Riding-Out the Storm in the Ecovillage

Ecology as the global networking and outreach identity for the Intentional Community Movement

A. Allen Butcher • The School of Intentioneering • Dry Gulch Ecovillage • Denver, Colorado • Intentioneers.net • 4thWorld@consultant.com • February, 2022 • 4nd Edition • 19,813 words

Parts of this paper were first published in the author’s The Intentioneers’ Bible, and portions will appear in a future book by the author.


Intentional community is a counterculture, organizing ideal societies separate from and in reaction to perceived inadequacies of the dominant culture. There are, however, exceptions to this rule, as the kibbutz movement played several important roles in the establishment of the State of Israel. Then, too, the cohousing and ecovillage movements both work to integrate themselves into the dominant culture, similar to how worker and consumer cooperatives are generally accepted by the establishment. Yet it can be said, without reservation, that intentional communities develop and model methods for responding to the challenges and opportunities of changing times. Frank Manuel recognized this in his 1965 edited collection of essays, Utopias and Utopian Thought, in saying, “… the utopia may well be a sensitive indicator of where the sharpest anguish of an age lies.” (Manuel, p. 70)


Prologue . .           .           .           .           .           .            .           .            1

Intentioneering Ecological Lifestyles             .           .           .            .           .             3

Ecological Spirituality and Biosphere Consciousness           .            .           .             7

Bioregionalism and Ecofeminism       .           .           .           .            .           .             8

Fourth World              .           .           .           .           .           .            .           .          10

Community Land Trust          .           .           .           .           .            .           .           16

Cohousing                   .           .           .           .           .           .            .           .         20

Gaia Trust                   .           .           .           .           .           .            .           .           23

Global Ecovillage Network                .           .           .           .            .           .           26

Ecovillage Education            .           .           .           .           .            .           .        29                   

Utopian Studies                      .           .           .           .           .            .           .          36

First Fellowship of Intentional Communities            .           .            .           .           38

Second Fellowship for Intentional Community         .           .            .           .          40

The Foundation for Intentional Community              .           .            .           .          41

Sustainability Statistics          .           .           .           .           .            .           .           45

Ecovillages in the FIC Communities Directories                   .            .           .           50

References                  .           .           .           .           .           .            .           .          53

Intentioneering Ecological Lifestyles

While escapism is one of many attractions of intentional community, one may think instead of living in an ecovillage as a pro-active response to the existential threats of climate change, resource-extraction overreach, cultural homogenization, contagion, extinction, injustice, violence, and other problems of the “outside world.” Collectivization is a natural response to threat, and it is developing in many ways among the various forms of intentional community.

People seek in community the gentle strength, security, and meaningful engagement in the company of like-minded friends, afforded in collective methods of survival through uncertainty. Such communities attract to them hopeful, innovative ideas, and the people who come up with them, often refining those ideas then diffusing them as social or technological innovations throughout the dominant culture. Ecovillages and other intentional communities are both influenced by the dominant culture, and in turn actively influence that larger, outside-world culture. Each individual in community, socializing, raising children, working for the good of the community, or working for oneself first to then be able to contribute to the community, is part of the dynamic of building and maintaining not just one’s home community, yet by extension also both the ecovillage network and the larger Intentional Community Movement.

There needs to be a societal pressure-release, a place for people who cannot acculturate to, or who refuse to assimilate within the dominant culture. Intentional community provides that. While many people want to live and work within a cultural system that is structured enough that they do not need to think about how the system is organized or how to change it for the better, others are simply unable to work or live within that system and need to be able to create or find a social system more suited to their temperament. Such freedom is typically found in land trust communities, which for the most part only stipulate how the land is to be used.

While for some people the need is to be their own boss and not have to answer to anyone else, which is the sort of environment found in less-structured intentional communities, others want to engage with many like-minded people using more structure to create a shared culture of community. As taught in the School of Intentioneering, the issue of sharing versus privacy is answered differently in different types of intentional community. In communities like cohousing which share privately-owned property one begins with the assumption of privacy and asks, “How much am I willing to share?” In contrast, in communities which share commonly-owned property, like communal societies, one begins with the assumption of sharing and asks, “How much privacy do I need?” The difference is in the often-expressed conflict between individuality and collectivity, and each community design finds an appropriate balance between these levels of consciousness, such that ideally neither the individual nor the group is submerged by the other.

I once conducted an email survey of former members of the communal society called East Wind Community (EWC) asking exEWers (i.e., former or ex-members of East Wind) why they joined EWC and why they left. Nearly all the responders said essentially that they joined for idealistic reasons, like to live more ecologically in the country, or in a feminist, egalitarian society, or in a non-capitalist, non-authoritarian culture, and left for personal reasons, like to return to college, to travel, or to do kinds of work and develop careers not available in community, or to have and raise their children close to their supportive grandparents.

Other reasons for leaving at least communal society are to either find a partner with whom to have the kind of intimate relationship which one cannot find in the communal group, or once they have found such a partner in community, to leave and enjoy an exclusive nuclear-family relationship outside of community. The relationship issue, like the work-options issue, is partly a function of the size of the intentional community. In some ways, small communities or “cofamilies” of 3-to-9 mostly unrelated adults and children provide closer, more intimate lifestyles, while larger more impersonal communities may provide more opportunities for finding a partner. This partner-search is one of the primary reasons why people move from one group to another, then another, and another; community-hopping around the country or around the world.

Some people spend their entire adult lives searching for or working to create the fabled “beloved community.” For some, community is the last resort, or their last great hope for a sense of belonging. Others do find something like utopia, or the best approximation of utopia they can help create, and live happily-ever-after in community.

A very common dynamic found in communitarianism is that people join when they have reached their rope’s end in the dominant culture, and have become thoroughly disgusted with the status quo of “the establishment.” Upon joining intentional community, they internalize communitarian values, and become heartened by experiencing that we humans really can live in harmony, cooperation, and mutual aid, sharing personal responsibility for self, society, and nature. This is such a positive revelation for many people that they then return to the outside world to apply what they have learned from their community experience, and subsequently make a positive impact upon that larger society, or at least become accepting enough of it to survive more-or-less happily within it, where-as previously they regarded that culture in the most negative way. Call this the “Pythagoras-Plato Effect,” named after two ancient Greek philosophers.

The Greek philosopher Plato (427 to 347 B.C.E.) was living in Athens, Greece and becoming ever more disgusted with Athenian politics. He wanted out of the drama and so traveled to Italy to learn from the philosopher Pythagoras, the 6th century B.C.E. mathematician who discovered a geometric theorem named after him, and the mathematical ratios of musical intervals, and who first coined the term “philosopher” to mean “lover of wisdom.” Pythagoras had died about a century earlier, yet the work he had done and the cultures he had influenced were continuing his ideas about society and governance, which can be summarized as “philosopher kings,” which Plato later carried on. Pythagoras disliked popular sovereignty and democracy, yet he had learned other feminist values and ethics from a priestess at the Oracle of Delphi named Aristokleia or Themistoclea. Pythagoras taught women as well as men in his school-community called “Homakoeion,” founded at Crotone in south Italy about 530 B.C.E., which is considered to be the first known intentional community in Western civilization. (Eisler, p. 112; Harrison, p. 646; Metcalf & Christian, p. 671)

In her book on Ancient Greek religion Jane Harrison reports that the cynic philosopher Diogenes, a contemporary of Plato, credits Pythagoras with passing down to us “primitive theology,” or as Riane Eisler calls it the “ancient mysticism” of Neolithic societies, probably including the Goddess Trinity of Maid, Mother, Elder, which he had learned from Themistoclea. (Eisler, pp. 25, 112; Harrison, p. 262)

Pythagoras was a superstar in his era, when wisdom and teaching was honored about as much as was strength in the warrior culture. Plato’s experience in Pythagorean community was so inspirational to him that he returned to Athens in 387 B.C.E. and started a philosophical school called “The Academy,” admitting, as did Pythagoras, female students. Plato wrote his political utopia The Republic in 375 B.C.E., still taught today in philosophy and political science classes.

The present author had an experience of the Pythagoras-Plato Effect after growing up in the dominant culture during the end of the Vietnam War and the Watergate Era. Having become disheartened by establishmentarianism, a word to which we were introduced by our 6th grade teacher, I blamed “The System” for all the travails of the time. When in college the first time I had no interest in studying business or governance, thinking that those were the problem. I was studying philosophy yet could see no future in it, so I dropped out and joined rural communal societies: first East Wind Community (E.W.), then Twin Oaks Community (T.O.).

After twelve years in communal society I returned to college, and earned degrees in business and political science, the very subjects I had earlier spurned. What changed in my thinking? I had learned in community that politics and economics, much like religion, are not the problem, they are tools used to shape society and culture, and so like anything else they can be used for good or for evil. In egalitarian community we designed participatory forms of governance and time-based economic systems to support our highest values and ethical ideals in communal cultures that continue to thrive today, more than half-a-century after their founding.

I am aware of former members of East Wind and Twin Oaks who left community to become computer programmers, construction contractors, fire-fighters, emergency medical technicians, nurses, doctors, business consultants, and even investment bankers. In the 20th century members of Israeli kibbutzim became military generals and at least one prime minister. During the European Middle Ages there was essentially a revolving door for people between life as titled royalty and as leaders of Catholic monastic orders. The experience of self-organization in intentional community has helped many people to live in the outside, dominant culture, often applying communitarian values in their beliefs, professions, passions, and lifestyles.

Reversing ecological degradation and establishing harmony between humans and the world we inhabit is a recent countercultural motive for intentional-community organizing. In prior ages, other cultural stresses provided the inspiration for the social innovations which subsequently arose within intentional communities. Responding to concerns about the dominant society through building intentional community, whether the issue involves religion or spirituality, politics, economics, technology, sociology, psychology, or philosophy, is called by the present author, “intentioneering.” Many different types of intentional community result from the different designs for community developed for responding to various concerns.

While in earlier times the generic term for people living in intentional community was “communitarian,” there is now available for use the shorter term “intentioneer,” which emphasizes the individual’s commitment to designing and building intentional community.

Regardless of the focus of the particular community, the increasing adoption of the term “ecovillage” within the larger Intentional Communities Movement, by many different types of communities, is now making the terms “intentional community” and “ecovillage” synonymous. A similar dynamic has evolved with the term “kibbutz,” as originally it meant specifically communal society. In recent decades, due to the privatization of three-quarters of the nearly 280 rural kibbutzim, resulting in their transformation into cohousing-like communities on government land trusts, and due to younger generations of kibbutznics forming different kinds of urban intentional communities, the term “kibbutz” is now also synonymous with the term “intentional community.” Similar usage of the terms “cohousing,” “coliving,” and others add to the confusion. Although these terms may have once had clear definitions, people tend to use the terms indiscriminately to mean whatever kind of community is at hand. The result of people using communitarian terminology to mean different things in different contexts is that it can be very confusing and difficult to understand exactly what kind of intentional community people are talking about. Although such obfuscation, or mash-up of terms, is not helpful for explaining the design of individual communities, at least the term “ecovillage” serves to add an emphasis absent from the terms “cohousing” and “coliving.” (“Cohousing,” 2020; Marks, p. 62)

Ecology grew to become the global networking focus for the intentional communities movement during the last part of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st century, since any community wanting to use the concept for describing itself can call itself an “ecovillage,” regardless of the community’s prior economic, governance, social, philosophical, or other identity. There is no minimum requirement for adopting the ecovillage name or identity, only an intention to live lightly on the land, in right-relationship with all living beings sharing it, and there is no single right way of doing that. Terms like “sustainable” and “regeneration” are often used to describe aspects of at least the physical processes and energy systems, and sometimes the social systems, developed or adopted by ecovillages.

The wide and growing acceptance of the term “ecovillage” suggests that climate change, species extinction, and other aspects of global warming are becoming greater concerns for ever more people, as we look for ways to survive or “ride-out” the storms and other dangers of the present and coming tribulations.

