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If you do visit Australia, there are some community-led currency schemes that are very inspiring. This link is to a news article about a woman who paid for a house built for her by the local community by giving back an agreed value of trade (gardening, weeding, wedding planning) over a few years. This community trading system isn’t new, but there has definitely been a resurgence since the Black Summer bushfires of 2019/2020. https://amp.abc.net.au/article/103673444

The currency exchange has a website at https://begavalleylets.wordpress.com/

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The Industrial Commons and Poder Emma in North Carolina

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Wow, sounds exciting! I hope you enjoy your travels, Elle!

So, Iceland feels rather utopic in some ways (energy etc.). When it comes to better forms of governance, you could look into the African Union (their secretariat is in Addis Ababa). The African Union is modelled after the European Union, with new elements. It's pretty aspirational in nature and there is a big gap between idea and reality, but I remember being really inspired by their vision when I first found out about it a decade or so ago. Found this brief introduction to the African Union's success and failures: https://theconversation.com/the-african-union-at-20-a-lot-has-been-achieved-despite-many-flaws-175932

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author

Oh amazing, thank you so much for sharing this project with me! I’m not heading to Africa just yet but would love to in the future. Adding to my list!

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This may have already been written somewhere, but in Prague, there are Forest Schools, public transportation is excellent (one ticket can get you on a tram, bus, ferry, some commuter trains, and metro/subway, I think even a rent bike as well). Healthcare and social security are taken care of (tax is 21% and covers both). Not sure if this fits what you're looking for, but it's pretty close to utopia for us.

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Yes I've written extensively about the Nordic countries for a reason. They really have a lot figured out!

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Another comment about utopias, nirvana and where we find them. I've lived all over and this is what consumes me now. Go figure https://open.substack.com/pub/resurgencejourney/p/the-abandoned-within-easy-reach?r=1wh4yj&utm_campaign=post&utm_medium=web&showWelcomeOnShare=true

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I’ve recently read Our Crumbling Foundation: How We Solve Canada’s Housing Crisis by Gregor Craigie and there was a chapter that looked to Singapore as a possible solution/guide. It would be interesting to know more about how the citizens feel about the government enforcing 20% of their earnings to be held as savings for the future (home ownership and retirement). Does it feel like government overstep? Does it provide a sense of safety/security? What are their feelings about home ownership? And so many more questions.

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author

They really do have an interesting housing solve. I’ll be curious to learn more!

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founding

I think something similar is happening in a lot of European cities at the moment, but I was in Paris recently and the amount of bikes there versus my last trip is wild

https://english.elpais.com/lifestyle/2024-04-24/the-cycling-revolution-in-paris-continues-bicycle-use-now-exceeds-car-use.html

A lot of this seems driven by electric bikes (you can get most places FASTER on a bike than in a car or metro), and also apps like Lime that make it so easy to grab and drop off bikes wherever. It was cool to use and see

If in Paris I also recommend this, even if you're not a fan of bouldering/climbing:

https://www.sortiraparis.com/en/what-to-do-in-paris/sport-wellness/articles/284914-climbing-district-saint-lazare-a-climbing-gym-and-coworking-space-hidden-in-a-chapel

The thing that was really cool to me about that was seeing how remote workers aren't just "working from home", but taking advantage of their flexibility to work in this beautiful community space, where if you have a 5 minute break between Zoom meetings you can climb up a wall. The integration of work, play and community all in one, felt pretty utopian

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author

I love that. “Remote work” is better than “working from home” and I love seeing examples of how that could work. Thanks for sharing these links!

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Copenhagen in July, if you haven't yet. I lived a decade there in childhood and still when I visit I see/learn something so sensible I have to respect, despite many missteps. Can give recs, but it's small and also fun to bike through serendipitously. Norway is a complete sovereign blueprint of intention. Add Sweden to include some failings. Haven't been to Finland but never knew an uninteresting Finn.

The National Museum in Singapore is a great start when you arrive. Apart from all the usual recs, add a dusk stroll down Emerald Hill road and another down Robertson Quay. The Mount Faber cable car is always fun and great views of the city and Sentosa. Do it at dusk too. Plenty more SG recs if needed.

Looking forward to your writeups, especially of UAE and Neom if you make it.

Related other:

1. I visited Serenbe last year, not far from Atlanta airport. More than a commune and a pleasant glimpse of intention: https://www.serenbe.com/

2. GIMBY is from a thought-provoking author. I like its long-termism and groundedness in humanity: https://www.jsanilac.com/gimby/

3. Look at what these guys are doing to restore beauty: https://www.monumentallabs.co/

4. I loved this 2-hour interview from Michael Diamant. Good for one of your flights: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YMYagsa7554

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Jun 26Liked by Elle Griffin

+1 for Copenhagen, but specifically for the City and Port Development Corporation. https://www.brookings.edu/articles/copenhagen-port-development/. Interesting experiment in public sector asset management that has been (to my understanding) relatively successful.

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Jun 26Liked by Elle Griffin

Yes! They've done so well remaking the waterfronts. Kalvebod Bølge is a fav spot to exercise, swim, and picnic around respectful groups and families doing the same. No "Do not" signs, lifeguards, or litter. Get a Donkey Bike (app) to cycle along it all.

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author

Whoa! Monumental Labs is fascinating. I love their thesis! Will definitely dig into that more (as well as a lot of what the Nordic countries are getting right!)

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So exciting, Elle!

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I'd suggest Australia. I liked the livability of Brisbane. Perhaps an outlier of a choice, but cutting-edge might not be what people need. Simple accessibility, access to affordable education, and decent infrastructure will do.

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How about Freetown Christiana (Denmark). 40 year old 84 acre anarchist collective who converted an abandoned military base into a self-governing community?

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author

I looked at that, but I'm not as into communes, and from what I've read they will be closing soon because of excess violence in the area!

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But I can understand why you might not like it if “franchising” Singapore’s one party dictatorship fits idea of utopian governance

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author

Just an idea that franchising governments might work better than chartering them. If the borders were open then people could choose their own utopias! Whether that looks like Singapore or Christiana

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And lots of folks (take George Orwell) considered healthy well-run anarchism as the closest humans can get to utopia.

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That’s been the go-to shade-throwing against most cooperatively managed spaces: “lawless”, “violent”, etc etc. But these Danes have been doing their anarchist thing for 40 years, and with government acceptance for the past 15 years. Hell, they even won a city award for beautification.

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Not violence from the commune, violence from the neighboring area. This was the article I read: https://www.nytimes.com/2023/12/05/realestate/christiania-denmark.html?smid=nytcore-ios-share&referringSource=articleShare

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It’s definitely a long running commune, and I’m glad it exists for the people who love living there. But most communes are single-generation, which makes sense. Younger generations grow up and go off to find their own utopias. And that looks different for everyone!

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It was an interesting experiment but irreparable now. Contentious drug den and gathering for the untreated and broken over the last decade. But bike through it in 10 mins if you're near.

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I will! Thank you!

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Is utopia a place or a state of mind?

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author

Both!

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Check out Oceanix in Busan, South Korea

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author

There are a lot of prototypes like this, but not many actually built yet!

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Otherwise you should definitely add any seasteading project as part of your trip

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author

The same goes for seasteading. Even the active projects are still vector graphics, nothing built yet!

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Jun 25·edited Jun 25

You are right. Hopefully we can start seeing some of them come to life in the coming decade.

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author

That would definitely be fun! And fun to study!

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I will be in the Netherlands this summer (Amsterdam and The Hague) and can ask my friend in the Green Party for advice. Feel free to contact me.

I also recommend emailing Rutger Bregman for advice and perhaps an interview: https://www.rutgerbregman.com.

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author

I love his work!

Is there something particular interesting about the Green Party in the Netherlands? I don't really know anything about them.

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What’s new is that they recently merged with our labor party and are now facing extreme right and populist parties together. If the Netherlands is on your schedule, I’ll ask my bestie, of whom I’m extremely proud and who’s high up in the Green Party, if there’s any initiative that might be worth visiting for you.

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author

Yes, we’ll definitely be heading to the Netherlands so keep me posted. Thank you!

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Odaiba in Tokyo. Brazilia. I am thinking the government buildings in Albany, New York's capital. All old futuristic projects.

How about failed city building projects in China or the Arab peninsula -- infamous, but maybe they've all finally taken off! Or get into why are buildings built? For the thing itself -- the rent? Or as regulatory collateral for some totally nothing to do with it separate set of financing? And if the latter, does it explain failed grandiose but cheaply made or very soundly and exquisitely built but empty buildings? Of course, the nature of anything built for the future, is at first it will be empty, and some years later, crowded and booming.

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Ah, Brasilia. As a resident told me, looking out on it’s never-filled-in swathes of emptiness punctuated by micro-dots of beautiful architecture, and bored bureaucrats slowly tootling home, “It’s the city of the future, and always will be.”

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author

These are all great ideas. Thank you so much!

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I think you'd enjoy interviewing the science fiction author, academic, and all-around badass China Mieville. He's in the UK. A lot of his fiction plays with distorted and fantastical presents and pasts. Of late, though, he's been doing quite a bit of historical work (this one is pretty utopian, in its way: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/61279009-a-spectre-haunting), and I'd bet he would provide a compelling and radical lens through which to imagine what might come next.

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I would recommend that you visist Boca Chica Texas and take a look at SpaceX's Starship launch facility. The future beyond Earth begins there.

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There are many environmental projects going on in Spain as a whole. From small towns to big cities.

As an anecdote, Spain has been declared the European country where we laugh most! 😄

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author

Ok well I absolutely love that!

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Also, read The Geography of Bliss by Eric Weiner.

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I highly recommend checking out Costa Rica. It's frequently listed as one of the happiest countries in the world and is the only one that rates in Central America. We lived there for 3 years and it's not perfect but you can learn a lot about good government and environmental protection and restoration from them.

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author

We spent a month traveling around Costa Rica for that reason, but we weren't as impressed. Do you have any resources on why their governance would be considered good? Or better than other governance? And we weren't a fan at how much of their environmental protection was actually privatized. Meaning independent people were buying up tracts of beautiful land and then selling it back to us as a fee to hike on it. But this is highly anecdotal and you probably know much more about it than I do. I haven't done a lot of research here!

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There is something called transition towns, where they have a more equitable monitory system, they use local produce, as organic as possible and do other community oriented activities. I suggest you check to see what transition towns are active these days. Also, there are efforts being made to restore sea-grass beds all over the UK. Lastly, there is an oganization called one commmunity, which is based in the US, you might want to check their site. It has many interesting models and articles about building a much better world and caring for our planet.

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Define 'Futuristic'! The Pompidou Centre was futuristic in 1977. The Eiffel Tower was futuristic in 1887. The Iron Bridge in Shropshire was futuristic in 1781. Don't wish to overload you with things to do, but how about a Past Futuristic tour too?

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NYC is bringing back oysters and eels that have been long gone along the Hudson River. This has been happening in multiple locations, and a new one opened last year along what has been called the first beach in Manhattan. At least one of the long term goals is cleaning the Hudson and keeping it clean.

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author

Oh wow, that is so cool! Thanks for bringing that to my attention!

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Nigeria's economy is in the shitter right now but they have some sick drip.

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There is an interesting private city in Kenya built by a Kiwi. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tatu_City?wprov=sfla1

There is also Prospera in Honduras which is a more ambitious charter city.

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author

Is there anything in Tatu City yet? I've read a lot about Prospera but, despite it's ambition, there doesn't seem to be much to look at or study there yet. It's all very theoretical. Maybe in the future though!

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As of 2022 there were over 60 businesses in Tatu city. There should be enough for you see. From my East African friends they tell me it waay cleaner and safer than neighbouring Nairobi. I guess that's not much of a draw for a westerner.

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author

Oh awesome, thanks for those details! I'll look into it!

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The neom line in Saudi Arabia

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author

Already emailed them! :)

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Apparently they've downsized it from the original 100 mile plan, but even 10 miles would be amazing.

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I found the Schoonschip Project in Amsterdam to be very utopian! https://sammatey.substack.com/p/learning-from-the-low-lands-1-a-floating

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Not on your list but the horizontal city under construction in Saudi Arabia.

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NEOM! I've already emailed them...

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That’s the one! I read the huge article in WSJ recently. It kind of reminds me of Fitzcarraldo or something, an ambitious project that’s probably dangerous.

Cool project you’re doing. Best of luck.

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author

It's not even close to being done. But would be fun to document nonetheless. Super fascinating!

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Read Pico Iyer’s latest book about paradise for philosophical grounding https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/60834549

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I LOVE that book!!!!!!!! One of my absolute favorites.

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Yes, me too, and I’m about to attend a small program with him for a week in New Mexico. I left overseas for five years and have some ideas which I can convey elsewhere, but I wonder if you will simply find that utopia is to be found within you and not through the ever popular global nomadism

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A little bit of a tangent, but related to your comment, Chuck, read The Boy Who was Raised as a Dog. The author makes the point that to love yourself you need first to have someone show you how by loving you. I think that environments that prove their love to others (i.e. create nurturing external circumstances and safety nets) help individuals create their own internal sense of safety and contentment. It's not as simple as self determination vs. nanny state. They work in tandem.

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This was always my contention with the book "The Alchemist." Everyone always uses it as an allegory to say, "we don't need to travel because paradise was at home all along." But the reality is he had to travel to find his own home a paradise. And another person might have traveled only to find an even better home abroad. And another person might have have traveled only to realize that home is while traveling! The traveling is still an important part of that story! As you say, we need both!

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Yes, I appreciate that. One thing that surprises me here is that people are interested in giving advice on Substack without reading the others' writing. I am not sure your comment absolutely applies to the type of writing I do and my three books on urban observation. You can see London's Shard in a flowering dahlia, and more. Pico Iyer's writing is often about a "placeless" home, which is why I recommend him.

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author

Of course that is true. We can all experience utopia wherever we are. But it's also beautiful to experience it elsewhere too! So incredible that you'll get to spend a week with Pico Iyer, he really is the master of travel journalism. And his forays into paradise were stunning!

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Also, please note that although I am not a paid subscriber, I do read your pieces, and admire them--and would not have suggested Pico if I did not sense he might already have resonated!

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I really appreciate that Chuck. And you happened to mention one of my favorite books. So you were right to recommend it!

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Yes, excuse my "brilliant" provocation! The possibility of utopia in place is something I am exploring, purposely attempting to see the big stuff in the small stuff!

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This thread makes me think of the concept of a whirling dervish. They dance with one foot rooted and another foot moving around. It shows the dichotomy of living and brings them into balance.

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I’m reading your work, Tresha. And I followed you.

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I can't think of anything in the UK off the top but just to say Bhutan is a fabulous place to visit, be careful of visiting the fertility temple! We had a great time there, but travel time was long for the distances involved.

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author

Yeah, that might be the case for us too. If it gets too intensive we might have to cut out. But we're still trying to see if we can make it work!

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