Resilient and Cooperative

by Raven Glomus

It’s book review week again at Commune Life.  Today I want to take the unusual step of reviewing two books that I have only skimmed and partially read because they are connected and one of them was just published.

Both books are by Yana Ludwig (formerly Ma’ikwe Ludwig) although the latest one is co-written with Karen Gimnig.  They are both published by the Foundation for Intentional Community (the FIC, formerly the Fellowship for Intentional Community).  Yana Ludwig lives in the Solidarity Collective, an income-sharing community in Laramie, Wyoming.

The original book that was written is called Together Resilient and is subtitled ‘Building Community in the Age of Climate Disruption’.  It talks about the problems we are dealing with as climate change occurs and how we can deal with it.  The author looks at what the Global Ecovillage Network calls the four dimensions of sustainability: worldview, social, economic, and ecological.  (She also mentions Joanna Macy’s “three types of activism”–a model that has been very important to me–Holding Actions, Systems Change, and Worldview Changes.)  Yana Ludwig then goes on to talk about “Community as Experimental Laboratory”, another concept that I have long espoused–she sees communities as places where we can try out and model what we must do to live sustainably.  

As ‘Case Studies’ for the work that she thinks needs to be done, she uses the communities of Dancing Rabbit and Twin Oaks (although she talks about a bunch of other groups, many not residential communities, but some that are, such as the Ecovillage at Ithaca).  As the subtitle of the book says, everything is very related to community living (the subtitle of Chapter 2 is “Community as a Tool to Reduce Carbon Footprints” and Chapter 4 is entitled “Starting a Residential Intentional Community) and there is a section in the book called ‘The Case for Deeper Communalism’ where the author talks about the advantages of income sharing.  She also includes her ‘Spectrums for Intentional Communities’ chart which I think is one of the more useful tools that community seekers and community creators can have.

My biggest complaint about the book is that the author starts relying on a Ken Wilbur color theory where everything evolves toward what he calls ‘yellow’ and the state he calls ‘green’ (the space that many communes and ecocommunities are in) is too extreme.  Yana Ludwig advocates for what she calls ‘hierarchy-lite’.  Her vision of what she calls ‘Sustainable Cooperative Culture’ fits in between ‘Extreme Competitive Culture’ and ‘Extreme Cooperative Culture’.  Somehow I don’t think that being too cooperative is dangerous and feel that this color theory and these spectrums are trying to paint the more radically cooperative elements as extremists and thus justify her approach as more moderate.   Still, I think that it’s a small gripe for a book that pulls in so many useful ideas and approaches.

Throughout the book Yana Ludwig mentions The Cooperative Culture Handbook–which wasn’t actually written until three years later.  It was just published near the end of last year which is why I wanted to get this review out since this book is practically ‘hot off the press’.  

At the beginning of The Cooperative Culture Handbook, the authors talk about how when Yana wrote Together Resilient, “the section on group dynamics and culture kept getting longer” and “After a conversation with her publisher and editor, it was decided that she’d write a second book”.  Yana Ludwig went looking for a writing partner and, after several partners didn’t quite work out, she began working with Karen Gimnig.  This book is the result and it’s subtitled ‘A Social Change Manual to Dismantle Toxic Culture & Build Connection’.

This is basically a book of exercises.  The authors try to balance personal and group work to help folks do the work that they call creating cooperative culture.  They begin each section with an idea that they call a “Culture Key” and then follow each ‘Key’ with two exercises. They emphasize ‘Discernment’, stating clearly that there are no “simple, easy answers”.  They go on to say that no workshop or policy will eliminate conflict and oppression. “If that were so, this would be a much shorter book!”

Most of these exercises look useful.  The book begins with exercises to promote “Skillful Hearing” and ends with exercises designed to look at multiple ideas of how to proceed and to come up with something that is aligned with the group’s collective mission.  The first three ‘Keys’ all come with an exercise drawn from the Imago Dialogue work developed by Harville Hendrix and Helen LaKelly Hunt and there’s a bit more about Imago Dialogue (which apparently is something that Karen Gimnig was very influenced by) in the appendix.  The authors also put diamond symbols in the Contents next to their “favorite general use exercises.”

