I think the idea of an eco-village is fascinating. I'm intrigued by the thought of living in concert with a group of like-minded people with whom I share the joys and sorrows of life; people who are there to celebrate when things are good and for support when things are bad. In a perfect world, we would all find that little niche into which we fit and then just move in and start living our lives surrounded by the radiating love of our community.
Unfortunately, life rarely plays out that way, especially for those of us in the suburbs. We often end up where we are for job-related reasons, or because we have family in the area, and while I do have in-laws living in the same town, we're not in the same neighborhoods. I think that's the norm for most Americans. Many of us consider our homes close to other relatives if we're within driving distance, but for the most part, living next door to Grandma is an anomaly.
We don't have family nearby, and with as mobile as our society has become, few of us live in the communities where we were raised. Being an Army Brat, I don't have a "community where I was raised", and until recently, I hadn't even had any contact with any of the people with whom I went to high school (and there's very little chance of my finding or reconnecting with any of those who graced the halls of Sherwood Elementary School when I was there more than three decades ago).
The result is that most of us feel incredibly isolated in our cookie-cutter suburban homes.
When I first started writing about staying in the suburbs in the face of TEOTWAWKI, the most oft heard concern had to do with not knowing the neighbors, or not trusting that the neighbors would be very valuable in an emergency situation. That bothered me on so many levels, because I think of all of the preparations we can make, this one, this developing a network, is probably the simplest. It requires no purchasing of anything, no hard labor, and no changing of one's environment to be more sustainable. All it requires is that one person go up to another person and make an introduction.
In the Meyers-Briggs personality assessment, I'm labeled INFJ. The first part of that, the *I*, stands for "introvert", which are individuals who generally prefer interacting with a few close friends rather than a wide circle of acquaintances, and they expend energy in social situations (whereas extraverts gain energy). What that means is that being in social situations drains me. I find it exhausting and incredibly difficult. So, when I say things like "just go out and meet people", like it's the easiest thing in the world to do, I need people to understand that I have a moderate level of social anxiety. I don't make this suggestion lightly, and it's not something that comes easily for me, which should suggest how important I think it is.
The fact is that having a network of individuals on whom one can rely is the most valuable asset we can have in a lower energy future. There are very few people in this world who don't have something of value to offer other people. In a lower energy future, we will discover that our networks are more valuable, even, than money, because it will be through those contacts that we find the things we need when money has become scarce or unavailable.
There's a huge difference between the kind of network I have and an eco-village community. Many of the people in my network have no idea of the depth of my crazy (well, they may now, after having seen my book ;). In short, they are not "like-minded", which is not to say that they don't hold some of the same values, but rather that it's not a part of the relationship I have with them to know what they think of Peak Oil or resource depletion, and in the greater scheme of things, it doesn't matter to our relationship whether they agree with me, or indeed, even if they believe these things are happening.
Which means that, perhaps, my network of very diverse people may actually be more resilient than the most perfect eco-village.
The bottom line is that in a lower energy future, we're going to need a lot of different kinds of people, and they're going to need us, but the first step is to get out there and meet them.
In his book The Great Neighborhood Book Jay Walljasper talks about reviving communities. Like building the network I suggest, Walljasper's solution requires being proactive. If you would like a copy of his book, please leave a comment.
AND THE WINNER IS ...The winner of the box of family fun is Hobbitkm. Congratulations! Please leave a comment with your full name and address. Comments are moderated and I will not publish your information.
The End is Near ... there is so very little time left. Is it true that "time flies when we're having fun"? Only two days left until the end! Be sure to check back every day, and comment, if you would like to be entered that day's drawing.