Feeling helpless and hopeless about climate disruption? Some of the most powerful solutions are in places most people are not looking.
In 1985, Amory Lovins wrote the ground breaking article, “Saving Gigabucks with Negawatts,” where he argued that utility customers don’t want kilowatt-hours of electricity; they want energy services such as hot showers, cold beer, lit rooms, and spinning shafts, which can come more cheaply if electricity is used more efficiently. Intentional communities and especially income sharing communes can use a similar approach to reducing their carbon footprint.
You can think of communities and climate in a way similar to negawatts. People living in community don’t really care if they own a car or bicycle or set of clothing. What they want are transportation services and clothing services. If these can be provided more efficiently than through personal ownership then their needs are met. This is where radical sharing comes in and changes the entire climate discussion.
If you are in the Boston/Cambridge area this Thursday, please come to the MIT campus and come to our workshop (Facebook RSVP) on the techniques and philosophies which help these communities reduce their carbon footprint by 80%
MIT Campus 70 Memorial Dr Room E51-145, , Cambridge, MA 02142 – 7 to 9 PM
All are welcome, there is no cost to attend this event.
If you are not on Facebook, but wish to attend please let us know at paxus @ twinoaks.org
pictures from Rejoice
We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them. Albert Einstein
For the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. They allow us to temporarily beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change. Audre Lorde
The world has changed so much since I was 20. I am not only speaking about the internet and gay marriage, which are good things, but rather how it seems harder to find your way socially and economically. The road to economic security far more bumpy. Alienation is rampant. Workplaces are often dehumanizing and many people hate their jobs. There are many causes of this breakdown in our culture, environmental degradation, wealth inequality, a weakened labor movement, unbridled capitalism, systemic systems of oppression, government cutback of social services, unsustainable and consumer driven lifestyles. My generation (I graduated high school in 1981) did not do enough to build communal spirit and tackle key problems. We gave greed and materialism a pass.
I was lucky enough to be part of a generation that had access to higher education that was affordable. Unlike many of today’s graduates, I did not graduate from college in huge debt. I could choose meaningful work even if it did not pay well. I could travel and choose to live alternatively. Currently, student debt is crippling and thus limits choices after graduation. From the get go, you have to make money to pay off your school debt. This is the beginning of the golden handcuffs that force people to work for money rather than to have meaningful occupations.
I am not surprised when I meet people in their 20’s (which I do quite frequently since I have a 24 year old daughter) that they are frustrated with their lack of prospects and are often not sure what to do with their lives. Given my generation’s failure to usher in a world with better prospects, I hesitate to give advice. Nonetheless, this is what I think: Pursue paths that teach you how to think and live differently. If you can learn one thing, it would be how to radically share resources. This solves many problems including alienation and economic instability. Millennials are already choosing to live communally out of necessity.
Egalitarian income sharing communities are models for radical sharing and living in non-hierarchical ways that offer a way of life that gets us away from competition and the scarcity mentality and instead offers a way to learn skills that build cooperative culture.
No one really knows how life will change as the planet heats up, but we do know that we cannot and will not be living in the same unsustainable way we live now. At the very least, we can predict that we will be living with scarcer resources and less mobility. People will have to work together and share more. In the future it will be helpful for people to know how to grow their own food and conserve water People simply cannot be so wasteful. Conservation and community building will be the key to your happiness. It will be important to learn to live simply and by that I mean learning to be happy with what you have and getting out of the more is better mentality. Learning to find joy in connecting with others, sitting around having good conversations and working side by side will be the best way forward.
What are the tools for building this way of life? This is a complicated question that is explored in Maikwe Ludwig’s upcoming book “Together Resilient” (soon to be released).
College is no longer the only way forward. I am not even sure it is the best way forward. (A comical perspective on this assumption.) Sadly our education system with its emphasis on test scores and competition does not emphasize cooperative culture skills.or the skills needed for a post climate-change world. Many people leave college having never really learned the skills required for building community the heart of which is cultivating a sense of interdependence and problem solving. I am not saying everyone should abandon college aspirations, but I do want to offer another way for those who can’t afford or are not drawn to academia. The life lessons one learns when building and living in community are lessons that are transportable and don’t leave you in a mountain of debt. For more information on income sharing egalitarian communities check out the Federation of Egalitarian Communities.
Aurora DeMarco lives and works as a member of Ganas, an intentional community in New York City. She is also looking to join an FEC community down in Louisa Virginia. She is 54 years old and a mother of two daughters.