My only real difficulty that I have with the book (at least from skimming it) is that it again tries to frame certain viewpoints as extreme–this time breaking methods into “Mainstream Culture, Cooperative Culture, and Counter Culture” and saying “we think the pendulum can swing way too far from Mainstream Culture and land us in the pitfalls of Counter Culture.”    As a person who was very much a part of the counterculture of the ‘60s and’70s, I definitely react to this characterization.  Fortunately, they do say in the beginning, as they are talking about all this that they hope “…that you will give yourself and us the grace to set aside pieces that we may have gotten wrong or described badly, or that simply aren’t a fit for you.”  I think that their emphasis on discernment may be their saving grace here.

I’m very glad that I got these two books.  They look very useful for anyone wanting to understand why community is so useful in our current climate catastrophe as well as anyone wanting to build some of the skills needed for group living. If either (or both!) of these two situations describes you, I would definitely recommend these books.

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Thanks for reading! This post was made possible by our patrons on Patreon. The Commune Life team works hard to bring you these stories about our lives in community, and that work couldn’t happen without support from our audience. So if you liked this article, and want to help us make more like it, head on over to https://www.patreon.com/communelife to join us! 

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Thanks! 

Resilient and Cooperative

Biting the Hand

by Raven Glomus

I often refer to Living Energy Farm as the research arm of the Virginia communes.  They have had some difficulty becoming a commune themselves (although they seem to be making some progress lately) but they know more than anyplace else that I know of about alternative technologies and ways to deal with climate realities.  They periodically publish a newsletter about all that they are up to and it is almost always worth reading from beginning to end.

A Biogas Digester from the August, September, October 2020 LEF Newsletter

Their most recent newsletter contained a section that I would like to reprint in full:

***

Ending the Use of Facebook

It has been clear for a while that the management of Facebook has reactionary leanings. It has become clear more recently that Facebook is using its very powerful platform to try to strangle alternative news media outlets while advancing racist organizations. A story about that issue is here  https://www.democracynow.org/2020/10/29/ari_berman_mother_jones_facebook_censorship

Living Energy Farm will be deleting our Facebook accounts shortly. Please communicate with us through other means. 

***

I never wanted to be on Facebook.  I was persuaded to help out with the Commune Life Facebook page, especially when I realized it was reaching many more folks than this blog.  This blog averages around 150 views per day, which doesn’t sound too bad, but the vast majority of them, day after day, are the same three posts:  “How to Start a Commune”, “Four Steps to Building a Commune”, and “So You Want to Start a Community”.  I get that people are interested in creating communities, but it’s frustrating to write stuff three times a week and see interest in the single digits–if that.  (Of course, I had forgotten that this blog has 110 ‘followers’, so there’s 110 people that see new material each day.)

On Facebook it’s different.  The statistics can fluctuate wildly, from fifty folks to over five hundred, depending on how the piece is written and how controversial the subject is–and whether there are animals in the pictures or, perhaps, dumpstered food, both of which get a lot of interest.  

One of my goals has been to reach folks that have never heard of income-sharing communities and may not have even realized that it’s something that’s possible, and Facebook is a way to do that.  Plus, there are other useful features (our community uses Facebook messenger to communicate with one another and we have to make a special effort to reach the one person that doesn’t use Facebook) and Facebook also owns Instagram which makes it easy to post in both places.

I don’t like Facebook.  I don’t like that we use a big corporate entity for our communication.  I don’t like their politics or their policies. (I can see why Living Energy Farm would want to leave them.)  I don’t like that they own Instagram and WhatsApp (which international visitors have used to communicate with me–and even one of my old communards used it when we discovered that for some reason our phones would often not be able to text each other).

But, right now, I am using Facebook (and I plan to reference this post on Facebook tomorrow) because I do want to reach people that I couldn’t otherwise reach.  I hate it but it’s useful and my priority is communication.  I want the world to know about communes, so I use Facebook, day after day after day.

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Thanks for reading! This post was made possible by our patrons on Patreon. The Commune Life team works hard to bring you these stories about our lives in community, and that work couldn’t happen without support from our audience. So if you liked this article, and want to help us make more like it, head on over to https://www.patreon.com/communelife to join us! 

Deep gratitude to all of our patron communards:
 

  • Aaron Michels
  • Brenda Thompson
  • Cathy Loyd
  • Colby Baez
  • Heather
  • Janey Amend-Bombara
  • Jenn Morgan
  • Joseph A Klatt
  • Kai Koru
  • Kate McGuire
  • Kathleen Brooks
  • Lynette Shaw
  • Magda schonfeld
  • Michael Hobson
  • Montana Goodman
  • Nance & Jack Williford
  • NorthernSoul Truelove
  • Oesten Nelson
  • Peter Chinman
  • Raines Cohen
  • Sasha Daucus
  • Suzi Tortora
  • Tobin Moore
  • Twin Oaks
  • Warren Kunce
  • William Croft
  • William Kadish
  • William Scarborough

Thanks! 

