Discovering new answers to life’s daily needs
What is an ecovillage?
You may have wondered what an ecovillage is. Perhaps you have some disconnected, even contradictory information. This is understandable, because the world of ecovillages is complex, varied and heterogeneous. Becoming overly specific risks diminishing the spirit of this diversity. What unites most experiences is the desire to live in contact with nature, trying to shape a culture of sharing – of home, work, and daily bread – with a small group of people with a common vision of the world. In general, community members tend to not be related by law or family ties and tend to focus together, in their project of community life, on regenerating areas of ecological, social, cultural and economic sustainability together. The Global Ecovillage Network, our membership organization, uses this definition:
“An ecovillage is an intentional, traditional or urban community that is consciously designed through locally owned participatory processes in all four dimensions of sustainability (social, culture, ecology and economy) to regenerate social and natural environments.”
Today, by presenting our ecovillage project to you and thus beginning the next step in our introduction of the work of Borgo Basino, we want to start this journey by asking Francesca Guidotti, former president of RIVE (Italian Ecological Villages Network), activist and founding member of the ecovillage La Torre di Mezzo, to explain a little about the content, expectations and dreams that move within this somewhat complex word.
After so many years of activism and sharing in the community, what does “ecovillage” mean for you today?
For me today, “ecovillage” means opportunities for transformation, improvement, living in a healthier environment, closer to the rhythms of nature, a less anthropocentric environment, a place of continuous learning. It means freedom of movement, it means not feeling alone, but being autonomous, it means remaining open and living the concrete possibility of a model of life closer to the human and natural dimension.
In your experience, what are the fundamental and essential elements that characterize an ecovillage?
I think it is essential to question every aspect of one’s life at 360°, trying to find new answers to the needs of everyday life, from eating, to dressing, to relationships, to work … finding your own, personal answers, that correspond to what you feel closest to you, that you feel most true for you, with something that is not necessarily comfortable. On the contrary, these answers will often push you to do and see things differently from how you did and lived before. Answers that are close to you do not mean they are more like you, more comfortable for you, but they mean that closeness in which you sense that there can be an improvement for you and for the people around you. It means growth, that by changing old habits, changing the way of doing things, choosing it consciously, you can do good for yourself and for others as well. And it is essential that this training continues over time and never ends. It is also essential to take breaks, rest, have fun, make mistakes, but at the same time know that the direction is to try to do better, to be something different and different. Another fundamental element is to find your own way and get back in touch natural rhythms, not those of the clock, but those that have to do with the seasons and the enabling constraints they offer, like a snowy day or a heat wave that leads you to stop any activity you have planned or designed.
What are the most common difficulties you have observed in ecovillages, and the opportunities for growth also with respect to the social and global situation we are experiencing?
The biggest or most common difficulties that I have been able to observe are: the difficulty of establishing a new relationship model, a new way of relating, addressing “horizontality” in management of power, sharing it, and considering conflict as a useful source of transformation, a positive source of an evolution, of a relationship, of a project, of a stagnant state. I believe the latter is a great opportunity for growth, for the individual, for the group, for the project, and for the surrounding environment. Another difficulty that I have observed is that of relating to the territory: sometimes we are so afraid of the judgment that others have about us that we are the first to judge and therefore not get in touch with our neighbors. Instead, there too there is a great potential and resource, a great space of mutual contamination that in the end can benefit both parts of the community and the territory itself. In a period like this, where there are restrictions, fear and mistrust, this work of meeting our neighbor, of those around who are similar to us but also different from us, is a great resource we can offer.
What would you say to those who want to explore living in a community or ecovillage project?
My invitation is to read up on but above all go and visit existing communities to get an idea of what inspires you or at least of what you don’t want your community to be. They best way is to get in contact with the reality and complexity of these projects and approaches to planning, a little more rooted and not in a romantic way. I think that enthusiasm is needed but it takes a pragmatic awareness to carry out this type of project and the experience of others is the richest and most fruitful one can find. There are a lot of texts on the internet, videos, books, and a book that I wrote myself as well as well as courses like the Ecovillage Design Education course certified by Gaia Education but also for those in Europe there is the example that of CLIPS Ecovillage Incubation Course. I recommend the resources before jumping into the construction of any community or ecovillage project because they enhance the chances of sustainability and success over time.