You can’t go far today without reading one item or another that elaborates on something about the environment that is threatened or lost. From deforestation to heat waves to oceans dying to methane releases to overuse of chemicals to overpopulation the news is all around us - and little of it is good. Simply put we are living in the most critical time of human history.
Most of the negative reports are a result of the way we’ve lived for the last 200 or so years; specifically our use of fossil fuels. But even if all of our homes did not burn fossil fuels and we could all eat from our backyard gardens that still would not address a few other major issues. A consumer culture, social inequality and the problem of integrating innovation through slow moving bureaucratic institutions underscore the need for change on several levels.
Clearly we need a new model for not only how we house ourselves but also a new cultural paradigm. Consume, shop, buy is not a good mantra when species depletion is at risk.
The solution I believe is in creating ecovillages. There was a time when all villages were ecovillages but only because we hadn’t harnessed the power of coal and oil.
The reasons why living in an ecovillage is a preferred alternative are many. I will focus on three of them. The most obvious reason is their environmental footprint is much smaller. To call it an ecovillage means it was designed to reduce its carbon footprint to zero.
Second, the fact that it is an eco-village implies this is a cluster of homes and therefore not an isolated building. And common spaces. Which means a community. We are social animals after all and as humans need human contact. This design is much more conducive to the way we’ve lived for millennia. That is, we had daily contact with others with whom we shared an interdependence. For many parents in suburbia today sending the kids outside is fraught with anxiety. And unless the child is lucky enough to have siblings close to their age this option is tantamount to punishment. An ecovillage is more likely to be kid friendly since the parents know the adults nearby.
Third, the newer model of economy that emphasizes reduce and reuse has a much better chance of taking root when we live next to neighbours who are on the same page. While this is possible in suburbia it's less likely. We do not get to pick our neighbours therefore may not share the same values with them. But in joining with others on this path we more easily integrate sharing functions into our lives which in turn reduces manufacturing output.
So the next time someone makes the pitch, “wanna live in an ecovillage?”, remember these basics.
Every non-profit needs a fundraising event to coalesce it's forces, spread it's name and raise funding for it's programs. As is the case of the LSLA, we have the AppleFest! (The exclamation mark is part of the brand.)
Many of you understand the connection between GeoStudios and AppleFest! I served as director of the latter since it's inception in 2013. Creating an event like the AppleFest! was part of a dream I've always had - that all local food harvested be used locally in order to offset our environmental footprint. That first year we were fortunate enough to find a cooperative Interfaith Food Bank who let us use their parking lot to host a small 7-vendor market. We brought in a few musicians willing to provide some entertainment, borrowed an apple press from a friend and juiced a 25 kg bin of apples, or about 10 litres. The event was novel, fun and attracted about 75 people. A seed planted.
Fast forward to November 2016 and after four AppleFests and pending burnout, I stepped back and threw the LSLA, along with the AppleFest!, into the hands of fate. I figured 'if this is really worth saving then put it to the litmus test'. I knew the value but if no one else did what was the point?
The gamble paid off. People did see the value and stepped forward to take up the challenge. This created a surge of new energy, ideas on how to improve it and resulted with the best AppleFest! ever. I'd have to say there were over a thousand throughout the day sampling apple juice, buying local and learning eco-friendly life skills.
Many sustainable businesses were part of the action, the biggest sponsors being Purple Carrot, Urban Grocer and from the more technical side of things, SolarOptix, Energy Smart and the local Toyota dealership introducing a couple of hybrid vehicles. As well, lots of educational fun opportunities for kids and some chill time for adults in the beer gardens listening to live music.
For all of the ups and downs organizing an event has it greatest reward when you can look back and see how many people came out and had a good time. Kudos to all who helped put this on, too many to list here!
Fork In The Rowed
I had been looking for a while. A sunny spot, a good view and an easy going neighbour. I finally found it at Fork In The Rowed. No not a place to live but a place to put my GeoCampo for a short spell. That's the name of the collapsible and movable geodesic dome. With the blessing of Fork In The Rowed it's there for a few days before bringing it to the AppleFest.
I drove in and was greeted by Jodie. Ebullient, social and cheerful, she is one half of the team that comprises FITR, a local market farm that organically grows veggies just 2 kms east of Lethbridge. Moira, ambitious, wise and well-versed in the 'ways of business' comprises the other half. Not surprisingly she spends a lot of her summers in Calgary selling produce.
They've been in business since 2015 and have been producing vegetables to markets in Lethbridge and Calgary. Fortunately Jodie was instantly able to give permission for me to park my dome at the edge of their property for 5 days. Gotta love small business, where human real-time transactions are a reality.
As a Community Supported Agriculture farm in this area, I'm happy to say I was a subscriber that first year. To my surprise the volume of veggies I received that year was huge! It was also a learning experience as I received veggies that I never knew existed.
This year Fork In The Road has been offering vouchers. A very practical alternative that allows customers to prepay. This translates to more efficient planning and reduced labour on market day. Customers can then drop by the FITR booth at the Saturday Farmers Market and pick and choose their weekly veggie supply. As I understand, there are vouchers still available for this season. Check https://www.forkintherowed.com/csa-information.html
Best of luck to Fork In The Rowed and between August 7th and 11th, if you drive east on Hwy 3, look for 'the dome'. :)
Gilles Leclair is the founder of GeoStudios. Somewhat eccentric, fairly environmentalist, politically aware, he believes the world should have more off-grid communities... many more.