It's a common myth that all the intentional communities died out in the 60's and 70's. Today, several thousand intentional communities known as ecovillages, exist throughout the world. Ecovillages range in size from fewer than a hundred multi-generational members up to several thousand like-minded people striving to become more socially, ecologically and economically sustainable. Ithaca, NY is home to one of the most famous ecovillages simply known as EcoVillage Ithaca. 60 different families enjoy two organic farms, neighborhoods named after their surroundings such as: Frog, Song and Tree, green building, natural health, local music, arts and education. Members of such communities tend to oppose factory farming, urban sprawl and blatant consumerism. They also tend to share socio-economic, ecological, and spiritual values. Part of the purpose of an ecovillage is to create a strong sense of community. Ecovillagers want to know their neighbors. In fact, most of them enjoy a community meal together at least once a week, breaking bread with their neighbors and their children. Many claim it's a richer, more fulfilling life.
Image: Bosque Village
What is life like for children in an ecovillage? Well, the old proverb, "It takes a village to raise a child," comes to mind, because these kids enjoy the many benefits of an extended family to befriend and mentor them. They spend many hours playing in nature as kids should and most seem to do less and less these days. Their parents dedicate much of their time and energy to helping build and sustain the community, so a large extended family is more than a perk or luxury. It's a necessity. The kids also seem to thrive living surrounded by friends, fields, streams and woodland creatures. As one member of Earthaven Ecovillage put it, "The children are an integral part of our community meals, plays and entertainments, celebrations, workdays and other community events."
Image: Eli Duke
But aren't they all really cults? Not so. The Fellowship for Intentional Communities states, "Most communities are not abusive toward members. The ones which are, especially those prone to violence, can attract media attention which falsely implies that intentional communities are abusive in general. It's our experience that the overwhelming majority of communities go quietly about their business, and are considered good places to live by their members and good neighbors by people who live around them." Furthermore, most are democratic communities in which the majority of decisions are made by all members voting. For an excellent compilation of dispelled myths regarding intentional communities visit: http://www.ic.org/wiki/myths-community/.
Image: Eli Duke
How are they really doing when it comes to cutting ye olde carbon footprint? Dancing Rabit Ecovillage's site features a beautiful and breakdown comparison with the average American. When all is said and done, the average Rabbit creates a carbon footprint of 8.3 to 9.4 metric tons of CO2eq each year, which is an impressive 53% less than the average American. They feel they have a long way to go, especially in the areas of food, travel, and goods and services, which is admirable. They are still well on their way to reaching their goal of a long term sustainable footprint:
The Ecovillage lifestyle may not be for everyone, but there's no denying it encourages cooperation, consideration of others and working toward the common good. It's not uncommon to hear people lament how they used to know all the families living on their street when they were kids. As a nation, we are losing our sense of community via technology, which was meant to bring us all closer together. Gathering together for some good, old-fashioned, face to face communication and laughter revives our spirit like nothing else. Just imagine reviving your spirit in this fashion throughout your day, day in and day out. Ecovillagers are onto something.