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The Best Xmas present – a new life

You have these friends, who are stuck in their situation. Some combination of things in their lives are not working very well. Their jobs are a dead end. Their relationship is holding them back. Their social scene is deadening. What you really want to get them for a holiday present is a completely different life. You know they deserve much more and it’s heart breaking for you to see them stuck like this.

enough about my job

I have the perfect present. The entry way to a new life.

The new community directory is a single volume which describes and categorizes over 700 communities in the US. What your friend needs to do is to find their clan and their new life in one of these places where cooperation and sharing resources have been taken to a higher level. Perhaps the best way to get out from under that terrible boss is to move to a cooperative business. Perhaps shaking up their social scene will come from choosing to live with people who have shared values.

life begins here chinese window.jpg

Or perhaps not

There really is only one way for them to find out: to get the communities directory. And for the next 57 days you can get an advance copy for the crazy low price of $25, including shipping.

The organizers of the fundraising campaign here have gotten a bit daring. They are doing a threshold-based campaign, which means if they don’t get all the money, then they get nothing. This is my call to you to match their daring. Get this campaign to go viral. Put it up on your Facebook page, write about it in your blog (or simply re-blog mine) and if anyone knows how to make Reddit really work, it would be great there.

Communities Directory 7 Cover Draft (1)

And these unspecified friend I’m talking about,  might well include you. Be your own best friend and recognize that community life might well be better than what you are currently doing and you should get the directory for yourself and chart a path away from the troublesome waters you might be finding yourself in.

arches become boats.jpg

Don’t let stable structures keep you from exploring

If you do decide to support this campaign, i would ask you to add one penny to your total, so we can see who found out about it thru this blog post.  Big Thanks.




The Problem with Paris

There have been terrible terrorist attacks against the city of Paris and everyone knows about it.  The mainstream media (MSM) is jumping on tragedy the way they are fantastically capable of and everyone in the US who is even near a television knows all about it.  Almost.

We know about it in the context of a corporate controlled  media.  We know all about how innocent the victims were.  We know that French President Hollande is promising a “pitiless” war in response to the attacks.    And we know because the attackers are terrorists and the victims are innocent and the French President is promising a vicious response, that starting this French war against ISIS is justified.  Except we are wrong.

France is not starting a war with ISIL  because of these recent attacks on Paris.  France has been at war with ISIL for over a year, bombing them in Iraq for that entire time and, two months ago, it started also bombing suspected ISIL sites inside of Syria.  Except it has not really been a war because, having learned from the US, the French were perfectly happy killing members of ISIL and countless surrounding Syrian and Iraqi civilians using airstrikes without ever being exposed to a hostile response from ISIL.  Here is the sentence you will never see in the MSM reporting of the Paris attacks:

By attacking Paris, ISIL is retaliating against French attacks on Arab civilians and ISIL fighters in Iraq and Syria.

But this background information is critically important if you are trying to understand what is actually happening with these attacks.  It gets worse.

cartoon US rousing hornets in Syria

Those who fail to learn from the past …

Recently declassified US Intelligence documents indicate that the US and western allies, including France were hoping and supporting extremist Islamic resistance to the Assad regime as recently as 3 years ago.  This western supported resistance became ISIS.

Be careful what you wish for

Be careful what you wish for

We have seen this before in the US around the 9/11 attacks.  If you ask most US Americans if the 9/11 attacks on the US were unprovoked, they will assure you they were.  If you asked them why bin Laden organized these attacks, you will get muddled answers, including gems like, “They hate our freedom”.  Before 9/11 bin Laden had outlined the reasons why he was retaliating against the US:

  1. US military presence in Saudi Arabia (despite significant protests)
  2. US sanctions in Iraq that killed 600K children
  3. US support of Israel’s oppressive policies towards Palestine

One can argue about whether these were good enough reasons to launch the 9/11 attacks, but it is hard to argue either that they were unprovoked or a surprise.

Our blindness to our global war efforts does not invalidate others efforts to defend themselves.

Our blindness to our global war efforts does not invalidate others efforts to defend themselves.

