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VIII. Earth Earn: Our Open Participatory Earthropocene to Ecosmocene Futurity

3. Sustainable Ecovillages: Social Protocells

Editors, The Ecologist. Alternative Communities. Ecologist Magazine. February, 2002. A dedicated issue with several articles on this self-starting international movement, especially in ‘third-world’ countries.

Fishman, Aryei. Judaism and Collective Life. London: Routledge, 2002. From its deep roots in Jewish tradition, the kibbutz exemplifies an organic solidarity based on a balance of individual and communal values.

Gathanju, Denis. Kenya Builds Digital Villages. EContent. May, 2010. In a curious historical twist, Northern technology is aiding destitute rural Africa, much the result of colonialism, where human communities actually began, to help revive and rebuild their traditional agrarian infrastructure and viability. Instead of everyone, especially young people, going off to fetid megacities, through Internet connectivity a vast information and knowledge resource becomes accessible for better water purification, farming practice, elementary education, and so on. Interactive features then allow a sharing of local, indigenous know-how, and the growth of support groups.

Gause, Jo Allen, ed. Developing Sustainable Planned Communities. Washington, DC: Urban Land Institute, 2007. An illustrated survey which ranges from common principles of ecological awareness and people-friendly design to real case studies in the United States, China, Scandinavia, and Australia. A good entry to an alternatively sensitive and sane future.

Hanson, Chris. The Cohousing Handbook. Point Roberts, WA: Hartley & Marks, 1996. This remains a practical guidebook from initial concept to site plans, layout, finance, construction and all the details.

Harris, James. Fractal Architecture: Organic Design Philosophy in Theory and Practice. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2012. Another architect in the tradition of Frank Lloyd Wright and Christopher Alexander continues in the 21st century the human quest to discern, adapt and rightly employ nature’s own creative patterns and processes to our vital habitation. In regard, organic, evolutionary constructive principles of self-similar iteration and invariance seem to be best embodied as computational fractal geometries. The illustrated work is much about these insights as buildings, and is a good introduction to them. Typical sections are Nature’s Fractal Structure, The Fractal Philosophy, The Wholeness of Life and the Human Affinity for Organic Form, and onto Cosmogenesis and Universal Order. An extraordinary accomplishment of reading and carrying forth this natural instruction manual.

Hesselbein, Frances, ed. The Community of the Future. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1998. A collection of papers on the renaissance of successful self-organized communities everywhere from inner cities to rural emerging lands.

Hoff, Marie, ed. Sustainable Community Development. Boca Raton, FL: Lewis Publications, 1998. Case studies of rural and city activities from the Philippines to Hawaii and Appalachia.

Jackson, Hildur and Karen Svensson, eds. Ecovillage Living: Restoring the Earth and Her People. Devon, UK: Green Books, 2002. An illustrated, sensitive story of the alternative community movement sprouting up on each continent founded on natural wisdom, spirituality, tolerance and aware living. Many case studies are included along with how-to pointers which effectively document this humane option to rampant consumption and militarism. The first quote is from the editor’s introduction, the second by anthropologist Philip Snyder in his article Celebrating Life, Honoring Cultures and Natural Cycles.

Ecovillages are communities of people who strive to lead a sustainable lifestyle in harmony with each other, other living beings and the Earth. Their purpose is to combine a supportive social-cultural environment with a low-impact lifestyle. As a new societal structure, the ecovillage…represents a widely applicable model for the planning and reorganization of human settlements in the 21st century. (10)

As Thomas Berry makes clear in The Dream of the Earth, one of the imperatives of the coming ‘Ecological Age’ is for modern humanity to awaken our ‘re-enchantment’ with the Earth, to recover a sense of the surrounding world as filled with the sacredness of life….Ecovillages can create ideal conditions whereby this re-enchantment of the world can flourish, especially for the children who are raised in a context which instills in them the sense that the Earth and life are sacred, to be treated with care and even reverence. (123)

