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Communities Articles

Here is a selection of articles from previous back issues of Communities magazine. All back issues up to issue #184 are available for download here.

For more information about Communities magazine, visit its new publisher at GEN-US

Life in a small rural ecovillage can mean embracing complex choices while balancing idealism with necessity.

Kara Huntermoon of Heart-Culture Farm shares her community’s affordability strategies.

A land trust with leaseholds keeps members’ costs down while allowing a combination of autonomy and connection.

In rural Maine in the ’70s, community was everyday reality, and everyone needed help sometimes.

At Acorn, as in the larger world, the most important thing to be able to afford may be giving something away.

Cohousing is intrinsically an affordable model; here’s why and how.

Chronic illness presents challenges but also gifts of insight to a long-time communitarian.

Together—but only together—we can afford to keep publishing Communities.

A community pioneer and activist shares her stories.

An older generation learns to let go as a younger generation steps forward.

Two community founders recognize that it’s time to hand over the reins and move on.

Endings and beginnings grow from one another and make personal and group renewal possible.

Marking endings and beginnings with ritual can add intentionality, understanding, and connection to our lives.

Children in outdoor programs face—and often overcome—three major obstacles to learning and growth.

Questioning her community’s philosophy and practices, a live-in caregiver ends her involvement there in order to focus on greater self-expression and self-care.

· GREENING YOUR ’HOOD (Issue # 157)
Kibbutzes, ecovillages, cohousing communities, and pocket neighborhoods offer us opportunities to make a new start.

A forming cohousing group experiences its share of bumps, but comes together to move forward.

After 6,500 miles of pedaling and 100 community visits, a couple documents the promise of intentional community and cooperative living.

For the health of our species and the planet, we need ecovillages.

By learning necessary physical skills, these ecovillagers transcend the limitations of their middle-class educations.

An ecovillage founder offers 10 guidelines for success, including “Start with people.”

Water supply, human waste treatment, zoning regulations, legal structure, homeownership models, and other core technical issues are essential in ecovillage planning.

The Yarrow Ecovillage uses the cohousing model to create ecological buildings that meet their occupants’ needs.

In Ithaca, New York, a pioneering project continues to break new ground in ecological design, education, and community.

Aspiring communitarians rally support and navigate the legal hoops to establish an ecovillage in Bloomington, Indiana.

Innovative ecovillagers turn challenges into opportunities.

Belfast Cohousing & Ecovillage grapples with obstacles to create a visionary housing project in rural Maine.

A longtime ecovillage activist moves beyond denial to recognize the institutional racism affecting not only her society and her community, but her own way of thinking.

When a member of a minority population claims racism, how does a group committed to racial nondiscrimination respond?

If we are truly committed to diversity, we need to stop labeling people who hold religious ideas unlike our own as “cultists,” and start practicing the tolerance we preach.

What happens if, despite all outer appearances, one finds one’s worldview radically different from the mainstream?

To create a thriving, diverse community, we need to learn how to host and integrate new people in ways that support them as multi-dimensional human beings.

How can a diverse group best make decisions? After many years advocating it, the author concludes that consensus is not the answer.

When assessing why a community is struggling to make decisions, we need to ask first how they handle conflict resolution, group-process training, and entrenched patterns.

Want a “problem” person to behave differently? Give a different response.

This Hollywood movie offers both surprising insight and fond parody while taking viewers far from the beaten path, into the world of intentional community.

Ritual can connect us more deeply to place, mark the passages of our lives, comfort us in times of grief, and link us in the pure joy of celebration. It works best when created collectively.

Even “non-spiritual” groups can benefit through a multitude of simple practices that deepen participants’ connections with themselves, one another, and the sacred.

If you haven’t heard of hollow earth theory, zig-zag-and-swirl, B-FICs, or bathing bans, you’ve missed out on some of the more distinctive contributions of communal spirituality.

The former Elderhostel coordinator at Holy Cross Monastery explores personal and monastic history to explain her unlikely presence there.

To these communitarians, all work was holy—but overwhelmed by “the accumulating weight of such holiness” and other disappointments, they eventually adjust their aspirations.

A journey through various flavors of spiritually eclectic community brings us face to face with cursed seeds, the White Brotherhood Team, mystery, and stardust.

A dancer’s year at Currents community opens and transforms both her and the group.

· SPIRIT IN THE WOODS (Issue # 154)
At New View Cohousing, practicing consensus, navigating illness, and simply sharing lives are continuing spiritual exercises.

In a world in which food choices and dietary preferences can become quasi-religions, lactic-acid fermentation wins a new convert.

The editor provides a refresher on our theme and suggests some new Zone Zero guidelines to help keep permaculturalists in the game for the long haul.

