Letters to the Editor 200905
May 2009 Issue
An ecovillage in Slovenia
Dear Ms. Christian,
I’m preparing a thesis in Economics for the Faculty of Ljubljana, which will include a business plan for the development of an innovation centre and an ecovillage in the town of Pivka. A group of scientists have decided to establish an innovation centre focused on green technology and possibly the field of eco-entrepreneurship. The innovation centre itself will be part of an ecovillage, and both the local and national authorities have already invested into the project. Jonathan Dawson of GEN said that you may be able to help me on the matter. I’ve written extensively on the ecology, sustainability, and social aspects of ecovillages, and used Findhorn as an example. I even managed to include some spirituality, but now I need to balance it out with some purely economic material. What I need is a business plan/strategy to start an ecovillage and here is where some help from your part could come useful. Should you have any practical information for a start-up ecovillage, from a purely business/financial view point I would be most grateful to study it. I look forward to hearing from you.
One of my special interests is how ecovillages can become more economically sustainable. I have emailed you the longer version of the chapter I wrote for GEN’s upcoming “Economic Key” book for the EDE (Ecovillage Design Education) on social enterprises at Earthaven Ecovillage, where I live.
Also, please see my chapter on starting new ecovillages in Beyond You and Me, the free, downloadable EDE book on the social aspects of sustainability, published by GEN in 2007.
I’ve also written a book on how to start successful new ecovillages, Creating a Life Together: Practical Tools to Grow Ecovillages and Intentional Communities, also available in French as Vivre autrement: Écovillages, communautés et cohabitats. Please see chapter 12 on buying and financing property, and chapter 14 on internal community finances, including how to avoid the possible pitfalls of starting new businesses in communities. I hope this helps! —Diana
An ecovillage in Romania
My name is Luminita and I’m from Romania. My husband, Jean-Pierre, and I are trying to give birth to an ecovillage here in Transylvania, in the heart of the Carpathian Mountains. We would like to have the support of ecovillage activists internationally from all the world.
It is not easy to manage a project like this in a country where there is no physical precedent for this concept.
I hope to receive as soon as possible some advice from you, about our pioneer ecoproject in Romania.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Luminita Comsuta Anamaria
I’m afraid I cannot send very specific information on starting a new ecovillage project by email because there is so much to say, but one free online resource is my chapter on starting new ecovillages in Beyond You and Me, GEN’s book on the social aspects of sustainability. I’ve also written a book that covers this topic extensively — Creating a Life Together: Practical Tools to Grow Ecovillages and Intentional Communities. I’m guessing by your husband’s name that he might be French, and the book is also available as Vivre autrement: Écovillages, communautés et cohabitats I wish you and Jean-Pierre all the best! Please email again from time to time to let our readers know how your project is coming along.
On the road to ecovillages . . . in Scandinavia
Our group of five international young people based in Scandinavia are organizing an educational project aiming at transferring the knowledge and experience of ecovillages to a larger scale and a larger audience. We hope to do this by visiting ecovillages and other eco-projects in Scandinavia and creating a 26-minute documentary of our travels, showing real-life anecdotes and practical solutions in the ecovillages and urban eco-centers we visit. We plan to show the finished documentary in schools, universities and any welcoming place.
We envision this documentary as a guide, recipe, or instruction manual for how to run a successful urban eco-project. It will focus on the best practices acquired by experienced ecovillages and urban eco-projects. We’ll look at five areas:
- Energy production and consumption
- Clean transport solutions
- Waste treatment: reuse, reduce, recycle, rethink!
- Food production and consumption
- Social harmony: integrating the above four aspects in a society of diverse individuals with various lifestyles, specifically with the people who live near but not in the eco-project itself.
We hope to participate in the daily life of ecovillages and urban eco-projects. Start with ecovillages, then move into town to see what kind of solutions they can offer. Members of our team have experience in organic farming, home construction, engineering, journalism, filmmaking, music, and photography. Our sponsor is Økobo in Oslo, which aims to build an eco-habitat in Oslo, Norway.
