Ecovillage – As A Sustainable Living Model for The New Era

Michiyo FURUHASHI, Ecovillage, global education magazineMichiyo Furuhashi is a Japanese educator for sustainable living. She is a board member of Global Ecovillage Network (GEN) International, and a president of Oceania & Asia (GENOA) region. Since 2007, she has lived in the Konohana Family, a spiritual eco-community in Japan.

E-mail: michiyo@ecovillage.org

GEN: http://gen.ecovillage.org/

GENOA: http://genoa.ecovillage.org/

Konohana Family: http://www.konohana-family.org/for-non-japanese-speakers/

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The fifth report of IPCC was published in September 2013, and clearly describes the direct correlation between global warming and rising sea level. It is indicated that the rise will be unavoidable even if the global communitytakes all recommended actionsby the IPCC from this point forward. In spite of dire levels of carbon in the atmosphere, the global community has not changedcourse and keeps pursuing economic growth over the alternative, which is sustainable use of scarce resources.Due to powerful media propaganda-endorsing growth at all costs, there is a fundamental indifference by the community, which is reflected as apathy accepting a more holistic point of view.

So, how do we effect change at an individual level and which direction should we move towards? If we have a plausible working hypothesis of sustainable living for the next generation, we may be able to move in a more structured way towards that goal.

Ecovillage”- a community living model that incorporates a structured transformation of human consciousness is being spread to the various communities globally. This term was originally used by western society; however, recently, more and more communities in Asia have shown their interest in adopting an Ecovillage lifestyle. Global Ecovillage Network (GEN) defines ecovillage as follows:

An intentional or traditional community that is consciously designed through locally owned, participatory processes to regenerate social and natural environments. The 4 dimensions of sustainability (ecology, economy, the social and the cultural) are all integrated into a holistic approach. “i

In developed countries, the negative side of individualistic and materialistic behavior and values based on competitive principles by market mechanisms has become obvious, and various alternatives have been introduced and being practiced by those with a concern for the planet and a sustainable future. However, developing countries still equate high quality of life to the western model of industrialization. In response to this situation, more communities are applyingthe Ecovillage concept. Increasing the profile of this alternative mode of symbiotic community living.

A number of Ecovillage’s globallyhave researched their environmental impact. The German ecovillage, Sieben Linden was studied in cooperation with the University of Kassel and found their CO2 emissionswere 28% of the German average,ii and the Japanese ecovillage, Konohana Family did survey, and found out their CO2 emission were around 50% of the Japanese average.iii An ecological footprint survey was conducted at Findhorn Foundation in U.K. in 2005iv, and also at the Konohana Family community in Japan in 2007. The survey undertaken by the Findhorn Foundation, found their footprint was half the national average. This equates to consuming the resources of 1.8 Earths, the Konohana Family consumption was 0.8v, which is one-third that of the national average. They achieved this environmentally sustainable low impact by producing food utilising sustainable agriculture, implementing renewable energy production best suited to each location, and living as a community sharinga spirit of mutual support. It is also should be noted that the level of personal and community wellbeing and happiness within the ecovillage is higher than the community at large.

Ecovillages can be utilized by the community as a template of how to hold and enlarge Social Common Capital with the following attributes: Harmonizing with the natural environment, creating a sustainable social infrastructure with minimal use of energy and resources; maintaining a community with a governance system that focuses on social and cultural contexts. This will bring important opportunities to society at large when smaller communities look toward a more sustainable earth in the future.

In Asian industrialized countries such as Japan and Korea, many rural communities are facing issues of ‘marginal villages’ with depopulation of the young and aging of the resident community. These problems are the negative facets of our urban materialisticsociety. Meanwhile, rural communities keep seeing the migration of young people to cities, it can be said that the community at large brought about the current situation.

If we reflect on these experiences seriously and look at what we really need for the coming age, we will discover excellent natural capital and much tacit wisdom in the traditional life in these villages that “development” has left behind. This will be a crucial platform when people can live in harmony with nature and connect with others, where people re-establish and create a space of helping each other, ultimately for living a more fulfilled life.

In many countries in Asia, there are foundations of rural communities that still remain, and they become a powerful living opportunity to promote ecovillage living. We are now facing worldwide crises, global warming, and endangered species due to loss of biodiversity.

New innovations to reduce the impact on the environment are needed, so they can be quickly developed for the recycle-oriented society. Finding a positive way to transform depopulated rural communities into ecovillages is considered relatively easy to get socially accepted, and has been put into practice in Bangladesh, Cambodia, and India. In Senegal, Africa,vi the government takes a leadership role to apply the ecovillage concept in their sustainable development practice.

A person first realizes existence through the connections and bonds he/she has with another person. From there he/she is able to feel happiness. To experience true happiness, this type of connection is crucial. Today, the industrialized countries have faced the results of neglecting this value with a sharp increase in social problems.Learning from bitter experience, the ecovillage is a vision of a new society based on a clear re-recognition. That nature is a fundamental and inextricable part of human condition and we live and flourish in biodiversity.

People living together and directly helping each other may look like a very simple way of life on the outside, but they are not just restoring tradition. This vision was led from insights as a “living example” from the negative aspects of the current state of society. Taking advantage of the benefits of current civilization, they achieve improvements in their quality of life and level of happiness with higher aspects achieved.

The principles and practice behind the ecovillage will be persuasive as presenting viable solutions at the global level, and formation of developmental goals at a national level. By the improvement of individual and community quality of life at local level; thus it is a holistic solution to multilayered problems we face today as a society. Countries like Bangladesh directly impacted by climate change and the worsening weather patterns are examples.

It is the most viable solution to promote a sustainable society by activating Social Common Capital in the culture based on holistic traditional thoughts and traditional community lifestyle, and weaves them again repairing once broken bonds as a direct result of living within an ongoing industrialization and materialism based society.

We are living on our one common earth and toward our common future. There is a community that consists of connections with all on the earth. Ecovillage Living has a great possibility to foster this change, as a model for all people as we enter the coming era, and has significant meaning for this one community growing into a harmonious and sustainable one.

To learn more about Ecovillage, please visit the following sites:

iGlobal Ecovillage Network (2013). http://gen.ecovillage.org/en/content/definition-ecovillage.

ii Dawson, Jonathan, (2006), “Ecovillages – New Frontiers for Sustainablity” Devon, Greenbooks pp29

iii Konohana Family (2010). CO2 emission survey, Shizuoka, Japan

iv Dawson, Jonathan (2006), “Ecovillages – New Frontiers for Sustainablity” Devon, Greenbooks pp44

v Ogata, Toshio (Ed.) (2012), “Towards the happy Symbiotic Society” – Tokyo, Hilltop Publisher, pp183

vi Global Environment Facility (2011), “Creating “Ecovillages” in Rural Senegal – an Innovative

Effort to Generate Multiple Environmental Benefits” http://www.thegef.org/gef/node/4667, Dakar, Senegal

This article was published on 5th June: World Environmental Day, in Global Education Magazine.

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