Page 8 - C.A.L.L. #29 - Winter 2007
P. 8

Sustainability  was  a  prominent  topic  at  the  2007  meeting  of  the
                                         International  Communal  Studies  Association  in  Damanhur,
                                         northern  Italy.  Both  the  opening  and  closing  plenary  sessions
                                         included  presentations  on  the  topic  by  leading  activists  and
                                         scholars  in  the  field:  ‘Communal  Economics  in  a  Post-Petroleum
                                         World’ by Albert Bates and ‘Gaia in Utopia 2107’ by Ross Jackson.
                                         Many  individual  papers  also  explored  the  theme  such  as  Joshua
                                         Lockyer’s  ‘Environmental  values  and  contemporary  intentional
                                         community building’. Both Albert Bates and Joshua Lockyer agreed
                                         to  write  pieces  specially  for  C.A.L.L.,  on  the  connection  between
                                         communal living and sustainability.

             The potential links between sustainability and intentional communities was a main theme that
             prompted me to write my recently completed anthropology doctoral dissertation on ecovillages
             and other sustainability-oriented intentional communities. While I was aware of the massive surge
             in the number of sustainability-oriented intentional communities over the last ten to twelve years,
             the conference made it clear to me that this is a topic of great interest among young scholars and
             community activists.

             The  fact  that  small  scale,
             cooperative,      communally
             organized  societies  are  often
             more  sustainable  than  are
             large-scale,      hierarchical,
             complex  societies  is  a  point
             that becomes increasingly clear
             when    one    examines    the
             plethora  of  anthropological
             and   other    social   science
             research  on  the  topic.  Very
             often  in  tribal  and  traditional
             agricultural  societies,  we  see
             people cooperating in order to
             protect   and    sustain   the
             resources    and    ecosystem
             services upon which there is a
             common dependence. This type of cooperation requires the social familiarity, shared values, and
             direct connection to people and place that are more readily achievable in small-scale, cooperative,
             communally-organized societies than in the massive, mobile, and consumerist societies in which so
             many people reside today.

             In  a  sense,  what  we  are  faced  with  today  is  the  necessity  of  sustainably  managing  what  is
             increasingly  recognized  as  a  global  commons.  This  task  will  require  a  combination  of  global
             awareness and local action. While we cannot be expected to forgo some of the benefits that arise
             from large-scale social, political and economic institutions – benefits such as medical technologies
             that save human lives and prevent human suffering – small-scale social organizing will be a key to
             global  sustainability.  It  is  thus  heartening  to  see  a  growing  movement  of  ecovillages  and
             sustainability-oriented  intentional  communities  bringing  a  global  awareness  to  the  task  of
             relocalization.  These  communities  are  natural  experiments  that  are  pointing  the  way  toward  a
             more sustainable future and cultivating the kinds of values and practices that must become more
             widespread if we are to create a more just and sustainable world. It is also heartening to see a
             growing number of academics and politicians paying attention to these experimental communities.
             If we are to effectively address the many challenges we face as we strive for sustainability, people
             from  all  walks  of  life  must  be  brought  into  the  fold  of  cooperative,  intentional  community
             organizing. Spread the words and the ways!

                                   Joshua Lockyer, Ph.D., Dept. of Anthropology, Univ. of Georgia,

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