Swords into Ploughshares – How the Internet Increases Resilience

swords into ploughshares

swords into ploughshares

It excites me to see how the internet, a tool created to serve the purposes of war, has become one which is increasingly useful in servicing aspects of community. It is a fine example of ‘beating swords into plowshares’ a concept in which military weapons or technologies are converted for peaceful civilian applications. The phrase originates from the Book of Isaiah, who prophesies of a future age where there will be peace amongst all humankind:

They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.
Isaiah 2:4 & Micah 4:3

I recognise that there is an argument here that the present state of our industrialised farming system may be doing more harm to the planet than any war has ever done. But for now lets presume that turning weapons of war into farm implements is a good thing!

The internet was originally designed as a robust, fault-tolerant network for the military, a network that could continue to operate even if parts of it were destroyed. It now hosts all sorts of useful communities and resources, allowing people who would never otherwise have met, to seek each other out and share stuff. It isn’t just limited to information either. All sorts of ecological communities exist, valuing exchange over purchase and free information over controlled or limited. These are increasing in number, extent and usage. In many ways the internet represents the democratisation of knowledge, but there are still powerful forces at work to limit our access to freedom of information and ‘truth’.

Here are some of my favourite free places, which I believe contribute towards creating resilience:

Freecycle: www.uk.freecycle.org/ : Freecycle groups match people who have things they want to get rid of with people who can use them, and so keeping usable items out of landfills.

Seedswaps: eg http://www.seedswaps.com/ : I love these sites because since the 1970’s, to sell seeds the strain needs to be registered, costing a prohibitive £300 per year and £2,000 to register a ‘new’ one. Garden Organic run the Heritage Seed Library and get around the law by asking individual gardeners to become ‘seed guardians’ who pass around seeds for free to other members of the Library.

With Monsanto and other multinationals claiming ‘ownership’ of seeds and plants (also called biopiracy) as part of the commercialisation of plants and traditional medicine, removing and saving seed, even from your own crops, has become illegal in some parts of the world and subject to prosecution. Simple seed exchanging can remove seed from commercial cycles and helps to oppose the patenting of life forms for the profit of the few. Who would have thought that gardening could be a revolutionary activity !

Free Libraries: eg http://www.thefreelibrary.com/, and www.gutenberg.org/ :Since 2003, The Free Library has offered free, full-text versions of classic literary works from hundreds of celebrated authors, whose biographies, images, and famous quotations can also be found on the site. Recently, The Free Library has been expanded to include a massive collection of periodicals from hundreds of leading publications covering Business and Industry, Communications, Entertainment, Health, Humanities, Law, Government, Politics, Recreation and Leisure, Science and Technology, and Social Sciences. This collection includes millions of articles dating back to 1984 as well as newly-published articles that are added to the site daily.

Project Gutenberg offers over 33000 free ebooks to download for your PC, Mac, iPad, Kindle, Nook, Sony Reader, iPhone, iPod Touch, Android or other mobile or cell phone.

Green Living Forum: http://www.thegreenlivingforum.net/forum/ : Originally a spinoff of BBC series ‘Its Not Easy Being Green’ but a tremendous and often well-informed community with a wealth of information on the how-to’s of green living. The purpose of this forum is to support people in living more sustainable lives, regardless of what level they start from. The forum encompasses all shades of green, and all are welcome. Everyone can make a difference, regardless of whether they are starting from a relatively ungreen position, or are a much darker hue. Therefore it is paramount that everyone is encouraged to do what they can, and all positive steps are recognised.

Transition Network: http://www.transitionnetwork.org/ : The purpose of this website is to:

  • provide an introduction to the concepts, principles and practices of Transition around the world
  • show you how to go about setting up and developing a Transition Initiative in your locale
  • help you deal with some of the objections you may come up against
  • identify training that you may need as your initiative progresses
  • enable you to connect to other Transition Initiatives, People, and Projects around the world

Streetbank: http://www.streetbank.com/ : Share things with your neighbours

Impossible: https://www.impossible.com/: A global Community Here to Help

The Dark Mountain Project: http://dark-mountain.net/ : The Dark Mountain Project is a network of writers, artists and thinkers who have stopped believing the stories our civilisation tells itself. We produce and seek out writing, art and culture rooted in place, time and nature.

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