We intend to begin in the spring and summer of 2009. We hope to visit each ecovillage for two to three weeks. We’re seeking meals and lodging in each place we visit in exchange for work we will do for the group (which is our learning process) and publishing rights of our video footage for the documentary. The rest of the budget, 10,000 Euros, will be for travelling expenses and the necessary sound and video equipment to shoot the documentary. We’re seeking funds from the Department of Environmental Affairs in Oslo and its equivalent in Gothenburg and Malmö in Sweden, and Copenhagen in Denmark. We’ll also seek grants from ethical banks and green funding organizations.
The ecovillage of [httpwww.ekobogotland.se EcoLivingGotland] in Sweden has replied favourably; we will visit them in June and work on farming, building, and design projects. In July we’ll visit Svanholm and Munksoegaard in Denmark. We are also seeking urban partners in Sweden and Denmark, particularly in the cities of Gothenburg, Malmö, and Copenhagen.
You can help! Here’s what we ask:
- Tell us about your ecovillage or urban eco-project in Scandinavia, its goals, and completed projects.
- Provide contact information for your friends and colleagues in ecovillages and urban eco-projects, as well as in environmental agencies of large cities.
- Invite us to your ecovillage or urban eco-project so we can offer work in exchange, for meals, lodging, and the opportunity to film your activities.
By the way, the vision statement for the city of Oslo reads, “We shall pass on the city to the next generation in a better environmental condition than we ourselves inherited it. Oslo shall be one of the world's most environmentally friendly and sustainable capital cities.” Read more about this (in English) here.
Sounds wonderful. Please keep in touch and let Ecovillages readers know how your journey is going and what you’re learning. — Diana
When was the term “ecovillage” first used?
Can you tell me please, what community first called itself an “ecovillage?”
A. Allen Butcher
According to ecovillage activist Albert Bates, the concept and the term first arose through different people in different locations in Europe and the US in the late 1970s and 1980s.
In 1975 the back-to-the land magazine Mother Earth News began building an educational center with passive-solar buildings and organic gardens near their offices in Hendersonville, North Carolina. In 1979 they began calling it an “eco-village.”
At about the same time, anti-nuclear activists protesting the disposal of nuclear waste in Gorleben, Germany, attempted to build a small, ecologically based village at the site, which they called an ökodorf (“ecovillage”). Their camp was ultimately dismantled by the police, but the concept stuck, and small ökodorf experiments continued in Germany, and the magazine Ökodorf Informationen (Ecovillage Information) began publishing. In 1985 it became the German magazine Eurotopia.
In 1990 Ross and Hildur Jackson of Gaia Trust in Denmark asked Americans Robert and Diane Gilman, founders of Context Institute and publishers of the magazine In Context, to gather information about various ecologically sustainable human settlements worldwide. In 1991 the Gilmans’ report was published as the book Ecovillages and Sustainable Communities. Their well-known ecovillage definition, “human scale, full-featured settlement, etc.” first appeared in that book.
About the same time in Denmark, a number of intentional communities became more interested in ecological sustainability, and in 1993 started the Danish ecovillage network LOS (Landsforeningen for Økosamfund). And the rest, as they say, is history. —Diana
Developing an ecovillage — not a commune! — in the Netherlands
I represent a group of Welsh investors who are interested in founding an ecovillage in the Netherlands. We are still in the very early stages of discussing this, and do not have anything concrete yet as we must first discover if this is actually possible legally. Which did you find were the best websites for discovering information about this sort of development? Are there any contacts we should know about beforehand? We are actually planning this as a commercial development, so it is unlike the “commune”-style communities that are prevalent everywhere these days. Basically, some beautiful, eco-friendly houses rather than a cluster of tents around a fire. Any information you could point us towards would be very gratefully received, and if we actually can begin this then we will have a website up and running soon and will add a link to yours.
