About This Newsletter What is an Ecovillage? Ecovillage Resources Diana Leafe Christian, Editor

Finally, Ecovillage Activists Gather in the US

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By Diana Leafe Christian

Urban Ecovillagers, Green Developers, Visionary City Officials Convene in Chicago, 2007

Teenagers from Calgary Church in Cleveland, Ohio help plant trees for a Cleveland Ecovillage project.

Frankly, I’m jealous. GEN-Europe holds an Annual General Assembly in Europe every year, where representatives from many European ecovillages celebrate a schmoozing, feasting, dancing, networking extravaganza. Germany and Italy each have their own ecovillage gatherings. Wunderbar, and Quanto Bello! So do Argentina and Brazil. Bravo! In fact, ENA (Ecovillage Network of the Americas), is thriving in South America and Mexico, where ENA meetings are characterized by more drumming and dancing than proposals and agendas. And in 2006-2007 Japan has hosted two ecovillage conferences! (See “Eco-Heroes in Japan.”) But when do North American ecovillagers ever get together to drum, dance, feast, celebrate, and network?

So it was with great pleasure that I met urban ecovillage activists, green-leaning housing developers, and visionary city officials last November in the first ecovillage conference ever held in the U.S. The event, “Developing Urban Ecovillages: Towards Ecocities,” took place November 9-11, 2007, at DePaul University in Chicago. As a keynote speaker I presented a slide show on the wider ecovillage movement internationally. And the urban folks, well, they got to find out they’re not alone.

“There's a whole lot going on out there, which I didn't even know was happening,” observed Dirk Herr-Hoyman from Arboretum Cohousing in Madison, Wisconsin. “I was surprised to find out that urban ecovillages are a reality, not just a pipe dream.”

Diana Leafe Christian, editor of this newsletter, lives at Earthaven Ecovillage in North Carolina, US.

Urban Ecovillages – Definitely Not a Pipe Dream

Urban ecovillages are indeed a reality in the U.S., from Cleveland EcoVillage, Detroit Ecovillage, and Culver Way Cohousing in St. Louis, to organized neighborhood-style ecovillages: Enright Ridge Urban Ecovillage in Cincinatti, Phinney Ecovillage in Seattle (described in Cecile Andrews’ book, Slow is Beautiful), and of course the grandmamá of them all, Los Angeles Eco-Village. (See “L.A. Eco-Village Stops Bulldozers!”)

And we heard from these urban ecovillagers. Jim Schenk of Enright Ridge Urban Ecovillage described the organized neighborhood he and neighbors have been developing since 2004 in the multiracial, working-class, Price-Hill area of Cincinnati. Enright Ridge is a unique physical set-up too: while this mile-long cul-de-sac street is minutes from downtown, it’s surrounded by 200 acres of woods and a hiking trail. Here many neighbors are renovating their homes to become more energy efficient, planting organic vegetable gardens, participating in a neighborhood food co-op, and taking part in other “green” neighborhood activities.

Members of Culver Way Cohousing Ecovillage in St. Louis, Missouri in their community garden.
Tom Braford, co-founder of Culver Way Cohousing in St. Louis, Missouri, described how this 44-unit community, now under construction, has morphed from a solely cohousing community into a cohousing-style urban ecovillage. Culver Way is the second ecovillage in the US to use the cohousing model. (EcoVillage at Ithaca was the first.)

Cleveland and Chicago: Going Green

Sometimes City Hall gets the message, too. Mandy Metcalf, project director for Cleveland EcoVillage, told how a coalition of a neighborhood redevelopment nonprofit, a “green” city planning nonprofit, the City of Cleveland, and Cleveland’s Rapid Transit Authority are developing an area within walking distance of Cleveland’s newly renovated West 65th Street Transit station. The coalition is building new ecologically sustainable affordable homes in vacant areas, helping neighbors renovate their existing homes for energy efficiency, and creating community gardens and bike paths, among other green initiatives.

And Chicago, the conference host city, intends to become “the greenest city in the nation,” according to Sadhu Johnson, Assistant to the Mayor for Green Initiatives, who described the potential for ecovillage-style developments in Chicago.

Other presenters included Julie Peterson, coordinator of the Beyond Today ecological neighborhood project in Chicago.

Do It Now!

Co-organizer Carol Braford of Culver Way Cohousing Ecovillage also served as conference emcee.
Ecovillages are needed now, declared Thomas J. Murphy, Professor Emeritus at DePaul and former director of the University’s environmental science program, not only because we need accessible and replicable models of sustainability, but to meet the triple threat of Peak Oil, Climate Change, and the threat of global economic collapse.

Conference organizers included Rael Bassan of Chicagoland Urban Permaculture (CUP); Architect Bill Marston, a member of Green Village Philadelphia; and Carol Braford, former Board President of Cohousing Association of the U.S. and cofounder of Culver Way Cohousing. Carol also served as conference emcee. Bill Marston also served as panel moderator. Toronto-based permaculture designer Jillian Hovey gave a summary talk.

