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ii ACKNOWLEDGMENTS Endless amount s For the inspiration, beauty, valuable information, lessons, friendships, and experiences shared with me by the extraordinary people at InanItah and Earthaven. Thank you for welcoming me into your homes, For Erin Dean scooping me up and leading me throughout the process of creating this project. Thank you for providing me with the invaluable perspectives and widening my For Tony And rews and Heidi Harley, for their willingness to read my thesis and be a part For the hardships and moments of disharmony, for the triumphant times and the moments For the love, support, stimulati ng conversations, unexplainable, and blissful experiences irate fairy, my Pisces goddess, and my Libra beaut and beautiful Loren, Sara, and Eliza, for always sharing your radiating souls with me, I am forever appreciative For the strength of my family continuing to challenge and encourage me, for loving me unconditionally and supporting my endeavors, for embracing my eccentricity For Tait, for the endless amount s of lo ve, encouragement, understanding, patience, inspiration, selflessness, knowledge, and generosity, for always managing to successfully lug me out of the excruciating moments, for the countless convivial mome nts, and for being an extraordinary buddy For my mother who flourished with enthusiasm and ambition, for her distinguished embraces of warmth and compassion, for always recognizing my strengths and sacrificing her last cel l s For the biosphere, Mother Earth, Gaia, the mother of all mothers, for showering me with mystical beauty, bounties, and life for healing me, grounding me, inspiring me, I am forever indebted
iii TABLE OF CONTENTS ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS ................................ ................................ ................................ ii LIST OF FIGURES ................................ ................................ ................................ ........... iv ABSTRACT ................................ ................................ ................................ ......................... v INTRODUCTION ................................ ................................ ................................ ............... 1 The Global Ecovillage Movement ................................ ................................ ................. 2 About the Thesis ................................ ................................ ................................ ............ 6 CHAPTER 1 CONSUMERISM AND HUMAN WELL BEING ................................ ...... 8 Prosperity and Quality of Life Beyond Economics ................................ ....................... 8 Consumer Culture: Psychological, Social, and Ecological Implications ..................... 12 CHAPTER 2 ETHNOGRAPHIC PRESENTATION OF INANITAH ............................. 25 Methods of Research ................................ ................................ ................................ .... 27 An Introduction to IanItah ................................ ................................ ........................... 29 Sustainability and Quality of Life at InanItah ................................ .............................. 37 Global Power Structures and InanIt ..... 55 Conclusions ................................ ................................ ................................ .................. 61 CHAPTER 3 ETHNOGRAPH IC PRESENTATION OF EARTHAVEN ....................... 6 4 Methods of Research ................................ ................................ ................................ .... 67 An Introduction to Earthaven Ecovillage ................................ ................................ .... 69 Sustainability and Quality of Life at Earthaven ................................ ........................... 74 Integration with Loc al Community ................................ ................................ .............. 92 Conclusions ................................ ................................ ................................ .................. 93 CHAPTER 4 CONCLUSIONS ................................ ................................ ......................... 97 Drawing InanItah and Earthaven Together ................................ ................................ .. 97 The Importance of the Social Dimension to Sustainability and Quality of Life ....... 104 Prevailing Global Power Structures ................................ ................................ ........... 105 Final Thoughts ................................ ................................ ................................ ........... 107 REFERENCES ................................ ................................ ................................ ................ 110
iv LIST OF FIGURES CHAPTER 1 Figure 1 ................................ ................................ ................................ .............. 15 Figure 2 ................................ ................................ ................................ .............. 16 CHAPTER 2 Figure 3 ................................ ................................ ................................ .............. 30 Figure 4 ................................ ................................ ................................ .............. 30 CHAPTER 3 Figure 5 ................................ ................................ ................................ .............. 70
v AN ETHNOGRAPHIC PORTRAIT OF COMMUNITY DYNAMICS, SUSTAINABILITY, AND PERCIEVED QUALITY OF LIFE AT INANITAH AND EARTHAVEN ECOVILLAGE Jeanne La Roche New College of Florida, 2012 ABSTRACT Economic concepts, such as standard of living and the capacity to consume have often been used as a basis for measuring quality of life or human well being. This thesis examines how standard of living, quality of life, and sustainability intersect through t he As sustainability oriented intentional communities e covillages attempt to reduce their consumption and cultivate alternative value systems and lifestyles to enhance their quality of life and ameliorate their ecologica l footprints. Ethnographic fieldwork was conducted at two ecovillages: InanItah, located on Isla Ometepe, Nicaragua, and Earthaven Ecovillage located in Black Mountain, North Carolina. Through participant observation and informal interviews I investigate community dynamics and perceived quality of life among community residents. In both ecovillages, I found that most members perceived dynamics to drastically improve their QOL regardless of their lower m aterial standard of living. Through an enhanced sense of belonging, social cohesions and interactions, not only was ecological sustainability made possible, but residents were able to live in a happy and healthy manner. These findings illustrate the fou ndational aspect of social well being for quality of life. Erin Dean Anthony Andrews
1 INTRODUCTION The Global Ecovillage Movement, a social and environmentalist movement, has taken initiatives to cultivate communities world wide that minimize ecological impacts by moving away from consumerism and towards sustainable living, while working to maximize human well being and improve overall quality of life. However, the idea of reducing the material impact of human activities is commonly perceived as a direct threat to social welfare and quality of life (Jackson, 2002). Quality of life (QOL) is a term that has been used across various disciplines to express the overall assessment of the human experience. It is generally used to represent how well human needs are being met and the perceived feelings or subjective evaluation of various life dom ains. Understanding and improving QOL have been major policy and lifestyle goals of governments, researchers, communities, and individuals (Costanza, et al., 2008). Discussions on QOL have become prevalent and critical in the ongoing discourse of economi c prosperity and sustainability, higher income and consumption to better welfare (Costanza et al., 2008). Counter to this conventional belief, ecovillages have changed their consumptive values and habits by living low impact lifestyles and curtailing the use of ecologically damaging goods and services to improve their quality of life, specifically where the satisfaction of non material needs are concerned. A large body of l iterature suggests that Western patterns of consumption have not only threatened qualities of life integral to human well being, but have also failed to satisfy the complexity of human needs (Kasser, 2002; Lane, 2000; Fromm, 1976; Herber, 1962). It has be en suggested that in creasing rates of consumption, gross d omestic
2 p roduct, and economic prosperity in affluent countries have not been increasingly improving human happiness and QOL (Kasser, 2002; Myer, 2000; Kilbourne, McDonagh, & Prothero, 1997). With t hese observations, I wanted to investigate how perceived QOL has been affected in sustainability oriented communities that have actively reduced their consumption habits in an effort to reduce their ecological and social impacts. Therefore, through partic ipant observation and informal interviews, I Earthaven Ecovillage. These communities seek to rebuild the qualities of life that have been undervalued or squeezed out by the neoliberal understanding of human welfare or well being, and its influence on the ways individuals lead their lives. They aim to ocial ties, inclusive community governance, creativity, the understanding natural cycles, and psychological health. This research investigates how InanItah and Earthaven Ecovillage are approaching this challenge, how residents perceive their QOL, and the lifestyle elements critical to their well being. The Global Ecovillage Movement: a Brief History The coalescence of the Global Ecovillage Movement occurred in the late 1980's as tangible declines in quality of life became increasingly apparent in afflu ent countries: Ozone holes, species extinctions and deforestation pointed up serious problems of resource depletion and environmental degradation. Community integrity was being steamrolled by economic policies favoring mass production and distributio n and the free flow of capital across the globe. Meanwhile, the increases in the rates of crime, depression, drug abuse and suicide were sure indicators of the growing alienation and anomie experienced by many (Dawson, 2006, p. 12).
3 Corporations were be coming increasingly powerful, environmental issues were being pushed to the outskirts of debates, and trickle down policies were assumed to resolve social marginalization. Dissatisfaction with governmental responses to these problems incited the growth of civil society in Western countries. With the emergence of citizen's initiatives and activism, along with the accumulating evidence of ecological instability and social dislocation, the question of how to address the challenge of living sustainably became prevalent. Western groups of people joined together and embarked upon the journey of creating experimental models of sustainable communities (Dawson, 2006). Hildur Jackson, a Danish social activist and her Canadian husband Ross Jackson, along with Rob ert and Diane Gilman, co owners and editors of a magazine that explored experiments in sustainable communities, served as catalysts for the emergence of the ecovillage movement. Hildur was involved in the advocacy and development of 'cohousing', a type of collaborative housing within a community design that aims to combine the benefits of communal living, social contact, and shared resources with those of having privacy and individual space (Cohousing 2011). With the belief that an even deeper transformat ion needed to come about in leverage points for facilitating the emergence of more radical experiments in low 13), and therefore established Gaia Trust. In 1990, with a proposal from Gaia Trust, the Gilman's conducted an international study of the best practices in sustainable community building and produced a report entitled 'Ecovillages and Sustainable Communities.
4 With the intention to collect knowledge and information from experts in low impact lifestyles, community governance, and appropriate technology, the report provided common themes and attributes that have contributed to the designs and organizations of e scale full featured settlement in which human activities are harmlessly integrated into the natural world in a way that is supportive of healthy human development and can be su 10). C ommunity based initiatives, organizations, and networks were also developing in the South that exhibited some common interests with the Northern intentional communities movement: re gaining democratic, popular control over community resources that were being threatened by corporate capitalism and the recognition of the importance of strengthening cultural integrity and economic empowerment. In the discussions of how to shape a global sustainable communities movement, ecovillage pioneers collaborated with people from the South and others who were closely connected to these initiatives 1 Since then, many Southern community based initiatives have combined with the Global Ecovillage Move ment (Dawson, 2006). Ecovillage communities are dedicated to cultivating alternative human settlements, lifestyles and value systems, with the goal of becoming more socially, economically, and ecologically sustainable. There are currently no enforceabl e standards and models that communities must fit in order to call themselves 1 These included Ari Aruyaratne, director of Sarvodaya organization, Rashmi Mayur of the International Institute for Sustainable Future in India, Be rnard Lecomtpe of the Naam movement in Burkina Faso, and Vandana Shiva (Dawson, 2006).
5 wide 2) for rigid parameters. However, t he Global Ecovillage Network (GEN), an umbrella organization or network of sustainable communities and initiatives, provides resources, such as the Community Sustainability Assessment Tool (a self administered survey), access to a network of other ecovilla ges in progress, and sustainable principles to guide community development. These principles encompass social economic, cultural spiritual, and ecological dimensions of sustainable community building that upon in various combinations (Joseph & Bates, 2003). Ecovillages tend to incorporate appropriate technology, local food production, inclusive community governance, and community building. These human settlements are rural and urban and reflect the moti vati ons, expectations, creativity and personalities of the builders and members (Svensson, 2002). They consist of groups of people that have voluntarily come together in response to critical evaluations of the dominant culture to create a better life with shared values and visions. Intentional communities have existed for a significant part of human history. For centuries, people have deliberately come together to build communities in response to cultural critiques, for religious purposes, to escape per secution, and to enact shared values and visions of the good life; from the Essenes 2 and Celtic monasteries, to the Kibbutz movement and 'back to the land' initiatives of the 60's and 70's (Sargisson & Sargent, 2004). The affirmative Global Ecovillage Mov ement is opposed to the unsustainable values and lifestyles that support neoliberal capitalist 2 A withdrawn Jewish sect in Palestine that lived and worked together in a commune during the second century BC.
6 models, especially the predominant preoccupation with excessive consumption and short term economic interests. They are motivated to formulate alternative ways of living that focus on the which regenerate the land, enliven the community, and sustain its members in a (Liftin, 2010, p. 4). Ecovillages are examples of cultural critiques responding to the growing awareness of the declining stability of ecological and social systems that have been associated with decline in quality of life. About the Thesis In this thesis I seek to explore the relationship between quality of life and consumption, explain how InanItah and Earthaven are approaching sustainability, and explore how community members perceive their QOL. I am interested in answering the following questions: Do residents in these communities perceive their choosing to live more simply? What lifestyle qualities are most significant for QOL at InanItah and Earthaven? Are these communities viable livin g environments and what do they have to offer to the greater sustainability movement? C hapter 1 explores the problems with measuring and understanding human well being based predominantly on economic parameters and the psychological, social, and ecologi cal implications of consumer culture. Chapter 2 and 3 ethnographically present InanItah and Earthaven respectively, and describe the associations of perceived QOL with certain ecological and socio cultural
7 characteristics of both communities. In the conc luding chapter, I connect both communities, describe similar qualities and themes, and present a compilation of overall perceived quality life as expressed by the residents I interviewed. I also discuss factors that appeared critical to quality of life an d consider how ecovillages fit into the greater issue of global power structures.
