Blog

Finca Las Nubes

An Opportunity To Live Resiliently

A sustainable community seeks a few good members
Thursday, December 25, 2014, 3:54 PM

The #1 question Chris and I hear most often from folks after watching the Crash Course is: What should I do?

This is completely understandable, and it has led to the development of a lot of resources here on PeakProsperity.com (the What Should I Do? guide, the What Should I Do? blog series, our Wikis and Groups -- to name just several). And it continues to drive our product strategy; you'll see new related offerings launch in early 2015.

But there's a question we hear with almost as much frequency, particularly from folks located in areas where living resiliently is challenging and/or under-appreciated. And that's: Where should I live?

We've tackled that subject somewhat to-date in podcasts and site discussions, and we plan to offer more directive assistance on the topic in the coming year.

But as a start, I'm going to summarize in this article an opportunity I investigated while in Nicaragua a few weeks back.

Please note this is not an endorsement or recommendation. But I think it's worthy enough of consideration for the right kind of person, which is why I'm taking the time to do this write-up. Those intrigued can follow up directly with the property manager for more information and to determine personal suitability.

The Allure Of The Sustainable Community

After watching the Crash Course, who among us hasn't felt insecure with where we live?

Most of us depend on our cars for our work commutes. Or for trips to the grocery store/pharmacy/big box retailer, which themselves depend on just-in-time supply chains often thousands of miles long.

Many worry that their jobs, even their entire industries, may become irrelevant in the coming future. Anxiety over how to cover cost of living in the wake of a job loss is one of the top concerns we hear of.

And socially, many look around at their family members, friends and neighbors and lament at the lack of resilience. Or at a higher level, the lack of interest in developing any.

So it's no wonder that most of us at one time or another have asked ourselves: If I could uproot and move to a more sustainable place, where would I go?

For some asking this, the idea of a sustainable community has a powerful allure. Imagine a resource-rich property mapped out with a plan for sustainable self-sufficiency, populated with a community of like-minded folks that already "get" the importance of cultivating resilience....  Sounds pretty good, right?

But what exactly is a "sustainable community" anyways? How do you find one? What's it like to live there? How do you know if it's all going to work out in the long run?

Curious to learn more about these questions, I took advantage of my recent time in Latin American and traveled to Finca Las Nubes in Nicaragua, one such 'intentional' sustainable community I'd heard promising things about.

While there, I got a first-hand view of how the whole system operates, and spent time talking with the founder about the long-term vision for the place. There was much I found attractive and, while not for everyone by any stretch, I think the insights -- and perhaps the specific opportunity itself -- are relevant to enough PP.com readers to share my observations.

Finca Las Nubes

Finca Las Nubes ("farm of the clouds", in Spanish) is located on the southern Pacific coast of Nicaragua, right above San Juan del Sur -- a destination beach town. It takes about 2.5 hours to drive there from the country's main airport in the capital, Managua.

The 100+ acre property lies on a hillside plateau approximately 1,200 feet above sea level. When it was originally purchased nearly 15 years ago, it was pretty much undeveloped jungle.

Today, Finca Las Nubes (FLN, for short) remains largely in a natural state; but much has been done in the intervening years to create sustainable, productive systems for those now living and/or working on it.

Among those are:

  • Gravity-fed irrigation network
  • Organic vegetable and fruit gardens
  • Pastures for cattle, horses, goats & sheep
  • Beehives & chickens
  • Reforested stands of native timber
  • A woodworking shop
  • A general store
  • A clinic
  • Residential & rental housing
  • A road system, plus a network of horseback and hiking trails
  • Construction on a school will soon begin

The mission of the property is to be as resilient and sustainable as possible by growing and making as much as possible from its resources to meet the needs of those living on it. Those needs that can't be met internally are filled (in trade, whenever possible) through the neighboring local community.

Here's how the FLN community describes its approach:

Finca Las Nubes is an intentional community. The intent is to create a sustainable lifestyle through partnership with local community. The goals are to preserve nature for future generations while creating a continually improving, sustainable, self-sufficient and low impact community. Emphasis is on stewardship of the land while developing full range of farm products through various sustainable technologies. Everything is made here on the farm. It is a certified organic farm. We employ organic permaculture principles to produce a large variety of fruit and vegetables. Partnership with our neighbors is key to the long-term success of the project.