Biting the Hand

LEF goes to AZ, Part Two

This is a continuation of yesterday’s post chronicling Living Energy Farm’s adventures as they went out to Arizona to install their solar systems on Navajo and Hopi reservations. Yesterday focused on the trip there–which was trickier than they expected. Today’s post focuses on the actual installations, which went very well.

On the Commune Life Facebook page, I wrote: “LEF finally is able to get to work. Here’s the first report with pictures:”

And here it is:

“In between installations, the LEF crew has time to post a Navajo joke:”

“And on to the second installation:”

“LEF goes on an installation binge–five installations in one day. Here’s some pictures and a story:”

“And here’s the story behind installation number five:”

“And here is the final post in Living Energy Farm’s saga of their road trip to Arizona to bring solar power to native folks there:”

Tomorrow, another question: “Art in Community–Is it a luxury or a necessity?”

LEF goes to AZ, Part Two

LEF goes to AZ, Part One

Today begins the chronicling of an adventure. Living Energy Farm, a Virginia community that I have called ‘the environmental experimental station for the Louisa communes’, decided to take their solar-panel-and-nickel-iron-battery-system, which makes real off-the-grid living possible to the Navajo and Hopi reservations in Arizona. This was a long planned trip that turned into more of an adventure than even they could have expected.

We reposted their Facebook posts on our site–now I want to post them here with my (Raven’s) comments. The first post was February 28th, where I said: “Living Energy Farm has faced a bunch of challenges in their journey to install solar on Hopi and Navajo reservations, but they are now on the road:”

Here is their first post, right from their Facebook page:

Followed by my post “And here’s the Living Energy Farm crew after a night in Tennesee:”

And their:

But “In the next leg of their journey to Arizona and bringing solar to the Hopis and Navajo, the folks from Living Energy Farm run into an unexpected adventure:”

Then, they are almost there. “Meanwhile, the Living Energy Farm road trip adventure continues, with them almost making it to the reservation when a tire blows out with them in the middle of nowhere:”

Then, somehow, I missed this one. From the LEF Facebook page but not ours:

And then, “The LEF crew finally makes it to “the Rez”, but not without a casualty:”

I will end this segment here. Tomorrow, the installations!

LEF goes to AZ, Part One

The Gasoline Altar

from the East Wind Community Facebook page:

To appease the Gods of Insurance, our Gasoline Altar is complete. Though we’re always seeking to be more self-sufficient, East Wind is still reliant on the system. For the foreseeable future, our agricultural and cooperative systems are made possible by our successful business, East Wind Nut Butters. We drive cars and use tractors. Hopefully one day we won’t need to.

Image may contain: sky, basketball court, tree and outdoor

This was re-posted on the Commune Life Facebook page with the comments:

Lots of people are drawn to community by the dream of living sustainably and autonomously. East Wind Community does better than most at actually actualizing these ideals. But the state is pervasive, as are fossil fuels, and neither can be escaped entirely. So sometimes you gotta build a gasoline altar to appease the insurance gods…

The Gasoline Altar

What If We’re All Doomed?

by Raven Cotyledon 

This isn’t going to be an easy post to read, but I believe it looks at some important questions. 

At Cotyledon right now, three out of four of the folks living here (basically everyone except me) are involved with the Extinction Rebellion. Wesley, the newest person in our house, is very heavily involved. 

Wesley describes himself as a farmer but he came to New York City to help out with the Extinction Rebellion, which he sees as our last best chance to save the planet. He is not optimistic. It’s discussions with him that inspired this post.

If anyone still doubts that climate change is real, look at the record breaking temperatures in Alaska, along with the accompanying wildfires.  (Which inspired someone to dub the state of the state, ‘Baked Alaska’.) Wesley said that he never expected to be a ‘prepper’, but given what he knows now, he is headed in that direction. 

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Photo sent to me, captioned: Walgreens, Anchorage, Alaska, July 5, 2019

So what are the communes doing to cope with climate change? And what is any of this worth if we really are doomed?

