Community & environmentalism
From: Graham Meltzer (
Date: Wed, 17 May 95 16:43 CDT
Dear friends, I need your help.

I have a beleif that living in community leads to a greater environmental
conciousness. And I suppose that one reason for my being attracted to
cohousing is that I see it as a means to raising that conciousness and
ultimately, as a force for improved neighbourhoods and cities in terms of
environmental quality. I am doing post-grad research which is attempting to
establish this link.

The trouble is, that my supervisor doesn't agree. He is Bill Metcalf, a long
time researcher of communities whom some of you might know. He points to
examples such as the Bruderhof and Kibbutz where, over very ling periods
people have not demonstrated any particular environmental bent. He looks for
PROVABLE links between communal livng and environmental activity and says
that what evidence there is, is anecdotal.

I beleive there is a link ... almost BY DEFINITION.  I don't want to get
into semantics, but if you beleive that people live in intentional community
for the interconnectedness and interdependence with others that it provides,
then IMHO it's likely they will develop an awareness of the effect of their
thoughts and actions upon those people. That awareness, if their attitudes
are caring, translates into a conciousness of the quality of the shared
environment ... a desire to keep things 'in order' for oneself AND ONES
FELLOWS. The nature of that 'order' will vary of course, and whether those
attitudes develope into a wider global conciousness is another matter.

My understanding of a 'sense of community' is not as narrow as Scott Peck or
Rob S who see it in terms of close, personal, mutually supportive
relationships. The more closely communalism is defined in Peckian terms, the
more likely you are to be able to make the above assertions I think. I
suppose ultimately, if you take that line of thinking to its logical
conclusion, you see living in community as much like being in love ... where
you do everything possible to improve things for those you are in
relationship with. Doesn't Scott Peck open Different Drum with a line about
living in communtity being the salvation of the world? 

But definitions aside ... we've discussed that recently on this list ... I
wonder whether anyone out there can help me with leads. I am certainly
interested in opinions. That's primarily why I thought I'd post this sruff
.... to get some general feedback on it. But I also need 'evidence' of a
fairly hard kind. Does anyone know of sociological or phsych. research into
the link between 'group identity' and environmental awareness? Are there any
books people can recomend? There is a review in the latest Cohousing
magazine of the book "Rebuilding Community in America: Housing for
Ecological Living, Personal Environment and the New Extended Family". This
certainly sounds promising and I will send for a copy. Are there others of a
similar nature people are aware of? 

Looking forward to any response

Graham Meltzer.

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