The 67th annual (previously biannual) Federation of Egalitarian Communities (FEC) assembly was hosted by East Wind this year. In 1977, the very first FEC Assembly was held on East Wind’s land and forty years later both institutions stand as a testament to the durability of income-sharing and communal living. In mid March FEC delegates and people interested to visit East Wind traveled from Twin Oaks, Acorn, Sandhill, The Midden, and Sapling communities to review the state of the communes and plan for the upcoming year. Communities that wish to become full members of the FEC (known as ‘Communities in Dialogue’) that were in attendance included Stillwater Sanctuary/Possibility Alliance (La Plata, MO), Oran Mor (Wasola, MO), The Mothership (Portland, OR), Rainforest Lab (Forks, WA), Cambia (Louisa County, VA), Le Manoir (Quebec, Canada), and Ionia (Kasilof, Alaska). The Assembly consisted of five days of meetings, land tours, and social gatherings in the evenings. A number of topics were discussed, ranging from financial goals and better ways to support Communities in Dialogue to mediation workshops and how best to communicate the benefits of income-sharing.
The Assembly agenda flowed smoothly and a lot of ground was covered. The budget required a lot less time to finalize than last year and everyone was grateful for it. A new addition to the budget is ‘mini-grants’ which is a program that allows any member of a FEC community or Community in Dialogue to make a requests for small amounts of money ($50-$300) to make travel, education, and outreach opportunities become reality. The existing budget for full member scholarships was also approved and Joston of East Wind is receiving the first $500 grant for the budget year for an intensive permaculture training he will be attending next month right here in the Missouri Ozarks.
The FEC’s annual budget is paid for by member dues equal to 1% of net income for each full member community. In addition to access to the FEC funds for promoting the ideals income-sharing community, inclusion in the FEC also allows communities to become members of PEACH which is the catastrophic health insurance fund for East Wind and its sister communities.
The Assembly isn’t all meetings, of course. A tour of Oran Mor and a land walk at East Wind were some highlights of this year’s Assembly. Oran Mor is a Community in Dialogue that is about forty minutes from East Wind. They value living a low consumption life style and avoiding the use of fossil fuels. Last year, when East Wind ended its goat program the remaining goats were gifted to Oran Mor and they are healthy and happy. This year, in return, Oran Mor gifted East Wind with some of their ducks. Thanks Oran Mor!
This year the FEC accepted Compersia as a full member community. Compersia is an urban commune based outside of Washington DC. Steve, Compersia’s ever energetic and upbeat delegate, is excited to participate in outreach by getting people interested in income-sharing and communal living. He emphasized the fact that people with careers in an urban setting can mutually benefit from income-sharing and that communes don’t have to manifest in the form of ‘back to the land’ rural arrangements such as East Wind and Twin Oaks. Also during the assembly, Davi of The Mothership finalized a purchase of a neighboring house in Portland. They are interested in expanding and having the infrastructure for population growth. Urban and rural communes unite!
The Assembly was a great time to meet new people and strengthen the bonds between the FEC communities. Everyone can agree that East Wind was a generous host. Thank you to all the East Winders who served up delicious breakfasts, lunches, and dinners each day and made all our visitors feel welcome! As usual, the quality and abundance of food found in East Wind’s meals amazes everyone who visits. And of course, upon departure copious amounts of nut butters were distributed to be enjoyed by all of our sister communities. All in all, hundreds of pounds of almond, cashew, peanut, and sesame seed butter left East Wind’s warehouse to be consumed by our fellow communards across the continent. East Wind is grateful to be able to share such bounty. The next FEC Assembly will be held in Virginia on Acorn‘s land. Looking forward to it!
Post written by Sumner
Photos taken by Rejoice (thanks Rejoice!)
by Rejoice from the Federation of Egalitarian Communities blog
The annual assembly for the FEC takes place during March, in an attempt to happen at the beginning of the year when it’s least inconvenient to everyone. We have gardeners whose season hasn’t yet kicked into high gear, a goat herd who’s fielding baby goats (conveniently within range of the assembly), outdoor workers whose season hasn’t totally started yet, and people to whom the changing of seasons has absolutely no effect.
“I don’t understand agriculture. I eat trash.” – Alex of the Midden
We come together with two main purposes:
(a) to discuss common challenges, provide mutual aid, discuss problems beyond our reach, relate to each other as individuals and cooperate beyond our essential cooperative venture as a federation.
