Page 10 - C.A.L.L. #29 - Winter 2007
P. 10

School of Living: 50 Years of Learning

             in Community

             In 1934, during the depths of a worldwide depression, Ralph Borsodi established an educational
             organization committed to empowering individuals and communities to explore more ecological,
             self-directed, and humane ways of living. Since that tumultuous time, the School of Living (SoL) has
             been experimenting with new social and economic models based on ecological principles, equity,
             self-reliance, freedom, and stewardship of the earth’s natural resources - especially land resources.
             The vision was to create a network of decentralized, ecological, self-governed communities where
             land was held in common through the use of Community Land Trusts. Today, the SoL has evolved
                                                       into a loose educational network of six communities in
                                                       the Mid-Atlantic region in the eastern U.S. with more
                                                       than  60  residents  living  on  over  500  acres  of
                                                       community land trust property. In addition to building
                                                       intentional communities based on the community land
                                                       trust  model,  the  SoL  actively  supports  permaculture
                                                       education, alternative (democratic) education  (primary
                                                       through  high  school),  and  group  training  in  non-
                                                       violent communication and facilitation.

                                                       The  Community  Land  Trust  (CLT)  is  one  of  Ralph
                                                       Borsodi’s most enduring and guiding visions—that is,
             land that is controlled by the community with the economic benefits fairly distributed among the
             larger community. Borsodi was heavily influenced by the writings of Henry George, a 19  century
             economist.  “Georgist economics” argues that humans have a right to claim the value of their labor
             but cannot claim the value of the earth and its resources.  Borsodi’s promoted CLT’s as a way to
             hold the value of the land for all of humanity, and to redistribute any increase in value to the larger

             Another guiding principle within the SoL is Permaculture - a comprehensive ecological approach to
             creating  human  settlements  that  merges  human  and  natural  system  goals  in  larger  wholes.
             Permaculture  pulls  from  the  fields  of  “applied  ecology”  and  “geonomics”  with  a  clear  focus  on
             creating sustainable human settlements.  In practical terms, permaculture design means that SoL
             communities  strive  to  create  living  landscapes,  food
             forests, and other vertically “stacked” farming systems.
             SoL  communities  are  experimenting  with  alternative
             waste  water  treatment,  earth-sheltered  homes,  and
             recently began expanding their permaculture education
             efforts  with  the  establishment  of  a  new  GAIA
             University learning center at the Heathcote Community
             in Northern Maryland.

             The School of Living has been experimenting for more
             than  a  half  century  with  both  progressive  ideals  and
             practical  social  goals.  As  a  “learning  community”  we  have  developed  a  diverse  group  of
             communities where residents are able to live collectively on the land, collaborate on community
             projects,  and  pursue  their  own  dreams  within  a  framework  of common  social  values.  Borsodi’s
             vision is alive and well today - and there is still a pressing need to address long-standing problems
             of  resource  depletion,  centralized  control,  poverty,  and  the  steady  degradation  of  the  world’s
             ecosystems.  Like  so  many  intentional  communities  around  the  world,  we  don’t  have  all  the
             answers, but we are committed to living lives that properly value ecology, equity, social justice,
             and ultimately, the whole of humanity.

             The author of this piece, Frank Higdon (, presented a paper on the School of
             Living at the ICSA Conference 2007, and agreed to write this summary especially for C.A.L.L.

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