Being Able to Respond to Crisis
As Thomas Hübl expressed in his Skype transmitted talk during the GEN conference: Responsibility is the ability to respond. Paulo Mellett was an activist and visionary for ecological crisis intervention throughout the world. With his expertise in permaculture and other sustainability techniques he was constantly travelling around the planet to support projects in the Global South, fund them and share skills. Tragically, he passed away in 2014. During his funeral, his wife Ruth Andrade gathered friends and colleagues to continue his work, which he and his friends from Tamera had called "Blueprint". During the most recent Blueprint meeting, she explained what this initiative means to her.
In August, the Blueprint Initiative gathered in the Testfield for a SolarVillage of Tamera/Portugal: experts in permaculture, solar and biogas energy, natural building, water harvesting who want to offer their skills in crisis areas.
Ruth explains Blueprint´s essence: "I think that in the next 5 to 10 years the number of humanitarian crises is going to increase. The idea of Blueprint is to create task forces of individuals who use their expertise and their knowledge to give an integrative response to disasters. We learn how we can use a crisis even as an opportunity, for example, to also regenerate the water systems and the food systems and restore the landscape through meeting the immediate needs. Blueprint offers this integrated response not from a technological or engineering theory, but actually coming from living practices. We are not trying to offer something that we wouldn't want to use ourselves. The support we offer is connected to living demonstration models and educational sites. It is rising from out of practice. The overall principle behind it is the principle of integration. Experts come together and integrate their expertise in a new system before offering it to the world. We don't offer stand-alone solutions but rather a co-creative system that integrates whatever is best for a region. Sometimes biogas will play a big feature in a community, sometimes it is the water retention. In many refugee camps you can't begin with the water retention landscape, as they have already built the tents, so we need to begin with something else. Integration is starting from our own inner integration."
By bringing together the experts and founding the Blueprint initiative, Ruth had followed the dream of her late husband, Paulo Mellett. During a water symposium the year before, Paulo–together with Christoph Ulbig and Bernd Müller from Tamera—had first formulated the idea to create an international platform for working in areas of crisis, based on the examples and experience of pilot projects like Tamera. Before that, Bernd Müller had already given consultations to aid organisations in Haiti, Kenya and Bolivia, where he had seen that a holistic approach is needed to make aid sustainable.
Bernd: "After the earthquake in Haiti aid organisations couldn't give a sustainable response to the disaster. As a response to the emergency situations, they tend to react by importing techniques that are not integrated. This leads to the situation that, after the helpers leave, the system often works even worse than before. Many responsible managers and workers in aid organizations see this and want to change it. As members of the Tamera ecology team we were invited to Haiti to elaborate on how to improve the capacity of aid organizations. Our suggestion was to not import single techniques, but an integrated system where all the parts work well with each other. That´s why we call it Blueprint. For this, ecovillages serve as models or ´Testfields´ to show-case how all the parts can be integrated."
It was at Paulo´s funeral that Ruth gathered his colleagues and friends, and invited them to the first Blueprint meeting in Tamera. Now, after three Blueprint Meetings, it has become obvious how much Paulo´s presence can still be felt in all activities. It is all about integration. For example, when natural builder Bee Bowen (http://www.strawbuild.org) worked with biogas expert T. H. Culhane (http://solarcities.eu) on a new insulation, made from natural materials, for biogas digesters, which will enable the biogas system to also work in winter.
Barbara Kovats, coordinator of the Testfield of Tamera: "As part of an integrative response, we also include the development of social capacity and education into the crisis response. We can see how much project leaders from crisis areas feel supported and empowered when they visit places like Tamera. Here they see that—and how—a holistic and integrated system can work, and that also in the Global North people can live together on a foundation of mutual support and trust. This is a basis for all technical and ecological solutions. In my eyes Paulo´s main quality was to integrate. I think he gathered experts who are ready to work in a team and to be open to the feedback of a community. This is a huge gift that not many experts in the world share. It is strange: without Paulo having passed away we would not see all of this happen."
Supporting Skala Ecovillage in Greece was the first intervention of a Blueprint team.(http://gen.ecovillage.org/en/node/5868) Many more are planned.