Peak Moment Online Video Series

Hey ecovillage lovers! Check out this awesome online video series based around the problem of peak oil and the solutions different people are coming up with across the country to lead a more sustainable life. The idea of this web series is to educate people on various possibilities and ideas for low impact living.

I chose to share this video because of a few common themes I was able to extract that I feel like hold a lot of weight in the issue at hand. To introduce the video, the woman in the purple states that “ecovillages are like research labs, socially and culturally, ecologically and economically, for what our culture will need to grow more towards in the future.” This is a key point and certainly one that resonates with people like you an me who ideally are learning to live more simplistic lifestyles. It is the over consumption of things, things and more things that has launched our natural world into an increasingly more fragile state. In turn, opportunities for low impact living are starting to become more popular as they absolutely need to be.

So I invite you to explore the Peak Moment videos for an impressive array of ideas people have put to inspiring use in their own living situations. With everything from technically complicated Geodesic Greenhouse domes at high altitudes for year round plant growth to simple garden shares amongst neighborhoods, this series will certainly keep you coming back for more. Check out the ecovillage directory suggested in the video (directory.ic.org) to find an area near you to perhaps become involved in. It’s time to do everything we can to live more sustainably, and FAST!

Thanks for reading!
-TB

What is Permaculture?

“Permaculture is a philosophy of working with, rather than against nature; of protracted and thoughtful observation rather than protracted and thoughtless labor; and of looking at plants and animals in all their functions, rather than treating any area as a single product system.” – Bill Mollison (“father of permaculture” since 1978)

So what exactly is permaculture? And how does it relate to ecovillages? On a basic level, the word permaculture is a combination of the words permanent and agriculture. Permaculture is a way of the designing the environment while considering relationships within the food system and beyond. Permaculture focuses on making reliant consumers into responsible consumers.

A major part of permaculture is a focus on biomimicry and imitating processes in nature. Recycling of waste is particularly important, because so many people do not realize that when you throw something away, there really is no “away.” Everything on the Earth is connected, so waste has to go somewhere. Therefore, it is essential to focus on reducing waste and turning the waste that does occur into something useful. Consequently, the permaculture idea becomes a cycle of reusing and reducing. Through this notion, one is able to create a system where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Permaculture focuses on the relationships in nature and the idea that everything is connected. Some examples of permaculture practices include rotational grazing, harvesting rainfall, gardening, and strategic planning. Below are the permaculture principles that guide a successful permaculture establishment. The three major ethics are care for the Earth, fair share, and care for people. On the outside of these three principles, there are a variety of other important things to consider when thinking about permaculture.

PermaculturePrinciples

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The above principles are a guide to help people re-think society’s behavior and change the way we think to be more sustainable. If you would like to learn more, there are a variety of resources available. Here are some of my personal favorites, but there are many more available:

Permaculture Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability by David Holmgren. The whole book is available from Amazon or a free summary can be downloaded from this website: http://permacultureprinciples.com/resources/free-downloads/

Article in the Daily Meal: http://www.thedailymeal.com/what-permaculture-and-how-you-can-volunteer-help-sustainable-agriculture

The website Permaculture Principles: http://permacultureprinciples.com/

 

Sources:

Epicure and Culture. “What Is Permaculture? (And How You Can Volunteer To Help Sustainable Agriculture).” The Daily Meal. Spanfeller Media Group, Inc., 17 Apr. 2014. Web. 22 Apr. 2014.

Holmgren, David. Permaculture: Principles & Pathways beyond Sustainability. Hepburn, Vic.: Holmgren Design Services, 2002. Print.

Permafund. “Permaculture Design Principles.” Permaculture Principles. Permafund, 2014. Web. 22 Apr. 2014.

-AR

Ndanifor Permaculture Eco Village: Cameroon, Africa

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M7vVZhQE2Cc

“Together we share our knowledge to create the future for a better world”

In Cameroon, Africa, people have joined together to start planning an ecovillage that will hopefully be established by 2020. The ecovillage would be located on a five acre plot of land in Bafut, Cameroon. Currently, the ecovillage is still in its preliminary stages and is being planned by community members along with an organization called Better World Cameroon.

