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Ecovillages: What Are They All  About?

Flickr | Eli DukeIn the shade of climate change and ecological crisis, ecovillages serve as a great practical example of sustainable living. However, the technological innovations aren’t their most important contribution to ecological solutions. It’s rather the community-driven approach and the effective way of connecting people, embracing diversity and reconnecting to nature.

The principles of ecovillages

The popularity of ecovillages is increasing today and many of them are popping up all around the world. There are some basic principles which are commonly shared in all of these places. These include living in green houses, usage of renewable sources of energy, growing own food, sustainable living with minimal harm to the environment and overall independency of a village. An ecovillage is a whole interconnected system that integrates ecological, economic, social, and cultural dimensions of sustainability.

However, there is no unified design or way how to build an ecovillage. Their beauty lies in a tremendous diversity that they’re abundant in. Their builders respect the place and try to adapt to the specific environment and conditions rather than changing them. If you take a look on the GEN map, you can browse through so many diverse eco communities that were established around the world.

Wikimedia Commons | SuSanA SecretariatIt’s about the community, rather the material place

The community of people is an essential principle of an ecovillage. As Colin Beavan mentions in his book No Impact Man, “environmentalism is not about the environment. It is about people. It is about a vision for a better life-for people.” Ecovillages build on the same idea. Those who are concerned of ecological issues might sometimes tend to view humans as an evil species with merely disastrous impacts on the planet. Sustainable trainer Kosha Joubert reminds us though, that the human activity can be beneficial for an ecosystem. In her view, ecovillages can fill the gaps which we created between each other. The reason why she fell in live with the idea of ecovillage was the diversity of cultures that meet at one place and learn to cooperate.

People living in the city and dreaming about making their life more sustainable, don’t need to run away to remote woods and build wooden houses. There are not only rural but also urban ecovillages. At her TEDx Talk, Joubert mentions that any community, traditional village or urban neighbourhood can become an ecovillage. Simply by people coming together and deciding to design their own future. A switch to the ecovillage can start at community gardens, through which neighbours learn to collaborate and participate.

Pixnio | Billings Brett, USFWSBecoming responsible

The popular trend of minimalism teaches us to appreciate the things we own. The idea is that if we have less property, we tend to care about it more. It’s also true for the things which we make from scratch. Homemade bread is always tastier and handmade clothing worthier taking care of. In the context of ecovillages, building our own house would make us avoid toxic materials and with respect to our garden, we wouldn’t put chemicals to its soil.

Moreover, ecovillages accommodate small-scale communities, and therefore they don’t provide such anonymity as cities do. If we could see the direct impacts of our actions on the people around us, we would probably reconsider our waste or usage of toxic cosmetics which could be harmful to the water that everyone uses. William McDonough elaborates this idea in his book Cradle To Cradle.

Wikimedia Commons | Alex ProimosThere is one other philosophical dimension of ecovillages. They can be viewed as a peaceful demonstration against the current global system as they provide more independency and freedom to their inhabitants. For instance, money is losing its importance in these places. In the short documentary video by Respectful Revolution project, one of the ecovillage residents says:  “Since living here, I don’t stress about money as much because I don’t really need it as much. I end up growing the food that I need to eat so I don’t feel like I have to make this much money to be able to go to the grocery store.”

By Eliška Olšáková - Online Journalism Intern

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