Wind-bells tinkle and cypresses sway in the breeze. The sun casts sharp shadows across an undulating landscape. There are strange concrete forms everywhere: giant open vaults, painted half-domes with strange crests, an amphitheatre ringed by buildings with giant circular openings, little houses sunk into the hillside. Healthy-looking, vaguely hippy-ish people, young and old, stride about in dusty jeans and T-shirts. Beyond are the scrub-covered hills of the Sonoran desert. This not your typical American settlement. In fact, it’s not your typical Earth settlement. For one thing, there are no cars or roads. Everything is connected by winding footpaths. Nor are there shops, billboards, or any other garish commercial intrusion. It looks like the set of a sci-fi movie designed by Le Corbusier. Round the next corner, you might expect to bump into Luke Skywalker, or Socrates, or a troupe of dancers doing Aquarius.

This is Arcosanti, 70 miles from Phoenix, Arizona. It’s a curious taste of what an environmentally friendly US town could look like, but probably never will.

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