I previously published a call to create an ecocommunity by commonly purchasing land in Alūksne area, Latvia and dividing it among participants according to contribution. One of acquaintances responded with a question “Why would anyone buy land just because you live in that area?”
I would like to rephrase this question:
Why is it necessary for ecological individuals to live close to each other?
The answer to this question is simple – united we stand, divided we fall. Ecovillage is necessary for members of ecocommunity to join forces in reaching common goals. Imagine two situations. First situation is divided ecocommunity where its’ members own 20 hectares each and are located 20 km from each other. Second situation is ecocommunity where all members and their land pieces are united in a larger piece of land with average distance of only 1 km among homes.
Creating a large ecologically clean and biodiverse area – ecosystem.
My family owns 70 hectares of land. That is more than average in the country. However it is not enough to protect from the rest of consumerist-industrial world. These 70 hectares are surrounded by thousands of hectares sprayed with toxic chemicals and thousands of hectares of clear-cut forest areas. My drinking water is most likely polluted with herbicides and other agrochemicals and there is not so much of scenery left to look at. Bypassing cars are dropping trash at the road, not just accident cigarette packages, but bags full of different package. Overall situation is depressive no matter how ecological I am. But if I lived at least on the edge of a large ecovillage, then at least in one direction I could look and see something beautiful. There is a certification rule, that organic farmer may not harvest up to 10 meters away from the border of his land and land of his intensive neighbour. Organic beekeeping requires that bees do not collect honey from fields of intensive agriculture. Latvian beekeepers have discovered that bees can fly 7 km to intensive rapeseed producers plantations and collect nectar from there. That means, organic beekeeping is only possible in the middle of a 10 square kilometers ecovillage. Such a large ecovillage would have only forests with selective cuts or even more – only fallen trees would be taken. And of course, no pesticides, no herbicides, no synthetic fertilizers and zero waste policy excluding possibility of plastic bags and bottles flying around. Members of ecocommunity can be sure that the groundwater is safe and honey does not contain traces of agrochemicals.
Visiting each other.
To drive, or not to drive. That is the question. And believe me, if ecovillage manages to expand up to 10 square kilometers, some members will still choose to drive these at least 10 km from one edge of the village to another. 10 km bicycleride will take 40 minutes for average person with a load. Now imagine there is no ecovillage and you must drive 20 km to visit your closest econeighbour or 200 to your furthest. You may ask, why do we need to visit each other?
Helping each other.
This is why members of ecocommunity must visit each other even if they are not close friends. Need help to build a barn from logs or lift a heavy stone? On Saturday or even Sunday community will come together as volunteers to help those in need.
Cooperation in production.
Imagine ten small farmers with their grain fields. Everyone needs a grain harvester, grain storage, a mill, maybe even a bakery and a car to deliver bread to town. That would be quite a budget. But they could actually put their finances together, attract some support from European or national government and obtain all those things and share them. Second example. Ten farmers, everyone has five cows. All together 50 cows. But all of them can share one machine to make cream and butter. They can even have one common milk cooling tank if they sell milk to a company outside of ecovillage. The best example would be with garment produciton. Everyone could grow their own hemp on their own fields, but threshing the seeds, extracting the fibre and further processing could be organized in one workroom. And of course industrial hemp growers permit could be obtained one for all (in Latvia any kind of hemp is forbidden to grown unless special administrative procedure is passed that proves hemp doesn’t produce THC).
Trade and exchange of goods.
Would you like to have your share in ecoshop where you could not only sell, but also buy? Not a problem if there is a large ecovillage! Everyone puts his share of money, or land, building or work to set up a warehouse and marketplace. You just bring your goods to your corner and leave a pricelist and box for money. And of course anyone could serve community hours (i.e. 5 hours a week) as a shopkeeper.
One reason to live in ecocommunity is opportunity to create an ecological canteen. You would like to eat organic, but would prefer to concentrate on your work instead of shopping and food preparation? It is very important if you are an artist painting Mona Lisa or engineer in the middle of discovery of a new source of energy. Then you can contribute your finances or work in to organic canteen, where you can come and eat food prepared by professional cook from ingredients obtained in ecovillages’ warehouse.
Interaction with society.
If you have a candle, you put it on the table, not under it. Be the light of the world! As separated ecoactivists we are just esoterics and crazy fanatics in the eyes of consumerist society. They just don’t understand what are we doing and why. Because they don’t notice our small corners. If united, then any person can visit all the ecofreaks at once and see what an outstanding social system and ecosystem can be created. Society will see that we are not a sect, but quite opposite, we are open to the world and we want to make contribution to everyone’s welfare. Then the world might understand the difference between consumerist lifestyle and permaculture and notice benefits. And permaculture design can only be well observed if applied on large scale. Some species require large spaces to exist. People will see the nature in the hands of ecocommunity, that it is diverse, it is not overwhelmed by concrete, plastic and household chemistry. Nature can interact with people. Visitors will question their old values and habits then, and maybe join us or start another ecovillage somewhere, where there is still opportunity to buy land.