8 CHAPTER 1: CONSUMERISM AND HUMAN WELL BEING Prosperity and Quality of Life Beyond Economics Powered by consumption, economic growth is thought to deliver prosperity by increasing income per capita and material well being and is therefore perceived as a means of improving the life of the individual as well as the collective (Jackson, 2005). The neoliberal theory of consumer behavior assumes consumers to be sovereign i ndividuals who seek to maximize their own utility and welfare by making highly rational decisions about goods and prices within the market. This widespread ideology implies a positive relationship between consumption and human well being and provides a th eoretical basis to support an expansionist economic model (Royo, 2007). Congruently, the utilitarian conceptualization of human well being maintains that higher incomes facilitate higher consumption and therefore greater utility. In short, such approache s assume that the more we consume the better off we are, and therefore equate s increasing consumption to improved well being ( Jackson, 2005). Among Western economists, these understandings of the human condition have engendered m easurements of human we ll being reliant upon some measurement of national income per capita (McGillivray & Clarke, 2007). The essence of this position is being expands options and so contributes to human well being, it can adequately serve as a prox (Travers & Richardson, 1993). Therefore, funding institutions such as The World Bank, USAID, the International Monetary Fund, and national governments have all insist on measuring human progress and defining development within economic criteria (Ger,
9 1997, p. 111). Do the accumulation of wealth and the ability to consume at high rates provide the highest quality of life? To what extent does the conflation of human well being and quality of life with income per capita actually capture well being? With the recent emergence of various social, psychological and environmental issues in the past few decades, the emphasis placed on economic growth and consumption by industrialized countries has been challenged a nd even attributed to the decline of quality of life (Hetrick, 1989, in Kilbourne, McDonagh, & Prothero, 1997). Suc h critical approaches question the psychological, social, and ecological externalities of our preoccupation with economic growth and consum p tion. Can these externalities be reduced by reducing consumption and living more sustainably? Quality of Life, Beyond Economic Criteria Quality of life (QOL) is a term generally used to evaluate human well being on an individual and collective level, yet it has been defined and measured very ambiguously. It is conventionally assumed that QOL is determined by economic prosperity where increased incomes and rates of consumption continuously improve human well being (Costanza et al., 2008). Markets and increased abilities to consume are not irrelevant to happiness and QOL, but they cannot fulfill all human needs (e.g. friendships, belonging, esteem). Evidence suggests that the relationship between happiness a n d wealth is positive but weak, and cross co untry studies demonstrate that perceptions of self happiness in wealthier countries are not much different from those in poorer countries (Travers & Richardson, 1993). Endeavors to expand upon conventional economic assumptions of QOL and include the multi dimensional complexity of the human
10 condition have been made. Robert Costanza et al. (2008) have created an integrative description of QOL: Quality of Life is represented as the interaction of human needs and the subjective perception of their fulfillmen t, mediated by the opportunities available to meet the needs. 1. Opportunities to meet human needs now and in the future: Built, Human, Social, and Natural Capital and Time. 2. Human needs include: Subsistence, Reproduction, Security, Affection, Un derstanding, Participation, Leisure, Spirituality, Creativity, Identity, and Freedom. 3. Subjective Well Being (happiness, utility and welfare) for individuals and/or groups (p. 18). Although important qualities of life vary interpersonally and cultur ally, this expansion on the idea of QOL incorporates critical elements of the human experience. It regards humans as more than producers and consumers and illuminates important qualities of the human condition that are non market oriented. A more holisti c approach to QOL can incorporate environmental, social, and psychological qualities that are integral to human well being instead of focusing solely on the material dimension. Problems with Economic Measurement of Human Well Being Measuring human well being based on gross domestic product figures has been extensively criticized as simplifying the human condition and reducing well being to merely being well off (or having much) (McGillivray & Clarke, 2007; Mischan, 1993). The 1990 Human Development Rep ort, produced by the United Nations Development Programme, accentuated the limitations of financial wealth and the accumulation of commodities as a measurement for human well being. The report emphasized 'income as a means not an end' which has been obscu red by the preoccupation among policy makers
11 and others with GDP (UNDP 1990). Despite the widespread recognition of GDP's one dimensional and misguided approach to gauging human well being and the various attempts that have been made to expand upon this c as the 'quintessential' well being 53 in McGillivray & Clarke, 2007, p. 6). The extent to which financial wealth or income can actualize happiness and overall well being is limited. O nce individuals are able to meet their basic needs, the accumulation of more wealth is weakly related to subjective human well being (Lane, 2000). This runs counter to market rationale and the neoliberal notion of utility and human welfare which may be wh declining marginal utility of money and perpetuate the assumption that markets do in fact satis 31). GDP includes only the goods and services that involve monetary exchange. Non mark et oriented work and experiences that enhance quality of life such as childcare housekeeping, subsistence farming and ecosystem services, are excluded from these figures ( Clapp & Dauvergne, 2011). GDP does not capture environmental costs linked to high p economic vitality: they exist entirely outside a concept of ecological constraint. They measure gains as if there is always an ecological frontier -always another resource, another t echnological substitute, another 38). Negative environmental externality costs, such as cleaning up toxic waste and oil spills, are added to GDP. Consequently, GDP may rise while actual well being may be depreciated. Assum ing that human well being can be defined within economic criteria fails to acknowledge the complexities of human motivations and experiences. Phillip McCann
12 and his co market sys tem, provides the basis for satisfying all human nee p. 22). However, humans have diverse needs and wants that are non market related and cannot be satisfied through consumptive manners. Qualities of life such as social ties, leisure time, work satisfaction, and a sense of belonging tend to be undervalued and even neglected or inaccessible in modern society (Bauman, 1992, in Kilbourne, McDonagh, & Prothero, 1997). The conventional understanding of prosperity characterized sup erficially by financial wealth reflects the neglect of those aspects of life that are not monetarily valued (Jackson, 2009). This can explain why many individuals find themselves financially prosperous yet socially impoverished, stressed about time and un fulfilled. Consumer Culture: Psychological, Social and Ecological Implications Consumer societies began to emerge with the unprecedented rise in technological advancements along with the influential rise of U.S. affluence post World War II. A new way of life was born in the United States, one that would support an expanding economy, (Durning, 1992). In the words of retailing analyst Victor Lebow (1955): Our enormously produc tive economy demands that we make consumption our way of life, that we convert the buying and use of goods into rituals, that we seek our spiritual satisfactions, our ego satisfactions, in consumption. The measure of social status, of social acceptance, o f prestige, is now to be found in our consumptive patterns. The very meaning and significance of our lives today expressed in consumptive terms...we needs things consumed, burned up, worn out, replaced, and discarded at an ever increasing rate (p. 3). Ou r physical and psychological environments have become infused with commercial
13 messages encouraging individuals to be fulfilled by consuming. In The Culture of Narcissism (1979), Christopher Lasch explains that after the United States was technologically a ble to provide for basic societal needs, the U.S. economy became reliant upon the creation of consumer demands. Industry leaders in the 1920's began to focus on influencing people's desires for non essential goods and products. Shifting from the central focus of production, the U.S. industry introduced the age of mass consumption accompanied by the advertising industry (Hunnicut, 1988 in Kanner and Gomes, 1995). According to a 1991 article in Business Week the average American is exposed to about 3,000 advertisements per day (Kanner and Gomes, 1995, p. 81). This figure has probably skyrocketed with increased Internet access. Advertisements are almost inescapable. In speaking about advertising, Alan Durning explains: The barrage of sales spiels is so in tense in the consumer society that people actually remember few ads. Yet commercials have an effect nonetheless. Even if they fail to sell a particular product, they sell consumerism itself by ceaselessly reiterating the idea that there is a product to s olve each of life's problems, indeed that existence would be satisfying and complete if only we bought the right things. Advertisers thus cultivate needs by hitching their wares to the infinite essential yearnings of the human soul (1992, p. 119). Consum erist lifestyles, wealth and possessions, are glorified through the messages and role models in advertisements, television programs, movies, and fashion; essentially comfort Gomes, 1995, p. 73) in its pursuit of generating consumers, and ultimately, economic growth. In effect, the veneration of material gain tends to be coupled with portrayals of
14 In affluent societies, the perce ption of human well being is becoming almost inseparable from having the ability to excessively consume (Lury, 1996, p. 49). --expresses the phenomenon whereby constant pressures to compar e and evaluate material possessions and consumptive patterns of one's peers becomes a competitive race, a driving force of consumption and a gage of well being. Failure to consume comparatively or beyond of inferiority, and pressures to keep up can induce negative feelings such as stress and dissatisfaction (Mishan, 1993). Large scale advertising perpetuates this race by portraying characters that are equipped with the newest commodities that are constan tly being advanced by multinational corporations never knew they had by constructing social norms in order to reel in consumers (Kanner and Gomes, 1995). In the words of P aul Wachtel (1989): Having more and newer things each year has become not just something we want but something we need. The idea of more, of ever increasing wealth, has become the center of our identity, and our security, and we are caught by it as an add ict is by his drugs (p. 71). Between 1967 and 1990, surveys show that the portion of college students who thought it important to develop a meaningful philosophy o f life dropped from 83% to the increase of materialistic desires offered by consumer society express how societal values have changed. This can be partially linked to the dominating market culture
15 influencing citizens to believe that money is the source of well being (Lane, 2000). More vehicles, vacation homes, appliances, up to date (Durning, 1992, p. 34). Tim Jackson (2005) acknowledges that more consumption of a particular good does not always mean more needs satisfaction, and, in fact, may crowd out other non material needs such as affection, human relationships and idleness. Figure 1. Perceived needs of entering college students, 1965 2000 (Myers, 2000, p. 59) Economic growth did promote well being and happiness for most of modern history and continues to do so in developi ng countries ; however it is important to note that it is increased income, not the process of increasing income that makes people on average happier (Lane, 2000). Once basic needs have been met (food, water, shelter,
16 clothing), reported happiness among we althy and poor people show how relatively little material wealth is related to the enhancement of well being (Kasser, 2002). The U.S economy grew dramatically from 1957 1998, doubling most income, yet reported life satisfaction across those yea rs has remained virtually constant. Despite the slightly from 35% 33% across the time span of those years (Figure 2). While wealth has ppiness has not changed. Similar data has been collected for Japan and European nations (Myers, 2000). Figure 2. Economic growth and life satisfaction in the United States 1956 1988 (Myers, 2000, p. 61)
17 Meanwhile, divorce rates ha ve doubled, teen suicide has tripled (it is the third most common death among young North Americans), reported violent crime has quadrupled, depression rates are doubling every decade (Cross National Collaborative Group, 1992 in Myers, 2000, p. 61), and 15 % of Americans have clinical anxiety disorder (Wright, 1994, p.53 in Jackson 2005, p. 24). These figures suggest that rising affluence and material prosperity amongst developed countries do not necessarily improve human well being. The Effects of Mate rialistic Values on Psychological Well being How are consumerist habits and the ways in which humans are expected to function within the economic system impacting quality of life? One way is psychologically. Tim Kasser (2002) compiles an abundance of em pirical evidence linking materialistic pursuits to lower psychological well being and believes that the preoccupation with these values (gaining wealth, possessions) distracts people from experiences essential for psychological growth, health, and overall well being. Students who are centrally oriented by materialistic values report significantly lower levels of self actualization and vitality, and significantly higher levels of depression and anxiety (Kasser & Ryan, 1993, in Kasser, 2002). Three hundred and fifteen college students at the University of Rochester took a survey that assessed positive feelings of well being and negative feelings of distress along with a questionnaire, the Aspirational Index, with the purpose of measuring people's values. Th e index presents participants with a variety of goals they are asked to rate according to their subjective importance (i.e., gradient from not at all important to extremely important). These included their concern with financial success (desires for a job with high social status, to buy things just
18 because you want them), self acceptance (desires for psychological growth, autonomy, and self esteem) affiliation (desires for good family life and friendships), and community feeling (desires to make the world participants' subjective well being, the researchers included questions assessing self actualization (attained by people motivated by growth, meaning and aesthetics rather than insecurity and needin g to fit in with others' expectation), vitality (assessed psychological growth, energy, and authentic expression), depression (common symptoms), and anxiety (frequency of nervousness, shakiness, fearfulness). The statistical analysis of the relationship b etween people's value orientation and well being showed that participants centrally oriented with financial success were associated with depression and anxiety significantly more than those valuing self acceptance, affinity, and community feeling It was concluded that extrinsic goals in which materialists generally strive for, such as accumulating material possessions, do not generate feelings of well being whereas intrinsic goals (characterized by self acceptance, positive relationship with others, less reliance of outside approval) were positively related to feelings of well being. These results coincide with a large body of work illuminating the link between the concern with possessions and wealth and lower psychological well being, essentially conclu ding that materialistic values can be unhealthy and unfulfilling (Kasser and Ryan, 1993 in Kasser 2002). Compared to individuals less oriented towards materialism, Marsha Richins and Scott Dawson (1992) found that those with strong materialistic values reported less satisfaction with their overall lives, family, income, how much fun they have and with their relationships with friends. A scale was developed by the investigators to
19 conceptualize materialism and assess how much people think possessions re flect success in life, how important materials are to their desires and how much they believe wealth and possessions lead to happiness. The scale used to understand the materialistic drives of respondents included desires to make money and have possessio ns as well as desires to own things for social recognition. Eight hundred adults primarily residing in the northeastern and western United States were randomly selected to complete this measurement of materialism. They were asked how satisfied they were with their lives as well as specific components such as family, friendships, standard of living, and job. Similar to Tim Kasser and Lisa Ryan's findings, materialistic respondents reported significantly lower life satisfaction in all sectors of life measu red. The Effects of Materialistic Values on Social Well Being It has been noted that people with materialistic aims tend to depreciate their efforts towards relationships (Richins and Dawson, 1992; Fromm, 1976). On this phenomenon, political scient ist Robert Lane (2000) asserts that people in capitalistic to reach time spent work ing to make money to consume to our liking combined with escalating mortgages, taxes, schooling tuitions, and a sinking economy, compromises the time spent with spouses, children, family, friends, community, and personal interests (Kanner and Gomes, 1995). The findings of several investigations demonstrate that when people highly value wealth, possessions, status and image, the importance of interpersonal relationships and the emphasis placed on community contribution declines (Kasser,
20 2002). Similarly, e conomist Fred Hirsch suggests that a decline in friendliness and sociability has been a common theme in industrialized societies not only because their dependence upon the expansion of wealth and prosperity has led to higher independence and economization of time, but also patterns of cooperation have been supplanted with cooperative, stable, community ties have declined; individuals are increasingly replacing this security with the accumulation of materials (Wachtel, 1989). possessions and acquisition as essential to their satisfaction and well pleasures of new acquisitions are short lived and soon replaced with desires for more, better, and newer things (Lane, 2000, p. 145). As expressed by William Kilbourne, Pierre Mc Donagh, & Andrea Prothero (1997, p. happiness that it cannot deliver. Di sconfirmed expectations impoverish individual and positively relates to lower life satisfaction and unhappiness, the claim that markets maximize utility is greatly a ttenuated. In the pursuit of human well being, modern society seems to be misguided (Illich 1977; Kasser 2002; Jackson 2009; Kilbourne, McDonagh, & Prothero, 1997). Ecological Impacts of High Levels of Consumption and its Effects on Well Being Th e narrow perspective of human progress attached to material affluence and stemming from economic and political imperatives is not only degrading our social and psychological well being but is also devastating the greater environment on which our
21 existence depends upon. As expressed by Tim Jackson: It is now widely acknowledged that about 60% of the world's ecosystem services have been degraded or over used since the mid 20 th century. During the same period of time the global economy has grown more than five times. If it continues to grow at the same rate, it will be 80 times bigger in 2100 than it was in 1950. This extraordinary ramping up of global economic activity had no historical precedent. It's totally at odds with our scientific knowledge of th e finite resource base and the fragile ecology on whi ch we depend for survival (2009, p. 17). The globalizing consumerist lifestyle rooted within industrialized countries, is considered McDonagh, & Prothero, 1997, p. 4). Levels of consumption have become increasingly unsustainable and are ingrained within our culture, in effect allowing these excessive activities to be seen as ordinary and therefore accepted and largely ignored (Jackson 2005). Additionally, due to our reliance upon neoliberal economics, uncontrolled technological growth, and laissez faire politics, the implications of excessive consumption habits perpetuated by powerful marketing tactics are rarely questioned (Day and Wensley, 1983 in Kilbourne, McDonagh, & Prothero, 1997). Durning (1992, p. 58) asserts that, though consumers heavily influence environmental stability (from climate change to species extinction). High consumptive patterns require high levels of industrial economic activity and therefore perpetuate excessive levels of production and waste. These intensive practices of the modern world, especially in industrialized societ ies, are threatening the viability of the natural resources that sustain our global community and the biosphere at large (Durning, 1992). Affluent countries have managed to sustain their increasing consumption habits by acquiring resources from other par ts of the world. Jennifer Clapp
22 and Peter Dauvergne explain: In the past, this was done mainly through colonialism and migration to new lands. Today it is done through international trade, foreign direct investment, and foreign aid. A country's 'ecolog ical shadow' refers to its aggregate environmental impact in other parts of the world to feed domestic consumption and avoid domestic environmental problems. The globalization of corporate chains to produce and replace consumer goods is increasing the rea ch and size of ecological shadows, shifting the environmental burden from consumption far beyond the borders of the rich countries...It is also allowing people in wealthier places to consume ever more without suffering a proportionate share of the conseque nces of hitting ecological limits (2011, p. 121). Supply and disposal chains have lengthened with the expansion of the global economy. People have become spatially and socially separated from the origins of the items they consume and the extraction, pro duction, transportation and disposal processes. This 'distancing' makes it difficult for consumers to understand the implications of their consumption (Conca 2006; Clapp & Dauvergne, 2011). Additionally, consumption tends to be understood as an act as o pposed to a multifaceted process that entails production, purchase, use, and disposal (Kilbourne, McDonagh, & Prothero, 1997), especially when it is construed as an integral source of satisfaction and even as a form of civic or patriotic duty by economists business and political leaders (Princen, 1999). Core economic activities -automobile use, electricity generation, factory operations, agriculture, and deforestation -emit the three main greenhouse gases: carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous ox ide. They are responsible for the primary consequences of climate change: sea level rise, severe storms, drought, and desertification (Clapp and Dauvergne, 2011). The atmosphere can only act as a waste sink to a certain capacity, which has been exceeded (Jackson, 2009). Heat waves and droughts in the United States
