An Impressive Example of the Sustainable Alternative Way:

Dancing Rabbit Eco-village.


Ted Trainer.



The context: The urgent need for convincing examples of alternative paths.

The gross and alarming unsustainability of consumer-capitalist society hardly needs to be argued any more. (If you doubt it look at TSW: The Limits to Growth.)  Increasing numbers realize that a sustainable and just world cannot be achieved unless growth and affluence society is largely scrapped and there is an enormous “De-growth” transition to The Simper Way. 

Thousands of people now live in Eco-villages or are working to transform existing towns in the required direction.  Unfortunately however there has been a lack of documentation of and publicity for impressive examples and illustrations of the kind of alternative required. We urgently need accounts of how sustainably and enjoyably people are living in these alternative communities, especially accounts based on detailed data to do with rates of consumption and quality of life indices. Obviously the transition is not going to get far unless people in general can see that there is a viable alternative. At present the mainstream has no idea that there could be any way out of the present situation other than cranking up the resource squandering growth and affluence system. Part of our task is to explain why that system cannot provide for all and will only lead to deteriorating conditions and thus must be largely scrapped. But possibly more important is the task of showing that there is an attractive alternative that could be easily developed…if enough of us wanted to do it.

My study, TSW: Remaking Settlements, developed a detailed theoretical analysis of what could be achieved by the radical restructuring of an outer Sydney suburb.  It concluded that something like 90% reductions could be made in basic resource consumption indices, while greatly improving quality of life factors.  However much more persuasive will be accounts of the achievements of actually existing settlements.  Although thousands now live in eco-villages and the Global Eco-village Network is well organized and extensively involved in educational ventures (See the GEN link below,) there are few accounts of the functioning of actual settlements, especially with respect to sustainability measures and experienced quality of life.

The Dancing Rabbit eco-village in Missouri provides one of many very impressive examples of an approach to the general Simpler Way vision. 

            The Dancing Rabbit Eco-village project.

The project began in the 1980s and currently involves about 65 people on a 280 acre site in Missouri. A remarkable feature is the intention to grow to about 500 in order to become an example of a sustainable town.

All members are part of a collective that owns the property. Smaller collectives attend to various functions. There is no private vehicle ownership but four community cars are available. Private plots of land are leased from the community land trust. Improvements to the land such as houses are owned by those who mace them and can be sold. Thus land remains secure from speculation and remains affordable.  Community guidelines and discussion control  development of private space.

Government is via a representative village council functioning following a consensus principle, and delegation to committees.  All are encouraged to participate in deliberations. An annual “conference” over several days reviews community structures and functioning. These arrangements align with the unconventional ethos which focuses on the community good as distinct from private pursuit of self interest and wealth.

A code of  “ecological covenants” and ”sustainability guidelines” includes no use of fossil fuels in vehicles, cooling or heating, no net import of electricity, recyclingof all organic “wastes”.  “…try to avoid exploiting people and other cultures”

Thus the venture is an example of a De growth culture.

            Resource and environmental indices of sustainability.

The following summary statistics make clear the remarkable reductions in per capita material impacts achieved by the community. The percentages are for DR per capita use compared with the national US average.

Car use, 8%.

Distance driven, 10%.

Liquid fuel use, 6%.

Solid waste, 18%

Proportion of solid waste recycled on site, 34%.

Electricity use 18%, and three times as much electricity is sent to the grid as is  used.

Water use, 23%, and two-thirds of this is collected from village roofs.


Surveys report, for life happiness, 81% rate 7/10 or higher. For life improved since arriving, almost all.

The venture indicates  how easily dramatic changes in the direction of  sustainable and enjoyable social forms could be made, if we wanted to do that.