Back to Paris.    The day before the Paris attacks there were similar attacks in Beirut, which got basically no MSM attention.  Why no attention?  One could claim that Beirut has been in some state of war for many years.  But i believe the reason is deeper.  We see over and over that the US MSM does not care about terrorist attacks unless the victims are white.

beirut and paris candle

Do i condone these attacks on Paris?  Certainly not.  But what i feel an extraordinary need to condemn is the willful ignorance of why these attacks are happening and how the systematic nationalism and racism of the US media helps to insure that they will keep happening.

Other good critical sources on asymmetric reporting on terrorism and failed US policy in the middle East:


We cannot properly honor the deaths of Parisians killed in these terror attacks without analyzing our governments’ understanding of the subsequent radicalization that has followed invasions and airstrikes in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Syria; drone strikes in Somalia, Pakistan, Lebanon, Yemen, and other countries; and the American bombing of the Doctors without Borders hospital in Afghanistan in October.

From Sara Tansey’s blog on raising anti-racist kids

We cannot bring ourselves to say JeSuisBeirut. White supremacy does not allow us to imagine ourselves in the lives of people of color. We cannot see our humanity, our pain, our fears in the eyes of the Sunni Muslims who were terrorized as they mourned the loss of a loved one.

An excellent and accessible article from the Nation on interviewing ISIL prisoners.

At the end of the interview with the first prisoner we ask, “Do you have any questions for us?” For the first time since he came into the room he smiles—in surprise—and finally tells us what really motivated him, without any prompting. He knows there is an American in the room, and can perhaps guess, from his demeanor and his questions, that this American is ex-military, and directs his “question,” in the form of an enraged statement, straight at him. “The Americans came,” he said. “They took away Saddam, but they also took away our security. I didn’t like Saddam, we were starving then, but at least we didn’t have war. When you came here, the civil war started.”

ISIS takes no prisoners

ISIS takes no prisoners assaults the US and western approach to conflict in the middle East in the article called Paris: You dont want to read this.

But I do have this: stop what we have been doing for the last 14 years. It has not worked. There is nothing at all to suggest it ever will work. Whack-a-mole is a game, not a plan. Leave the Middle East alone. Stop creating more failed states. Stop throwing away our freedoms at home on falsehoods. Stop disenfranchising the Muslims who live with us. Understand the war, such as it is, is against a set of ideas — religious, anti-western, anti-imperialist — and you cannot bomb an idea. Putting western soldiers on the ground in the MidEast and western planes overhead fans the flames. Vengeance does not and cannot extinguish an idea.

I am still getting a fact check on this article about how the Bush Administration was instrumental in building he foundation for ISIL.   The second point of the 5 is quite weak, and does not support the thesis.  But the other points appear to make the case reasonably well.

  1. ISIS leaders’ training as part of Hussein’s regime gave them the knowledge they’ve needed to be deadly:

Even with the influx of thousands of foreign fighters, almost all of the leaders of the Islamic State are former Iraqi officers, including the members of its shadowy military and security committees, and the majority of its emirs and princes, according to Iraqis, Syrians and analysts who study the group.

They have brought to the organization the military expertise and some of the agendas of the former Baathists, as well as the smuggling networks developed to avoid sanctions in the 1990s and which now facilitate the Islamic State’s illicit oil trading.

Here is an informative piece on the controversy over the name ISIS/ISIL it’s proposed replacement and how acronyms are quite exotic in Arabic.

The main misapprehensions about the word currently circulating [Daesh] in our media boil down to the following list:

  • That daesh is an Arabic word in its own right (rather than an acronym) meaning ‘a group of bigots who impose their will on others’
  • That it can be ‘differently conjugated’ to mean either the phrase above or ‘to trample and crush’
  • That one of the words in the acronym also means ‘to trample or crush’
  • That it is an insult or swearword in its own right
  • That is has different meanings in the plural form

An excellent Guardian piece on how the US prison in Iraq at Bucca was the training camp for IS and US prison relations with Baghdadi helped him rise to power and build ISIL

“He was respected very much by the US army,” Abu Ahmed said. “If he wanted to visit people in another camp he could, but we couldn’t. And all the while, a new strategy, which he was leading, was rising under their noses, and that was to build the Islamic State. If there was no American prison in Iraq, there would be no IS now. Bucca was a factory. It made us all. It built our ideology.”