While expert at understanding ecological connections, permaculturalists often founder in relating with one another. Applying permaculture principles to group dynamics can help us work together more effectively.

Lost Valley Educational Center avoids collapse and reinvigorates itself by applying a new approach to governance combining the best of diverse models.

Drawing on its long association with permaculture, The Farm in Tennessee institutes on-the-ground projects designed to provide resilience in times of climate change.

Degraded slopes, crumbling logs, plenty of trench-digging, seven blueberry plants, and an unanticipated drought combine to teach some important lessons.

An organic farming volunteer learns surprising new lessons from his Argentinian hosts—such as how to relax, how to enjoy practical labor, and how to contribute more sustainably by putting personal work first.

An innovative approach to collective community gardens nurtures a culture of giving while allowing participants to feed both themselves and those in need.

· DOING IT, OR ARE WE? (Issue # 153)
On Hawaii’s Big Island, La’akea Community explores sustainability through myriad experiments—from keeping wild pet pigs in the garden to eating 100 percent locally to mowing with sheep.

After a painful period stranded in “permaculture heaven,” an Earthaven founder finds her community finally moving back towards balance with its eco-spiritual roots.

Finding meaningful, socially and ecologically responsible work cannot be done in a vacuum. Right livelihood depends on networks of relationship.

By reducing our economic impact, we can shrink our ecological footprint, while freeing up time and energy to contribute to community and a more sustainable world.

In Brixton, South London, and Edinburgh, Scotland, right livelihood finds a home in innovative, resource-conserving, grassroots projects.

A collective financial approach that allows individuals to pool their resources in support of favorite projects, crowdfunding both encourages and thrives upon community.

Believing that the next phase in human evolution involves a return to the “local” and to community with neighbors, the author focuses his job search close to home, and includes any useful type of work.

· THE GIFT OF COMPOST (Issue # 152)
To the Compostmeister at a collective house, the cycles of compost embody a new economics that focuses upon human needs and relationships.

· THE LENOX PLACE NEWS (Issue # 152)
A fifth-grader takes initial steps toward right livelihood by creating a neighborhood newspaper that embodies and helps bring together her local community.

Overcoming her resistance to waking up at 5 a.m., a veteran community seeker learns transformative lessons at Deer Park Monastery.

When a cohousing group’s honeymoon ends, and economic stress dictates selling units to any willing buyers, can a community’s core values and connections endure?

In the author’s first, very intense intentional community immersion, revealing the truth led to love and intimacy. He left that group, but, in many spheres of life, emotional and intellectual honesty became his religion.

Relationships don’t exist in a vacuum. Through a culture of communication and support, communities can create the healthy container which relationships need in order to flourish.

A starter marriage, a spouse’s health crisis, and the small details that define each person shed light on the meaning of intimacy.

After a journey from nuclear family life through student coops, an ecovillager finds rich opportunities for intimacy, in many diverse forms—not just with lovers and family.

Women’s Empowerment Circles offer community-within-community, building trust, caring, and mutual support.

Do you think a half-century-old book on proper “womanhood,” much of whose advice is guaranteed to cause feminists to scream out in indignation, has nothing to teach us? Think again.

Despite widespread desire for community, structural and cultural obstacles to intentional community in the modern world loom large.

The author recounts his personal history with the “mentally ill”—social misfits who can show us the way to a better world, if they are allowed to make the journey.

Both healthy ideas and unhealthy ideas can take hold and spread like viruses. Suicidal tendencies and eating disorders provide invaluable lessons to one communitarian.

For 12 years, a once-proud career woman struggled with manic depression, becoming a “bag lady” and experiencing more than a dozen hospitalizations, before entering recovery.

With loving help from others, the old emotional distresses that can sabotage both our mental health and our relationships in community can be cleared and permanently resolved.

To make best use of nonviolent communication and co-counseling, avoid these traps.

Ex-members of the Emissaries of Divine Light reflect on their shared past and discover more holistic approaches to inner wellness as they reunite online.

How can we best support mental health? Caring attention—even from amateurs—can promote healing unattainable through impersonal approaches or drugs.

Living in community can provide all the elements necessary for promoting mental well-being, from kinship and useful work to recreation and beauty.

Ten European ecovillages show the way to a brighter future.
Community can be balm for the discomforts of aging, just as elders’ wisdom and caring can soothe the growing pains of youth.

After confronting an identity crisis worthy of adolescence, a 65-year-old finds a new home in community and discovers that elderhood is a blessing, not a curse.

A disenchanted community founder leaves her group, and finds that her rural hometown farming community and international travel and service better match her vision of honorable elderhood.

