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Utopian Intentional Community Has Thrived for 30 Years
I’ve attended a lot of conferences on peace and social transformation in the last 20 years. But I admit I’d grown cynical about the possibility of living in a world that works for everyone. In Italy this summer, my faith got a little CPR.
Honored by the United Nations in 2005 as a model for a new sustainable society, this extraordinary community in northern Italy was founded in 1975 as a center of art and spirituality; and an experimental model of environmental and socioeconomic sustainability.
Today over 1,000 people live and work in Damanhur’s 40 villages, many in “group” homes where 12 or more people – related or not – divvy up chores and share meals at enormous tables. This sort of togetherness would make many Americans downright surly! But every one of the Damanhurians I met was disarmingly happy and quick to laugh.
I met people working in a range of more than 80 businesses and co-ops – farmers, winemakers, engineers, architects, artists, musicians, doctors and holistic healers, writers and educators. I saw dance and t’ai chi lessons playing out in parks. I ate fresh organic food grown a few hundred yards away. And I watched artisans at work on expanding the spiritual center of Damanhur: The Temples of Humankind. Carved into a mountain with spectacular domed ceilings and murals, the temples celebrate ancient healing arts and spirituality in all forms.
This community grows 50% of its food organically and locally; generates 60% of its energy via solar panels and hydroelectric systems; powers 75% of its vehicles with biofuels; and exchanges goods and services using its own currency. This is the relocalization many environmental economists now say is paramount to our civilization’s survival. And it’s been working for more than 30 years here in Damanhur.
Arielle Ford is the author of six books on spiritual growth, including the “Hot Chocolate for the Mystical Soul” series.
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