We Are Building The Road As We Walk


By Mariana Mendoza

How do we transition from a world of domination and extraction to a world of resilience and regeneration? How do we move away from a system that has been ingrained in most of our daily activities and thoughts, and grow with the values that support justice and wellness? Like many people, throughout my work in the social, economic and environmental justice movement, I have been asking these questions and have been trying to figure out how to be resilient and regenerative and not repeat the failures of the exploitative and extractive economy.

This past July 8-11 2016, I had the great opportunity to attend to to the New Economy Coalition’s conference CommonBound, where brilliant and powerful people got together to learn about how develop and grow better systems to live in. It was a full-schedule five-day event, with hundreds of participants, music, art, connections. The workshops and discussions were all so interesting that was hard to choose where to go to. They ranged from the role of technology in the new economy (the “new economy” is the vision of transforming the old, extractive economy into one that is just, sustainable, and democratic) to reparations and immigration reform. People came from all over the US and other parts of the world such as Canada, Spain, Cuba, Australia, Japan, Mexico, and El Salvador.


I connected with and learned from wonderful people who are working to strengthen the resilience and collective determination of their communities. I was reminded that we have choices; that the just transition will come from the foundation of values of cooperation, love, and connection; that there are deep wounds that we need to heal; that we need to find ways to “liquify” the system, as caterpillars do as they change into butterflies, and create what we want to be; that we are commonly bounded together, and we are building the road as we walk.

Many talked about solutions like cooperatives, fair trade, equal exchange, direct relationships, participatory budgeting, and community land trusts. Some communicated that the basis of the revolution is not struggle, but rights-- that we need to organize ourselves to change the rules and contest our rights, going from the local to the national and international. Some silently shouted that what we need is connection, connection, connection.

I’ll be honest though, I also felt discouraged, sad, and frustrated at some points in the gathering. We are so immersed in the current systems thinking, that even in these spaces sometimes we still follow its values and think of patches as solutions. It is hard to imagine “out of the box” and envision our lives in different systems and values.


Some people and communities are doing it: PUSH Buffalo, for example, is building the resilience and security the community needs, using their labor to assert their rights, but are most of us really challenging the status quo with our work and daily lives? Are we really imagining out of the dominant ideologies and building what will make all people and the earth thrive? As a Movement Strategy Center’s member said, “We have learned to love capitalism more than ourselves,” and this has greatly impacted how we relate to one another and to the earth, and has disrupted our home, our bodies, souls, and hearts. How to break this cycle? How to break these mindsets? We can’t afford not doing the best we can. 

Malachi Garza, Director of the Community Justice Network said that "we must organize to be as bold as the systems we are against." We have to “un-make” sense of the irrational system we are part of and develop the capacity and practices to form an economy (a way to manage home) that is centered on the well being of the commons, the people, the earth. We need to work with the foundational values that will keep us standing. We need long-term strategies based on relationships. We need to apply our labor in building the new system (“what the hands do, the heart learns”). We need to “shift culture so that we can shift systems.”

The weekend at CommonBound made me realize that we are all still trying to figure out what are the next steps, what is the system we should be creating or growing. We are building the road as we walk. We still don’t know what will work, but something is certain, the basis of this movement needs to be cooperative, relational, loving, resilient, and leaded by people of color.

With the Local Peace Economy initiative we want encourage people to reflect on how we are all invested in the extractive, war economy, take actions to divest from it, and find ways to invest instead in a just, peace economy. Join us as we build this path together.

Mariana is the Local Peace Economy Campaign Manager in Los Angeles, CA. She is passionate about re-imagining better living systems and strongly believes in the power of communities for sustainability and self-determination. She can be reached at Mariana@codepink.org


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