The ecovillage will consist of a few simple buildings, including a dining hall, a learning center, and an eco-lodge. Community members recently built a composting toilet on the land, which will serve as a preliminary step to a hopefully thriving community. The emphasis in the ecovillage will be placed on caring for each other and the land and creating an inclusive community.

The ecovillage members have many amazing ideas for the future of their land. They want to use the power of their ecovillage to reconnect people to their roots. This focus will be particularly on young people, who have started to view farming in a negative lens. The ecovillage members believe that young people need to be reminded of the benefits and beauty of farming, and have confidence that their ecovillage can accomplish this. Some other positive benefits of an ecovillage in Bafut would be to promote ecotourism in the area, to stop the deforestation that is currently happening throughout Cameroon, and to manage environmental resources. The ecovillage will also have a strong emphasis on education, and will teach people about the issues above as well as solutions such as permaculture and community. Another extremely important problem that the ecovillage will attempt to address is the issue of food sovereignty. The members of the ecovillage believe that Cameroonians have lost their ability to be food secure, and will try to regain food sovereignty while educating people about this very important issue.

I believe that this ecovillage plan is not only important, but truly inspirational. The Ndanifor ecovillage demonstrates that permaculture can be done anywhere and that it is a universal concept.

Elke-hoeing
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Sources:

Better World Cameroon. “Ndanifor Permaculture Eco Village – Better World Cameroon.” Better World Cameroon. Better World Cameroon, 2014. Web. 22 Apr. 2014.

Ndanifor Permaculture Eco Village: Permaculture the African Way. Better World Cameroon, 2013. Youtube. Web. 22 Apr. 2014. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M7vVZhQE2Cc&gt;.

(photos taken from above website)

-AR

Repurposing a Spanish Ghost Town Into a Utopian Ecovillage

In 1980, a group of people living in the mountains of north of Spain lost their goats.  Today, there is a completely self-sufficient ecovillage, or ecoaldeas, equipped with everything from an auto shop to a bakery, and chickens to wind turbines. The medieval ghost town that the group of young folk stumbled upon when searching for missing goats barely resembles the infrastructure in place today.  In the early years of Lakabe, which the abandoned village was named, there was no road to reach the compound, many of the buildings were rundown and most had collapsed. Nature had begun to take its course on what used to be a quaint mountain village.

Lakabe was abandoned in the 1950s or 60s, when Spain was undergoing a massive modernization period known as the “Spanish Miracle”.  At this time Francisco Franco, the infamous, autocratic dictator of Spain, was still in power, yet his economy, as well as his government, was becoming increasingly decrepit.  In the early 1960s Franco allowed for some minor reforms to be implemented, by his own appointed bureaucrats, which led to great economic development.  The industrialization of Spain led to the ultimate desertion of many small, old villages, such as Lakabe, whose residents could no longer sustain themselves when so many were leaving for cities.

Fast-forward twenty years.  A group of young people, with no farming, or even rural living experience for that matter, are rebuilding Lakabe, transporting supplies by horse, surviving the nights by candles and lamps, and rooming with twenty people in cramped quarters.  They worked incredibly hard reconstructing the old buildings, creating farms, and trying to figure out the how to survive in a way they never had before.  Also they had no money.  In fact it’s pretty amazing that they were able to be as successful as they are. But based on the words of Mauge Cañada, who was one of the early settlers of Lakabe and can also be seen giving a tour of the compound in the above video, there was no doubt they would succeed.

She says, translated into English from Spanish, “If you set your mind to it and there’s a group of people who want to do it, physically they can do it, economically they can do it. What right now is more difficult is being willing to suffer hardship or difficulties…” In other words, the reason many people aren’t willing to live ecovillage-like lifestyles is the fact that they don’t think they can, and that they don’t actually know what it’s like to live in shortage, to simplify your life.  I can imagine it’s not hard deciding what to eat for dinner when there is only so much food available.  That’s real simplicity.  But once the Lakabe inhabitants gained traction, erected more houses, and acquired livestock, things became easier.