Ecological Spirituality and Biosphere Consciousness

Ecological consciousness becomes a spirituality as people revere as sacred the components and dynamics of environmental systems, and recognize in them a life-energy they choose to consider to be divine. Such a view of divinity can be overlaid upon any living organism, ecosystem, bioregion, or planetary ecosphere, with the latter represented by the name Gaia, an ancient Greek earth goddess, the mother of time and of creation, imparting wisdom to commoners and kings through the Oracle at Delphi. In a similar way, the Gaia Hypothesis, as developed by James Lovelock in his 1979 book Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth, imparts an understanding of how life is sustained on the planet, which is as Jeremy Rifkin wrote in The Empathic Civilization, a “self-regulating entity that maintains itself in a steady state conducive to the continuance of life.” In both The Empathic Civilization and in The Green New Deal Rifkin presents this awareness as a “biosphere consciousness.” (Rifkin, 2009, pp. 26, 593, 598; Rifkin, 2019, pp. 212, 244)

The awakening to a biosphere consciousness in America can be said to have begun around the first Earth Day in 1970. Through the 1960s, ‘70s, and ‘80s various appropriate-technology-focused communities or alternative-technology centers—these terms were used as keywords in the descriptions of some of the communities included in directories printed by the Fellowship for Intentional Community (FIC)—developed more-or-less independently the concepts of renewable resources and sustainable technologies. These research and development communities were called “planetary villages” by Corinne McLaughlin and Gordon Davidson in their 1985 book, Builders of the Dawn: Community Lifestyles in a Changing World. Corinne and Gordon had spent time at Findhorn community in Scotland, and cofounded Sirius community in Massachusetts partly from that inspiration. (McLaughlin & Davidson, pp. 335-8)

Among the early alternative or appropriate technology centers in the United States were:

●  Arcosanti near Cordes Junction Arizona, begun in 1970;

●  Cerro Gordo near Cottage Grove, Oregon in 1973;

●  Farallones Institute founded in 1969, with its Integral Urban House started in 1974 in Berkeley, California;

●  High Wind near Plymouth, Wisconsin in 1981;

●  Meadowcreek Project near Fox, Arkansas in 1979;

●  New Alchemy Institute founded in 1969 near East Falmouth, Massachusetts, becoming the Alchemy Farm Cohousing community in the 1990s; and

●  New Life Farm near Drury (later near Brixey), Missouri, founded 1978.

In the 1970s the first “ecovillages” were developed in the U.S. and Europe, called ökodorf in Germany, sometimes as long-term protest encampments, such as at the anti-nuclear-energy-waste site at Gorleben, Germany in the late 1970s, and at the anti-nuclear weapons action at the Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp in Berkshire, England between 1981 and 2000. (Bates, p. 423; Christian, 2009, p. 1)

In 1975 the back-to-the-land magazine Mother Earth News began building an educational center with passive-solar buildings and organic gardens near its offices in Hendersonville, North Carolina, calling it an “ecovillage” by 1979. (Bates, p. 424; Christian, 2009, p. 1)

In the mid-1970s Bill Mollison, ecology instructor at the University of Tasmania and a student David Holmgren, together developed the idea of “permaculture,” drawing from the earlier works of: Eugene Odum of the University of Georgia, publishing Ecology in 1963 and later Fundamentals of Ecology; Wes Jackson teaching at the California State University in Sacramento, later of the Land Institute in Kansas publishing New Roots for Agriculture in 1980; and Masanobu Fukuoka in Japan, publishing The One Straw Revolution in 1975. The book Permaculture One was published in 1978, and Permaculture Two in ’79. The first permaculture design course (PDC) was taught in 1981. Many of those involved in the founding of the Global Ecovillage Network (GEN) had been trained in or were themselves permaculture designers. (Bang, pp. 44, 49-50, 261)

The magazine Ökodorf Informationen (Ecovillage Information) began publishing in 1985, later becoming the German magazine Eurotopia, with a series of European community directories by the same name published at Sieben Linden Ecovillage beginning in 2000 (English versions in 2001 and 2014).

Bioregionalism and Ecofeminism

The growing ecological awareness was fashioned into a movement called “bioregionalism,” beginning in 1975 with the coining of the term by Allen Van Newkirk (Canadian), and the advocacy for bioregional mapping by Peter Berg of Planet Drum in San Francisco. Others included: Kirkpatrick Sale author of Human Scale (1980), Dwellers in the Land, (1985), and The Green Revolution (1993); and David Haenke of New Life Farm in Missouri, organizing the first Ozark Bioregional Congress in 1980. As of 2020, the Ozark Area Community Congress (OACC) has held forty-one annual autumn Congresses, and continues to be an important countercultural networking organization for the Ozarks. (Bioregionalism, 2021; Sale, 2021)

The 1983-84 annual report of New Life Farm by Vinnie Wittenberg explains the bioregional mission.

“The Bioregional Project of New Life Farm, Inc. was created in July, 1982 to aid in the development and coordination of the Bioregional movement in North America. In the long term we work towards the establishment of sustainable human societies designed according to ecological laws and principles, and functioning in mutually beneficial cooperation with the larger “Earth community.” The Earth community is made up of all the living and non–living parts of the ecosystems in which we live. …

“The Ozark Area Community Congress (OACC), with support and coordination provided by New Life Farm, has had four yearly convenings, with … average attendance of 200, with about 100 organizations represented … The OACC resolutions of 1980 constitute the first comprehensive bioregional/green platform written. (New Life Farm, pp. 4-5)

“Organizing the first North American Bioregional Congress (NABC I) was our largest project so far. NABC I convened from May 21-25, 1984 northeast of Kansas City. It brought together 217 participants from 130 organizations, and from 32 U.S. states, two Canadian provinces, as well as England, Australia, West Germany, South Africa, and four native North American tribes.

“The major purposes of NABC I were to bring continental bioregionalists together along with those also working in political ecology, sustainability, and the broad scale green movement; help unify the bioregional movement; seed new bioregional congresses and organizations; help focus green movement energies towards new coalitions and impact on existing political/electoral systems; explore the great common ground between bioregionalists and native/indigenous peoples; constitute NABC as an ongoing event and continuing organization; and celebrate North America.” (New Life Farm, p. 4-5)

Among other bioregional organizations and events is the 1991 conference of the Sisters of Saint Frances’ Farm in Oldenburg, Indiana, hosting the Ohio River Watershed Bioregion Congress and Festival. This event is one indication that both Catholics and Protestants had begun to see the need to steward God’s creation, as opposed to the Old Testament (Genesis 1: 26-8) view that God encourages humanity to take “dominion” over all of the earth, as a result typically despoiling it rather than respecting that humanity is part of a web-of-life.

The North American Bioregional Congresses took place every two years from 1984 to 1996, beginning in northwest Missouri in 1984, then: Michigan (Great Lakes ’86); British Columbia, Canada (Cascadia ’88); Maine (Gulf of Maine ’09); Texas (Edwards Plateau ’92); Kentucky (Ohio River Valley ’94); and Mexico (Cuahunahuac ’96). After that the NABC events happened less frequently. The Kansas Area Watershed (KAW Council) hosted NABC IIIV (Prairie 2002), and Katuah Council hosted NABC IX in 2005 at Earthaven Ecovillage in North Carolina. This list is from a website created in 2010, so whether more NABCs have occurred since then is unknown to the present author. (Bioregional Congress, 2010)

Judith Plant explains that bioregionalism “responds to a recognition that we are floundering without an adequate overall philosophy of life to guide our action toward a sane alternative. It is a proposal to ground human cultures within natural systems, to get to know one’s place intimately in order to fit human communities to the earth, not distort the earth to our demads.” (Warren, quoting Judith Plant, p. 132)

In the book Ecofeminism: Women, Culture, Nature Judith Plant writes that, “Feminist bioreginal organizing is inclusive; it embraces differences. . . . Bioregionalism is attempting to rebuild human and natural community . . . There is room for men in this process, men who are willing to cultivate gentleness, caring, and cooperation, and this movement must have the leadership of women. . . . [T]he bioregional movement, the move toward ecocommunity, must be feminist. For without feminism, we will not have the consciousness to truly bring us to the better world humanity must have if our species is to survive.” (Warren, quoting Judith Plant, pp. 133-4)

Ecofeminist critics of bioregionalism, like Ynestra King, point out that it omits analysis of human oppression, pointing out that “the ecological crisis is inseparable from the many social crises.” (Greta Gaard quoting Ynestra King in Eaton & Lorentzen, pp. 209, 213)

Ecofeminism emphasizes the “personal/political connection” (Gretta Gard in Eaton & Lorentzen, p. 213), such that “what is valued personally is the same as what is valued politically.” (Judith Plant in Warren, p. 133)

Rosemary Radford Ruther in her book Godesses and the Divine Feminine recognizes that the “male hierarchical concept of the divine is a major ideological reinforcement of these patterns of social domination . . . military violence, economic exploitation, and ecological collapse.” She conclude that “new myth-making today” intended to reforge the relationships between the earth, humans, and the divine, can affirm a convergence of different interpretations to result in an “ecumenical and interreligious common ground of ecofeminist theology and spirituality.” (Ruether, pp. 307-8)

Rosemary Radford Ruther’s suggestion of the need for an inter-religious common ground suggests the value of multi-faith spiritualities such as those found in most major religions, including Unitarian Universalism in the Christian tradition, Ba’hai and Sufism of the Islamic tradition, Integral Yoga from the Hindu tradition, and others.

Fourth World

In economics, the First World is the dominant culture of market-based economies. The Second World is state-planned economies, of which few remain, while the Third World is comprised of developing countries becoming either First or Second World. The Fourth World is comprised of societies that are happy with their local economies and are not trying to become part of the First or Second Worlds. While traditional, tribal cultures are considered to be part of the Fourth World, many Fourth World cultures are comprised of people who were born into the First World, who then decide to leave it, or at least to create alternative cultures, to become Fourth World. This includes all intentional communities, bioregional congresses, transition towns, and various regional associations such as: the Zapatista region of southern Mexico; the Emilio-Romagna region of Italy; the Basque and Catalonia regions of Spain; the collectives of the San Francisco Bay Area of California; and the Kurdish region of northeast Syria.

The Institute for Social Ecology (ISE) in Vermont champions regional democratic-decentralist associations like those listed above, often using the term “democratic confederalism” to describe them. While these are not primarily, and may not even be explicitly organized from an ecological imperative, ecological awareness is typically as much a focus for these regional associations as it is for many ecovillages.

ISE uses the French political definition of the term “commune” to mean local or regional self-organized political organization. This was begun by Murray Bookchin, presumably to emphasize the Paris Commune of 1871 as a model of popular sovereignty, during which the city was briefly free of control by the French state and church, only lasting however, ten weeks and ending in disaster. (Bookchin, pp. 98-100)

In contrast, the English economic definition of “commune” refers to communal intentional communities, the best example of which for secular or multi-faith communities in the U.S.A. is Twin Oaks Community (T.O.), in existence over a half-century and often accepting visitors. Using the 501(d) IRS status, T.O. has the required “statement of religious belief” affirming their multi-faith culture, while like other egalitarian communities T.O. self-identifies as secular. An opportunity exists for egalitarian communities to make gender-equal partnership culture a religion, as a form of Partnership Spirituality. T.O has used “co/cos” for gender-neutral pronouns, while other methods of applying the ideal of partnership culture have been developed and are advocated by Riane Eisler of the Center for Partnership Studies (see: centerforparnership.org).

One of the co-founders of Twin Oaks, Kathleen Kinkade, invented in 1967 a non-exchange, time-based economy of sharing called by the present author the “vacation-credit, labor-sharing system,” now in use over fifty years, with different versions adopted by other communal groups.

Kathleen Kinkade’s income-sharing, labor-credit economy represents perhaps the best example of the second stage of Marxist communist theory, following the first stage of class-conflict. Marx and Engels could only define the nature of that second stage of communist theory by calling it the “administration of things” in Engels’ 1880 pamphlet, Socialism: Utopian and Scientific, and by using Morelly’s 18th century maxim, “from each according to ability; to each according to need” in Marx’s 1875 letter, Critique of the Gotha Program. Avoiding the violence of Marxist class-war, Kinkade’s labor-credit system, which values all labor equally that benefits the community, represents a collective update of the individualist Morelly’s Maxim to Allen’s Axiom of, “from all according to intent; to all according to fairness.” Egalitarian communalism skips class-conflict to go straight into the fabled “worker’s paradise.” (Tucker, pp. 531, 689)

As a movement the Fourth World includes, as written in the announcement for the First Assembly of the Fourth World in 1981, “the whole spectrum of the alternative movement … for a human scale and a non-centralized, multi-cellular, power-dispersed world order.” (Fourth World, 1981)

“The whole spectrum of the alternative movement” is a very broad and varied picture of a decentralized, human-scale culture. As with many things, it is easier to state what the Fourth World is not than to explain what it is. Along with traditional indigenous cultures, the Fourth World essentially involves everything that is not First World. Since the Third World comes out of indigenous culture and is becoming First or Second World it is in the middle, with aspects of many or all of the other political-economic worlds. The Fourth World can be described as including everything that is not of the current, dominant, First World global cutlure, often called “neo-liberal market capitalism.”

