Ecovillages are intentional communities that strive for a degree of self-sufficiency and a low environmental impact, often motivated by the desire to find a sustainable alternative to capitalist society. Many are part of the Global Ecovillages Network and vary in size from 50-500 members. Some have a strong spiritual dimension, for example the Findhorn Community in Scotland and Auroville in India, whilst others focus on collaborative and egalitarian social structures. Ecovillages often experiment in social organisation, operating alternative education and social welfare systems, forms of consensus democracy, or alternative economies, for example Christiania and Findhorn Community both have a local currency and informal bartering systems. They can also be places where practical research into green technologies occurs, such as new designs for composting toilets or waste water recycling and experiments in permaculture principles. There are currently around 500 sites in the ecovillages network, which includes large groupings of villages in Senegal and Sri Lanka, small ecotowns, sites in urban contexts such as Christiania, and educational centres such as Centre for Alternative Technology in Wales.
One of the better known ecovillages is Crystal Waters located near Brisbane, Australia, which has a population of around 200 people. Initiated in 1985 as a cooperative community, in 1987 it became the first such settlement to be designed and operated wholly according to permaculture principles. The cooperative owns 500 acres of land which was bought by a trust fund to which prospective residents contributed. Eighty percent of land is held in common, including areas for agriculture and for wildlife habitats, whilst the rest is owned privately, this includes housing and commercial property in the Crystal Waters village. The settlement aims to have a low environmental impact, to revive land quality, as well as improving the socio-economic circumstances in what is an economically depressed area. The community has a set of by-laws that ensure sustainable construction methods, govern the use of land, the types of businesses on site and levels of recycling etc. Crystal Waters does not aim for total self-sufficiency, preferring to maintain connection with surrounding communities.
'Crystal Waters Ecovillage', http://crystalwaters.org.au/ [accessed 11 February 2010].
'GENSEN: Global Ecovillage Network Senegal', http://gensenegal.org/ [accessed 11 February 2010].
Jan Martin Bang, Ecovillages: A Practical Guide to Sustainable Communities (Gabriola Island, BC: New Society, 2005).
Hugh Barton, 'Appendix 2: Case Studies of Eco-Neighbourhoods', in Sustainable Communities (London: Earthscan, 2000).
Jonathan Dawson, Ecovillages: New Frontiers for Sustainability (Totnes: Green Books, 2006).
See 'Crystal Waters' and 'Ecovillages' in, Martin Parker, Valérie Fournier, and Patrick Reedy, The Dictionary of Alternatives. Utopianism and Organization (London & New York: Zed Books, 2007).
Rebecca Pollock, 'Crystal Waters: Australian Ecovillage is a World-recognised Pioneer in Low-impact Living', Alternatives Journal, 26 (2000), 36-37.
Richard Webb, 'Permaculture in Practice', Landscape Design, 1993, 14-18.
"Ecovillages are urban or rural communities of people, who
strive to integrate a supportive social environment with a
low-impact way of life. To achieve this, they integrate various
aspects of ecological design, permaculture, ecological building,
green production, alternative energy, community building practices,
and much more."
- Global Ecovillages Network, http://gen.ecovillage.org/about/index.html
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