Wesley pointed out to me that the most likely first major catastrophe is likely to be disruption of the food supply chain. One statistic I have seen tossed around is that stores only hold about a three day supply of food. Fortunately, most of the rural communities grow a significant portion of their own food. Not true of Cotyledon in urban New York, but we are associated with the Ranch and have an urban farm (Hellgate) only a couple of streets away.

Unfortunately, if the food supply did run out, there would be lots of very hungry people who would not care who the food technically belonged to. Also, dumpster diving would be pretty useless in a food emergency; if there was no food in the stores, there wouldn’t be any food in the dumpsters.

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Empty Stores 

Many communes and other communities are also pioneers in off the grid living, which may be essential in a climate emergency. But the real thing that communities offer in any crisis is support and companionship and large doses of cooperation. If you are living in a community, you are not alone and isolated, and this is even more true if you are living in a commune. 

This was brought home to me the morning after Donald Trump was elected. This was not something most of us were expecting, and many of us were in shock. If I had been living alone, I would have had to deal with this all by myself. I was living in Ganas and we had a community meeting that morning (as we did most mornings) and we talked together about how we would deal with this. 

Communities are built to do things together and income-sharing communities even more so. We have far more collective intelligence and creativity and strength in community than any one of us has alone or even just a couple has together. As the challenges pile up, it makes more and more sense to me to figure this out communally. 

But, and here’s the horrible question I began with: what if we are all doomed?  First of all, I don’t think that is a given and I believe that the collective intelligence of communities makes our survival more likely. But it’s a possibility that I think we must consider.  And if we need to consider it, then I think that we need to think about hospice care for the human race. When a person is dying, we try to make them comfortable, we try to figure out how to help them die well.  I think that we may need to consider this for us all. And I cannot think of any better place to do this than in community where we have always focused on taking care of each other. 

I don’t want to end on a down note, and I do believe that it is an honest question whether we will survive or not, but I think that either way, communes and communities are an important part of the process of either making it through or leaving the planet gracefully. 

42903361_m

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Thanks for reading! This post was made possible by our patrons on Patreon. The Commune Life team works hard to bring you these stories about our lives in community, and that work couldn’t happen without support from our audience. So if you liked this article, and want to help us make more like it, head on over to https://www.patreon.com/communelife to join us! 

Deep gratitude to all of our patrons:  

Communities

  • Acorn Community
  • Compersia Community
  • Cotyledon Community
  • East Brook Community Farm
  • The Federation of Egalitarian Communities
  • Twin Oaks Community

Communards 

  • Aaron Michels
  • Brenda Thompson
  • Cathy Loyd
  • Em Stiles
  • Jenn Morgan
  • Jonathan Thaler
  • Julia Elizabeth Evans
  • Kai Koru
  • Kathleen Brooks
  • Laurel Baez
  • Lynette Shaw
  • Magda schonfeld
  • Michael Hobson
  • Nance & Jack Williford
  • Peter Chinman
  • Sumner Nichols
  • Tobin Moore
  • Warren Kunce
  • William Croft
  • William Kadish

Thanks! 

 

What If We’re All Doomed?

Sustainability at the Communes

by Raven Cotyledon

Last week our community, Cotyledon, sponsored a talk by a researcher from the Czech Republic.  It’s been a strange few weeks at Cotyledon, with Swedish and Czech and Australian visitors coming one after another.

Our Czech visitor, Jan Blažek, gave a presentation on Eco-communities in Europe at a local artists space for us.  We decided to have some of the NYC area communities get a chance to respond to his talk and have representatives from Cotyledon (me), Ganas, and Arc38 (which is in the countryside a bit north of the city) there to react.

IMG_0266
Jan Blazek

This set me to thinking about how the communes that I know of approach sustainability.

As I said in my part in the discussion following Jan’s presentation, Cotyledon began with a focus on food justice and urban agriculture. I have written about our relationship with Smiling Hogshead Ranch. Even though we are embedded in New York City, we are clear that we are concerned with working with nature and growing soil, plants, and food.  We have also become increasingly involved with the Extinction Rebellion–a movement to take radical action against climate disruption.

And we are one of the more urban of the communes.

