by Michael Smith (Veshengro)
For the majority of people almost everywhere the village equates the countryside and thus they would believe that a village, also an eco-village, can only exist in the countryside. However, the majority of our towns and cities today are but a conglomeration of villages and therefore an eco-village should and can be equally at home in the town as in the country.
Now what is an eco-village in the first place and why would we assume that it has to be in the countryside?
An eco-village, regardless of its fancy, newfangled name, is basically a community or a commune that wishes to live and work together in a way that does not harm the environment, or better the biosphere. It may be in the countryside, off-grid, and somewhat away from civilization, so to speak, but it on no account has to be, and maybe even most of them should not be.
Most people in the developed world today live in urban areas. Not so long ago many more lived in the countryside instead of in towns and cities, and while the movement of “back to the land” is good and necessary even for some homesteading and that kind of life will not be possible. For many, in fact, that will be the case, and this is not due to the countryside not being able to accommodate them or such, but for reasons of not being able to or even wanting to move into the stick.
Still those very same often hanker after the idea of homesteading, of living in a village, a community where people live and work together and also grow their own food and all that. But, because they cannot leave the urban or suburban areas due to commitments – or lack of funds to move into the sticks – they see no way of doing what they would like to.
All towns and cities today, bar those that we created from nothing, so to speak, are based on a collection of villages that grew together or were joined together and thus at the heart of the urban community there still lies the village; we have but to find it or recreate it.
Thus an eco-village in town or country is not all that far fetched and is indeed possible and must be possible. They can be created right where we live, in our street and even a block of flats (apartment block to our American cousins), and elsewhere.
Transition Towns have sort of advanced the idea but there are ways in which this could be improved upon and other models developed. Truth is that an eco-village could be developed almost anywhere in any situation and location. It definitely does not have to be in the countryside and we must create such in the urban areas as well and especially.
In the same way that you can homestead anywhere an eco-village can be created (almost) anywhere.
It is estimated that 80.7% of the US population currently lives in urban areas (as of 2010) and in places such as the concrete jungle it is easy to become disconnected from nature. More and more people are seeking to get back in tune with the earth, and there are many that reckon to truly do that you have to go outside city limits to do that. In one way they are correct and in another way they are not.
The old Hippie Commune, so to speak, of Christiania, also know as Christiania Free State, which is one of the oldest and longest established, and still existing, community which is, what one could refer to if one wanted to, an eco-village, slap bang almost in the middle of Copenhagen, Denmark, is a great example for what can be done in the urban environment. But one does not, necessarily, take over an old army barracks, an old hospital site, or similar.
An eco-village is a community whose inhabitants seek to live according to ecological principles, causing as little impact on the environment as possible, and such eco-villages or eco-communities and -communes have as much a place in the urban area as in the rural ones, and may even be more needed more so in the former.
Transforming a neighborhood into an eco-village or an eco-community will take some effort, as the Transition Town Movement and that of the Kietzwandler, the German sort-of equivalent, have shown but they have also shown and proven that it can be done. However, to expect, almost overnight to get an entire town to become an eco one is unrealistic.
The way to start is block by block and street by street, which seems to be something that the Transition Movement (notice the word “town” has, more or less now been dropped from the menu) is beginning to realize. In any case we have to rebuild the village in the city and we might as well then build eco-villages while we are at it.
An urban or suburban eco-village, in the same way as a rural one, can be purpose built from scratch or being developed from some existing structure and while many eco-villages that exist at present are a collection of like-minded people living in community, a commune to a degree, mostly in rural areas, those that are to be developed or which develop in a neighborhood are generally of a different composition where people may first still to have to be persuaded to make the necessary changes.
Those that are developed in suburban or urban areas from scratch or from something already existing, such as an old barracks, or similar, can be a collection of like-minded eco-conscious people, and such structures could act as models and examples for anything that might develop outside those or those who have created the intentional eco-communes might act as facilitators to those wishing to establish eco-neighborhoods.
In some parts of he world the village is being reestablished in the city by people who have come from villages creating a village kind of living environment even in apartment blocks, with workshops on the ground floor and gardens all around where food is grown for the community.
It can be done, as it has been shown, and that would also make for eco-villages in urban and suburban areas. All that is needed is the will and especially the will and the facilitation from the sides of the governments, local, county, state and central (federal) to allow for this to happen. The latter, however, is where it always seems to give problems and that also goes for those that are being established in the countryside.
Living in and creating an eco-village is not so much an off-grind living adventure, it's about community and actually creating new models of how we can and should live. In fact and truth the models are not new actually; they are a return to the way things were and need to be for everything to work properly.
Such an eco-village should also include, ideally, and the location of it does not matter one iota in this, community-run businesses, or small “individually-owned” enterprises of various kinds, as long as they have a low impact on the biosphere, and ideally also off-grid energy sources, community gardens and agriculture, and many more “alternative” services and ideas.
It is all about establishing working models to the system that can kick into action when the old system finally kicks the bucket, so to speak, either by its own volition or by being helped along a little. Thus those communities really must include all the services that are necessary, but it all depends on what it possible at the location and as an individual commune or what can be achieved by cooperation with other such communities in the area. No man is an island and no commune of this kind either. Unity makes us strong.