23 and Europe, expansive fires in Indonesia, the Amazon, Mexico, and Florida, severe storms and floods in the Mississippi River basin, Africa, China, and Bangladesh are examples of recent atmosphe ric events that have been linked to global climate change (Flavin and Dunn, 1999). Threats to agricultural production and the spread of tropical diseases such as malaria are also potential dangers to individual and collective well being of the global com munity (Martens, 1999). Herber Lewis (1962) acknowledges that disorders of the land, plants, and animals eventually produce disorders in humans, in which case humans should avoid inflicting continuous or intensive damage upon the natural environment. In light of the effects of our changing ecosystems on human beings, specifically pertaining to the viability of our habitat and health, it becomes clear that the planet's biotic and abiotic organisms are intimately connected and function as a holistic sys tem. Supporting consumer lifestyles means high demands for large volumes of non renewable resources such as fossil fuels, continuous and unsustainable extractions of high volumes of renewable resources, the overloading of waste sinks and endangering natur well being for a growing world population poses the fundamental issue of sustainability: Prothero, 1997, p. 5). The issue of sustai nability is extremely complicated and challenges many modern practices, conceptions, and values. By creating new value systems and lifestyles, communities like InanItah and Earthaven, are attempting to respond to the observations and critiques concerning the relationship between high levels of consumption human well being and ecological limits presented in this chapter The following two chapters
24 explore the alternative community elements I observed at InanItah and Earthaven that attempt to improve resi dents QOL while reducing harmful environmental practices
25 CHAPTER 2: ETHNOGRAPHIC PRESENTATION OF INANITAH My headlamp and the starry sky were the only sources of light illuminating my surroundings as I hiked the last stretch of travel to InanIah. The sounds of motors disappeared and were replaced by a deafening orchestra of frogs and cicadas. The waxing crescent moon added little glow and I could only see about six feet of what was ahead of me. This did not prevent my gaze from being naturally at tracted to the infinite speckles in the sky or the silhouettes of the continuous mango and banana trees that border the rugged and lengthy path to InanItah. My attention was brought back to the ground after I nearly toppled over a resting cow obscured by the darkness. If I had not become familiar with this path during the previous summer, I would have been completely uncertain of my whereabouts. As the path began to ascend with the steep topography of Volcn Maderas, my inhales and exhales intensified an d my mind fought my body to continue its locomotion. The terrain fortunately leveled out and the dimmed lights ahead reassured me of my arrival to InanItah; although the lack of human sounds gave me the impression that I would walk into a space of few peo ple if any. This assumption completely contradicted my initial encounter with the community that evening. I walked into the lit, open community kitchen and found a group of 25 people quietly holding hands in a circle surrounding an abundance of food. I had arrived during a gratitude circle, an informal ritual where the community gathers before dinner, joins hands and verbally or mentally acknowledges and reflects upon what they are appreciating in their lives. Fortunately, I had arrived seconds before t he gratitude circle was initiated and was welcomed with hugs, smiles and enthusiasm as I joined the circle. Turns were taken
26 in appreciating experiences the day offered, for the existence and support of the community, the resources derived from the land, for clean water and chemical free food, for the meal preparers, for distant family members, and for not being subjected to Christmas songs that day which marked Christmas. When the community members who prepared the meal felt all words of gratitude had be en expressed, hands were squeezed itiates every dinner. The mass of people headed towards a shelf where aluminum cups, utensils, stacked bowls of dried Winged Calabash and aluminum plates were stored. I was kindly handed a bowl and fork and stood in a line that circled the wooden is land in the center of the kitchen supporting cauldron like pots of various sizes. On this night, dinner was eaten formally in the temple, a communal space where workshops, yoga, meditation, and other activities take place. We ate upon short, wide, wooden tables while sit ting on mats and pillows atop an earthen floor. Once again I was astounded by the remarkable structure. The expansive thatched roof rose high and formed a deep, wide cone above us. It was held by pillars of local timber and was open to the west side where the breeze flowed in freely. The east side of the structure was filed with cob walls accentuated with artistic designs in the relief. The overwhelming feelings I was experiencing from the commotion of my travels and my arrival to the community began to subside rather quickly. Those I conversed with during dinner approached me with friendliness and a sense of acceptance I was shown sensitivity as a newcomer, which enabled my gradual immersion. Additionally, the lack of bright lights over my head, the light breeze that
27 danced in and out of the temple and the absence of abrasive city sounds further contributed to my sense of comfort in this foreign yet familiar space. Methods of Research My fieldwork was conducted at InanItah du ring a month long stay as a work trade volunteer and community member from December 25 th through January 27 th 2011 2012. Through my immersion in the community, I was able to conduct participant observations as well as informal interviews. My initial goal was to interview the four permanent residents, including the two founders. However, the founders were dealing with interpersonal conflicts and were away for half of my stay. I interviewed the other two residents, Darshana, a full time member, and Valeri e a seasonal member, as well as two work trade volunteers from Germany and New Zealand, Peter and Sara. Darshana and Valerie played integral roles in the social, spiritual, managerial and creative dimensions of InanItah. Before finding InanItah, Darshana deeply unsatisfied with her reality and the loneliness she experienced in her living situation, worked as a graphic designer for a Psychology was raised in an intent ional community in Delaware and owned a business that offered massage therapy and other forms of body healing. She was motivated to find a community with people who shared similar values as hers, focused on spirituality and healthy living and where she co uld contribute her skills and develop new ones. Peter who was in his late twenties had spent several months at InanItah and was deeply rooted in the community. Sara, a new work trade volunteer sought out InanItah as a place where she could relieve her di stress and recover from her feelings of mental exhaustion. The
28 interviews took place in common areas within the community during the last week of my research. I asked reflexive questions relating to their lives prior to InanItah, motivations for seeking a community, principal changes in their lifestyle, their sense of well being (socially, psychologically, spiritually), how their overall quality of life had been affected and aspects that could improve their quality of life. Some interviewees spoke faster than others, which challenged the detail I was able to transcribe. Other limiting factors included the inability to interview the founders who provided the fundamental seeds and vision of the community and my inability to legally interview Nicaraguans (a lthough I conversed and interacted with a number of locals). I extracted additional information from the volunteer orientation book, which compiled the community dynamics and expectations for newcomers. Throughout my recent stay, there were about 22 30 co mmunity members. I was already familiar with the permanent members and a couple of transient members from my previous visit to InanItah in the summer of 2011. After completing an environmentally focused study abroad program in Costa Rica, I traveled to I nanItah with the intention of gaining experiential knowledge in sustainability practices and in the possibility of the community being a future field research site. During this first visit, there were six individuals within the community. I stayed for a month as a work trade volunteer while I was able to build rapport with some of the permanent community members and demonstrate my slept in a tent on a campsite up the hill of the central village. As a student of environmental studies, a yoga instructor, and one who is experienced in different forms of body movement meditations (e.g. dance, hoop dance), I
29 shared common ground with some of the community ideals and for the m ost part, felt comfortable participating. I led a few yoga practices during my stay and held a couple of hoop dance workshops during a skills exchange event. I willingly shared what I could and was receptive to their objectives and ways of living to ensu re my immersion and role as a community member. I feel as though my openness to participate and my position as one, who was familiar with some community practices, made it easier to connect with some of the community members. The purpose of this chapter is to provide a portrait of the community dynamics and the ways in which these dynamics affect perceived and observed quality of life. An Introduction to InanItah InanItah is located on Isla de Ometepe, an island formed by two volcanoes emerging f on the northern hillside of the southern Volcn Maderas, a location that provides a panoramic view of the island's isthmus and the larger, active volcano, northern Volcn Concepcin The 22 acre landscape, which the community subsists upon, was originally used as pasture land, thereby providing an area of cleared forest to build a settlement. Ometepe's economy is primarily based on livestock, agriculture, and tourism, and therefore the community is surrounded by rural farmland and nearby permaculture projects.
30 Figure 3. Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua (maps.google.com) Figure 4. Approximate location of InanItah on Isla de Ometepe (maps.google.com)
31 As of January 2012, InanI ah had three full time members (the term used for permanent residents living within the community for more than 8 months a year) and one part time member (seasonal resident). Despite the impressive infrastructures, facilities and organization that had alr eady been established in the three years of its cultivation, InanItah was still in its infancy and in the midst of natural building and permaculture projects. Having found and bought the land and initiated the cultivation of the community, the members wer e progressively working to establish the collective aims for InanItah's future. From what I understood, members desired the permanent community to eventually consist of 13 residents. During my research, the community was predominantly transitory, consist ing mostly of part time volunteers, full time volunteers, and visitors who heavily supported the on going projects and took part in the various workshops and gatherings offered throughout the year (primarily in the dry season). Visitors were asked to stay a minimum of one week in order to have a chance to experience and learn about the community. Part time volunteers paid a stipend that went toward the kitchen and garden, and were required to stay a minimum of one month and work 20 hours per week. Full t ime volunteers committed to staying at least two months, work about 40 hours per week and paid no stipend. All statuses including visitors were considered community members. The number of people present in the community was capped at 30 and ranged thro ughout the year (significantly lower in the wet season, high in the dry season). Individuals came to InanItah for various reasons that involved living, learning and sharing. Some sought experiential learning in natural building or organic agriculture; me ditation practices, yoga or community living drew others The majority of the
32 population tended to be European and North American, ranging from ages 18 and older, with mixed spiritual faiths, levels of education and sexual orientations. During my researc h, there were four dwellings in which the permanent community members resided, a communal kitchen, a temple, a space for lounging and reading, an outdoor amphitheater, a sweat lodge, a dormitory, a bodega (tool shed), and a shelter for the firewood Most volunteers and visitors slept in tents or hammocks on the various campsites throughout the land. Vision and Values InanItah sprouted from the joint vision of the two co founders who spent years exploring and living in ecological and spiritual commu nities internationally. The couple, originating from Germany and the United States, decided to take their experiences and knowledge in community living and healing arts and cultivate a sustainability oriented spiritual community inspired by the ecovillage model. IanaItah's physical development began in 2009 and was self based spiritual ecological consciousness, InanItah's vision wa cultivation of personal and interpersonal relationships was emphasized alongside InanItah 2010). Fostering individual sustainability, social sustainability, and ecological sustainability were dimensions integral to the scope of InanItah's goals. The community was also dedicated to hosting healing and educational workshops such as the annual Ecovillage Design Gathering, massage
33 courses, and ongoing Tantric workshops. InanItah's vision was a reflection of the shared values that represented the behaviors, attitudes, characteristics and processes that were deemed worthy by the indiv iduals and collective community. The were being, community living, sex and relationships, voluntary 3 for the conscious care of the earth and human body. In promoting the 'health and well being' of the natural world and of the individuals, organic foods and medicinal plants were cultivated, sustainable liv ing techniques such as natural building and renewable energy were relied upon, and forms of healing body movement, such as yoga, massage and diverse approaches to meditation were practiced. With the aspiration to lead healthy lifestyles, the conscious and limited use of potentially addictive or harmful substances such as alcohol, su gar, coffee, and tobacco was encouraged These general values seemed to be supported by the prioritization of 'community living' or living interdependently and cooperatively b skills through practicing mutual support, vulnerability, honesty, reflective listening, non Liv ing simply by reducing consumptive h abits and increasing self sufficiency was also heavily emphasized by the community. Therefore, sharing resources, community work and knowledge among community members and the local community was an ample characteristic and value at InanItah. According t o Darshana, the name InanItah came 3 to or awareness of current experience or present
34 from the Nahuatl language of the early inhabitants of the island, the Nahua. It was a combination of the word teteoInan, meaning our divine grandmother, and teteoItah, our divine grandfather. To the community the joint ed and the yang, opposing forces of light and dark, or the unification of feminine and with the land's ancestry as well as its founda tions in Tantric spiritual practices. A Glimpse into an Average Day at InanItah The daily schedule at InanItah was structured yet also organic and flexible. In other words, the needs of the community, individuals and resource availability, all evoked fl uctuations in daily routines. To announce activities, such as meditation, meetings, meals, and yoga, a metal pot cover known as the gong was rung. All community members were expected to participate in communal contributions that were integral to the comm During the beginning of each week, members signed up for multiple tasks (the number of tasks per person depended on the existing population). These tasks included: breakfast and dinner cook, m eal assistants and harvesters, kitchen clean up, meditation leader and sacred space caretaker, garden watering, and fire and filter 4 A typical day began with an optional, one hour meditation as the sun rose. The type of meditation varied daily. Some w ere static and silent but most were dynamic and involved dance, movement and music. According to the Orientation Gu ide, dynamic 4
35 usually consisted of pinole 5 homemad e yogurt (made with fresh milk from the occurred at 7a.m in the Urecca Center, a recently constructed communal space. The morning meetings were facilitated by a permane nt community member and began with individual check ins when each person was given the opportunity to express their current state of being or how they were generally feeling that morning for the purpose of emotionally and energetically orienting the collec tive community. Having some awareness of the mental states of others and exhibiting sensitivity and support seemed to included, upcoming events, structural changes, grou p outings), proposals (new ideas or design projects to improve the community and its quality of life, and concerns), and which usually involved ongoing projects in natura l building and gardening, and other tasks related to maintenance, such as reloading the composting toilets with rice husks, organizing the kitchen and harvesting fruits from the neighbors. Going around the circle, each person shared what work task or proj ect in which they planned to participate. This routine oriented each member with the tasks that would be undertaken and with whom they would be collaborating. Morning meetings brought community members to a provided structure and organization Lunch, eaten at midday, marked the end of the workday for the partial trade volunteers. For the rest of the day, most people read books, lounged in the hammocks, walked to the lake or into town, and participated in af ternoon yoga classes. Cacao 5 Ground wheat or corn that is similar to porridge when combined with liquid; considered the national beverage of Nicaragua
36 roasting was a common afternoon activity that I enjoyed participating in. Flavoring and eating the chocolate was only part of the delight; the chocolate making process tended to be a group activity and often promoted social in teractions. As expressed to me on several occasions, peeling cacao was highly appreciated and enjoyed for its meditative and social qualities as it provided an intimate space for conversations. Dinner preparation began at least two hours before dinnertim e as fires needed to be made and food needed to be harvested and prepared. Meal preparations required substantial effort and were essentially a creative endeavor due to the available range of foods Dinner was the only formal meal eaten and was always in itiated with a gratitude circle. From what I community members together and fostered a time for interpersonal interactions and the development of community bonds. Without external forms of entertainment, I noticed that people were more driven to converse and entertain one another, thereby deepening interpersonal relationships and human connections. Sharing circles, held once a week after dinner, were important even being of the individual members. Sharing circles offered a chance to express how one was feeling and nity (Darshana, 1/23/12). As was evident in my observations, this activity was particularly powerful for the community as a whole, especially in breaking down personal and interpersonal barriers that tend to inhibit honest expression and community transpa rency. I will revisit this topic in a few sections. Weekends were work free and dedicated to leisure activities, relaxation and recreation.
37 This section detailed an average day at InanItah to give the reader an idea of the general structure of the dai ly functions. Each day was distinct and affected by the personal and social dynamics of the individuals and whole community as these were the homes of humans living their lives and constantly interacting with one another. Sustainability and Quality of Life at InanItah This section explores the associations between certain aspects supporting the ecological and social sustainability at InanItah and the effects on quality of life. I was initially driven to investigate how the community was approaching ecological sustainability and how these approaches affected their perceived quality of life. However, after spending time in the community, I found that the social dynamics and mechanisms for maintaining social sustainability were more important and fasci nating than I expected, especially relating to QOL. It seemed to me that through social cohesion and interactions, not only was ecological sustainability made possible, but also residents were able to live in a happy and healthy manner. In this section I will be explaining some associations with QOL. Ecological Approaches and Material Dynamics Ecologically, the ecovillage m ovement is a response to the upsurge of destru ctive environmental practices and dominant lifestyles threatening and weakening the biosphere at unprecedented rates. Excessive consumerism, waste, and intensive, industrial production, have been built into the dominant economic system and in turn Western
38 culture, and are heavily contributing to the decline in the ecological integrity of our planet. Many of the responses to the high levels of environmental degradation have been approached technocentrically and superficially. By creating alternative lifes tyles with new values and paradigms, ecovillages aim to change behaviors and attitudes working against the biosphere to promote ecological regeneration and low impact lifestyles, to act locally and employ sustainable living practices. While InanItah used a variety of technologies and techniques to work towards ecological sustainability, I have chosen to focus on the most prominent and important practices, including natural building, food production, and composting toilets. These concepts will be describe d and explored along with the ways in which the community interacted with these practices and how it affected their lives. Natural Building eography. The entire infrastructure had been constructed wit h renewable resources from the e arth that were locally available and plentiful. The island is rich in clay soil, timber, straw, grasses (bamboo, banana leaves), and stones (mostly for foundation s ), which had been combined to create the diverse and modern techniques for practical and creative purposes and were clearly expressed in the designs. The buildings integrated thatched roofs (primarily of banana leaves), clay historical building techniques) with cob, wattle and daub, earthen plasters, and earthen
39 floors. In building with materials from the earth, InanItah eliminated the heavy reliance of technology and shifted that dependency onto human labor, thereby promoting greater environmental and social sustainability. The community conserved resources and energy by using loca l materials without sacrificing the comfort and health of the inhabitants. Building materials were not being industrially extracted at unprecedented rates and did not require intensive processing or extensive transportat ion (like in the case of cement and ste el ). Meanwhile the community was equipped with the resources and human power to build and rebuild shelters. This reduced dependency upon external materials that may be hard to acquire, costly, or impossible to work with without expensive equipment. The architectural design process was a collaborative and creative endeavor that represented the community and was appropriately fit into the local climate and site conditions. The dwellings and communal spaces were all climate appropriate and oriented ba sed on the sun's relation to the land and the path of the prevailing winds. Residing on the hillside of the volcano, the buildings tended to open up to the west vista of the lake, volcano and sunsets, and away from the prevailing easterly rains. They wer e open and well ventilated, with roofing that prevented the trapping of heat while providing viable shelter during the rainy season. It was obvious that each building design was well planned and suited the personality and needs of the community. The buil dings were infused with symbolism that connected the community with the structures. The symbolic foundations were heavily inspired by sacred geometry, spirituality, and representations of the natural world that further contributed to the aesthetic appeal of the natural materials.
40 The newly constructed communal space, the Urecca Center, symbolized was named after the native Urecca birds that prolifically inhabit InanIt ah and the general exhibiting hundreds of distinct birdcalls who are born mute with the intention for the child to de velop the ability to speak. The communal laptop, was equipped with hammocks for lounging, served as a space for and symbolically functioned as a reminder of the importance of communication. Cob was clearly an integral building material at InanItah. The resources used to make cob were widely available and the final products were extremely durable. This mixtur cob mixture consisted of a combination of straw, clay, soil, water, and ground up and sifted volcanic rock. It was amorphous, dynamic, and provided building materials that were functional and easy to sculpt into artistic designs. The buildings were all collaborative efforts from design to construction and built by hand with the help of residents, volunteers, workshop participants and locals. The understanding and experien ce of the building process combined with the unique designs and attached symbolism seemed to provoke the appreciation, value, and sacredness of the infrastructure at InanItah. Additionally, community members directly interacted with the buildings further rooting them into place and resulting in a sense of
41 removed from the process. For example, the earthen floor in the temple tended to crack due to its heavy use for dancin g, dynamic meditations and workshops. The delicate floor constantly formed holes that required patching. I took on this project despite not having any experience with earthen floors or floors in general. I was given a mixture recipe and ideas as to how the process went in the past (quite experimental). I made the patch mixture by sifting cow manure and sand and combining both with linseed oil and a small part of paint thinner. With the help of a couple of people, we patched every single hole, sanded t hem down and layered the circular floor with linseed oil. I spent many hours working with the floor and with my work mates. I was especially open to work on this project not only for the experiential learning but also because of its centrality to communi ty activities. While patching the temple floor, I came to the realization that while ecological sustainability is rooted in the use of appropriate and renewable materials, of equal importance is one's own relationship with those resources, which inspires their mindful and conscious use. It seems to me that though direct interaction this can be most easily achieved. Additionally, the direct relationships that one engaged upon while interacting with a building, whether it be contributing to the design proc ess, its physical construction, or its maintenance, enables an appreciation that comes with the understanding of the labor and creative forces that went into cultivating a building. The fact that they are personalized to suit the needs and characteristics of the community or the resident deepens the connection and appreciation thereby improving a quality of life that is not as prevalent when one is separate from the foundational processes.
42 Food Production InanItah's local and integrated food production system was supported by principles of organic agriculture and permaculture. These paths to food cultivation were motivated by self sufficiency; with the goal of practicing ecologically sound food production and producing chemical free and fresh foods, for the health and well being of the biotic community. The community had a central garden in the shape of a mandala. Mandala gardens are popular permaculture techniques that aim to increase productivity by providing more garden space than conventional strai ght bed s The garden beds took somewhat of a spiral shape where the center bed was enclosed by larger concentric circles. T beds were wide, layered with rice husk to prevent overg rowth of weeds and easy to move through. Similarly, the garden beds were sheathed with dried banana leaves and grasses as mulch to minimize weed growth. Although still mostly dedicated to annual plants, a perennial polyculture ecosystem was growing. The garden was rich with a variety of edible leafy greens, such as spinach, kale, katuk, cranberry hibiscus, mustard greens and moringa, many of which can be propagated by cuttings, are rich in vitamins, and can be eaten raw. Peppers, perennial herbs (many h aving medicinal qualities, e.g. lemongrass and mint) fruit trees (e.g. papaya, banana), pineapples, aloe and aromatic medicinal rhizomes (e.g. ginger, galingale, turmeric) filled the garden space. Marigolds were interplanted throughout the system as de terrents of detrimental insects and to attract pollinators. A few container gardens of interplanted perennial herbs (fennel, rosemary, basil, oregano) and greens lay on the outskirts of the mandala garden. Seeds from existing plants and fruits were colle cted and replanted in the community nursery where
43 they were cared for before transplantation. A series of curved swales were present behind the garden. Swales are ditches useful for the collection of water that would otherwise stream down the land, takin g the nutrient rich topsoil with it. Using swales is a method that allows for nutrients to be captured and slowly seeped back into the soil while also preventing erosion. The soil that was dug while creating a swale was heaped onto a pile that provided a space for edible vegetation that anchors the soil. The kitchen area was equipped with container gardens. In being committed to organic agriculture, InanItah incorporated many techniques that supplanted the use of chemicals. The fruit trees were surrou nded by vegetation cuttings and decaying banana and papaya leaves that had fallen from the trees for the purpose of reintegrating the nutrients of the biomass into the soil. Composting was also a significant tactic in providing the soil with non synthetic nutrients. Compost heaps were made by layering soil, dead banana leaves or straw with manure from the neighbor's cattle and water. Kitchen scraps were also incorporated into their own composting pile. Reintegrating this organic matter into the soil bui lt up essential minerals and nutrients that were consumed through the food at InanItah. This was also aligned with the community's goal of working t owards production without waste: by mimicking ecosystem functions and finding a balance between what is tak en and put back into the cycle. Organic pesticides 6 plant guilds, agro forestry, mulching, composting, interplanting, as well as hand weeding, were all techniques that supported the chemical free cultivation of InanItah's food production. InanItah's n eighbors provided the community with a significan t portion of their staple foods: beans, rice and fruits. The founders informed me that they chose not to 6
44 grow the crops that their neighbors had mastered and instead purchased or bartered for them. It was mentioned to me that the neighbors were much more knowledgeable and su ccessful at growing these crops ( more so than InanItah ) This reduced competition and enabled the intentional community to support the local suppliers. Their two most proximal neighbor s grew an abundance of bananas, coconuts, jackfruits, mangos, avocados, sour sop, papayas and a variety of citrus. Once or twice a week, community members would visit the neighbors' properties and harvest fruits from their groves, carrying back large sack s with hundreds of fruits. During my stay in the summer, an edible fruit forest consisting of hundreds of trees was planted in an effort to expand the community's localized food production system, but the trees were not yet mature enough to provide substa ntial amounts of fruits for the community. InanItah's diet was low in meat and the farm did not integrate domesticated animals other than dogs. The neighbors raised cattle and chickens and provided the community with milk daily and eggs and meat weekly. The exchange of food was one of the many ways in which InanItah interacted with the surrounding community. From what I observed, borrowing money, offering favors and exchanging resources were common ways people interrelated on the island; InanIah appear ed to be a part of these customary relationships that created interdependence among the greater community around Volcn Maderas. From what I experienced, observed, and based on what was explicitly expressed to me, InanItah's local food system reconnec ted people to their food. In speaking to Darshana, it was explained to me that she felt more connected to what she was eating; an aspect of ecovillage living that improved her well being and quality of life (1/23/12). The tangible connection was rooted i n the direct interaction community members
45 experienced daily from working in the gardens (watering, weeding, planting), harvesting food, preparing food, and being amongst the edible landscape. As a member, one quickly became familiar with the edible plant s, vegetables, and fruits through assisting with meals and working in the garden. The distance between the land, producer and the consumer was dramatically diminished. Being directly exposed to the process of cultivating food and becoming a part of the e nergy and efforts that went into it through physical labor, afforded a physical connection, an understanding and appreciation of the process. Food as an integral part of cultural identity and heritage seemed to connect members to Ometepe and InanIah. In growing and eating locally, a sense of place and a connection to the land seemed to be fostered not only relating to its physical qualities and attributes but also to feelings and associations with place. By purchasing locally and trading with their neigh bors, InanItah supported the local economy and became integrated into the social web that connected the intentional community with the larger community, extending their sense of place. This extension occurred through the creation and reproduction of ideol ogical relationships between InanItah, the land and the surrounding community (Cross, 2001). Their degree of self reliance in producing food enabled the community to often have access to fresh, organic food that was nutritionally healthy and did not pose the health risks of foods produced with detrimental chemicals. The absence of costly external inputs such as synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, having a community food source, and purchasing food directly from the producers were economically viable for the community. However, there were some qualities of InanItah's localized food sourcing that could be seen as a decline in quality of life. In growing food locally and organically, the
46 consumers of the harvest must become accustomed to seasonality. Sq uash and beans and rice were prolifically available and eaten almost every day in different forms while I resided at InanItah. A few of the transient members complained about the repetition of certain dishes. Not having access to all foods throughout the year is a reality of living within the means and properties of the local environment and habituating to seasonal foods was a repetitive or unappealing experience for some. Additionally, compared to intensive agriculture, growing food organically is more labor intensive and time consuming especially while developing an agricultural system. Preparing nutritious soil required time and labor to develop, mix, and lay out (e.g. sifting different parts such as sand and manure and mixing them well) as did plant There was greater interaction between the gardeners and the crops. Weed control was done by hand (and hand held gardening tools) and adequate observation was necessary to maintain healthy conditions within the garde n Composting Toilets There were three outdoor, dry, composting toilets at InanItah. Human excrement was covered with rice husk to promote aerobic processing and reduce odors. The composting ditches were populated with thousands of worms that appeared naturally and decomposed the excrement and toilet paper. To create privacy, the toilets were located in areas surrounded by vegetation and guarded by large sticks laid across the entrance to indicate occupancy. The aerobic decomposition process does not require water and occurs at rates more rapid than the anaerobic decomposition employed in wet sewage treatments. Having to use an outdoor, dry toilet may be conventionally seen as an
47 uncomfortable aspect, one that may decline QOL at InanItah. However, m embers at InanItah were comfortable using the composting toilets and many preferred them over conventional toilets and viewed them to be cleaner systems. Socio Cultural Dynamics Many people advocating the ecovillage m ovement feel that supportive soci o cultural structures have been disintegrati ng in the West (Svensson, 2002). The reconstruction of these structures has been a driving force for the development of InanItah. As a community valuing interpersonal relationshi ps and sharing and promoting a general lifestyle that required cooperative activities and co creation, deep social ties were constantly being formed that rooted the community. Having to depend on one another for mutual aid, emotional support and for the proper functioning of the commun ity, along with the lack of incentives to be materialistic or competitive seemed to dissolve barriers that may separate individuals in capitalistic nations. There appeared to be a balance between personal freedom and one's responsibility to others. Witho ut the distractions of consumption and wealth accumulation and the fast paced, time economizing lifestyle, there was more room and time for interpersonal relationships and prioritizing psychological, social and ecological well being. These components of the human experience are integral in maintaining a supportive and cooperative community and, according to my interviewees, integral to their quality of life. There are several ways in which the community fostered group cooperation and support as well as t he development of skills necessary for living communally; cooperative activities, honest communication and group rituals.
48 Cooperative Daily Activities Most projects and daily activities at InanIah were accomplished through the engagement with others, from preparing meals to working in the garden. People were constantly interacting, collaborating and working together as most tasks required more than one body and mind. Many of the tasks at InanItah involved some form of cooperative physical labor that combined working and conversation to become familiar with work partners. In weeding the garden, preparing food and working with cob, I experienced and observed how members fell into conversations, many of which revealed personal details, information and opinions. The interactive opportunities comprised of community contributions, projects and communal living arrangements promoted bonding and cohesion. Community members were constantly supporting one another and deepening their social connection throug h working, living, and spending recreational time with one another. A common response to someone struggling either emotionally or posed 'support' as a responsibility i nstead of a favor, reflected the values of the community and enabled a degree of social awareness that supported the social sustainability of the community. Honest Communication Open, honest communication and transparency were emphasized and valued at InanItah as the foundation for strong relationships, the development of emotional connections, and interpersonal trust; key ingredients for social continuity. A sense of
49 trust and comfort when living amongst a group of people, along with the ability to be receptive and communicate non violently, were important factors in determining the groups' well being. Sincerity and integrity expressed in daily actions, decision making, and when resolving conflicts were also group properties that determined the com munity's stability. Developing the communication skills necessary for communal living and Darshana, was one of the most challenging aspects for her while adapting to InanI tah's lifestyle. Open communication and transparency were initially demonstrated during my first morning meeting as each member expressed how they were feeling, made announcements and proposals, and tuned into what everybody would be doing during the day. When it was my turn to check in, I remember initially having difficulty putting my mental and physical states into words. T hese are complex subjects that require a certain kind of langua ge, practice and self awareness for authentic expression. In my ex perience, it is common for people to respond with automatic and pre constructed phrases (when asked how they are) to quickly encapsulate their personal states. At times this may be due to unwillingness in accepting emotions that are coming up, to prevent feeling vulnerable, to mask perceived weakness or instability, or a lack of self awareness. Sara expressed how appalled she wa s at her first morning meeting: I remember sitting in my first morning meeting and thinking that the way in which people express ed their emotions so openly and consistently was a little ridiculous, over the top and self indulgent. I found myself judging others and wanting to laugh at the situation. Thinking back, this is interesting as I often laugh in highly different and stress ful situations as a coping mechanism...so when this emotion came up, I recognized that I was being challenged. As time passed, I became very grateful for the free expression of feeling and dropped many of my judgments around it (1/24/12).
50 When some peopl e arrived at InanItah, openly expressing emotions was an uncomfortable and foreign experience. However, when living in close quarters and relying upon each other, communicating and expressing concerns and frustrations in a healthy manner is essential in m aintaining a viable living environment. With time, many temporary members became not only comfortable with the practice but appreciative and even reliant upon it. I felt that the members who were accustomed to living communally served as enablers for new members in adapting to openly communicating. With a group behaviors and expressive attitudes, it was easier for others to embody them as well. This group enabling made it easier to live simply, sustainably, and communicate honestly because they were part of the community norms. Sharing Circles Valerie communicated to me that an elemental community aspect separating InanItah from contemporary American society was t he value of emotional expression (1/26/12). Once a week, community members would gather in a sharing circle, a group process in which members are given the opportunity to share feelings, experiences, and concerns that they may be holding onto and unable t o express to everyone in daily life settings. The hour long process was loosely structured and facilitated by one of the permanent community members. There were a few rules to promote the goals of the sharing circle: referencing others by name as opposed to 'you' or 'they', owning one's feelings by using 'I felt' as opposed to 'he/she made me feel', and refraining from preaching to keep the problem or expression about oneself. When sharing circles began,
51 everyone was asked to look around the circle and m ake silent eye contact with one inner feelings or struggles and what is real for the individual at that moment) would sit or stand in the center of the circle, retu rn into the circle when they had completed their thoughts, and express whether or not they were open to feedback. The creation of this safe space allowed members to be vulnerable and to engage upon healthy emotional releases with the collective community' s attention and with confidentiality. During my first sharing circle, I was initially nervous but ultimately absolutely fascinated, impressed, and compelled to participate. The courage involved in speaking to the group and the fact that there was a speci fic time dedicated for release, understanding, compassion and intense honesty was empowering and connecting. By providing a space for emotional expression and healing, sharing circles in turn gave individuals in the community the opportunity to further understand one another and form deeper connections while gradually deprogramming unhealthy fears and attitudes. Darshana informed me that her psychological well being had improved while living at rt and a sense of intimacy that One of her motivations for seekin g California fostered. She didn't feel intimately connect ed with people in a way that felt real (1/23/12). Peter felt that the sharing circles fostered a sense of trust within the expressed to me that while at InanItah:
52 I lear ned on a more personal level that I shy away from people as a coping mechanism, as they often expose some of my deepest weaknesses and fears...I'm now able to look at life not in black or white, but more gray. I feel less judgmental towards myself, and co nsequently, towards others...more compassionate, empathetic and understanding. This is possibly a result of hearing other peoples' feelings and situations on a regular basis and realizing that they're not that different from me (12/24/12). The sharing ci rcle was a practice of communication, receptivity, and facing honest feelings that often brought up similar feelings in others. It seemed that this group openness which was uncomfortable for some in the beginning, tended to promote a sense of comfort with and having realizations that many of these are universal or common, the ability to be authentic becomes improved her well (1/2 hat I am enough, just as I am, t residents breathing together while holding hands and then hugging one another I felt that this weekly practice was an especially powerful mechanism in binding the community and in practicing certain skills integral in forming cooperative relationships, such as non violent communication, listening empathy, and self awareness. A lthough challen ging at times t he support, sense of intimacy and connection that open, honest communication presented, was an important quality at InanItah that affected the members' well being, i ndividually and collectively.