We hope to learn humility, graciousness and indigenous knowledge of plants and nature from our local neighbors. We hope to inspire and empower them with knowledge, experience and resources to create a better model of how to live on the planet together. Respect is the most important part of all, respect for people, respect for nature and a healthy respect for the rights of future generations. We want to leave this place a better place than we found it.

The vision for the property was set at the beginning by FLN's owner and founder, Chris Robertson. Chris was a real estate developer in California (I was shocked to learn he's originally from Sebastopol, where I now live) who saw the "Three E" trends clearly several decades ago, and became disenchanted with America's unsustainably consumptive way of life, as well as the growing intervention of government into citizens' private lives.

So he purchased the property back in the 1990s -- really just hillside jungle at the time -- and began the work to make his vision a reality.

Here's a 4-min video of Chris describing the FLN backstory, which includes a good assortment of visuals that give you a good sense of what the property looks like:

The Opportunity: Sustainable Farm Seeks Tenants

You probably noticed some attractive villas in the footage. Chris built those (remember, his background is in housing construction & development). Today, he rents those out to tourists, one of the income streams funding the development of the farm's infrastructure build-out.

But Chris cares much more about bringing people to FLN on a permanent basis. He wants to attract folks who, ideally, want to spend decades there, enjoying life while working together to make the farm as self-sufficient as possible for its inhabitants.

And he was frank with me that finding people who are the right fit has been a bigger challenge than he'd anticipated. He had a number of candidates over the years who fizzled out for one reason or another. Some looked at the situation too much as a real estate investment, and just weren't interested in the hands-on nature of the work. Others weren't ready to deal with the realities of life in the jungle (i.e,. Mother Nature on steroids).

Chris is a pretty blunt character. He made it clear to me that, for the right candidate, he will do all he can to provide as much incentive as possible to join the FLN community.

So what does that mean?

As he explained it to me, that includes building you a villa at FLN for cost -- meaning he'll eat the design/general contractor expenses, and you just pay for labor and materials. Given the much lower cost of living in Nicaragua and the quality of construction (you can see more houses Chris has built at FLN here), the economics are very attractive. He gave me a rough quote that made my jaw drop (although remember, my perspective is skewed by the ridiculously high home prices in northern California).

In addition to the villa, which you would own, you'd be expected to participate in the ongoing build-out and management of FLN. Chris seems really flexible on what exactly that would entail, but in general, he's interested in people who can project manage. He's got plenty of locals interested in providing the sweat labor, but he's short on people to direct them. My take was that if you're the kind of person who's intellectually curious, passionate about sustainability, hardworking and dependable -- then Chris is interested in talking with you.

He made it very clear that he cares much more about the attitude, energy and skills that a tenant could provide versus their level of net worth. I specifically asked him if he was interested in folks with otherwise "good fit" backgrounds but who may not have much financial capital. His answer: "If they're a good fit otherwise, I'll make it work".

So what kind of tenants is FLN looking for?

Again, I asked Chris this directly. In a perfect world, he'd prefer folks with families (or planning to start ones), as he's building an asset to be handed down over generations. But by no means is that a deal breaker. He'll happily take on a retiree with the right attitude and skills. My take is that he's willing to talk to folks of all ages who:

  • Have passion for the FLN vision and mission
  • Have a good likelihood to remain committed over the years
  • Are willing to live at least 6 months each year on the property
  • Can bring or learn skills to use in building-out and/or managing the community
  • Are sociable, especially in developing relationships with the local community neighboring the farm
  • Are comfortable living in harmony with nature (dealing with dirt, bugs, rain, etc)
  • Are problem solvers
  • Are trustworthy
  • Have a positive attitude towards life

If you have these attributes, pretty much everything else (including money) is gravy, was my impression.

As I talked with Chris, I couldn't help but think that a meaningful percentage of Peak Prosperity members would find this opportunity interesting. Millennials just starting out with plenty of energy and enthusiasm but limited capital; parents looking to raise their children in a natural environment much less structured and commercialized than the traditional American upbringing; and retirees with much left to give back looking for renewed purpose.

So, if this opportunity intrigues you at all, let me know by emailing me here. I'll be happy to connect you with Chris to learn more.

Personal Observations

As I said at the beginning of this article, this write-up isn't an endorsement or a recommendation. But I wouldn't have written it if I hadn't been impressed by a lot of what I experienced at FLN.

First off, Nicaragua is a pretty special place. I had little idea what to expect before arriving, though the fact that it has the 2nd highest poverty rate in the western hemisphere lent itself to some false preconceptions.

