Responsibly managing one thousand acres of land is a big task that requires a community sized effort to do well. Winter is the key time for big forestry and ranch maintenance projects. Last week a controlled burn was executed on two areas, about one acre in total. The day was calm and below freezing for the most part, with just enough wind for an effective and safe burn. Jeremiah led the burn, his third at East Wind. Plenty of communards were on hand to keep an eye on the fire and direct it as necessary.
Fire, whether man-made or natural, is important for various ecosystems such as prairies and forests to maintain health and diversity. This controlled burn was intended to clear brush and recycle crucial nutrients back into the soil. Burns promote diversity by favoring species adapted to fire such as wildflowers. These fields will also warm up faster in the spring time, due to the ash and soot on the ground, which will kick start microbial activity in the soil.
Once the fire break was established it was time for the field to be set alight. Buckets of water, running hoses, and hundred of gallons of water hitched to a tractor were readily available just in case the wind picked up.
All in all the day went perfectly, without a hitch. The fire never became dangerous and the burn plan was executed as intended. Thank you to everyone who came down and helped out!
I wrote in my piece on Communities of Communities about what was happening in Louisa County, Virginia, and in Rutledge, Missouri. In Louisa there are five income sharing communities (plus a nearby Catholic Worker house) and in Rutledge there are three very different types of communities–and a fourth (different again) community only forty miles away. In both of these areas, the different communities strongly support each other. They flourish not in spite of one another but because of one another. I’ve been at Twin Oaks and watched folks from Acorn, Living Energy Farm, and Cambia come by, and been at
Dancing Rabbit and seen folks from Red Earth Farms and Sandhill hang out. (Not to mention being at Acorn and working with folks from Twin Oaks and Little Flower–the Catholic Worker community.)
But I’m seeing connections growing between communities that aren’t even near one another. I’m currently living at Ganas (not an egalitarian, income sharing community) which has a long history with Twin Oaks. I joke about a conveyor belt between the two communities (300 miles from each other) because so many people go back and forth so often. What’s interesting to me has been watching another ‘conveyor’ belt starting up between Acorn in Virginia and East Wind in Missouri as members of each community began spending serious time in the other one.
Then there’s a Federation of Egalitarian Communities and last year’s Assemblyfeatured a host of starting communities. The FEC exists partly to support and network egalitarian, income sharing communities. Similarly, this blog exists to feature them–not only to make people aware that they exist and how many and diverse they are, but to keep communes aware of each other.
Most importantly, as David from las Indias argued in his post called On Diversity, the greater diversity that we seek is likely to come not so much within communities, but among communities. He talks directly about the need to network our communities.
Going back to Louisa, Twin Oaks has a 100 members. That’s a lot and many members are resistant to growing more. Acorn has thirty members and doesn’t want much more because, as one person put it, they don’t want to become Twin Oaks. But now there’s
three more communities down there, trying to grow and new people are often encouraged to investigate them. Telos has written about why he decided to leave Twin Oaksin order to help build Cambia.
What we are talking about here is not just having a few alternative communities, but slowly creating a movement. As we help create more and more communes (through projects like Point A) and network them, we are creating a real alternative to the situation we are inheriting. With networks of income sharing communities, we are not only talking about a few communities in the US, or even North America (and there are a couple of Canadian communities in dialogue with the FEC), but throughout the world, as we connect with communities in Spain and Germany–and maybe the kibbutzim and other communes throughout the world. There is already a Global Ecovillage Network and the Fellowship of Intentional Communitiesis busy connecting diverse communities from communes to urban co-op houses to large cohousing projects. Communities matter and as we begin to connect with each other and network together, we are creating that movement.
It’s certainly not the way I think everyone should live, but I do think there are a lot of people who might be interested in living this way if they knew it was possible. Twin Oaks has a waiting list again, and I suspect Acorn and other communities do as well, and that makes me realize that there’s a lot more interest in the communities than there is space in them. The Atlantic magazine just published a piece on people looking at communes because they’re “Seeking an Escape from Trump’s America“. I only think that in these times, the movement is going to grow. As I said in my first piece on this blog, I think thatcommunes are important. I think that it’s equally important to network and grow. This is true social change.
