Sustainable Community

February 1, 1995


As we enter the 21st century, we are on the eve of a profound ecological awakening that has the capacity to salvage homo sapiens from the brink of suicidal extinction. A returning ancient consciousness rooted in understanding the sacred interconnectedness of all life, replacing our politically conditioned consciousness of greed, separation, and superiority, is capable of directing radically different choices in our lives.

All of the Americas have been built on diabolical genocide of Indigenous peoples, on the incomprehensible cruelties of chattel slavery, and of a continual global exploitation of people and natural resources. Since the early 1800s, the United States of America has dominated the Americas at the expense of the majority of the hemisphere’s people and its natural resources. The United States was founded on an original sin of arrogance and racism. We still suffer from this sickness and it has effected our decisions and policies to the detriment of ourselves. It is only now that we are beginning to understand this.

Since World War II, when the U.S. became the world’s leading superpower, acquiring control of virtually all the planet’s resources to assure an almost unlimited expansion of the consumption patterns of a majority of her citizens, a popular mentality has developed–a myth–that ever-increasing consumption is a law of nature. This mentality leads to unthinking, wasteful habits. It has become increasingly important, in order to maintain this myth, to operate in a world of our own, as unaffected as possible by the larger human/ecological issues. Most of the impacts on society and the environment are not calculated as part of the costs of our consumptive lives. There has been a distortion that has pervaded our pricing system because of our failure to include social and environmental costs (massive human and natural resource degradation and destruction) and because of numerous tax-based subsidies for corporations and the rich. In sum, the entire system has been rigged, a dishonest hoax! And we increasingly are aware that when the needs of a system, no matter at what level, are not met from within the system, we pay the price in energy consumption, pollution, and worsening social and physical health.

The 1960s’ cultural revolution seriously pierced this comfortable paradigm that had seemed so sacred and invincible after our post-WWII emergence as a superpower. For the decades since the 1960s, there has been an attempted revival of American Way Of Life (AWOL) values. A last hurrah, if you will! However, many conscientious, sensitive human beings know, intuitively if not consciously, that there are numerous observable, objective signs, whether social, economic, political, psychological, genetic, ecological, spiritual, cultural or physical, suggesting very deep and systemic levels of deterioration and sickness. There is a yearning for seeking ways of emotional and physical relief.

Fortunately, we increasingly know of choices to be made, individually and collectively, to walk a radically different path, to the tune of a different drummer. We know, for example, that we need, and must consume less; that we must respect all of nature, including people of diverse backgrounds; we must share more equitably; we must live and work locally to honor both ecological and personal reasons; use far fewer, and perhaps no more fossil fuels; plant many trees; eat more healthfully and locally; exercise regularly; assure regular quiet and reflection time; take personal responsibility for our emotional, mental, spiritual, and physical health; seek intentional or conscious community; etc.


Rediscovery of the Need For Community

Until relatively recently in human history, people lived in vital, collective groups, such as tribes, villages, and neighborhoods. Culture was intrinsically and intuitively related to land, food growing and harvesting, and the cycles of nature. Only in the past few hundred years, and especially since WWII, have we tended to live in separate, isolated nuclear families, thinking of nature as a commodity to be exploited for our "benefit." The original, aboriginal inhabitants of the "Americas" lived in hundreds of local, indigenous cultures for thousands of years in sustainable communities with their own respective languages. The invading "superior" European settlers termed these inhabitants "savages," and over a period of one to two centuries assured their virtual extermination. They were perceived to be in the way of "Manifest Destiny" that had been bestowed upon the providentially endowed Europeans.

Recently there has been a revival of people searching for community. I believe this derives from an ancient wisdom deeply buried in our subconscious, in our memory fields, where cooperation and mutual aid are understood as far more important than competition and selfishness. Alienation has steadily increased through the historical process of substituting money, in effect, a substanceless artifact, for spiritual and community values. Money has become a substitute for affiliational ties with community and place. Even when people don’t understand their malaise, or cannot identify a cause of their feeling incomplete or unfulfilled, they increasingly do know that something about our way of life is not right.

Conversation with residents of one of the oldest, continuous intentional communities, CELO, near Asheville, NC, indicated that inquiries for residence in their community have dramatically increased recently from people all over the United States and Canada. There is a several year waiting list at CELO as a result. Subsequent conversations with representatives of a number of other forming or existing intentional communities confirm a similar phenomenon.


Glossary of Terms for Intentional Community

Biocratic: choices must reflect freedom and sustainability for all life forms in balance. It understands "democracy as a conspiracy of humans against nature," per cosmologist/priest Thomas Berry.

Bioregional: living locally within rough boundaries determined by natural/ecological dictates, distinguishable from other areas by specific attributes of fauna, flora, water, climate, soils, landforms and by the human settlements and cultures those attributes have supported. Frequently watersheds define bioregions. It becomes important to learn the diversity and significance of the various species and components within the surrounding natural habitat. Soil itself is extremely important as it is the stage from which all life emerges. One typical teaspoon of living earth contains: 5 million bacteria, 20 million fungi, 1 million protozoa, and 200,000 algae.

Consciousness: psychic and spiritual, as well as physical and material interconnectedness between the soul and essence of the land and the larger natural habitat. Specific ideologies will be mindfully avoided. Spiritual force will be defined per each member’s conscientious interpretation.

Green: embracing the ten key values of ecological wisdom, social justice, nonviolence, biocracy, decentralization, community-based economics, feminism/cooperation, respect for diversity, commitment to personal and global responsibility, and decision-making based on concern for the well being of the Seventh Generation.

Intentional: a mindful, deliberate, purposeful coming together to form a sustainable community.

Permaculture: the deliberate beneficial assembly of plants and animals in relation to human habitat and natural climate and seasons, aimed toward household and community conservation and self-reliance.

Right Livelihood/Buddhist Economics: living in simplicity committed to nonviolence, production from local resources for local needs, assuring maximum well-being with a minimum of consumption, use of renewable resources, and absolute prohibition of using harmful/toxic substances in build
ings, on the land, or in the water.

Sustainable: a biocentric (vs. anthropocentric) directed use of energy, food, soil, water, and materials in the immediate local area in balance with the continuous "carrying" capacity of the natural processes of the region. This might entail a specific equitable allocation of energy and resource utilization for each member consistent with planetary limits. Sustainability means local self-reliance and a permanent, no growth economy.

Post a Comment

Your email is never shared. Required fields are marked *


Real Time Web Analytics