Letters About an Ecological Research Center

George Elmendorf proposed an idea for a MOTHER EARTH NEWS ecological research center in late 1974. The following letters show how positively, or negatively, readers responded to the idea of living in an eco-community.

| January/February 1975

To date (early December 1974), we've received over 200 pieces of mail — pro and con — about George Elmendorf's idea for financing the MOTHER EARTH NEWS Ecological Research Center/Community. Of the first 180 letters, 170 were FOR the proposal and only 10 were AGAINST. And, of those FOR, 45 respondees said that they were ready to vote with $10,000 right now!

This is genuinely amazing, since George's proposal, and the note MOTHER EARTH NEWS editors added to it, were rather general and (as some of the return mail pointed out) didn't "add up". They weren't meant to add up ... but to start others thinking about what it would be like to put together and live in such a community. Since it is now quite evident that a number of people are enthused with the idea, we're preparing a special color report on the Research Center planning already done by Georgia Tech students. Look for that feature in MOTHER EARTH NEWS. In the meantime, here's some quick reactions and answers to some of the questions raised in the following sampling of letters we've received as a result of George's article.

[1] The idea, of course, is not to construct a one-of-a-kind utopian village ... but to found an ecologically sound, less-energy-intensive community which works well enough to act as a model for hundreds of other such communities.

[2] Building the prototype village won't be overly difficult. (Of course well use modern equipment ... with some discretion! Do we publish MOTHER EARTH NEWS with quill pens?) Setting up the government of that community will be the hard part. What about population control, for instance? The eco-village won't stay self-sufficient very long if the numbers of its inhabitants are not limited. How will we do that?

[3] There's no way this community will work with houses scattered across 40-acre tracts. That's what the American suburbs are all about and that's why we have an automobile-dominated society and that's what we're fighting against. 

[4] As unfortunate as it may seem, and no matter how the ownership of the first eco-village is eventually divided up, it's going to cost money to build it. There ain't no free lunch. Those who expect to be a part of this undertaking must also expect to pay for the privilege with both money and skills. If you have neither, this is a good time to begin earning/learning.

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