53 Group rituals Rituals, a feature of the h uman social experience both sacred and secular, took various forms at InanIah and seemed to act as a strong thread in the community's fabric. Group rituals were performed daily, during the honoring of certain natural cycles, and at the discretion of the c ommunity. They were based around intentions of celebration, purification and the promotion of psychological and social well being. These collective experiences seemed to strengthen social bonds, foster a sense of joy and belonging, and provide opportuni ties for reflection and appreciation. I will focus on two rituals at InanItah that I felt induced a sense of cohesiveness amongst the participants; Sweat Lodge Ceremonies and Gratitude Circles. Sweat Lodge Ceremony In conjunction with InanItah's New Y ear celebration, a Native American inspired Sweat Lodge Ceremony was held. Its intended function was for healing and cleansing of the body, mind an d spirit and at the same time brought people together and served as a form of group counseling. The therap judgments, anger, guilt, fears, anxiety, frustrations, and grudges. One by one, each participant (most stripped of clothing and jewelry) entered the turtle s haped dwelling from the east entrance by crawling in a clockwise direction to a seated position upon green banana leaves. U pon entering e ach person brought with them his or her own concerns and intentions By singing, praying, talking, sweating and sit ting in silence, the group collectively sought balance and
54 purification. The four parts of the ceremony were dedicated to sound and singing, letting go, sound and singing again and prayers for family and friends. T o initiate each session the fire keepe r placed ceremonial stones in the central pit that were heated by a fire adjacent to the lodge. As the hot stones entered the space, the water bearer placed herbs upon them and poured water over the rocks to produce a steam that filled the lodge. As we s at in complete darkness, participants took turns sharing their songs, and prayers The sweating process aimed to cleanse the body of toxins. Similarly, the ceremony used this natural process to cleanse the mind and spirit. Following the completion of th e ceremony, each person emerged, rinsed and sat around the fire. This shared ritual provided an intensive, collective experience that involved the pursuit of growth and healing by sharing deep concerns and opening interpersonal boundaries through prayer and verbal release. It was a process that forged social ties and supported mental and physical health. For many, like Peter, the Sweat Lodge Ceremony also served as a Gratitude Circle As I described in the account of my arrival, gratitude circles were evening rituals that occurred before eating dinner. This informal ritual was dedicated to reflecting upon the day for a brief period and mentally acknowledging or openly sharing thoughts of appreciation within the group Gratitude circles brought awareness to positive or meaningful experiences and thoughts that, in my opinion, encouraged individual emotions of gratitude and in turn created a mood of gratitude to be shared by the group. It was evident that the ritual in duced positive feelings of happiness, appreciation,
55 empathy, and satisfaction that carried into dinner. Feelings and acknowledgments of appreciation can depend on individual personalities and daily events (McCullough, Emmons, & Tsang, 2004), but I found t his consistent activity to be like a practice in the expression and awareness of gratitude. I observed that everyone participated regularly. By sharing feelings of gratitude before dinner, I found I was increasingly aware of the experiences I appreciated throughout the days. Sharing feelings of gratitude and circle. Community Oriented towar ds the need for a constantly expanding economy, capitalist society is exploitative and oppressive. The nature of capitalism over produces commodities and requires endless amounts of resources that are drained from other parts of the world, especially less affluent nations, creating dependencies and hierarchies. Less affluent nations, compelled to adopt capitalist modes of production, become economically reliant upon the wealthier nations who maintain economic and political power. This dominant economic s ystem perpetuates inequalities and various forms of economic and cultural exploitation (Marx & Engels, 1964). In consumer cultures, accumulating material possessions and increasing standard of living for the purpose of improving quality of life comes at t he expense of others. The ecovillage m ovement is a response to this system. However, ecovillages are still embedded within this system and it is important for issues of economic and cultural exploitation to be addressed.
56 One of the mo st obvious inequalit ies within the ecovillage m ovement is the privilege of most ecovillage residents, who are equipped with the appropriate resources (e.g. time, mon ey, education, power) to engage upon new ways of living. During my stay, only one Nicaraguan resided at InanI tah through a work trade agreement tailored to his situation. Most Nicaraguans would not be able to afford the cost of living for visitors or part time workers. Full time trades, in which work is exchanged for food and living, may not be appealing to the majority of Nicaraguans most of whom need to make a living to support their family. Although InanItah has mechanisms to address privilege and global power structures, they still exist and it is important to contextualize their interactions with the surro unding community as enmeshed within these global inequalities. One of the common ways in which InanItah has become a part of the island's existing neighborhood network is through sharing, borrowing, and exchanging resources. InanItah and the local commu nity exchange food, skills, and knowledge daily and InanItah makes some of their other resources, such as solar powered charging stations, available to the community. Additionally, InanItah has collections of monetary funds that benefit the local communit money from members who pay a stipend for every cup of coffee consumed. School is technically free in Nicaragua, but the mandatory uniforms and additional school supplies are not. InanIah uses the coffee funds to sponsor children who are interested in attending school but whose family may not have the financial means to purchase their uniforms. InanItah is also part of the Ciguenda cooperative, which involves a group of 23 families working together to maintain a gravity fed water system for their households and
57 hundreds of acres of agricultural land. The original system consisted of five kilometers of polyethylene pipes transferring water through the dense mountain jungle landscape to the families and InanItah. Ruptures in the piping were a common problem, especially during the wet season, and improvements were necessary in order to secure clean water for the area. By joining the cooperative, InanItah was able to work with the locals and install a more functional and sustainable system. Together, they located the actual water source (the spring as opposed to the creek below it) and installed a spring box, which is a German technique that functions to protect spring water from contamination that no t only improved the cleanliness of the water but also the security. The new location enabled the tubes to be placed on a more secure route and increased the amount of water being received per minute by 40%. InanIah used their knowledge of sustainable pra ctices and financial capacity to advance the water system that contributes to the quality of life of the cooperative. A handful of Nicaraguan wage workers have worked closely with InanItah and have been integral in the development of the intentional comm unity. While there was some segregation between duties (wage workers usually had specialized skills such as carpentry), I observed little or no elitism. Manual labor was not looked down upon; in fact most members engaged in manual labor every day and oft en joined the locals. Many of the members, especially the older members and permanent residents, had formed close relationships with the group of workers. A few were involved in intimate relationships, and some local workers would spend leisure time at I nanItah after work with their InanItah friends. Inevitably, there were cultural, social and language barriers, but the individual interactions with Nicaraguans differed for each member. Having the ability to
58 speak Spanish and directly communicate with t he locals was an obvious advantage that eased interactions and promoted closer relationships. For some people, it was easier to adapt to social qualities characteristic of Nicaraguan culture, such as the expressed humor. Mayella, a proximal neighbor, coo ked lunch during the weekdays with the help of two InanItah members. It was obvious that she enjoyed herself significantly more while cooking with Spanish speaking members with whom she could joke and be entertained. She formed genuine relationships with a few people, including one who often spent time at her house. The local workers generally felt more comfortable around members that had been at InanItah longer and would eat lunch with the members they were more closely bonded to. Additionally, there we re certain behaviors and attitudes that were difficult to transfer between cultures because of differing social norms. The intentional community seemed to be a very curious ensemble to many of the locals. InanItah was conscious of cultural differences an d values, especially those that may have been unacceptable I generally felt that there was a sentiment of mutual cultural respect and a genuine interest in knowing and understanding each other, and I did not witness any statements or interactions that in dicated a sense of elitism or superiority. Cultural Appropriation InanItah intended to create respectful cross cultural relationships; however, it is important to discuss some aspects of the community that could be seen as problematic. To begin with, there may be some undertones present in voluntary simplicity practices
59 happi ness or peace (Ellingson, 2001). However, the residents of InanIah did not seem they were focused on creating a modern and sustainable community, equipped with m odern conveniences (e.g. bathing water heated by compost) and practical living practices. who worked closely with a Native American group. Although InanItah recognized that the ceremonies they held were not completely authentic, the cultural appropriation of t his Native American tradition is problematic for multiple reasons. Cultural appropriation of ceremonies tends to distort and remove traditions from their original contexts, which can be offensive to the original practitioners. Additionally, the history and present day reality of oppression, of Native Americans in this case, tend to be disregarded. The sweat lodge ceremonies are often performed for the purpose of spiritual mending or mutual understanding, however, it is ironic and insensitive for the healing of white people to be achieved through the traditions of people who were unjustly dismantled from their land and continue to suffer oppression and discrimination. From what I experienced, power structures and race relations between Europeans/North Americans and Central Americans was a topic occasionally discussed or addressed at InanItah, but their appropriation of indigenous culture was either unrecognized or simply not conversed about. The architecture at InanItah was inspired by historical and modern building techniques. The thatched roofs have an aesthetic appeal, which is how appropriation is usually conceived; however this style of roofing was motivated by utilit arian purposes.
60 In an effort to be bio regionally appropriate and work with inexpensive resources native and abundantly available on the land, banana leaves were used for constructing roofs. There were various styles of roofing employed within the infras tructure, clay tiles and bamboo for example, to support experimentation. Thatched roofing and historical architecture was almost obsolete on the island and stigmatized as representing a lower class and lack of money. Locals were more interested in manufa ctured materials such as appreciation of the local materials along with the nearby permaculture and sustainability projects run by Caucasians. to convert locals to their lifestyle. They did not have an elitist air or preach about living sustainably. Rural agriculturists employing heavy chemical use surrounded them, yet the permanent residents understood that transitioning to organic farming wo uld not work within their current systems or be aligned with their goals. I felt that the core residents at least had an awareness of their privilege or ability to live simply as opposed to having the lack of means to live materially. In a sense, it is p roblematic to say that one would be happier by adopting voluntary simplicity practices when most people in the world are forced to live simply and are striving for material wealth and needs. The majority of visitors and work trade volunteers, who become m embers at InanItah temporarily and even permanently, have certain awareness of these power dynamics and of the dominating Western paradigms. They are people who are open to adjusting or even have a preference for using composting toilets for example, and have an understanding of the social and ecological detriments proposed by wealthy nations to the rest of the world. At the same time they have left the dominant society or
61 age in a giving and receiving cycle with the local community. Acknowledging how much InanItah has learned from the locals, the intentional community hosts cultural exchange gatherings twice a year as a part of their Co Creations Initiative to invite inter action between local Nicaraguans and the InanItah community. They are gatherings involving the sharing of foods, plants, seeds, song, and art, as well as natural building demonstrations for those who are interested. Conclusions Through my interviews and from what I experienced and observed, the perceived quality of life at InanItah was just as good or even improved from residents' previous living situations. I was originally focused on how QOL was affected by the material aspects and ecological dynamics within the ecovillage. What I found was that being directly involved with the resources and processes going into the creation of a community's material foundations fostered a sense of appreciation or value for the processes and resources incorporated. T he advantage of not having manufactured houses or industrially produced food was the ability to tailor these aspects to the community's needs and personality while providing a sense of connection and belonging. The ecological factors seemed to be easy to acculturate to; what was challenging and powerful was the adaptation and development of skills to live within an intimate community setting. With my stay at InanItah, my conceptions changed about what was really significant in determining the community's sustainability and well being. I perceived the socio cultural aspects of InanItah to have had the greatest impact on the
62 sense of well being maintained by the community members. The interactive opportunities, the social bonds that promoted cooperation an d community support, heavily affected the happiness and overall QOL of the individual members. The mechanisms implemented in community building at InanItah fostered emotional connection, the cultivation of interpersonal trust and active communication, whi ch seemed to influenced the satisfaction of many social needs. There was much more than a group of people living in mud houses on a Nicaraguan volcano; there was a supportive social system that aimed to improve the lives of the community members while mak ing ecologically sustainable living possible. I found that social sustainability at InanItah was the foundation for ecological sustainability. Even though InanItah had strong values and ways to promote community cohesion, it was not always a paradise o real people is perfectable, they are evolving, dynamic bodies that grow and change setting. Conflicts can result in gro wth and improvement but can also end unfavorably. Intentional communities face challenges on multiple levels and experience times of harmony and disharmony; however, intentional communities like InanItah are dedicated to taking various approaches in confl ict resolution and supporting the social stability. The community experienced instances in which personal and interpersonal conflicts debilitated work progress and affected the community stability. For example, during my time at InanItah, some permanent residents had to temporarily leave the community while a couple temporary members were asked to leave. Although the permanent residents struggling with disagreements were consciously and non violently working through the
63 conflicts, there were challenging times in which the collective community was affected because all relationships and conflicts were interwoven and magnified by the small setting. InanItah was a real home to real people, not a utopia, but a project striving for a better way of living. In my opinion, they were successfully sustainable ecologically and socially and were working with dedication to continue improving their model of a sustainable community The community completely recognized themselves as a work in progress and exhibited cons tant improvements through experimentation and the refinement of the physical, social, cultural, and spiritual framework. Many of their techniques in building a viable community, especially their social techniques, could be potentially extracted and applie d in different setting, such as contemporary America.
64 CHAPTER 3: ETHNOGRAPHIC PRESENTATION OF EARTHAVEN Bursts of rain fell from the ominous afternoon sky as we navigated the winding roads that traversed the Blue Ridge Mountains of Western North Carolina. I found myself continuously holding my breath, as the road leading to Earthaven became a series of unsettling twists and turns that were sometimes obscured by the steep hillsides of the terrain. Fortunately, a driver who was accustomed to navi gating such topography was transporting me. The directions that guided our arrival were essentially a list of landmarks given to me over the phone; a descending road, a house with several old cars, a boarding school for boys, and a small pasture with a ho rse. A wooden sign with appropriately na med single dirt lane Main Street. We began to see visual clues of the existing community, as small buildings appeared, all equipped with solar panels and unique in design and texture, along with that harbored a w ooden post covered with colorful hand painted signs pointing in the Medicine Wheel House, a sizable three story guesthouse that was also a home to work exchangers and community members, was not hard to miss. It was early December
65 garden remnants as I approached the anterior portion of the house, which was characterized by the construction of a connected greenhouse. A young work exchanger greeted me and gave me a tour. The house was built with recycled plywood from shipping crates that transported apples from South America to South Carolina and w ould have otherwise been disposed of in a landfill. It was clear that parts of the house were ongoing construction and detailing projects. The large kitchen, furnished to accommodate multiple people, was located on the first floor along with a bathroom, the dining area, storage space, a dormitory, a root cellar, a large empty room, and a seating area surrounding a wood burning stove. The second floor opened up to a rich library and a living reading room area characterized by a wall of South facing windows and multiple dormitories and a bathroom. A space with couches and a small T.V was located on the third floor along with another dormitory. The size and architecture of the house was astounding. I was curious about its history and the process and patie nce required in finding appropriately sized, functional recycled material. I settled in one of the empty rooms on the second floor with a large window peering over the slope the house sat upon. I was glad to see the thick layers of blankets that covered the bed I would be sleeping on for the next two weeks, as I was warned before my arrival that Medicine Wheel House was not equipped with proper heating. There were two wood burning stoves that provided heat in the hous e but neither was near my bed. After settling in, I joined two of the four people inhabiting the house who were cooking food to bring to the Tuesday night community potluck and cookout. Dusk quickly turned into night, and we walked towards the Council Hall guided by the
66 lights of our head l amps. Soon the tree canopy seceded and opened up to a cleared field lit by the luminous sky that led to Council Hall. I was told that the 12 year old, 13 sided building was one of the first communal spaces to be constructed. Ninety percent of the materi als used to create the space were derived from the land Earthaven was settled upon. The consensus and gathering space composed primarily of timber and straw bale was architecturally and spiritually inspired by the Mayan calendar. Children played excite dly inside the hall, as people greeted and hugged one another and added dishes to the potluck table: homemade bread, vegetable dishes, chili, dips and chutney's. Outside Council Hall, different types of grilled meats were being served for two dollars. Me mbers gathered in conversation as they waited for their food to be cooked before seating themselves in the warm building to eat with everybody else. That night, one of my housemates was responsible for feeding a large Taylor wood stove that dispersed heat into a series of pipes underneath the Council Hall floor that heated the entire building Well into the potluck, a community member in charge of initiating a moment of collective communication greeted everyone and called for announcements and new people This gave me an opportunity to introduce myself to a portion of the community and explain my project and intentions of visiting. Announcements were followed by opportunities to express 'community joys' and concerns. Each person was responsible for was hing their plate, and volunteers were requested for tidying up the kitchen and dining area. I participated in this activity and was introduced to the structural approaches that promoted the organization of their communal living space. The potluck proceed ed with
67 to share their life stories with the rest of the community. Members sat around the storyteller of the night who candidly narrated her life from childhood to pr esent; its pleasures, humorous moments, confusions, defining experiences, turning points, realization and hardships. She connected with her audience even further by sharing recordings of her in her early 20's playing music, as well as newspaper cut outs and photographs. The story was captivating, genuine and heartfelt and provided the present community members with the opportunity to formulate a deeper understanding of the storyteller while giving the storyteller a chance to reflect upon her life and ge nuinely express deeper layers of herself amongst her community. Community members from various Earthaven neighborhoods gathered together for the potluck and story time, which provided a space for social bonding and meaningful entertainment. Metho ds of Research Fieldwork was conducted at Earthaven during a two week stay as a guest from December 6 th through December 18 th 2011. The length of my visit was brief and limited my ability to fully immerse myself within the community. However, I was abl e to participate in community events, live within a communal house, engage in some physical labor, interact with several members, attend a council meeting and get a general glimpse of the community dynamics. Through these experiences, I conducted particip ant observations. I had been in contact with a committee member of Earthaven for several months prior to my visit. After my project proposal and visitation requests were approved, an e mail introducing me, my project, and presenting a request for intervi ews was sent to Earthaven's listserv with the assistance of the committee member who
68 became my host and liaison. She played a key role in supporting my goals and in connecting me with the community. I did not receive any responses to my email request for interviews, so I relied on a snowball sample. My liaison and her housemates invited me over for dinner early in my stay and provided me with names of community members they felt represented Earthaven. I also had access to the community directory and suc cessfully scheduled five interviews. I interviewed Norm, a 77 year old provisional member who was spiritually attracted to the community and had lived there for one and a half years; Julia a young woman who had lived in the community for five months and was completing an apprenticeship with a medicinal herbalist; Arjuna, a 65 year old founding member who had been a resident for 12 years; Patricia, a 65 year old resident of 15 years who worked as a permaculture and consensus facilitator instructor, and who se family built Medicine Wheel; and Todd, a provisional member, 29 years of age, who had lived at Earthaven for two and a half years, after searching restlessly for the right place to settle down. I conducted three interviews in the homes of the interview ee s and two outside a central neighborhood kitchen. My interview questions were reflexive and covered the same content as my interviews at InanItah. I asked about their previous living situations, motivations for living at Earthaven, changes in their lif estyle, their perceived quality of life and social, psychological and spiritual well being, and aspects that could improve their quality of life. It was difficult to schedule more interviews because my stay was brief and members were occupied with dail y life activities, projects their children, preparing for community events, or were only available after my departure. Additionally, Earthaven is a community that has already been subject to copious research projects and media
69 coverage. It was expressed to me that in the past they have had problems with the media distorting their interviews and falsely depicting them. Similarly, they hosted a couple of people who came under the false pretense of volunteering when they were actually conducting research f or a potential TV series of a family going to live at an ecovillage. In respecting the lives and homes of this community and appreciating their openness in actualizing my stay, I have tried to respect Earthaven's privacy and present the characteristics th at I was able to experience during my brief stay. An Introduction to Earthaven Ecovillage Earthaven was a manifestation of a vision shared by a group of 13 people in a Hopi cornfield. Inspired to actualize their vision, two of those people returned to North Carolina with the intention of creating a cooperative, spiritual community, living with an appropriate relationship to the land. They embarked upon an intensive yet gradual process of establishing the foundation of a future intentional community that included documents embodying their dream, drawing members together, and purchasing land with specific topography. The founders of Earthaven were determined to extend th eir project beyond the creation of a functional communal living space, and aspired to be a demonstration center fostering education and outreach; a living experimentation of humans from distinct backgrounds living together cooperatively with one another an d the earth. Many of the founders had some experience living within alternative, community settings. As most had been consciously breaking away from middle class American paradigms, a certain value system was shared.
