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Idealistic Utopia or Surrealistic Nightmare Town?

The Chronicle of Higher Education has an interesting blog post about EcoVillage, the sustainable, communal housing development tucked away in the scenic hills above Cayuga Lake. The angle is that it's a unique living arrangement that offers a learning experience to students and other campus leaders. This is surely true.

But lest this be the only available impression of Ithaca's home-grown commune, let me add the possibility that at nighttime, this idealistic social experiment transforms into a nightmarish, isolated shantytown. Wouldn't it be so much more interesting if that were true?

I nearly succumbed to this vision as a young, impressionable freshman when The Sun sent me out on assignment to cover a panel discussion taking place there. (It ended up being a circle of 7-8 elderly folk watching a videotaped episode of Montel Williams.) This was before I had a cell phone, or a car, so when I determined that there was no story, the photographer and I were essentially stranded in a location with no phone service, very little outdoor lighting, and what seemed like an insular community of like-minded residents. ("Help yourself to the Brussels sprouts!" intoned a google-eyed resident, gesturing robotically to a heap of greens on a table in the common area.)

This scenario, which would make a fantastic opening to a horror movie, fortunately had a happy ending when our ride magically appeared in the form of twin xenon beacons in the night. The big-city outsiders made it out alive. So were my impressions merely distorted shadows on the wall of an overactive imagination? Or are the EcoVillagers biding their time until they come down from the hills and torch everyone's garages, one by one?

Andy Guess | Posted on August 09, 2007 (#)

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