Online Communities Spotlight

Online/Fluid Communities: Communities that are based on the internet (e.g. Facebook groups) or that do not have an official or centralized organizing space.

Online Communities Spotlight

by Alyx Couch

With rising temperatures and carbon dioxide levels due to fossil fuel use in nearly every industry, consumer item, and daily processes such as eating, driving, and using electricity at home, there has been a shift to local, sustainable, and ethical consumption. People desire more and more to be integrated into their communities, and to be more connected to the places they call home. Though capitalism is the system that we live under and within, it is possible to leave our regular wage-earning jobs every day and do things that leave us feeling fulfilled, such as gardening or engaging in our communities through volunteer work, trading labor for goods, or just by cleaning through our clutter and getting rid of things someone else may be able to put to better use. Online communities make all of these things easier to be engaged in.

Though there are some negatives to Facebook, there are also numerous online communities on the networking site that make it possible to engage with others locally about our interests and learn more, and “Permaculture Utah” is one of these. Permaculture Utah is a Facebook group comprised of over 2,200 members and is consistently growing. Permaculture is a way for people to move away from industrial agriculture and artificial pesticides to sustainable agriculture, using biological resources and modeling farms and gardens after natural ecosystems. The group’s About section defines permaculture as “permanent agriculture, leading to permanent culture.” This definition speaks volumes about what impact this practice could have on our world. If we switch from carbon and nitrogen-intensive farming that harms the planet to biologically-sound farming, we humans could keep thriving and being resilient in this world, as well.

Permaculture Utah strengthens this resiliency by bringing people together, from advanced and experienced permaculturists to people who are just curious and want to learn more. This group provides a platform for people to share ideas and community events, as well as to educate each other. In this group you find a lot of mentions of resilience and building resilient communities, information on environmental advocacy and activism, and links to become certified in permaculture online. This online community makes permaculture information accessible to people who may not otherwise have access, or may be uncomfortable inserting themselves into a community they know nothing about. People also plan meet-ups, workshops, and ask to borrow or offer to lend tools to tend to their gardens. This leads to another type of online forum, used for bartering, trading, and giving away things that may not be useful to the owner anymore.

Use value-based trade was humans’ main form of trade until exchange value (profit) came about. Exchanging carpentry for farm labor, or exchanging veggies for baked goods, was the economic system humans lived under, rather than obtaining money and trading that money for goods. The use value trading system still exists today, and it is alive and well in the Facebook group “Salt Lake City Barter ’n’ Bank.” This group has 683 members in the Salt Lake area, and trade goods or labor for other goods or labor. “Consumerism be diminished,” the group’s About page reads. Members post items they are willing to swap for other items, but they are also able to sell items as long as the group’s “theme of supporting community” is still followed.

While Salt Lake City Barter ’n’ Bank is for the bartering, trading, and selling of goods, another group called “Free Stuff – Utah” is for what it sounds like: Free Stuff. This online community is a few members away from 10,000, and there are posts nearly every day about items people are giving away for free. No one in the group is allowed to post “in search of” or ISO items, because the group is only for things members are giving away, not what they are looking for. Items range from furniture, to car parts, to kittens, and even to food, and sometime employers post about job offerings. Most people who post are in the process of moving, or are just looking to declutter and get rid of things. While some things may seem like junk, such as magazines or corks, people do use these items for crafts or art.

These groups help aid in local, person-to-person recycling, not only lowering what goes into our landfills, but lowering the amount of items people purchase which may be shipped from far away, and also thinking of others who may need the things you are getting rid of before you decide to throw them away. Online communities perpetuate more empathetic societies through promoting conversation between others in order to learn trades and skills, or give away food instead of tossing it in the trash, or to offer one’s services in exchange for others’ they may need. These groups promote resilience by uniting community members and encouraging working together for more than profit. ⚘



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