EcoCommunities_Feature02
The banner for the presentation

The rural communes have even more of a focus on agriculture and food production. I have seen the crops growing at East Brook, Twin Oaks, Acorn, Mimosa, Sandhill, East Wind, and Oran Mor. There are major dairy programs at Twin Oaks and East Wind and both Acorn and Rainforest Lab used to have lots of goats. (Sadly, both of these communities had to give up their goats.) While few of these communities are fully self sufficient, they grow a large amount of their own food. Most of them also dumpster, as do the folks at Compersia in DC and us at Cotyledon. Dumpstering takes food out of the waste stream.  I believe these things are also true at the Mothership and Rainforest Lab and Ionia, but I haven’t been to any of them. (Although there is a sweet video about making grape juice at the Mothership.)

The communes in Virginia helped set up Living Energy Farm, which is a demonstration site for fossil fuel free living. Cambia community also spends much of their time demonstrating ecological living, with many teaching exhibits and a passion for reaching out to young people.

At its core, the radical sharing involved in all communal living, creates sustainability by its very nature.

IMG_0270
Kale at the Ranch

I see the communes as models for the sustainable world that we need to live in. Communities give us the chance to try things and see what works.

We may not survive climate change, but if we do, our learnings from the communities will be essential in recreating the planet.

IMG_0267
eCo from Arc38 with Jan

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Thanks for reading! This post was made possible by our patrons on Patreon. The Commune Life team works hard to bring you these stories about our lives in community, and that work couldn’t happen without support from our audience. So if you liked this article, and want to help us make more like it, head on over to https://www.patreon.com/communelife to join us!

Deep gratitude to all of our patrons:  

Communities

  • Acorn Community
  • Compersia Community
  • Cotyledon Community
  • East Brook Community Farm
  • The Federation of Egalitarian Communities
  • Twin Oaks Community

Communards

  • Aaron Michels
  • Brenda Thompson
  • Cathy Loyd
  • Em Stiles
  • Jenn Morgan
  • Jonathan Thaler
  • Julia Elizabeth Evans
  • Kai Koru
  • Kathleen Brooks
  • Laurel Baez
  • Lynette Shaw
  • Magda schonfeld
  • Michael Hobson
  • Nance & Jack Williford
  • Peter Chinman
  • Sumner Nichols
  • Tobin Moore
  • Warren Kunce
  • William Croft
  • William Kadish

Thanks!

 

Sustainability at the Communes

Will your community survive an Exodus?

By Paxus of Cambia Community

exodus people walking.jpgOne of the interesting new workshop topics for this years Twin Oaks communities conference (over Labor Day Weekend) is the Exodus Panel, which will be moderated by Taylor Kinniburgh, a member of the Baltimore Free Farm:

Panel Discussion on Surviving Exodus
Sunday, 9:30-11:00am, Registration Tarp

How can intentional communities survive a membership exodus? This workshop will carve out space for community members to share their experiences, learn from other communities, and develop strategies to overcome the challenges of member- ship overhaul. The panel will consist of experienced community leaders that have dealt with exodus to varying levels of success. Failure to deal with member exodus can lead to the collapse of a community, but it take more than recruiting new
members to take on this problem. Communities need to be self reflective about why the exodus took place and this panel hopes to guide participants in how to do that analysis.

exodus logo.jpg

Come with me on a thought experiment.

You knew it might happen.  In the worst case the conflict within your community could blow things up seriously.  Now several of your members are leaving and the future of your community is in doubt.  Often people within the communities movement say “No one is indispensable” as a secular mantra for communities shifting to cover important jobs left vacant when an important member leaves.  But when several people leave?  Well, this is likely no longer a true maxim when the number departing is larger than one.

exodus people walking.jpg
When people leave en mass, the group changes and perhaps dies

Certainly, some part of the response of the group left behind must be soul searching.  “What did we do that was wrong?  Could we have taken better care of the group?  What have we learned from difficult circumstance and can we create new policies and practices to avoid it happening again?”

But after this important self reflection is completed, there will likely be a need to re-assess if the mission of the community is still the same after the exodus.  It is possible that the new group of members have a somewhat (and potentially quite) different vision of the future community.  While difficult work, this can be very satisfying and healing to the group remaining.

Exodus with wave.jpg

The Baltimore Free Farm, Acorn Community and Twin Oaks have all experienced an exodus of members and survived.  Other communities we will discuss did not survive.

There is still time to register for the Twin Oaks Communities Conference over the labor day weekend (Aug 31 thru Sept 2) in central Virginia, 45 minutes from Charlottesville and 55 minutes to central Richmond or RSVP on Facebook

Will your community survive an Exodus?