Sunday, September 29, 2013

Issues in Community: Urban and/or Rural

(I'm returning to this series while my life sorts itself out.)

In the 1990s, I was part of creating an urban community that affiliated with the Federation of Egalitarian Communities (FEC).  Since then I've lived in three different city co-op households.  Last year I did three week visits to Acorn, Twin Oaks (twice!), and Dancing Rabbit, all of which are in very rural areas, and did very brief (several hours) visits to four other communities near them.  And at the moment I'm involved with a group that's trying to start a rural farming community in upstate New York.

I like both urban and rural communities and have had conversations with folks over the years about creating a hybrid that a friend called 'City Mouse/Country Mouse'--a community which would have a house in the city and a house out in the country.  (However, I have no interest in suburban communities. Let's not go there.)

As far as I'm concerned, the advantages of urban communities are close proximity to all that cities have to offer: a large, diverse population nearby and lots of things happening.  However, that's also the biggest disadvantage--urban living offers many distractions that can make it hard to pull a close-knit community together.  (As I found out when I tried to create a community in Cambridge, MA, a couple of years ago.)

The advantages of rural communities are closeness to nature, much larger capacity to grow food, and generally a cleaner environment.  The biggest disadvantage that I can see is isolation. A large community like Twin Oaks (and to a smaller degree, Dancing Rabbit) offsets that by having a lot going on within the community--and a larger population within the community to interact with.

I think different settings encourage different types of communities.  Most co-op houses I know of are either in cities or near more rural colleges and universities.  I think a lot of co-housing is urban as well. On the other hand, many ecovillages are located in rural settings and most of the FEC 'communes' are rural.

There are notable exceptions to this, rural or semi-rural cohousing and urban ecovillages (like the Los Angeles Ecovillage).  In fact, there has to be exceptions given the number of cohousing developments that also call themselves ecovillages.

And, within the FEC, there are two urban communes (the Emma Goldman Finishing School and the FEC's newest member, the Midden).  Having been part of an urban FEC community, I'm happy to see others carry on the tradition.

Meanwhile, I'd love to know if anyone is aware of any successful urban/rural communities.  I know that Ganas in New York tried it for a while.  Someone that I talked with at the communities conference said it fell apart because they were spreading themselves too thin.  I also read a passage by Gary Snyder on a community in Japan in the 1970s where the members hitchhiked between a house in the city, a house in the mountains, and a house on an island.  (I think it's long gone.)

Quote of the Day: "...radical sustainability promotes the development of autonomous communities--that is, egalitarian communities that value equality, justice, and mutualism.  ... Autonomous communities can exist everywhere--from rural to urban, north to south.  Autonomous communities are especially adapted to creating and maintaining a sustainable world." - Scott Kellogg and Stacy Pettigrew


vera said...

An interesting conception, MoonRaven. I am wondering if it could work like this: a house on the edge of a small town, and a piece of land within walking distance nearby. That way, you would not be stretching yourselves too thin. And the house could be the base while the community was being created on the land... without the pressure of building, building... It would give you the needed base camp so you don't have to rush and can start right. Hm. The more I think of it, the more I like it!

MoonRaven said...

I like that idea. Thanks for suggesting it, Vera. Let me keep thinking about it.