Any alternative economic system may be considered to be Fourth World, including economic reform programs like the land-value tax, which preserves the economic value of land for the benefit of society as a whole rather than going as rent to land owners. Alanna Hartzok explains in her book The Earth Belongs to Everyone that if we, “apply the common heritage principle to land, then it follows that ground rent, which is a measure of natural resource value, must be treated as “common property.” The next step which three-factor (i.e., land, labor, and capital) economists take is to link this insight with the public finance system. Voila! The policy imperative becomes clear. A way to affirm the equal rights of all to the common heritage is to collect the ground rent for the benefit of the community as a whole, a policy frequently referred to as “land value taxation”.” (Hartzok, pp. 138-9)

The justification for programs such as the land-value tax is called “natural law,” as opposed to human-made laws called “positive law.” Positive law is typically intended to benefit certain populations or individuals over others. In contrast, the natural law perspective is explained by one of the primary advocates of the land-value tax, Henry George, saying, “The equal right of all men and women to the use of land is as clear as their equal right to breathe the air. It is a right proclaimed by the fact of their existence. For we cannot suppose that some men and women have a right to be in this world and others do not.” (George, book VII chapter 1)

The same natural law concept applies to many other areas in which a few people strive to benefit from restricting access by the many to the abundance of the natural world, like natural resources such as minerals, water, the magnetic spectrum including broadcast frequencies, and even extra-terrestrial resources like the limited number of geo-stationary orbits above the planet. Fourth World political-economics affirms most if not all of the values and ideals of natural law.

Other economic alternatives included in the Fourth World are local currencies and crypto currencies. Local currencies clearly respect the value of decentralism, while crypto currency technology uses the World Wide Web with no centralized structure like that of a central bank.

Thomas Greco explains the process involved in creating alternative “exchange systems to carry heavy economic loads within local bioregions and to operate them according to sound business principles. … 1. Institute measures that promote import substitution; 2. Provide an alternative payment medium, …; 3. Issue a supplemental regional currency; 4. Develop basic support structures that strengthen the local economy …; 5. Develop an independent value standard and unit of account. … The credit clearing exchange is the key element that enables a community to develop a sustainable economy under local control and to maintain a high standard of living and quality of life.” (Greco, pp. 173-4; emphasis in the original)

The Fourth World Movement was begun in England in 1966 by John Papworth, who founded in that year Resurgence: Journal of the Fourth World, which later merged with The Ecologist. Papworth founded in 1980 the Fourth World Review: For Small Nations, Small Communities & The Human Spirit, and began working with Nicholas Albery on organizing annual Fourth World conferences. In the announcement for the First Assembly Albery explained that the Fourth World, “has been variously defined to embrace small nations, groups working for their autonomy and independence at all levels from the neighborhood to the nation, minority groups, whether ethnic, linguistic, cultural or religious, and those groups in the fields of peace action, ecology, economics, energy resources, women’s liberation and the whole spectrum of the alternative movement, who are struggling against the giantism of the institutions of today’s mass societies and for a human scale and a non-centralized, multi-cellular, power-dispersed world order.” (Nicholas Albery, quoted in Fourth World, 1981, emphasis in the original)

The First Assembly of the Fourth World took place at the City University in London, England in 1981. Over 400 people attended presenting over 200 papers in 22 different discussion forums addressing human-scale, decentralist, confederal alternatives to the dominant culture. In 1984 Nicholas Albery and Mark Kinzley published a book titled, How to Save the World: A Fourth World Guide to the Politics of Scale, which included Albery’s definition of the Fourth World presented above. (Fourth World, 1981)

The Fourth World Assemblies enjoyed a substantial amount of trans-national development through the decade of the 1980s. Then after ten Assemblies of the Fourth World the network went dormant in the 1990s.

Since the last of the Fourth World Assemblies in the 1990s at least two new forms of the Fourth World have arisen within the First World. These are Transition Towns, and the municipal organizing of the Democracy Collaborative, which has been connecting with Native American tribes.

The global Transition Initiatives movement began in a course taught by the permaculture designer Rob Hopkins in Kinsale, County Cork, Ireland in 2004. Two students, Louise Rooney and Catherine Dunne coined the term “transition town,” and in 2006 Hopkins founded the first transition town project in Totnes, Devon, England. (See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transition_town)

The Transition Town website presents a list of seven aspects of Transition groups (paraphrased):

•  Good group process;

•  Present a vision of the desired future;

•  Connect with those of similar interest beyond your natural allies;

•  Collaborate with like-minded organizations;

•  Find and develop programs that are doable and inspirational;

•  Connect with the Transition Network, and be creative in outreach to the larger culture;

•  Evaluate the results of your actions, and celebrate successes!

(See: http://www.transitionnetwork.org to download the “Essential Guide to Doing Transition” or go to: https://transitionnetwork.org/resources-essential-guide-transition/

Rather than being a form of intentional community, Transition Towns are a way of organizing within the circumstantial community of people who happen to live in proximity by chance, not by intention. One of the projects sometimes developed is the mapping of local resources for self-reliance, such as sustainable or regenerative projects in health, education, energy, food and other economic sectors. Transition Initiatives emphasize: social justice, the circular economy, and distributed governance. The idea of “distributed governance” is similar to what is called “democratic-decentralism” in the School of Intentioneering, and to what is called “democratic confederalism” or perhaps “confederal municipalism” in the Institute for Social Ecology.

In Cleveland, Ohio there is a project called “The Evergreen Cooperative Initiative” inspired by the Spanish Mondragon cooperatives. The Evergreen co-ops were begun by the Democracy Collaborative, comprised of the Cleveland Foundation, the Ohio Employee Ownership Center, the City of Cleveland, and the city’s major hospitals and universities. Evergreen is considered to be “a new model of large-scale worker-owned and community-benefiting businesses.” Part of “The Cleveland Model” involves collaboration with public and non-profit organizations, such as city agencies, universities, and hospitals, to replace the non-local corporations which have been providing services to these “anchor institutions” with local worker-owned cooperatives providing the same services. The model is to redirect the cash flow going to out-of-state corporations to instead support locally responsible businesses and jobs. The Evergreen cooperatives receive exclusive contracts for food production in urban greenhouses, laundry services, solar energy systems, and energy conservation retrofits, which they then use for securing funding for the growth and development of the co-ops. (See: http://www.community-wealth.org/cleveland)

The Democracy Collaborative has developed an ongoing initiative for identifying a preferred economy called “The Next System Project,” involving conferences, essay contests, publications, and much more toward an equitable, nurturing, and sustainable culture. (See: http://www.thenextsystem.org)

At least one Native American tribe has recognized the similarities between the values inherent in worker-owned businesses and their own cultural traditions and are building them on their reservations. In an article on the community-wealth.org website dated July 7, 2014 Sarah McKinley and Marjorie Kelly reported that the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation of the Oglala Lakota tribe of the Great Sioux Nation, one of the poorest communities in the country, is the site of a federally funded “Regenerative Community” being built by the Thunder Valley Development Corporation, praised by President Obama in a public speech for its planned energy self-reliance and social enterprises intended to support the Native residents. (McKinley & Kelly, 2014)

Elsewhere on the Pine Ridge Reservation the Native American Natural Foods company is a Native-owned buffalo meat and apple, cranberry, and other fruit snacks company which received help from the Democracy Collaborative for converting their business to an employee-owned company (found on the web at: http://www.tankabar.com). In their article titled, Indian Country the Site of New Developments in Community Wealth Building, McKinley and Kelly explain that these are two of five Native American projects supported by The Democracy Collaborative and the Northwest Area Foundation through their “Learning/Action Lab for Community Wealth Building.” (McKinley & Kelly, 2014)

The Learning/Action Lab arranged visits of members of the Pine Ridge Reservation and other tribes to existing social enterprises such as urban farming projects, an employee-owned cleaning company in the Bay Area, an employee-owned solar energy company in Denver, a Native-owned grocery in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, and the Evergreen Co-operatives in Cleveland, Ohio, the network of three employee-owned cooperatives which The Democracy Collaborative also helped to create. As practiced in these initiatives “wealth building” involves the development of local assets for the creation of enterprises that anchor jobs in the community. (McKinley & Kelly, 2014)

“The Democracy Collaborative has come to a heightened awareness of the profound intersection between Indian values and the principles and vision of the community wealth building approach. As one [Native American] participant put it, “What we perceive as a paradigm of building a new economy is really about returning to what our ancestors knew.” (McKinley & Kelly, 2014)

As some Native Americans see cooperative organization as a return to ancestral knowledge and practices, one wonders what they may think of the non-monetary, non-exchange, time-based, labor-sharing communal economy.

Community Land Trust

Mildred Loomis (1900-1986) of the School of Living suggests in her 1980 book Alternative Americas that the term “back-to-the-land,” in the sense of people deliberately choosing to live an agrarian as opposed to an urban lifestyle, may have originated in Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s publication in 1762 of Émile, a treatise on education in the form of a novel. In Émile, Rousseau affirms that people living in nature learn and experience the ideal of the sinless, un-fallen human lifestyle, as opposed to the sinful aspects of living in the dominant culture. (Loomis, 1980, p. 57)

The Old Testament Jewish view of land is markedly different from the later Roman law of “dominium,” in part because the Jewish concept arose prior to the invention of the more sophisticated forms of money and markets of the Roman Empire. Prior to the development of Roman property law, which remains the basis of land tenure in Western Civilization today, the ownership and control of land was dependent upon either one’s ability to defend one’s private holdings (whether peasant or king), or in the case of the Jewish nation, upon one’s adherence to the pronouncements of religious authorities.

In her 2008 book, The Earth Belongs to Everyone, Alanna Hartzok of the Earth Rights Institute explains that in “Talmudic rabbinical discussions” the Jewish rabbis decided among themselves how to apportion the conquered land of Canaan among the various Hebrew tribes. Recipients of fertile land received less land than the recipients of poor land, and those with land closer to the city paid a tax to the treasury that was then give to those with land far from the city, in recognition of the advantage of location, since transportation of produce to market over long distances was a great expense. “In this, then we see affirmed the doctrine that natural advantages are common property, and may not be diverted to private gain.” (Hartzok, p. 98)

Ralph Borsodi (1886-1977) had written This Ugly Civilization (1928) and Flight From the City (1933), and was invited by the Council of Social Service Agencies in Dayton, Ohio to consult in the planning of a President Roosevelt-inspired New Deal community project. The Council was attempting to relieve unemployment in the city and in 1932 had developed a series of “Cooperative Production Units,” devoting urban buildings to food, clothing, and other production cooperatives, bartering their production among the units for either raw materials or finished goods. About a dozen such units involved 350 to 500 families. The Council wanted to expand into rural production units, hoping that getting people out of the city and onto the land would make it more possible for them to have self-reliant occupations as small farmers and craft workers through the Great Depression. This was the basic idea of many of the New Deal community projects, and with Ralph Borsodi’s help, the Dayton projects became one of the first federal subsistence homestead projects of the Farm Resettlement Agency (FRA), called “Liberty Homesteads” or “Dayton Homesteads.” Fifty homestead colonies were planned for around Dayton, offering leases to families for 3-acre plots, rather than ownership, in order to avoid speculation in the price of land. This anti-inflationary-speculation arrangement was later part of what became called “limited equity,” yet in the 1930s it was unacceptable to the local investors to whom Ralph Borsodi marketed his idea for financing, which was the issuing of “Independence Bonds.” With the failure of local financing, partly due to attacks against the project by local newspapers, the Liberty Homesteads members democratically decided to apply, evidently with Borsodi’s reluctant help, for federal grants. Tim Miller states that this was through the National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA), while Robert Fogarty states it was the FRA. By 1933 the Council had received $309,000 in federal funds. Then in 1934, Harold Ickes, Secretary of the Interior, under whom was administered both the FRA and the NIRA, federalized all the homestead projects under the Division of Subsistence Homesteads (DSH). The resulting confusion, delays, increased costs, and decreased local control brought the entire project to a halt, which ended Ralph’s faith in government assistance. (Fogarty, 1980, p. 17; Loomis, 1980, pp. 59, 94; Miller, 1998, pp. 129-31; Questenberry, p. 118)

Significantly, Joseph Knapp arrives at the same conclusion about government assistance in the context of 1930s farm cooperatives that, “cooperative enterprise thrived best from internal strength free from external bureaucratic controls.” (Knapp, p. 144)

By 1936 the last homesteading families left Liberty Homesteads, and among them was Mildred Loomis, later writing in her book Alternative Americas,

“I was part of a cooperative homestead-household. I remember the shock we all felt when Borsodi explained among some new principles community title, rather than individual title, to land.