I'll admit to some concern about crime, squalor and social depression. To my pleasant surprise, I found the people there happy, proud and industrious. In fact, while many of them have very little in the way of material possessions, I found myself often thinking their simpler but purposeful way of life is probably more fulfilling than most "1st world" professionals I know. And the crime rate is surprisingly low, especially in the sparsely populated coastal region of San Juan del Sur. And FLN monitors all traffic entering the farm, making the property one of the most secure locations in the area.

The landscape and climate of FLN/San Juan del Sur is nothing short of spectacular. The farm is 2 miles from the coastline, but 1,200+ ft above it -- which means lots of grand views across forest, plantations, and the ocean. The nearby beaches -- of which there are many -- are post-card perfect: long sandy stretches with clear blue water, with plenty of fish to catch and waves to ride. Temperature is pretty moderate year round, mostly in the 70-90 Fahrenheit range.

The town of San Juan del Sur is small, but bustling. Most buildings are made of nothing more than tin sheeting (as are the houses in the area), but most anything you need for the basics of life can be found there. And the prices are indeed quite cheap relative to the States, even in a "tourist town" like San Juan were costs are inflated. For instance, my family of four went out for a splurge night dinner (as many cocktails, appetizers and entrees as we could stomach) and we couldn't quite get the bill, with tip, above $40. 

But the energy of the farm is what caught my attention most. FLN is literally humming with activity. In addition to the staff that lives there, Chris employs a large amount of local workers, keeping them continually occupied with infrastructure development. When you walk the 100+ acre property, you can appreciate the huge amount of work it takes to build and maintain municipal systems (water, road, farming, power, communication, etc) -- from scratch -- within what started as raw jungle. More than anything else, seeing first-hand the emergence of purposeful order from chaos (yet done with a great respect for preserving and working with nature) impressed upon me the grand scale and intended permanence of the venture Chris is undertaking.

And for those who might take Chris up on his offer to join the FLN community, the houses he builds are very high quality. To my eye, they're esthetic and well-constructed by any measure; but relative to the construction standards of Nicaragua, they're amazing. Here's a video with more shots of the rental houses on the property (it's a promotional piece, but shows the level of quality Chris can build at):

And, of course, all of the activities on the farm -- from organic gardening to animal raising to reforestation to woodworking to irrigation -- give one a sense of being active, having purpose, and building for a better tomorrow. For those who aspire to a resilient life, there's unbounded potential to learn and self-develop here.

Moreover, my kids would insist I add there's lots of cool activities like horseback riding, swimming, playing with monkeys, zip lining, body surfing, milking cows, etc. To that, my wife and I would add the excellent natural foods sourced on the property and from local farms, as well as the spectacular sunsets over the Pacific each night.

So, what's not to love?

Well, this opportunity definitely isn't for everyone. First off, it's a huge commitment. To Chris and the other community members, to living in Nicaragua, and to the active lifestyle that farm work entails. Only those truly open to such a commitment should consider this.

Also, you're living in a developing nation, in the jungle. You're not a citizen and you may not be fluent in the language. If you're not willing to put aside your 1st world sensibilities, this isn't for you. Many of the comforts and conveniences of the American lifestyle simply aren't present. Spooked by snakes and scorpions in your house? (my wife and I stumbled upon a scorpion our first night there) Then, please, don't do this.

Also, Chris is a strong-minded guy. His blunt and opinionated approach (I think he'd agree with this characterization) may not work for you. As he, rightly, puts it: deciding on bringing a new member into his community is like deciding on whom to marry.

OK, for those not scared off and still intrigued, I suggest the following:

  1. Check out the Finca Las Nubes website to learn more. If you like what you see,
  2. Click here to request to be put in contact with Chris. Talk/email with him to get your questions answered and see if you think he's the kind of guy you could deal well with over the years. If still interested, then
  3. Visit FLN. Spend a week there as a guest, and get a firsthand view of the operation. Is it a vision you could indeed see yourself stepping into for the next few decades?

As I reflect on my time there, I draw a certain amount of comfort knowing that such a place exists for those seeking a more meaningful way of life.

Which is why I really admire what Chris is building at FLN and I hope he's able to find enough passionate, 'good fit' people to join him. In my opinion, the world needs more thought-through communities like this.

Endorsed Financial Adviser Endorsed Financial Adviser

Looking for a financial adviser who sees the world through a similar lens as we do? Free consultation available.

