Saturday, January 31, 2009

Camp Runamuck: It's all about the kids

Over two weeks have passed since our small group soaked up the cool pools of Icy Creek while the thermometer soared to 38C during our Camp Runamuck retreat at Nanga Mill camp site in the hills near Dwellingup.

Our kids, true to tradition, ran amuck, scouring the area for hidden trails and secret treasures. A big dusty hill in the center of the camp became a racing track for Tonka trucks imparting a thick film of healthy dirt over our little 'Pigpens'.

The rest of us, intermittently repressing our suburban anxieties over hidden snakes and skinned knees, had several useful conversations about the Maia Maia Project.

There was a range of understandings about what we wanted to accomplish, what booyas (our alternative currency based on achieving community targets in environmental footprint reduction) actually were, and whether they were important or not. Perhaps the single biggest insight from these discussions was that for many the possible financial benefits of a local community currency were entirely secondary to feeling that as a group we could do something about climate change. In other words, if generating and exchanging booyas helped this process that would be great, but it would be just fine if booyas only existed as an indicator of successful action.

Bryce summarised this insight for us by stating that booyas actually had three layers of value.
1. An intrinsic value without any exchange required as an indicator of community pride in doing something.
2. A social value in that any exchange of booyas would further provide social recognition of our efforts.
3. A possible economic value to be realised sometime in the future depending upon how things evolved.

People are free to engage with the Maia Maia Project on any of these three levels, and to me these three layers of value mean that booyas can be a flexible and creative tool that have the potential to evolve into something greater that what we as a group can currently conceive.

Another great idea that came up was the concept of a booya auction where families could bring unwanted possessions destined for eBay, yard sales, or the tip and hold to an auction where only booyas could be spent. This event would encourage recycling rather than consumption and would highlight the social and economic value of booyas.

But the real stars of Camp Runamuck were the kids.

They started by designing and decorating our very first batch of booyas with denominations ranging from 5 to 5000000000000. Some of the designs were superb and the older kids, 'Those Martin Girls', came up with interesting and aesthetic approaches to preventing counterfeiting.

Then, on the basis of pledges to take specific actions on global warming, the booyas were disbursed to the parents. The kids then ran tours for adults, in exchange for booyas, of all the interesting places they had found in their explorations.

Then, hunkered down in the art tent, they designed their own commemorative Camp Runamuck 2009 T-Shirts that are still worn with pride.

Finally they retired down to Icy Creek painting their faces and bodies with ocher ground up from creek bed material.

Their enthusiasm and intuitive grasp of concepts were a counter to the cynicism and sadness the subject of global warming can invoke in adult minds. The kids created an opening for optimism and, as they are the center of their parents hopes for the future, motivation to act.

What emerged from the weekend is that the Maia Maia Project is at it's heart an educational initiative, focused on empowering our kids and engendering an understanding that can heal the historical rift between economy and the environment. It is this fourth value that is at the heart of what we are attempting, and that fourth value is called 'Hope'.