Communes and TV Puff Pieces

The Yahoo Parenting and ABC Nightline news pieces have drawn attention to Twin Oaks in the small screen media world. Most recently they have brought Richmond’s ABC affiliate.

There are a number of minor parts of the reporting that are wrong. They mess up the sequence of the visitor period and acceptance process. They also said we had a waiting list, which as of recently, is not actually true.

Keenan and one of the few pictures which makes us look densely built. Photo Credit: WRIC

Keenan and one of the few pictures which makes us look densely built. Photo Credit: WRIC

But overall, it portrays the community accurately and is mostly upbeat.

Whenever the mainstream media comes, it attempts to exotify us. The reporter said basically, “You can live in this comfortable paradise, but you have to give up most of your material possessions.” What is true is that you can bring whatever fits in your room and a bike. You can bring larger furniture items if you are willing to lend them to the community (you can take them when you go if you want) for use in the common spaces.

For many people, this represents a significant scaling down of what they have. No one says, “You have to give them up.” It is not a mandate from the community. If you move to a smaller place, you shed things.

Scott working the saw mill, less noble then tech work?

Scott working the saw mill. Is this less noble then tech work?

The video makes a point of mentioning that Scott, who is running the saw mill, used to be a computer programmer. It implies that he gave up programming to do this lower paying work. However, Scott does not think about it this way.

Perhaps in an effort to make home viewers comfortable, the news people talk about how this would not work for them or how they can’t imagine seeing their colleagues at a place like Twin Oaks. The terms “hippies” and “communists” are thrown at us and quickly batted away. You can try to see it as stereotypical or comically diminished, but really what is happening here is more complex and i would argue more important.


You can use Funological grading scales on serious events.  You could argue that a current issue conference cannot get a B grade, unless it does something novel.  You could propose that a protest not get a letter A grade, unless it (hopefully positively) changed one or more of the participants lives.

reportcard grading system

Using this scale, the West Coast Communities Conference perhaps deserves an A+ (a grade i can’t remember the last time i gave it – maybe fuzzy tunnels).  Let’s consider a bunch of different metrics:

  • Success as a networking event
  • Intergenerationally integrated
  • Cross Cultural Connections
  • Significant Skill Shares
  • Novel presentation formats
  • Acid Test questions responses
people are the warp, collective houses are the woof - network weave

people are the warp, collective houses are the woof – network weave

Success as a networking event  At the heart of it, communities conferences are supposed to connect people interested in community with collective places they might live and also help communities find new blood, especially founding or floundering communities.  In this, WCCC was reasonably successful.  Both seekers found established communities and a forming community found a new key additional person.  These additions will certainly increase their chances of survival and success.  The event supported the movement directly thru recruiting and secondarily by introducing people to the depth and range of the movement.

drag kids WCCCCIntergenerationally integrated One of the things i take pride in at Twin Oaks is our success in mixing generations in work and play.  No one thinks twice about there being different generations represented for example in a community band.  “We need a drummer.  We don’t care how old or young they are.”  The Radical Faeries who run Groundswell Institute decided early on that the best way into introduce kids into this typically adult world was to be honest and give nearly full access to it.  So the kids made a bee-line for the drag closet and there were precious photo moments of kid princesses and mature queens.  We also had twenty and thirty somethings mixing with seniors and everything in between.  Age did not matter too much; young people facilitated, old people learned new things.  The event had a healthy, inquisitive, open feeling to it.

Communards meet Radical Fairies - metaphorically.

Communards meet Radical Faeries – metaphorically.

