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.
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.