Ecovillages in the News: May 2008
By Diana Leafe Christian
The sudden upsurge of interest in ecovillages in the US press in the past few months—from Forbes to Time Magazine to The Wall Street Journal—with primarily accurate and upbeat coverage, may portend ecovillages becoming as popular a feature article in newspapers and online publications as cohousing communities have been over the last decade. With so much media emphasis, finally, on environmental issues, ecovillages may finally stop being ignored (or lampooned as “Hippie Communes Eco-Style”) to becoming something of a new media darling.
I don’t mind this at all, do you?
Positive articles featuring EcoVillage at Ithaca in upstate New York appeared on April 10 in Forbes Magazine (“Ecotopia”), which suggested that the Internet may be partially responsible for the increased interest in ecovillages and intentional communities, and on March 24 in The Wall Street Journal (“You Are How You Live”), noting that ecovillages “discourage car use . . . (and) try to be as self-sufficient as possible and not rely on the surrounding area’s power, water, or waste infrastructure.”
In the same April 10 issue Forbes also ran a photo essay, “In Pictures: Eight Modern Utopias,” featuring Findhorn in Scotland, ZEGG in Germany, and Crystal Waters in Australia, along with five other intentional communities — all described positively. However, a related article about bad experiences in an authoritarian group household during college is downright snide, implying that ecologically-oriented communities are callous eco-scams. The writer first calls them “boutique utopias” and “gated communities established by the bourgeoisie, who find it fashionable to commit to sustainable practices,” then slams two ecovillages: misquoting the financial structure of Earthaven Ecovillage in North Carolina—where I live—which she calls a “chic settlement” (editor falls out of chair laughing), and insulting Damanhur in Italy as well. Hmmm, P. T. Barnum, are you sure all publicity is good publicity?
On September 6 last year Time Magazine also ran a positive article about EcoVillage at Ithaca, “Green Acres.” But the magazine couldn’t resist trying to make fun, too: “Draped in vegetation and occasionally sporting solar panels, the homes are Normal Rockwell meets Al Gore.” And worse: “If ecovillages were just isolated, survivalist lifeboats amid a sea of rising temperatures—the Branch Davidian compounds of the green movement—they wouldn’t mean much. But . . . ”
Great. Do editors at this renowned news weekly make its reporters write like this?
Ecovillages were also featured in the Jan/Feb 2008 issue of E-Magazine, “It Takes an Ecovillage.” The article starts out by oddly devoting eight paragraphs to Arcosanti in Arizona (which not only is not an ecovillage but, insists founder Paolo Soleri, not an intentional community either), then goes on to describe L.A. Eco-Village, EcoVillage at Ithaca, Cleveland Ecovillage, and the Ecovillage Training Center at The Farm.
Ecovillages are showing up in smaller publications as well. On April 10 the Portland Oregonian ran an article about Columbia Ecovillage, a 3.75-acre cohousing project in Portland featuring renovations of existing apartment buildings and an on-site 1.6-acre organic farm and permaculture education center.
Lammas Ecovillage, an exceptionally well-organized start-up project in Wales (with an ongoing video of its founding process and an impressive architectural scale model), is featured March 28 on the Eco Worldly website, “The UK’s First Eco Community Obtains Building Approval From Local Authorities” (though Lammas is not the first such community in the UK), and on March 29 on the Tree Hugger website, “Ecocities of Tomorrow.”
To stay up-to-date on media coverage of ecovillages in the English-speaking press, we’re blessed with the new Community Buzz blog, a feature of the comprehensive US-based intentional community website Intentional Communities, hosted by the nonprofit Fellowship for Intentional Community (FIC). Webmaster Tony Sirna of Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage produces this feature, showcasing articles from print and Internet sources about all forms of intentional community, including ecovillages, with informed comments placing the articles in context. Highly recommended!