New community on the west coast?
- Forming Communities
- somewhere between northern California and British Columbia, preferably close to the coast
I’m looking for my people, and I’m looking for my place.
This is meant to be a conversation starter, or a contribution to a conversation. I want to find a group of people to create a compelling context for a community to come together in friendship, mutual support, and collective action.
Helping start an intentional community is a life-long dream of mine. Now is a good time for me to pursue this, and I believe this is an opportune time in the world. I’m also open to finding a community to join.
This is my ideal. I don’t know if it’s attainable, or if I or anyone else could actually live up to it. But it’s my North Star. It’s what I want to work towards with others.
The Problem and the Opportunity
I believe human society has the capacity to support the wellbeing of all people, without compromising the integrity of the ecosystems of which they are a part, recognizing that the wellbeing of one depends on the wellbeing of all.
Most of human society undermines this. Humanity’s collective actions pose an existential danger to itself and other forms of life, and are causing unnecessary death, destruction, and suffering on a global scale. I believe the situation is urgent. We need to be treating it as a crisis and take appropriate action.
I think it is unlikely that human society will meet the targets scientists say are necessary to mitigate major climate disruption. The disruption we’re already seeing is going to intensify and the mass extinction event humans are causing will expand. This will cause large scale systems to become less and less tenable. People will increasingly need to come together for mutual aid. Reliance on regional and local systems will increase.
The ability of these systems to respond effectively for the mutual benefit of all people and the ecosystems they live in will depend on whether their governance and culture can be cooperative, address political, economic, and social inequity and injustice, and reverse ecological destruction.
We have an opportunity, and are running out of time, to come together for our own benefit to generate excess capacity we can leverage for the benefit of others. We can transform culture and systems so that they benefit all people and reverse course on the mass extinction event we are causing.
I believe community is where this can happen. Community is where we can transform ourselves, our relationship to people and place, our relationship to humanity, and our relationship to nature, so that we make different choices, individually and collectively, that can make a difference. Community is both big enough and small enough to have a broad spectrum impact, from people’s individual lives to global society.
What I want in community
I want a group of people I feel like I belong with. A group of people with whom I feel comfortable to be vulnerable, to share my dreams and my challenges, who I feel seen and held by, and who feel that way with me.
I want the intimacy that comes with living closely with others and involving my life with theirs. I want the sense of meaning I get from caring for others, contributing to my community, and being part of something that I believe is good for the world.
I want to be part of a group of people who enjoy each other’s company and like to have fun and be creative together. I want to be part of a group of people who care for themselves and each other.
I want to be part of a group of people who recognize we’re all traumatized to some degree, cultivate compassion, support healing, and work to not let it run us.
I want to be part of a group of people who feel a sense of urgency and responsibility about the state of the world and feel compelled to do what we can to reduce unnecessary suffering, death, and destruction.
I want to be part of a group of people intentionally developing their community culture, making space for art, music, beauty, self-awareness, celebration, initiation, and grief.
I want to be part of a group of people who are facilitating coordinated action, amongst themselves and with others, with agile and adaptive strategies that are based on positive relationships.
What I want this to look like
I want to live closely with people on commonly held land with substantial shared facilities (including workshops for fabrication and maintenance, space for art/music/dance/movement/meditation, gathering spaces, etc.), a variety of residential options, and a high degree of collective economics. I want this community to be working towards self-sufficiency and resilience, internally and locally.
I want this community to have a shared understanding of collective purpose that helps guide our governance, decision-making, choices, and actions. I want this community to be practiced in institutional self-evaluation and the ability to change itself as the needs of the community and the world evolve.
I want the group to be diverse along lines of race, class, gender, age, and ability. I want this community to support birth and death, care for children, elders, and those who need it, and foster intergenerational relationships. I want this community to encourage and make space for people to be who they are and feel free to express themselves.
I want to be part of a community working against white supremacy, patriarchy, capitalism and other forms of violence and oppression, in how they manifest in ourselves, our community, and the world.
I want this community to have an intimate relationship with the natural world around us, and to have nature be fully represented in our decision-making. I want a shared relationship to land and place that transcends and subverts exploitive and harmful concepts of property and ownership.
I want this community to have relationships with other communities and organizations and participate in coordinated action to expand networks and affect local politics and socio-cultural activity.
I want to live in an area that leans progressive, where climate change is recognized and equality and justice are held as values by local government, and there are local efforts towards addressing underlying causes of inequality and injustice.
Pieces of how we might get there
Starting with a core group 5 – 8 will be robust and agile. The size of the group that will be on land will depend on a number of factors, but to manifest this, I imagine anywhere from 25 – 150 people somehow organized into small affinity groups to help maintain social cohesion. I think it’s important to cultivate an extended community, including flexible membership options, maintaining relationships with ex-members, and being well integrated into the local community.
Conventional approaches to ownership and property must shift in order for us to come into a healthy relationship with people and place. We have to use conventional legal and financial structures to exist and have a meaningful impact. Some kind of collectively controlled legal entity has to own at least one piece of land. That entity should be accountable in some way to the larger community. Housing co-ops, CLTs, 501c3’s, real estate cooperatives, and benefit corporations are entities that might support this.
We’ve got a lot of baggage around money, reinforced by conventional financial structures. A high degree of expense sharing, or partial or full income sharing, has various benefits, as well as distinct challenges. It can allow for a level of care, mutual social and economic support, and solidarity that is harder to achieve with individualized finances. Because of the emotional charge around money, it can also trigger more emotion and conflict, which needs to be responded to with care and intentionality. The financial system of the community should help lower the cost of living, allow for a reasonable degree of autonomy, support community activity, create excess for the benefit of the larger community, and be transparent and accessible.
Integrating community businesses or partnering with collective businesses, in addition to individual income sources, can support a sense of shared purpose, distribute the responsibility to produce needed income, and be more efficient.
We have to like each other enough to spend the amount of time together and go through the stress it will take to make something like this happen. We need to develop our relationships as the foundation for the agreements we make with each other. We need to be able to say hard things to each other and trust that it’s coming from a place of goodwill.
We need to be intentional in how we communicate with each other, in the culture we’re creating, how we address and resolve conflict, how we govern ourselves, how we consume and waste, and in learning and unlearning what we need in order to make the kinds of changes we want to make.
I think we need a clear and adaptable shared purpose to give us motivation and focus. If we’re going for deep transformation, I think it needs to be broad spectrum: Being an experiment and demonstration, local integration, engagement, and service, healthy interpersonal relationships, and personal responsibility and growth.
As climate disruption and economic decline accelerate I believe our strategies will have to evolve. We need to think deeply and critically about what to do given the state of the world and possible scenarios over the next 5 to 50 years and beyond, making agile and adaptive plans for the short, medium, and long term.
Please be in touch if this resonates or feels compelling to you!