“Land, like people, should not be subject to buying and selling,” Borsodi said simply. “Land is not a humanly-produced product: land is everyone’s common heritage.” We would-be homesteaders, to put it mildly, were startled. … We had long and vigorous discussions; fear and anger frequently cropped up. Borsodi was sure of his approach. Factions developed, for and against “community lands tenure.” Delays and no action. Some said this time was filled with “bickering”—I called it “mis-communication” and inept group-process, stemming from our woeful mis-education in land-ethics.” (Loomis, 1986, p. 86; emphasis in the original)

The experience of Liberty Homesteads turned Borsodi against any kind of government involvement in decentralized, cooperative projects, causing him to develop a new focus upon educating people for small, local self-reliant communities. “If American people are to develop wisdom about their lives and their problems—what to use government for, where to live, how to be healthy—a new education is needed. Let us build a School of Living for this.” (Ralph Borsodi, 1933, quoted in Loomis, 1986, p. 87)

The School of Living (SoL) was founded in 1934 and continues today as both an educational organization and a regional community land trust (RCLT) in the Mid-Atlantic States, holding land for residential communities in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia. As a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) educational organization SoL holds each parcel of land under a separate Title-Holding Corporation 501(c)(2). This legal structure was first advocated by Robert Swann for land trusts.

Robert Swann (1918-2003) served time in prison for his conscientious objection to war, where he subscribed to the correspondence course on decentralism and community-building offered by the School of Living. The texts used were Borsodi’s books and Arthur Morgan’s The Small Community.  This course was created by two former Methodist missionaries to India, Ralph Templin and Paul Keene, who believed that the School of Living was, “the closest thing to Gandhi in America.” (Loomis, 1980, p. 77)

In 1960 Robert and Marjorie Swann created the Committee for Non-Violent Action (CNVA) in Voluntown, Connecticut, on a community land trust called the CNVA Farm. CNVA served the peace movement by supporting protests, boycotts, marches, pickets, and civil disobedience against the military-industrial complex. In the mid-1960s the Swanns were working to rebuild bombed and burned out churches in Mississippi during the Civil Rights Movement, and realized that part of the helplessness of the black population was due to their landlessness. Working with Slater King, cousin to Martin Luther King, with organizers of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and other civil rights organizations in the South, they created New Communities, Inc. in Tennessee in 1969, a community land trust serving the dispossessed poor. Beginning in 1967 Swann and Borsodi together, with assistance from Loomis and others involved in the International Independence Institute (III), wrote and published in 1972 The Community Land Trust: A Guide to a New Land Tenure in America. Then in 1973 the III was renamed the Institute for Community Economics (ICE), merging the models of the moshav settlements of the Israeli Jewish National Fund, beginning in Palestine in 1890, with the Indian Gramdan movement, and the School of Living land trusts, and thereby beginning the first community land trust organization and network in America. (Loomis, 1980, pp. 61-2, 77, 125-8)

As Dan Questenberry of the Fellowship for Intentionaal Community (FIC) writes, Bob Swann’s contribution to the design of community land trusts (CLTs) is the provision that CLT directors be comprised of activist community organizers along with legal, financial and other technical experts from the larger, surrounding community, not just residents of the CLT. This bylaws provision transforms a private land trust into a community land trust, with the “community” being not just those living on the land. Bob Swann’s design was used in the design of the Community Land Trust of the Southern Berkshires. In his article Tools for Community Control of Development Bob writes that having non-residents on the board is a good way to assure that the residents could never by themselves dissolve the trust and take private possession of the land. Better yet, the regional community land trust (RCLT) model, such as the SoL-RCLT, substitutes people living in multiple, non-contiguous plots of entrusted land for Bob Swann’s idea of non-residents on the board-of-directors. (Questenberry, p. 120; Swann, p. 2)


Denmark is a progressive country originating many cultural innovations, some of which have spread to other countries, particularly the cohousing community design, called in Danish, bofœllesskaber (pronounced: bow-fess-cobb-er) and translated as “living communities.”

Another Danish invention that has inspired community organizations, particularly those forming alternative community schools in various countries including the U.S.A., is the Danish Folk School Movement. In 1806 Reverend Grundtvig published a translation of the poetic Viking sagas, from which he developed for his own teachings an emphasis upon the old Norse tradition of the power of the spirit. In response to the periods of German occupation of Denmark, first under the Prussians beginning in 1864 then the Nazis in the 1930s, the Danes relied upon their traditions, thanks in part to Grundtvig’s work, in creating a Danish cultural renaissance. Many Danish youth left the cities for rural communities to found folk schools for teaching new agricultural techniques, cooperative organization, and Danish poetry and art, much as the young anarchists during the Spanish Civil War (1936-39) organized their rural population. (Kinney, pp. 2-3; Morgan, Arthur, p. 138)

The cohousing community design was imported from Denmark to the United States by, “a husband-wife design and consulting team … Charles [Durrett] has a professional architecture degree from California Polytechnic University in San Luis Obispo [California] and Kathryn [McCamant] holds her degree in architecture from the University of California, Berkeley.” Katie and Chuck published Cohousing: A Contemporary Approach to Housing Ourselves in 1988.(McCamant and Durrett, p. 203)

While attending Cal Poly, Charles Durrett may have been exposed to the space-use designs of egalitarian communalism, as a now retired professor of architecture at Cal Poly was Henry H. Hammer, a former member of Twin Oaks Community. In a personal conversation with the present author in 1990, Henry stated that a friend of his had earlier introduced him to the Cohousing book, and they determined that he was teaching at Cal Poly the same years that Charles was likely taking classes there. Henry also made informal presentations at Cal Poly about his architectural designs for passive solar heating in communal households at Twin Oaks.

While Henry Hammer taught that particular space-use designs can encourage specific desired behaviors, he was not the first person to recognize this potential for the built environment. Charles Fourier (1772-1837) wrote about this in 1822 via his concept of “passionate attraction” (see: Traite de l’Association Domestique Agricole), which influenced the 19th century Associationist communities in the U.S., including Brook Farm, a center of New England Transcendentalism. A little earlier, in Report to the County of Lanark: A New View of Society printed in 1813, Robert Owen (1771-1858) presented his belief that the primary influences upon the development of a person’s character is one’s physical and social environment, and therefore through deliberate design of the environment positive character traits can be engineered, especially individual happiness. (Garnett, pp. 7, 14; Hayden, pp. 150-1, 154, 218, 353)

Excellent sources of information about space-use design for community is Dolores Hayden’s books, Seven American Utopias: The Architecture of Communitarian Socialism, 1790-1975, and Redesigning the American Dream. A Hayden quote is found at the beginning of chapter 15 in the Cohousing book. (McCamant & Durrett, pp. 195, 206)

Of the various regional cohousing networks in the U.S.A. in the 1990s, the Rocky Mountain Cohousing Association (RMCA) was chosen for expansion into Cohousing-U.S.A. about 1996. The choice of RMCA was partly due to the network having been actively organizing for several years, and partly due to Katie McCamant being from Colorado. Around the time of the transition of RMCA to Cohousing-U.S.A., two former members of Twin Oaks were on the RMCA board-of-directors, Velma Kahn and Allen Butcher, and over the decades former members of Twin Oaks and other groups comprising the Federation of Egalitarian Communities (FEC) joined cohousing communities. Another community network, the Fellowship for Intentional Community (FIC), aided the cohousing movement by staffing and stocking a book-sales table at “coho” conferences, and especially by aiding cohousing groups with designing their decision-making and conflict resolution processes, through the FIC’s network of meeting-facilitation and group-process trainers.

As the cohousing movement grew in the U.S.A. various types of intentional communities began calling themselves “cohousing,” in the same way that some of those and other communities began calling themselves an “ecovillage,” to the point that practically any type of intentional community, other than communal societies, sometimes use the term to describe themselves. On the cohousing.org website there is a page presenting the “common characteristics” of cohousing communities and the “types of cohousing,” along with the statement, “We trust that as knowledge of cohousing grows creativity will expand and more and more methods for achieving community will arrive.” Both the cohousing and ecovillage ideas are growing the intentional community movement, while some groups use both terms in their description. (Cohousing, 2020)

As Kathryn McCamant and Charles Durrett explain, the Danish bofœllesskaber communities began with meetings of friends in 1964, from inspirations that the architect Jan Gudmand-Hoyer and friends found in utopian fiction, especially Thomas More’s Utopia written in 1516, and in historical Danish cooperative housing.  In his Encyclopedia of Community article “Cohousing,” Charles Durrett explains that Gudmand-Hoyer graduated from Harvard University with a graduate degree in 1964, and while in the U.S. he “studied U.S. ‘utopias’ such as Shakertown, Drop City, Twin Oaks, and many more, …”  Gudmand-Hoyer’s first community attempt was stopped by its neighbors from being built by their purchase of the property required for access to the site. The community group gave up the project in 1965. In 1968 Jan Gudmand-Hoyer wrote an article for a national publication about his ideas and experiences titled, The Missing Link Between Utopia and the Dated One-Family House, presenting the design of private dwellings around common facilities. Over a hundred people responded to the article with interest in living in such a community, from which a group formed to plan new community projects. Another article that helped to inspire the bofœllesskaber movement was published in 1967 by Bodil Graae titled, Children Should Have One Hundred Parents. Over fifty people responded who wanted a child-oriented community; one of whom was Hildur Jackson, later of Gaia Trust. (Durrett, p. 195; Jackson, p. 43; McCamant and Durrett, pp. 133-5)

Gaia Trust

In 1987 Ross (Canadian) and Hildur (Danish) Jackson in Denmark created the Gaia Trust to provide grants to ecovillage trainers and organizers around the world, with money that Ross had made from selling computer software he designed between 1984 and ‘86 for the foreign exchange currency markets. Karen Litfin states in her 2014 book, Ecovillages: Lessons for Sustainable Community, that Ross explains in his 2000 writing, We ARE Doing It: Building an Ecovillage Future, that “a spiritual experience he had with Swami Muktananda inspired him to create Gaia Trust.” Ross writes further about his spiritual path in, Kali Yuga Odyssey. (Jackson & Jackson, p. 14; Litfin, p. 12)

Ross Jackson created Gaia Trust from beliefs similar to those from earlier in the 20th century of Ralph Borsodi of the School of Living (New York City, NY), and Arthur Morgan of Community Service (Yellow Springs, OH), both organizations active today in the community land trust movement. Jackson writes:

“Whether the global economy collapsed or we were able to make a planned transition to a sustainable future, I understood that it would be necessary in either case to build a new culture. At the foundation of this culture must necessarily be sustainable human settlements, and for this we needed good models. I believed that a network of ecovillages that provided such models would be an extremely valuable base on which to build. (Jackson & Jackson, p. 14)

“Community” has always been the essence of human culture from time immemorial. But by adopting a new name, “ecovillage,” the basic concept became infused with new energy.” (Jackson & Jackson, p. 15)

Hildur Jackson, a social activist, wrote in a 2005 Communities magazine article titled, From Cohousing to Ecovillge: A Global Feminist Vision? (emphasis in the original) that she found with her husband Ross, five other families to help purchase a farm near Copenhagen and create a bofœllesskaber called “Hoejtofte” in 1970. In her 2005 article Hildur answers Sigmund Freud’s question, “What do women want?” saying, “I believe the answer is community.” (Dawson, p. 12-3; Jackson, pp. 42-5, 48; Jackson & Jackson, p. 14)

In 1990 the Jackson’s bought a second property near the northwestern Danish coast, using its original name, Fjordvang, to create a conference center and ecovillage much like that at Findhorn Community in Scotland. Yet the local authorities refused their applications for additional housing constructed on the property, so after several years of frustrating negotiations the Jackson’s gave up and returned to the Copenhagen area. In the mean time, the Jackson’s invited Robert and Diane Gilman (American) in 1991 to visit Fjordvang, “to build an ecovillage and work on our common cause,” and the two couples hosted two ecovillage conferences at Fjordvang. The Gilman’s were founders of the Context Institute and publishers of the magazine founded in 1983 called, In Context: A Quarterly of Humane Sustainable Culture. After thirteen years, in 1996, In Context evolved into the magazine named, Yes!: A Journal of Positive Futures as alternative to all the negativity of anti-war, anti-nuclear energy, anti-pollution and other protest movements. (Bang, p. 23; Jackson, pp. 47-8; Jackson & Jackson, p. 14; Mare, p. 4)

