Page 9 - C.A.L.L. #29 - Winter 2007
P. 9

I  believe  people  are  sensing,  as  Ivan  Illich  called  it,  "the  shadows  our
             future throws." Once you grasp the full significance of runaway climate
             change, and the exhaustion of virtually all of our natural resources under
             the pressure of human consumption, you go through a change in your
             personal outlook. History becomes nearly irrelevant in these circumstances, as do most of the plans
             our parents made for us. We will not be colonizing Mars. In the centuries to come, we can speak of
             success if there are still human colonies on Earth.

             Ecovillages are seen by many as kind of quirky, radical environmentalist communes. In reality they
             are the prototype of the future we will have and must have, if a future for humanity is still an
             option.  I  often  say  that  we  have  the  wind  of  inevitability  at  our  backs.  There  is  an  ecovillage
             coming to your neighborhood, soon.

                                                  Many years ago, the movement began defining "success" in
                                                  village design by creating a set of objective criteria like net
                                                  carbon sequestration, wilderness expansion, and so forth. A
                                                  metaphor we often use is a three-legged stool, with one leg
                                                  being  ecological  -  permaculture,  renewable  energy,  green
                                                  buildings, recycling; a second leg being economic, that is,
                                                  how you financially support yourself does not offend your
                                                  principles  and  should  contribute  to  a  healthy  planet;  and
                                                  the  third  leg  being  social  -  the  ways  you  manage  the
                                                  community  should  be  fair,  transparent,  and  egalitarian.  It
                                                  should also be fun, because if it is not fun, no one would
                                                  want to live there.

                                                  The three legs create stability and beauty. If one is weak,
                                                  the whole stool totters. What we have seen is that where
                                                  the  stool  is  strong  you  get  tremendous  creativity.  Arts,
                                                  music, sports, science, literature, and other human pursuits
                                                  all flourish. That makes for a good ecovillage.

             For the past half century the environmental movement has been fighting a defensive, rear-guard
             battle. In recent years it has begun to go on the offense, with Al Gore's slide show and Leonardo
             DiCaprio's new movie marking a kind of transition. Ecovillages (and Green Kibbutzim) are part of
             the remedy. They point a new direction, a positive one, for environmentalists to walk their talk.
             We are the future, and this is where it starts.

             The  Farm's  main  contribution  to  the  ecovillage  movement  is  its  staying  power.  We  are  in  our
             fourth generation now, with midwives assisting at the birth for mothers whom they midwived as
             babies 20 years ago. My mother lived here until she died, and my granddaughter was born here,
             just last year. We have the whole package here: a 5000-acre conservation land trust, consensus
             governance,  primary  health  care,  socially  responsible  businesses,  our  own  school,  and  a  tight,
             multi-generational bond.

             In 1994 we founded the first ecovillage training center here. Today there are others like it on six
             continents. Of our thousands of graduates, who can now receive university degrees for this work,
             many  have  gone  on  to  design  and  inhabit  ecovillages  elsewhere.  That  may  be  the  major
             contribution of The Farm. When we left the Haight Ashbury in 1971 as 320 hippys in school buses,
             we said we were "out to save the world." This is one way we are doing it.

             Albert  Bates  is  a  permaculture  instructor  at  the  Ecovillage  Training  Center  at  The  Farm  community  in
             Summertown,  Tennessee.  He  was  founder  of  the  Ecovillage  Network  of  the  Americas  in  1995  and  is  past
             president and a founder of the Global Ecovillage Network. He is author of several books, including Shutdown:
             Nuclear Power on Trial (1979), Climate in Crisis: The Greenhouse Effect and What We Can Do (1990, with
             foreword by Al Gore) and the Post-Petroleum Survival Guide and Cookbook: Recipes for Changing Times (New
             Society, 2006).

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