Learn More »
Read Our New Book "Prosper!"Read Our New Book

Prosper! is a "how to" guide for living well no matter what the future brings.

Learn More »

 

Related content

24 Comments

aggrivated's picture
aggrivated
Status: Gold Member (Offline)
Joined: Sep 22 2010
Posts: 457
Are there any establised communities like this in USA?

Having been through a PLC (Permaculture course) and having had an interest in community for a long time I found this write up very encouraging.  The lure of no bugs, animal smells and little work make 'civilized life' seem more attractive to most people, but I would hope that our discussion of civilization would start to explore the possibilities of such local communities. 

Such communities could easily exist in some form within urban neighborhoods.  Even a five or six household co-op would provide a foundation to expand.  Not a commercial (money with all the accompanying complexities involved), but an exchange foundation would allow specialization of labor and goods. I suspect that keeping it volunteer and out of the grasp of civil bureaucracies would make it much more sustainable in the USA.

Is anyone aware of any projects like this near them?

kwklein's picture
kwklein
Status: Member (Offline)
Joined: Oct 25 2008
Posts: 8
Albert Bates Talks about The Farm

If you want to learn more about intentional communities, you may wish to listen to this recent interview with Albert Bates, of The Farm in Tennessee.

He talks a bit about his involvement with intentional communities and some of their problems and governing structures.

http://naturebatslast.podbean.com/e/nature-bats-last-122314/

(you can skip to 9:45 to get right to the interview)

Cheers!

Karl

sunguy's picture
sunguy
Status: Member (Offline)
Joined: May 22 2012
Posts: 9
Intentional Communities in US

I have been interested/involved with ICs for over 35 yrs.

By far the best source of information is the website maintained by the Fellowship for Intentional Communities!

For decades they have published a Directory of ICs, from all over the world. They now have it on-line in a dynamic, searchable form.

Go to:        ic.org

They not only have the Directory, but a magazine, a bookstore - with many resources [including at least two videos about the history & character of many ICs], a blog, accounts on Twitter, Youtube, Facebook, a Wiki....

There are 100s of both rural as well as urban ICs. There are many 'core principles'; ranging thru various religious beliefs, service to 'differently abled' persons, partiality toward LGBT folks, urban food pantries, etc., but perhaps the most common is a search for, and effort to exemplify a sustainable lifestyle.  By making use of the search function, you can sort for the goals, organization, economic arrangements, location, what-have-you.

While some ICs are 'shared-income', and there-by might aptly be described as communal, be careful about calling an IC a 'Caw-mune'.  Most ICs, as the name implys, are very Intentional , with by-laws, membership agreements,elected officers, are incorporated, etc.; all arrived at thru months [sometimes years] of arduous meetings.  Very far from the ad-hoc, happenstance origins of the communes of the 60s-70s!

Just an observation, not meant to wish bad luck on any one, but the record of communities lead by a 'Leader', be it someone who bank-rolled the establishment of the IC, or a charismatic personnality who gathered a following - is to say the least, checkered. Having a 'Leader' can help a lot in getting things started. But as the community matures, no matter how beneign and generous the intentions of the leader, Co [an artificial, genderless pronoun substitute for [s]he ] is always 'more equal' than other members.  Either the community never gells, because the leader is too dominant, or as it matures, the process of transitioning to a truely egalitarian governance fails. If the Leader decides to leave, is expelled or dies, often the group falls apart.     Just sayin'....

If I think 'community' is so great, why am I not a member?  Well, life got in the way. Now, at almost 80, tho I'm relatively healthy, I do have some issues. And I have a disabled wife. We both are intollerant of heat, and she can't stand cold. I don't know of any IC we could afford to join which would want us [or could afford to accept us]

Wynn

.

AKGrannyWGrit's picture
AKGrannyWGrit
Status: Gold Member (Offline)
Joined: Feb 6 2011
Posts: 336
A Dark Cloud Threatens?

The Resilient Community (Finca Las Nubes) is just 10-12 kilometres south of that canal that they're planning to construct, exit Brito. How will that impact the farm with all the displaced locals?  Am I being paranoid?

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/03/140329-nicaragua-canal-h...

Also the San Juan itself would have to be dammed in order to service the canal.

AK GrannyWGrit - Info Compliments of NervousNelly

KennethPollinger's picture
KennethPollinger
Status: Platinum Member (Offline)
Joined: Sep 22 2010
Posts: 642
Adam. Congrats for the INFO

This is exactly what I have been talking about for MONTHS, except in Costa Rica.  Not exactly like the 100 acres there but rather starting one from scratch.

