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VIII. Earth Earns: An Open Participatory Earthropocene to Astropocene CoCreative Future

3. Sustainable Ecovillages: Social Protocell Communities

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.

Foster, Sheila and Christian Iaione. Co-Cities: Innovative Transitions Toward Just and Self-Sustaining Communities. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2022. Georgetown University and University of Rome urban policy professors provide a latest book-length exposition of this societal protocell creative unity movement, as such a beneficial new way of cooperative living becomes vitally imperative.

The majority of the world’s people live in cities but often their vulnerable populations do not have adequate housing, safe water, healthy food, and other essentials. Yet, urban centers, if of a mind to do so, can mitigate inequities they create. With many worldwide examples, Co-Cities describes practices, laws protocols and policies that are fostering the provision of urban services, collaborative economies, and more as they drive sustainable development, and equitable regeneration of inner city blight.

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.

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