Ecovillages are now being created intentionally, so people can once more live in communities that are connected to the Earth in a way that ensures the well-being of all life-forms into the indefinite future.
Ecovillages, by endeavoring for lifestyles which are “successfully continuable into the indefinite future”, are living models of sustainability, and examples of how action can be taken immediately. They represent an effective, accessible way to combat the degradation of our social, ecological and spiritual environments. They show us how we can move toward sustainability in the 21st century. In 1998, ecovillages were first officially named among the United Nations’ top 100 listing of Best Practices, as excellent models of sustainable living.
Ecovillages typically build on various combinations of three dimensions:
- Social and Community
- Cultural and Spiritual
The Social/Community Dimension of an Ecovillage
Ecovillages are communities in which people feel supported by and responsible to those around them. They provide a deep sense of belonging to a group. They are small enough that everyone feels safe, empowered, seen and heard. People are then able to participate in making decisions that effect their own lives and that of the community on a transparent basis.
- Recognizing and relating to others
- Sharing common resources and providing mutual aid
- Emphasizing holistic and preventive health practices
- Providing meaningful work and sustenance to all members
- Integrating marginal groups
- Promoting unending education
- Encouraging unity through respect for differences
- Fostering cultural expression
The Ecological Dimension of an Ecovillage
Ecovillages allow people to experience their personal connection to the living earth. People enjoy daily interaction with the soil, water, wind, plants and animals. They provide for their daily needs – food, clothing, shelter – while respecting the cycles of nature.
- Growing food as much as possible within the community bio-region
- supporting organic food production there
- Creating homes out of locally adapted materials
- Using village-based integrated renewable energy systems
- Protecting biodiversity
- Fostering ecological business principles
- Assessing the life cycle of all products used in the ecovillage from a social and spiritual as well as an ecological point of view
- Preserving clean soil, water and air through proper energy and waste management
- Protecting nature and safeguarding wilderness areas
The Cultural/Spiritual Dimension of an Ecovillage
Most ecovillages do not place an emphasis on particular spiritual practices as such, but in their own ways ecovillages respect and support – the Earth and all living beings on it; cultural and artistic enrichment and expression; and spiritual diversity.
Cultural and spiritual vitality means:
- Shared creativity, artistic expression, cultural activities, rituals and celebrations
- Sense of community unityand mutual support
- Respect and support for spirituality manifesting in many ways
- Shared vision and agreements that express commitments, cultural heritage and the uniqueness of each community
- Flexibility and successful responsiveness to difficulties that arise
- Understanding of the interconnectedness and interdependence of all the elements of life on Earth and the community’s place in and relation to the whole
- Creation of a peaceful, loving, sustainable world
“Ecovillages are a less structured alternative. Ecovillage members are united by shared ecological, social, and sometimes spiritual values. Their members look out upon a world that seems wasteful and driven by a consumerist lifestyle. They see an upcoming breakdown in governance via centralized power, and in the more traditional forms of community. They object, perhaps more strongly than others, to the destruction of natural habitats and an over-reliance on fossil fuels. They see their decision to live in small-scale communities that have a minimal impact and a smaller footprint as an important and viable alternative.
“These communities often thrive in more rural environments where organic farming and other cooperative practices are already in place. Network, or peer villages are already working together, some much better than others. Ecovillage members believe they are doing their part in averting an ecological disaster. Ecovillages are intended to be socially, economically and ecologically sustainable. They are based upon popular ‘social network’ theories derived from anthropological and sociological studies, which suggest maximum populations of fifty to one-hundred-fifty members. The studies that form the basis of these themed villages also include models for ecomunicipalities and subcommunities. While few of these exist today there is a strong possibility that something akin to these models will gain a broader foundation of support in the years ahead.
“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.
“This decade and the next will see the advent of many more communities, some based upon desire and others upon necessity. Economic and environmental benefits such as shared spaces and resources will become an obvious solution for those who are ready to embrace change. Participatory communities will continue to rise in popularity. Home-based businesses, tele-commuting, job-sharing, and Internet-based commerce it will fuel the transition and accelerate the timing of these alternatives. Access to cities via normal routes and current methods of transportation will become increasingly difficult for the next several years. Skyrocketing costs, surface viruses, environmental hazards, and unidentified airborne illnesses will suggest and encourage the need for new choices. Humanity is only now re-learning how to live with and as a community. Intention is subjective; therefore intentional communities must begin with gentle and open communication with one another.” – Pepper Lewis