By the way, I found this website to be quite useful Eco-Villages Resource Directory.
义龙 (Yi Long)
Pontypridd, Wales, and soon, Hangzhou, China
Are you and your friends housing developers, or investors working with developers? If so, you might be interested in Ecovillage near Kyoto, Japan, a project built by housing developers through the nonprofit G-Project, which is managing its design and construction. The website is in Japanese, so I learned more about Kobunaki by Googling "G-Project" and "Kobunaki Ecovillage,” where it has been described online in English.
Given that you mentioned "commune-style communities” and “a cluster of tents around a fire,” are you referring to back-to-the land communes of the 1960s and 1970s? I’ve visited a lot of ecovillages in North America and am quite familiar with those in Europe and elsewhere, and I actually don't know of any like this!
If you look at ecovillage websites you’ll see that most are fairly well developed, with real buildings, onsite cottage industries, schools, people working at telecommuting jobs, and so on. Not hippies, but responsible adults creating settlements intended to be demonstration models for others, to help encourage their neighbors and visitors to shift to a more low-consumption, high-satisfaction way of life.
By the way, “commune” is an economic term meaning an income-sharing intentional community. Relatively few ecovillages are income-sharing. For more information on ecovillages in general, please see What is an Ecovillage? and The Ecovillage Movement Today. For information about a start-up community in the Netherlands, see A New Anastasia Village in the Netherlands by Lex Veelo. I hope you find these resources helpful! Please email again from time to time and let newsletter readers know how your project is going. —Diana
We already live in ecovillages . . .
Keith Johnson, author of the following letter, and Peter Bane are writers and permaculture design/consultants who have created site plans for several ecovillage projects. They’re my friends and former neighbors at Earthaven Ecovillage in North Carolina; now they live on a half-acre homesite outside Bloomington, Indiana. Peter publishes Permaculture Activist magazine, is a board member of Association for Regenerative Culture, and is a member of the Bloomington Peak Oil Task Force (and an Advisor to this newsletter); Keith hosts the blogs Transition Indiana and KJPermaculture. — Diana
Since Peter and I moved to Bloomington, it’s been far easier to effect change around us. We are affecting thousands locally via many allies, websites, and blogs, and odds are good that several Bloomington City Councilors and County Commissioners (several of whom consider us trustworthy advisors), will be attending our Transition Training in April, along with leaders from around Indiana and elsewhere. A good number of the principal city and county leaders are well aware of the challenges before us and are willing to work with us to design real local solutions.
Our new home is paid for, the farm is growing more and more productive, fruit trees are growing and starting to yield, we have a new apprentice (our previous apprentice has relocated to a new site in town). The local Permaculture Guild has spun off a Permaculture Growers Co-op and neighborhood permaculture garden and training site, farmers markets are multiplying, and more people are getting into farming. We’re starting a school for urban farming, and many of our students are active locally in non-profits, community gardens, school gardens, prison gardens, and more. The 7th Annual Permaculture Design Course through Indiana University is happening in June. Peter is creating a Permaculture Summit in Louisville in May, and we’re both on the Peak Oil Task Force for the City of Bloomington and will carry on when that body ends its term in July. We’re working with neighborhood associations and organic growers, and our design/consulting services are in big demand. We are regularly being asked to speak at various meetings and gatherings and are well-received. We knew we couldn’t do all that we wanted to do, or make this much difference in the world when we lived at Earthaven, and we feel very blessed and encouraged to be moving forward in our essential tasks now.
We love it here and are loved by many . . . we’re home.
The excellent news that most people need to hear is that they already live in ecovillages. They simply have yet to notice that their neighborhoods, unlike a new ecovillage, are already built and in place. Next comes opportunity for co-operation and co-creation to build sustainable cultures where they are . . . which can be the fun part they've been missing all along . . . but you knew that already!
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