70 In 1994, the founding members purch ased the land Earthaven was to be cultivated upon with the support of loans and investments from family and friends. It was located on the Blue Ridge Mountains of Western North Carolina in Black Mountain, 40 minutes east of Asheville (see Figure 5 ) on 320 acres of biologically diverse forested land, with a flood plain and abundant streams and springs. A primitive log cabin was the only existing building when the land was purchased. Therefore, the first few years of the project were dedicated to physicall y developing the land. The land use plan, guided by permaculture philosophy, began with the identification of sacred sites, spring and stream courses, flood plains, properties or characteristics of local ecosystems, and agriculture and business sites. Th e first living facilities constructed were a few small 'huts' and Hut Hamlet kitchen. Hut Hamlet Kitchen was a timber framed, straw bale communal space for cooking, dining, and bathing. The communal space was equipped with gravity fed spring water, a pho tovoltaic electrical system and a propane powered refrigerator. As the establishment of physical infrastructure continued, the Council Hall and additional dwellings were constructed, and Earthaven's population expanded. Figure 5 te location; Black Mountain, North Carolina (maps.google.com)
71 During my stay at Earthaven in December of 2011, 55 members were living within the community, which is intended to support 160 people and 56 home sites in total. Despite the fact that much o f Earthaven was still under construction, the existing physical infrastructure was impressive and reflected the years of human energy and dedication invested into the ongoing journey of this experimental human settlement. These included roads, footpaths, campgrounds, ponds, constructed wetlands, off power grid systems, gardens, a Council Hall, a kitchen dining room (Hut Hamlet kitchen), an earthen fire heated sauna, many small dwellings, a few full sized homes including an Earthship, and three multi family dwellings. Earthaven's demographics during my latest field research were both diverse and homogenous. While being ethnically homogenous (primarily European and North American), the community's members were diverse in age and sexual orientations. In rec ent years, an influx of young adults, young families and children, had joined the community. The youngest residents were infants and the oldest was 96 years of age. The community was spiritually diverse and not defined by a single spiritual practice. Ho wever, many members shared a spiritual connection to the Earth and their land. Vision and Values int entional community was dedicated to caring for people and the earth by learning, living, demonstrating, and experimenting with the cultivation of supportive and
72 was per tinent in the internship and work exchange opportunities, as well as the variety of workshops and courses offered in permaculture design, ecovillage site planning and building design, natural building, consensus facilitation, natural health and healing. T he change the Earthaven experiment helps inform and inspire a global flowering of bio regionally appropriate cultures. We hope to become empowered, responsible, and ecolo gically literate citizens, modeling bioregionally appropriate culture for our time and t livelihood 7 recognized their project as a work in progress with twists, turns, transformations, learning experiences and challenges. A Brief Tour of Earthaven The purpose of this se ction is to briefly introduce some of Earthaven's multifaceted sub communities and provide a general idea of the lifestyle components present in daily activities. The community of Earthaven was dispersed and complex, therefore the daily structure and acti vities varied among all community members. Earthaven's members were clustered into various neighborhoods throughout the property, each with a distinct focus, housing model, organization, structure and way of coming together. Hut Hamlet, the most develope d neighborhood, was characterized by various 7 Right livelihood is an element of the Noble Eightfold Path, a principal Buddhist teaching for ending suffering and achieving self awareness. Right livelihood explains that one should not engage in work or trades that directly or indirectly cause harm to other living beings, and that wealth should be obtained by rightful, honest, and ethical means (Bodhi, 2011).
73 unit home, and composting toilet huts, all centered around the original heart of the community, Hut Hamlet Kitchen. Hu t Hamlet Kitchen provided water, bathing and co oking facilities for most of the residents of the neighborhood. The centrally located sub community was originally intended to temporarily accommodate new members in the process of building more permanent homes in other neighborhoods. However, it was cle ar that the sub community had become somewhat permanent. After having a couple dinners with residents of Hut Hamlet, the social bonds apparent in the intimate conversations and candid interactions were undeniable. At Village Terraces, a cohousing neigh borhood not far from the Council Hall, residents lived in apartments within the two buildings that constituted the growing sub community. The residents at VT, as it was commonly referred to, shared common facilities, such as energy and heating systems, a kitchen and dining room, an indoor kid's space, a root cellar, utility room, indoor and outdoor composting toilets, and outdoor recreation and garden areas. One of the neighborhood's focuses was community agriculture, which was evident in the development of their common garden areas. Other neighborhoods -Gateway, Medicine Wheel, Bellavia Gardens, and Lower, Middle, and Upper Rosy Branch -were less populated and slowly developing. Daily activities at Earthaven included tasks necessary for sustaining r esidents (e.g. gardening, canning food, collecting fire wood, caring for livestock), raising a family, socializing, working on projects, or engaging upon economic endeavors (i.e. working inside or outside the community). Members of neighborhood kitchens shared food expenses and the tasks of preparing meals, although at times some people who had
74 personal kitchens chose to cook meals in their own home. There were a few Earthaven based businesses that were run by members on the land that involved the produc tion of local herbal medicines, medicinal and edible landscaping plants, carpentry, teaching and consulting. Some residents supplemented their income by working at a nearby school for disabled boys, and others commuted to Asheville and nearby towns to wor k. The size of the community and diversity of neighborhoods required a number of administrative and organizational tasks carried out by committees, which I will expand upon later in the chapter. The children of Earthaven and some from the neighboring com munity attended a cooperative home school called the Forest Children Collective. Earthaveners engaged in an array of group activities and classes such as yoga, Qigong, nonviolent communication classes, game nights, dances, casual gatherings, and music jam s. Additionally, personal interests and spiritual practices complemented daily activities. The complexity of Earthaven's social geography diversified daily activities and organizational methods (i.e., types of residences and ways of organizing communal t asks for maintaining shared spaces, gardens, and chores) on multiple levels; the individual, sub community, and collective community. Sustainability and Quality of Life at Earthaven The Ecological Dimension Earthaven's understandings of the global env ironmental crisis and their motivations for cultivating environmental stewardship were similar to those of InanItah. Earthaven's ecological dimension encompassed the community's relationship with the
75 land as well as the philosophies and practices used to integrate themselves sustainably while promoting ecological health and stability. The community's connection to the soil, wind, water, plants, and animals was expressed through their intentions and actions of living low impact lifestyles and earth restora tion. To meet their basic needs, Earthaven relied upon earthen and recycled building materials, water catchment systems, organic food and livestock, sustainable forestry, and renewable energy. The physical development of Earthaven's land and the incorpor ation of the systems supporting their efforts towards living sustainability were largely guided and influenced by permaculture philosophy and design. Therefore, in my exploration of Earthaven's ecological sustainability, I have chosen to focus on permacul ture and renewable energy, which was also foundational to the community's viability and quality of life. Permaculture Permaculture is a guiding philosophy, design practice, and a global sustainability movement that was introduced in the mid 1970's b y Australians Bill Mollison and David Holmgren, and provides a set of ethical and design principles to facilitate the creation of sustainable human settlements and agricultural systems (Holmgren, 2002, p. xix). For clarity and conciseness I have directly quoted Holmgren's definition of permaculture: Consciously designed landscapes, which mimic the patterns and relationships found in nature, while yielding an abundance of food, fiber and energy for the provision of local needs. People, their buildings and the ways they organize themselves are central to permaculture... It draws together the diverse ideas, skills and ways of living which need to be rediscovered and developed in order to empower us to move from being dependent consumers to becoming responsib le and p roductive citizens (2002, p. xix). Permaculture attempts to harmoniously integrate landscapes with humans who are
76 satisfying material and non material needs in a sustainable way (Mollison, 1988, p. xix). The approach emphasizes a holistic under standing, recognition and observation of the environmental properties characterizing one's land -micro climates, slopes, wind patterns, plant communities, sunlight, waterways, soil, and animals -so that humans are better able to cooperatively organize their land use and social sphere within the natural ecosystem. Permaculture accentuates the importance of system design as much as it does values and ethics. The basic ethical principles include 1) care for the earth, 2) care for people, and, 3) setting limits to consumption and reproduction, and redistributing surplus. Peter Bane, publisher of Permaculture Activist magazine, a founding member of Earthaven, and a renowned permaculture instructor, describes the interwoven ethical dimensions of permacultu re: The core of permaculture is the belief that all living beings and systems have intrinsic worth, that we each bear responsibility for our own lives and the lives of our children, that human life is inextricably embedded in the web of life which is the Earth, and that if we choose patterns of land use and technologies appropriate to these ethical precepts, we will to live in (Earthaven Ecovillage 2011). The design principles, scien tifically rooted in systems ecology 8 are complex and take a whole systems approach in understanding the local ecological habitats and the remembered as a checklist w hen considering the inevitably complex options for design physical development of Earthaven, a permaculture based site plan was created with the application of the desig n principles, and buildings and agricultural projects that were, to a 8 Systems ecology is a branch of ecology that views ecosystems as complex systems of transactions and interactions that can be influenced by humans (Odum, 1983).
77 certain degree, also guided by these principles. Holmgren's first principle, O bserve and interact, emphasizes a process of continuous observation and engagement with the surrounding nat ural environment in order to recognize patterns and appreciate details that provide inspiration for designs, as well as the foundation for understanding the local environment. By mapping out the geography and noting the existing natural patterns such as s un exposure, wind, and flood plains, Earthaven was able to work with local environmental properties and plan a sustainable settlement accordingly. For exa mple, residences were built on S outh facing slopes for the purpose of creating passive solar heating and preserving the flat bottomland for agriculture. With the incorporation of roof water catchment systems (required to be used by all members), swales, and ponds into the community's design, rainwater was kept on the land and water was directed to where it was needed. These techniques aimed at reducing consumptive behavior were supported by the 5 th permaculture principle: Use and value renewable resources and services. This principle, encouraging the use of ecosystem services and the proper use of renew able resources, was also exhibited in sustainable forestry practices at Earthaven. The forest's resources were cherished and used intelligently to minimize negative impacts and prevent detrimental exploitation. In order to minimize damage to the earth, l ogging primarily occurred during the winter when the substrate was frozen. The community took care not to fell trees in directions that would damage surrounding trees, or to fell trees adjacent to streams anchoring soil that would otherwise erode and beco me runoff or whose canopy tops provided shade that influenced the temperature of the streams supporting aquatic habitats. Although it was winter and most of the vegetation was barren, I noticed for
78 example that Medicine Wheel's garden was not designed i n typically manicured and highly divided garden plots. The intermixed plants were diverse and almost appeared to be growing wild. This polyculture system, designed in accordance with the 8 th permaculture principle, Integrate rather than segregate, consis ted of perennial and self perpetuating plants co existing and evolving together. Inspired by the way the natural ecosystems function, the garden was designed to work as a system mimicking the cooperative relationships found in natural ecosystems by groupi ng plants that provide mutual benefits. In this particular community, quality of life was built upon permaculture ideals embedded within its design and founding philosophies. The application of these theoretical principles into a site plan is a gradual process that is information and design intensive and requires training. However, the initial work in carefully and thoughtfully planning out the organization and land use plans is anticipated to pay off and benefit the community and ecological systems in the long term. To begin with, potential catastrophic consequences often experienced with poor planning are reduced. Actions, projects and planning are executed with more depth, connection, and responsibility. and ecosystem functions reduced consumptive behavior, the use of non renewable energy, high technology, and repetitive manual labor. Permaculture gardens combine self governing edible plants, wildlife habitats, native landscaping and organic gardening pr actices to minimize maintenance requirements and cultivate a self sustaining, productive environment that is able to thrive on its own with the stability and resilience of natural ecosystems. Through interviews and conversations, many members commented on feeling
79 connected to Earthaven's landscape. These feelings of connection can be partially associated with the exposure, understanding or application of permaculture principles and its influence on the way individuals perceived the world. Although com mitment, passion and interest in permaculture varied throughout the community, all members in the framework for seeing wholes as opposed to individual elements, seemed to widen social and ecological scope of justice 9 by fostering an understanding of the interrelating dimensions and layers of complex social and ecological systems while being attuned to Norm explained to me that he became enamored with permaculture when he was initially exposed to it at Earthaven, and his eagerness to learn more, further motivated his desires to join the community. As his eyes filled with tears, he expressed with disbelief how little h e knew about the earth Being familiar with permaculture seemed to enhance the direct relationships members had with the land and resources by providing more intensive ways of perceiving and considering their surroundings. From what I observed, members seemed to have a heightened awareness of the ecological properties and the patterns of natural cycles shaping their landscape and sustaining their lives, which engendered a sense of appreci ation, understanding, connection to natural setting, and place identity (Vaske & Korbin, 2001). When I a sked Arjuna what kinds of thoughts were elicited when thinking about a good quality of life, her response related to having a direct relationship with the seasons, the sun and moon, sources of water, and understanding how the sun rises and falls (12/14/12). During my 9 (Hubin, 1979, p. 3).
