Friday, December 28, 2007

Ecovillage Education:

Preparing for the transition to a comprehensive sustainable culture.

A new curriculum -- Ecovillage Design Education (EDE) -- is now offered in the U.S. (Albuquerque), after being tested in a number of countries including India, Thailand, Argentina and Bolivia.

Its innovative content integrates the worldview component of experience -- giving it equal weight to the conventional social, ecological and economic dimensions. Another difference is that spirituality is infused throughout the curriculum.

Additional comprehensive materials are emerging, with the social key available now.

The materials are available free on the web and have been applied in a variety of programs and formats of different length. A number of universities are discussing creating an academically accredited masters program based on it.

Why Urban Ecovillages?

The concerns, motivations, and visions for the November 9-11 Developing Urban Ecovillages: Toward EcoCities gathering in Chicago included:

Uncertainties and missing opportunities.
Civilizations future is uncertain, facing multiple challenges of climate change, energy constraints, and resource depletion. Recent surprises in these areas have increased our concerns. Proposed solutions usually focus exclusively on changes in laws and technology, ignoring the proven potential of jointly enhancing community and sustainability with ecovillage type developments. The challenges are so daunting that increasing our social synergies is likely to make a significant difference.

The Promise of Ecovillages.
Cohousing residences are often half the size of comparable developments, while supporting a higher quality of life. Carbon emissions of long established ecovillages are comparable to those of the most advanced existing residential developments, such as BEDzed. In the course of their first four years in residence, new members progressively increase their environmental awareness and associated responsible behavior. And most importantly, they can be powerful laboratories, exploring and demonstrating the multiple ways community can extend the known boundaries of sustainability.

Developing Urban Ecovillages.
Start from where you are - the assets of your friends, neighbors and supportive organizations. Build on these to jointly enhance community and sustainability. We presented several examples in the program.

Toward EcoCities: Recognition that many aspects necessary for sustainability are generally illegal.
Cities that support ecovillage type developments with appropriate changes in building codes, zoning and other forms of assistance, are more likely to be successful in dealing with the challenges of the future. Municipalities across the world have moved in this direction. The Recode Portland proposal initiated the process in the
United States. Grassroots backing for these changes will be essential. We will discuss how such groups can be most effective.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

November 9-11 Gathering

Developing Urban Ecovillages:
Towards Ecocities,

November 9-11, 2007
A Gathering …
At Schmitt Academic Center, DePaul University, Room 154, 2320 N. Kenmore, Chicago

Ecovillages here refers to ways of living that enhance both sustainability and community. Their multiple forms range from intentional communities and cohousing, to friends and neighbors deciding to share more, while greening-up their environment and way of life. Ecological neighborhoods (eco-neighborhoods) and ecohoods are among their names.

They are often living laboratories for extending sustainability. In recognition of their value, two municipalities in British Columbia, Canada, created special ecovillage zoning with modified building codes. Some Portland, Oregon council members are among those seeking similar changes there.

Friday 7-9 pm
<> Overview - The Promise of EcoVillages by Diana Leafe Christian author, Creating a Life Together: Practical Tools to Grow Ecovillages and Intentional Communities (2003), and Finding Community: How to join an Ecovillage or Intentional Community (2007). Editor of Communities magazine from 1993 until the latest issue, Diana is a nationally known speaker, offering presentations workshops and consultations on ecovillages, intentional communities and Peak Oil issues. FREE

Saturday, 9am-4pm;
Morning: 9am -12:00
<> Welcome.
Carol Braford (The MC) , co-founder of Culver Way Cohousing in St. Louis.
<> Sadhu Johnson (Invited) - Assistant to the Mayor for Green Initiatives - on Chicago's plan to become the greenest city in the nation, and the potential place for ecovillage type developments in that vision.
<> Thomas J. Murphy, Professor Emeritus, Chemistry, former director of DePaul's environmental science program - on ‘Peak Everything, or what is recently called the “Global Triple Crisis”, a major motivation for stepping up ecovillage creation.

KEYNOTE: Turning Your Neighborhood into an Ecovillage: The story of Cincinnati’s ecovillage pair. By Jim Schenk, co-founder and Executive Director till 2005 of Imago Earth Center, the organization spearheading the ecovillage creation. He is also the editor of What Does God Look Like in an Expanding Universe (December 2006).

PANEL - Other Approaches to Ecovillages and Eco-neighborhoods

Moderator: Jillian Hovey, Toronto Permaculturalist and Ecovillage designer.
<> Starting from a shared garden. – Julie Peterson, coordinator, Beyond Today’s ecological neighborhood project.
<> Start with your friends. Eco-Coops -- Ted Ernst, of The Hub Cooperative
<> Everyone working together: Cleveland’s Ecovillage
-- Mandy Metcalf, project director.
<> Creating new community the cohousing way – Tom Braford, co-founder of Culver Way Cohousing in St. Louis.