Cross Cultural Connections:  I have a story that the Faeries have things to teach the communards about being bold and asking for what you want.  I think the Faeries are a gateway to luxurious flamboyance and how to party big.  I think the communards have things to offer the Faeries around finding group mind and clean process.  I think the communards know how to share well and have effective tools and agreements for others less experienced with cooperative living.  The dance party at the fire pit was a high spirited, colorful mix of our cultures in celebration.   I think the communards and the Radical Faeries have similar agendas around tolerance, celebration of diversity, openness to new things, sustainability, self created culture and art and making the world a better place to live in.  We are obvious allies.

I saw these two groups dance well together and it made me hopeful for more events of both playful and serious content.

dont worry about itSignificant Skill Shares: Significant Skill Shares: My lover Tree came down from Eugene and facilitated a compelling workshop on Appreciative Inquiry It was a huge hit.  It changed Brittany and Billy Vulture‘s lives.  Somewhat new to giving workshops, these two had especially struggled with the guilt and hopelessness so many White Privilege workshops engender.  By using Appreciative Inquire instead of conventional “problem solving” techniques, they found that he walked out of the WCCC White Privilege Open Space session feeling really good about the group, about the communication, about people hearing this fundamentally uncomfortable message and not running from it but actually addressing it.  Tree was thrilled that her workshop was immediately applicable.  Me, too.

turtle plus houseNovel presentation formats:  We did the Communities in Crisis interactive theater workshop at the WCCC.  The idea was you throw non-communards into the deep end of community process.  They would try to facilitate actor-communards who were in the midst of trying to untangle a vexing and controversial community problem.  It was a great idea, but it worked out nothing like this.

For starters, of the 20 plus people interested in this workshop, no one did not already identify as living in community (apparently sitting in tricky community meetings is only attractive to people who think community is worth it to join already).  But more importantly, these types of  theater things don’t resolve and, were it not for Tree in the workshop to rein me in, i would have spent way too much time in the fun acting part and not enough on the harvesting of what we learned.

But people enjoyed it and said they learned things.  It is a strong enough and engaging enough format to try doing it again.

uncle sam - can you pass the acid test

Acid Test question responses:  I am the type of Funologist who believes in exit interviews.  I ask people if they enjoyed the event and learned things (they basically always say yes, since it is polite to do so) and then i ask if they would come back in a year and this often gives insight into their experience.  If you had a transformative experience – you fell in love, you found your tribe, you learned a new tool that will significantly aid you – then your reply is always “yes”, even if the chances of repeating exactly this type of positive change are very small.  If you just had a good time, you can be “one and done”.  When i asked people about coming back, almost everyone said yes.

By all these different metrics, the WCCC succeeded pretty famously.  But i must confess i am predisposed to falling in love with this beautiful Northern California place and this particular event because i got to work with amazing organizers on it and take credit for making it happen, when really i did quite little to manifest it.  I also got to organize with my talented co-dad, Sky, which always makes these types of things go better.

Other communities, including Lost Valley outside Eugene, expressed interested in hosting the 2016 West Coast Communities Conference. So perhaps, unlike the east coast event which stays at Twin Oaks for ever, we have created something which will move around to different host communities.  Which would be cool also.

But it is not too early to mark your calendar for Indigenous Peoples weekend 2016. If history repeats itself, it might just be the best conference ever.


On Wednesday Oct 21, the British Prime Minister Cameron will sign a complex financing deal with the Chinese President Xi for the new Hinkley Point C nuclear reactor complex.  This will be one of the most expensive contracts of any type ever signed anywhere. Bloomberg claims this is the most expensive nuclear project ever.  It will cost more than the British Olympic Games, the new second terminal at London Heathrow airport and Crossrail (the 40 station expansion to the London light rail system) combined.

Hinkley Point C - a white elephant disguised as a reactor complex

Hinkley Point C – a white elephant disguised as a reactor complex – artists rendition

How expensive is it?  Well, the construction costs (including financing) alone are 24.5 billion British Pounds (US$37.8 billion).  The total capital costs for these two reactors will be at least 34 billion BPS (US$52.5 billion).  But the price tag is only the beginning of this deal’s problems.

