Ecovillage is a vision. Ecovillage is a goal. Ecovillage is an ideal.
Around the world, many people are starting to use the term 'ecovillage' to describe their communities, projects, and other endeavors. What do people mean by 'ecovillage'? What do these projects share in common, and how are they diverse?
First, ecovillage is a vision, an ideal, a goal. Except for some aboriginal villages that have retained their ancient sustainable cultures, there are no examples of fully realized ecovillages as of this writing. Those using the term are describing a commitment or intent to live more sustainably, reintegrating their lives with ecology.
But what do people mean by 'sustainability'? There is really no simple, clearly agreed-upon definition of sustainability. Some would try to define it in scientific terms: carrying capacity, energy flows, ecological systems, design strategies. Others would talk about the social factors: humans' relationship to nature, spirituality, wisdom, equality, decision-making processes, holism, a sense of place. Often people talk about looking ahead seven generations or creating systems that can be continued into the indefinite future. Of course, even if people agree on the definition, they will incorporate these ideals into their daily lives in very different ways and at different levels.
Beyond a shared commitment to sustainability, ecovillages are diverse in many ways. They exist in rural, urban, and suburban areas and in all parts of the world, among a variety of cultures. They can be embedded in a larger human settlement, such as a neighborhood in a large city. They can be newly formed projects just under way, or older groups redefining themselves or hanging a new term on what they've been doing all along.
In general, ecovillage is used to describe places that are aiming for a village-like quality. A village is more than just a place to live. A village is also a place for work and play, birth and death, trading of goods and services, celebrations, and all aspects of healthy lives. Equally important is being 'human scale,' meaning a population where it's still possible for people to know each other as people and not as anonymous masses.
As you are looking at ecovillages, remember to ask what folks really envision for their project when it comes to such things as size, scope, social structure, and ecology. Also ask where they are in the here and now. Ecovillage is a process as well as a vision, and we are all somewhere on a long path.
-- originally based on What Is Ecovillage?, by Tony Sirna
- [Ecovillage Economics: An Analysis of Market Structure and Community Development], by Wren Hastings
- List of Ecovillages in the Online Communities Directory
- What Is Ecovillage?, by Tony Sirna
- An Ecovillage Retrofit for Los Angeles: Healing an Inner-City Neighborhood, by Lois Arkin