Informing the Campfire Community every day

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Ben Gray - 14 Feb 2020


"When we sit around a fire, laugh, sing and dance - it speaks to our DNA. Like an animal that has been returned to the wild after many years in captivity - we instinctively know what to do, and it feels good. This is how we remember how to be human..."

Amended from an Ecohustler article by Root Cuthbertson

Edited by Ben Gray


One hundred acres of land on the outskirts of our town that is owned by this community in perpetuity.

“The future will belong to the nature-smart—those individuals, families, businesses, and political leaders who develop a deeper understanding of the transformative power of the natural world and who balance the virtual with the real. The more high-tech we become, the more nature we need.” —RICHARD LOUVE

Long ago, I've been told, we humans lived on this island differently than we do now. Before the Romans named this place “Britannia,” we settled in villages, hamlets, and crofts. Our culture was intact, and we lived within our means with a great appreciation for the natural world. While we still suffered from disease and disaster, warfare and small-mindedness, we had a greater sense of connection. We felt connected to our families and communities, our kith and our kin, all the flora and fauna who share these shores with us.

Modern humans have walked this earth for around 300,000 years. Only for the last 7,000 years or so have we not lived as hunter-gatherers. Intimately connected with our tribe, our land and all the beings around us has been our normal for 96% of our history. Nature provided everything we needed and so of course as human-beings we honoured her and maintained the harmonious balance and observing the natural laws.

Maybe, in recent times, you have felt disconnected? Maybe you have begun to notice a lack of empathy, or even an apathy, prickling at the edges of your awareness? Something you can almost see out of the corner of your eye? A sense that business-as-usual may no longer be what's most needed? That the quick-fix solutions may not be the purported panacea for all of our ills? I fear this feeling has become quite commonplace, as many of us have become more disenchanted and disheartened.

Jon Young, the American tracker, author, and speaker, and the founder of the 8 Shields Institute has said that western society is “facing a great Connection challenge.” He points to research that children are more and more frequently diagnosed with maladies like Nature Deficit, Clinical Depression, or Sensory Processing Disorder, as well as an alarming increase in teen suicide rates. Elders are frequently abandoned and alone, parents of young children are overburdened, midlife crises result from a loss of meaning despite “having it all.” 

Nonetheless, Young says, there's hope. Our neurobiology has evolved in connection with nature, and if we give it a chance, it can recalibrate. Our senses can come alive again, as can our empathy, and we can learn how to re-Connect. He recommends foundational development in nature, intergenerational transfer of skills, and the reestablishment of a regenerative culture based on nature connection. He proposes a process of re-Connecting, both to humans and to nature, which he says can lead to culture repair. According to this definition, we westerners haven't experienced a healthy culture, whose primary function is to provide for Connection, for a very long time. Instead we've accustomed to a disconnected business-as-usual, with little thought for what we may have lost, what might be missing.

In 1983 Young began running experiments in connection, small anthropological studies, if you like. These led him to further questions, and to elders who helped him develop a program. By 1995, with a much larger team involved, the program had grown into a week-long summer camp called the Art of Mentoring. These have continued to spark people's imagination, catching and spreading internationally and has formed what has now become a global movement of cultural repair and regeneration.

There are certain activities that we do, that seem to awake a memory in our very bones. When we sit around a fire, laugh, sing and dance - it speaks to our DNA. Like  an animal that has been returned to the wild after many years in captivity - we instinctively know what to do, and it feels good. This is how we remember how to be human, how we find our meaning. It is a path that leads to many great treasures that awaken the soul and bring us into our power. Rewilding ourselves is precisely the medicine we need for this time.

The Frome Forest Project vision, is to create a permanent community-owned area of land (over 100 acres) on the edge of our town. A place to gather and re-learn healthy connective practices, with areas of land set aside for rewilding and permaculture farming. Imagine several kid's programs integrated with elders, and various adult programs. People suffering from certain mental health issues such as chronic loneliness, isolation, depression are referred to us by their GP’s. Imagine a basket weaving workshop for people recently bereaved - held in our round-house. Using well-researched nature-connection methods honed over several decades, our top class facilitators masterfully create a safe space, in which we heal and create together. We form connections with one another and with nature, just as we have always done.

Occasionally we hold rites of passage ceremonies for the teens. We have evenings that are spent around the fire listening to stories and singing soulfully heartbreaking songs with impossibly talented musicians. We have an ancestor’s wood which includes a natural burial ground where we honour those who have gone before, and those who are yet to be born.

There's a wealth of time to connect with nature through wandering, tracking, resting and playing games, alongside sharing practical ancestral skills like weaving, cordage, basketry, knots, woodcarving, and reading the landscape. There's space to listen deeply to each other and to be asked questions which invite us to show up even more fully in our gifts and genius.

This project will ensure Frome’s position of innovation and leadership relating to biodiversity loss, climate change resilience, community-wide nature connection and rewilding; issues that are expected to become increasingly urgent in the future and that demand leadership and expertise. It will help to provide crucial foundations from which to nurture the leaders we need for tomorrow. And crucually, it will serve as a beacon to seed and support similar projects locally and globally.

The land will be owned by a Not for Profit community interest company (CIC) on behalf of the town of Frome. The management will be governed by a strong and clear remit to always be in the service to the town, and will in turn be overseen by a group of trustees.

Funding for the project will be through a combination of ways including from public and private partnerships, grants, and crowd-funding.  Annual funding for running the project will be sourced through private backing and grants, from government, NHS and local authority with the scope to meet some of the funding requirements through revenue streams within the project as they develop.

We can achieve this vision. Frome is a rich and fertile ground for this project. Now is the time. We are the people. Please help us to make the change we want to see.