The Gilmans’ first project commissioned by Gaia Trust was to gather information about various ecologically sustainable human settlements worldwide. In May of 1991 the Gilmans’ report on ecological settlements was published with the title, Ecovillages and Sustainable Communities. In this work the Gilman’s printed their now commonly used definition of “ecovillages” as being,

“Human scale, full-featured settlements which integrates human activities harmlessly into the natural environment, supports healthy human development, and can be continued into the indefinite future.” (Christian, 2003, p. 143; Dawson, p. 13; Gilman & Gilman, 1991; Jackson & Jackson, p. 14; Mare, p. 4)

September 1991 the Gaia Trust invited to Fjordvang twenty community organizers and “broad thinkers” to “discuss how Gaia Trust could best use its funds.” Three of those who subsequently maintained a long-term involvement with ecovillages and Gaia Trust were Max Lindegger, Declan Kennedy, and Albert Bates. (Jackson & Jackson, p. 15)

At the Fjordvang center the Jacksons, along with the Gilmans, hosted the first international ecovillage conferences in September, 1991 and again in 1993, the later date at which was formed the Danish Network of Ecovillages, the first national ecovillage network. (Dawson, p. 13; Jackson, p. 47; Jackson & Jackson, p. 15; Litfin, p. 12; Mare, pp . 4-5)

The Gaia Trust continues to fund a range of ecovillage-support projects. Jan Martin Bang explains Ross Jackson’s operative theory in his 2005 book, Ecovillages: A Practical Guide to Sustainable Communities, as being, “that relatively small amounts of money could most effectively be used in getting the right people together to share ideas and inspirations, who would then go back to their projects more motivated and stimulated.” (Bang, p. 22)

Besides conferences and network meetings the Gaia Trust provided grants to over 300 projects in more than 40 countries, until 2003 when its funds ran low. Ross Jackson explained the positive aspect of this funding cut-off being that the regional associations would thereby not become dependent upon Gaia Trust. Since then the Trust has focused upon funding its own projects, such as Gaia Education, and making small awards to individuals.

The December, 2012 issue of Ecovillages Newsletter, produced by Diana Leafe Christian, reported that Gaia Trust made awards of 10,000 Danish Kroner (about $1,700) to five ecovillage activists that year: Max Lindeger (Australia); Declan Kennedy (Germany), Albert Bates (USA); Kosha Joubert (South Africa, Germany, Findhorn); and May East (Brazil, Findhorn). Max, Declan, and Albert were instrumental in creating GEN networks on five continents between 1995 and 2000. Kosha helped set up the GEN-Africa organization, and May directed Gaia Education and its Ecovillage Design Education (EDE) courses worldwide for seven years, obtaining endorsement for Gaia Education from the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR). May taught EDE in her native Brazil while creating a Gaia Education network in South America, named “CASA” in 2013. (Christian, 2012, p. 1; Jackson & Jackson, p. 16)

The 2012 awards were given to the early initiators of the ecovillage movement as tokens of reverence for all those who midwifed the new culture, in honor of the progression of the Mayan calendar to the fifth Sun cycle in December, 2012. (Jackson & Jackson, p. 17)

Another GEN missionary, Jan Martin Bang (British/Norwegian) relates the story in his 2005 book, Ecovillages, about his involvement in the evolution of the Green Kibbutz movement in Israel. Jan learned biodynamic agriculture from having lived at a Camphill Village in Norway, where differently-abled children and adults or “villagers” live in community with non-disabled “co-workers.” Camphill is a global network of therapeutic communities, growing out of the philosophical tradition called “Theosophy,” based upon the Austrian Rudolf Steiner’s (1861-1925) version called “Anthroposophy.” The first Camphill school-community was founded in 1939 in Scotland. (Miller, pp. 23-4)

Jan and wife Ruth moved to kibbutz in 1992, Jan (pronounced “yawn”) explains that, “Within this movement I was trying to create an explicitly environmental agenda.” With other kibbutznics interested in organic agriculture the group set up in 1994 an office called the “Green Room” to encourage and support environmental projects in kibbutzim. In 1995 Jan and Albert Bates of The Farm in Tennessee met at a conference, and Albert explained that he was on a mission to find someone or a group in kibbutz to train for and then teach and organize permaculture projects in the kibbutz, and that he had funding for the training. Jan was soon on a plane to The Farm to take their permaculture design course. Soon after, Jan writes, he “found himself at Findhorn in Scotland” attending the 1995 conference which initiated the Global Ecovillage Network. Returning to Kibbutz Gezer, Jan and David Lehrer of Kibbutz Ketura began the Green Kibbutz Group, teaching ecovillage design, desert ecology, and permaculture at Kibbutz Gezer and Kibbutz Lotan, working with individual kibbutzim, the kibbutz movement offices, and the Israeli Ministry for the Environment. By 1996 there were seven kibbutzim in the Green Kibbutz Group and more expressing interest. (Bang, 1996, p. 45; Bang, 2005, pp. 17, 37)

Global Ecovillage Network

There was no imperative compelling enough to provide sufficient reason for global community-movement networking beyond affinity networks and regional associations, until the advent of the ecovillage concept. No political, economic, or social concern or identity ever motivated cross-movement networking of communities as has the concern for the environment and the desire to live in harmony with it, and so appreciation for those who developed the idea and who nurtured the ecovillage movement must be expressed, for the brilliance of the idea and the dedication of those who contributed their time and resources to it.

In 1995 the Findhorn Foundation in Scotland hosted a conference on the theme, “Ecovillages and Sustainable Communities: Models for 21st Century Living.” Over four-hundred people attended the “Ecovillages and Sustainable Communities” conference, with three-hundred more refused due to lack of space. The conference proceedings were published in 1996 by Findhorn Press.

E. C. Mare of the Village Design Institute at The Farm listed in the article A Concise History of the Global Ecovillage Movement five ecovillage movement issues recognized at the 1995 Findhorn conference (from the conference video “Ecovillages and Sustainable Communities”):

●  The appropriate scale for creating a new culture is neither the individual nor the society, instead it is the sustainable-community level of ecovillages. [Note: this is essentially what Ralph Borsodi, founder of the School of Living, and Arthur Morgan, founder of what is now Community Solutions, said in the 1930s, and what their organizations have taught ever since.]

●  Ecovillages must not become insular, exclusive, or sheltered, yet must interact and integrate with the surrounding culture in order to survive and advance the movement.

●  Ecovillages must be the “necessary yes,” a positive solution to mounting global problems, in contrast with organizations like Greenpeace which are the “necessary no.”

●  Sustainability is not enough in itself since it is “only about stabilizing the global phenomenon through applied negative feedback. The ecovillage was envisioned as the setting from which human potential could leap to new heights unforeseen, with abundant love, cooperation, and creativity—as a leap in quality of life.” (emphasis in the original)

●  The “Global South” and its many traditional villages is to be included along with the intentional communities of the “Global North,” for a “global solution, answering global problems, requiring a truly global perspective.” (emphasis in the original) (Mare, p. 6)

Immediately after the Findhorn conference, twenty people from various ecovillages met for five days and created the Global Ecovillage Network (GEN). The communities initially forming GEN include: Crystal Waters, Australia; Danish Ecovillage Association; Ecoville, St. Petersburg, Russia; The Farm, TN, USA; Findhorn, Scotland; Gyurufu, Hungary; Lebensgarten, Steyerberg, Germany; The Ladakh Project, India; and the Manitou Institute, CO, USA. (Bang, p. 22)

Initially, three autonomous regional networks were created, including: the Ecovillage Network of the Americas (ENA) coordinated by Albert Bates at The Farm in Tennessee, GEN Europe/Africa coordinated by Declan Kennedy at Lebensgarten in Germany, and GEN Oceania & Asia (GENOA) coordinated by Max Lindegger at Crystal Waters in Australia, with funding for these centers provided by Gaia Trust for the next several years. Hamish Stewart served as the International Secretary at Fjordvang in Denmark, providing an umbrella organization called GEN International. Additional plans were to create an educational program for the ecovillage movement, and to participate in the United Nations’ Human Settlements Program called “UN-Habitat.” (Jackson & Jackson, p. 16)

Rashmi Mayur at the 1995 Findhorn conference passionately encouraged GEN to attend UN Habitat II planned for Istanbul, Turkey in 1996. Dr. Mayur, leader of the International Institute for a Sustainable Future in Mumbai, India, attended UN conferences as a GEN ambassador, presenting speeches and workshops. Attending the Johannesburg UN Earth Summit in 2002 Dr. Mayur suffered a stroke and never fully recovered. (Jackson & Jackson, pp. 15-6)

Inside the 1996 UN Habitat II conference venue GEN built a straw-bale wall plastered with clay to illustrate ecological building materials, with photos mounted on it of ecovillages around the world. Hildur Jackson produced 5,000 copies of a booklet handout titled The Earth is Our Habitat. GEN offered over forty workshops addressing issues concerning ecovillages and global politics, and invited forty spiritual leaders to attend them, who then praised the ecovillage as an important new concept in their concluding statement. Outside the conference venue an architect from Auroville, India built an earthquake-resistant house from mud bricks produced on-site, and GEN coordinated local Turkish builders in building a traditional Harran beehive-shaped stone house. GEN was invited to address the UN delegates, and as Ross Jackson writes, “Istanbul put GEN firmly on the global map.” The Global Ecovillage Network received UN non-governmental organization (NGO) status in 2000. (Jackson & Jackson, pp. 15-6; Joseph, p. 1)

In 2003 the Gaia Trust cut back its funding for GEN, resulting in the regional centers having to become more self-reliant. In 2008 Kosha Joubert, then residing at Sieben Linden in Germany, was elected GEN president. Kosha had been one of the thirty educators who developed the Gaia Education curriculum, getting financial support from the German government for teaching it at Sieben Linden for both local and foreign participants. Kosha was then involved in supporting the emergence of the African ecovillage network in 2012, successfully attracting funding from the German Foreign Ministry. (Jackson & Jackson, pp. 16-7)

Kosha and others represented the involvement of a new generation of activists and organizers in GEN, “inspiring increasing momentum in all regions.” GEN’s youth wing, NextGEN, attracted many to the movement, such as Cyntia Tina, the North American representative for NextGEN at the GENNA Alliance meetings beginning in 2014. (Jackson & Jackson, p. 17; Tina, p. 14)

Ecovillage Education

GEN’s educational mission began to develop in 1998 with Hildur Jackson’s invitation to fifty-five educators from within the ecovillage movement to meet at Fjordvang, Denmark to brainstorm methods for combining in one educational program instruction in organic farming, permaculture, renewable energy, wastewater treatment, ecological building, green business and economy, meeting facilitation, conflict resolution, and more. The method of instruction was to be the “Living and Learning” concept, in which people live the community lifestyle while learning to design their ecovillage. In 2002 Hildur Jackson and Karen Svensson published Ecovillage Living: Restoring the Earth and Her People, which included the “Sustainability Wheel” method of teaching the many related subjects. In 2004 thirty educators met at Findhorn, Scotland to discuss Hildur’s and Karen’s teaching idea, and the following year at the GEN+10 Conference the Gaia Education project was founded as a separate entity from GEN. May East of Findhorn took the lead and soon created the four-week course called “Ecovillage Design Education” (EDE), now taught around the world. In 2008 EDE was made into an online course with aid from the Open University of Catalonia in Barcelona, Spain, becoming a masters-level course offered online in ten languages. (Jackson & Jackson, p. 16)

Global Ecovillage Educators for a Sustainable Earth (GEESE) is a multi-disciplinary educational initiative for sustainable community. The first GEESE meeting took place in 1998 at the Gaia Trust’s Fjordvang conference center in Denmark. GEESE’s first product was the “Ecovillage Design Education” curriculum presented at the 2005 GEN conference at Findhorn. In 2008 came “Gaia Education Design for Sustainability” (GEDS), now an online masters degree program offered in English, Spanish, and Portuguese, intended to support the implementation of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. In 2012 the 5th edition of the Teacher’s Guide: Design for Sustainability and the Gaia Youth Activities Guide were published. In 2014 the community-led “Project Based Learning” vocational courses were developed as four-week long intensives. Gaia Education is recognized by the United Nations as a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO), active with 146 partner organizations in 55 countries on six continents, with over 25,000 graduates worldwide.  (Gaia Education, 2021)

