Picture’s Source: Lithograph of the “Department of Electricity”
There are plenty of reasons to feel anxious, there is no denying that, but we must admit we are living in a very exciting moment in history. We have turned fantasy into reality thanks to technology and we have reached incredibly deep areas of knowledge.
Still, I can agree, modern life is not a walk in the park. The job market is quite unstable due to the failure of the current economic system, and the free implementation of robotics will make it harder. If that doesn’t sound challenging enough, the cost of living is rapidly increasing as food, water and energy prices (aka basic necessities) raise much faster than salaries.
Even though we are enjoying the best time as human beings, we are facing endless amounts of uncertainty, a good deal of it being created by our instinct of acquiring information. We read about the piling up of climate change issues while very little seems to be done. We feel alone in the search for a solution because there is an epidemic of loneliness creating a lack of community. And, worst of all, we see ourselves with our hands tied as we betray our values and principles living in a society that doesn’t match our subjective philosophy.
Who is searching for an alternative future?
Perhaps, you are someone who rejects the humanistic interpretation that has monopolised our discussions. You might be one of those who see themselves just like any other animal, a simple being who has the unique opportunity to experience life before they die. You might even be vegetarian.
An octopus is born and soon wanders alone through the ocean, focusing its efforts on staying safe and nourished while investigating, learning and enjoying its world. In the same way, humans are meant to use their creativity to design a home where to feel safe and nourished while we just enjoy life. But we live in a work-centred society and that is not how it functions. Still, you are nearly burned out and you may wonder, instead of living to work, why don’t we work to live?
Or maybe your disenchantment with the world doesn’t fall in a good work-life balance, but it goes more around a spiritual perspective. You want to feel the universe and its energy. You may be done with manipulative behaviours and threatening environments that don’t allow you to develop your inner self as they jeopardise your mental health. You must know, wanting to learn about oneself is no weakness, it is rather a bold attitude, a courageous one.
There are many available options for you
I am not talking about movements like minimalism as I considered most of them a capitalistic distraction from the real issue. I am not going to ask you to spend the money you don’t have to get the best biological/fair-trade/organic/any-of-those-untrustworthy-labels groceries. We can not change the system from our homes. When a product arrives in our local shops most likely all the decisions have already been taken with very little chance for us to do anything about it.
Instead, I am proposing a real alternative with no additives: ecovillages.
Of course, it is not a simple one! Did you think I could solve all our problems in only one article? Of course, not, but it is a feasible idea. It is an attainable future with much to offer.
Don’t get frightened by the idea. It’s not another hippie movement in which we are supposed to live in huts and talk about chakras all day long.
Ecovillages are a manifestation of conscious human innovation and creativity: groups of people living out their principles, regenerating their environment, and increasing their sense of belonging and purpose as a community.
The purpose of an ecovillage is to enable people to live closer to nature while sharing a community that provides support during difficult times. Anything beyond that has to be discussed, and that’s why we have many different examples of what an ecovillage looks like.
European Ecovillage Map Here you can check an example of a European organization that provided support to communities interested in creating their own ecovillage
When I first encounter this term I was expecting an idealistic picture of countryside living. I grew up in a rural area so I knew that summers can be beautiful while winters can be awful. Also, I know some people might want to get their hands dirty but not everybody is willing to plant tomatoes and collect berries. Some people just want to keep on going with their careers but in a more peaceful way.
And that is why it has to be an ecovillage and not a house in the countryside. When you live in a community, big or small, you don’t need everybody baking bread. And in the same way, you might need someone who can fix things or someone who can use technology for the advance of an eco-friendly society.
One concern that many people may have is social relationships. Fortunately, the anarchist movement has given us much knowledge about non-hierarchical organizations like a sociocracy can be.
Sociocracy is a theory of governance that seeks to create psychologically safe environments and productive organizations. It draws on the use of consent, rather than majority voting, in discussion and decision-making by people who have a shared goal or work process.
This kind of system works very well in more undersized groups with independent power to make decisions. Its philosophy goes against centralism because it is the understanding that different cultures and geographic areas have diverse needs.
Another question appears when it comes to entertainment. What do you do when there are not that many people around? Some of these settlements have barely a dozen people which results in the most peaceful place on earth, but indeed it can become tedious over time. Luckily enough, some others can go well over the hundred. Let me remind you of two facts:
- A human being can only maintain a good social relationship with a total of 150 people
- You can have many acquaintances but only a few real friends (fewer people to hang out with can mean deeper relationships)
However, ecovillages don’t always have to be a remote kind of living. They can be a few kilometres away from the city giving its residents the opportunity to enjoy its services every now and then. There are even some small cities that are implementing changes towards developing an ecotown in which the priority is to keep diaphanous green spaces available to the public where citizens are no more strangers’ faces, but actual members of the same community.
Sometimes you can find a particular version of an ecovillage in a residential building where they’ve modified the structure to collect rainwater and use solar energy becoming not only sustainable but nearly off the grid. In this kind of building, terraces and balconies are used to grow vegetables and allocated common recreational areas provide both adults and children with a space where to socialise and develop useful skills without hiding behind apartment doors.
A better future is on the way
I imagine that, after watching the news at dinner time or checking your social media while you sit in the toilet, you must have a feeling of doom blocking any motivation that might lie inside you. But I hope that you realise that just because something is not shown in front of your eyes every time, minute and day, doesn’t imply that it does not exist.
The old futuristic vision of automated cities in which we would be living surrounded by plastic, metal and cement may not be your cup of tea, but that doesn’t mean there are no options. Plenty of people are unifying efforts towards the kind of future we want and deserve. As an example, we have the Global Ecovillage Network that supports the USA or Latin America and GEN Europe on the other end of the Atlantic. In Spain and Portugal, you can have a look at the Red Ibérica de Ecoaldeas, which since 2001 is an official association that gives support to new eco-friendly communities in addition to the informative events and practical courses they regularly organize.
The system might want you to give up and keep consuming. They might want you to deal with the climate crisis their own way. But there are other possibilities and there are people making it a reality.
No project is perfect. No path lacks stones. And our house is burning.
Now, are we going to sit waiting for whatever future a bunch of rich baby-minded people dictates we should have? Or are we going to make “weird” decisions outside of the mainstream culture that have the potential to recover our planet and create a fulfilling life experience for us?
This cow wants you to look after yourself and the planet. Please, listen very carefully to her.
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