Sunday, November 21, 2004

Ecovillage Intro

I’m going to start posting ecovillage information on this blog. This is off the top of my head, in no particular order. But it will accumulate after awhile, and then I’ll take some time and collate the info into a proper article.

An important issue to consider with any shared activity is finding the best balance between cooperation and autonomy. Mainstream culture way overemphasizes autonomy at the expense of cooperation. The devastation to the planet and our own spirits is obvious. Many of us have been seeking a better way our entire lives.

The ecovillage format allows people to find the balance between cooperation and autonomy that works for them. Two ecovillages I find inspiring are Dancing Rabbit (located in northeastern Missouri) and Earthaven (located in North Carolina).

Dancing Rabbit has an inspired organizational structure. The ecovillage itself is an umbrella organization that allows individuals, families, and communities to share the same land. For example, Skyhouse is an income-sharing community sharing the same house. People who aren’t drawn to such a close association have their own houses. But all share the same land and share the same goal of living sustainably and harmoniously with the Earth and each other.

Earthaven is divided into neighborhoods, which allows people who feel an affinity for each other to live near each other.

Looking strictly at the economic aspect, ecovillages allow people who aren’t wealthy to live on a fabulous piece of land. Part of the land is devoted to intensive use -- houses and other structures, orchards, gardens. Each house has 1/3 or ½ acre for gardens, orchards, or to be left wild. But typically most of the ecovillage land is left wild, or used for, say, sustainable timber harvesting.

But let’s be real here -- of the three main catastrophes awaiting us, ecovillages can offer protection from only one -- an economic crash. The other two catastrophes -- authoritarian government here in the U.S., and global ecological catastrophe -- will be much more difficult to deal with.

Here are two more options to consider:
* Leave the country.
* Live a nomadic lifestyle which allows maximum flexibility when dealing with rapidly-changing events.

However, both of these options involve keeping most of your assets in the form of money, and it is now obvious that the golden age of the dollar is rapidly drawing to a close. It seems expedient to spend our excess money as wisely as possible before it loses much or all of its value. The ecovillage lifestyle entails de-emphasizing the importance of money in our lives, but it also ties you down.

Truly sustainable living would involve, using Gary Snyder’s phrase, "living with the sun and the green of one spot." This would involve living in modest, solar-powered houses, minimizing automobile use and other energy-intensive lifestyles, and sophisticated, intensive, year-round gardening and orcharding, using coldframes and greenhouses to extend the growing season. Since solar energy is diffuse compared to fossil fuels, a truly sustainable lifestyle would be much more frugal than anything we are used to.

But shared frugality can be richly fulfilling, and this leads to the cultural aspect of ecovillages. Mainstream America is destroying the planet out of unconsciousness, boredom, fear, and compensation for our inner emptiness. Creating an alternative culture will be a challenging task -- but what other option is there? I think this is the only way we can truly unleash our human and spiritual potential.

There is much more to say, and many more posts to come.


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