Chapter 9 Sustainability and the intentional community: Green intentional communities

The Transition to Sustainable Living and Practice

ISBN: 978-1-84950-641-0, eISBN: 978-1-84950-642-7

ISSN: 2041-806X

Publication date: 17 December 2009


Green intentional communities are easily dismissed as irrelevant to wider academic and political debates. In the first instance, they comprise small vanguards, fringes or minority groups. Surely then they interest only the readers of rarefied anthropological journals or viewers of voyeuristic television shows?1 Secondly, they are part of the green movement, itself often cast (derogatorily,2 positively,3 or otherwise4 as ‘utopian’). Are they not excessively idealist and romantic: wishful day-dreamers? Drawing on the literal meaning of the word utopia, which combines eu (good), ou (non) and topos (place), this chapter explores the idea that green intentional communities are indeed utopias, whereas challenging two common interpretations of that term. The first views it negatively (as unrealistic, unrealisable, excessively wishful thinking) and can be found on the pages of English Dictionaries and in colloquial parlance. The second views utopias as perfectionist: seeking to provide perfect blueprints that map the road to the good life. I shall explore some of the key ways in which these groups perform key utopian functions, suggesting that they are indeed utopian but that their utopianism is deeply imperfect and pragmatic, rooted in the real concerns and material limitations of the now.


Sargisson, L. (2009), "Chapter 9 Sustainability and the intentional community: Green intentional communities", Leonard, L. and Barry, J. (Ed.) The Transition to Sustainable Living and Practice (Advances in Ecopolitics, Vol. 4), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 171-192.

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