80 stay, a few members planned a 'land walk' for the purpose of spending time with a piece of land that was soon to be cleared for agricultur e. After hiking around the property to become more familiar with the landscape and its history, the group gathered in the space to honor its life, appreciate its services, and inform the land of its imminent fate. Earthaven residents directly interacted with the natural world and one another through ritual, celebration, and survival, which contributed to building traits of gratitude, emotional attachments, and stewardship. Alternative, Renewable Energy Systems Earthaven was concerned with the social and environmental externalities caused by the extraction and use of fossil fuels. Therefore, Earthaven was off the grid and instead of receiving mass produced electricity from power lines, the community generated their electricity on site with abundant re newable resources: the sun and hydrological systems. The central area of the community was operated on hydro electric power from a micro hydro system, while Hut Hamlet Kitchen and every individual hut, residence, and business operated on individual or sha red solar electric systems. Rather than constructing a dam that would affect the stream's course, the micro hydro installation, consisting of a series of 1,500 feet of piping, diverted a small portion of stream flow from a higher altitude to the generati ng station. The moving water rotated two turbines to generate electricity and was then redirected back to its source. Buildings in the central village, such as the Council Hall, were supplied by the micro hydro station, which was also used to charge batt eries and generators that supported power tools and other appliances for construction purposes. The community envisioned at least two more
81 micro hydro systems that would accomplish their long term policy goal of providing electricity to all neighborhoods. Although heavy rains sometimes clogged Earthaven's hydro pipes with silt, hydroelectric power is generally known for being efficient, reliable and cost effective (U.S Department of Energy 2011). As I mentioned earlier, all of Earthaven's building s are passive solar and oriented on South facing slopes for the optimal absorption of the sun's energy. The air and walls in the rooms exposed to the sun were naturally heated during the day and retained warmth as night fell. While I was at Earthaven, th is heat was supplemented with the warmth of wood burning stoves or radiant floor heating. The abundance of natural lighting afforded by the South facing window panels reduced the need for energy consumption in artificial lighting during the daytime. Sola r energy was captured and transformed into electrical power by solar electric (photovoltaic) panels, comprised of solar cells that convert light particles (photons) into DC (direct current) electricity. Solar cells, grouped together in transparent materia l or glass, are made up of semiconductor materials that have an electrically positive and negative side. When light comes into contact with the positive side of the solar cell, negative electrons are activated and generate electrical current (Schaffer, 19 93, p. 147). In addition to each building being equipped with photovoltaic panels, Earthaven had a 48 volt solar back up system that transmitted energy to residents and Council Hall. Surplus energy was sold to the surrounding area. Despite their efforts Earthaven was not completely independent of fossil fuels. Many community members relied upon petroleum for refrigeration, converted to run on biofuels, and there wer e projects afoot to produce ethanol to power
82 community vehicles. Conscious energy use was a common mindset at Earthaven, especially during rainy, overcast, or snowy days. All buildings with an energy producing system had accessible charge controllers ind icating current power levels, which in my experience at Medicine Wheel were habitually checked before electricity was used. Being directly exposed to the available energy and amount consumed was a reality that required awareness, mindful use and control. (12/14/12). This close connection and reliance upon energy sources seemed to affect members' behaviors towards the resour ces, which they and their community members were directly affected by. Not only was the use of alternative energy economically viable (at least in the long run), but living off the grid seemed to provide members with a degree of mental peace. Transitioni ng from dependencies on fossil fuels meant that the community members were gradually reducing their participation in the host of social, environmental, and political problems that motivated them to alternate their lifestyles. Socio Cultural Dynamics The increased sense of community and social benefits offered within intentional communities attract people who want to live in an integrated setting that affords more time with children and friends and family with similar interests and visions of the good life (Jackson & Svensson 2002). Community members aim to live by a holistic worldview that integrates individuals, nature, and their local and global community. Social and cultural qualities were present in housing designs, community gatherings,
83 practic es, and celebrations. Most members were attuned to natural cycles, leaned towards alternative health care, shared similar interests, and wer e spiritually connected to the e arth and a higher unifying force. I've chosen to detail two socio cultural working s present within the settlement; community governance and social opportunities. Community Governance: Consensus Decision Making Community decision making occurred during Council meetings, referred to as institution where major proposals, concerns, and general community updates were discussed. As a group, the Council annually delegated certain responsibilities to particular committees filled with volunteer participants. Decisions at Earthaven were made b y consensus, a process that enabled all members to participate in community decision making. Consensus is a system opposed to decisions being made by majority vote; instead, groups collaborated and worked towards solutions that would satisfy everybody to some degree. All members were able to present and amend proposals that could only be passed if all gave consent. Consensus attempts to reach the most optimal decisions for the group and community 10 This approach aimed to be inclusive and egalitarian ena bled all potential concerns to be heard, and provided the individual with the power to shape decisions that affected their own lives and that of the community on a transparent basis. Consensus decision making is an aspect of Earthaven that has attracted m any members to the community. For example, Patricia explained to me that participating in her own governance through consensus motivated her to live at Earthaven and turned out to be the part of her lifestyle t hat changed the most (12/17/12 ). 10 See Ness & Hoffman, 1998
84 Although E arthaven sought to empower their members to participate in their governance with open communication and receptivity, it was expressed to me on several occasions that the community had recently been experiencing challenges with their current system and was in the process of evolving to a more suitable method (although it was unclear to me how these changes were being integrated). As a fairly young and growing intentional community in the midst of creating a new culture while integrating new members, the com munity was confronted with difficulties in addressing issues about community life and finding a common ground in their opinions, values, and creative solutions. Coming to a consensus had become difficult and sometimes impossible due to conflicts of princi ples and unshared values that had been challenging the community since its recent population growth. Less people were participating in Council due to the recent disharmony in the decision making process, although many members continued to attend and exhib ited perseverance and hope. As I learned, Earthaven Council meetings required patience, understanding, the collective care of the community, and were intellectuality and emotionally intense. Earthaven Council meetings, held twice a month in Council Hal l, were open to provisional and supporting members as well as visitors. During my visit I was able to attend the annual Council that decides on the committee representatives for the upcoming year. The committees were organized into four thematic areas ca lled Orbos 11 The Orbo leaders corresponded to president, vice president, treasurer, and secretary of Earthaven Association. The Fire Orbo, led by the community president, was responsible for overseeing social aspects within the community and ensuring the general well being of its 11 The term Orbo, which loosely described an action team, was borrowed from a book on Nigerian village life in which it referred to groups of village members working and performing community service together.
85 members. Water Bearer Orbo, led by the Water Bearer or the treasurer, took care of the community's finances. Acting as Earthaven's secretary, the Air Spinner Orbo leader worked with the committee in charge of the community's of ficial business, internal communications and record keeping. Earth Delver Orbo, headed by the vice president, supported the construction, repair, and maintenance of the physical infrastructure and property. To facilitate a sense of egalitarianism, the community members in the Council meeting sat in a circular pattern that enabled direct communication. To begin the meeting, the group joined hands as one of the facilitators expressed words of gratitude for the beautiful building they were in, their land, and for being interconnected with all matters of life. She directed the attention to a kind of altar in the center of the circle with pictures of people from around the world as she recognized the global connection of people from affluent, less affluent and indigenous societies. For organizational purposes, various roles such as the notetaker, time keeper, vibeswatcher 12 gatekeeper 13 and scribe 14 were assigned for that meeting. It was clear that the two facilitators, one being an experienced non violent c ommunication trainer and counselor, had previously been decided upon, however, they were not permanently assigned to that responsibility. Before the meeting proceeded, the members sat in a ten minute silent meditation to clear their minds and focus on the responsibility of governing their community. Afterwards, visitors were asked to briefly introduce themselves. Two women with infants, who were residents, expressed their interest in participating more in the community's governance 12 Vibeswatcher's job is to be aware for individuals who become involved in emotional confrontation and need to work things out. 13 Gatekeeper updates latecomers in proceedings. 14 The scribe writes the lists of ideas and important words of phr ases on a board that should be made visible to Council.
86 and listening in on th e ways issues were being addressed. A work trade volunteer was considering the possibility of becoming an exploring member and was getting a glimpse of the Council process. I explained my proposed research in the community, which did not appear to be rec eived with any apprehension. The facilitators moved on with listing and approving the agenda 15 which was published and circulated several days prior to the meeting to inform the community members of the topics up for discussion. The minutes from the previ ous council meeting were reviewed along with recent committee decisions. Immediately, the agenda was requested to be reordered. Those who were unhappy with the ordering expressed their concerns and wants while others provided alternative perspectives unt il a mutual agreement was reached. The primary aim of the meeting was to decide upon the Weavers or the Orbo leaders of 2012. Therefore, the first item of business began with discussions of the future Water Bearer. A sheet of paper that explained the re sponsibilities of the Water Bearer was handed out to each member before the facilitators asked for volunteers or nominations. Two members volunteered themselves, one being the current Water Bearer, and both were asked to explain the reasons they felt qual ified for the leadership. This was followed by supporting comments and concerns, then by clarifying questions for each candidate separately, to maintain focus and organization. Shortened versions of the supporting and opposing comments were listed on the board by the scribe. The member wanting to replace the current Water Bearer voiced her concerns about the lack of energy and priority given to the local currency system which she felt was hurting the community's ability to sustain itself, and wanted to t ake on the endeavor of attending to its growth and 15 Agenda items included committee reports, task reviews, individual or group proposals, and important matters that committees could not handle.
87 effectiveness. Earthaven was in the process of developing their own community scale economy so that members could make a living within the community. The local economy was based on shared needs, skills, resources and community businesses. The services and was earned by completing community deeds. One leap was the equivalent of ten dollars, an hour of labor, or its nego tiated value in goods and services. Arjuna expressed dissatisfaction and felt that Earthaven needed a new, socially understanding, a number of members in the Council exp ressed support for the current Water Bearer who they felt was more qualified and knowledgeable about bookkeeping and finances in general, trusting his abilities and experience. A few members made sure to openly appreciate the current Water Bearer's hard w ork and dedication. Each individual member was able to voice their personal opinions, feelings, and needs about the topics of discussion which ran for an extended period of time. The facilitators added more time onto certain areas to ensure that everyone had their opportunity to speak, which took time away from other agenda items that would have to be pushed back to the next meeting. The time keeper struggled with keeping the time as the caps were constantly being modified. When it was time to come to a consensus, both members were blocked despite the hours allotted to the discussion. This did not mark the end of the discussion, but a beginning of a new process during the next meeting. It was decided that they move on with the next agenda item. The meeting was infused with emotions, a variety of personalities, sheer honesty, and intellectual debate. It was clear that there were domestic conflicts as well as conflicts
88 of principles within the group that challenged effective decision making. When spe aking ntense chaffing happens with the people who share common ownership, but as painful as it is, half of the time conflicts result in growth. It is a self challenge that yo u can't find unless (12/14/12). Earthaven was experimenting with various methods of conflict resolution and admitted the need to advance their skills in dealing with conflicts properly; some felt that no community has completely figured this out. In an interview with Patricia, she explained to me that as Earthaven was working to expand its populations, new members who did not share the values of the founding members joined the community. She contended that the original residents of Earthaven had not written their values clearly enough, which in her opinion subjected them to being distorted. As a founding member and permaculture teacher, Patricia objected to proposed agricultu ral plans in past years that were not planned in accordance to permaculture principles, instead aimed to get the most out of the land, including a plan for drilling a well. She voiced that the f ounding nto sustainability, not just coming up continued to believe that it was their place to take Arjuna commented to me that the population at Earthaven had changed so radically that it no longer functioned on the basis of the same set of values (12/14/12). Despite the various benefits consensus decision making can provide, it was not a panacea and the residents Earthaven were aware of this. They understood that they had
89 outgrown their consensus method and were going through changes to become more inclusive and efficient. Making group decisions on a transparent basis where every voice is heard through direct interaction and honest communication was challenging for Earthaven, especially because the individualistic, competitive traits conditioned from the dominant Western world still presented the mselves. Council was ended with people vocalizing positive comments about the meeting and one another to mitigate the emotional intensity and possible frustrations. This created a space that brought the group back to the reasons they had embarked on the endeavor of creating an alternative lifestyle for a better quality of life. Appreciation was extended to the facilitators and those that may have felt overly criticized. The facilitators fully acknowledged the difficulties of being in a transitory state as a community and perceived it as the process and pains of personalities and backgrounds were determined to work through the obstacles that inevitably present themselves in any e xperiment. They were dedicated to figuring out how to live and govern themselves cooperatively for their individual collective well being and to provide a model for other groups. Community Integration and Social Ties at Earthaven Earthaven's neighborh ood model created a diversity of lifestyles within the sub communities, and to a certain extent guaranteed social contact. Some members, who were motivated to join the community because of the social benefits felt as though the neighborhood model inhibite some neighborhoods were 15 20 minutes away from each other. The dispersion of sub
90 communities posed challenges to the socio cultural development of the collective community. In some cases, it was a pparent that within sub community niches, individual and collective bonds were more intimate than the ties connecting them to the greater community. This was most noticeable to me with Hut Hamlet. For example, Todd explained that he had cultivated strong relationships with people at Earthaven, which he being, and satisfied his soc whole, a significant part that was not expendable (12/16/12). There were various kitchens within ne ighborhoods and communal houses that shared meals daily or weekly. Julia, who lived in a multi unit dwelling with three other residents, explained that she, like many people at Earthaven, ate with a group of people every day as a family. They created mea ls together and valued the shared experience of nourishment. She earnestly commented that although social challenges presented themselves, they were worthwhile and often resulted in individuals learning about one another (12/12/12). Sub community niches had their own ways of coming together and forming social ties, as did the greater Earthaven community. As I mentioned earlier, Earthaven gathered weekly for a community potluck inside Council Hall. The gathering invited kitchens from all neighborhoods to share food, eat together and socialize. Often, residents played board games and conversed with one another while the children entertained each other or worked on art projects. I met a few locals residing in close proximity to the intentional community t hat frequented these Council Hall potlucks.
91 Every Tuesday morning, many residents attended 'Coffee Hour Market,' a social event started by a member who aspired to increase social opportunities and support the community's economy. Residents exchanged fo ods and drank coffee, teas, and other beverages together. Some people considered Coffee Hour Market to be an important part of community life, as the weekly event created a space for visits with other members and kept people up to date with community news and gossip. Generally, the commonality of trading resources (e.g. meats, vegetables, medicinal tinctures and herbs, baked goods) and services (e.g. massages, carpentry) encouraged social interactions and a familiarity with the skills and abundance offe red by fellow community members. Each week, several activities and classes were held in the community, such as yoga and nonviolent communication, which offered shared experiences and contributed to the spiritual and social dynamics of Earthaven. Earthaven members also gathered for seasonal events, solstice celebrations, and rituals. During my stay at Earthaven, a decorating activity was planned by a member who wanted to give Council Hall a festive appeal for a seasonal event called the 'Bi zarre Bazaar.' Equipped with clippers, the decoration crew teamed up in pairs and collected branches of hemlock and mistletoe, being careful to take only a couple branches from each tree and collecting those that had fallen. As a group, we bundled the br anches, tied them together, and placed them along the pillars of the room, and then set up tables for the event. During the event, which was open to the public, Earthaven vendors displayed their crafts and products including knitted hats, scarves, purses, hand made jewelry, canned foods, preserves, stocks, honey, herbal remedies, tinctures, essential oil fragrances, leather works, food, truffles, meads, cider, artwork, and stationary. Children
92 made arts and crafts to add to the festive dcor, residents pl ayed live music, bartered, and ate food. Similar to the coffee market, this event provided social and economic opportunities for members, as well as interactions with people living outside the community. Despite the social challenges that have confront ed Earthaven (e.g. conflicts in values and neighborhood dispersion), most residents enjoyed and appreciated the social benefits of living in proximity, sharing resources, and other common experiences. While there were some issues with overall community i ntegration, other social opportunities worked to create a more cohesive Earthaven. Additionally, the community provided social experiences that members may not have had living outside Earthaven. For single intentional communities (12/17/12). Similarly, Arjuna, who did not have children of her children. S he relished in the fact tha t she was able to enjoy children as they had become more present in her life since living within a community (12/14/12). Integration with Local Community Earthaven's social and geographical boundaries were porous; the community members were not separated from the world outside their ecovillage. To begin with, Earthaven's residents frequently purchased food from nearby farms and orchards. Some locals had close ties with members of the community and participated in events such as weekly potlucks and hoste d gatherings open to Earthaveners. While at Earthaven, I attended a full moon potluck gathering with a few members hosted by a well acquainted
93 neighboring family. Beyond relationships with neighboring families and farms, Earthaveners commonly travelled t o nearby towns and cities to visit friends and family, for work, to purchase supplies, and intermittently, for entertainment. Earthaveners were was their mission. P eople from outside the community crossed into Earthaven in various ways. Local building inspectors granted permits and inspected Earthaven structures, and the community hosted visitors, guests, work trade volunteers, researchers, and workshops. Earthaven was frequented by participants in other movements of cultural change such as bioregionalism, permaculture, and intentional communities. Additionally, presenters or professionals specializing in areas such as interpersonal communication and conflict resol ution visited the community to provide outside support. Earthaven was not working were link ed to psychological, social, and ecological detriments such as excessive consumption and non local food production. They understood that they were a dynamic, growing community constantly learning through experimentation and formulating creative solutions that would steer them in the direction of their goals. Conclusions heating, electricity, internet, toilets, and shelter. Norm explained to me that Earthaven was without further degrading the e
94 extravag ant conveniences (e.g. irons, electrical toothbrushes, blow dryer, vacuum) began to dissolve. His discarding of these unnecessary dependencies brought him in touch with his core values and his genuine beliefs, which led him to feel more authentic (12/14/ 12). When I asked Todd how his life had changed since Earthaven living, he expressed to me sonal happiness and well well, there are plenty of creature comforts and I am able to focus my energy on appropriate luxuries, such as good food and good vacations. My whole life I've been nomadic and Norm acknowledged that confusing the concepts of standard of living and quality of life as being one in the same has put the world at great risk. He contended that a high standard of living is often interpreted as being the equivalent of quality of life when in reality, qualities to affect resident's quality of life more so than the ecologi cal or material changes. The four committees, Fire Keeper, Earth Delver, Water Bearer, and Air Spinner, attended to the business, financial, social, and environmental aspects of Earthaven. Most
95 of the community members cycled through the positions as t here were no fixed jobs. I felt as though these roles, which entailed groups of members working together to support the community's sustainability, promoted organization and maintained the community's viability. For example, the Fire Keeper Orbo tending to the social aspects of the community was divided into subcommittees in charge of important responsibilities ensuring the community's well being, and served as resources for community members. The Care Team supported individual members with physical or e motional needs, from people who were in need of better housing to people in conflict seeking mediation. This sector also included a Safety Committee, Agenda Planners, an Accountability Team (for ensuring that members were meeting responsibilities and help ing people catch up if they were behind), and Spirit Walkers who organized rituals and celebrations. Current provisional members and long term visitors were oriented and assisted in settling into the community by the New Roots Committee (a subcommittee of the Air Spinner Orbo). Basically, there was a system in place to manage various dimensions of Earthaven that aimed to support the community's well being. During my research, the community was working to overcome unforeseen problems, suc h as the social disadvantages that the dispersed neighborhoods posed for the greater community's cohesion, effective conflict resolution mechanisms, as well as a more inclusive and efficient governance method. The developments of community culture, food p roduction, and the changes in population had brought about strong and weak periods as well as transformations. Each aspect of growth and development within the community takes on new dimensions leading to achievements and encountering obstacles. Through the years of these confrontations, I felt as though Earthaven has
96 acquired valuable wisdom about community design and living. They were figuring out new ways of living together cooperatively through trial and error, combining methods that have been effect ive in other communities, and working through hardships in order to cultivate viable mechanisms and sources of information that could be used now and in the future.
