Stephen Kahn

The New Age Ecology Cults (#1)

In Hard to tell on March 10, 2012 at 11:07 pm

Another cultish group I participate in is Transition Whidbey. My participation in this group provoked a bit of a flash back for me, because it reminded me of a group I participated in over 20 years ago called Cerro Gordo, located in Lane County, Oregon. My wife and I were tired of living in the city, and dreamed of having a “homestead” in the country. While I was team-teaching (on ecology, oddly enough) at Tigard High School (located in a suburb of Portland, OR), I attended a fair about ecological living at the local Mall (named Washington Square). I met a group of people who had set up a display promoting their rural community, which they called Cero Gordo, and described as an “eco-village.” My wife and I began to participate in Cerro Gordo, regularly traveling about a hundred miles from our home in Portland, OR to visit their “gatherings” where people collected on weekends to talk about how wonderful it would be to live an unspoiled life style in a rural area. At first, my wife and I were quite attracted to the community and its founder’s ideas and plans, and we pitched in with unskilled and ignorant enthusiasm to help it may come true. Although the exact details are not the same, there is quite a bit of resemblance to what went on at Cerro Gordo to T. C. Boyle’s fine novel, Drop City.

The Cerro Gordo eco village, in our opinion, went very astray, in ways involving a lot of disputed money, land, and broken dreams (including the alleged suicide of the founder’s wife). Although my wife and I had not lost a lot of money, we felt a lot of harm was taking place that needed to be stopped. As we had legal standing because of real estate investments and contributions to a non-profit organization, we brought a lawsuit which turned into a fairly spectacular affair, lasting three weeks (a long time in the trial business) and eventually being upheld by the Oregon Supreme Court. Not only had we not lost much money, we eventually gained a fairly substantial amount of money through winning the trial, a result which left us feeling rather uneasy about the morality of the whole thing. Which is a lot like a T. C. Boyle novel, if you think about it.

Many years later, here on Whidbey Island, I accidentally came into contact with a very informal, anarchistic, mostly below the horizon line group of people known as Transition Whidbey, part of a larger anarchistic group originating in the British Isles, known as the Transition Towns movement.

(To be continued)

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