Eco-Villages! (book summary)

In the spirit of the new year and thinking globally (acting locally) I wanted to post about this talk on campus I attended this fall, about ecovillages/llocalization in a global world. The speaker –  Karen Litfin, from U of Washington, teaches in Political Science on global environmental politics, with core interests in green theory, the science/policy interface, and “person/planet politics. Karen took a year to travel the world and dwell and learn more about the Ecovillages. Her book is out now (BUY IT!!!!!!!), Ecovillages: Lessons for a sustainable economy. She also offers a website and blog where you can find out more and see photos of the ecovillages she visited. These Ecovillages are a real thing, a network, of many various types, all over the globe.People involved in the creation of these seek positive change that will come from ground up. Buy a copy for yourself, your library – why not have a book discussion too! 

Here are my notes from her talk:

Dr. Karen Litfin decided to go around the globe to see who is living in a low eco footprint, and in sustainable communities. As she graphed the numbers vs time, resources use, population, etc. she showed visually we cannot continue with this infinite growth on a finite planet. How do we play a finale game with our home planet? Karen visited 14 eco-villages  in 5 continents.  They ranged from rich to poor, religious or not, suburban or rural, all sorts of diversity, but with one common thread:   Humans are an integral part of web of life – we are inseparable from nature. (Though the old game is unraveling the web!)  Karen’s insight learned on the trip included positive change will come from bottom up.  A politics of YES…let’s move toward the thing we love, don’t wait for other, don’t wait for corporations or blame them, the focus is what we can do to make our own society. Being inseparable from nature means we can access the evolutionary intelligence that brought us here. Can be bio concept, can be a spiritual concept, can be secular…the evolutionary intelligence concept.

Some notes on her visits:

  • EarthHaven in western NC started, off grid, live simply, natural materials. Build their own houses, live on about$8000/year but feel very rich, good schools, good support, co-own huge land
  • Ithaka, NY Ecovillage – lives on about $55,000 a year, American Dream for middle Americans comfortable lifestyle, live in small places, co own land, community house, educational work… live on half the U.S. EcoFootprint.
  • FindHorn, UK – started by christian mystics, after WWII in 1962, the the mother of all ecovillages, more spiritual based and know for gardening. Burms into the hillside, green roof, no eco footprint. They process their own water in a greenhouse living machine system!
  • Seine Linden in Germany, goal to live on one footprint (Germans in general live half what we do in us anyway, largest solar panels of any county, and much more dense housing);  they do a lot with horses, go back to old ways to eliminate fossil fuel. Vegan agriculture only, no manure at all.
  • Senegal, Gambia– poorest of all visited, need for food, they just live in villages but not by choice really, hot dark places.Africa’s village has smallest Eco footprints but  many young men left for work to seek work somewhere, desperation, so they are not really sustainable (need basic needs first, like water and literacy) Average make $80 a year and half of that went to malaria medicine. Senegal has an ecovillages ministry, and had a summit this year supported by Germany!!!
  • Sarbodya (Sri Lanka) –  a network of 15000 villages.  They help theses villages.  Micro finance, literacy, water,  recycle everything, grow their own food, solar panel, etc there, no poverty and no affluence. Sharing of labor as a community.  First thing they learn is a peace meditation.  Buddhist inspired but honor every religion. Concept: Shramadana society or Sharing of labor.
  • Auroville, in southern India, most Europeans from dozens of countries. Spread out through the forest.  They are living simply compared to Europe or us, but they are rich compared to villages near them. They planted millions of trees, biodiversity increasing there. Compressed earth bricks from hand machine (spiritual work since earth is divine consciousnesses!) venting at top, mosquito nets, traditional architecture and modern features to work here. Ex: a web designer living in hut there working remotely 🙂
  • Damanhur in Italy, live in tree houses, communicate w plants! Spiritual. Templates of humankind underground. See for a tour.  They have their own money creditos, pay taxes on that, turn in euros when you arrive.
  • Svanholm in Denmark, known organic farming and hand crafts, also integrating children into everyday work.  Very much secular “allergic to religion” most prosperous, well off, proud to be a commune. Support each other in a way beyond individualistic.
  • UFA, Berlin – secular, through sharing of culture, dance music art theater circus … In Downtown Berlin! Motto: If it’s not fun let’s not do it 🙂
  • East Hollywood – urban area, semi rough area, hardly any children there, community of activist, they all work full time in social justice or environmental area.
  • Konohana (Japan) – an ag community, grow a ton of food, focus on overcoming the ego. Before cultivating fields they cultivate minds, and point fingers at each other to point out if they were egotistic that day.  Use a Probiotic gel use in all their fields, foods, animals.

Anthropocene era now. Humans are the dominate species.  New geological era –  Basically we have the earth in our hands!! But hopefully there is something even larger whether it be spiritual or evolutionary intelligence. What can we do!? — Change our purpose; think local to act global; leverage today’s resources in the service of that purpose.

After this journey… Karen started her eco-community off Puget Sound on an island! growing food, chickens, goats etc in 270 sq feet little place 🙂 

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