For the past month we lived in rural Peru at a growing homestead called Kadagaya (which means “abundance” in Filipino). Though still in its early stages, Kadagaya will eventually be a thriving community of 40 people, where technology is used to reduce human labor and increase the time people have to develop personally and realize their potential in whichever ways they choose. Everyone will share freely in the abundance produced by the various food and resource systems currently in development.
The force behind this project is Julie and Vladimir, an Australian-Peruvian couple who a few years ago quit their jobs as physicists in Denmark to create a community based on the principles of a resourced-based economy (RBE). The premise of an RBE is that the earth has the resources necessary to sustain all human life, and it’s the purposeful mismanagement of those resources that sustain the inequality responsible for the extreme wealth of a few and the intense suffering of so many. Proponents of the RBE, and there is a growing number, argue that the elimination of the monetary system, combined with a strategic implementation of current technologies, could effectively reduce and eventually eliminate hunger and inequality, reduce the need for human labor that dulls the mind and crushes the soul, and stop the massacre of the environment to boot. This is all predicated on the supposition that, sometime sooner or later, change must happen because the current system is unsustainable. Julie and Vladimir are interested in developing this alternative model so that, when the time comes, people will be able to imagine and live in new ways.
It’s likely that I’ve done a botch-job explaining what this vision is, and certainly this short description creates more questions than provides answers. When we return home and visit all three of you reading this blog, we can talk at more length about the further implications of these ideas if you are interested. What I will add is that the efforts to realize these goals are based on the hardcore implementation of the scientific method – Julie and Vlad aren’t a couple of hippies frolicking around in the jungle, living on good vibrations. I mean, they’re building a hydroelectric dam by hand, for pete’s sake.
Rather than try to argue a position on whether or not this is all good or bad, wise or simply idealistic, I want to emphasize the real inspiration that Jared and I felt while living at Kadagaya. We all read the news, and everything is terrible, and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and despair at not having any idea how to solve all the problems plaguing the world. But, here in rural Peru, are people dedicating their lives to actually doing something, and have opted to attack these problems at what many argue quite compellingly is the source. Whether or not one agrees, it’s pretty awe-inspiring to see this project knowing what the objective is, and reassuring that there are smart sane people doing all they can to really change the world.
They started out living in tents, fighting off skin-burrowing flies, but now have a variety of structures that make for a pretty comfortable existence while they continue making improvements. As I mentioned, the end goal is a community of 40 people, as this is the number that their land resources will support. So far there’s the two of them, with a steady stream of volunteers coming and going, and some non-human friends, but there’s also a third member on the way, who should be arriving sometime around the end of November.
While living at Kadagaya, Jared worked hard helping out with the hydroelectric dam project, while I helped Julie back at the house, cooking for the workers, cleaning, and cutting up wood. We had a lot of fun. Julie is a fantastic cook and we enjoyed sampling local Peruvian flavors. About twice a week or so I got the chance to go with Julie to the largest close town, Pichanaki, to re-up on food and any necessary goods, riding in the back of a truck on the way. We got the chance to meet other interesting volunteers and people passing through. I learned how to fry food. One night, we went cicada hunting. We crept through the neighbor’s coffee fields, looking for cicadas that had emerged from the ground and were attached to plants, waiting to emerge from their crusty brown shells. Turns out you can fry and salt them, enjoying them as “jungle shrimp,” which don’t taste too far from the oceanic variety.
The most important thing I am taking away from my experience at Kadagaya is that one of the biggest impacts I can have on the world is to change myself and my own life so that I’m living in accordance with the values I think are important. I tend to get caught up in what I can’t do (i.e. fix all the world’s problems immediately), which essentially cripples me and makes any small action seem laughably futile. But you can’t live at Kadagaya and feel like that for long. It’s sometimes hard going here, but everyday things are changing and improving. Julie and Vladimir take the long view, knowing that lasting change is possible even if it happens, must happen, incrementally. The revolution will not be televised, it’s not going to sparkle in glittering lights, it is not a flash-in-the-pan that cools immediately. It’s happening around the world, growing in individuals and communities as I write this, wherever people are willing to merge theory and values with thoughtful action. It’s certainly off to a good start in the jungles of Peru.