First conceived of over 50 years ago, ecovillages are part of a global movement, that aims to create self-sufficient and sustainable communities in harmony with the environment. In addition to their ecological focus, these communities also integrate economic, social, and cultural aspects. Participatory management techniques are used for making decisions and permaculture for the construction of homes in harmony with nature. Everyone has a voice, everyone works, everyone collaborates.
Where they are
Ecovillages are scattered across every corner of the Earth. There are a substantial number of them in Brazil, such as Arca Verde, Vila Yamaguishi, Terra Una, and Terra Mirim. Most of them are in the South, Southeast, and Midwest regions. In Morada da Paz, an African-Brazilian Buddhist community in the municipality of Triunfo (RS), children learn about agroecology from an early age, such as crop rotation and non-chemical pest control. More than half of the community’s food is produced on site.
In Piracanga, on the coast of Bahia, residents take meticulous care in disposing of waste liquids, and even their drinking water is filtered through aquatic plants that do not damage the ecosystem. Juliana Faber, an environmental educator in Piracanga, says:
“We are also dedicated to the creation of soil by composting, using dry toilets, and producing biofertilizers and effective microorganisms.”
For Ryan Luckey, activist and founder of Comun Tierra, a pioneering project that has been mapping sustainable communities and initiatives in Latin America since 2010, modern ecovillages can be seen as sustainable living laboratories to benefit the whole planet:
“Ecovillages are not the only answer or strategy, but their findings have much to contribute to this great change of habits that we must collectively embrace if we want a habitable future on this planet.”
On a global level, the Findhorn Foundation, one of the oldest ecovillages in the world, was founded in Scotland in 1962, and produces energy using solar panels and wind turbines. The houses, which are designed jointly by future residents and sustainable engineering specialists, combine elements of design, usability, and ecology.
The Findhorn community is known for working with plants and interacting with natural kingdoms. It is also renowned for its courses and lectures on holistic therapies and workshops on how to perform collective tasks. According to Yvonne Cuneo, manager of the ecovillage, “We educate people here, and show them a new way of existing in this world”. Seven hundred sixty two people currently claim to belong to the Findhorn community, but only 250 actually live in the ecovillage.
But what about money?
The question on many people’s minds when reading about ecovillages and thinking about changing their lifestyle is: who pays for all this? There is no exact answer to this question, especially given that every ecovillage organizes its administrative functions in their own way. But it is important to remember that because everyone works together for the community, issues such as food, energy, cleaning, and transport create much lower costs, because the “middleman” has been removed from the equation. People receive things not “because they pay for them”, but because their work helped to obtain them. In addition, the absence of expenses for parking, cable TV, trips to the mall, and pizza delivery leads to a consistently reduced cost of living, which essentially means that there is less of a need for money.
At the IBC (Instituto Biorregional do Cerrado – Cerrado Biorregional Institute), a community located in Alto Paraíso, Goiás, some members work in the city to supplement their income: “The IBC cannot yet generate enough of an economy to provide everyone with paying jobs. We are creating a bank of credit hours and 200 hours are voluntarily dedicated to the IBC annually by each member”, explains Thomaz Enlazador, founder of the Institute.
At the IBC, most of the food is still purchased, since the focus of the Institute at this time is the construction of community structures and personal places of residence: “Many members want to be free from renting”, adds Thomaz. “The agriculture project is growing, but it must be structured better from 2017 onward”.
Day to day
Every ecovillage organizes its processes and routines independently, but a routine common to many of them is a collective breakfast followed by community activities (farming, construction, cleaning, water treatment, education, etc.) in the morning.
In the afternoon, people usually have time to work on personal projects or to return to other jobs, such as doctors, journalists, architects, etc.
This free time is vital for many members, since most of these communities function in a mixed economy system, and although the cost of living in ecovillages is generally much lower than in big cities, there are still bills that need to be paid.
There are regular meetings in the evenings to provide the whole community with a constant channel of communication.
In Piracanga, there are more than 250 residents from various parts of the world, including Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, Portugal, Austria, France, Italy, Israel, Ukraine… Most of these people are dedicated to more than 20 projects maintained by the Inkiri Community, which energetically sustains the community: “These projects financially support those involved. We also provide many external courses and experiences, through what we call ‘Piracanga in the World’, and some people also work outside the community and/or online”, adds Juliana.
Letícia Rigatti Barcellos, activist and founder of the Común Tierra project, plans to create an ecovillage in Brazil, and explains that one of the great advantages of living in these communities is discovering our potential for doing things with our own hands, as well as seeing the strength of collective projects: “You can lead a fuller life, living closer to nature, being a part of it. Caring for the land, planting, harvesting, and giving freedom to children. It is a strong and collective way of working, where you create an open space to talk about problems in a group and to exercise a less individualistic life. It enables you to celebrate life, build a bonfire, breathe fresh air, sing, and live closer to art, since many ecovillages try to take an artistic approach to life”, she concludes.
“In times of global crisis and transition, living as part of a community is the only possible way to generate relevant transformations. Through cooperation, by working together, we have a lot more strength and influence in the world.” — Juliana Faber
There are many ways to imagine the future of our species. All of them involve a change in the way we live. Once the first step is taken, the result is a natural reconquering of happiness. At the moment, ecovillages are synonymous with change.