The Administration of the 45th President of the United States
We’ve had a front row seat for two weeks to American kakistocracy – government by the worst, most incompetent, and inappropriate persons. We’ve witnessed the new administration’s willful disregard for the Constitution, lack of forethought or regard for the sweeping impact of policy decisions on the population, and the steady, targeted erosion of rights. Americans took to the streets to resist the pathology of self-serving, morally bankrupt oligarchs.
Solution-thinking: Counter fragmentation with collaboration. If a dysfunctional government ignores the needs of its constituents and seeks to normalize discrimination, we respond by affirming our diversity and strengthen our interdependence. If the executive branch is plagued by power-and-control infighting, operates under cover of darkness, and is ruled by impulse, we counterbalance with collaboration, transparency, and wisdom. The task of transforming the collective unconscious so as to give rise to a new kind of government falls to us.
Alternatives: Resistance is a vital “holding action” that saves lives and alleviates suffering. Long term localized resilience-building will get us through the eye of the climate change needle. For environmentalists and
allies, step one is to take our cue from natural living systems which self-organize seamlessly. Step two is to look to the best examples of human ecosystems which are already actively engaged in biomimicry—modeling systems on nature, and biological processes.
Make like a tree: Organic, self-organizing tree intelligence. Oh, would that we could behave like trees, our oldest companions on Earth! Trees are social beings. They speak a sophisticated silent language, communicating complex information via smell, taste and electrical impluse. We’re only just beginning to understand non-human consciousness.
Trees share their food and sometimes nourish competitors. They know the advantages of working together. On its own a tree cannot establish a consistent local climate. It’s at the mercy of the wind and weather. But together many trees create an ecosystem that moderates weather extremes. In this protected environment trees can live to be very old. To get to this point the community must remain intact no matter what. If every tree was only looking out for itself, quite a few would never reach old age. Regular fatalities would result in large gaps in the tree canopy allowing storms to ravage the community and uproot members. Summer heat would reach the forest floor and dry it out. Every tree would suffer.
Every tree therefore is valuable and worth keeping around for as long as possible. That’s why sick individuals are nourished by neighbor trees until they recover. Next time it may be the other way around. The supporting tree may be the one in need of assistance.(The Hidden Life of Trees, Peter Wohlleben, 2016)
Human ecosystem self-organizing: While “collaboration” and “cooperation” have become buzzwords, relatively few Americans —conditioned as we are in a competitive, top-down, hierarchical culture, really know what that looks like over the long haul. Authentic cooperation requires people to change deeply imprinted habit patterns which are continually reinforced by a society that deliberately seeks to divide us. We are called to compassionately heal our schisms. We seek true unity and regenerative wholeness.
While many movements commit intellectually to pursuing wholeness through cooperation, thousands of intentional communities throughout the United States already demonstrate just that. Intentional communities are groups of people who have decided to find ways to live together cooperatively. Irrespective of how diverse a group of people in an intentional community may be, there is a shared allegiance to the baseline value of sustained cooperation.
The Fellowship for Intentional Communityand thePoint “A” Projectwhich creates urban Income-sharing communities are standard bearers in the intentional community movement. They embrace anyone with the gumption to self-liberate from the corrosive mainstream matrix. Intentional communities offer supportive pathways toward healthy interdependence and ways to thrive in breathing space that takes some distance from the mainstream.
As per Raven, a spokesperson for the Point A Project, “Intentional communities are laboratories for social change. Each one tries something different and sees how it works. That’s why there are five different income-sharing intentional communities clustered together in Louisa County, Virginia for example. Most communities have some type of mission. So, the Virginia communities of Twin Oaks, Acorn, Cambia, LEF, and Sapling have been described as slightly different “flavors” of community —each having a different emphasis, and attracting different folks. The big draws to intentional community are the opportunity to be around a group of like-minded people, and wanting to be part of something bigger than oneself. In community you have support. When things get difficult it’s good not to be alone. And sharing, even the light sharing that is done in co-housing communities just makes people’s lives easier.”