Jarvis, Helen. Saving Space, Sharing Time: Integrated Infrastructures of Daily Life in Cohousing. Environment and Planning A. 43/3, 2011. After some two decades of the incipient appearance of ecovillage communities, a Newcastle University social geographer provides an extensive study of such intentional habitation in the UK and North America. A prime asset is a nurtured reciprocity of free individuality and conducive community, which endows all sorts of economic, supportive, energy efficiency, and ecological welfares. A nominal size is 100 members, plus 25, minus 50, across the spectrum of families, ages, and life styles. (Many citations in this section offer informative resources.) It is concluded that amongst various endeavors, e.g. new urbanism, to achieve sustainable, culturally rich, self-governed forms of human abidance the cohousing model appears to offer the best, practical and proven option.

The defining features of this form of intentional community (cohousing) typically include the clustering of smaller-than-average private residences to maximise shared open spaces for social interaction; common facilities for shared daily use; and consensus-based collective self-governance. This paper critically examines the infrastructures of daily life which evolve from, and ease, collective activity and the shared occupation of space. Discussion draws on observations from eight communities in the UK and USA, using selected ethnographic vignettes to illustrate a variety of alternative temporalities which coincide with a shifting and blurring of privatised dwelling. The resulting analysis exposes multiple temporal scales and innovative uses and meanings of time and space. The paper concludes by speculating on the contemporary significance of collective living arrangements and the role this might play in future sustainability. (560)

There are, however, compelling reasons why collective housing should be considered a priority for further research and dissemination. From the influence of the ‘new urbanism’ and ‘smart growth’ it is evident that states, developers, and policy makers and practitioners are looking for new models of sustainability and ways of empowering communities. Yet the limited, sometimes damaging, influence of ‘cosmetic’ neotraditional design is well rehearsed. Experiments and innovations in collective housing may not prove to be the most ‘radical’ solutions in the long term, but they do represent a necessary shift toward fundamentally rethinking how and where people live, to promote sustainability, in the future. (574)

Kammen, Daniel. Sustainable Communities. Scientific American. December, 2017. An entry in the issue’s Top Ten Emerging Technologies of 2017 where a UC Berkeley energy professor describes the Oakland EcoBlock project. Google for its website about how treating a street long group of dwellings and buildings as a common unit achieves big payoffs in cost-effectiveness, reduced resource use and energy efficiencies. The endeavor is part of the Renewable & Appropriate Energy Laboratory (rael.berkeley.edu), where more information can be found about sustainability projects especially in South Asia and Africa.

Kilian, Imre. Ecovillages: In Vitro Sustainability. World Futures. 65/5-6, 2009. The author cites the Gyurufu Association and University of Pecs, Hungary as credits as he tersely advocates a retro-revolution to enlightened viable communities. The first quote is the Abstract, the second about the Gyurufu mission.

Humankind has reached a crossroad. If we do not learn to live in a more sparing, modest, and sustainable way, then we die. There are a number of condensation points of a future life-form all over the world—they are called ecovillages. Ecovillages have lived a sort of closed way of life—they were the laboratory of a future sustainable society. The “in vitro” experiments cannot be sustained any more. Ecovillages must open up their activities, they must act “in vivo,” and their results must be spread and utilized in the neighborhood. (365)

Gyûrûfû Foundation is an independent environmental organisation which focused its activity on the local watershed situated in the southern hills of Zselic, a hillside range in Hungary. The mission is to develop a well-founded, realistic and feasible small scale model of human subsistence with an emphasis on environmental and ecological considerations, taking rural areas, hamlets, villages and agricultural farms as the first priority. Special attention is paid to information technologies and telecommunication as less harmful options through which the necessity to take advantage of polluting and damaging technologies can be avoided. The foundation also makes and attempt to care for and tend to social, human and community values, and while trying to retain its holistic and interdisciplinary approach, it does not ignore or neglect natural beauty and values, cultural, social heritage and landscape features of the small scale local region.

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