In this interview my mother and I discuss the joys and pains in the struggle to build sustainable autonomous communities. They were pretty hardcore back in the day, melting down cars to make apple cider presses! It’s interesting to see the cyclical pattern of civilization on the edge of collapse making people want to get close to the land, but then when the system has a “false recovery” and comes out with some new shiny object, people end up running back into the hamster wheel/rat race.
Interview with my mom part 1
Interview with my mom part 2
In a recent podcast the managing director of the Permaculture Research Institute in Australia, Geoff Lawton, spoke about how a lot of intentional communities didn’t know how to site select the optimal location for a sustainable eco-village. I thought this was a very interesting point. I mean, I’ve heard the stat that over 90% of intentional communities have failed. And the anecdotal ethnographic reports that what typically happens is the last asshole standing wins the farm and drives away all the people who can’t stand him. Now after Geoff’s comments, I wonder how much of the social stress, drama, power struggles, etc. had to do with poor design, sub-optimal solar orientation, soil issues, water rights, etc.
I know how hard it can be to get along with a group of people. It’s a lot harder when your alternative systems aren’t functioning as expected, or when you’re farming practices aren’t efficient and lead to drudgery and burn out.
These are huge reasons to really invest the time to study permaculture design because it addresses a lot of these issues. I mean it’s hard enough just getting along with people and holding on to a common vision long enough to make it happen without collapsing socially. Add to that all of the complexities of the patterns of nature which can make or break you.
If there’s a back -to-the-land renaissance on the horizon, I wonder what our odds will be now that we have the gift of permaculture design. Hopefully with better social and ecological design, this generation can succeed this time.
The internet may actually play a big part in sustaining sustainable communities as it allows remote back-to-the-land projects an outlet to sell their products online and stay connected to the outside world. A big factor in the failure of intentional communities appears to have been cabin fever… I imagine the best strategy would be for there to be a network of affiliated urban and rural co-ops whereby people can cycle through town and country and get their urban fix of shows, cafes, parties, etc. but still be committed to developing long term permanent land projects. And when tensions get high and personality conflicts get out of control, the community can intervene and ask people to rotate their location just to keep relations smooth. People wouldn’t have to walk out and bail on the whole project, or be banished over petty drama if there was a pressure release valve of interconnected communities.