Try www.AwarenessCenters.com.  Click onto Costa Retreat Center and see MUCH info, videos, construction gallery of Main house.  Scroll down to Guest House Gallery and see two new small houses for use, etc.  And I have to admit that Costa Rica is in MUCH BETTER shape than Nicaragua.

However, the community there looks fantastic and surely worthwhile to visit and check out.

Any of you want to start a NEW community endeavor. Come down for a visit in January. Lots for sale in nearby community.  Many farms for sale.  Unlimited opportunties for all.

Thanks Adam.  Glad you LOVED Central America--me too!!  Ken

Oliveoilguy's picture
Oliveoilguy
Status: Platinum Member (Offline)
Joined: Jun 29 2012
Posts: 571
Stratified Society?


clockdon's picture
clockdon
Status: Member (Offline)
Joined: Dec 27 2014
Posts: 0
Agree

Completely agree on this with you

marknaveh's picture
marknaveh
Status: Member (Offline)
Joined: Jun 17 2010
Posts: 1
Ecovillages

Thanks for the article, glad that the topic of sustainable community is getting some attention here. Aside from the aforementioned FIC, users of this site should really get to know the Global Ecovillage Network. There are hundreds if not thousands of ecovillages around the globe linked into national and regional networks, as well as the international movement, that are on the cutting edge of building sustainable and resilient models for continued human existence on the planet.    

Merle2's picture
Merle2
Status: Bronze Member (Offline)
Joined: May 4 2014
Posts: 34
Very interesting

Thanks for sharing this. It is very interesting.

Is this a commune? I'm not sure, but it looks like an organization where each contributes according to his ability and consumes according to his need. Communes tend to fail due to lazy people who wish to take more than they give.

I also share Sunguy's concern about a leader-led community. What if the leader wants things that are out of step with what the people want? Is it reasonable to expect that this can evolve into a democracy?

Can something like this be set up as a constitutional democracy, in which anybody who qualifies can buy into it and become a full ranking voter in how it works, even to the point of voting the original leader out of office if desired? And what might that constitution look like? It would be interesting to see somebody write up a constitution for an intentional, sustainable, desirable community.

robie robinson's picture
robie robinson
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Aug 25 2009
Posts: 1069
an exception to unsuccesful

commune/communities would be the Amish/Mennonite they've been very long lived with only a very few issues. maybe their success is in their relgious fervor they're dedicated to the Judeo Christian model,of course its their anthropomorphic view of the divine and the fallenness of the"leader/s".

think about it.

i cant imagine what might become of them in a Kuntzleresque "Long Emergency"

KennethPollinger's picture
KennethPollinger
Status: Platinum Member (Offline)
Joined: Sep 22 2010
Posts: 642
Thinking about Community

Now there's a word very much open to many, many definitions and practices. I personally like the Eco-village theme.

However many excellent questions have been raised here about all this. I have been trying, without much success, of attempting to CREATE community both in the Catskills and in Costa Rica.  Very, very difficult.

Had to downsize the visions because of: 1) money and ownership, 2) decision-making structure, 3) many "free" loafers, 4) psychological problems of some, 5) no "community" business for income for development and maintenance, etc. Thus, shifted into a hybrid=retreats/rentals

I have visited many ASHRAMS, and other communities of all types, over 25 years (was even before a Jesuit for 15 years in a seminary community), and I have discovered one of the basic flaws is the LEADER, with great authority. Many who survived in spite of this did so because the community had a national organization behind it for financial needs.--this was crucial.  Also, the constant difficulties integrating new potential members with the more committed folk created problems. The communities/communes, in my opinion, really needed a psychological/organizational therapist(s) to flush out internal and external issues.

One thought has emerged for me.  I believe that one of the best ways to really making it would be:

1. gather together folks interested in the project;

2. hold frequent meetings/discussions and get to know one another, on many levels

3. THEN, decide what property they want TOGETHER, and determine how ALL TOGETHER will FUND the purchase of the land, the building of structures, etc., and the maintenance thereof.   Financial/ownership SHARES and Decion-making agreements would help.

4. #3 then would be EASIER because they have ALREADY formed a COMMUNITY, based on knowledge and experience of each other, still though subject to personal, social, and economic changes.

