The Simplicity Institute has released a new publication which is engaging and thoughtfully provocative. Written by Samuel Alexander, Entropia: Life Beyond Industrial Civilisation tells the story of a fictional community cut off from the ‘civilised’ world by apparently catastrophic circumstances. Forced to create a new, different civilisation or perish, the people reinvent the system from the ground up – literally. They learn to till the soil for food, repair and build their own dwellings, educate their children and preserve their arts, and participate in a political structure which ensures stability, peace and sufficiency for all.
A timely vision
Alexander’s vision follows in the grand tradition of utopian literature, and is timely indeed. With our world rocked by climate change, global financial crises, a burgeoning population and rapid destruction of natural resources, the future can look bleak.
Is there a workable alternative? Can we save ourselves? Entropia allows us to glimpse such an alternative.
We all know what utopia means – that blissful place where perfection lies. It’s an imaginary realm – and who of us hasn’t imagined our own version of this perfect life?
Such fantasies can serve many functions: an emotional escape from hardship, hope for the future, the clarification of values and goals. They can help us work toward a better world for ourselves and our children. Or can they?
The good place which is no place
In 1516 Sir Thomas More published his title On the Best State of a Republic and on the New Island of Utopia, coining the term utopia from two Greek words. There is some argument as to which two: utopia may mean ‘good place’ (eu = ‘good’, topos = ‘place’) or ‘no place’ (ou = ‘not’, topos = ‘place’).
This debate highlights the utopian paradox. Is utopia by definition unreachable? Is this an essential part of its nature – the dream that cannot be realised? Is it the good place which is no place and nowhere?
The ideal community
Utopia can also refer more specifically to an ideal community or society. The term’s been used to describe real-life communities that consciously or intentionally try to create an ideal society, and to fictional societies portrayed in books.
Such utopian visions reach at least as far back as Plato’s Republic, written circa 380 BC. The Republic deals with justice, equality, forms of government, education and the structuring of an ideal community, and Plato’s political observations ring true today.
Entropia draws on these classic literary and philosophical traditions to present us with a modern, workable utopia.
Like More, Alexander focuses on a fictional island community. This community may not be perfect, but it nonetheless purports to generate the conditions necessary for personal happiness: beginning with the fulfillment of basic human needs, which makes possible the fulfillment of higher states of being through creative endeavour and self-actualisation.
This blueprint for a new kind of society is pragmatic. No one in this society goes hungry or homeless. All are educated. Everyone has access to meaningful work. Each member of the community belongs.
Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it?
Beyond the great disruption
There is also an apocalyptic air to Entropia, since its island utopia is created out of the imperative to survive. This is no pie in the sky daydream.
This is what happens when the train derails. This is what happens when economic growth implodes. This is what happens when consumerism hits the wall.
This is the reality of what to do when the infrastructure collapses and you must grow your own food or starve.
And this is what happens when wisdom triumphs over greed.
A vision of hope
Entropia offers a vision of hope. This is no Lord of the Flies, where humanity degenerates into primitive self-seeking violence.
Entropia presents a utopia of sufficiency where the modus operandi is not a blind ‘more is better’ but a conscious ‘enough’.
Alexander writes beautifully, serenely and with humility. His view of human nature is generous and insightful.
Be encouraged: read this book.
Realising the dream
If you want to make Entropia a reality in the here and now, you can begin by sending expressions of interest to entropiaecovillage [at] gmail [dot] com – investigations are being made into building an Entropia Ecovillage in or near Melbourne, Australia, based on the concepts in the book.