At last! On New Year’s Day no less with the holiday season nearly over, the time has come to try and finish telling you this Christmas story! The time has come for me to reveal to you why I shared with you the hopefully enjoyable story about the falling of my family’s Christmas tree and my work around the collaborative with my intentional community (which I will call here  “Upstart” for short).

After years of exploring these ideas in my community, I am so excited to get to this point! At the same time, I will share with you for reasons that will become more clear, that I am also feeling quite terrified because for me doing so is, well, deeply personal. Yet, nothing, absolutely nothing could be more central to my view of what is needed to deal with the current ecological crises on this planet.

Unearthing my reasons

soilSizedOne of perhaps the most obvious, as well as important to me, reasons why I chose to share this story on my environmental blog is this: what happened with the Christmas tree ‘calamity’ at my house is just a micro example of what ideally could be happening at the meta-level on the world stage.

I say this because just as my family sought to manage, mitigate and learn from the situation, humans might handle the cumulative effects of smaller actions (e.g. engines burning fossil fuels), and larger environmental disasters (e.g. oil spills) occurring around the world in a similar fashion.

That I would feel this way is not a surprise for me. My intentional community makes a practice of looking for macro applications of micro examples. In fact, this is so much the case that we frequently say that change happens at and around the “kitchen sink.” By that I mean, the way we do the dishes, or put up a Christmas tree for that matter, can help prepare us to handle bigger, more complicated challenges in bringing about the changes we deeply want, need, and value.

These changes include for me nothing less than saving and restoring entire ecosystems, in at least as much of their existing and/or potential biophysical complexity as possible. Along with caring for the species in them, including the one species that perhaps stands the greatest to lose with the environmental changes underway, namely humans our selves.

Through the eyes of a child


A picture of Liliana that I particularly love. © 2017 Alisa McClurg

As impossible a goal as that may sound, other reasons have inspired my writing, reasons that could help further make possible the protection and restoration of earth’s ecosystems. This includes a consideration of the amazing impact this I felt we had on my daughter by treating her in a caring and non-judgmental (or as my community might also say, collaborative) fashion when our tree fell. Rather than punishing her for what happened, we found ways to, as we like to say in Upstart, nudge and nurture her learning in the situation.

For me, this experience stirred an even stronger recognition of the importance of treating all children in this way. Which is so important, because after all as the saying goes, the future of our planet depends on them!

While this notion is not unique, being involved with my intentional community has really driven home that point for me. In part this is because our work greatly focuses on how to interact with children in ways that make deep sense. Consequently, books (including the one I mentioned earlier, Honey I Wrecked the Kids) on child psychology and child development are common reading in my community. Far from being just theoretical ideas, I can truly say this and other aspects of our work has had a profound impact on us, if only how my daughter has been so enthusiastically welcomed into and cared for in my community.

Nurturing ourselves too!

Another, perhaps even more inspiring reason has caused me to share with you what I have so far relates to how the learning that my partner and I have done. For me this has been through my direct involvement in Upstart, and Richard largely through a process of sort of osmosis where I have been sharing with him what I have been learning. I believe that this gradual nurturing of our learning enabled us to respond in the way did.

I find this pretty exciting because it suggests that other adults could go through a similar learning process about how to how to respond to the world in ways that make deep sense. I feel passionate about this because, while children may be our future, WE are the ones with the power to alter that future, with all its pressing environmental and other issues, right now. Children simply cannot afford for us to wait for them to do all the work for us.


As much as this idea is also not unique, my involvement with my intentional community showed me just how possible it is for even adults to learn how to modify their behaviour. That is because my community is, you could say, a motley collection of mainly adults. We are of varying ages (some of us who have joined in their teens while others are older, if not in their senior years). What is more, we have been engaged for quite some time in what you could call a selfishly altruistic fashion to bring about our own personal transformation, in order to help us bring about the type of change that we want to see in the world.

Preparing to Dig Even Deeper

As I considered all of these reasons that inspired me to share what I have here around the falling of my family’s Christmas tree, I can see their appeal to me. Far from being nice ideas meant just to be considered in our quest for environmental sustainability and resilience, I believe they are precious jewels of wisdom that need to be brought along with me always in my journey.  And yet, something more to do with my passion for the environment has inspired me to share what I have, if you will only give me a little while longer…

Though I haven’t quite finished this Christmas story yet, I do believe I have a bit more time as the holiday season has not quite ended. As my daughter reminds me each time she sings the tune, really as we are still in the “Twelve Days of Christmas”! Hoping you will stay with me just a while longer so that I can finally finish my telling of this story for you.

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