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Living Sustainably: What Intentional Communities Can Teach Us about Democracy, Simplicity, and Nonviolence

by A. Whitney Sanford

Not Yet Publishedpaperback$36.95 978-0-8131-7752-6
Availablecloth$70.00x 978-0-8131-6863-0
Culture of the Land
302 pages  Pubdate: 04/02/2019  6 x 9  21 b&w photos, 1 figure

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In light of concerns about food and human health, fraying social ties, economic uncertainty, and rampant consumerism, some people are foregoing a hurried, distracted existence and embracing a mindful way of living. Intentional residential communities across the United States are seeking the freedom to craft their own societies and live out Mohandas K. Gandhi’s vision of democracy based on the values of nonviolence, self-sufficiency, equality, and voluntary simplicity.

Over the course of four years, A. Whitney Sanford visited ecovillages, cohousing communities, and Catholic worker houses and farms where individuals are striving to “be the change they wish to see in the world.” In this book, she reveals the solutions that these communities have devised for sustainable living while highlighting the specific choices and adaptations that they have made to accommodate local context and geography. She examines their methods of reviving and adapting traditional agrarian skills, testing alternate building materials for their homes, and developing local governments that balance group needs and individual autonomy.

Living Sustainably is a teachable testament to the idea that new cultures based on justice and sustainability are attainable in many ways and in countless homes and communities. Sanford’s engaging and insightful work demonstrates that citizens can make a conscious effort to subsist in a more balanced, harmonious world.

A. Whitney Sanford is professor of religion at the University of Florida. She is the author of Singing Krishna: Sound Becomes Sight in Paramanand’s Poetry and Growing Stories from India: Religion and the Fate of Agriculture.

Reading this book feels like listening to a good friend who has gone on a long and sometimes strange trip and is now sharing the excitement and revelations of her journey with us. Inviting, informative, and down to earth, Living Sustainably will interest anyone who wants to know how we can live out our values in an increasingly unsustainable American culture. -- Dave Aftandilian, coeditor of City Creatures: Animal Encounters in the Chicago Wilderness

This kind of honest, personal investigative work is crucial and refreshing as people meet both familiar and unprecedented challenges in living together. -- Julianne Lutz Warren, author of Aldo Leopold’s Odyssey: Rediscovering the Author of A Sand County Almanac

Sanford’s study of the ways in which democracy, simplicity, and nonviolence are practiced in these communities offers many thought-provoking models for a different kind of life in contemporary America. Her book is an engaging overview of the quirks and challenges that these communities face, as well as their many achievements.

[This book] will leave its readers with a richer understanding of both the tribulations and joys of living in intentional communities. -- Communities

The book, which chronicles the 15 intentional communities Sanford visited over a four-year period, offers some suggestions—if not answers—about what many of us can learn from those who live in intentional communities. -- Christian Century

I recommend this honest personal odyssey to anyone on the brink of transition to a more sustainable lifestyle. Sanford shares insights from people who are in the process of inventing and testing creative small-scale solutions within their intentional communities. Those communities are presented as demonstration sites willing to share their experimental responses to the violence of environmental and social crises.
At first glance, the reader finds little or no explicit religion in this book. But the literally down-to-earth engagement of the interviewees tells of intimate connections between humans and their habitat and thus actually offers a re-reading of religion. -- Reading Religion