Learn more about Communities Magazine at the Fellowship for Intentional Communities web site...

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Editorial Reprint from Communities Magazine

The Human Side of Sustainable Community

Reflections by Diana Leafe Christian

 Diana Christian's Editorial
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All photos are clickable to see a larger version of the image.

I got to see the "people" aspects of sustainability up close last June when 65 people showed up for the Allison-Armstrong family's work party at Earthaven Ecovillage in North Carolina.

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All the usual features of a sustainable homestead were there. Power for the day's carpentry was generated by PV panels and a micro-hydro system. The toilet was a composting outhouse. The garden was rows of mulched raised beds. The partially constructed house was built with mostly recycled materials — rows of used 4'x4' plywood fruit juice container/pallets comprised the second and third floors and detached plywood squares sheathed the roof and exterior walls. And most the new lumber was felled and milled from trees on the land.

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But what really said "community sustainability" to me was the crowd of fellow community residents, community interns on their day off, community members from town, and visitors who'd taken the morning's Saturday tour and asked, "Can I help?".

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The workers swarmed over the entire three-story building and the grounds as well. Amidst the syncopated bang of hammers and whine of table saw, hardy men and women nailed siding to third-floor dormers; closed in the west wall with more pallet squares; and moved methodically across the second and third floors filling in the strips between pallets to make flat-surface subfloors.

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Three carpenters built the stairway to the third floor while women and two small girls painted freshly milled 1'x4's for window trim. A crew of three quietly wired all three stories. A quartet of sweaty guys with shovels dug out and leveled the space for the planned ferro-cement cistern while a group of young men and women laughingly bent the rebar framework for it.

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Three folks with scythes and clippers and a gleam in their eyes turned the yard's jungley overgrowth into flat piles of mulch-worthy biomass. Under the shady folks with cordless drills detached yet more plywood squares from used juice pallets.

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It wasn't all hammers and scythes. Quite a few women, including my 86-year-old mom, spent two days shopping for food and helping cook the brunch, lunch, snack, and dinner, and party feasts. One community member from town drove out and prepared his famous specialties all day, as helpers ferried all these dishes over from the community kitchen.

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By the end of the day the house project had moved forward significantly, and the family was ecstatic. Everyone was tired, sweaty, paint- or dirt-stained, happy, and famished. After a dinner on the second floor, with cooling breezes flowing through the giant window openings and while determined workers continued nailing up siding into the twilight, the dance party began. It lasted, thumping and rocking on the sturdy new subfloor, till the wee hours.

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This outpouring of many hands and good will was just what the project, the family, and the community needed. All the solar panels and compost toilets in the world couldn't have accomplished what happened that day — but the combination of these sustainable systems and people happily employing them got the job done and lifted everyone's spirits.

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And that's what this issue [3RBN Ed: the Summer 2002 issue of Communities magazine] is about. The focused intention of people, working with their sustainable tools and processes, to create something greater than themselves. You'll see how a thousand people did this in Portland, how small groups do it regularly at Emerald Earth, and how individuals take the initiative to do it at L.A. Ecovillage.

And you'll see the inverse — how the "people" factor can go south, when a sustainability ethic without heart becomes a community-eroding eco-fundamentalist religion, and how we can heal from it. (You'll also find practical tips for saving fuel when cooking and the latest techniques and tools on strawbale building.) Sustainable communities, whether ecovillages or whole cities, are a matter of heart, as well as head and hands.

We hope you're experiencing this head-and-heart sustainability process in your own community, or in the group of friends or family or work colleagues or neighbors you're creating community with where you are. Good reading!

Diana Leafe Christian
Editor, Communities magazine

3RBN Note: Diana Christian's editorial above, with different photos in print, opens the Summer 2002 issue of Communities magazine. 3RBuilders.Net appreciates the magazine's kind permission to reprint her editorial reflections on an exciting day and night at the Armstrong-Allison homestead.

 About Communities Magazine

Since 1972, Communities magazine, the Journal of Cooperative Living, has been the primary resource for information, issues, and ideas about intentional communities in North America — from urban co-ops to cohousing groups to ecovillages to rural communes. The 80-page quarterly is focusing increasingly on cohousing communities and aspiring ecovillages, as those are two of the fastest-growing kinds of communities in North America today.

Learn more about Communities Magazine at the Fellowship for Intentional Communities web site...

Articles and columns in Communities Magazine cover practical "how-to" issues of community living as well as personal stories about forming new communities, decision-making, conflict resolution, raising children in community, sustainability, and much more.

Visit the Communities Magazine web site to learn about this publication, to subscribe and to purchase back issues singularly or in reprint collections.

Diana Christian's editorial reflections above are excerpted with permission from the Summer 2002 issue of Communities Magazine. $20 subscription ($24 Canada; $26 other countries); $6 sample issue ($7 Canada; $8 other countries). Rt. 1, Box 156, Rutledge, MO 63563; 660-883-5545; fic@ic.org; URL: http://fic.ic.org/cmag/.

 About 3RBuilders.Net

We are pleased to publish a reprint of Communities magazine Editor, and Earthaven ecovillager, Diana Christian's reflection on the Armstrong-Allison's Work and Top-It-Off Party event held recently on the land at Earthaven.

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