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Tourism and intentional communities

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The title "Utopia Inc" may be unfair, but it belongs to a well documented, critical article by Alexa Clay on Aeon. The author convincingly argues that intentional communities, including eco villages, are microcosms of our society, with the same problems of the society that they aim to replace or get away from. But they are also natural, in that for 3 millions of years, humans were adapted to a tribal living in small groups while megacities and complex societies are a very recent, not yet registered-in-our-DNA, arrival. Since the late 90s, the growth of the internet and tourism - think of digital nomads and e-commerce - have strengthened some of these communities in various ways, financially but also emotionally. In the same way that monasteries, an ancient prototype of intentional communities, receive day visitors, provide hospitality, sell souvenirs, brew beer and so on. In fact, our homes and families are also mini-intentional communities. Can they be healthy and resilient if they are not fully open to the world? Two famous movies, "Dog Tooth" and "Captain Fantastic" have convinced me, among other examples and observations, that they cannot. Alexa Clay points out that the good intentions of intentional community founders sometimes attract the wrong type of followers. In most cases, a community dissolves soon after the passing of the founding members or it evolves into something completely different, such as a tourist attraction, for example Freetown Christiania, Copenhagen's fourth largest (narco) tourist attraction. Of course, there is nothing wrong with an intentional community becoming a tourist attraction if this is managed responsibly with the consent of community members, however this is rarely a founder's intent. Approaching this concept from the other side of the river, an Ecolodge could gradually introduce aspects of eco village life, with permanent residents offering lessons, seminars, hosting events and so on. In fact, this is what some of the best known, and most resilient Eco Villages like Findhorn have been doing for decades. Combining vision with realism works better than just vision or realism. We cannot reinvent the wheel, but we can keep building better wheels for everyone! 

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