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My House Is Your House: Eco villages seem like common sense

by Becca Martin-Brown | June 14, 2020 at 1:00 a.m.
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/MICHAEL WOODS Spirit, a hippie from Coloumbus, Ohio, dances to the music in the late night tent at the third annual Great Unknown Music Festival Friday night at Kings River south of Eureka Springs. 10/13/04

Some U.S. residents on the West and East coasts are eyeing the Midwest and Arkansas with keen interest these days. Who can blame them? While there are great reasons to live almost anywhere, places with lower covid-19 cases are understandably appealing to folks right now. But it's not only disease that's driving relocation; for some, it's about living sustainably in community.

Anyone can live in an eco village, except Elvis Presley (despite what witnesses may say). But that doesn't mean everyone wants to. There are benefits and drawbacks to living in an eco village, and it's good to see both the pros and cons before making a life-altering decision. Depending on the community, eco villages offer far more rewards than downsides and are a critical component in the fight against climate change.

Eco villages -- also known as intentional communities, communes, or sustainable communities -- are places in both rural and urban areas where a large or small group of people have chosen to live in proximity to one another while sharing resources, responsibilities and a common goal. That definition is based on my personal experience and research, but many people have their own definitions ranging from "a place where crazies worship the devil" to "heaven on earth!" One reason why eco villages get reputations along such a broad spectrum is because each individual eco village creates its own definition based on the needs of residents, while non-residents perceive each community very differently.

Some communities are completely dedicated to sustainability and preserving the environment. Other communities focus on Christianity or another religion or spiritual practice, with daily life revolving around worship and ceremony. Intentional communities are not necessarily created with religion or environmental concerns in mind, choosing instead to share services like child care and cooking. Many of them are open and tolerant to a diversity of people, with few rules -- sometimes life is highly individual, with residents having separate jobs, families and privately owned resources. But some can have quite a few rules ranging from income sharing to restrictions on who can become a member.

Living in community is the most common-sense approach to sustaining the human species. We're social creatures, after all, living on a planet with finite resources that are quickly being extinguished. In the current world population of over 7 billion people, do we really need over 7 billion personal vehicles, lawnmowers and televisions? It saves time and money to share resources, common spaces and responsibilities. There are also social benefits to living in a community where you know your family is supported and nurtured.

Not every community can fit every person, and not everyone wants to live in community anyway. But in these times of fear and uncertainty, people are strongly considering their options, and that includes how to live in such a way as to help one another and our planet.

Amanda Bancroft is a writer, artist, and naturalist living in an off-grid tiny house on Kessler Mountain. She and her husband Ryan blog about their adventures and offer tips to those wanting to make a difference at www.RipplesBlog.org. This column is reprinted with updates. "Why Eco Villages" first printed in The Free Weekly June 6, 2013.

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