eco villages - keys to success?

Discussion in 'Designing, building, making and powering your life' started by devinp, Nov 24, 2005.

  1. devinp

    devinp Junior Member

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    Hi everybody.

    Lately I've been intensly interested in the subject of eco villages....

    Have done as much research as I can and even came across a couple here in South Africa (off to visit one this weekend).... thing is... many 'intentional communities' seem to be beset with a wide range of problems (to be expected I suppose).

    Does anyone have any theories on 'keys to eco-village success!'?
    and if any of the members of this forum are currently involved in a community I'd love to hear some of your experiences...

    Thanks,
    Devin.
     
  2. Richard on Maui

    Richard on Maui Junior Member

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    There is an academic (t)here in Australia who has done a lot of work on Intentional Communities by the name of Bill Metcalfe. One of his books is called "Utopian Dreaming", I think, which has a chapter each relfecting on the stories of various communities around Australia.
    I heard him interviewed on the radio a little while ago where he made a distinction between people who join villages "because of" (financial problems, problems they have with conventional society, problems they have with mental illness, etc) and people who do it "in order to" (be in a particular kind of spiritual environment, or live sustainably etc. Not suprisingly, he found that those who do it "in order to" invariably have more success. He talks about the idea of "community glue". Where people have a common purpose, a shared focus, they tend to do better living in community. A bunch of people who don't have anything in common besides wanting to live in the bush will probably run into difficulties...
     
  3. seussrules

    seussrules Junior Member

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    I've done a fair bit of (academic) research on this, too, as 'community' is my thang! Just following on from Richard's comment about Metcalfe's findings, there is also some evidence of success where there is a combination of 'because of' and 'in order to' folk (eg systems that incorporate public housing allocation into their sites [not suggesting of course that public housing folk can't also be deliberative joiners]) . I have had some dealings with an emergent group in Melbourne, who are deliberately trying to create this mix in order to share their diverse (financial, social, cultural, knowledge) resources with each other. I think they're going to do well.

    Other issues I've identified over time: deliberative eco-villages (ie those collectively developed, rather than developed then bought into) take a lot of time to establish and usually involve a whole range of people who drop out, join late, etc. It's all part of the ebb and flow of community initiated activity and it's all good. However, successful projects usually have a core group of 'stayers' who see the project through, and sometimes it's helpful to start with this mob in developing the preliminary vision, and then invite others in, rather than trying to establish a collective vision from scratch with large numbers. The other issues that I have seen stop very good initiatives in their tracks are: lack of early financial analysis of what will be needed collectively, how resources will be mobilised, the impacts this will have on individual participants and how this might be equitably distributed; lack of agreement on governance arrangements for the group (ie do/how do we incorporate, how do we make and/or amend decisions, who is responsible for what); and lack of research about planning regulations and local residents' needs when selecting sites.

    Gosh, that all sounds very negative :? Eco-villages are tops :) Go start one..... :lol:
     
  4. Peter Clements

    Peter Clements Junior Member

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    Fryars Forest Ecovillage

    Here's a link to an established eco-village, Fryars Forest, designed by permaculture co-founder David Holmgren, in central Victoria. https://www.holmgren.com.au/html/Fryers/fryers.html
    Learning from real-life examples is always better to theorizing- an idea must be good to have all those resources expended on creating it.
     
  5. seussrules

    seussrules Junior Member

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    Yes, I agree that practical knowledge is the most powerful, so it's great that you are going to visit an existing village, and they may have connections to others, so you can get some contextually relevant input (when I said I had done academic research, what I meant was that I have been involved in working with about 6 groups to establish enviro-oriented co-housing developments. Of those, only 2 are off the ground).
     
  6. bjgnome

    bjgnome Junior Member

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    Diane Leafe Christian, an editor of Communities Magazine, has put together a book called "Creating A Life Together; practical tools to grow ecovillages and intentional communities". Basically, she interviewed lots and lots of community members from the 10% of successful communities, and summed up her findings in the book. Author currently lives at Earthaven Ecovillage, in North Carolina, U.S. Cool place, I visited in July.

    Jonathan
     
  7. devinp

    devinp Junior Member

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    thanks for all the feedback guys.... it's such an interesting topic with so much scope.

    The need for a collective 'purpose' definitely rings true with me as I've found even in life a degree of purpose in some way or other makes the trying times a little easier.

    I've come upon some communities that have pretty well worked out guidlines/rules and this comes over a little body corporate for my liking but at the same time I reckon these endeavors must be like a magnet for people wanting a free ride.... it must be hard one to find balance on.

    Maybe people also romanticise the work ethic required for living off the land? I suppose some really pragmatic types would be an asset.

    Anyways.
    Thanks again.

    Unfortunately my visit this weekend has fallen through.
     
  8. Guest

    mmm. Who is the sociologist? We have one on this board. Is it you Suess? I remember one coming in not long back, and this would be a brilliant topic to expand.

    I retraced Metcalfes work in Gayndah, where he reviewed 3 communes that began in the late 1800's in response to a governmental push to put people in the country, in the name of the 'good life'. These folks were truly inspiring! They were literally dumped 500 odd kms from Brisbane, and walked for 3 weeks to get to the sites and somehow managed to build lives from ABSOLUTELY squat. Water access was poor, soil was crap, the local squatters shunned them, and transport didn't exist. Some saw it through, but many couldn't. A lot of deaths then too, especially children.

    If there was one underlying obvious cause of disengagement, it would have to have been individual domination. The records were good. Letters begging for intervention by the lands department, government, anyone who might come and stop the oppression. Complaints of Committee presidents, who began as equals and raised themselves to god-like entities, witholding food, water and privileges, in the name of their cause or their interpretation of it.

    They acheived so much, and yet lost it all, battling for supremacy amongst themselves. They created 3 separate villages, that eventually became viable, with schools, stores and in some cases transport - but they were unable to actually hold onto the goal of actually living communally. Some descendants still remain in the district today, but only a few remained, relocating their homes to their "own" plots and starting independently.

    The elements of human-ness, interested me too. On one occaision men were sent on a 3 week walk to earn money for the community, fruitpicking, to buy supplies for the community (which were sent from Brisbane). On their way back, a few months later they got way-laid and stopped at a hotel for the night. When they returned and handed over the money they were asked if they had spent money at the pub and they said yes. They were suddenly the scum of the earth, and treated as such. Several wandered off, never to rejoin the group and one family remained but was was not given milk for the baby again, and existed on half rations until they begged to return to Brisbane, as their children began dying. Very harsh rules...for a mob of guys who brought money back, I thought.

    After visiting the sites, I have no idea how they survived, and I also visited the ones who didn't, in their cemetaries. It was a fascinating journey into the lives of well meaning people with a big dose of hope, but sadly they clearly seemed to fall subject to the one thing that they all set out to build - the community itself.
     
  9. barely run

    barely run Junior Member

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    What a sad ending to a pioneering enterprise.....am I really living in la la land thinking we might ever get our community going here???
    Cathy :( :cry: :( :cry:
     
  10. Grahame

    Grahame Senior Member

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    I'd love to revisit this topic from so long ago.

    I've been thinking about eco-villages and their role in bringing permaculture design to a greater audience.

    I'm now starting to understand that many of the eco-villages that have tried and 'failed' over the years may have struggled with the social ecology aspect of things.

    I'm really feeling now that social ecology is the key to eco-villages and permaculture. (I bet you have been feeling that for a while now ecodharmamark?)
     
  11. ecodharmamark

    ecodharmamark Junior Member

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    Yep... and writing about here at the PRI Forum for about 7-years :)
     

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