The Gaia Education Outreach Institute (GEO) started the Geocommons College Year program at Derbyshire Farm in New Hampshire in 1991, teaching community, ecology, and mindful living, through taking small groups of eight-to-twelve college students to a few ecovillages around the world, for college credit through the University of New Hampshire. In 1991 the first cohort of college students spent the fall semester studying and experiencing community on the Derbyshire campus, and touring intentional communities in the U.S.A. for two-to-three weeks. Spring semester the students visited, studied, and worked on two-to-four intentional communities in Europe, at Findhorn in Scotland and Plum Village in France, and in India, at Mitraniketan and Auroville. Summer semester the students worked on the design and implementation of an educational ecovillage of twelve households being created at Derbyshire Farm, called the Monadnock Geocommons Village. (Geocommons College Year, 1995)

The Geocommons program inspired a similar academic experience called Living Routes, which assumed management of Geocommons’s ecovillage-emersion program in 2000. Living Routes was created by Daniel Greenberg with Monique Gauthier and others based at Sirius Community in Shutesbury, Massachusetts. Living Routes’ mission was, “to develop accredited, ecovillage-based educational programs that empower participants to help build a sustainable future.” Living Routes added more sponsoring institutions to those of Geocommons, including: Pacific Lutheran University, Greenfield Community College, and Cornell University. Additional community site visits included: Sirius Community, Merriam Hill Center, and Ecovillage at Ithaca, U.S.A.; Green Kibbutzim Lotan and Gezer, Israel; and Crystal Waters, Australia, with plans for more in Russia, South America, and southern Africa. (Greenberg, 2000, Let’s Go!, p. 28; Living Routes, 2000)

College courses about and field trips to intentional communities is common. Daniel Greenberg compiled such a list of courses related to community taught at various colleges and universities in the fall 2000 Communities magazine. These courses were offered through a range of academic fields, including: anthropology; religious studies; political science; and international studies. (Greenberg, 2000, College Courses on Community, pp. 53-5)

While an entire academic year studying and experiencing community for college credit is unique to Geocommons and Living Routes, these opportunities ended in 2014 for a couple reasons, including student and instructor concern about the “carbon footprint” of air travel.

In 2016 Dan Greenberg began a consulting project for aiding ecovillages and other intentional communities in creating their own, on-site educational programs, called “Custom Academic Programs in Ecovillages” (CAPE). (See: http://www.cape.consulting)

Affiliated with Gaia Education at Findhorn, Scotland, Gaia University in Morales, Mexico, offers free courses, diploma programs, and undergraduate and graduate degree programs online, supporting “world-changers to create strategic projects and regenerative livelihoods” and “training leadership for ecosocial regeneration,” at: http://www.GaiaUniversity.org

Some of the first ecovillage training centers outside of the U.S.A. are: Ecovillage Training at Findhorn in Scotland; Center for Appropriate Technology in Wales, UK; Lebensgarten, Sieben Linden, and Z.E.G.G. in Germany; Torii Superiore in Italy; Kibbutz Gezer and Kibbutz Lotan in Israel; O.U.R. Ecovillage in British Columbia, Canada; and Ecological Solutions at Crystal Waters, Australia. (Christian, 2007, p. 36)

In the U.S.A. there is a growing number of ecovillage training centers, including: Lost Valley Education Center, OR; Earth Island Institute at Berkeley, and Occidental Arts & Ecology Center at Occidental, CA; Thrive Ithaca EcoVillage Education Center, NY; Dancing Rabbit Center for Sustainable and Cooperative Culture, Rutledge, MO; the School of Integrated Living (SOIL) at Earthaven Ecovillage, Black Mountain, NC, and Ecovillage Training Center at The Farm, TN. (Christian, 2007, p. 36)

The Farm in Tennessee, U.S.A., founded in 1970, began with a series of lectures called the “Tuesday Night Class” by Steven Gaskin, attracting hundreds of people at San Francisco State University. 320 of those people decided to create a communal intentional community, settling in Tennessee then growing to over a thousand people. Later, with privatization to a land trust the community population fell to about 150 adults with 40 businesses employing 85% of the community’s wage earners. The Farm focused upon ecofeminism, organic farming, renewable energy, sustainability, and the integration of traditional cultures, beginning The Farm’s Ecovillage Training Center and the ecovillage.org website in 1994.  (Bates, p. 424; Mare, p. 3)

The Los Angeles Ecovillage (below) acquired a single-family house and a near-by apartment building with common space. “We try to reduce our environmental impacts while raising the quality of neighborhood life. We share our processes, strategies and techniques with others through tours, talks, workshops, conferences, public advocacy, and the media.” (Los Angeles Eco-Village, quoted in Christian, 2007, p. 30)

EarthArt Village in Moffat, Colorado, was co-founded by the partners Linda Joseph and Kailash, acquiring land in 1998 in the San Luis Valley. EarthArt is described on its website as “Dedicated to promoting sustainable community in all its aspects – environmental, social and spiritual.” 

Linda Joseph (1952-2021) early on had become engaged in the ecovillage movement as what Albert Bates called, in his contribution to the Communities magazine eulogy article for Linda, a “global cultural change strategy.” Working with the Manitou Foundation, Linda facilitated the compilation of the first digital list of ecovillages around the world in 1991, a project commissioned by the Gaia Trust. The Manitou Foundation managed land trust grants to spiritual organizations, including Native American, Buddhist, and Catholic, in the huge Baca Grande land grant in the San Luis Valley of south-central Colorado and nearby Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Linda attended the 1993 Gaia Trust meeting in Denmark, and convened many subsequent GEN meetings around the world. By 1994 Linda served as the Executive Director of the Manitou Foundation, acquiring land in the area for EarthArt ecovillage in 1998. (Christian, 2021, pp. 65-66)

The Ecovillage Network of the Americas (ENA) was formed at a meeting at The Farm in 1996, with Linda Joseph becoming its secretary-treasurer. The first hemisphere-wide ENA meeting took place at the Sasardi rainforest protection project in Columbia, South America in 2000. By the 2009 ENA meeting at EarthArt Village, Linda was a member of the GEN Board. In 2012 Linda supported May East in creating of the Council of Sustainable Settlements of Latin America (CASSA), leading to the creation of the Global Ecovillage Network–North America (GENNA), and then GEN-US. Diana Leafe Christian recommended GEN-US as a preferred host for Communities magazine when the FIC wanted to pass it along, and in 2019 Linda facilitated much of the financial and legal structure to make it happen. (Christian, 2021, pp. 64, 67)

The material-spiritual concept of making our lifestyle consistent with our greatest values and highest ideals includes the intention of living, as Robert and Diane Gilman wrote in Ecovillages and Sustainable Communities, in ways that integrate “human activities harmlessly into the natural environment.” The Gilman’s state very insightfully that, “There is hardly anything more appealing, yet apparently more elusive, than the prospect of living in harmony with nature and with each other.” (Gilman & Gilman, 1991)

Utopian Studies

Another form of ecovillage education, or one could say of education for intentioneering, is utopian studies. There are continental academic intentional community studies organizations in at least North America, Europe, and Isreal, which welcome participation by representatives of contemporary communities of all kinds, not just communal societies, as well as academicians studying them and/or the historic intentional communities. The oldest of these is the Communal Societies Association (CSA) located in the U.S.A., founded in 1975 with the name, National Historic Communal Societies Association (NHCSA). (Ovid & Bang, p. 11)

Global intentional communities networking began in the Israeli kibbutz movement, the largest national network of intentional communities in the world. There are several kibbutz federations, and in one of them, Kibbutz Ha’Artzi, Mordechai Bentov, cofounder of Kibbutz Mishmar Haemek, founded the International Communes Desk (ICD) for responding to inquires from around the world for information about the kibbutzim. In 1981 ICD sponsored a global communities movement conference in Israel, called the first international conference of communities, although there had been a series of European international conferences prior to that, involving mostly contemporary communitarians with few academicians, presented in the paper An International Network of Communities by the present author. (Butcher, 1989)

The proceedings of the 1981 ICD conference were published in a book titled, The Alternative Way of Life: The First International Conference on Communal Living, edited by Yehudit Agasi and Yoel Darom. Fifty community delegates from outside of Israel attended this conference from Europe, North America, Australia, and New Zealand, along with thirty delegates from the kibbutzim. For many years ICD published a journal called Communes At Large Letter (C.A.L.L.), now mostly distributing information online. (Butcher, 1989, p. 1; Yagasi & Darom, pp. A, B)

Various intentional communities in the United Kingdom had been meeting from the mid-1970s through an organization called Communes Network, and in 1979 Laurieston Hall in Scotland organized the first International Communes Festival (ICF), founding the International Communes Network (ICN). ICN met for six festivals through 1985, over-lapping with the beginning of the kibbutz conferences. The second ICF met at Mejlgard Castle, Denmark in 1981; the third at Hasselt, Belgium in 1982; the fourth back at Laurieston in 1983; the fifth at De Refter, Holland in 1984; and the sixth and last at Le Puy, France in 1985. As festivals, the community activists attending ICN events were very unlike the academicians comprising much of the kibbutz-inspired conferences, and were unable to establish any ongoing community movement support initiatives, and so the ICN went dormant. (Butcher, 1989, pp. 1, 11-2)

At the 1978 NHCSA conference in Omaha, Nebraska, Yaacov Oved, cofounder of Kibbutz Palmachim, attended and talked with Donald Pitzer of the University of Southern Indiana in Evansville, IN about founding a global academic communal studies organization. This meeting resulted in the International Communal Studies Association (ICSA) being organized and sponsoring their first global conference in 1985, with the proceedings published in the book Communal Life: An International Perspective, edited by Yosef Gorni, Yaacov Oved, and Idit Paz. (Gorni, Oved, & Paz, 1987; Oved & Bang, pp. 4, 6)

The ICSA began a triennial conference schedule, with the second ICSA conference held at Robert Owen’s historic community site at New Lanark, and at Edinburgh, Scotland in 1988, where the idea of a European communal studies association took shape, creating the UK-based Utopian Studies Society-Europe. (Oved & Bang, pp. 9, 65)

The 1991 triennial ICSA conference took place at Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania with a focus upon the Amish and Mennonite communities in that region, and other Anabaptist history. The 1993 ICSA conference was hosted at Robert Owen’s New Harmony historic community site in Indiana. Other ICSA events were held at: the Yad Tabenkin Institute in Efal, Israel in 1995; Amsterdam, The Netherlands in 1998; ZEGG in Germany in 2001; Amana Colonies, Iowa in 2004; Damanhur, Italy in 2007; Emek Yezreel College, Israel in 2010; Findhorn, Scotland in 2013;  Tamera, Portugal in 2016; and at the Camphill communities near Hudson, NY in 2019. At the Camphill ICSA event the two large therapeutic community networks, Camphill and La’Arch, enjoyed the most extensive connections they have had. The La’Arch community network founder, Jean Vanier, passed away only a few months before the ICSA conference. The 2022 ICSA event is planned for Denmark. (Oved & Bang, pp. 18, 65-6)

Many communitarian activists or intentioneers involved in the various intentional community movement organizations attend ICSA events, which serve as convenient opportunities for community activists and utopian-studies academicians to connect. While the Global Ecovillage Network has developed teaching materials for classes about intentional community, so also have various academicians developed their own syllabi for teaching utopian studies. At some point, one may think, the two would likely benefit from collaborations focused upon developing teaching materials about community to be shared and widely used, both in academic and community settings. How this may come about is an intriguing challenge in which the School of Intentioneering is playing a part with the production of this paper Riding-Out the Storm in the Ecovillage, and other resources on the history and organization of intentional community.

First Fellowship – Fellowship of Intentional Communities

The idea of an association of intentional communities in the past only resulted in the creation of separate affinity networks of similar types of communities, until the  mid-20th century when some of those groups began to come together in regional and continental associations.

