WHAT CAN WE DO to put this into practice, to move us towards a satisfying community life as part of a humane sustainable culture? It seems to me that the three keys are get involved, communicate, and envision. The obvious place to start (or continue) is involved with other people, building community relationships, but don’t stop there. The next step is to communicate (both ways, listen as well as speak) to others beyond your particular community, to both those with like minds and those with unlike. Add to this a constant stretching of our sense of what could be, a blending of our intuition, our experience, and our learnings from others.
The IN CONTEXT project is intended as a tool to help with the communicating and the envisioning, but this all rests on the foundation of the community involvement of many, many people, and this in turn all seems to start with the very personal decision to make community a priority in your life. If you feel you are moving towards that choice, the material in the “Experience of Community” section should give you a glimpse of what is in store, but nothing compares with direct experience. A good way to start is by visiting groups that appeal to you.
If you are an old hand at community, but are feeling the need to take a next step, I have two suggestions. If you have been mostly focused on your own community, give some attention to the planetary side of your being. Stretch your networks and make contacts in new areas. If you already have a good balance of local and beyond, then you probably know what my other suggestions is. There is a great opportunity now for the development of more substantial intercommunity projects, especially in the areas of children, education, and economics. We need to work on these both for their immediate value and as examples of the kind of intercommunity relationships that could make networks and clusters of villages a key component in a planetary sustainable culture. If you are interested in working on a specific intercommunity project, please write a letter about it for the next issue of IN CONTEXT.
Here is a sampling of things that could use involvement and development at the present time:
- Property management One big problem in city neighborhoods is the frequent turnover of renters and their lack of interest in the neighborhood. Few of the people who would like more community in their neighborhood can afford to buy the block, but if you can establish yourself as a manager of the neighborhood’s rental property, you can have a great influence on the people who flow through.
- Broadening experience for kids Many of the intentional communities developed during the last decade are just starting to face the challenge that teenagers provide. There is a great deal to be done with developing kid exchanges, special group programs such as bus tours with work and learning at various communities, meaningful rites of passage, etc.
- Local government If the planetary villager ideally doesn’t divide the world into us and them, how about working with your accidental neighbors? Serving on some local board or commission is a great place to test and clarify your values, and to discover what you do and don’t share with others. Besides, many important decisions are made at that level. It can put you right on the front lines of healing the planet.
- New stories Another one of the front lines is writing children’s stories for all ages – the kinds of stories that give flesh and form to important values. A sustainable culture needs a rich heritage of stories that embody its folk wisdom. Some of it already exists, but we could certainly use much more.
- Multiperspective designs While there is some design work now being done for solar villages and solar cities, there is a great deal more that needs to be done, especially integrating in ideas of social, political, and economic structure with the architectural work. How might a cluster of villages work from all these perspectives?
- Conversion projects The next step after developing the above ideal designs is to ask how do we get from here to there? How might a current city or suburb be converted into a cluster of villages – physically, politically, socially, economically?
That is a start, and if it has gotten your imagination moving about specific things you could do, then it has accomplished its purpose.
The following short reviews are by Ronald Jorgensen (RJ), Mark Satin (MS), and Robert Gilman (RG). Titles marked with * may not be easily available. Ron has offered to help with these. You can contact him via IN CONTEXT, P.O. Box 215, Sequim, WA 98382.
- Abeysekera, D. A., “A Leaderless Approach to Social Organization”, World Union (June, 1975),24-28.*
- This short article, by one of the practical architects of the Sarvadaya Movement in Sri Lanka, describes the principles and application of a completely decentralized and leaderless organization of groups. Comparing this with a centralized majority vote decision process, he explains its advantages. This could be selectively applied to a city constituency. – RJ
- Alexander, Christopher, The Timeless Way of Building (New York: Oxford University Press, 1979).
- In this first of three volumes by the author, a fundamentally new theory, approach, and process of building a town is drawn out of his intuitive and poetic perception of our truer nature. It is a key work which is followed by two detailed volumes of application: A Pattern Language (lexicon of the patterns by which any person or group of persons can design any complex of buildings and environment) and The Oregon Experiment (full details of the use of this approach by a community of 15,000 people at the University of Oregon). – RJ
- Aurobindo, Sri, The Human Cycle (Pondicherry, India: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1977).
- Especially beginning with chapter 4, this seminal work opens up the reality of the group-soul and notes its main stages of development. Historical collectivities are given as examples of the process, as far as the process has gone. – RJBerneri, Marie Louise, Journey Through Utopia (New York: Schocken Books, 1971).*Hers is an important work to inform one’s idealism with a critical survey of the failures and successes of the most significant utopian efforts throughout Western history. – RJ
- Callenbach, Ernest, Ecotopia Emerging (Berkeley: Banyan Tree Books, 1981).
- Although it hasn’t yet had as big an impact as his earlier novel, Ecotopia, I feel this is not only better written, but also more suggestive and more significant. If you can only read one now, I’d suggest Ecotopia Emerging. It incorporates most of Ecotopia and helps one imagine the process of a new urban and rural life developing. – RJ
- Coates, Gary J., Resetting America (Andover: Brick House Publishing Co., 1981).