5. Maybe this is pie in the sky and maybe the better way is to attempt what Chris Robertson (HIGHLY CONGRATULATED!!)   Thank God he bought the land way back when it was fairly cheap. It will be interesting to follow his dream and contribution to a better life.  God speed.  I hope to pay a visit when next down there.  Ken

sunguy's picture
sunguy
Status: Member (Offline)
Joined: May 22 2012
Posts: 9
Your Post....?

Oliveoilguy & clockdon,

I don't understand your terse post[s]

Would either of you care to elaborate?

sunguy's picture
sunguy
Status: Member (Offline)
Joined: May 22 2012
Posts: 9
Reply to Merle2

Merle2,

Is this a commune? I'm not sure, but it looks like an organization where each contributes according to his ability and consumes according to his need. Communes tend to fail due to lazy people who wish to take more than they give.

1st: because of the preconceptions so many people still hold [from the 60s-70s], many IC members are rather 'touchy' about 'outsiders'  calling them Caw-munes. While they know that their "shared income" community fits the definition of commune [pronounced com MUNE ], and may even use the term among themselves, the baggage dragged with the term [as pronounced] is toxic.

2nd: Yes, admittably 'lazy people' can be a problem. But it is a recognized one, and many ICs that wish to adopt the shared income lifestyle have found a variety of methods to work around it. For one example: until a few years ago all the woven-rope hammocks sold by Pier-One were made at Twin Oaks. TO developed a 'labor-credit' system to allow members to select what work they'd do to satisfy their quota.   Now, TO makes a lot of their income from Tofu made from their own organic soy beans.

Other, generally smaller, communities simply depend on peer pressure.

Any shared income commuity that fails from 'lazy individuals'  Has other, much larger, unaddressed issues!

Robinson's picture
Robinson
Status: Bronze Member (Offline)
Joined: Apr 29 2009
Posts: 34
The evolution in the community
We agree that the main problem of the whole community is not the location or resource, is the human being, specifically the level of human consciousness.
 
We have all been brought up in a society with an education system which is totally selfish, where we were taught to compete with others, to highlight that takes the best note. And life is not, each of us working on different things in society, why we have to see who is better than another ?, if everyone can give their best in their area. And as we know, like those who study nature, also expresses in the video of the farm, all live beings work collaboratively with each other, and competition or struggle that we see in nature is only a mechanism of regulation of the population due to limited resources.
 
Therefore, the solution we propose is changing the education system to one that favors authentic collaborative work, where competition still exists but only to provide the best solutions to our problems, not to see who is better than another .
 
Meanwhile, we must work with humans we have (that are selfish), that through new psychological techniques, bring this man to altruism, but not by obligation, but by conscience, that the welfare of the collective involves the self wellness. http://www.mutualresponsibility.org/   http://mutualwelfare.org/
 
Now the final question, because human beings must change? What is the purpose of human beings ?, the answer is that human beings must reach the conscious integration with nature, and humans are part of nature, so we must learn to integrate with other human beings, is to do what that neither the school or college, or home, nor society in history has ever done. Teaching human to live with another human being, who thinks and feels different, understanding that differences enrich, surpassing rejection and hatred that originally generated the differences between us.
 
If you educate a child in values, including the value of work, you'll have an adult who worked all his life, and will feel useful to society. However if you let laze, you probably will have a lazy adult.
sunguy's picture
sunguy
Status: Member (Offline)
Joined: May 22 2012
Posts: 9
constitutional democracy, & "Leaders" in ICs

I missed it during my 1st read-thru. But it appears that Chris [in the OP] started his "IC" 15 years ago!

I get the impression that he has failed to recruit any new [permanent] members in that time. I'd be willing to bet that he has not written any By Laws, that , if it is incorporated, it is written in such a way that he has sole control of it all.   It looks as tho he has successfully set up a potentially viable ecotourism business. More than one IC has used this to finance their project.       However if he genuinely wants partners to help make his dream come true, I suspect he needs to lighten up a good bit.  The author of the OP says

Chris is a pretty blunt character....

If he hasn't already, he needs to compose a set of By-Laws which clearly & unequivocally lay out the terms where by the IC will be governed, it's goals and methods to get there. Including how new members gain standing to share in the governance, And the limits on his own powers and how the ByLaws may be ammended!  An IC is not a business, at least not in the traditional sense, and I get a strong feeling that he expects this IC to be run as a business, with him as CEO!     There are many successful co-op businesses run on egalitarian principles.  He spouts all the right words in his speal, but I wonder how well they are embodied in how he expects   'his' IC to be run.