This companion piece to Elderhood, In and Out of Community gives further reflections from community members.

· ON BECOMING ELDERS (Issue # 149)
For many baby boomers, taking on the mantle of eldership means transforming the sometimes rambunctious, in-your-face, empowerment-obsessed energy they worked so hard to sustain.

Howling, shouting, cries of despair, and The Pierced One greet a parent on her first visit to her daughter’s adopted community. Luckily, through lots of talking and listening, things improve.

In reviving and restoring the site of two historical intentional communities, a town’s benefactor revitalized its sense of present-day community as she continued to dream, create, grow, and give.

The founder of Enright Ridge Urban Ecovillage describes what it’s like to be criticized, marginalized, stripped of leadership responsibilities, and given the opportunity to explore a new role.

In a healthy community, leadership and followship are equally important roles, each with vital skill sets that can assure effective teamwork.

The author identifies additional leadership skills, cautions against blind followship, and reflects on the many types of power in cooperative groups.

A community member transcends a feeling of powerlessness when he inadvertently comes up with a brilliant idea about how to organize cooking groups, and others join him in implementing it.

Some saw this radical environmental education program as a “cult,” others as an intensely focused experience of challenge and growth. Had participants lost their individuality, or gained a new sense of self?

The residents of an eco-oriented, education-focused intentional community and demonstration site wear many hats, both public and private.

Strained by difficult economic and ecological conditions, farmers Claudio and Fernando discover new avenues toward prosperity and land restoration through alliances with a peace community dedicated to regional renewal.

After several years teaching about community in the abstract, an anthropologist and environmental studies teacher finds that direct student engagement with intentional communities provides the spark needed for personal inspiration, connection, and the potential for social transformation.

A permaculture teachers hits upon a gold mine of effective methods for enlivening her teaching—by drawing from the principles of permaculture itself.

· AN ABUNDANCE OF DADS (Issue # 146)
Four very different father figures help guide a communitarian son into adulthood, as he combines distinctive traits of each.

Easing themselves in and out of each other’s houses, yards, and chicken coops, members of White Hawk Ecovillage find traditional borders becoming more porous.

Though “baby having” had not been a consensus decision, a small community embraces a newborn, survives his infancy, and bonds like any other family: doing each other’s dishes, snuggling on the couch, and fighting over who gets a shower before the hot water runs out.

Twelve-year-old Jibran has always lived with fuzzy boundaries between “family” and “community.” They became even fuzzier when he came home to discover his mom’s positive pee test.

· SECOND FAMILY (Issue # 146)
A mother responds to empty-nest syndrome by discovering her new family in community.

· EXPLORING FAMILY (Issue # 146)
What do Hopi Indians, John Keats, lost loves, intentional community, and family have in common? For better or worse, they’ve combined to befuddle, enlighten, dismay, and inspire our author.

Geoph Kozeny’s community documentary brings forth reflections on Hearthaven, discussions among neighbors and friends, and ultimately a new intergenerational family community.

Reviews of two great books on community living, one on life in a convent with surprising insights even for the most secular, and one on the history of utopian experiments in Oregon.

At a permaculture-based ecovillage in North Carolina, care for the earth, care for people, and care for inner health all benefit from a dynamic culture based on local self-reliance, holism, and community.

A community rallies in support of a long-time member diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s Disease, discovering opportunities and possibilities for new connections with each other and becoming more present to the priceless experiences of both living and dying.

Neither the therapist diagnosing Major Depression nor the psychiatrist prescribing an antidepressant asked the fundamental question: Do you like to garden? When the author discovers this doorway into the natural world, he also finds community and inner and outer health.

· GUT HEALTH (Issue # 145)
Both in traditional cultures and at La’akea, close loving relationships, consistent community connection, a life close to nature, fresh non-processed food, satisfying work, regular exercise, clean air and water, attunement to biological rhythms, joy, and laughter all support health.

Noise and quiet can both affect well-being profoundly. Gordon Hempton’s One Square Inch of Silence offers ear-opening stories and perspectives, practical suggestions, and simple, radical wisdom.

· HARD TIMES AT ORINDA (Issue # 144)
Watching their collective fortunes decline, the members of Orinda adopt a new spirit of frugality, find that they are living more sustainably, and discover true wealth in relationships with friends and family.

After serving thousands of meals, a community of post-Katrina relief kitchen volunteers moves to the West Coast and acquires a mortgage, a baby, full-time jobs, and the challenges of the mundane.

An ex-resident of Casa Caballeros reflects on the wealth she found in the realms of personal growth, shared resources, spontaneous celebration, and financial freedom even in economic downturns.
Especially in financially uncertain times, those seeking the advantages of intentional community living can often find them within a single shared house.

