Is an Ecovillage World Possible?
This is an excerpt from page 132 of _Ecovillage Living_ by Hildur Jackson and Karen Svensson, presenting the case for why ecovillages need to be made within the mega-cities as well as out in the countryside.
Is an Ecovillage World Possible?
Could the ecovillage concept be extended to the entire world, including the mega-cities? Many people who are new to the ecovillage movement conclude quickly that it could not happen. Ecovillages are seen as strictly rural models. Twelve billion people cannot all live in the countryside, after all. Right? Therefore the movement is of marginal importance. End of discussion.
But they are missing an important point. The ecovillage vision is far more than establishing a cohousing in the countryside and growing your own food. It is about a new lifestyle that incorporates ecological, social, and spiritual/cultural dimensions, a lifestyle that reestablishes the local networks that have always been a part of human existence, but which have been disintegrating in more recent history for a variety of reasons. That lifestyle can in principle be established in a megacity or a suburb as well as in the countryside. However, it is easier in the current environment to start with some virgin land to get some convincing models established. The reasons are not hard to find. And we need some full-scale models to demonstrate how all the elements of sustainability fit together. It can then be replicated in full or in parts in all local neighborhoods. In the South, it very much fits with existing community values and will be easier to implement as the existing alternative is so hopeless.
One factor which will accelerate the development of ecovilllages is the increasing cost and decreasing quality observable in the welfare state's institutionalized care of individual citizens from cradle to grave, and their corresponding health care. With an increasing number of elderly in the population, it will become even more obvious that the current system is simply too expensive. In the future, it will be discovered that these same tasks can be solved at much greater cost-effectiveness and more satisfactorily for all by using the resources of local ecovillage communities and by putting far greater emphasis on preventative medicine and healthy home-grown food.
The biggest challenge will be the megalopolises of the South like Mexico City, Mumbai, Calcutta... The first step has been taken by Senegal by making ecovillages official national policy. It is close to traditional village life. When people are asked what they really want out of life, they invariably respond that, besides a personally satisfying workday, they want to live harmoniously with their families and friends in safe, attractive surroundings with access to clean air, clean water, clean soil and to nature. The ecovillage future described in these pages comes far closer to this ideal than the current society, where these conditions are a rare exception rather than the rule.
Below is more information about the book.
from Newsletter November 2002
Ecovillage Living: Restoring the Earth and Her People
Hildur Jackson and Karen Svensson
The Earth is in need of visions and solutions, which give hope and show a possible path forward for humanity. How do we solve the climate change problems at the same time as eradicating poverty? What will the new whole systems solutions look like? How do we dream of living with each other and the natural world? Is it possible to create a lifestyle, which is basically peaceful, just and sustainable for all? Are ecovillages and sustainable neighbourhoods the way forward?
Many people have asked themselves these questions all over the planet during the last 20-40 years. Many have been trying to do something about it. They have been building intentional communities and ecovillages. Some of the answers are in this book. We have collected the best of knowledge from all over the world on how to create a sustainable, integral society everywhere, described by the people who have actually done it.
The Social Dimension
Danish research has shown that it is the social dimension, which has been the most important in improving peoples’ lives. People want community and better possibilities for their children. They want to cooperate and celebrate life together. They want to integrate the old and handicapped so that all are full members of society. An ecovillage is a holographic representation of the greater society, all within walking distance.
The Ecological Dimension
For many people, ecological houses (especially straw bale houses, the new symbol of sustainability), renewable energy and fresh local foods are what draw them to ecovillage living. They will also find good advice in this book. Permaculture has evolved as a method of integrated design. Plants and animals are here part of the local community and treated with due respect Earth restoration happens naturally this way.
The Spiritual/ Cultural Dimension
It you want to live a simple, mindful life with the goal of spiritual development, then Ecovillage living is an option. A healthy ecological and social life is a necessary basis for a spiritual lifestyle. The book gives several examples of the importance of living a new worldview and a spiritual lifestyle. Creativity and art is inherent in this.
Global Justice and Cooperation
Ecovillage living is a lifestyle, which allows for global justice and true cooperation all over the world. The book illustrates how the same basic idea works in Sri Lanka (where they now have a cease-fire after 40 years of fighting very much thanks to Sarvodaya, a network of 12,000 villages), in Ladakh and in Senegal (whose government sees ecovillages as a new development model) as well as many other places in the global South. The book shows how Southern ecovillages have a lot to teach the North as far concerns spirituality and community.
Taking the Idea to the Mainstream
To build these communities and to learn to live in them is not easy. But as this book shows, it is possible and people are doing it against all odds. And having fun doing it! It seems as if the concept is soon getting to the mainstream. Munksøgård and Hertha in Denmark, and ecovillage at Ithaca in New York State, are good examples of ecovillages close to the mainstream in the global North.