In his post Merle2 says

Can something like this be set up as a constitutional democracy, in which anybody who qualifies can buy into it and become a full ranking voter in how it works, even to the point of voting the original leader out of office if desired? And what might that constitution look like? It would be interesting to see somebody write up a constitution for an intentional, sustainable, desirable community.

In my experience in helping to set up two ICs, when you incorporate you need to file your By-Laws with your registration papers. Those By-Laws ARE your IC Constitution!   Writing By Laws is an anarduous process! Since an IC is not your usual Corporation, boilerplate ByLaws are of no use! It would be a great service if someone would compose 'boilerplate' for ICs, but I'm not aware that is has ever been done. So each IC tackles the task fresh. Once you settle on wording [itself no easy task!], you often get into punctuation squables - 'should those two phrases be seperated by a ":", a "," or a "-"?' ...!  Membership Agreements are where you specify how a person becomes a member. And if the agreement is complete, it also details how and why a member may be expelled!   THAT is what such a Constitution would look like - it has already been done - 100s of times!  Some ICs may be willing to share their documents, if you write and ask politely.

Many [I'm tempted to say "most", but I'm biased on this] ICs eschew 'democratic voting' in choosing their governance, on the basis that it embodies 'tyranny of the majority'. 'Consensus' is often adopted instead. But what does that mean? As a [convinced] Quaker, I'm familliar with their 'Sense of the Meeting', which contrary to much common belief, is not synonomous with unanimity. For small groups [maybe up to about 10 people] unanimity can work. But for larger groups it soon results in endless, lenghty meetings - often without resolution. Eventually, some situation arises which does not brook delay, and a change of proceedure follows.  If the community is  lucky, this change won't tear it apart. It is remarkable how attached some people can be to 'we can't act unless we ALL agree - if we we just TRY we can all get along!'

The FIC website has A LOT of material on 'Meeting Fascilitation', including definitions for consensus and suggestions for modifications!

.

sunguy's picture
sunguy
Status: Member (Offline)
Joined: May 22 2012
Posts: 9
Kuntzleresque "Long Emergency"

Robie,

I expect that they would come thru a lot better than most of the rest of us!

  • they already have a 'resiliant community'
  • they are familliar with organic farming
  • they already have horses and their tack
  • many of their motorized appliances are converted hand-powered, so pulling off the el. motor and putting the hand crank back on wouldn't be a big deal

They likely would be a huge resource for the rest of us!

apollo161's picture
apollo161
Status: Member (Offline)
Joined: Dec 26 2014
Posts: 1
But about the government of Nicaragua?

I found it curious that the political situation was not mentioned, especially because anyone living in Nicaragua, as I did for two years, knows that the country is ruled by the Frente Sandinista and that everyone and everything in Nicaragua is subject to their control and dominion. Considering living in a country without considering political contexts and factors constitutes a lacuna.

Hotrod's picture
Hotrod
Status: Silver Member (Offline)
Joined: Apr 20 2009
Posts: 154
Amish/Mennonites

Sunguy,

In theory you are correct, but in reality I worry for their safety, as they are pacifists and typically unarmed.  Therefore, they would be quite vulnerable to the more thuggish among us. Their indigenous knowledge of farming with little external inputs could be most valuable in the future.

robie robinson's picture
robie robinson
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Aug 25 2009
Posts: 1069
Sunguy?

i was implying that the ravaging hordes outa philly would run thru all the resilience a commune of conscientious objecters could tolerate.  the Amish are into NON-VIOLENCE, yes, they would give everything away.(if they are true to their doctrine) before striking out.

i understand their resilience, and have lived in, and now around, the Mennonites, in close harmony. it is with out reservation that there is no group of members within pp that has milked more gallons by hand than my family, and i.

i hope this didn't come off too vitriolic

Michael_Rudmin's picture
Michael_Rudmin
Status: Platinum Member (Offline)
Joined: Jun 25 2014
Posts: 698
Actually, I think the Amish have that beaten

Generally speaking, the Amish have to deal with thugs already, and they're pretty good at it. Only thing is, you'll never notice it, because they seldom if ever are clumsy enough to go to war (it's against their principals).

So I think they'll be fine.

