Basic human relationships are the cornerstone of our civilization, and that is precisely a big part of what has been suffering in the modern era. By this I mean, we have never had a society that has fostered more isolation, more individualism, and a greater sense of disconnection from ourselves, each other, and the environment.
I was speaking with someone a generation older than myself. She told me about the greater sense of community she enjoyed while she was growing up: Playing with neighborhood kids, being outside more often, parents getting together for barbecues, and all the wholesome down-to-Earth things people used to do as a matter of course, prior to the technological revolution.
If we skip back a generation further, we would see a greater presence of family farms and an overall simpler way of life based largely on strong families and communities. The industrial/technological revolution has shifted the economic focus towards individuals working for increasingly large corporations. Indeed, the community feel of generations past seems like a distant ancestral memory for many of us.
I am basing my observations largely on the testimonials of clients I have spoken to in my counseling practice. There is a huge correlation between the prevalence of depression, anxiety, and addictive behaviors and individuals reporting that they feel isolated, lonely, and cut off from their community as a whole.
The nature of our means of survival can also make us feel disconnected from the community. If we work in a cubicle doing repetitive tasks for a large corporation, it is easy to feel small and insignificant. If we are working on our family farm, we always know our place and feel useful, even though the tasks may be more arduous.
I am suggesting that we integrate what has worked in the past into our current society. Food production and sovereignty in small communities was once the cornerstone of the economy. It is also a universal way that human beings connect and socialize; since everyone eats, it is an easy way to create unity in the community.
The fairly recent advent of farmers markets and the local food movement in general is a great precursor to what can come in the future. There is a popular Facebook group called Grow Food, Not Lawns which encourages people to use whatever space they have towards food production. Grassroots initiatives are great, but edible roots and vegetables are even better.
I've been involved with local food production for the past 10 years and it has been a great way to foster a sense of connection and community spirit. I've suggested to clients that they get involved in community gardens as a means to decrease symptoms of depression and anxiety.
The awareness of how our food system has been largely co-opted by Big Business has spread steadily. Groups like March Against Monsanto simultaneously spread awareness of studies that link aspects of our "conventional" food system to health problems as well as offering practical solutions to increased healthy food security and accessibility.
Food and drink are basically the most important aspects of our daily lives, and yet it is so easy to forget its importance amidst a techno-driven society. We often look forward to a great meal with friends at the end of a hard work week. The communities of the future will integrate the awareness and best practices around food sovereignty to cultivate that sense of human connection that we all seem to crave.