- So many books on the future tend to be either highly theoretical or narrowly technical. This one is different. Coates has carefully arranged his anthology so the theoretical pieces create a political- spiritual context for the pieces that describe what people and groups are actually doing. Drawing on ideas of Ivan Illich, Theodore Roszak, William Irwin Thompson, Lewis Mumford, and others, he argues in his introduction that the “inevitable end” of “industrial civilization” is near and that we desperately need “a new understanding of nature, self and society – more of the same is not the answer.” The next 400 pages show that the “metaindustrial” vision is not only desirable, not only practical, but already in the process of being worked out in “real life”. – MS
- Jacobs, Jane, The Death and Life of Great American Cities (New York: Vintage Books/Random House, 1961).
- In some ways the most important book on my list, this still fresh (22 years later) breath of air in urban thought demonstrates how a city can be and is vibrant, diverse, safe, fulfilling for children as well as adults, prosperous and free of slums. Based on her varied residential experience in addition to a clear use of the field’s literature, this little masterwork deserves study. – RJ
- Keller, Suzanne, The Urban Neighborhood (New York: Random House, Inc., 1968).
- An insightful perspective on the human relationship side of urban neighborhoods. Her data makes it clear that people rarely know more than a few neighbors and that what we call neighborhoods are more like districts than true communities. – RG
- Lipnack, Jessica, and Stamps, Jeffery, Networking (Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Co., 1982).
- A good introduction to the kind of networking now going on among people in various social and personal change groups – health, appropriate technology, communities, personal growth, ecology, politics, etc.. Also included is a cross referenced and annotated directory of 1500 such groups. – RG
- Lohman, Ruud, “The Nation-Soul Game: Report on the First Twenty-five Years of the Game, 1975-2000”, World Union (June, 1975), 12-16.*
- This is a stunningly imaginative, concise, and witty narration of the discovery of the group-soul in the global arena, looking back from 2000 A.D.. The author, who resides in Auroville (a planetary city being built on a semi-desert site in South India), approaches this discovery through a game spawned in life which reveals as much of the players as it does of the emerging nation-souls. – RJ
- Mumford, Lewis, The City in History (New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1961).
- The man who is widely celebrated as the dean of scholars on the city has, particularly in the first 39 pages, offered a fresh and profound understanding of the nature and purpose of the city. Yet this must be at places lifted out of what I feel are patriarchal attitudes and left to stand free of them. These first pages and his last chapter of 8 pages alone would justify the expense of time and money the book involves. – RJ
- Sahlins, Marshall, Stone Age Economics (Aldine Publishing Co., 200 Saw Mill River Road, Hawthorne, NY 10532, 1972).
- Sahlins pulls together a wealth of anthropological data on the subsistence of non-literate cultures and in the process demolishes many commonly held beliefs about their “struggle for existence”. – RG
- Spangler, David (ed), Conversations With John (Lorian Press, P.O. Box 147, Middleton, Wl 53562, 1980).
- A discussion of the 1980’s covering a broad range of topics including international affairs, economics, and the general social and spiritual transformation going on in the world. The part on planetary villages is very short (essentially all reprinted in this issue), but it hasproven to be a powerful seed. – RG
- Soleri, Paolo, Arcology: The City in the Image of Man (Cambridge: Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press, 1969).
- Although this is a difficult book, it should be comforting to know it is far ahead of its time. Even more comforting, a much clearer sense of the originality and importance of Paolo Soleri’s ideas can be experienced by visiting his Arcosanti in Arizona. But if you can’t visit, its insights stand like sentinels on the uses of urban space and technology in relation to the crucial concern for ecology, and need to be integrated into any urban project. – RJ
- Thompson, William Irwin, Darkness and Scattered Light (Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Co., 1978).
- These “four talks on the future” include Thompson’s original discussion of the metaindustrial village. Taken as a whole, this book gives considerable depth to many of the point briefly sketched in the article on “The Changing Patterns Of Community”. – RG
- Tod, Ian, and Wheeler, M., Utopia (New York: Harmony Books/Crown, 1978).*
- With a sacrifice of some depth this book gains a range of both examples and images that complement it to Berneri’s Journey Through Utopia. Also, where the two books discuss the same utopia, they usually fill in each other’s omissions. – RJ
- Todd, John and Nancy Jack (eds), The Village As Solar Ecology (East Falmouth, Massachusetts: The New Alchemy Institute, 1980).
- John Todd’s introduction reveals only an aspect of this book’s treasure: “This is not so much a technical document as an introduction to some of the areas of knowledge that will permit a shift to a genuine solar age.” Much of the many contributors’ discussion finds its touchstone in a sacred attitude towards the full context of our existence. So the book moves from untracked theological broodings to handbook drawings – both very clear and accessible – and finally to specific studies and plans for creating towns, cities, farms in a solar ecology. It is a wonderful discovery with a value that is often an unspecified but persistently inspiring influence. – RJ
Building A Planetary Village: A North American Perspective, May 10 – 15,1983. Five day residential conference to explore the vision, ecology, technology, architecture, spirituality, and community life of a planetary village. Sponsored by the Chinook Learning Community, P.O. Box 57, Clinton, WA 98236, or 206/321-1884.