In Builders of the Dawn published in 1986 the authors present at the end of their book a list of community networks active at the time. Although it does not include any of the Christian community networks (e.g., Hutterite, Bruderhof, Shalom Communities) or any therapeutic community networks (e.g., Camphill or La’Arch), it does include community networks in several different countries and regions: Australia, Japan, Israel, Europe, the United Kingdom, and the U.S.A. Also omitted from the list is the Fellowship for Intentional Community in the U.S.A., because at the time it was only beginning to awaken from about a 25-year hibernation. (McLaughlin & Davidson, p. 362)  

The Fellowship for Intentional Community (FIC) was created in 1948-49 from at least three different converging movements. First was the pioneering efforts to create the first community land trusts in the 1930s, although they were not called that at the time, some of them receiving support from the U.S. Government’s New Deal social programs. The second community group was the Quakers with their centuries-long history of communitarian activity. The third group was people reacting to the horrors of the Second World War. Arthur Morgan had visited many of the Civilian Public Service conscientious objector camps to find men who may be interested in right-living in small communities, after their release at the end of the war. Many did, bringing their families to join Morgan in Yellow Springs, Ohio, and the Morgan-inspired Celo Community at Black Mountain, North Carolina, founded in 1939 and considered to be the first successful community land trust. The Vale community was founded in 1940 by the Morgans in Yellow Springs. (Miller, pp. 156-8)

Alfred Andersen was one of those refusing the draft during WWII as a conscientious objector, serving eight months in prison. In his 1985 book, Liberating the Early American Dream, Al Andersen explains that he joined Arthur Morgan at Yellow Springs in 1945, staying five years to help with Morgan’s Community Service Inc.’s (CSI) annual summer Small Communities Conferences. Andersen writes that he “suggested sponsoring an Experimental Communities Conference immediately following the other.” This became the first Fellowship of Intentional Communities (FIC). (Andersen, pp. 23-4)

Arthur Morgan (1878-1975) never attended college, yet he founded a civil engineering firm that was contracted to build seven dams to control flooding of the Miami River around Dayton, Ohio. In 1921 he became president of Antioch College in Yellow Springs, and in the early 1930s he suggested flood control projects similar to those in Dayton for the Tennessee River, becoming the first director of the Tennessee Valley Authority. This work plus his book-writing projects kept Arthur busy, so it was one of his sons, Griscom Morgan, who worked with Al Andersen to organize the events which became the first FIC. (Andersen, p. 24; Miller, p. 163)

Griscom Morgan (1912-1993) writes in the section “Some Basic Concepts for Intentional Communities” in Community Service’s 1988 publication, Guidebook for Intentional Communities, building upon CSI’s earlier, An Intentional Community Handbook, that it was at the 1949 Community Service Conference that the term “intentional community” was adopted.  Sixty people from the U.S., India, and elsewhere attended, accepting the word “intentional” for the new organization due to its connotations of intent, purpose, and commitment. The name “Fellowship of Intentional Communities” (FIC) was adopted as it was found that encouraging and supporting friendly relationships among people in different communities was the primary value of regular meetings. Subsequent FIC events took place at the Highlander Folkschool in Tennessee, the Quaker Center at Pendle Hill in Pennsylvania, and at Glen Hellen, Antioch College’s Outdoor Education Center. (Fogarty, 1972, pp. 151-3; Miller, p. 164; Morgan, Griscom, p. 9)

Griscom Morgan writes further that the 1949 conference decided on a definition of “intentional community” to be a minimum of two families and one single male, or five adults, living “close enough together geographically to be in continuous active fellowship.” (Morgan, Griscom, p. 10)

While it was found that the main value of the First Fellowship was socializing among people from different intentional communities, that motive-to-meet wore thin by the mid-1960s, especially as one of the larger communities attracted members to join them from the smaller communities. And so that first iteration of cross-movement community networking went mostly dormant, with only a small revolving loan fund for communities funded by two Quakers and named after the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) staff member Homer Morris, later changing its name to the Community Education Service Council Inc. (CESCI), eventuallly folding into the FIC. (Morgan, Griscom, p. 9)

Second Fellowship – Fellowship for Intentional Community

In the mid-1980s interest in community networking arose again as those new groups that had arisen out the 1960s and ‘70s became stable enough to begin reaching outside of their own affinity networks to engage with other types of intentional communities. The primary organizing resource used for this was Communities magazine, published by a consortium of three pre-existing journals that united through a series of meetings at the Twin Oaks Community Conferences held most years since the early 1970s.

The Fellowship or FIC was rejuvenated by a small group of networkers, incorporating at Stelle Community near Chicago, Illinois in 1986. The five people present at that inaugural meeting were: Charles Betterton of Stelle, the present author Allen Butcher of Twin Oaks, Dan Questenberry of Shannon Farm, Laird Schaub of Sandhill, and Don Pitzer of the University of Southern Indiana. Descriptions of the community networks that came together to form the FIC are presented in the paper by the present author titled: Inclusive Association of Intentional Communities: Community Network Histories Related to the Fellowship: 1940s-1990s. The Second Fellowship organized events at many different intentional communities over the decades, including the “Art of Community” trainings. (Butcher, 1999)

Of the five co-founders of the renewed FIC or Fellowship, Allen and Laird were active in the Federation of Egalitarian Communities (FEC), and it had been Allen’s interest in cross-movement community networking since the FEC or Federation was created as an affinity network a decade earlier, founded at East Wind Community in autumn 1976. As it turned out, the strength of the FEC as a communal movement eventually became the single most important source of support for the FIC and Communities magazine for about three decades until the changes of the late twenty-teens. The Fellowship probably would have re-awoken without the involvement of the Federation, yet it may have soon gone dormant again without such a strong sponsor.

Communities magazine, as unique and important as it is for the intentional communities movement, never supported itself, always relying upon labor and financial subsidies from both intentioneers and sponsoring community organizations. For a decade or so Twin Oaks Community provided much of the resources needed to keep the journal in print, then it was Charles Betterton and the FIC for a few years, until the Federation became active in the Fellowship and became its primary supporter. Yet no matter how professional a look the magazine adopted, including full-color, and no matter how compelling its content, the magazine rarely paid for itself, although publishing for sale the Communities Directories usually did bring a positive cash flow. Communities magazine was in need of a new sponsor, and whatever misgivings any of the Ecovillage Network of the Americas (ENA) activists may have had about the difficulty with funding a magazine, ENA needed some kind of periodical for its outreach, and everyone must have been excited about the new beginning!

The Foundation for Intentional Community

In her Communities article “Leading Edges of Collaboration: GENNA Alliance” Cynthia Tina presents in the fall 2018 issue the process that resulted in both ENA becoming the Communities  publisher, and the FIC’s evolution to a new structure and management. The transition of the FIC from the older to the newer generation of activists had occurred earlier with the change of the executive directorship from Laird Schaub (Sandhill) to Sky Blue (Twin Oaks), so the transition this time was from single-person leadership to a collective board or council-leadership format.

Cynthia explains that the FIC transition involved six “key networking organizations” collectively called the “GENNA Alliance.” Cynthia’s list is, with paraphrased descriptions:

●  Fellowship for Intentional Community—Supporting the communities movement and cooperative culture through Communities magazine, Communities Directory, online resources, event co-sponsorship, and more;

●  VillageLab—Consulting group for the “new paradigm” organizational design of businesses and intentional communities;

●  NuMundo—Facilitating connections between individuals and “impact centers” like intentional communities, permaculture farms, social projects, and retreat centers;

●  NextGENNA—Propelling young adults to energize intentional communities through events, education, and leadership opportunities;

●  GEN-US—A meeting place and incubator for leaders in the ecovillage movement from the U.S.A.; and

●  GEN-Canada—A re-emerging network.

Spring of 2014 at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage in Missouri representatives of most of the above organizations met to form a consortium to engage more resources more effectively in the work that the Fellowship was doing, which was helpful to and consistent with what all the organizations were generally doing to various degrees. That meeting failed to produce an agreement-for-collaboration. Cynthia writes, “In the years that followed the Dancing Rabbit meeting, various configurations of FIC, GEN, and similar organizations met in attempts to bring greater cohesion and solidarity to the regenerative communities movement in North America. … None of us wanted to build yet another organization, but rather harness what each organization already brings to the table …” (Tina, p. 14)

May, 2018 at La Cité Écologique in New Hampshire, after five years of “exploration, trial, healing, and deep community building,” a five-page document was signed by representatives of the GENNA Alliance partners, marking a new era in the North American intentional communities movement! This was now the third incarnation of a North American association of intentional communities using the acronym “FIC.” (Tina, p. 14)

Cynthia explains that over twenty people “run and steward” GENNA Alliance as an independent “collaborative platform.”

“We envision a world of interdependent cooperative communities stewarding the conditions of regeneration, justice, peace, and abundance, in order to realize the full potential of flourishing for all life, for all generations to come.—GENNA Alliance” 

In 2016, three decades after the re-founding of the Fellowship, organizers and activists from various intentional community groups and movements comprising the Global Ecovillage Network–North America (GENNA), founded just over two decades earlier, infused the Fellowship with new energy and enthusiasm. The Fellowship for Intentional Community’s executive director at the time, Sky Blue of Twin Oaks, wrote in Communities that for twenty years the Fellowship and ENA had collaborated on various projects, and it was felt by many that merging energy and resources was in everyone’s best interest. Sky wrote in a publisher’s note in a 2016 issue of Communities, “It was amazing to experience an affinity born from a radical experience of community between people from such a diversity of cultures.” (Blue, p. 7)

By 2019 the FIC and ENA had long had inter-locking directorates and an overlap of common membership, which facilitated the discussions about how to reorganize their respective activities to be more efficient and effective. One significant change was the FIC name. From the original “Fellowship of Intentional Communities” adopted in 1949, the name was changed to the “Fellowship for Intentional Community” in 1986, then to “Foundation for Intentional Community” in 2019, seventy years after the founding of the organization. Cynthia Tina explains in an “FIC News” article in the summer 2019 Communities issue titled, “Introducing the New FIC,” the new name,

“We loved the kindred-spirit sentiment of “Fellowship,” but we didn’t care for the old-school masculine connotations. The title “Foundation” speaks to our commitment and professionalism.” (Tina, p. 4)

This evolution is tracked by observing the change of Communities publishers through 2019:

● Fellowship for Intentional Community–Communities no. 182, spring 2019

● Foundation for Intentional Community–Communities no. 183, summer 2019

● Foundation for Intentional Community–Communities no. 184, fall 2019

● Global Ecovillage Network–United States–Communities no. 185, winter 2019

Ecovillage Network of the Americas (ENA) = Global Ecovillage Network-North America (GENNA) comprised of three regions: GEN-US, GEN-Canada, and Mexico or Mesoamérica (Joseph, p. 1)

The FIC-ENA collaboration and reorganization is explained in brief in the winter 2019 issue of Communities by Chris Roth, in his “Notes from the Editor” article titled, “Passing the Communities Torch to a New Publisher.”

“Those of us committed to relaunching the magazine spent weeks in each successive phase of the process that eventually led us to a formal transfer to GEN-US. … When the GEN-US Council and the FIC board of directors finally entered formal negotiations to transfer the magazine, and then reached an agreement, it was the culmination of several months of focused effort to find Communities a new home … one in which it would be a natural fit.” (Roth, 2019, p. 10)

The agreement was that GEN-US would take on the magazine and the book sales, leaving the FIC to pursue other adventures.

And quite the adventure 2020 became with the coincident global spread of the Covid-19 pandemic! While the self-isolation and economic shut-down keeping people at home caused increasing use of online Zoom meetings for connecting intentioneers and people new to the intentional-community movement, and presumably also increased readership for the magazine, it did not result in a sufficient increase in revenue to make Communities funding much better than it had been for long. Chris Roth wrote in his fall 2020 “Notes from the Editor” article that,

“Our former publisher’s efforts to scale up through rebranding and through hoped-for projects including a new print Directory and eventually a multi-faceted online platform for community-seeking-and-matching ran into the brick wall of lack of finances. … Sometimes it’s appropriate to scale down. That’s what both FIC and the magazine (now with GEN-US) have chosen.” (Roth, 2020, p. 5)

The last Communities Directory was printed in 2016, and printing a new one would be a wonderful boost to the image and esteem of the reorganized FIC, yet that project must wait.

While the FIC has produced its own series of Zoom events for people active or interested in community, as of spring 2021 more than 11,000 people in more than 160 countries are reported as having participated in the online presentations, discussions, and tours of ecovillages presented by the Global Ecovillage Network during the first year or so of the Covid-19 pandemic, through its online series, “GEN Ecovillage Summit: Living Solutions for a Regenerative World.”

