It's Tonight!! (2/27/09 -- 7-9 pm) There's a very cool slide show presentation and Q&A being sponsored tonight about how people living and working together in ecovillages globally are building a sustainable future. Check out www.nw.ic.org.
Facets of the Gem: Ecovillage Experiments around the World
NICA is pleased to have Karen Litfin offer her fascinating slide presentation followed by Q & A. Come and discover the common thread between people of different cultures as they live and work together in ecovillages around the world to create a sustainable future.
Karen is Associate Professor of Political Science and Environmental Studies at UW. She is currently writing a book on the holistic consciousness that inspires the global ecovillage movement. Her research included a worldwide journey to ecovillages and interviews with hundreds of community members. One of her objectives in writing this book is to move her own life in a more holistic direction.
I"m responding to Paul's request for an ecovillage definition. (By the way, I highly recommend Karen Litfin's upcoming slide show on ecovillages, which she visited during her sabbatical year to specifically study ecovillages worldwide. [What a great job!] I do an ecovillage slide show too, and will be showing it at the Cohousing Conference in Seattle in June, and for Context Institute and Transition Town Whidbey in Langley, WA on June 30th.)
Anyway, I like to describe ecovillages as intentional communities* whose residents value and practice ecological, economic, and social/cultural/spiritual sustainability and are a demonstration model, offering tours, classes, and workshops to share what they're learning with others. People start ecovillages because of their ecological values. If the ecovillage project is rural, it needs to be economically sustainable too, so people can earn enough money to afford to live there and afford to continue running the place. And it needs to be socially/culturally/spiritually sustainable so people enjoy it enough to want to continue living there.
(* Sustainability education centers and some traditional indigenous villages can be ecovillages too.)
Here are two other definitions of ecovillages that I like and also use in my slide show.
GEN (Global Ecovillage Network) says, among other things, that "whether urban, rural, or suburban, ecovillages offer a supportive social network and a low-impact, ecologically sustainable way of life."
Robert and Diane Gilman, writing in their 1991 book, Ecovillages and Sustainable Communities (with an addition by Robert in 1999), define ecovillages as:
"Human-scale, full-featured settlements in which human activities are harmlessly integrated into the natural world in a way which supports healthy human development, with multiple centers of initiative, and which can be successfully continued into the indefinite future."
My free onlineEcovillages newsletter offers more ecovillage definitions and resources. Just click the "What is an Ecovillage?" or "Ecovillage Resources" in the top toolbar. (See URL below.)
This newsletter is free, so please go take a look and if you like it, please subscribe. It would help me if you subscribed, because the more subscribers I have, the sooner I can begin selling ads (small, tasteful, non-flashing ones!) which will help pay for it. Thanks for considering it!
So, on the phone, we talked about cobville. I described it to you quickly and I called it "an ecovillage". I described that there were a dozen cob structures and that the folks living there seemed VERY eco to me.
If this isn't an eco-village I'm not sure what is.
Well, anyway, with just a tiny bit of info, you said something about how it might not necessarily qualify, by your terms, as an eco village.
So there would need to be more stuff to qualify. They probably have all of the stuff you are looking for, but I had not conveyed it at that point.
IC: well, that's so loosely defined, that I think anybody that says "we're and IC" qualifies.
whose residents value and practice ecological, economic, and social/cultural/spiritual sustainability and are a demonstration model, offering tours, classes, and workshops to share what they're learning with others.
ecological: Well, by my standards they win this one in spades. But I think this is quite subjective and I think somebody holding a fluorescent light bulb in their hand might make the eco claim.
economic (sustainability): well, I didn't look through their finances, although i did ask around a bit - and frankly I think they are onto something a bit grand there. But I guess the key thing is that they are able to run in the black while staying home?
social/cultural/spiritual sustainability: hard to measure again. And too many people would claim "yes" even though "hell no" might be more accurate. Might this be mostly about folks having more up times than angst times?
a demonstration model, offering tours, classes, and workshops: cobville definitely does heaps of that.
So there are three points to work out still, right?
