Project “Ecovillages for sustainable rural development”
Nowadays people start thinking about changing their living habits towards being more socially, economically and ecologically responsible. One of the possible ways to do this is proposed by Ecovillage movement. Ecovillage principles aim to combine social–cultural environment with a low–impact way of living. Choosing to live in the ecovillage is choosing an alternative way to the individualistic, materialistic and consumer-oriented lifestyle.
Project aims at fostering ecovillages development as more sustainable way of living in rural areas of the Baltic Sea Region
Duration and budget
Project is implemented from 2010 to 2013. It is working under “Baltic Sea Region programme 2007-2013” and has total budget of 1.333.426 EUR, funded by European Union as well as contributed by project partners.
• 3 manuals based on case studies, covering guidelines for:
– Eco-settling practices;
– Environmentally – friendly technologies;
– Community living and social development in ecovillages.
• An ecovillage socio-economic sustainability assessment on-line tool;
• Recommendations for decision makers concerning ecovillages proper development;
• Ecovillage road for the Baltic Sea Region including ecovillages which are ready to introduce tourists into ecovillage life as well as pursue internship programs.
5 partners from different Baltic Sea Region countries are implementing the project. Project also has 10 associated partners.
Lithuanian Institute of Agrarian Economics, www.laei.lt
MTT Agrifood Research Finland, www.mtt.fi
Latvian State Institute of Agrarian Economics, www.lvaei.lv
The West Pomeranian Business School, www.zpsb.szczecin.pl
Suderbyn cooperative society, www.suderbyn.se
Associated project partners
ZEGG , www.zegg.de
GEN Europe, www.gen-europe.org
GEN Finland, www.rihmasto.fi/skey
Centre for Independent Social Research, www.cisr.u
St.Petersburg Forest Technical Academy, www.ftacademy.ru
Permaculture in Sweden, www.permaculture.se
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, www.slu.se
Ekoboforeningen Njord, www.ekobogotland.se
Council of the Baltic Sea States, CBSS Baltic 21 Unit, www.cbss.lt
Ash Comments: I am currently mulling over ideas around the notion of what I am now calling ‘Village Farms.’ There are single-family farms, small scale farms, agribusiness farms. This idea is simple: a working farm or farms around which are developed a residential population, varied in age and livelihood, which both enjoys living in a rural, farm atmosphere and also supports the farm operation by purchasing its produce, helping at harvest times, and some of them have independent secondary production operations (like cheese-making, bakery etc.), whilst many do not do farm-related work at all, rather are doctors, lawyers, consultants, drive to work at nearby town or whatever. There could also be financial anchors such as a retirement home which has both residents on fixed income and also hires staff from the village and elsewhere.
Rather than being organised mainly around a philosophy or political cause (environmentalism, a particular religion etc.) this idea is very simple and secular: it is simply a population clustered around a working farm operation. In this way, it is hoped that more people can make a go of it in rural areas, which is not currently the case due to an almost complete abnegation of rural society by current governments throughout the developed world, who have basically ceded the most important policy decisions (how we live, our economic system etc.) to multinational corporations who in turn have foisted agribusiness on all of us using corporate ‘supermarket’ distribution points (aka ‘Big Box Store model’) which drive out local operations and turn small towns everywhere into dying wastelands which young people can’t wait to leave, meaning there is no generational continuity and therefore really only 3 classes: the chronically poor and usually unemployed; the employed but really just working to afford a basic lifestyle and with no generational continuityin terms of place or family fortune; the rich, many of whom also have no continuity, but some of whom – the super-rich – do. It’s not a very advanced system, unless if you count the raw numbers involved which indeed are greater than at any time in known history.
I am thinking of trying to mount a web-based drive to raise money to make in-depth studies of the bad effects of the Big Box model, but more importantly to analyse various hierarchical/organisational models for such a village, finding success and failure examples in places like the EcoVillage initiative highlighted above. Also maybe raise funds via IndieGogo or other methods to pay for studies from cyber-bases analysis services to project ideal population numbers in various climate zones (how many villagers per X-sized farm), also research the legal and funding issues, and also maybe come up with a plan to start 5 model Village Farms in Cape Breton, which plan including
a) how to fund them
b) how to organise them both in terms of project development and subsequent actual ongoing living management
c) how to actualize them
d) how to maintain ongoing interest and networks so that lessons are learned and more such Village Farms can be facilitated – if they prove worthy – in a wide range of terrain and jurisdictions throughout the world.
Ambitious? Yes, I guess. But really this is a one-step-first approach which mainly involves chewing over this idea and seeing if there is an affordable way to come up with a plan for how to go forward with 1-5 Village Farms on Cape Breton Island. That hardly qualifies as hugely ambitious.
A correlated idea is to launch a global ‘Think Tank for the 99%’, i.e. a cyber-funded Think Tank that tackles issues like this Village Farm example, both in terms of funding but also in terms of participation, in that they vote with their dollars as to what to study next. There could be many other topics (Common Law, organic farming methods in colder climates, various small business model templates to help people with start-ups, a research operation that takes peoples business ideas and spits out a comprehensive business plan for them (often the main stumbling block for startups) along with a funding initiative from within the 99% Think Tank community). Now this is ambitous and probably too hard to put into practice, but with all the automation possible nowadays, who knows. If I have time and ongoing interest, would like to look into this sort of thing further if for no other reason than the market numbers have been falling of late in Sydney (both during but also before the bad weather) and it is getting harder and harder to survive here in this situation with deteriorating economy and declining population. A recent Commission reported that this sort of thing is probably going to happen throughout Nova Scotia (not just the rural areas as has been the case for decades, and with urban Sydney the past 20 years), in which case things are going to get tough. And since the Commission did not look favourably on small business inititiatives (if I understood the 120 page report recommendations correctly), rather big business solutions (chiding us for not being Big Business friendly), and since big business has no real reason for being here really, I am not holding my breath that they will do anything substantive.
There is a chance they will allow the Ports Sydney PanamaxPlus container initiative to go forward, but with Chinese shipments down steeply this year, it could be one of those things that gets put on hold for 5-10 years – a very short time globally, but a long time for a local region in systemic crisis.
Meanwhile, although I have no doubt that it will never happen, also I have no doubt that if it did many of the world’s problems today would be solved by: simply banning agribusiness operations and making all farms authentically organic. This would bring rural to urban population ratios back into line (with more people living on or near farms than in cities), end chronic unemployment (and bad minimum wage for corporations employment) and generally promote a saner, healthier society and culture, which in turn would naturally revive a people and economy less beholden to corporate banking and other related cartels (energy, medicine, science, education etc.). It could work, although realistically speaking as we all know, it is highly unlikely.
Still, it says something about the current state of our societies in the developed and developing world that a high probability of success initiative seems so hopelessly out of the question. Indian farmers have been fighting back. And winning yield-per-acre prizes across the board using small-scale, non-agribusiness-input methods. Hopefully more people around the world, like the ecovillagers at top of this page, will make further progress.
Let us hope and pray they, and we, can do so.