“It is a remarkable fact that the builders of ecovillages often have more in common with each other than with their respective local cultures, no matter where they come from. A common, global vision is emerging that has the power to change the world.” (Quoted in 2000 from http://www.gaia.org/about/history.asp in E. C. Mare’s A Concise History of the Global Ecovillage Movement)

Sustainability Statistics

As there is no specific requirement for calling a community an “ecovillage,” other than the intent and practice of enjoying ecological living, many intentional communities began to adopt the ecovillage identity for expressing their environmental concerns. Diana Leafe Christian writes in her book Finding Community that the Global Ecovillage Network “doesn’t even try to establish criteria or regulate which projects can and cannot call themselves an ecovillage, but rather encourages ecological and social sustainability in communities wherever possible.” To help communities develop their ecological focus, GEN distributes a procedure for ecovillage self-audits called the “Community Sustainability Assessment,” designed for an intentional community or a traditional village to determine how ecologically sustainable are its design and practices. (Christian, 2007, p. 35; Mare, p. 7)

A few communities/ecovillages have done studies of how energy and resource efficient are their design and practices. It is unknown to the present author whether GEN collects information from groups using their Community Sustainability Assessment, yet collecting and reporting some of those results may be of interest. In the mean time, there is the following from different sources.

 Twin Oaks Ecovillage, VAEcovillage at Ithaca, NYDancing Rabbit Ecovillage, MO
 2007 Data-87 Adults2004-165 Adults2015 Data-65 Adults
Average per-person use in USA or state500 gallons/year 466 gallons/year
Community Use15,267 gallons/year Part petroleum, Part biodiesel
Per-Person Use175 gallons/person 28 gallons/year
Percent Difference35% of ave. Am. 6% of ave. American
Average per-person use in USA or state11,000 kWh per-person per-year 4,168 kWh/person/year
Community Use268,065 kWh Includes solar panels
Per-Person Use3,083 kWh/person 744 kWh/person/year
Percent Difference27% of ave. Am.39% of ave. Am. use18% of ave. American
Natural Gas1 therm = 100,000 BTUs
Average per-person use in USA or state767 therms in VA 417 therms in MO
Community Use16,221 therms  
Per-Person Use186 therms/person 22 therms/person
Percent Difference24% of ave. Am.41% of ave. Am. use5% of ave. American
Water 22% of ave. Am. use 
Solid Waste   
Average per-person use in USA or state  34% is recycled by the average American
Per-Person Use and Percent Difference  DRE produces 18% of the average American’s waste, and 73% of that is recycled

Twin Oaks Community (TO) was founded in 1967 in Virginia, U.S.A and has been building its ecological, sustainable, or regenerative systems ever since, yet has done little to document its successes. Only one such study is known to the present author, created by Bucket Harmony for presentation at the 2008 student housing cooperative conference called the NASCO Institute, using 2007 data when the community population was 87 adults and around 17 children.

Energy SourceAverage Use Per-Person in USATO Consumption in 2007TO Per-Person Use for 87 AdultsPercent Difference
Gasoline500 gallons/year115,267 gallons175 gallons/person65% less used!
Electricity11,000 kWh/year2268,065 kWh3,083 kWh/person73% less used!
Natural Gas767 therms in VA316,221 therms4186 therms/person76% less used!

1 – http://www.eia.doe.gov/kids/energyfacts/saving/efficiency/savingenergy.html

2 – http://www1.eere.energy.gov/consumer/tips/appliances.html

3 – http://tonto.eia.doe.gov/dnav/ng/ng_cons_num_dcu_SVA_a.html

4 – 1 therm = 100,000 BTUs

The EcoVillage at Ithaca (EVI) community project started in 1991, growing out of the experience of several people involved in a coast-to-coast walk across the U.S.A. called “The Global Walk for a Livable World.” The 2010 Communities Directory lists 165 members at EVI. (Dawson, p. 30)

Today Ecovillage at Ithaca is comprised of three separate cohousing neighborhoods on 176 acres in New York State near Cornell University. EVI has a car-sharing service and a local currency. Some of the homes have composting toilets. The homes utilize passive solar heat, and every six-to-eight homes are connected to a shared utility room with two natural-gas boilers that supply space heating and domestic-use hot water. (Christian, 2005, p. 46)

Diana Leafe Christian reported in her 2005 Communities article, “When Ecovillagers Use the Cohousing Model,” that “EVI residents consume just 39 percent of the electric power, 41 percent of the natural gas, and 22 percent of the water use of the average household in the northeastern United States.” (Christian, 2005, p. 46)

Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage (DRE) has by far the best analysis of their energy usage, thanks to a study done by Dr. Joshua Lockyer, Dept. of Behavioral Sciences, at Arkansas Tech University, Russellville, AR. Three summers, from 2013 to 2015, research was conducted by graduate students and DRE residents into a number of different energy and resource processes at the community. At that time Dancing Rabbit was 65 people on 280 acres of “recovering industrial farm land.” Dancing Rabbit is a community land trust leasing plots to members for residences and businesses. (Lockyer, pp. 523, 528, 538)

The Rabbits have a local currency called Exchange Local Money or ELM System. Members use open source designs and lending services for tools, both within the community and among a local network of communities.  (Lockyer, pp. 522, 525)

DRE members have a care-sharing service called Dancing Rabbit Vehicle Co-op (DRVC), sharing four vehicles among 67 users, or 0.06 cars per capita, or 92% less than the average American rate of 0.8 cars per capita. Car usage for 2013 and 2014 local trips, omitting long-distance vacation-driving, was 899 miles, or less than 10% of the average American driving total of 9,455 miles per year (Transportation Energy Data Book). The Rabbits used biodiesel for many years yet it has been difficult to obtain, the production of it is not very energy efficient, and it gels in cold weather, making it only usable part of the year. Gasoline use is 28 gallons per person per year, 18% being petroleum and 10% biodiesel, compared to the average American’s use of 466 gallons/person/year, which computes to DRE using 6% of the average American’s total fuel use, and 4% of specifically petroleum fuel use. (Lockyer, pp. 529-31)

The Rabbits recycle 73% of their municipal solid waste, compared to 34% for the average American, and only produce on average 18% of the solid waste of the average American (US Environmental Protection Agency, 2015). (Lockyer, pp. 528)

Propane is the only form of natural gas used at DRE, consumed at the rate of 22 therms per person per year, or 5% of the average American’s use of 417 therms of natural gas (United States Energy Information Administration 2006). (Lockyer, p. 532)

Electricity is produced at DRE by their 25 kilowatt solar panel array, connected to the local utility grid for backup and for selling excess power generation. Average consumption is 744 kWh per year, which is 18% of the average American’s use of 4,168 kWh per year. (U.S. Energy Information Admin. 2013). This figure includes business as well as domestic use, while some Rabbits have no electricity in their living space, so the numbers are not perfectly comparable. (Lockyer, pp. 532-3)

Water usage at DRE is sourced from both rain catchment (i.e., self-supply) and from a public supply. Per person water use from the public supply at DRE is 7 gallons per day, while the self-supply is not metered and therefore estimated at 13 gallons per person per day, for a total of 20 gallons/person/day of water use. This is 23% of the average American’s use of 88 gallons of water, and 9% of the average American’s use of the public water supply (U.S.Geological Survey estimate). The Rabbits’ water use is 35% public supply and 65% rain catchment, compared to the average American’s 87% public supply and 13% self-supply water. A complicating factor for DRE water use is that the reported figure is for all uses including agriculture, while agriculture is not included in the average-American statistics. (Lockyer, p. 535)

Joshua Lockyer’s resource-use study concludes with a quality-of-life component, utilizing a 2015 study of members of almost 200 intentional communities, including Dancing Rabbit, by researchers from SUNY Binghamton and the Norwegian Institute of Public Health. That study concluded that “intentional community members lead lives that are highly meaningful and satisfying relative to a variety of other segments of the public and that their lives improved after they joined their respective intentional communities.” (Lockyer, pp. 536)

Joshua Lockyer states that Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage is,

“an example of positive social transformation for justice and sustainability. … [O]ngoing engagement with advocates and practitioners of degrowth, commons, and intentional communities … opens up spaces to analyze processes of cultural change and transition that are of fundamental interest to social and behavioral scientists and of direct import to policy makers concerned with the sustainable use and conservation of natural resources.” (Lockyer, p. 538)

Ecovillages in the FIC Communities Directories

An analysis of the growth of the number of ecovillage-like communities through four of the seven Fellowship for Intentional Communities (FIC) directories from 1990 to 2016, requires use of the keyword listings in them, since many groups do not use “ecovillage” in the name of their community. The 2016 directory has a different format from that used for the earlier directory versions. Use of keywords was discontinued while a new data category was added called “Type” using the code “Eco” for reporting a more accurate number of ecovillages.

●  1990/’91 directory: 8% of listings are ecovillage-like.

●  2000 directory: an estimated 20% are ecovillage-like.

●  2010 directory: an estimated 25% are ecovillage-like [Note: In this Directory (pp. 12-13) Laird Schaub reports that 32% of the 2010 listings are ecovillages, possibly due to using a different set of keywords than the present author. 34%, Laird states, claimed the cohousing identity. Laird estimates 100,000 people living in intentional community in the U.S.]

●  2016 directory: 33% of the listings state they are ecovillages.

These FIC directory totals of ecovillages are not the whole picture, as not all intentional communities are listed. Many intentional communities do not want to appear in directories, and many others may not even know about the FIC. These directories are, however, the best listing of intentional communities available, although there are organizations with directories in various countries around the world, like the Eurotopia directories mentioned earlier in the “Ecological Spirituality and Biosphere Consciousness” section. The percentages of ecovillage-like groups presented for the four community directories, 1990, 2000, 2010, and 2016, may be relatively representative of the proportion of ecovillages to all forms of intentional community in their historical period.

The 1990/91 Directory of Intentional Communities includes an index with several terms related to ecovillages, although only two communities in the listings actually use a term related to “ecovillage,” which are Ecological Village in New Mexico and La Cité Écologique in Quebec, Canada. The index lists the following numbers of groups: 5 appropriate technology; 3 ecology; 7 EcoVillages; 12 permaculture; and 3 stewardship. This totals 30 communities, divided by 375 total listings equals 8% of the listings being eco-oriented. (FIC/CPC, 1990, pp. 3, 299-309)

The 2000 edition of the Communities Directory lists in its Keyword Index a number of terms used by communities in either their descriptions or survey questions related to ecovillages: 13 alternative/appropriate technology centers; 18 ecology; 71 ecovillage category; 37 ecovillages; 21 environment; 9 nature sanctuary; 39 permaculture; 24 stewardship; 25 sustainability; 10 sustainable agriculture; and 12 sustainable living. This totals 279 communities, although some use more than one of these key words. With about 600 communities in North America and 100 in other countries, totaling 700, that computes to 40% of the listings in some way related to ecovillages, although some groups are listed in more than one category, so a more accurate number may be half or 20%. (FIC, 2000, pp. 435-48)

The 2010 edition of the Communities Directory listed in its Keyword Index the following count of communities using ecovillage-related terms: 32 earth-centered; 112 ecological; 114 ecovillages; 47 environmentalism; 14 nature preserve; 54 permaculture; 243 sustainability; and 24 technology alternative/appropriate. This totals 640 groups, with some groups using two or more of the keywords. 1,055 North American groups plus 250 outside North America equals 1,305 total listings, divided into 640 groups equals about 50% ecovillage-like groups, although there are many communities listed with more than one of these keywords, so a more accurate number may be half or 25%. In his summary Laird Schaub stated that 32% of the 1,055 communities listed in North America identified themselves as ecovillages, which is about the same as the percentage which identified themselves as cohousing communities (34%), with a few using both descriptions. The difference between Laird’s and Allen’s figures may be due to each using a different set of keywords in their analysis. (FIC, 2010, pp. 12, 477-8)

The 2016 edition of the Communities Directory includes more than 1,200 total U.S.A. listings of both established and forming groups, and 250 outside the U.S. This edition of the Directory does not include a keyword index, instead it offers a “Type” of community category, using “Eco” for ecovillages in its cross-reference charts. 123 of the established communities in the U.S.A. claim the “Eco” identity. Adding the 250 community listings from outside of the U.S.A. to the U.S.A. total of 1,200, equals 1,450 total directory listings. Of that total, 473 communities, both established and forming, or 33%, claim the “Eco” identity.



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