Envisioning Community: Struggles of Utopia

Photography by Matthew Cremer

Sweat has been collecting on my skin in all it’s favorite body caverns for hours beneath the sultry sun of the Costa Rican landscape. A belly once full of hydration is now clinched with anxiety. I stand idly by, watching as precious water splashes over the toothbrush of the Envisionary in front of me. It’s day two of Envision Festival in Costa Rica, and there’s no more water. The desert like feeling on my tongue intensifies, as the true gold of this planet collects puddles of less than drinkable mud beneath my toes, the question runs through my mind, “who is to be held responsible?”

Back home, day-to-day life often becomes a series of monotonous routines: brush teeth, take a shower, eat breakfast, go to work. Who these actions affect and how is rarely considered. In the small, temporary jungle community of Envision the individual’s decisions have a rather immediate domino effect on the larger community. In “normal” society we may be able to sweep our daily water use, plastic intake and carbon footprint, under the rug of someone else’s even more substantial waste, but we need to start taking responsibility for our individual impact as we collectively work towards developing a sustainable and thriving future.


Photography by Matthew Cremer

“The idea of off-the-grid living challenges people’s conditioning and allows them to explore ways internally and externally that they could mirror … in their lives outside the festival.” Madeline Brinkley, eco-education coordinator of Envision, explains the challenges of entering into community and off-grid dynamics for those who have never before experienced this kind of living. Putting into practice new ways of communal life, Envision provides the opportunities for growth and development as a mini society.

In its 5th consecutive year, Envision festival saw it’s highest jump in participants from 4,000 to 6,000; putting a greater stress on the organization, physical location, and collective. As this community grows, much like our global population, the question of diminishing resources becomes more prevalent.

Photo by Matthew Cremer

Photography by Matthew Cremer

Ryan Rising is a permaculture educator and community organizer who has been working closely with The Polish Ambassador on the Permaculture Action Tour this past fall. Ryan also helped to host the permaculture action days that coincided with this year’s Envision (similar events will be happening before Lucidity 2015). When asked to describe his personal outlook on the water situation at Envision, Ryan responded with details of the bigger picture. “The water issue asks a question that we need to be looking at EVERYWHERE, especially in places like California: What’s the carrying capacity of any given watershed? What’s the carrying capacity of the land base? How can we make human activity fit the carrying capacity of the landscape and watershed, and do so in a way that’s symbiotic?” The answer to these queries impact our Earth as a whole, and need to be taken into consideration.

Even while navigating the festival at maximum capacity, the Envision team was able to successfully execute alternative systems such as composting toilets,  and integrating reusable dishware and a reliable recycling system. The more spaces we have to practice these principles of sustainability and community reliance, the more easily we can incorporate them into our daily lives.

Photography by Desdemona Dallas

“Our … living workshops supply the audience with … speeches, notes and demonstrations on how the individual can reshape the way in which they live in a community and experience their environment,” says Brinkley. Envision is a container of exploration into what community and sustainable living could look like on a larger scale. The Envision collective supplies Envisionaries with a wealth of knowledge on how we can better integrate these ideas into the new world that we are actively creating.

Photography by Desdemonda Dallas

The magic of Envision lies in the moments when one becomes lost in the unfolding dimensions of the dance floor, or goes staggeringly deep in a puddle of limbs and sweaty bodies, or while flirting with the vastness of the great mama ocean. This jungle playground that has been created for our pleasure is the disguise of a few masterminds offering us a sacred environment to prod the fabrics of our diluted understandings of social laws and environmental functions, to fill up our cups with the mud-like thickness and cacao-like richness which we are truly here to experience.

Envision, by definition, means something that you believe might exist or happen in the future. It will take time for all of us to realize what our greater impact is on the social and environmental ecosystems that we traverse. Living laboratories, like Envision, are the spaces where we can begin to take responsibility for our actions. Within the festival micro-climates where deep interpersonal relationships thrive, the true essence of the issues can rise to the surface and be addressed. We are all responsible.


Photography by Desdemona Dallas

Photography by Desdemona Dallas

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.