RAIN magazine

2024 is RAIN's 50th anniversary

Stay tuned.

We'll continue to review successful community projects and initiatives, and uncover important principles. 

Instead of a stream of disposable articles, we are moving towards a prioritized format, where the most important articles, appropriately updated, stay at the top.

Some upcoming articles: Experiments with Community Energy; The Oregon Experiment at 50; A Pattern Language for a Green New Deal; The Future of Trees; Simulating Climate; Cultures with Nature; Ecological Icons; 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.

Find us: rain magazine on facebook; rain magazine on twitter.

The Feast of Change

June 23, 2020

The Oregon Country Fair offers a taste of a future ecological civilization. It's not happening this year, because of the pandemic, so we're reprinting Jeff Land's 1993 piece, with the original photos, and new photos of the adaptive architecture on the empty site in 2020.


May 31, 2022

"... pay most attention when you are surprised at what people say. It doesn't matter whether they are wrong or not. If you look closely at your own surprise, and the cause of it, you will always learn something."

Water The Forests

July 31, 2018
April 22, 2019
May 1, 2019
April 22, 2021
July 15, 2021
July 15, 2022

It's getting too hot for humans, and fire season is year-round, so finally people are taking climate change seriously. It's the 'climatic turn'. While we work to dismantle global industrial monopoly capitalism -- which has temporarily stolen the planet and the future -- we need to consider basic ways we can work together to ameliorate the damage already done. We consider watering.

This is an ongoing project, so we include updates, starting with Earth Day 2019, when it's clear that we need to balance water surfeits and deficits, and Mayday 2019, when it's important to clarify how the history of communities that respect people and nature, heavily documented by RAIN for 45 years, provides us with straightforward sequences for unfolding an ecological civilization. 

Are we losing reality?

February 28, 2023

Computing had such promise. It is now wasting precious global and local resources at an unprecedented rate. And it increasingly distracts us from the coöperation we need to move towards a sensible human existence on earth. We are drowning in nonsense, losing our sense of priority, and any reasonable, sustainable perspective on life.

Breathing life into study and practice

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.

The White Bird Clinic 

June 9, 2020

A kinder, more effective approach to responding to many emergencies was developed over many decades, by a collectively-run clinic in Eugene Oregon. Here's a snapshot of White Bird from RAIN in 1996.

Cities Against Centralization

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.

Zürich Support Agriculture

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.

Building Beauty

February 21, 2018

We've been working with the program at the unique and practical Building Beauty school currently running in Sorrento, Italy. Registration for 2018 - 2019 is open. Highly recommended for anyone interested in building a fair and beautiful world.


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. 

Making Workbikes for the Neighborhood

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.

Building Beauty

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.org. We'll report further on this initiative in the near future.

Cabbages and Compassion

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.

Living Structure and Cognition

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?

The PUARL conference: hope & surprises

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?

Referendum on urban life

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.

Community projects in Berlin:
now and 20 years ago

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.


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.

Berlin rushing in where a wall has been 

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. 

UFA Fabrik

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.

Revisiting the 70s

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 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.

Detroit Summer

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. 

Oregon Marketplace

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.

Web strategy for a city

December 15, 2012

This is web advice to a city as a whole, circa 2008. It still applies, and unfortunately, people seem to be moving in the opposite direction. Of course, a city doesn't need a network to be economically and ecologically sustainable ...

But, at the moment, in this overdeveloped world, intracity web interconnectedness provides a real indicator of how much the people and institutions in a city are supportive of making each other's lives better. 

Cooperative Transport

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.

The Beginning of Car-sharing

June 21, 2012

With car-sharing schemes in non-profits, government agencies, and Public Corporations, let's look at the start of it all. A fascinating conversation in 1995 with STATTAUTO Berlin's founders Carsten and Markus Peterson. This RAIN interview was published and distributed (along with the original video) widely among those who later spread Car-sharing around the world.

Community Support Agriculture

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.

The Lao Alternative

June 2, 2011

Speaking of Natural Economies: they are quite ancient. This article, from twenty years ago, describes subsistence cultures in Laos, many of which survive to this day, and grassroots foreign aid workers, the minority, who try to help indigenous people to undo the destruction done by French colonialism and US saturation bombing.


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.

A Center of Community

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. 

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.

Ollswang Archive

December 8, 2009

Late RAIN cartoonist and community renaissance man Paul Ollswang's archive site is on its way back up.

From RAIN issue XV-1, the late 

Paul Ollswang's 8-page cartoon:

"Time Underground".

Time Underground

December 10, 2009

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".

Alexander visits The Oregon Experiment

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.

Making room for localization

July 25, 2013

The Main Street fight against Wall Street is high-minded, positive, but almost completely hidden ...

The West End Proposal

December 7, 2009

The original 1995 West End community mega-proposal for Downtown Eugene is now online here. Stay tuned for updates, including the historical position of this proposal, relative to the battles against Globalization and Urban Renewal.

Democracy and Detroit

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. 

Forced Workaholism

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.

September 30, 2009

Check out Rain Magazine's Flickr page. Photos coming to this site soon.

Rain on Sites
January 21, 2009

We're starting to put a smattering of old Rain content into this new Google wiki-product.

Stay tuned.

September 11, 2009

Rain magazine founder Steve Johnson has launched a website of his work at  www.stevenreedjohnson.com

The Visible Economic Underground

September 28, 2010

How to show planners that it's much more cost-effective to make human-scale places and infrastructure:

Portland's locally-minded street vendors are now front-and-center:

Greening the Boundaries

April 10, 2010

Even in the least likely places, it's possible, and maybe even necessary, to increase your self-sufficiency:

Window farms

People Places are Popular Places

September 16, 2010

A note on the idea about bootstrapping, the resolution of the chicken-egg problem of providing service to the community, with a community project that needs support.

March 20, 2008

Import replacement continues to be one of the best strategies for local economic revitalization, even the creation of a local renaissance, under any circumstances.

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.

Chlorophyll Power

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.

Human trains

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.

Apocalyptic Opportunity

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:

Geothermal Klamath Falls

Copyright © 1974 - 2021 Rain Magazine