Coming in 2017
We continue to review successful community projects and initiatives, and uncover important principles. Some upcoming articles: Explaining Patterns; The Long Arc of Community Ideas; The Forty-Year Dialogue between Ecology and Technology; Unfolding sequences for Better Cities; Big Experiments in Community Self-Management; Appropriate Technology Today; Lost Patterns in Transportation and Energy; Science vs. Scientism; Patterns vs. Principles; with interviews, videos, photos and more.
Back issues of the print edition of RAIN are now available at Portland State University's digital archive, here.
July 22, 2016
A reminiscing dialogue a few years ago, between a graduate student and an activist, led to some pretty clear conclusions regarding the missing links in architectural and planning education today.
February 8, 2015
People in cities have a surprising history of resistance to political centralization, ecological destruction, and abusive industrialization. This 1992 essay was a reflection upon a book by Murray Bookchin.
January 31, 2014
This is Jan VanderTuin's first-hand account of the origins of the CSA. It was written for RAIN in 1992, just as CSA's were starting to catch-on across the US. Jan discovered these direct producer-consumer farming co-ops in Europe (inspired by experiments in Allende's Chile). He joined them as a producer, and eventually brought his operational experience to Great Barrington, MA.
January 29, 2014
A citizen transport center is key to grassroots, community-driven development of sensible, democratic, adaptive, and ecologically-sound local transportation systems. The Center for Appropriate Transport is a special-purpose community center, intended to create an economy and activism around sensible transportation. If you want, say, a locally-built streetcar system, locally-adapted bikes, harmonious bike infrastructure, etc., take a look at this wildly influential project. Thousands of projects have been inspired by CAT. RAIN helped to found it: read this 1993 RAIN description by Jason Moore.
January 27, 2014
In the US, the last decades brought progress in reviving local food production. But local small-scale product manufacture, for local consumption, hasn't fared as well. Most of the world's troubles, from wars for resources, to indentured debt, to income inequality, to vast unemployment, to vast pollution, to meaningless employment, can be attributed to the lack of local, well-adapted, cautious, community-responsive hand-manufacture and small-scale machine manufacturing.
So here's the solution: from a 1992 essay about flexible, custom bike design and manufacture. If local engineering talent could be conserved and directed towards democratic, community-driven adaptive production, rather than the tyrannical enrichment of multinational corporations, people would be happier, communities would be richer, and the nature we know, would revive.
January 26, 2014
This 1993 study comes from farmer Jered Lawson, a graduate of UCSC's superb Communities Studies program, which provides a path for students to become inventive community organizers. Adding a CSA to the successful Homeless Garden Project was his graduation project, providing a direct path for the homeless, and their neighborhoods, to come towards each other, in a mutually beneficial, civilizing, personal, sensitive, and satisfying way.
January 16, 2014
Christopher Alexander's research on communities, cities, art and architecture has now inspired a biennial conference in Oregon. Greg Bryant writes about the PUARL in 2013. The attendees are doing critical and ambitious work, organizing, teaching and building in sympathy to people and the environment. So, it's important to ask: what is missing?
September 3, 2013
Our 2013 interview with Michael LaFond, a Berlin organizer who, 20 years ago in RAIN, described the state of community projects and life in Berlin's post-wall merging of East and West.
September 3, 2013
Michael LaFond reported from the middle of this great era of community opportunity, during the unification of East and West Berlin. Published by RAIN in 1993.
April 19, 2013
In a one-year preparation for RAIN's 40th anniversary, I'm digitizing and commenting upon RAIN's very first issue of October, 1974. More than just reminiscence, I believe this work is important in many ways, not least because is helps us see that community workers of 40 years ago had a tremendous impact on the world.
January 31, 2011
This article, from RAIN April 2008, provided a few interesting patterns for economic revitalization through locally-based small projects in the post-financial-meltdown world.
January 29, 2011
The United States leads the world in one aspect of wage-slavery: the US is the only country with no laws requiring vacation. Big Business' anti-labor, anti-social attack of the last century has given the US worker, in the richest country on earth, the most unbalanced life in any stable society. CBS did an excellent story about this last year, No Vacation Nation. As the Europeans in the video point out: if vacation isn't the law, then you will worry about losing your job when you take a vacation. That describes the US perfectly.
An old idea, which should be in the constitution of any society, is "the right to work, and the right to rest". These things are so basic, and so well understood, by all of us, and yet it is not even on the agenda in today's trivialized political arena.
Of course, we need more. People need work that is both independent and cooperative, which develops potential, in an environment that provides incentives. But to even begin on that path, we need to make it impossible for employers to encourage the self-abuse of over-work.