(b) to set our annual budget, including re-occurring costs of maintaining our obligations as an organization (labor exchange travel subsidy, mutual aid scholarships…), and proposals brought to us as an organization.
For our 2016 assembly, we declared the first three days to be “New Communities Weekend”, and the following three days to be oriented towards our business and budget. During this assembly, we accepted five new communities as being “communities in dialog” with the FEC. This is the largest single-year increase in community-building that anyone can remember, and we are heartened that each community has experienced communards to shepherd them along the path towards egalitarian living.
Our new communities in dialog include Cambia Community of Louisa county, AC/DC of the Point A DC project, Quercus Community as an offshoot of Acorn Community in Richmond, Sycamore Farm Community established by ex-Twin Oakers near Arcadia and the Appalachian Trail in Virginia, and the Chocolate Factory as established by former members and residents of the Mothership also in Portland, Oregon. These communities are largely income-sharing already, or have a strong understanding that this is their community goal. (AC/DC just started sharing income on Thursday, the day after the assembly completed and before they all begin living on the same property.)
It seems likely that at least some of our new communities will follow the path of Sapling Community, the newest full member community in the FEC, which fully joined at the federation during the previous year’s assembly at Sandhill in 2015. The purchase of the Sapling land was internally financed by Acorn Community, the Federation of Egalitarian Communities, and PEACH, instead of bank loans. The community was established by five experienced communards in October 2014, with a cottage industry incubated by Twin Oaks and Acorn Communities, and has already weathered the turnover of all of its founding members and is still the most rapidly successful new community in the movement in the last five years.
Some goals and plans of the upcoming year as we established during the assembly:
by Raven MoonRaven
This blog focuses on egalitarian, income-sharing communities, also known as communes. Several weeks back I put out a piece called “Why Income Sharing?” This might be considered a companion piece, exploring the egalitarian nature of the communes.
The Oxford Dictionary defines Egalitarian as meaning: “Believing in or based on the principle that all people are equal and deserve equal rights and opportunities.”
For the way the communes structure themselves, the opposite of egalitarian is hierarchical. Most businesses and religions are organized in a hierarchical way–where the leaders have leaders and the bosses have bosses. Cooperative businesses are one big exception to this. I also think it’s interesting to note that there are a few very egalitarian religions–that is, religions without hierarchical leadership: some forms of Quakers, the Chavurah movement, and the Reclaiming pagans. (I’m personally curious to hear of other egalitarian religious groups.)
Many intentional communities define themselves as egalitarian: almost all co-op households and many ecovillages and cohousing communities. The reason that the communes that we talk about on this blog use the term egalitarian is that there are many hierarchical income sharing communities, where there are leaders or gurus who decide how to manage the money. (Unfortunately, these are also known as communes.) The Federation of Egalitarian Communities in the US was specifically set up to support secular, egalitarian income-sharing communities, as opposed to hierarchical, religious communes.
How egalitarian are the communes in the FEC?
Twin Oaks is the community that some people wonder about. They have planners and managers and make decisions by a type of voting (many of the newer communities have none of these things and make decisions by consensus). There are folks who wonder if the planners run the community–aren’t they in charge and don’t they have the power?
But planners can only be in the position for eighteen months (hardly gurus running the place) and what’s more, their power is limited by the Twin Oaks membership. And since they, themselves, are members of the community and live with, work with, and eat with everyone else (as do the managers) they find themselves very beholden to the community. They constantly read what people write on the O & I board and pay attention carefully to what members think. An unpopular decision can have pretty bad consequences. I heard one story about a planner who after making a membership decision that many people disliked, was run out of the dining room by a member who was upset by the decision and wanted to make it very clear. This makes it difficult to find people who want to be planners. And apparently, recently Twin Oaks ended up (at least temporarily) without any planners.
Similarly with managers. Folks at Twin Oaks point out that most people work in a lot of different areas and people who are managers in one area are just workers in another. It can happen that in the morning person A will be the manager in an area that person B is working in and in the afternoon person B will be the manager in another area that person A happens to be working in.
And, again, Twin Oaks is the most structured of the communes, the only one with planners and one of the few with managers. In most of the communes, it’s just a group of people living together, sharing income, and often working together. In the communes, leadership is just something people do, not a position.
So my point is that the communes on this blog not only share money, but they share leadership. That’s what’s egalitarian about them.