The Benefits of Living in an Intentional Cooperative Community During a Pandemic

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By: Brian Klocke – Masala Resident and Board Rep.

I know several people that have struggled to deal with some combination of feelings of isolation, loneliness, depression, despair or anxiety during the Covid-19 pandemic. All of them have one thing in common, none of them live in an intentional community and a couple of them live in a house by themselves.

The capitalist induced Covid pandemic, a healthcare system and government designed for corporate profit over societal needs, has created an economic recession with massive unemployment and skyrocketing levels of inequality not seen since the height of the Great Depression of the 1930s. Internationally bestselling author Naomi Klein recently argued that the norm of owning a private, single-family home needs to be rethought.

She says:

Not only is it isolating — it’s an absurdly wasteful use of resources. Millions of us have noticed it: Without school or babysitters or grandparents to pick up the slack, just keeping everyone fed, sheltered, and possibly educated, while trying to do your job, takes pretty much every waking moment. If someone actually gets sick, with the virus or with something else serious, all bets are off. And that’s not just bad for us as individuals, it’s bad for society because it means we have less time to show up for our neighbors or to fully participate in a democracy that is hanging on by a thread

Naomi Klein

I live in an intentional community known as the Masala housing co-op, which is a part of a system of four housing co-ops called the Boulder Housing Coalition (BHC). Each of the houses in the system practice non-violent communication, operate through consensus decision-making, and a shared labor and stewardship system. The regular practice of expressing your needs and working through consensus and reminds us that everything we do within the house can impact those around us in negative or in positive ways.

Ecological sustainability is a key value of the BHC and its co-ops. Large gardens, a Community Supported Agriculture Membership, and a local farmers market provide us with much organic fruit, vegetables, salad greens, and herbs throughout much of the year. We purchase bulk staples in larger quantities at a discounted rate with other co-ops and individuals through the volunteer-run Boulder Cooperative Food. Many residents of the BHC are car-free or drive fewer miles due to a bike-friendly culture, and membership in eGo Carshare and access to free rapid transit eco-passes.

Living in a community of 12 adults, one full-time resident child and one part-time provides much opportunity for rewarding social interaction and social bonding, facilitated by common spaces, a large yard and outside seating areas, a bi-annual retreat and house-deep cleans, five common meals a week, bimonthly house meetings, game nights, and a big screen projector. It would be very difficult to feel isolated in this type of community.

Gopal Dayaneni lives in an intentional community in Oakland, California.  He believes that “the idea that the individual is the smallest unit of society is a lie.” Rather, he says that “the smallest unit of society is the relationship between two or more individuals…it’s the complex of relationships that make up society and community, not the individuals because we can’t make meaning of ourselves without each other.” Masala and the BHC and many intentional cooperative communities throughout the U.S. and the world are showing a more sustainable and healthy way to live.

The pandemic and recession have revealed that many of our institutions and social and political systems are failing us. It is better to act upon our hopes of what is possible than on our fears of what is not possible. I am not simply expressing a placating platitude to pretend that things are not difficult or to suppress our own doubts. Acting upon hope takes a clear vision, courage, and commitment to share our values and passion with others and to enticingly invite them to join us on a radical journey to make cooperative living a common practice.

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