To understand how terrible an investment this is,  review the other attempts to build reactors of the same design.  Most recently engineered commercial reactors are typically about 1000 MWe, this French designed system bucks this trend and theoretically produces over 1,600 MWe.  But bigger is not always better.  This design is called European Pressurized Reactor or EPR for short.  There are two reactors of the same French design under construction elsewhere in Europe, one at Olkiluoto, Finland and the other at Flamanville, France.

Hinkley has been the site of regular protests

Hinkley has been the site of regular protests

The Finnish reactor was started first and is now 9 years late in completion and has almost tripled in cost.  Originally, this project was a joint venture between EdF/Areva and the Germans company Siemens.  The project has gone so poorly that Siemens, the largest nuclear engineering company in the world at the time,  dropped out of the project and was promptly sued by the Finns for 2.5 billion Euros (US$2.8 billion).  In May of this year, the very pro-nuclear Finns also decided to cancel the second reactor of this type after so many problems with the one under construction. There are also several lawsuits between the French nuclear construction firm, EdF and the Finnish utility.

Finns protesting 2010 parliament decision to build to 2 additional EPRs, Protesters were right - both reactors have been cancelled.

Finns protesting 2010 parliament decision to build to 2 additional EPRs, Protesters were right – both reactors have been cancelled.

The French state owned nuclear construction company, Areva, took over 4.5 billion Euros (US$5.1 billion) in losses for the Finnish reactor.  Areva’s stock has lost 85% of its value since 2007.  This combined with other losses on EPR construction were large enough to force Areva to cut thousands of jobs and ultimately be merged into the French state owned EdF to avoid bankruptcy.

If it is ever finished, the far left reactor is what he third Finnish reactor will look like

If it is ever finished, the far left reactor is what he third Finnish reactor will look like

The experience in France at the Flamanville with this same reactor design is even worse.  As we have come to expect, this reactor is also years late and over triple its original budget.  The Italian utility ENEL was forced out of this project when the Italians voted overwhelmingly in 2011, after Fukushima, to not be involved in nuclear power projects.

Recent revelations of fabrication flaws in the pressure vessel have put completion of the Flamanville EPR project in question (delays and overruns, no matter how severe, almost never stop reactor projects).   This 425 ton pressure vessel literally holds the nuclear reaction and the French nuclear inspectorate (the equivalent of the US NRC, but it actually checks for safety) found a “very serious fault“.  The pressure vessel has a metallurgical flaw owing to large areas of excess carbon in the steel causing structural weaknesses.  If further tests by the French nuclear inspectorate do not come up with different results, the French nuclear construction firm, EdF, will have two choices: replace the already installed pressure vessel or scrap the entire project.

Could this failed pressure vessel stop the reactor?

Could this failed pressure vessel stop the construction of the reactor?

Originally, despite there being no signed contact, the pressure vessel for the first of the two Hinkley Point C reactors had been fabricated by the same company that forged the failed Flamanville pressure vessel (which is a subsidiary of Areva).  Upon finding high carbon concentrations, EdF pulled back the Hinkley pressure vessel to conduct destructive tests on it which are required by the French nuclear inspectorate.  At a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars to EdF.  But it gets worse.

French Safety Culture: Let's install it in first, then test it.

French Safety Culture: Let’s install it in first, then test it. Photo EdF

EdF and Areva installed the pressure vessel at Flamanville in October of 2013, without testing it and then spent a year building the plant around the pressure vessel.  In October of 2014 they performed tests and found these problems and then informed ASN (the French nuclear Inspectorate) about them in Dec 2014. EdF/Areva put the pressure vessel inside the Framanville reactor knowing that it might not pass tests, assuming they could convince the French inspectorate that it was okay.  They were basically gambling the functionality of the plant and the safety of the local inhabitants on their political power to push this project through.  Is that the type of company you want to be working with?  It gets worse.