Afternoon 1:00-4pm. Openspace Collaboration - Share your vision and interests using openspace technology.
Main focus: Bringing more ecovillage like developments to fruition here.
PLENARY - Summary. Additional openspace topics for Sunday’s continuation.


Morning: 10-12 am Openspace Continues. PLENARY: Summary. What next?
Afternoon: 1:30 – 2:30 pm. Field trip to Beyond Today’s emerging ecological neighborhood at the Waters Garden. Campbell and Sunnyside (Three blocks from the Rockwell stop of the Ravenswood line.)

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Sponsored by: Chicagoland Urban Permaculture (CUP). Cosponsors include: Urban Ecovillage Network, Beyond Today, Ecovillage Network of the Americas, Global Ecovillage Network, Environmental Research Foundation, Cohousing Association of the United States, DePaul University Institute for Nature and Culture, and 8th Day Center for Justice.

Friday FREE . $45 covers the rest.

Please Preregister at

Information: 773-756-5033,

PARKING: No special provisions/stickers
Limited on-street parking. Public trans recommended
It's one block from the Fullerton Red/Brown line stop.

Two Parking lots. $9 The Ps on the map are:
<> #27 Sheffield, south of Dominicks - Sheffield Parking Garage
<> #6 Clifton Parking deck
just west of McGowan enviro science building, 2350 Clifton #8

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Inspired by Ecovillages...

Would it be an exaggeration to claim that the emergence of the ecovillage movement is the most significant event of the 20th century? I don’t think so. -- Ted Trainer, Sociologist, University of New South Wales, Australia

In my view, ecovillages, and the larger social movements of which they are an integral part, are the most promising and important movement in all of history. -- Robert Rosenthal, Prof. of Philosophy, Hanover College, USA

Ecovillaging Resources

Since the separation between these development categories is losing significance, we list them together. All express the intention to augment the intersection (and synergy) of community and sustainability.

Urban Ecovillage Network
Global Ecovillage Network
Ecovillage Network of the Americas

Cohousing Association of the United States

Creating an Ecohood
“EcoHood”— permaculture retrofit of a mid- to low-income neighborhood with a high
potential for ecological sustainability.

What is an ecovillage?

Like many holistically evolving cultural manifestations (and species), separating a new form from its predecessor with a simple definition can be difficult. So far, there is no firm consensus on what an ecovillage is.

Robert Gilman lists the following characteristics:
1. Human scale
2. Full featured settlement
3. Harmlessly integrates human activities into the natural world
4. Supports healthy human development and
5. Can be successfully continued into the indefinite future
6. Has multiple centers of initiative
The Eco-village Challenge
...of developing a community living in balanced harmony - with itself as well as nature - is tough, but attainable. Robert Gilman (1991)

Although the Gilman definition is the one most frequently used, others have emerged.

Jonathan Dawson, President of Global Ecovillage Network, in his 2006 book Ecovillages: New Frontiers for Sustainability offers the following both as a new definition (page 36), and as the common characteristics of all ecovillages (page 70).
1) Private citizens initiatives
2) in which the communitarian impulse is of central importance,
3) that are seeking to win back some measure of control over community resources,
4) that have a strong shared values base (often referred to as 'spirituality')
5) and that act as centres of research, demonstration, and (in most cases) training.
He claims that latter (5) is essential to distinguish ecovillages from similar more locally focused initiatives, "which are not in service of a wider goal." I find this distinction less than compelling.

It's hard to discern any commonalities between the Gilman and Dawson definitions.

Sustainability definitions manifest similar disparity according to Philip Sutton, who classified them into four categories.
Using his definitional types, the Dawson definition is more "a description of what the thing or action is (dictionary-style definition)", while Gilman's is "a description of what is required to bring the thing or action into being
(definition by strategy)" [or what might be termed an aspirational description]

Given this definitional complexity, when answering "What is an ecovillage" or "How do you define ecovillage", I prefer the succinctness of:
"An ecovillage is the intentional intersection of community and sustainability."
(Slightly modified from Oakland's 611Ecovillage founder Dan Antolioni.

Rather than struggling with labeling such as San Mateo Ecovillage did with "not exactly a co-op...something between co-op, cohousing, and ecovillage", it may be more fruitful to track ones trajectory on the community and sustainability plane -- how rapidly is one's eco-home/community moving away from the (0,0) origin that characterizes most of our society. Thus co-op, cohousing, and ecovillage, in that order would likely be rated progressively richer on the community dimension. Placement could be determined through GEN's Community Sustainability Assessment by combining the Social Checklist with the Spiritual/Cultural one. Alternatively, the Spiritual/Cultural dimension could provide a third coordinate axis.The trajectory of each site would then be mapped into this cubic region. Any placement significantly removed from the origin would be richer in 'ecovillageness'.

Along those lines, a sustainable future would be one where almost everyone lives in an ecovillage. According to Torbjörn Lahti, that is close to the situation in Sweden, where eco-municipality is no longer a significant distinction and is rarely used. Thus our eventual goal here is to make the prefix "eco" tautological. Our challenge in Chicago is to jump start that process.