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Volume 16 Issue 3
September/Oct 2010

What’s Your 12 x 12? The Sweet Spot Between Too Little and Too Much

Exploring the World of Food with Your Kids

The Effects of Body Composition on Health

Emotional Healing with Bach Flower Remedies

The Planet Needs Ecovillages

Saskatchewan’s Glorious Woodland Bounty

Being Joy—Venerable Lama Losang Samten


The Planet Needs Ecovillages
by Howard Boldt

Ecovillages are about reduced environmental footprints, resource-sharing, energy efficiency, and generally finding improved solutions for all life's daily needs and challenges.

Ecovillage essentially means a more sustainable, more hospitable rural or urban community. It can be an existing community or neighbourhood transforming itself, or a new one planned from the ground up. It may literally be a village in the countryside, or just people living together or near each other, perhaps on acreages, or on a jointly-owned property or land trust. Ecovillages can vary in size from a few people to a few hundred or more.

So, there is no precise formula for an ecovillage, just a concept and general principles. Ecovillages are simply people striving to live more ecologically, while also emphasizing egalitarianism and overall improved quality of life for all individuals and families involved. Of course, not all people doing this call themselves an ecovillage, but the term is becoming popular.

Ecovillages are about reduced environmental footprints, resource-sharing, energy efficiency, and generally finding improved solutions for all life’s daily needs and challenges. This translates into solar panels, wind-chargers and other clean energy ideas, ride-sharing, reduced consumerism, greater self-sufficiency, purer and more local foods, organics, keeping chickens and other livestock, biodiversity, conservation, permaculture, alternative building methods like straw bale, ecotourism, and so on. Growing healthy food and finding alternatives to the many negative aspects of our society are basic to ecovillage thinking and doing.

Socially, ecovillages are about decision-sharing, work-sharing, cooperation, respect, and tolerance. As with many efforts to improve our relationship with the Earth, the need is to also combine this with more harmonious human relationships.

This means things like how housing accommodations are situated, as well as how common utilities, facilities, and green areas are designed and shared. It means realistic, wholistic community rules, guidelines, freedoms, goals, programs, and projects. It means things like daycare, elder care, consideration for the disabled, an overall better environment for children, alternative conflict resolution, and being able to count on fellow members to lend a hand. As most people realize, we can improve our personal and family lives, our communities, and our interaction with the Earth, all at the same time. It just takes willingness, vision, planning, and adaptation.

Naturally, developing this type of friendlier, more small-town, greener place in which to live is appealing to many, so ecovillages are catching on. There is increasing discussion, planning, and actual formation of ecovillages around the globe, in both developed and developing countries. The movement was assisted in 1998 when the United Nations named Ecovillages among its 100 Best Practices. There are thousands in existence. Among notables, is the Sarvodaya movement in Sri Lanka which consists of over 15,000 villages. Online, there are places to learn about, chat about, and find all types of ecovillages. One such website is Global Ecovillage Network at gen.ecovillage.org.

Since ecovillages can happen anywhere, they can certainly happen here in Canada. One group dedicated to this cause is the Ecovillage Network of Canada, which has a site at ecovillagenetworkcanada.ning.com.

Ecovillages are like getting back to the kind of community life of the past. In Saskatchewan, as well as in the rest of the country, we have no shortage of this history from which to draw ideas and inspiration. In the past, people cooperated a great deal and knew much about co-existing with Nature. That knowledge is not lost. It can be rekindled and balanced with new knowledge, along with the often helpful technology of today.

So, an ecovillage need not be a backwards place full of luddites, but can be progressive and modern, while still being peaceful, even idyllic. Ideally, ecovillages take the best of old ways and the best of new ways. Of course, sustainable, socially-supportive communities have always existed in many parts of the world, right to present day, so part of the new ecovillage movement is about preserving and learning from these.

Naturally, creating good new ecovillages doesn’t happen overnight. For one thing, the bylaws and zonings of cities, towns, and rural municipalities will often have to be contended with in order to design and change communities. But, this is all part of the process and there is now new flexibility among local, provincial, and national governments, as the green movement grows and grows.

An example of a developing ecovillage is at Craik, Saskatchewan, which is part of the Craik Sustainable Living Project. This ecovillage seems to have an emphasis on energy-efficient housing, while being involved with many other projects, too. For more information, go to craikecovillage.com. Another interesting effort is the New Roots Community Land Trust at Wynyard, SK, which is a small group, but one which a member describes as “a land base with Ecovillage potential.” They can be reached at prairie@web.ca.

On the urban front, check out Prairie Ecovillage Development Corporation at prairie-ecovillage.org. This organization is creating more sustainable, better nature-human integrated housing options in Saskatoon.

I have an ongoing interest in Intentional Communities, a term similar to Ecovillages. For this reason, I decided to start another chat group at http://ca.groups.yahoo.com/group/sk_ecovillages/ which has an emphasis on developing rural ecovillages on the prairies, particularly in Saskatchewan.

Summing up, when we think of the future, both locally and globally, we think of problems being solved and people leading saner, happier, more wholesome lives in a world free of pollution and other environmental degradations, while working with and relating to each other better, as well. Ecovillages are one more building block of that future.

Howard Boldt lives on a farm near Saskatoon where he works as a handyman, vegetable grower, and builder, and occasionally as a writer of articles on such things as the environment, community, and politics. He is involved with various sustainable projects, such as the design of season-extending and weather-protecting gardening systems. To contact him email: hjb39@hotmail.com.


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