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A case study of the Community Los Portales : Analysis of the Potential of Lifestyle Change with regard to Sustainability and Transferability

Reconnecting with the Essence of Being Human

Cora Pausch is 33 years old and the mother of 2 children (6 and 3 years old). She studied International Forest Ecosystem Management (Bachelor of Science, 2009) and Global Change Management (Master of Science, 2013). At the time of her masters internship, she already had the desire to live in a community with her partner and 1 1/2 year old son. And not just any community but one which had personal relations and personal development as a basis. So she decided to combine her personal desire to gain experience in a community with her research for her thesis by focusing the thesis on sustainability in communities and choosing Los Portales as a case study.

Initially her focus was on ecological sustainability but her experience in Los Portales showed her the strong connection between social and ecological sustainability. This connection and the attempt to apply its key aspects to any kind of society (also large-scale) became the heart of her masters thesis. Since then she has felt strongly connected to Los Portales and its members and recently she and her partner decided to make Los Portales their permanent home and they will move there in spring 2018.


In times of globalisation, accompanied by economic crisis and climate change, it becomes obvious that the western lifestyle cannot be maintained anymore if a Great Transition towards a future of enriched lives, human solidarity and a healthy planet is the overall objective. The industrialized countries are made responsible for a disproportionate share of the worldwide exploitation of natural resources, CO2 emissions, and pollution of air and water; but still the associated lifestyle is spreading its way.

The question arises how the Great Transition can be facilitated and what is still missing to overcome the challenges of global change, resource depletion and individualism. The Great Transition cannot be achieved by technical means only but an adaptation of lifestyles is also necessary to obtain this target. Sustainable lifestyles include attractive social coherences that combine the individual freedom with responsible cooperation and a harmonious coexistence. There is a great demand for sustainable lifestyles; a way of living in which human cooperation is appropriate and carried by respect and empathy; a search for lifestyles without moral appeal and demand for abstinence. The field of intentional communities represents direct response to the questions and problems of social conflicts, environmental crises, and uncertainty at all levels.

In this thesis, the Community Los Portales in Andalusia, Spain was chosen as the case study to display approaches and methods that aim for the improvement of socio-ecological sustainability. One of the objectives of this thesis is to demonstrate that the lifestyle of Los Portales based on consciousness-raising and social coherences, and generated through a path of self-knowledge and personal development, can represent the missing link for the facilitation of the Great Transformation.

Based on research methods of participant observation and semi-structured interviews, special emphasis was put on the importance of social dynamics such as the feeling of affiliation, the aspect of self-actualisation, self-respect and the developing of social competences. The approach of the Community includes specific methods, such as dream interpretation, which are used to create consciousness about personal behavior patterns and projections through which other entities are made responsible for personal difficulties in life. The Community‘s perspective on reality is described, which is based on a new-self- perception as humans and manifested through a deep connection with oneself, others and the environment. The Community thus acknowledges that social sustainability (internal work) cannot be dissociated from ecological sustainability (external work). In doing so, the Community Los Portales combines what is usually separate: personal development and social change.

These research results are analysed for their transferability, on the psychological and physiological level, to any social system. A number of approaches and suggestions is elaborated which have the potential to contribute to socio- ecological sustainability. Finally the potential of personal development and intentional communities is discussed to highlight under which conditions sustainable and environmentally lifestyles can be established, while increasing the quality of life. A fundamental shift in human consciousness seems to be a precondition for a collective transformation.

A thesis submitted to the Faculty of Forestry and Environment In partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Science in Global Change Management by Cora Pausch, Eberswalde, October 25th, 2013

( Thesis_Cora Pausch_1320929.pdf)




A case study of the Community Los Portales : Analysis of the Potential of Lifestyle Change with regard to Sustainability and Transferability