Community · Resources

Navigating our way through an ‘Age of Loneliness’

Here’s an interesting column written by George Monbiot for The Guardian

In it he rails against the growing culture of competition and individualism, concluding that the clear social change marking out this time from those that preceded it is isolation and loneliness – an Age of Loneliness. Recent statistics from the UK mark out loneliness as an epidemic among both the young and the elderly. The negative health impacts are staggering, highlighting our inability to cope alone.

In many ways it’s a depressing read, not least because of the scarcity of tangible solutions or hope offered. George keeps things pretty much at the high level, prescribing that “…if we are to break this cycle and come together once more, we must confront the world-eating, flesh-eating system into which we have been forced.” Quite the challenge.

But I thought it was worth sharing because, as past or present participants in Greener Neighbourhoods, many of you have a firm grasp on the solutions: street parties, skill sharing, working bees, community projects, volunteering, pot lucks, community gardens, preserving bees, talking and sharing over the fence…[insert own idea here]. Getting past the fences can be hard at first, but having an excuse helps and once you start it can be addictive.

Ames Street's street party last year - 80+ households got together, some of whom had never even seen each other before, let alone met.
Ames Street’s street party last year – 80+ households got together, some of whom had never even seen each other before, let alone met.

But it’s sobering to see the UK statistics George cites and be reminded that this may where we are headed as a society as the prevalence of social media, electronic communication and fast-paced lifestyles grows, along with the population. I don’t think NZ as a whole is there yet and am reminded of this regularly by the number of UK immigrants I meet who tell me they love the friendliness of NZ and the feeling of having returned to England as it was many years ago. My hope is that there will come a tipping point where we realise what we have lost – a friendly neighbourhood provides us with a sense of community, support and security- and more of us will set out to recreate that for ourselves and our children.

If you or friends of yours have missed out on taking part in this round of the Greener Neighbourhoods do keep it in mind for next year. We expect to start another round mid 2015.

In the meantime however I have heard from a couple of neighbourhoods who don’t want to wait that long – if this could be you or someone you know, get in touch with me. Many of the activities the neighbourhoods engage in can be instigated at any time by any neighbourhood. I’d be happy to talk over your ideas to see how I might be able to support your homegrown remedy for loneliness.

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