Do ecovillages provide us with a sustainable alternative for the future? With this question in mind we organised an online event, shared articles and a video these last weeks. It does sound very ecologically sustainable, but is this the case and what about social, cultural and economic sustainability?
We from OtherWise were curious to know more, but also many others, as was shown by the number of people showing interest and joining the online event on the 27th of May. Around sixty participants tuned in on Skype, coming from all over the Netherlands: Wageningen, Rotterdam, Enschede, Groningen. Also people staying in other countries joined: Belgium, Germany, Spain, Hungary, South Africa, Mexico…
At the beginning of the event we asked the participants if they would like to live in an ecovillage and why (not). Many positive answers followed. The connection with nature, the simplicity and quietness were named among the reasons, and also the communal living. The ecovillages are associated with sharing food and moments, giving support, and making real connections. Someone also named recreational activities. Furthermore, it seems to be a less costly way of living. The only drawback some people mentioned was the coldness in the winter.
Louise Vercruysse and Wiepke Wissema were invited to share their experiences and insights on ecovillages with us. At the moment of the event, Louise was an inhabitant of Groenlandje, an ecovillage in Wageningen. Wiepke is an ecological economist. She explained that an ecovillage is an evolving concept. As the name states, people in an ecovillage wish to live in harmony with nature. However, there is a diversity of reasons to live in an ecovillage. Ecovillages emerged in the 70s, when people felt alienated in their society and sought ways of coming together. Ecovillages also provide space for experimenting and creating that cannot easily be found elsewhere. Furthermore, in an ecovillage people can live more independently from the economic system. Inhabitants can for example exchange goods and services among each other.
Louise recognized herself in these reasons. One of her main motivations to start and live in an ecovillage is to break down the wall that usually is assumed to exist, between us human beings and nature. She wants to question that divide and see herself as an element within nature.
It looked like many of the participants could identify with one or more of these reasons to live in an ecovillage, because many questions were asked to Louise about how it is to live in an ecovillage. How does a typical day look like? With how many people does she live? Did they know each other before you started the ecovillage? How do they resolve internal conflicts? Did they need a lot of money to start and build the ecovillage? Do you have jobs besides living there?
Is living in an ecovillage then the solution for a more sustainable future? Wiepke questioned this. A lot of land is needed to house everyone around the world in an ecovillage. Furthermore, some people in ecovillages are still highly engaged in the economic system, in such a way that living in an ecovillage doesn’t decrease their negative ecological impact on the world. We should therefore take into account the land use, and don’t stop at living in an ecovillage. According to one article we shared, we should also live according to degrowth principles.
Besides that, not everyone fancies living in an ecovillage. One of the participants said in the Skype chat that she herself doesn’t want to live in an ecovillage, but that it is great and important to have those places to get inspired by living the simple life, connected to nature-life and to see sustainability in action. The existence does provide inspiration for alternative ways of living and thinking. Louise mentioned that she sees Groenlandje as a public space where everyone is welcome and where you don’t have to pay any money to enjoy.
Some people asked to what extent an ecovillage is a form of activism and how it contributes to deconstructing the capitalist system. Wiepke answered that by its existence it contributes to deconstructing the capitalist system. It places itself outside of the capitalist system.
Ecovillages are not the only way towards a more sustainable future. However, they do help moving towards that future, by demanding you to think about your everyday live and how you want to relate to the world, and by providing inspiration.
Would you like to live in an ecovillage? The inhabitants of Groenlandje are now busy with the eviction and are moving to Ppauw, the other ecovillage in Wageningen. Although they had to move from the terrain close to the harbour, with the development of Groenlandje, they did put ecovillages on the agenda of the municipality of Wageningen. Perhaps ecovillages will become a more and more accessible alternative.
The picture is the collage that was made at the end of the online event.
- Review by Lois Markusse