CRISIS AND COMMUNITY
The world is changing before our very eyes! The pandemic is sweeping the globe and wreaking havoc on our health, our health care systems, and the economy. No need to repeat the obvious here. You know what’s going on and how much of a crisis we’re in!
The response to crises is multifaceted. Personal, regional, or global, a crisis is a crisis and the response to it takes many forms. Of course this is very generic language, but it leads us into a look at the role that community plays in response to crises.
The Role of Community
Communities come in many forms, from well-established neighborhood to, condominiums, villages, churches, Brooklyn housing cooperatives, co-housing and ecovillages. In times of crisis people naturally look to each other for support and help, and to offer support and help. “Mutual aid” is a common response to crises and there are multiple examples around the globe of the simple act of people working together and helping each other. Whatever community you’re in, working together increases. In many cases, people love the sense of connection they have when collaborating with others, and when the crisis ends the connection often fades.
The small town of Laytonville functions much more closely as a community when crises strike, and it’s comforting to see how many people care about the crisis and want to work with each other to get through hard times.
What about intentional communities? The basic premise of an intentional community is that you are living in a setting with people who share your values and who want a cooperative relationship with their neighbors. This often amounts to a friendly neighborhood setting, and in others one with covenants, income sharing, shared businesses ventures, etc.
In times of crises an intentional community can offer a high level of cooperation as cooperation is already a function of the community; everyone is on board to help, everyone knows each other, and collaboration has already happened. As such, the benefits of intentional community are too many to list, but a few examples of how they manifest in our current pandemic crisis are noted.
The benefits of living in community really boil down to two basic things: sharing and caring. In permaculture ethics it is described as care for the earth, care for people, and sharing the surplus.
Care For The Sick and Elderly
If someone is sick and needs to be quarantined, neighbors living a 2-5 minute walk away can deliver food and medicine as opposed to a friend driving across town. The same goes for the elderly who are particularly challenged right now due to their age and decreased mobility. Numerous systems that are both safe and efficient can be put in place to care for people and a community setting is a perfect place for them.
Sharing resources such as food and medical supplies (and, yes—toilet paper!) means less worry, less fear, and the comfort of knowing that your neighbors are there for you and you are there for them.
When someone living in an intentional community goes shopping, instead of doing a small shopping for themselves they can do a large shopping for several people. This saves time, money (for gas and when food can be bought more cheaply in bulk), and reduces carbon emissions and drivers on the road.
Before crisis strikes, a community can create shared food systems that create food security. Gardening, canning, fermentation, purchasing bulk supplies in advance of shortages can all add to a good basic supply of foods available when supplies run dry in the stores. Both collective and private foods can be mixed to provide a system of food security.
Taking Care of Children
School closures means kids are at home. Small community homeschooling groups that are set up observing social distancing and safe practices can be implemented. Community members can share the responsibilities of being the teacher or monitor, and with online classrooms now available to just about all age groups and classes a healthy and safe class environment can be created. And if you live in the country there is always the opportunity for outdoor education, gardening and walks. (Just don’t let them play together on a jungle gym!)
Baby sitting is one of the oldest sharing economies there is, and it’s easy when you live in community.
Money and Finances
With so many layoffs and people out of work, money is tight and the economy is taking a nosedive. Intentional communities can set up cooperative currencies and barter so that many goods and services can be exchanged without the need for cash or credit. People can exchange a wide range of skills and services: baby sitting, landscaping and gardening, haircuts, shopping, meal preparation. If you’re sick and have to stay inside, imagine having a home cooked meal delivered to your door!
If a community is owned by a cooperative, LLC, or land trust, then seeking mortgage payment relief can be facilitated by one or two people to handle the paperwork and document submittals as opposed to every household having to individually apply for the same benefits. This saves a tremendous amount of time and with multiple parties housed under one legal entity there is more financial leverage as opposed to one home owner, now unemployed and with marginal savings, to secure a mortgage payment reduction.
Most intentional communities are committed to renewable energy, energy efficiency, and a low carbon footprint. When the power goes out, having shared energy resources means it’s easier and more affordable to keep the lights on, refrigerate food, and heat homes. Imagine a community house with a large community kitchen with walk in refrigerators that can keep perishables from rotting. A large back-up generator that supplies energy for the kitchen is more efficient than every home having back-up generators or expensive battery-based systems. If a home has lights, a wood burning stove, and a small but efficient portable power supply then much of the energy needed for refrigeration, laundry, bathing, well pumps, etc., can all be housed in a community building. All it takes is a willingness to share!