In Raven’s home community of Ganas, an intentional community on Staten Island in New York City, deep relationship-building as a deliberate process takes center stage. Environmental resilience, social justice, urban communal living, and agroecology, organic or biodynamic farming are some of the underlying drivers of other communities.
While living in intentional community may be a giant step away from the mainstream for some, we would all be wise to gravitate toward kindred spirits with whom we can navigate the rough waters that lie ahead. If the first 17 days of the new administration foreshadow the next four years in the context of anticipated climate change, we will need to tap deeply into our own inner resilience, and most especially, we’ll need each other.
The holiday season is a time for making charitable requests, so this is mine. I want to ask you to support the Fellowship for Intentional Community, which supports the larger network of intentional communities, mostly in the US. The FIC has all manner of lovely and useful programs (Directory, Magazine,Bookstore, Resources). They are the organization best positioned to accelerate the development of intentional communities, amplify the impact they have on society, and foster collaboration between intentional communities and the larger movement towards cooperation, sustainability, and social justice.
But that is not what I want to talk about. I want to talk about why intentional communities matter and why they matter especially now.
Mental Health: People are going crazy, and not in a good way. The stress on many people since the election has been incredible. Fear and anxiety in people who are part of oppressed groups is understandably incapacitating them in some cases and traumatizing them in many more. Add to this a spike in hate crime and the tremendous uncertainty of the time ahead and you have a recipe for some serious psychosis.
One of the things we know from our work with academics is that living in community improves your mental health. In some ways this is completely unsurprising. Whatever services and support a community supplies, the stress on its members is decreased. Whatever support and affection members of communities provide one another, this is more joy and security in our lives. If we are looking at tough times it is wise to look to the people we trust and care for most and build community with them, intentionally.
Climate Effect: The Secretary of State (SoS) select was blocked from perhaps the largest deal in history by the Obama administration’s sanctions on Russia after the annexation of Crimea. This 1/2 trillion dollar plan for Exxon and Rosneft to drill the Arctic will curse our grandchildren to a wasted planet.
The income-sharing intentional communities movement is demonstrating that you can live a middle class, lifestyle on below poverty level income. The radical sharing involved is not easy, but it is completely accessible. Intentional communities are at the front lines of this critical social experimentation.
Trust and Empathy Building: If we are going to depend more on our love ones and friends, if we are going to dare to try to live together, we need to recognize that our communication is flawed and we show up with baggage. We have to be able to name our biases and prejudices and be willing to work on them. We need to be able to clear the air of past hang ups and commit to building trust and empathy among each other. Communities are working on these tools.Clearness process, Transparency Tools, Nonviolent Communication, and more are at the center of the culture of many communities.
Intentional community is the laboratory for the practices and new cultures we need if we are going to weather these coming difficult times. Please supportthe best organization supporting these initiatives across the county.
I think that everyone who lives in community has their own reasons for it. I know people who live in egalitarian communities for ideological reasons, for economic reasons, for social reasons, for ecological reasons, and for personal reasons. Some just come to community because it’s something different to do, some because their lover moved there, and some because it’s a place that they can pursue their passions–agriculture, permaculture, building construction, crafts, or simple, sustainable living. Some have come to community for any one of these reasons and are now staying, honestly, out of inertia.
I live in community for a variety of reasons. Probably the most important is social. I grew up in a large family and have always lived with groups of people. I believe that humans are tribal animals and we are meant to live with each other. I think that it’s genetic.
The other big reasons are ideological. In my very first piece on this blog, I wrote that “Living communally–and sharing so much–is a direct challenge to a hierarchical, consumer focused, corporate capitalist culture.” I’m one of the folks that lives communally because I want to live simply and sustainably. In sharing so much, we almost automatically have a much lower carbon footprint than the average person in the US.
But my real honest reason is that I’m an introvert. I have a hard time going out into the world. If I lived by myself, I fear that I would isolate. In community, I don’t have to go far at all to find people. As I write these words, I’m sitting in a common, dining area with people hanging out around me. Some people think that I use the public computer because I don’t have my own. But I do have a computer–I just have no desire to sit alone in my room all day while I’m working on various computer projects.
Really, I just want to live right around a bunch of folks that I love. I just want to live with all my friends.