Why Vegan Intentional Communities?

By James Videle and Risa Mandell

As a human people we were once a community, especially amongst the peasants, farmers and poor working class.  Life was difficult, with few resources and little money tucked away for emergencies.  So, people banded together for the common good—for themselves and for those in their immediate vicinity.  People realized that, “many hands make light work.”  If a barn needed to be re-built, a home re-roofed or irrigation canals dug, people would come together to aid in the tasks.  Those who could, worked physically.  Those who could not, cooked and watched the children.  One day, everyone would be at one homestead, four or five families strong, one day they would be at another place with the same work force.  The farmers who were growing grains helped the farmers who were growing pulses and further helped the repair team to re-roof a house, and so on.  Work was exchanged for reciprocal work at a later time.

Photo by Gabriel Jimenez (Unsplash)

World War II came and took many men off to fight against the xpanding German regime.  The women worked in the factories and the farms to keep their lives afloat.  When the war ended, the men came home, battered and deranged from war and destruction.  The world had changed.  We became independent of each other, more isolated.  Indoor plumbing, electricity, large chain grocery stores, modern appliances were all culpable in the disintegration of community.  Intergenerational family units disbanded to cities, resulting in excessively independent lives and the reign of the nuclear family.

People moved from rural society, from farming.  In 1900, 39% of the total American work population were related to farming.  By 1950, that number had shrunk to 12.2% (from Growing a Nation: The Story of American Agriculture).  In 2012, the latest Census of Agriculture puts the percentage of people farming at a mere 1% of the entire population.  Today, we spend more time searching for someone to cut our hair, sending tweets and playing video games than learning where our food comes from and knowing how to grow it.  And sadly, we have a ‘deeper’ relationship with our Facebook friends than with our real-life neighbors.

Intentional communities were one answer to the dis-connection, or de-evolution of our human society.  The term “intentional community” was first coined by The Fellowship for Intentional Community, interestingly in 1945, right at the end of the second world war.  In these communities, people once again convened in our ‘true’ home—nature—and built societies around common ideas, communal governance, subsistence, exchange and family (whether by blood or not).  Communities strove towards real sustainability, not a corporation’s definition thereof.  Instead of being for-profit, these communities shared all resources, ideas and spaces for the benefit of all, leaving none behind.

But do they go far enough?  Do they take the intention far enough?

As vegans, we are always asking these questions.

Voilà!  Vegan Intentional Communities.

Not only will vegan communities not exploit beings for food, clothing, building materials, cosmetic products or entertainment in proximity, they will also not exploit beings further afield domestically or internationally as well as those species who do not recognize human geographical boundaries.  Imported products will be sourced without harming humans, other species or earth’s entities.

Currently, all our technology (cell phones, laptops, iPads, lithium and ion batteries, microchips, solar panels, hybrid car batteries, etc…) comes from regions of the world where human persecution is rampant.  Recycling or re-using these products is rare and the major corporations involved do little to prevent persecution from happening.

Building materials are mined from the precious earth.

Nursery and greenhouse inputs (like peat moss and dolomitic lime) are scraped and dug from the land.

Fossil fuels are dredged and pumped from deep in our earth’s belly.

Potable drinking water is wasted and flushed.

Plastic is suffocating our oceans.

Our waste, both organic and non-organic, can be found in every street, river, forest, stream, grassland, lake in every state, province, country and island.

So, how is a vegan intentional community different?

Nicaragua thru Peru 4-2011 to 3-2012 302
Cusmuy Casa Ceremonial, Aldeafeliz eco-community, San Francisco, Cudinamarca, Colombia by James Videle

Most importantly the community lives completely vegan, which means that we cause the least suffering possible—with ‘possible’ going as far as the intention can be taken.  For example:

  • Homes are preferably recycled, not newly built. But, if newly built, they are constructed from 100% plant-based and soil-based low-input materials.
  • Clothes are recycled, re-made and/or newly made from the most efficient plant materials, like hemp.
  • Water is safeguarded from flushing our own waste, so composting toilets are used. Grey water is re-used.  Rain water is collected from existing buildings into collection vessels or irrigation ponds.
  • Food is grown locally, in all regions, whether in rural, township or urban settings.
  • Trade is ‘fair,’ meaning that we pay people from other nations who are producing goods for us a western living wage for what we purchase. Will the prices go up?  Of course, but the farmers and crafters from those countries deserve the same standard of living as those who are buying the products.
  • Rangelands are re-wilded, forests are re-planted, cities and towns are ‘greened.’ So, to allow birds, reptiles, insects and all other ‘wild’ creatures to flourish as rightful inhabitants of their indigenous habitat, all residents, denizens and citizens receive legal protection.
  • We pull out of the oceans completely, which means no more oil-based boats, off-shore drilling and of course fisher people. We remove all the plastic and make products with it.
  • Vegan Intentional Communities come together in neighborly ways to work, to exchange ideas, to laugh, to love and to commune with all of the Earth’s inhabitants of all species, relating to each one as an individual with respect for each one’s uniqueness, dignity and inherent worth.

This is only a start.  We at the Humane Party are working on the Vegan Intentional Community Handbook.  We wish to hear your voice and see you volunteer your time to the cause.  Join us, become involved.

Photo by Nicholas Swanson (Unsplash)