When “Me” Became “We”
The title for this blog post may initially raise concerns about me being pregnant, but not to worry reader; that is not what this blog post is about.
This one is about intentional community, more specifically, intentional community in an ecovillage.
You may recall in my previous post that I said I will be working on a photo story about alternative living, or intentional community. I finally got to visit and start photographing the group of people I am doing this project on! Yay!
The place is called Whole Village Ecovillage. It’s almost exactly an hour north of Toronto. For more info on the place and it’s people: http://www.wholevillage.org
Even though there wasn’t much ‘real’ activity going on at WV this past weekend, the experience still blew my mind, and I can’t wait to continue visiting them. I met so many interesting people.
It may seem odd, almost alien, to some people to imagine various families and individual living and doing life together in one building, on one farm, while sharing responsibilities and finances. For the people at WV, however, they are living out their dreams.
How to describe a place that is indescribable.
Well, first you drive up a long driveway through the farm, past various rows of wind-blocking trees, and come upon an extrinsic looking compound. There are segments jutting skywards (which are skylights), and the building sprawls horizontally for days. Solar panels are situated around the back of the building for the water heating system.
Next you park and you enter GreenHaven, the residence for Whole Village members. Take a walk around. Experience the ‘green’ way in which the building is made.
It looks like a nursing home, it looks like a compound.. it looks like home. Daylight streams in from numerous windows meant to maximize natural lighting.
There is a large common space, with a playroom for kids, an entertainment room, living room, dining room, and an enormous, sprawling kitchen for shared meals. Extending from the common rooms are the member’s suites, which are each uniquely built out and sized. There are suites for couples, singles, and families.
While you are exploring, you are bound to come across various friendly, smiling members, ranging from their early 80s to 5 months old— the youngest member.
More about the people: they felt there was something wrong with today’s society, with the consumerism, environment-destroying practices, lack of community; whatever it was that drove them away from ‘normal’ life, somehow these various people in their different stages of life ended up in one place, together, longing to experience life in a different way together. Hippies, lawyers, professors, amongst other professionals, all in one place, with a common vision.
The farm. For those interested in agriculture, WV is rich in advanced ideas and practices, and for those uninterested in the industry, it is at the least fascinating.
WV practices permaculture, a word which comes from ‘permanent’ and ‘agriculture’. It is an extremely unique farm practice, one which is sustainable in many ways. Permaculture “works with nature’s rhythm and patterns, weaving together the elements of microclimate, annual and perennial plants, animals, water and soil management, and human needs into intricately connected and productive communities” (from WV’s permaculture handout). The farm produces veggies, fruit, grain, nuts, maple syrup, eggs and in the past their own milk and honey (all organically, of course).
At WV, responsibilities are equally divided, and everybody contributes. The farm has a young farmer program, which takes in and teaches new farmers in the way of permaculture. It also has a CSA program, or Community Supported Agriculture program, so WV sells or trades with local people and restaurants, while producing most of their own food.
Decisions are made by consensus, so that every voice is heard.
It was EXTREMELY interesting for me to view the physical manifestation of socialism at its near extreme, after reading and immersing myself in Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged for a scholarship essay competition.
At one point in Atlas Shrugged, Rand describes her vision of the ultimate evil. A motor company decides to distribute wage based on need, not on ability, and ensues a competition amongst the workers to perform worse than one’s neighbour in order to not be punished with more work without extra pay.
While this vision is indeed a disgusting one, it doesn’t honestly represent the potential that socialism has in communities such as Whole Village.
Now, I really don’t mean to go making political statements here, but I always thought myself to be a socialist growing up, and my ideologies were very much challenged by Ayn Rand. However it was encouraging to see with my own eyes and hear about numerous communities that excel in an interdependent, community living situation. Nobody holds grudges against their neighbours, and everyone works together to make sure everyone has what they need. They CHOOSE to live this way, and are very happy. It may not be for everyone, but it’s an interesting, alternative way of living to consider.
Even if you do not agree with their way of life, WV has a lot to teach outsiders, in terms of conflict resolution, decision making skills, farming practices, and being environmentally sensitive.
I am indeed looking forward for my second opportunity to photograph this fascinating community at the end of the month. Keep posted for more on WV