Our Vision of Community

Here is a copy of an email dialogue which helped a couple in Santa Cruz to construct their vision of community.

Sounds like a great vision. I might like to adopt it.
Have you found anyone else?

We have contacted a few people, and also have old friends who we might like to join us, however we're not sure we've met enough folks that have the same priorities as we do... for example, environment over technology; simplicity over convenience; health over pleasure.

Technology, convenience, and pleasure all have their place in our lives, however we believe that they should be in the service of living simply in healthy balance with the environment (the earth).

There are quite a few places I found on the web, already in existence
within 150 miles of the [Bay Area].

Yup, the Bay Area seems fairly thick with communities. Santa Cruz, however, is a small place, and (strangely I think) communities can be difficult to find.

Santa Cruz is very expensive no? I was looking at moving out there
about 3 years ago.

Santa Cruz is indeed very expensive. Although I moved here because it is kind of a neo-hippie radical mecca, ironically it is so expensive that most people work so much to pay the rent that they have little time to enjoy the place. Our house rose in value 40% over the last three years. A lot of the artists and bodywork people etc. who made Santa Cruz interesting are leaving town now, especially with the recession finally hitting the area.

The yuppification and tough economy of Santa Cruz is one of the many reasons that my partner and I are thinking more and more about joining or forming an intentional community. No matter how beautiful the place, it doesn't justify working 60 to 80 hours a week. Pooling resources might be the only way to live a healthy life in Santa Cruz.

While multiple-adult cooperative living is kind of a tradition in Santa Cruz, we believe the housing market has never been worse. Also, what is happening in Santa Cruz is slowly happening all over the country, and planet, it seems. Even places less beautiful are getting overcrowded and expensive.

It is our belief that we are all working too hard to pay for the so-called luxuries, convenience, and attendant real waste and inefficiency of contemporary US life. In my mind there is a direct connection between the price of a head of lettuce, the amount of shredded lettuce discarded in the Taco Bell dumpster headed for the landfill every day, and the miserable treatment of Chicano agricultural workers picking lettuce out in our fields. All this so that we can have the "convenience" of driving up to a Taco Bell drive-through and procuring a 99¢ "taco supreme."

We value human labor and the earth so little that we are literally killing ourselves and the planet in the name of profit and convenience. In one 99¢ "taco supreme" there are hormone and pesticide-concentrated, irradiated, frozen, and then fried beef; genetically modified, patented, high-yield, high-irrigation, and high-pesticide tomatoes and corn; synthetic sour cream substitute containing who knows what; and so much paper, mylar, and plastic packaging that arguably it could cost more than 99¢ to dispose of them and maintain the so-called "sanitary landfill" where they will sit un-degraded for more years than many of us may live. Supremely insane if you asked me.

Meanwhile, we're all working like slaves to pay the rent/mortgage under the myth that if we work hard enough, we will eventually be the inheritors of the "American Dream" with the two-bedroom house on a quarter-acre, the two cars, the two kids, and the dog.

When you break it down (check the census), fewer and fewer people are affording the "American Dream" today, and what's really happening (IOHO: in our humble opinion) is the lining of the pockets of the rich at the expense of the majority of people and the planet.

So, with that in mind, what we really want to do is find a place with enough land or at least roof space to put greenhouses and wind/solar power generation to be self-sustainable in terms of basic planet-friendly organic food and clean energy needs. A new passive solar home design would be ideal, however we could potentially rehab a larger place with good southern exposure.

Socially, we believe that the myth of the "American Dream" is in part reproduced through the idea of the nuclear family, which has proved itself to be unsustainable for the majority of families, who either end up divorced or "cheating" on their spouses ironically "for the children." Many of those who remain in the nuclear family are less than happy to say the least.

Although we do not have "the solution" or some dogmatic idea of what should replace the nuclear family, we do have a few general ideas. We would like to bring one or two children into this world once we have created a healthy environment for them to thrive. Our proposed maximum is 1 child per adult for ZPG (zero population growth) reasons.

The old adage "it takes a village to raise a child" seems truer today than ever, and when both parents are working 60+ hours a week, the global village takes over. Through television, internet, shopping malls, and our factory-modeled system of universal education created during the industrial revolution, our contemporary society reproduces the status quo and the US way of life in our children.

What we want to do is create a more meaningful local family village to take back a good portion of the reproductive labor of raising children and create with them a more sustainable relationship with the planet, with each other, and hopefully with the goal of raising consciousness and expanding this sustainable vision in mainstream society.

Part of the way to do this, we think, is to pool resources and create economies of scale by reducing our overhead relative to nuclear family living. By sharing work, income, space, and vision, we can in theory reduce the amount of hours spent putting bread on the table and a roof over our heads in order that we may spend more time raising children, building community, and enjoying life.

In order to live together and achieve these benefits, we will have to put aside ideas and expectations that we currently associate with nuclear family living and the myth of the "American Dream." Men will not be the dominant power in the community. Women will not be the sole providers of reproductive labor (raising children). Individual ownership is a concept that may need to be re-evaluated. Decision-making will incorporate all members of the family and may take more time and energy, yielding the immeasurable benefit that the rights and responsibilities as well as the abilities and limitations of all members have been addressed, and therefore all members are contributing fully to the shared vision of the community.

Our family village will welcome people who challenge the "Leave it to Beaver" nuclear family model in a variety of ways: Queer folks, non-monogamous (and poly) folks, raw-fooders, naturists (and nudists), and activists of all types will be welcome additions to our community.

It will be hard work to shift from an individual-centered lifestyle to a planet- and community-centered lifestyle, but we think it is vital and necessary for the survival of our spirit, our culture, and our world.

In any case, these are a few of our general ideas about building a healthy community. Hopefully we will be able to achieve them in Santa Cruz. If not, we have been looking at other locations.

The idea of moving out into the countryside has its appeal. However, we believe that severing our ties with the mainstream altogether would be selfish and irresponsible, because we have a responsibility to model and share our way of life and thereby teach by example, the most powerful form of teaching.

Therefore on the one hand we have the suspicion that if we can't do it here, we are just not trying hard enough. On the other hand, we are only two people with limited life spans. We are positioned to make change in this life now, and if we cannot realistically accomplish it in Santa Cruz, we may have to move to Portland, for example, where we can realistically buy a few acres near an urban center and raise children before we pass from this life.


The originators of this proposal are no longer together, but elements of their vision may help to inspire future efforts by others.