Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Ecovillage Movement

What is an Ecovillage?

"Ecovillages are urban or rural communities of people who strive to integrate a supportive social environment with a low-impact way of life. To achieve this, they integrate various aspects of ecological design, permaculture, ecological building, green production, alternative energy, community building practices, and much more.
Ecovillages are living models of sustainability. They represent an effective, accessible way to combat the degradation of our social, ecological, and spiritual environments." -Global Ecovillage Network webpage

What is an
Intentional Community?
"Intentional Community is an inclusive term for ecovillages, cohousing communities, residential land trusts, communes, student co-ops, urban housing cooperatives, intentional living, alternative communities, cooperative living, and other projects where people strive together with a common vision."

This event took place on February 19, 2011 at
Bluestockings in NYC. (As a note, Bluestockings is collectively owned, so this model of community can be found in many more forms that one may think.)

1. Steve - Ithaca Ecovillage
The Ithaca Ecovillage has 2 co-housing neighborhoods (known as FROG and SONG) and another one in progress (which will be called TREE) on 70 acres of an ex-farm in Ithaca, NY. They have a 'U-Pick' berry farm, a large organic vegetable farm, and a pond (for fire protection).  They serve common meals a few times a week in the common houses, although each house has a small kitchen of its own. Members of the community recently built four solar ovens for collective community use, and they also share duties such as composting and laundry service. They have a cooperative government, which makes decisions by concensus and a village association that weighs in on all matters.

2. Susan Grossman and Michael Johnson (Founders, Ganas Community, 1980)
The Ganas community is located in Staten Island, NYC - showing that ecovillages are possible even in urban environments. They now have 8 houses with 75 people living as a "self-selected extended family." Their economy is based on the furniture store, art gallery, clothing store, book store, and thrift shop (creatively named "Everything Goes"). The core group shares everything including income, and the extended core group shares everything but income. The Core group meets for an hour and a half five days a week to discuss everything from planning the day to bigger issues. They have a "no non-negotiable negativity policy" to help prevent and resolve conflicts. Most couples have their own room, although a few share.

The ecovillage movement is about creating a sustainable lifestyle - not just environmentally sustainable, but in all aspects of life. Both of these ecovillages are open to visitors, typically on Fridays for their open community dinner. Contact them to arrange a visit.

Although the ecovillages presented above are secular, there are many IC's that are religiously based. They often run on different systems of self-government.

Questions for Consideration:
1.  What types of people do you see in these communities?

The speakers' answers: Nonjudgemental people, not controlling people, people who want to be around others but have trouble initiating connections, middle class. 
These groups are mainly made of middle class residents because the middle class has had the biggest loss of community. 
They also added that most ecovillages are entirely accepting of diversity.

2. What is your vision for the future of eco-villages? 

Obviously massive eco-villages cannot take over the country or the world because the whole concept of an ecovillage is that it is a small group of people working together (we've seen that this model does not work on a larger scale - communism).  
The speakers would love to see more ecovillages pop up around the country and the world. 

3. How would an expansion of the ecovillage movement change the role of the government?

The speakers' answer - it's too soon to tell. Expansion of the movement would take quite a while, so it is hard to tell what the state of the government would be at that point. 

4. Expanding the ecovillage movement is difficult and radical: how can we start changing the current mindset of materialism and the 'more is more' attitude that is infecting our country and the developed world? 

This is a difficult question, and, unfortunately, I wasn't able to ask the speakers for their opinions.
This is the topic for Annie Leonard's incredible series of videos
"The Story of Stuff." (Watch the videos here.)

Let's continue the discussion! Write a comment below to share your opinion on the topics presented above.

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