97 CHAPTER 4: CONCLUSIONS; COMMUNITY CONNECTIONS, QUALITY OF LIFE AND SOCIAL MATTERS D rawing InanItah and Earthaven Together InanItah and Earthaven were both collective and dynamic, sustainability oriented experimental endeavors, that involved cooperative living within new cultural models and alternative value systems. In response to crit ical evaluations of industrial capitalist political economies, both communities developed alternative production and consumption rationales and were working towards creating conscious social designs, sustainably integrated into the natural environment. Th ey aspired to create enduring social entities and viable living environments to improve their personal and social lives, and ameliorate their social and environmental impacts. Within both communities, I observed earth based spirituality, strong interpers onal connections, egalitarianism, susceptibility to change, environmentally sustainable living practices and accommodating facilities and 'conveniences'. Additionally, the human populations at InanItah and Earthaven were predominantly of white European di ssent, were challenged by interpersonal conflicts and struggled with underdeveloped intercommunity economies. Feelings of gratitude were expressed frequently at both InanItah and Earthaven. I observed that gratitude was a practiced ritual and an affectiv e trait of many members of both ecovillages that positively affected individual and community well being. A large body of research explores the function and effects of gratitude on the social and emotional lives of human beings relating to subject well be ing, attitudes and behavior. Michael McCullough, Robert Emmons, and Jo Ann Tsang (2004, p. 295) found that,
98 a high degree of life satisfaction and positive affects such as happiness, vitality, and hope. They also experience low levels of negative affects such as resentment, depression, and envy...Indeed, grateful emotions appear to motivate people to reciprocate benefits they have received by rendering further benef prosocial behavior, forgiveness and empathy were seen in those who scored higher on measures of gratitude. Empirical evidence demonstrates the positive effects that fostering a sense of gratitude can have on psychological and social well being. My participant observations further support these findings; I observed high levels of prosocial behavior, empathy, hope, and goodwill relatively consistently, and low levels of negative affects such as depression. The social dynamics within ecovillages encouraged the recognition and expression of gratitude, which in turn facilitated the continuation of these attitudes and behaviors. Additionally, based on reviews of research investigating relationships between m aterialism, gratitude and well being, Emily Pola ck and Michael McCullough (2006, p. oriented emotions such as gratitude may have the power to change social cognition, motivation, and social relationships in precisely the ways that are likely to reduce materialistic strivings and their deleterious effects on psychological well experience may be a cause of happiness and a possible antidote to materialism. Thi s research reinforces the value of gratitude circles at InanItah and the potential implications that the encouragement of gratitude can have on individual and community well being outside ecovillages.
99 Members of both communities were involved in direct r elationships with their natural resources for food, shelter and recreation. I observed two aspects of place attachment within both communities: place identity and place dependency. Place identity, a psychological or emotional investment with a setting th at develops overtime (Williams & Patterson 1999), was prevalent among many members of InanItah and Earthaven. Both communities were striving to reduce their ecological footprints and were living off of and taking care of land parcels. Mother Nature was honored spiritually, and the communities were working towards sustaining a balanced, reciprocal relationship with nature. Their environments were symbolically important and seemed to nurture a sense of belonging or purpose that gave meaning to their lives and served as a component of self identity. Furthermore, place identity has been associated with inducing feelings of belonging to one's community (Korpela 1995). The communities also had functional attachments to the environmental components and resou rces afforded by their land. The physical characteristics of the areas in which each community was established provided community members with amenities such as access to water for drinking and swimming, wild medicinal herbs, agricultural land and buildin g materials. Vaske and Kobring (2001) demonstrated that both concepts of place attachment influence environmentally responsible behavior. communities. Abraham Maslow self fulfillment namely, to the tendency for him to become actualized in what he is potentially. This tendency might be phrased as the desire to become more and more what one is, to become eve
100 Additionally, according to Maslow, self actualization, which is at the top of his proposed hierarchy of needs, becom es possible when physiological, safety, love/belonging and esteem needs a re being satisfied (needs that were vocalized as being met by my interviewees). At both ecovillages, self actualization was commonly associated with consistent growth and improvements through attributes of healthy communication styles, behavioral pattern s of cooperation, altruism, compassion and understanding of oneself and of others, forgiveness, acceptance, developing passions, spirituality, and creativity, understanding sufficiency, indirect education, and overcoming or shedding psychological 'baggage' I felt as though these goals, ideas of personal growth and achievement reflected community values and was strongly associated with attitudes towards environmental and social stewardship. In most Western countries, capitalism has encouraged values, m otivations, goals and attitudes of self interest, which tends to be a primary consideration, and wealth an ultimate goal (Murtaza, 2011). An excessive focus on self interest cannot be sustained by often perceived as a medium for achieving self actualization) (Murtaza, 2011). Valuing self interest and individualism more so than cooperation and interdependence can hinder altruistic efforts towards other human beings, other species, and the environment and may interested citizen may feel entitled to scarce resources and continue to extract them excessively and unconcerned with the resulting societal and ecological r amifications. The core problems to appropriately dealing with environmental and social predicaments are the unsustainable societal values
101 that influence behaviors and attitudes that make genuine stewardship in the modern world extremely challenging. As e xhibited at InanItah and Earthaven, altruistic values and the pursuit of self actualization promoted stewardship and sustainability. Perceived Quality of Life I asked all of the community members I interviewed what thoughts came to mind when thinking ab out quality of life, how their perceived QOL had been affected and how it could be improved. At InanItah, happiness, sense of joy, purpose, interpersonal and community connections, flexibility, feeling loved and supported, acceptance and freedom were the common thoughts associated with QOL. Interviewees felt that these aspects of QOL were being met daily on multiple levels and that their overall QOL had improved dramatically by living within the community. Interviewees stated that they were spiritually, physically, and emotionally healthier, were intimately connected to people, felt loved and supported and better able to accept themselves. In expressing how their lives had been affected by living within the community, Valerie and Sara communicated to me: about where the next thing is leading...I feel accepted and loved by those around me and my anxious habits of smoking, drinking, having sex, and eating excessively are all in check h ere...I feel a sense of deep connection to myself, others, and the earth. My confidence has increased in what I value and in what I have to offer and who I am in the world (Valerie, 1/26/12). I no longer feel constrained by certain societal values I h ad forced upon myself, in terms of lifetime objectives and goals and timeframes by when to achieve these goals; what I "should" and "shouldn't" be doing...I feel less judgmental towards myself, and consequently, towards others...more compassionate, empathe tic and understanding (Sara, 1/24/12).
102 Thoughts elicited by the concept of QOL during my Earthaven interviews included meaningful purpose in life and work, not being subjected to light and noise pollution, self sufficiency, direct relationship to nature resonating with oneself, others, and nature. Similar to InanItah, perceived QOL was generally superior, although for a couple of members I interviewed, there were challenging times where their QOL had declined but then improved once again. Members felt able to grow spiritually, connected to others and nature, and able to express themselves emotionally in a healthy manner. All /12). Arjuna revealed that she had never lived anywhere for more than two years until she moved to Earthaven. She explained that feelings of wanting to move or needing to travel around had subsided (12/14/12). Living at Earthaven had provided Julia wit h healthy emotional outlets and a deeper awareness of her feelings and mental states. She relished in the fact that she no longer purchased unnecessary materials to satisfy emotional disparities and instead dealt with her disharmonies through more effecti ve pathways. Julia's perceived QOL was also making and non with herself, had become able to identi fy and speak up for what she needed for her well being and no longer suffered from an eating disorder. She remarked that her romantic relationship was healthier because she was able to meet her extended social needs with more ease and felt less isolated. Both communities expressed similar ways that their lives had improved which
103 provided a small window of what they had been missing in their previous living situations; feeling rooted or grounded in a place, feeling expendable, suppressing as opposed to exp ressing emotions, feeling unable to be authentic, lack of acceptance, anxiety dimensional 'needs' and were working on instituting new and better wa ys to improve QOL. The two most prevalent responses I received after asking how QOL could be improved related to the development of a local, intercommunity economy and viable currency system and being physically closer to extended loved ones. As Earthave n had existed for years before InanItah, the community had confronted unforeseen challenges that InanItah can perhaps find useful. I was told that Earthaven neglected to clearly write out all of their community values. They did not write down principles that they felt were obvious, and mistakenly expected all incoming members to be aligned with these unspoken principles. According to Patricia, the use of open to various interpretations that altered their meanings. Patricia also emphasized the need to ensure that all exploring or provisional members completely understood community values and the implications of becoming a member (12/17/12). Additionally, other communiti es can learn from the challenges Earthaven confronted as a result of the dispersion of their neighborhoods system.
104 The Importance of the Social Dimension to Sustainability and Quality of Life The social designs and organizations w ithin both communiti es strongly contributed to QOL and enabled their ecological sustainability. The alternative institutions and value systems encouraged the development of social awareness, community building, direct democracy, intimate interpersonal relationships, transpar ency, trust, a degree of social responsibility, equality, social support systems, and the individual sense of belonging and worth within the communities. These community qualities, behaviors, and attitudes affected individual well being and the stability of both ecovillages. The social dimension is an integral part to the sustainability concept that tends to be neglected. Economic and environmental aspects of sustainability have often been given precedence. However, in my opinion, the lack of integratio n and attention given to this sector inhibits true sustainable progress. Contemporary socio cultural structures and lifestyles significantly affect the environment and must be improved or changed to ensure ecological sustainability and human well being. The social dimensions of both communities seemed to be significantly more challenging to implement and adjust to than the sustainable, physical development of their land, and seemed to be even more rewarding and supportive of individual and collective w ell being. Both communities were concerned with ensuring equity, social cohesion, QOL, democratic governance, maturity or personal growth, which are all important facets of social sustainability. Significantly, although InanItah and Earthaven highly val ued diversity, the demographics that they attracted were characterized by people of privilege with similar economic status and ethnicity. The lack of diversity in these respects alludes to the range
105 of human agency afforded by global power structures (in regards to having the means, power, capacity to create new homes and new lifestyles). Many of the socio cultural aspects present within both communities (the fostering of personal growth, honest communication...) can only be considered when certain materi al comfort and economic security (whether security is provided by the individuals, friends, or family) have been attained. I argue that the way high standard of living is emphasized in affluent countries (material possessions, high income, and unnecessary 'conveniences) does not necessarily correlate with a high QOL; preoccupation with material excess can hinder QOL, is not necessary for QOL, and is pursued at the cost of the QOL of others. As displayed by the ecovillages, a high QOL can be achieved with a lower standard of living. However, a certain level of material access is necessary to address the social and ecological sustainability issues that ecovillages are concerned with. Prevailing Global Power Structures While ecovillages have made strides to the improvement of social dynamics within their communities and have attempted to address global social inequalities with admirable intentions (by conscious consumption, voluntary simplicity, reducing ecological footprints, removing themselves from ind ustrial supply chains to the best of their ability), there were still obvious power structures that prevented the resolution of social and economic inequalities. Economic and political power were obvious at both ecovillages, especially at InanItah, as the ir presence in a foreign country was an example of human agency that can be predominantly or more easily exercised by privileged citizens of affluent countries. About 46% of the Nicaraguan population was below the
106 poverty line in 2005 (CIA The World Fact Book 2011). The adverse financial states and limited access to financial opportunities affect the choices and options Nicaraguans have over their living situations and influences their priorities (e.g. survival, supporting their families). InanItah's me mbers, consisting predominantly of citizens from affluent countries, had more choices, were able to focus on personal development, were able live on Nicaragua's land more cheaply and uninhibited by forceful immigration laws and by building codes that would have otherwise restricted their endeavors of natural building practices. Even though Inanitah's members were living much simpler lives than modern Westerners and worked to integrate into the local community, they were still perceived by many locals as 'g ringos 16 with money. Within InanItah's community, Mayella, a proximal Nicaraguan neighbor and friend to the community, was employed as the lunch cook during the weekdays. Although she was assisted by two community members, most likely benefited from the good pay, and was treated vastly different from most employees in the U.S., she was still the community's head lunch cook. People from wealthier countries were visitors or members, and although Mayella had close ties with the founders and friendships with some members, she was still an employee. Even though the founders of InanItah had good intentions and reasons that motivated the creation of their project and seemed to be globally aware of social and ecological matters, it is important to note the preva iling inequalities that are embedded within history. InanItah's concerns and efforts to create an alternative lifestyle were admirable and their intentions should not be villainized, however, it is important to bring awareness to these power structures an d critique these experimental designs to support positive evolutions within their models. 16 Slang word used in Latin America to denote foreigner s, often from the United States
107 Final Thoughts This research was limited by the small sample size and by time constraints. I was only able to superficially investigate the complex, dynamic com munities and their residents. More in depth interviews with a larger sample size over an extended period of time would have benefited this study. Additionally, I was unable to interview locals living in proximity to both communities. It would be intere sting for future research to gather the perspectives of Nicaraguans living near InanItah. This could provide a better understanding of the intentional community's implications on the local community and of the opinions and understandings Nicaraguans have of InanIah. This study would have also benefitted from formal interviews with the Nicaraguan resident living at InanIah, however, I did not have legal permission to do so. It would be interesting to do follow up studies of both communities and include c hild residents. I am also curious as to how ecovillages, to what extent the goals and ideals of the communities influence the larger society and if some of the social elements (e .g. sharing circles, non violent communication courses) can be extracted and incorporated into schools or work places InanItah and Earthaven were examples of dynamic, ongoing processes of utopian strivings motivated by groups of people who had deliberat ely come together with the desire to create a better life, but neither community was a 'perfect utopia.' They were constantly innovating, changing, experimenting and formulating creative solutions to obstacles that arose throughout the continuous develop ment of their sustainable human
108 settlement models. They experienced conflicts and times of turmoil that affected the collective community. However, despite the difficulties, my interviews revealed that they felt living together and exploring an alternati ve lifestyle was more fulfilling than remaining where they were. Members perceived that their QOL had drastically improved despite their lower standard of living and reduced consumption habits, which weakens the assumption that high levels of consumption are correlated with well being. In the end it was not the material changes that affected ecovillagers the most. The changes that most significantly impacted the ecovillage residents were the alternative social designs and organizations. These findings illustrate the foundational aspect of social well being for quality of life and well being. Both communities recognized their human agency and actively used their powers to respond to cultural critiques. Exercising human agency and recognizing the power o f the individual are fundamental aspects of social and environmental movements that empower cultural change. Dominant social paradigms and value systems of industrial capitalist societies, calibrated by unsustainable, short term economic ideologies, are e ssentially leading the way for less affluent countries and influencing the way in which evaluated and critically examined because societies are dynamic and must evolve a nd reconfigure in accordance to the social, ecological, and economic transformations that emerge throughout time. As noted by Albert Einstein, the significant problems we face cannot be solved on the same level of thinking as when we created them. The hi gh levels and patterns of production and consumption that characterize the expansive economic models and strivings, have not only contributed to the degradation of our ecological
109 systems at alarming rates, but are potentially degrading life qualities that inhibit human well being. It is important to open discussions about what sustainability oriented intentional communities have to offer, such as aspects of QOL that tend to be neglected in modern societies or alternative production and consumption rationa les, and to consider what works and what does not This is especially true in an era when solutions to unsustainable patterns have become a priority and top down approaches are not enough. Additionally, as the world struggles to cope with its dwindling n atural resources and copious amounts of waste, humans must be able to adapt to new ways of living well while consuming less in which Ecovillages can serve as valuable resources and learning centers. As Karen Liften explains: If existing ways of living ar e not sustainable, then they will cease. The only questions are when and how. Whether the demise of the current order is precipitous or gradual, any successful experiments will become enormously salient. In that light, even if its seeds seem sparsely so wn and its successes modest, the pragmatic holism of ecovillages takes on a new light (2010, p. 13). Laws and new products are necessary, but what we need most are new ways of living that integrate the multiple dimensions of life: ecological, socia l, personal, and economic. Ecovillages are not 'the solution' to environmental and social problems, they are one way in which people are working towards reducing their impact and have viable principles and organizational designs that can be incorporated i nto other communities or human settlements, schools, households and work places.
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