Even the greatest works always begin with small deeds. Long journeys begin with a single step. Ecovillages are among humanity’s pioneering drives to reconcile with life. Communities whose viability gives everyone a legitimate hope.
Utopia is etymologically a “place that does not exist”. It was the name given by Thomas More in De optimal reipublicae statu de que nova insula Utopia (1516) to an imaginary country with whose social, economic and political characteristics he hoped to inspire Europe in the early 16th century. Over time, the adjective utopian came to mean unattainable, almost always in a derogatory way. The “civilized” world marched toward the promised Eden at the inexorable pace of scientific and technological progress, under the almost divine laws of the market, and had neither the time nor the desire to engage in experimentation that would respectfully integrate with the natural world implied .
Although many societies and individuals remain blinded by the technocratic mirage, too much evidence of their failure has led to a proliferation of people seeking alternative ways of life. The ecological and social devastation we all feel every day, and which has been worsening for decades, has encouraged – paradoxically as it sounds – to overcome the reactions.
question of size
Urban centers do not arise “spontaneously” in the casual sense. They are born out of needs brought on by various factors affecting human groups. We can risk that the living conditions of such settlements depend on the level of consciousness, freedom and autonomy of the people who join a place.
The process fueled by the Industrial Revolution still maintains its “logic” of driving people out of rural areas and out of primary production of goods in order to encourage capital accumulation, which requires cheap labor and raw materials within reach. It is an intrusive system that assigns roles to groups and regions without considering local interests or needs. As a result of this process, cities are becoming what we know today as “big cities”, with enormous unemployment, insecurity and deficits of all kinds that not even state aid can any longer alleviate. the churches and some NGOs.
The larger a city becomes, the more uncontrollable and alien it becomes to its own residents, not only because they no longer even know each other well enough, but because the scale of the problems of coexistence with the environment begins to exceed its capacity for community response. Anti-social and anti-ecological attitudes seem to increase with increasing alienation from residents.
The question of the individual attitude towards people and the natural environment thus merges with the holistic approach of a social, economic and political organization geared towards conscious search.
The idea is to regenerate
Ecovillas, ecovillages, ecovillages. The names may vary, the nuances may be varied, but essentially it is the same. In the words of Robert Gilman, “They are ‘complete’ human-scale settlements that integrate human activities without harming the natural world in a way that allows for and is capable of healthy human development.” continued satisfactorily in the indefinite future. Utopias under construction, but tangible right now; probable previews of what the entire planet might look like if the seeds of these experiments were multiplied to form a “critical mass,” that is, a sufficient number of communities to steer all of humanity in that direction.
Labeling these ventures as “alternative” is not enough. Not only are they “something different,” they claim to be something better, profoundly better than what we experience. It is for this reason that the term “regenerative” suits them, as they do not aim to restore isolated aspects of human life within the same prevailing system, but rather to think holistically about the bigger picture, because that is the only way it can truly work.
This is not about “green” communities in the cosmetic sense, but in its deepest interpretation about a “logical eco” (from the Greek “oikos”: house) that understands the planet (and each of its habitats) as the big house of all. This implies an authentic spiritual, cultural, economic, political and social renewal.
Some critics speak of a “return to primitivism” and forecast deprivation and sorrow without deepening their analysis of the true content or long-term viability of either way of life.
The ecovillages are such a profound reconsideration of human society that they take all issues related to nutrition, health, education, safety and other issues that concern the majority of the population today to a whole new level.
The ecovillages take on a complex task: to create a harmonious system that transcends the “culture-nature” duality and neutralizes all negative environmental impacts of human activities. In other words: make “sustainability” an everyday experience, far more than just a buzzword in economic and political discourse. To do this, they must find ways to preserve the site’s natural habitats, produce food, wood and other bio-resources, process the organic and liquid waste generated in the ecovillage, and dispose of as little toxic waste as possible to minimize the generation of any litter.
In the field of green building, an ecovillage must consider the use of green materials, utilize renewable energy sources, minimize the need for motorized transportation, and ensure that the structures have a good balance of public and private spaces and encourage interaction with the community. and enable a variety of activities.
A crucial issue for ecovillages is the development of an economic system capable of sustaining human development based on the principle of justice, non-exploitation of people or places, nor of the future for the benefit of the present. You need to determine which economic activities are sustainable in terms of villagers and the environment. It depends on the characteristics of each place and the skills of the residents.
Naturally, “organic” agricultural production will have a central place in this system. As the number of ecovillages increases, it is also necessary to clarify how the exchange between them should take place. Bartering can be a valid mechanism.
Another point to be clarified, affecting all other aspects, is the political system that the ecovillage will adopt. That is, how decisions are made, by what method and for what kind of decisions; how conflicts are resolved and how collective decisions are enforced. It will even be necessary to consider the relationship between the ecovillage and the authorities of the area where it is located. Mediation seems to be a useful tool to answer such questions.
Group cohesion is a fundamental element, starting from a shared vision of the type of life to be developed and building the process together, gradually and continuously.
All of these challenges are likely to require more time than expected, as there are many changes in different areas where it is necessary to accept the complexity in order to be able to manage certain advances. Impulsiveness, impatience and intolerance definitely do not contribute to building an ecovillage.
Acquiring the site and assembling a well-motivated group must be complemented by appropriate design for each specific situation. There is no need to start from scratch as several ecovillages offer advice and there is plenty of information available.
The ones that already exist
Some of the ecovillages in the works are Lebensgarten (Germany, established 1985), Findhorn (Scotland), The Farm (USA), Huehuecoyotl (Mexico), Sasardí (Colombia), Crystal Waters (Australia) and Ecovilla Gaia (Argentina). , among other things. In 1994, the Global Ecovillage Network (GEN) was founded with the aim of promoting the development of sustainable human settlements, promoting the exchange of information between settlements and spreading the ecovillage concept worldwide.
All ecovillages are at different stages of development and have not yet reached the “ideal” state suggested in the concept. However, it is a “journey” that has just begun and that feeds her vitality, knowing that she is on the right path, perhaps the only one that offers the human species a worthy and possible continuity.
By Alejandro Alvarez. Editor of El Arca del Sur, Lawyer and Coordinator of Press and Dissemination of Ce.Pro.Nat. – Published in El Ambientalista and in