The event was sponsored by Chicagoland Urban Permaculture (CUP), with co-sponsors Urban Ecovillage Network (UEN), Beyond Today, Ecovillage Network of the Americas (ENA), Global Ecovillage Network (GEN), Environmental Research Foundation, Cohousing Association of the United States (Coho/US), DePaul University Institute for Nature and Culture, and 8th Day Center for Justice.


Related articles:

The Ecovillage Movement Today — this issue
Eco-Heroes in Japan — this issue


Also in this issue — May '08


Coming in Future Issues:
  • Anastasia Ecovillages in Russia (Andrew Jones)
  • Konohana Family Farm in Japan (Hildur Jackson)
  • First Philippines Ecovillage Design Education Course (Diana Leafe Christian)
  • Pintig Ecovillage Partners with a Local Green Business (Diana Leafe Christian)
  • Our Whirlwind Aussie Road Trip, Part II (Russell Austerberry)
  • Svanholm in Denmark Becomes Carbon Neutral (Christina Adler Jensen)
  • Ecovillage Conference Tokyo 2009 (Hildur Jackson)
  • ‘Glue’ or ‘Shrapnel’ in Your Ecovillage (Diana Leafe Christian)
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Newsletter Staff

Mission & Purpose

To encourage and inspire new and existing ecovillage projects with news about ecovillages and related projects worldwide.

Advisory Board

  • Lois Arkin,
    CRSP; ENA; Urban Ecovillage Network; Los Angeles Eco-Village, US
  • Peter Bane,
    Permaculture designer; publisher, Permaculture Activist, US
  • Albert Bates,
    Co-founder, GEN; Post-Petroleum Survival Guide; Director, Ecovillage Training Center at The Farm, US
  • Tree Bressen,
    Consensus & Facilitation Trainer; Cofounder, Walnut St. Co-op, US
  • Ernest Callenbach,
    Ecotopia, Ecotopia Emerging; US
  • Giovanni Ciarlo,
    GEN; ENA; Huehyecoyotl Ecovillage, Mexico
  • Raines Cohen,
    Cohousing Association of the US; Fellowship for Intentional Community (FIC); Berkeley Cohousing, US
  • Leila Dregger,
    Peace journalist & writer, Peace Research Center & Ecovillage, Tamera, Portugal
  • Chuck Durrett,
    Cohousing; Senior Cohousing; Architect, The Cohousing Company; Nevada City Cohousing, US
  • Jonathan Dawson,
    Ecovillages; Findhorn Foundation, Scotland
  • Robert Gilman,
    Co-founder, GEN; Ecovillages & Sustainable Communities; City Council Member, Langley, Washington, US
  • Michael Hale,
    Yarrow Ecovillage, Canada
  • Jeff Grossberg,
    Guidestone Consulting Group, US
  • Martha Harris,
    Earthaven Ecovillage, US
  • Scott Horton,
    Editor, Permaculture Activist, US
  • Hildur Jackson,
    Co-founder, Gaia Trust; cofounder, GEN; Ecovillage Living, Denmark
  • Kosha Joubert,
    Editor, Beyond You and Me, GEN's EDE Program; Ecovillage Sieben Linden, Germany
  • Elana Kann & Bill Flemming,
    Co-developers, Westwood Cohousing, US
  • Joseph F. Kennedy,
    Designer/educator; The Art of Natural Building, US
  • Fred & Nancy Lanphear,
    Northwest Intentional Communities Association (NICA); Songaia Cohousing, US
  • Mark Lakeman,
    Founder, Portland City Repair & Village Building Convergence, US
  • Max Lindegger,
    Cofounder, GEN; Director, GEN-Oceania/Asia; Crystal Waters Ecovillage, Australia
  • Chris Mare,
    GEN's EDE Program; Village Design Institute, US
  • Ronaye Matthew,
    Canadian Cohousing Network; Cranberry Commons Cohousing, Canada
  • Kathryn McCamant,
    Architect/Developer, Cohousing Partners, Inc.; Co-author, Cohousing; Nevada City Cohousing, US
  • Dr. Bill Metcalf,
    Findhorn Book of Community Living; Professor, Environmental Sociology, Griffith University, Australia
  • Ina Meyer-Stoll,
    Co-director, GEN-Europe; ZEGG, Germany
  • Tim Miller,
    The 60s Communes; Professor of Religion, University of Kansas, US
  • Hank Obermayer,
    Mariposa Grove Cohousing, US
  • Toshio Ogata,
    Professor of Economics, Chuo University; GEPA (Global Environment Project in Asia), Japan
  • Craig Ragland,
    Executive Director, Cohousing Association of the US; Songaia Cohousing; New Earth Song Cohousing, US
  • Penelope Reyes,
    President, GEN-Oceania/Asia; Tuwâ - The Laughing Fish, Cabiao, Philippines
  • Michael Rios,
    Network for a New Culture Summer Camp East; Chrysalis, Washington DC, US
  • Jim Shenck,
    Enright Ridge Ecovillage, US
  • Nicola Shirley,
    The Source Farm Ecovillage, Jamaica
  • Tony Sirna,
    Communities Directory; Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage, US
  • Jan Steinman,
    EcoReality Co-op, Canada
  • Liz Walker,
    GEN's EDE Program; Ecovillage at Ithaca; EcoVillage at Ithaca, US