After many years of dealing with the unique struggles inherent in starting a community, a community founder discovers her vision manifested elsewhere, and becomes a community joiner.

A simple solution could drastically reduce the energy consumption and carbon emissions of the modern citizen, and it does not require new technology or a drastic reduction in quality of life. We all learned about it in Kindergarten, and statistics from Twin Oaks prove its effectiveness.

The author recounts some of the off-beat marching orders he received from an eco-oriented “different drummer”—and how, instead of becoming a hermit, he became a communitarian.

With a long history of protecting the local watershed, Trillium Farm Community in southern Oregon grows not only organic food, but ecological activists.

Organized around common ecological values and a shared appreciation for the epic of evolution, a group of neighbors reduces its collective energy consumption by 25 percent.

A long-time events organizer reflects on the rewards, challenges, logistics, and community dynamics involved in hosting gatherings large and small.

Participants in NFNC’s Summer Camps explore intimacy, transparency, freedom of choice, personal responsibility, sexuality, and new ways of being, teaching, and learning.
Three group-process experts answer the question: “Please tell us a story of one of the best meetings you ever attended (as participant or facilitator). What was great about it? What do you think made it turn out so well?”
A group of North Americans establishes a community in Costa Rica and learns new lessons about simplicity, wealth, change, growth, balance, and happiness.
A community confronts economic adversity by remaining constant in relationship, holding financial losses in common, and working together in fundraising, educational programs, and new projects.
Many traditional cultures around the world have an economy based not on buying and selling, but on giving, which fosters an intricate network of social connections.
While in similar circumstances to his neighbors from Clan Super Size, our author replaces a desperate sense of scarcity and need for low-cost goods with feelings of hope and abundance.
After living in the PRAG House collective for 25 years before running for office, a Seattle City Councilor recommends that anyone entering politics consider experiencing intentional community first.
An informal survey raises several compelling questions: Can communitarians learn to focus on larger-scale politics as much as on internal politics? Should they? What’s proper political etiquette in community? And have you ever met a communitarian who is not left of center?
Tree Bressen traces her own path of exploration from commune to collective household, discovering that community isn’t always drawn in black and white.
The communities movement and the natural building movement share the goal of forming meaningful relationships–with other people and with one’s own home. In fact, natural building practically demands community.
O.U.R. Ecovillage has audaciously invited inspectors, architects, and regulatory officials to participate in their green building programs for the past eight years. In the process, they have fostered cooperative social connections–and received full approval for an eco-housing cluster.
What can you do if some people in your group seem to have more power than others? Our consensus trainers and group process experts respond.
Mollie Curry hoists a chainsaw and finds herself entangled in a perplexing webs of sticky questions. Here she attempts to untangle the threads, both within herself and within her community.
There wasn’t much chance that her lifelong dream of owning a bookstore would come true in her rural Missouri community. So Alline Anderson set off down the exciting and terrifying path of launching the Milkweed Mercantile–creating jobs, providing a market for community products, and offering a warm place for visitors to put up their feet.
Our consensus trainers and communication and process experts advise what to do about inadvertent “minority rule” in community.
Ecovillages are increasingly being sought for their expertise–in wastewater treatment, environmental education, renewable energy, organic agriculture, leadership skills, communication training, and more.
Can an ecovillage gal live for a week in a mainstream household–with a microwave oven, processed food on paper plates,five SUVs, and six tiny pedigreed show dogs–and make a difference?
Our consensus trainers and communication and process experts advise what to do about “repeat blockers” in community.
We asked 50 communitarians about attitudes about beauty in their communities. Did they value aesthetics in their buildings and landscape? Would they trade environmental or economic needs for beauty? their answers may surprise you.
Builder and old-house renovator Alex Daniell fell in love with the charming, old-world village atmosphere of 8-year-old Arcadia Cohousing. He asks Giles Blunden, the group’s architect, how he did it.
Red Earth Farms cofounder Alyson Ewald loves it that her rural community wildcrafts, grows, processes, ferments, pickles, and celebrates food.
In the mountains of New Mexico, Lama Foundation is making new food decisions to unhook from the fossil fuel-based agricultural systems.
Expert advice from five community process and communication consultants.
Communities magazine asks interns, work exchangers, and residential course participants what they think of us. Do our programs deliver what our websites promise? Are they comfortably housed and fed? Do we treat them well?
· HELLO, GOODBYE (Issue # 134)
Jules Pelican of OAEC in northern California examines the mutual influence of interns and community members. Is it painful to invest emotional energy in people who will soon leave? Does living in community, even temporarily, nevertheless benefit people?
Natural building teacher Mark Mazziotti looks at how what could have been a stellar intern program went awry.