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Study Group Update: Cultures of Place

Photo by Flickr user Reinis Ivanovs

Photo by Flickr user Reinis Ivanovs

This Saturday the Sustainable Renton Study Group goes back to the beginning. Before our world became a global marketplace, communities were rooted in place—intimately familiar with their environments, and familiar with the social landscape in which they lived. Such was necessary for survival.

In my day to day interactions with people, the complaint I hear most often is that we no longer have community. That we are rootless, and as a result of that, people feel lost and alone. Many others feel we have been reduced from citizens to consumers. That Homo Sapiens has been replaced with Homo Economicus. We are disconnected from ourselves, our communities, and our environment.

In my mind the question arises, “must it be this way?” “Has it always been this way?” To explore this, we take a look at societies who until recently have been largely untouched by the process of globalization.

The introduction to this month’s module, Cultures of Place: Scale, Place, Community quotes a remark by anthropologist Franz Boas. He said that knowledge of other cultures “enables us to look with greater freedom at the problems confronting our civilization.”

In this module we begin familiarizing ourselves with place-based cultures from around the world in order to see what has changed in our own cultures.

This is not to idealize the past or romanticize traditional cultures. We cannot go back to the past, and indeed most of us would not want to. But the question must be asked, what have we lost along the way? Is there a way to recapture that sense of being rooted in the community, and can we reconnect with the planet and each other in a way that keeps the best of the old and the new, and moves toward something even better?

You do not have to have been a member of the group or have read the readings to come, please just come and join in the discussion. Of course, doing the readings helps, and to get them, please contact me, Preston Glidden at and I will set you up!

I look forward to seeing you on Saturday at 10AM at Sustainable Renton HQ! The address is 970 Harrington Ave NE in Renton. See you there!




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