Starting an NGO.
Having NGO is especially good to organize common property. It will enable ecocommunity to buy common land that will be used for common facilities, i.e. alternative school, repair cafe, warehouse, natural reserve, sanctuary and so on. NGO is an opportunity to manage donations and volunteers. NGO can serve as a medium between individuals of ecocommunity and society. NGO is expensive to use and difficult to manage if it’s participants are separated by large distances.
Influence on decision making and support from local government.
Divided ecocommunity is not sharing one local government. They are spread among many administrative regions and they are incapable to influence any of them as a group. Instead of being many unnoticed minorities in many administrative regions ecological people could be an organized interested group in one region. United ecocommunity can make a difference. They can even assign a representative to participate in municipal elections and with enough extra votes, which in case of Alūksne region is at least 150, ecocommunity can have their representative as a deputy of local government.
Ecocommunity will have children. Ecological lifestyle, zero waste and permaculture principles usually are not included into public education. Public schools require vaccinations which are often not accepted by ecological families due to health risks posed by aluminum or quicksilver. Public schools in Latvia are mostly teaching encyclopedic information and very little skills. Public schools usually do not offer vegetarian food, and if they do, they do it by excluding meat from the dish without replacing it i.e. with beans or peas. Public schools rarely offer organic food to children, and if they do, then it is usually only potatoes, carrots, beetroot and apples. Public schools usually are built without use of ecological materials. Buildings are insulated with plastic, including plastic windows, resulting in little ventilation. Public schools will be most likely located far away from country home. Living in ecovillage gives it’s participants an opportunity to create their own school and solve these issues. Support from government is necessary to pay salary to teachers thus providing jobs for members of ecocommunity. To receive such support it is necessary to politically act as an organized group.
Lifelong learning center.
A place where adults can teach and learn. Most likely it will be integrated into alternative school. After graduating Alternative secondary school and entering a university, students can return on Saturdays where their former teachers will assist them in university matters like diploma paper or other type of scientific research. And of course graduates can always assist their former teachers in teaching of next generations. In other words, in ecocommunity you don’t really quit school after graduation. School is a community development center.
Zero waste center, Sustainable renovation center, Repair cafe.
Another warehouse where everyone can keep their unnecessary stuff and where everyone can search for free stuff. A place where there are containers for trash that can and cannot be recycled.
Library of books, tools and seeds.
This could be a good beginning for an alternative school. A library, where everyone could come and fetch some permaculture books, borrow a sewing machine, drill, welding tools, soldering iron or angle grinder etc. And a library where everyone could share and take seeds of carefully selected plant breeds.
A common car that belongs to ecocommunity NGO. If you don’t want to own a car but you would like to borrow one time to time. A discussion group in internet could help organize people to drive together. Actually there can also be a trailer, a bus, a truck and a motorbike.
Creating religious parishes.
Usually people decide to be ecological because of respect towards the One who created this world and life on it. I suspect that significant part of ecocommunity might turn out to be religious and they might want to worship or pray together. This is another opportunity that is given by ecocommunity and cannot be exercised somewhere on a small oasis in the middle of GMO wheat desert.
Ecocommunity is not only about growing organic food and tree hugging in a group. There are many crafts, that will be necessary to replace industrial design. Ecovillage will require blacksmith, carpenter, potter, weaver, tailor, shoemaker, baker and other types of craftsmen, most likely more than one from each. Besides warehouse for food, there could be a storage and sales room for what craftsmen produce.
There will not be excessive artificial lights in ecovillage. And the air will be cleaner. That means stargazing will be better possible than anywhere else. One of the facilities most likely integrated into alternative school will be observatory, where you can come and use a telescope in order to see if it is the right time for you to plant one crop or another.
Statistics show, that modern world has much more horses than in the past, when they were the only mean of land transport, besides oxen, camels, donkeys and mules of course. In spite of that we do not see horses on the roads, except for Amish country in Ohio, United States, where there is even a special lane on the street. Hard surface is not the best for horses even with horseshoes, so you will not see a galloping Amish horserider there and anywhere else. Even country roads nowadays are suited for heavy vehicles, but stones on the surface is not the best option for animals. Horseriding trail requires sandy surface. If ecovillage has a lot of horse lovers, they might agree to join their properties with a horse riding trail. It will give opportunity to gallop and enjoy nature both for ecocommunity members and visitors. And visitors there will be, because there is lot of opportunities to horseride circles or inside a box, but there is actually almost no horseriding trails or parks where you could ride tens of kilometers without disturbing anyone and without being disturbed.
There are of course more reasons for ecology people to shorten distances between each other and cooperate. Please, comment if you know more. We are a new nation emerging out of a globalized world. Share this article if you can.