The Visible Economic Underground
September 28, 2010
Portland's locally-minded street vendors are now front-and-center:
People Places are Popular Places
September 16, 2010
How to show planners that it's much more cost-effective to make human-scale places and infrastructure:
Greening the Boundaries
April 10, 2010
Even in the least likely places, it's possible, and maybe even necessary, to increase your self-sufficiency:
December 10, 2009
Check out Rain Magazine's Flickr page. Photos coming to this site soon.
RaindropsJanuary 21, 2009
September 11, 2009
Rain magazine founder Steve Johnson has launched a website of his work at www.stevenreedjohnson.com
Rain on Sites
We're starting to put a smattering of old Rain content into this new Google wiki-product.
April 10, 2017
Much of the fuel for RAIN over the decades has come from examining the pursuits of the architect and philosopher Christopher Alexander. As we've reported here, in the past few years his colleagues have come together in conferences and initiatives, kindling exciting discussions on furthering research and practice. This network is now forging a curriculum, based on thousands of years of experience, for the 2017 - 2018 school year, at the Università degli Studi Suor Orsola Benincasa in Napoli. If you know anyone with a bachelor's degree who wants to expand their horizons, please direct them to the fascinating material and contact information at BuildingBeauty.net. We'll report further on this initiative in the near future.
June 25, 2015
Christopher Alexander discovered something important about our perception of the natural world: we can isolate, and make use of, our natural ability to decide whether something is natural or not, whether it is alive. Will it help the world if we discover the parts of the brain that we use when we do this? Will it help people who are learning to identify living structure while engaged in their craft, to consider their ability a cognitive faculty? Alexander himself was of the opinion that his own books and endless significant experiments were not successful in engendering a broad understanding of this ability. So how should we proceed? How should we provide better, and broader, 'training'? And how will we legitimize it?
June 12, 2014
In 2007, a moribund downtown was fixed by the removal of a classic moral hazard -- the city's large-scale 'Urban Renewal' program -- at the ballot box. This happened because a non-profit dance center was wrestling with revitalization in the heart of the city.
June 4, 2014
In 1996 Christopher Alexander, author of the rightly influential community planning and architecture book "A Pattern Language", was involved in a computer project. It was intended to allow people to design something with feeling and life: specifically, a gate. It was groundbreaking, and effective, but so subtle, and different, that the computer industry didn't get it.
February 2, 2014
Berlin's most persistent experimental community serves its neighborhood in countless ways, with a conscientious freedom that allows its members to create meaningful public work for themselves. This community-neighborhood relationship strongly contrasts with the commonly-held idea that intentional communities are necessarily escapist. After reading Michael LaFond's still-instructive report for RAIN from 1994, check out our 2013 conversation with him on the state of cooperative communities in Berlin.
January 30, 2014
Perhaps the most influential community media institution in the US, Downtown Community Television started out by showing documentaries in neighborhoods from the back of an old milk truck. This report is from 1992, after luck and sweat provided the non-profit with a beautiful 19th-century firehouse in Manhattan's Chinatown.
January 29, 2014
Import replacement is the basic strategy for relocalization: the only viable way for communities to escape the ravages of the multinational corporations. It's a simple idea: as much as possible, grow your own food, and make your own goods. Keep the money local, push for local democracy in local government and in the workplace. NEDCO, a non-profit CDC (Community development Corporation) in Eugene, Oregon, is continually successful at pushing this strategy. Here Marc Bouvier reports on one of their initiatives, Oregon Marketplace, from 1993.
January 28, 2014
Adam Diamond's first-hand account of the first Detroit Summer in 1992. Most people are unaware of just how deeply-rooted are Detroit's social justice and cooperative movements. In recent history, Detroit's citizens were the first to suffer from US corporate abandonment of their working population. Today, the intended corporate plan for all US cities is clear: a total elimination of democratic institutions, and the sell-off of civic institutions. Detroit is fighting back. Once again, now is the time for inter-city solidarity.
January 25, 2014
People don't need to own 'one-of-everything'. This is the basic principle behind community ownership, even pocket examples like tool libraries. Certainly, people don't need to own all the transportation they use!
In 1994, RAIN published this study by our Berlin connection, Michael LaFond, following a suggestion of Jan VanderTuin's that 'carsharing' could be significant. It led to the first carsharing trial project in the US, and further interviews with Berlin's carsharing founders, whose experience greatly helped the movement on this side of the Atlantic.
January 24, 2014
A CSA is a direct, long-term relationship between farmers and consumers. The small farm gets direct investment in their coming harvest from the consumer, who shares the bounty, and the risks. It was one of the most prominent movements in the late 20th century of cooperative, genuine disintermediation ('removing the middle-man' -- although this term is much abused today in the business world). RAIN covered CSA's twenty-two years ago.