Bytesmiths's picture
Bytesmiths
Status: Silver Member (Offline)
Joined: Apr 28 2008
Posts: 182
Governance Models

Merle2 wrote:
Can something like this be set up as a constitutional democracy, in which anybody who qualifies can buy into it and become a full ranking voter in how it works, even to the point of voting the original leader out of office if desired?

I recommend Sociocracy, or Dynamic Governance as a basis for organization. Democracy is two wolves and a sheep, voting on what to have for supper. Democracy rarely respect minorities.

EcoReality Co-op uses a modified form of Sociocracy we call Stewardship. Stewards speak for resources that cannot speak for themselves, and operate as peers, so it is largely an anarchic, or "leaderless" system. Our governance is intended to empower those who have the most knowledge about a resource.

Of course, we've had our problems, and are still working things out, but I strongly recommend against simple democracy for governance.

Another system I don't recommend is pure consensus. We use a modified consensus as a delegation and ratification mechanism for empowering Stewards and for periodically evaluating their stewardship.

I also strongly recommend a cooperative legal entity for the IC, including ownership of land and structures. In BC (Canada), at least, co-ops have strong protection against their investors. (If you want to make passive return on investment, a co-op is not the place to go!) This is a hard sell, as most of us are indoctrinated into owning our "own four walls." Rather, funding at a particular level gives co-op members the privilege of permanent habitation, which cannot be transferred without co-op board approval (not unreasonably withheld).

I also highly recommend the works of Diana Leafe Christian for anyone contemplating such a move. In Creating a Life Together, Diana describes the process and pitfalls of forming an intentional community. In Finding Community, Diana looks in detail at joining an existing intentional community. Diana conducts workshops on these topics throughout the world; I recommend your core group schedule one, which she will tailor to your needs. (Disclosure: besides being a fan and personal friend, I also maintain Diana's website, EcovillageNewsletter, although I receive only $144/year for doing so.)

If you try to do the IC thing, you'll look back and say, "If I thought it was going to be this hard, I never would have started" Or, in Diana's words, "Forming an intentional community is the longest, most expensive self-help course you will ever take." But the rewards are many, which may include mere survival in an increasingly unknowable future.

sunguy's picture
sunguy
Status: Member (Offline)
Joined: May 22 2012
Posts: 9
self defense

I'm inclined to agree with Michael,

The Amish have a ong history of having to resist discrimination and harassment. I suspect they have some rather effective means to discourage attacks.  Just as some of the 'distinctions' they make about what use of technology is permissable depend on differences 'outsiders' have trouble seeing, I suspect unprovoked attacks vs self-defense may make some distinctions we outsiders would have trouble understanding.

I'm reminded of an old example of Quaker humor; An elderly Quaker ends a dispute with a neighbor by saying "Brother John, I would not think of harming a hair on Thine head, but it is proper to warn Thee that I am, very soon, going to discharge my shotgun right where Thee is standing."

Robinson's picture
Robinson
Status: Bronze Member (Offline)
Joined: Apr 29 2009
Posts: 34
The evolution in the community II
Yes, having a constitution is important and good, but you can not believe that is the solution to everything, since all text depends on who interprets. This in mathematics known as the incompleteness theorem of godel.
 
As several people exposed in this forum democracy with its simple majority, turns out to be a pretty bad system. They have developed better ways to reach consensus as that of https://www.loomio.org/, which has even been developed with the support of many people around the world.
 
The underlying problem is not the mechanism of decision making, but can help a lot to have a good mechanism. The problem is the selfish mindset of man, this selfish manner is so imbedded within the human being, that when we do not even realize that governs us. So the solution is to treat this problem psychologically and continuously games and dynamics that lead us to sensitize for the collective good over individual welfare. That's what we do in
 
 
The important decision is to be taken unitary, ie, where the most important thing is to take into account the contributions of all and not who is right or who does not. Thus a bad decision, it's no problem, since we are all in this together, and most importantly is the union, not the correct result. Although generally, using what is known as intelligence of the masses, the intelligence of a collective is greater than any individual, regardless of their IQ.
 
personalliberty's picture
personalliberty
Status: Member (Offline)
Joined: Dec 30 2012
Posts: 16
I just booked a vacation with my family

Based on what Chris wrote about the place and checking out the website, I will be locked in for a 6 person trip at the end of March for my teenagers birthday.  I will be checking it out.

Long term, as the other comments say, the new canal the Chinese are funding might be a blessing or a curse for Finca Las Nubes... until then, were going while the going is good!

Thank you for the article on this Chris.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
Login or Register to post comments