Page 16 - C.A.L.L. #29 - Winter 2007
P. 16

Return of the commune

             By Gavin Alder, Yahoo Australia
             July 20, 2007                                The ads might sound like advertising for the
                                                          latest  housing  estate,  but  the  New  Age
                                                          communities they feature are a modern twist

                                                          on the hippie lifestyle.

             Today, more than 200 people live on acreage blocks at Crystal Waters. Sepp Hock and Isabella
             Shodmak run a health retreat from their Crystal Waters home. They have their own chickens, grow
             their own fruit and vegetables, and life has never been sweeter.

             Griffith University Social Historian Dr. Bill Metcalfe has spent 30 years studying so-called
             "intentional communities" in Australia. “There's a long and very rich history in Australia of
             intentional communities” he said. Forget Aquarius. According to Dr Metcalfe, we have entered a
             new age of group living. “When I started my research, there wasn't a council in Australia that
             wanted anything to do with any of these groups," he said. "They were seen as dirty, they'd reduce
             property values, these things." Now, he says many councils encourage them, because the
             communities take responsibility for their own roads, their own water supply, a lot of their power
             requirements and much of their waste management.

             Developers are catching on, too. Kerry Shepherd is co-developer of the Currumbin Valley eco-village
             on the Gold Coast, the first eco-village actually being done by property developers. “The
             methodology of doing this project has been done in a very mainstream way," Kerry said. "Because
             we wanted to appeal to the development industry, to say 'this is how it can be done'."

             It certainly appeals to Melissa and Eric Pearson. “Everybody is so approachable and friendly and we
             know most of them already," Melissa said. "Those we don’t know are worth getting to know,
             because they're here, they've come here." At the moment, their block is home to the local wildlife,
             but even before construction has started on their house, it feels like home, especially for their
             children Kirra and Jordan. “Letting kids be kids, not having so many restrictions on them, so they
             enjoy life and they can explore," Melissa said. "We're not worried about them going out onto a
             busy main road."

             At a time when many of us are grappling with terms
             like global warming, climate change and
             environmental sustainability, people living in this eco-
             village are literally thinking globally by acting locally.
             The preferred mode of transport is pedal power and
             every home has its own water supply and generates
             its own solar power. Dennis and Claire Johnston’s
             home won't need artificial heating, thanks to the
             rammed earth walls retaining the warmth of the sun.
             It won't need cooling either because the design allows for the breeze to travel through the entire
             house. Ten solar panels will provide more than enough electricity. And the rest, they'll sell back to
             the power company. Once they are established, they will grow their own food, like the members of
             Crystal Waters community - where you won't find hippies. They call themselves ‘happies’.

             “This is a renaissance, in a way, where it's not alternative anymore, it's becoming mainstream,"
             local resident Max Leddigger said. For 20 years, Max has held firm to the belief that this is the way
             forward. It has been a long time coming, but now he says he doesn't just look like a pioneer, he
             feels like one too. “At the moment, I think we have a choice," Max said. "At the moment, we can
             choose to do certain things and learn certain lessons. In 10 or 20 years, we might be in such a tight
             spot, the change will be forced upon us."

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