What Lakabe really turned into, was a very idealized form of utopia.  A place where they can create all their own energy, all their own food, and live in harmony with the landscape.  They only need to rely on themselves, a reality that feels so out of reach to many of us these days.  That is a pretty incredible accomplishment in today’s world, especially the first world.  In Spain many other people have followed this template, with success. Lakabe’s ability to repurpose rundown infrastructure and refurbish them for the sake of living in an ecologically sustainable community is a very impressive, and inspiring endeavor.  The more people that do follow their footsteps, not just in Spain but also all over the world, the more caring people will realize it’s actually possible, and they will hopefully be able to make a positive difference in their society as well.

-DJ

Let’s Bulldoze the Fences:

A Critique of Eco-Villages

Erik Knutzen and Kelly Coyne have redefined and perfected the art of home economics. Over the last decade and a half, the two have managed to transform their measly 1/12-of-an-acre plot into a productive and purposeful homestead. Their Los Angeles property boasts a chicken coop, two beehives, vegetable beds, and fruit trees that supplement their diets; this is only the beginning. Through thoughtful planning and handiwork the couple has also developed a gray-water system, composting & worm bins, an adobe oven, as well as an Appalachian dehydrator (passive solar cooking device). Itching to learn more? Check out this youtube video that takes you on a tour of their property.

Though Knutzen and Coyne’s commitment to such projects may seem a little extreme, the two would argue that before World War II, self-sufficient food-bearing practices were the norm: “for all human history people have kept livestock… grown food…even in cities”, Coyne exclaims. Moreover, the couple insists that not only are their efforts money-efficient, but they are simple enough that nearly anyone could incorporate similar tactics into their lifestyle.

During the tour, Erik says he “believe[s] in communities; human beings are meant to work and live and trade together”. Community interaction, though it may not seem to be a theme of the video, is clearly something near and dear to this couple’s hearts. Keeping this in mind, I interpret their video as a critique of eco-villages: not only can you live sustainably in a standard neighborhood, but you can also make meaningful connections and share knowledge with those around you.

Surely, this implies nothing negative about eco-villages, solely another viable option for sustainable living. Regardless, if one thinks of the affects an eco-village may have on the surrounding community, this argument holds more weight. Under Robert Gilman’s famous definition of an eco-village, one of the criteria is “multiple centers of initiative”. That being said, such communities surely contain a wide breadth of knowledge, expertise, and opinions. Perhaps this gathering may be beneficial for those involved, but are the communities on the outside affected in any way?
I would argue that one con of eco-villages is that no matter how inclusive they may be, they might act as a barrier between people and shared knowledge. In this way, could eco-villages actually be detrimental to overall sustainability? If the most innovative and committed community members cluster together (even if they are doing something wonderful), they are leaving their former communities behind. The knowledge they once could provide to their network of neighbors has now been transferred to a new neighborhood.

Part of the beauty in eco-villages is the collaboration on meaningful projects that occurs: this can yield amazing results and systems grounded in stewardship. But, no matter how great their efforts may be, by living in an eco-village members separate themselves from the outside world. Don’t buy it? Here’s an example: at “Ecovillage at Ithaca” in New York, one can only tour the facilities if they pay a fee and come at a prescribed time. Not only might this avert people from the idea of joining an eco-village, but it sends a contrasting message to Erik and Kelly’s. So it seems, not everyone can participate in such a community.

What I want to know is, what makes an eco-village, an “eco-village”? Through browsing the Internet, one can come up with countless definitions, however I would argue that collaborative, community-wide stewardship efforts are one of the main conditions. This can happen anywhere, and by allowing it to occur outside the fenced walls of an “intentional community”, those with a passion for sustainability and self-reliance can spread their messages to people less likely to know about things. Essentially, by starting a “green” community through the development of a green home and relationships with those around you, knowledge is more accessible: not only can it pass more accessibly from person to person, but it is very likely that it could be passed to people who otherwise would never have come across such ideas.

In Knutzen and Coyne’s video, one cannot gauge the strength of their relations with their neighbors. Nonetheless, if I were to walk by their house and see their yard (clearly based on functionality rather than pure aesthetics and conformity) just by strolling past I can recognize the statement they are trying to make, and see the success behind that statement. Whether miniscule or deep, the connections formed between themselves, their homes, and those around them may be just as effective and meaningful as those developed within the walls of an eco-village. Of course, I have nothing bad to say about eco-villages; their missions are honorable and they often see great success, but wouldn’t you like to see more Knutzen and Coyne’s in your neighborhood?

–S.F.