Well, whether a place is an ecovillage or not is one of those questions that has a lot of factors. Does the group want to and intend to be an ecovillage? Do they know what the ecovillage movement is? Are they familiar with GEN (Global Ecovillage Network), and do they know what ecovillage activists and GEN consider an ecovillage? Have they learned a little about this international movement? Are they committed to being a demonstration model and offering education about what they're learning to others through tours or classes & workshops?
I feel frustrated and a bit annoyed when, say, a green housing developer calls his or her new project an ecovillage when what they mean is it has "green" ecologically sound features like passive solar design or off-grid power. High-tech green does not an ecovillage make. I'd like people to really take the time to learn what an ecovillage is, what the hard-working folks in the movement have been trying to do -- and are doing -- all these years. I wouldn't like a newly eco-aware developer to try to cash in on the cachet of the name and sell more houses because well-meaning homebuyers think they're somehow cool if they join -- that is, buy in -- to an "ecovillage." But, is this just sour grapes? In fact, aren't I _glad_ that more housing developments are getting greener? I am!
Also, Paul, you were describing something quite different than a green housing development, and yes you're right, I should know more about it before I wonder aloud if it is in fact an ecovillage. Do the Cobville folks consider themselves an ecovillage? An intentional community? A landlord's homestead with some tenants living there too? I'm curious to know more, and thanks.
Where I live right now - and I am in the process of moving away from here, advertised themselves as an ecovillage and permaculture farm. People came from thousands of miles to live here only to find .... zero permaculture, zero cob, zero straw bale housing, zero .... well there are two doublewides and two "cabins" sided with T-111, a tool shed (T-111) and a metal shop converted into a classroom. When folks arrived, the only edible stuff growing here was what grew wild, including blackberries and dandelions.
They do offer classes on a variety of things, but ...
My point is that, yes, there are lots of folks that do greenwashing. And they will even go so far as to use the terms "ecovillage" and "permaculture" in their marketing while they have no idea what it really means other than it will draw more folks in.
As for cobville: I suspect that they meet anybody's standard for an ecovillage. As for what they might be aware of (GEN, etc.) and whether they think of themselves as an IC, I cannot say.
Perhaps the real answer to this is that there needs to be a certifying body. Cobbville might be DLCEV Level 4.2 (Diana Leafe Christian Eco Village Level 4.2) meaning that while they excell on nearly every level, there were some aspects where you have seen better at other EV's.
And then some "eco villages" would simply have no certification. So that people would then say "wow, there are 20 different places I am considering that claim to be ecovillages, but only four are certified by DLC. Two say that they are aware of DLC certification and are awaiting a vist and are hoping for a '3' or '4'...."
Maybe that's part of it .... there can be certification and there can be something online where they answer a series of questions and they can then get a number back. They are then "self proclaimed" - which at least means they have read a little about it.
So some EV's might be just starting out, but they are for real. They might get a '1' or '2'.
Perhaps the idea of an online questionnaire could help folks determine their eco factor. Then somebody could say "we tooks the questionnaire and we are apparently eco level 3.2". And another somebody takes the same questionnaire and gets the same value, but they are both very different.
Response to Paul Wheaton's recent post. I cringed just now when I read your phrase "DLC certification." Were you being sarcastic or doing a subtle put-down because I wrote that I wasn't sure if places that have ecological features such as Cobville could be called "ecovillages"? If so, ouch! I wouldn't like my sincere attempts to discuss issues on this Forum to be made fun of. If you were not meaning to do that, good, and . . . would you please write things like that again? I'd like to feel encouraged to post ideas in this Forum, rather than discouraged. Hope you understand.
Regarding the idea of "certifying" ecovillages, I don't think it's a good idea, or do-able either. The Global Ecovillage Network decided back in 1999 that they explicitly wouldn't try to assess what projects are or are not ecovillages, but rather celebrate any progress agroup is making towards being kinder to the Earth. Nevertheless, some projects get labeled (though maybe not by their own people) as "ecovillages" when they may simply be projects using and demonstrating ecological principles. Diana
Oh, thanks for explaining. If there was a process to certify ecovillages, it would probably be from a whole group rather than one person, and probably people more knowledgeable in the field than I. I see my role as enthusiast, advocate, and journalist. Thanks. Diana