‘Tis the time of year for self-reflection and resolutions, and as usual, we’ve been ahead of the curve.
Self-reflection is something we’ve built into our culture at Dancing Rabbit, both within the Ecovillage as well as within our nonprofit. And 2015 held an especially exciting and intense version of self-reflection, as we’ve finally taken the plunge and renamed our nonprofit. As it’s Executive Director, may I be the first to introduce you to the brand new Center for Sustainable and Cooperative Culture at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage!
We love how the new name reflects the most important things we’ve been doing for years: pioneering a cooperative, sustainable culture that can meet the world’s needs as we move toward a low-carbon reality. Expect more of the same from us in years to come!
Deciding how to present ourselves raised a lot of thorny and fun questions: Who are we? What are we really good at? What makes our nonprofit unique among the many, many organizations out there doing great work on sustainability?
In the conversations we had with Rabbits, friends, supporters, and our Board, time and again three concepts emerged as our areas of excellence: culture, research and hope. I love what these words say about us, and from my perspective, 2015 was a banner year for all of them.
#1: Culture, specifically cooperative culture. Most of the names with the most excitement around them included the word culture. One of Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage’s biggest strengths as a model of sustainability is that we are really, really good at cooperating and sharing, so each individual household can own less, work less, and consume less, and still have a great life.
This tremendously powerful (and frequently overlooked) tool for achieving sustainable living is in constant use throughout the village, and provides a unique voice to our educational nonprofit, one that emphasizes the immense potency of cooperation as the mother of all sustainability skills. When people come to Dancing Rabbit, they step into a real-life version of an alternate reality, built on fundamentally different assumptions about how we can live big lives on a finite planet.
It not only looks and feels different, the results are notably different, as documented by our nonprofit’s research branch. With a second year of data collected, we are still at or close to the 10% mark on resource consumption (compared to the average American) in a number of key areas. And that means we are cooperating our way to a livable world.
#2: Research. While this area of our work isn’t as mature as our cultural systems are, we stand out as the ecovillage in the US most dedicated to realistic research about what we are doing and how it can be applied outside of the intentional community context. In the intentional communities scene it is a commonly-held idea that our cooperation and sharing lead to real reductions in our ecological footprints, but most groups are content to have that as a general, feel-good sense.
We’ve made a unique commitment through our nonprofit to document this: to use a data-based approach to look closely at what we are actually doing and where we could be doing better. In 2015 our work was recognized in the formation of one of our more important partnerships, with the Society for the Study of Cultural Evolution. In July we hosted our first ever Researchers Summit at Dancing Rabbit, bringing together researchers from multiple institutions and fields to ask how we can foster and promote solid research on intentional communities as an answer to climate change and other challenges.
I can’t emphasize enough how important this is. The fact that this kind of research is happening, and with enough rigor that we can confidently say that we are doing something real, is huge. As climate change becomes increasingly impactful in all of our lives, it becomes ever more vital that truly credible options exist, and that their visibility increases.
Every organization working on climate change was watching the Paris talks, hoping for something significant. The post-Paris world may be marginally better for us, but we still have a long way to go.
As George Monbiot (Guardian columnist and author of the 2006 book Heat: How to Stop the Planet from Burning) said, “By comparison to what it could have been, it’s a miracle. By comparison to what it should have been, it’s a disaster.”
One of the best rebuttals came from Michael Brune (executive director of the Sierra Club and author of Coming Clean: Breaking America’s Addiction to Oil and Coal), who said, “…embracing an optimistic vision isn’t an armchair exercise.”
I appreciate Monbiot’s realism. Even more, I appreciate Brune’s “get off your duff and do something” attitude. Together, they describe pretty well the basic working model of our nonprofit: get real, get hopeful and get active. If any one of those pieces is missing, our attempts to address climate change are pretty much doomed to fail.
And that brings me to the third concept that makes Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage such an important experiment (and which came up repeatedly during the name change process):
#3: Hope. I had the honor of traveling the country this past year on a national speaking tour to talk about Dancing Rabbit, cooperative culture, and climate change. Everywhere I went, people were hungry for hope that we can actually create a viable low-carbon world.
We also expanded our educational programming this year to include webinars and our first ever Permaculture Design Course. We believe hope springs from knowledge, companionship with like-minded people, and being able to clearly see realistic alternatives to the increasingly-destructive wider culture.
Looking ahead to the rest of 2016, I expect these themes to continue. We will be providing more educational opportunities than ever (at home, away and online and making research an even bigger focus. We are able to do this in part because we received our first grants this year (four of them in fact!), as well as multiple large donations targeted to these areas, not to mention the support of many other friends, donors and followers. You are truly showing up, and helping us do this work.
In the spirit of cooperative culture that is truly the cornerstone of everything we do, I am deeply grateful for your companionship.
Here’s to another great year!
The Center for Sustainable and Cooperative Culture
at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage