Adams-Morgan is a seventy-block neighborhood in the center of Washington, D.C. For five years Karl Hess worked with hundreds of people in this neighborhood striving to make it self-sufficient. There were fish in basements, vegetables growing in once vacant lots and on rooftops, self-contained bacteriological toilets to unhook the community from conventional sewer systems, a newsletter, plans for a methanol plant to convert local garbage into fuel, and a shopping cart to handle most heavy moving chores. Most important were the weekly town meetings: “After tasting a participatory democracy.” Hess says, “I would never want to trade it for a merely representative one.”
Even though several thousand people were finally involved in some part of all this community technology, it didn't thrive.
Community Technology is the story of what these people did, how they did it, and why it didn't work. It is also an explanation of how any neighborhood can achieve self-sufficiency now, using what Hess and Adams-Morgan learned. And finally, it is the story of Hess's current neighborhood organizations, this time in rural West Virginia.