need a boost merely to get up, uncurl my fists, and go about my work.  The needed strength may come from family, from neighbors, from a friend’s greeting in the mail, from the forked leaves of larkspur breaking ground, from rainstorms and music and wind, from the lines in a well-worn book, from the tste of an apple or the brash trill of finches in our backyard trees.  Strength also comes from memories of times when I have felt a deep and compex joy, a sense of being exactly where I should be and doing exactly what I should do.”

“We all needs seasons of withdrawal from responsibility.  But if we make a career of being unaccountable, we have lost something essential to our humanity, and we may well become a burden or a threat to those around us.”

“We should not have to wait until gunfire breaks out in our schools, rashes break out on our skin, dead fish float in our streams, or beggars sleep in our streets before we act on behalf of the community.  On a crowded planet we had better learn how to live well together or we will live miserably apart.”

From my time here as a part of the CELL group, I have come away from the experience observing and asking: Seperate entities can only exist so long before fading into obscurity  and then, what have they left behind but fewer resources?  Community is vital to our existance and for me personally, I can think of no better way to play my part as a responsible member of our environmen than than to act as a community builder.

-Sarah McKenney

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