January 23, 2014
People are happy to reuse containers, especially locally: just look at the growler phenomenon in any emerging microbrew scene. Of course, refillable containers are a key part of any high-quality, locally-sourced, locally-run, sustainable economy. RAIN studied them extensively twenty years ago, and published this piece by Chris Figenshau. For the sake of our economies and our earth, it's time we took these ideas far more seriously.
December 22, 2013
We take a close look at Haus Schwarzenberg in Berlin, an energetic yet comfortable grassroots arts complex that thrives by the sheer mad energy of people from all over the world. Any community revitalization project can learn from this test tube of activity.
In two parts: Part one is here. Part two in 2014.
July 25, 2013
The Main Street fight against Wall Street is high-minded, positive, but almost completely hidden ...
March 29, 2013
It's a simple thing to see that Detroit's democracy has been under severe attack ... and, of course, this is unmentioned by the corporate media.
April 8, 2012
In the early 1990's Christopher Alexander was invited back to run a project under the residue of The Oregon Experiment, a participatory planning policy that he created at the University of Oregon twenty years earlier. The resulting story is spectacular. Reprinted from RAIN in 1994.
Drilling for community outrage
February 18, 2011
What does it take for a community to fight for itself? In Arkansas, natural gas extraction activity related to fracking is causing earthquakes, hundreds of them in the past few months. Even an energy industry lawyer writes of "concerns about air pollution and noise from the many heavy trucks and power sources needed to fracture the rock thousands of feet below the earth; drinking water contamination from spills and poor casing and cementing techniques; methane migration to water wells; the use of billions of gallons of fresh water in the fracturing process; and the safe disposal of billions of gallons of flowback water after the rock has been fractured." If you use Natural Gas, write to your utility, and ask them to support the regulation of fracking -- at the moment, the industry is fighting tooth-and-nail against regulation. Consumer pressure will help the many extraction communities fight for their environments.
World-class Community Ownership
February 7, 2011
While the popular fight for real democracy dominates news from the Middle East, the only community-owned non-profit Major League sports franchise in the US won the SuperBowl. For those who don't know: the Green Bay Packers is community-owned, a structure that is banned from expansion in the otherwise greed-centric NFL. The New Rules Project of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance presents examples of community-owned sports franchises, and Harvey Wasserman's piece Socialism triumphs at the SuperBowl in CounterPunch. In Europe, many professional franchises are on the stock exchanges. On the other hand, in the US, public university sports teams are supposedly publicly-owned, but have a tendency to warp the economies and policies of Universities. In one famous case, Nike forced the University of Oregon to back down from a stance against factory sweat-shops.
Not litigious enough
January 25, 2011
The documentary Hot Coffee is at the Sundance Film Festival. It explains where the idea that "the US is a litigious society requiring tort reform" comes from: it was a fantasy heavily promoted by corporate interests over the last 15 years, part of a successful capture of the justice system to reduce corporate responsibility towards people and communities, and increase profits. Beware of "Mandatory Arbitration", keep an eye on your "Chamber of Commerce", and get involved in your local judicial elections! Corporate greed destroys economies: keep out the corporate candidates!
Canadian Urban Renewal
January 12, 2011
For a personal, poetic, wild statement against the insensitivities of "Urban Renewal", look for Guy Maddin's 2007 Canadian documentary: My Winnipeg.
October 21, 2010
In Italy, the beautiful car-free city of Venice is finishing a 40 megawatt emissions-free algae biomass plant in 2011, to power half the city. Video of the power plant here.
October 15, 2010
Shweeb (human-powered rail) is certainly cute, and might find a place somewhere, in some transportation mix. But it really only can help people to cope with the awful transportation structure of modern cities. It's not a fix. But, it might be fun as a community project, for a short leg, in the mold of a neighborhood-built rail system, to encourage local engineering talent.
October 8, 2010
The Solarbaum: urban public art with tracking solar panels.
October 6, 2010
Johnny Knoxville's "Detroit Lives!" documentary: grassroots opportunities in "abandoned" cities.
Oregon goes Iceland
March 23, 2010
It makes sense to use renewable energy that you see each day:
The Oregon Experiment
December 9, 2009
Now online, complete with the original photos and illustrations, is Greg Bryant's 1991 examination of the remains of Christopher Alexander's planning experiment at the University of Oregon: The Oregon Experiment after Twenty Years, from the Rain special on "Decentralized Politics".
December 8, 2009
Late RAIN cartoonist and community renaissance man Paul Ollswang's archive site is on its way back up.
New Strategies for Economic Relocalization