Monday, June 3, 2013

Ecovillages on Maui - Notes from Jashana Kippert's Talk at Upcountry Sustainability

Update 6/11/13: 

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“We are the most useless generation that ever was.” 

Jashana Kippert said this for shock effect in the middle of her talk on Eco-Villages on Maui: Fantasy or Possible Future hosted by Upcountry Sustainability. She pointed out that our grandparents knew how to do things – alluding to growing and homesteading, but that we don’t. She added that Cuba survived the embargo by asking the older generation how to do things, like plow with an ox.



Note: These are my notes from the talk tonight. I could spend endless hours making this post more poetic or entertaining, but am choosing not to.. this is a more casual post.

Jashana talked about going for her master’s degree and living in a dorm of 35 people. The first exercise was to figure out how to arrange the cooking of 3 meals, cleaning, and living together with 34 other people. Since it was a degree in anthropology/social ecology, the idea was to test some of the ideas in class by giving them a real life exercise in cooperation. She said her dorm spent hours discussing how much household budget could go towards coffee, a politically charged subject because of fair trade issues and the bloodshed going on in Guatemala at the time.

One book mentioned by Jashana was Post-Scarcity Anarchism, a textbook classic. 

After graduate school, Jashana spent 7 years in Guatemala during the mass genocide, trying to move indigenous people through an “underground railroad” through a network of churches. Entire villages were slaughtered and tortured. Anthropologists recorded the methods of torture to trace to the generals who were schooled in those methods, and she said that the path traced back ultimately to the US who had trained these generals. She talked about doing skits in front of church audiences to convince them to hide villagers.

Then she spent five years at the Findhorn Community in Scotland, a well known intentional community. She said the process involved some “endless long discussions” where everyone talked and got their issues out on the table, then meditated for 20 minutes, and they would come back to the table and often agree to a totally different path that was the opposite of where they were leaning prior to the meditation. She said it was powerful to see this process.

Jashana went back to teach community building and other classes throughout South America, in countries like Argentina where she said the eco-village movement was helped in part by the government falling apart. She said there are eco-villages up and down the coast of Argentina, with the same vibe as Vermont hippie communities. 

She also spent 9 years in Kipahulu, exploring a path to legitimize an intentional community there through policies around farm worker dwelling spaces. This may be the best path for Maui to create eco-villages. [Note: there are some amazing people working on creating farm land trusts, long term farm land leases that would support an agricultural community with special provisions concerning additional farm dwelling spaces and buildings.]

She talked about the motivators for doing intentional communities or eco-villages. She mentioned the “fear path” in which you scare people into thinking doomsday is here, so they organize into an eco-village, but indicated she preferred the “vision path.” Per Jashana, the ends do not justify the means, and motivating people into forming eco-villages through scare tactics wasn’t how she wanted to go about things.

Yet she also talked about what happens if the ships stop coming to Maui, and there are only two weeks of food supply for the entire island. Hunger is a powerful motivator. She said we aren’t nice when we’re hungry. We lose our “la-la-land” attitude and our politeness.

She asked how much do any of us grow to live on, questioned US consumption levels, all the usual questions that one would expect at this kind of meeting, and then asked why people were here at this meeting. 
  • Was it curiosity – did we want to see pretty slides of eco-villages around the world, because she said she could certainly do that and would enjoy it. About 10 or so hands went up. 
  • Was it some interest in maybe forming an ecovillage on Maui, but without committing? Another 20 hands went up. 
  • Or were some people frustrated and were ready to be in an eco-village years ago? 30+ hands went up. Jashana said she wanted to gauge the interest level of the audience and encouraged everyone to look around the room, greet their neighbors, because “these are people you may be working or living with.”

Some models Jashana touched on included:

The farm or rural community. She made an interesting observation here in talking about the use of wwoofers on Maui, free labor and interns. She compared Esalen, a beautiful meditation center which is a profit-making business with Findhorn, a real community of people living and working together and making decisions together. Findhorn has some “older and grayer people,” but this is a real community. Esalen as a business enjoys the benefit of free labor - attractive, young interns, and doesn’t have to take care of “older and grayer people.” Esalen is not a real community. Real communities have real people, not disposable or free labor, and they have to take care of those real people. I don’t think she was condemning the use of interns or free labor, but pointing out that places who use them are not “true communities.”

Co-housing or shared spaces that also allow some boundaries. These types of communities are good to introduce people to the concept of sharing and making decisions together, while also giving people some space to be on their own.

Eco-village. Jashana defines eco-village as a whole system of living that is somehow in relationship with the land/nature. I don’t have her exact definition. She moved on rather quickly.

We left before her talk ended.  At least going partly is an improvement from missing her talk completely last year, and being unsuccessful in reaching her via email or phone. Community is an ongoing and stimulating conversation. 

With all the hippies and sensitive new age types, aka “conscious creatives” on Maui, there is a LOT of interest in intentional community and eco-villages, as evidenced by the full room turn-out tonight.  Jashana does seem real, she has lived in community, which is a contrast to people who fantasize about living in community. Jashana made several quips about the “endless long discussions” that can happen in community and how it is a form of meditation to ask one’s ego to step aside, and then politely ask, “Should we try another perspective?” DH has also visited countless intentional communities and eco-villages and nodded at several of her points.


A friend of ours just moved back to the mainland, saying that he found more support and energy for intentional community in two weeks outside San Diego than in two years on Maui. The intentional community conversation has been going on for a long time. 

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3 comments:

  1. Great post!! Mahalo for the valuable information!!!!!!!!!

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  2. Thanks for the in-depth and neutral coverage Courtney.

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  3. Glad you found it of service. You're welcome. Mahalo for commenting. There been two recent meetings this year (Jan and Feb 2014), one with a county land planner in attendance.I hope to get a chance to update the blog.

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Comments are important to me, so mahalo for adding a comment! I will try to follow up when I receive one.