If the Flamanville reactor is not complete by 2020, the finance guarantees for Hinkley Point C will collapse.   When negotiations for Hinkley Point C financing started, they were contingent on the Flamanville EPR being completed to prove the concept works.  The Ecologist Magazine writes:

The finance guarantees [for Hinkley Point C] have been approved by the European Commission – but subject to a number of important conditions. These include a so-called ‘Base Case Condition’ (BCC) relating to the Flamanville EPR. Namely, that if the Flamanville reactor is not complete and operational by the end of 2020, the guarantees become invalid and bond holders must be repaid out of shareholder equity.

The most recent EdF estimate for the completion of the Flamanville EPR is the 4th quarter of 2018.  This estimate assumes there will be no delays for testing the defective pressure vessel and no need for replacement or any corrective action.  This seems a fanciful assumption.

There are also two EPR reactors under construction in China at Taishan which are further along than Flamanville.  Their pressure vessels were forged at the same Areva subsidiary that messed up Flamanvilles.  The Chinese safety authority has done tests, but is not releasing the results.

white elephat

The Chinese nuclear safety authority might be the worst in the world.  After some months after the Fukushima triple meltdown, the Chinese nuclear regulator made a passing comment that there were “problems in 14 areas which needed to be resolved” and that some would take 3 years to resolve.   He did not mention which reactors had problems.  No reporters present asked any questions, it would be disrespectful.  There has been no subsequent public follow up.  This was in 2012, years before these pressure vessel problems were discovered by the French.  Subsequent to this, I have only found one news report mentioning the Chinese nuclear regulators.  This was the French nuclear inspectorate complaining that the Chinese regulator was both overwhelmed and non-responsive. The city of Taishan has 1 million people and is less than 100 miles from Hong Kong.  But wait, it gets worse.

Successful Chinese anti-nuclear demonstration in Ghangdon - 2103

Successful Chinese anti-nuclear demonstration in Ghangdon – 2103

Finding financing for Hinkley Point C has been challenging.  Centrica, owner of British Gas, was an initial investor. In 2013, it decided it could no longer throw good money after bad and took a £200m write-off rather than commit to a 20% stake. History may well show they got off cheap.

The negotiating team of British and Chinese bureaucrats are wrestling over how much of the project China will pay for.  The British want China to pay for at least 40% of the entire project.  The Chinese were thinking numbers more like 30%.  But the Chinese want more than interest for their loan.  They also want a guarantee that they will be able to build a 1000 MWe Chinese designed reactor in the UK, to boot strap their reactor export business.  This is in clear violation of the EU subsidy rules, but everyone is looking the other way.

Senior UK military officials are quite concerned that deeply involving China in the British nuclear infrastructure represents a national security risk.  The Prime Minister’s office dismisses such concerns.

But wait, it gets even worse.  Because of the inevitable delays with Hinkley Point C (including the Austrian lawsuit challenging the entire project) the UK will miss its clean energy target by years.  And PM Osborne has already made clear there is no money for a “Both/And” solution of increased nuclear and renewables.  From a recent Guardian article:

Osborne has trashed the prospects for renewables here in the UK, has consigned to history our zero-carbon agenda for the built environment, has ridiculed the importance of energy efficiency, and, in the process, has guaranteed that we have literally no chance whatsoever of achieving our statutory targets under the Climate Change Act.

It is worth pointing out that there is not a single functioning EPR reactor operating anywhere in the world.  All four that are under construction (Flamanville unit 3, Olkiluoto unit 3 and Taishan units 1 & 2) are both years delayed in completion and billions over budget.

wind in europe

The northern part of Scotland has some of the best on shore wind resources in the world

But perhaps the worst aspect of this entire fiasco is that this terrible deal locks the UK into paying a guaranteed price for electricity (14 US cents/kwh) which is over twice the current wholesale price of electricity in England (just under 7 US cents/kwh) at a time when the price for renewables in that country have been steadily decreasing for years.   The UK Solar Trade Association says they can match this output at half the cost.  Independent energy experts estimate 6 times the capacity could be supplied by wind for the same price.

It is no exaggeration to say, this might just be the worst deal ever.

