Community, family, mountains, and meat


Can Decreix

The last of my community visits was in Cerbere, France, just across the border from Spain. My friend was going to live here and I was getting a sneak peak at her new life. We got out at the Spain/France border at a huge train station filled with at least a dozen parallel tracks and graffitied trains. My friend turned her back to the trains, faced the impending mountain in front of us and said something like, “now we walk up for 5 minutes”. Five minutes! That’s it? We climbed the steep rock steps until reaching some small buildings nestled together across the terraces. The buildings are all identical containing 2 bedrooms, a bathroom, kitchen and open dining room/living room. The bathrooms were just for hand-washing as the compost toilets were outside where you could sit and do your business while looking down the mountain at the trains coming and going. Surreal.

What struck me about this community of 5 people plus 2 volunteers (WOOFers) was how much they lived like a family. The communal meals were small and intimate. A varied, green salad came from the garden. The wine was homemade from the inherited grape vineyards across the mountain. Conversations were fun and educational without the speakers seeming like they were trying to make it fun or educational. The day was peaceful; I chose my work of organizing their schedule from post-its scattered across a wall to a custom-designed post-it schedule chart. Pure Kate-style.

Can Decreix is special in that the Degrowth movement was founded at Can Decreix and the founders still live there. Degrowth is the idea of moving forward while remembering and implementing ideas of simplicity from the past. In their words: Research and actions to consume less and share more.  Ideas like sharing resources, growing food, trading homemade products, reflecting on these processes, and living as sustainable as possible. The goals are to enjoy life without harming the earth as opposed to being as productive as possible. I found the community to be more of a home than a formal community. They don’t offer tours, their meetings are a bit chaotic, and their focus is on communal activities rather than efficiency or productivity. It got me thinking about my own goals of wanting to do good for the earth and not being focused on making or saving money, or working myself until I’m ill.

My final reflections as I travel through communities meeting people who call themselves environmentalists, eco-friendly, and sustainable, repeatedly strikes me as hypocritical that they eat meat. This is, of course, a gross overgeneralization, but in my mind anyone who is working to save our planet would choose to be vegan. After all so much of our land and water go to feeding and raising animals for slaughter. A vegan person (indirectly) uses 600 liters LESS WATER PER DAY than a meat/dairy eater. That’s how much water it takes to grow food for, clean, and feed animals for slaughter. And we’re not even addressing the quantity of land that’s used for this. Imagine how many vegetables could be grown on that land with that water!?! Enough to feed everyone, I would bet.