Update Oct 23rd 2015:   Now that it is possible to read some portions of the agreement, we find, unsurprisingly, that the long standing promise the governments have made that there will be “No public subsidies” for the Hinkley Point C reactors, is a lie.  Buried in fine print of the new paper for this deal is the sentence  “The government confirms that it is not continuing the ‘no public subsidy policy’ of the previous administration.  We can expect more lying and more public costs for this terrible deal in the future.

Climate Disruption Now – Syria and California

We have been hearing about climate change (or what activist and experts working on the issue prefer to call “Climate Disruption” or “Climate Crisis”, because climate change sounds of safe and possibly even positive) for a long time.  Despite Republican denials, it is really happening.  Sometime it is sparking huge international political changes, without getting the credit for them it deserves.

One example of this is Syria, where the political unrest and giant refugee problem can be directly attributed to climate disruption.  Specifically, overgrazing and desertification.

This forced Syrians from their rural homes into urban centers

This forced over a million Syrians from their rural homes into urban centers.

And the urban centers already had water and unemployment problems.  The Assad government largely ignored this situation, which lead to protests, arrests, torture of demonstrators and increasing calls for regime change.  A recently released WikiLeaks document shows the US was considering fostering an ISIS-like group in Syria, years ago, in hopes that Assad would overreact.  He has.  The country is now torn by war and half the country (over 9 million people) have been displaced from their homes.  Most will never return.

California is in the worst drought of decades, leading to wild fires destroying property and habitats.  A recent fire destroyed Harbin Hot Springs, which was a spa that Hawina and i visited a number of times.  Losing a spa is not the same as losing your country.  But in both cases people found themselves homeless and surprised by that.

harbin fire

I visited here in June.  125 members of Harbin lost their homes in the fire.

While the struggle in Syria is generally not attributed to climate disruption, the California fires are.  This abstract idea of climate disruption is going to start influencing people who thought either it was not real or they could comfortably ignore it.

Climate disruption is already happening and you are going to get hit by it.

Utopia: It’s not happening

CNN did a curious piece partially about Twin Oaks recently. It was odd because it did a fairly good job of representing the commune in the text portion of the story, much better than ABC Nightline did, but it mixed in a video about the San Francisco Co-Living movement.

The article is called: Utopia: It’s Complicated – Inside Vintage and New Age Communities. We are clearly the vintage part.

Vintage looks dapper

Vintage looks dapper

Taking this apart a bit, let’s consider the clever title. Utopia is a slightly charged and especially foolish word to use when describing a real life living situation. We are not perfect, nor appropriate for everyone. We never claim to be, though academics and the media love to throw that label on us. What we do claim is that our living situation is far better than most and some (including myself) claim that on a good day, we can see utopia from here.

Don't be fooled by signs

Don’t be fooled by signs

But this is a detail, really. What is more peculiar is lumping contemporary “co-living” spaces with income sharing communities like Twin Oaks. It is something like grouping tug boats with hover crafts.

tugboats and hover crafts

Both on water, then the similarity stops

In both circumstances there are people living together and sharing things and selecting each other (this is my definition for intentional community.) But if the affluent residents of co-living circumstances are disagreeing about maid service, it is about how often it is necessary. Maid service is inconceivable to most income sharing communes, not just because we don’t think we can afford it, but because we feel responsible for cleaning up our own messes.

As GPaul points out in “We are not selling a product,” the differences only start here. Co-living replicates the landlord/tenant dynamic, FEC communities largely own their own properties which are land trusts. Think corporate hover craft and co-op tug boat. Sharing income means you need to listen to those you live with about what their needs are and the survival of the community depends on trust building. Sharing an expensive group house means you stay until you have a serious fight with someone living there, are bored, or find a better offer and you are constantly on the look out for that offer.

Not the good life without kids and elders

Not the good life without kids and elders

None of the co-living situations I have seen or read about have children. Mostly what we see is twenty-somethings appearing to live the good life. Nothing wrong with that, but for me the good life is multi-generational.

So there is no utopia.  And the differences between different approaches to the better life are significant.  I am glad CNN got so much right about us.  I am sad that they decided our neighbors in building a better world were mostly affluent people who are likely making gentrification worse.


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