The GEN 20+Summit in Findhorn is the occasion that Kosha Joubert, Leila Dregger and Clio Pauly took to write a book about ecovillages worldwide – with the help of many longterm ecovillage members who contributed thoughts, experiences, adventures, failures, learnings and success stories. The book will be published in German and English at the same time and be launched at the summit. Thanks to all those who helped so generously. Leila Dregger recalls the process of writing.
When Kosha Joubert asked me to help write a book about ecovillages last autumn, I was excited. There are so many stories to tell, and I wanted to hear them and help put them into words, see the places, speak with pioneers of the movement; with founders who have seen a vision and followed it no matter how strange or difficult it had seemed in the beginning.
Nowadays, ecovillages are widely accepted as living and learning centers, as lighthouses for social and ecological sustainability in their regions, as alternative to the destructive mainstream lifestyle that has brought the planet to the edge of extinction. However, 20 or 30 years ago, nobody knew the word ecovillage. Many intentional communities that existed were regarded as dropout groups, hippie oases and they were, here and there, just beginning to cooperate with other sectors of society such as politics, economy or media. It took some time before the world acknowledged the many solutions that the pioneer generation has been testing in their remote places. It also took a while before the communities, with their different approaches to an alternative lifestyle, started to regard themselves as a global movement – diverse, with different experiences, but with the same aim and principles.
It needed people in the projects who were ready to look at the bigger, the global, picture and not only their own philosophies, situations and challenges. The communities had to come together and start to form community amongst themselves: to share, to learn from each other, even correct each other and form a common platform.
I took the chance to visit quite a few projects, to speak with longterm members or founders via skype or face to face during the GEN conference in Senegal. Others prefered to write their own texts, still others were interviewed by our co-writers in the regions.
We gave them some guiding questions: What is the story of the founding of your project/ecovillage/community? What motivated you personally or politically? What miracles had to be manifested, what adventures did you go through? What is your community proud of or well known for? How has your region changed since your community started? How does everyday life in your community feel, taste and look? What values do you have and how do you follow them? What kind of conflicts have you had – internally, politically, with the environment – and (how) have you solved them? Were there situations where you nearly left or cancelled the project? What are you proud of? In your experience: How does change happen? In times of social, economical and ecological crises: What solutions does your ecovillage offer?
Very soon we realized that most stories could fill a whole book by themselves. In the end we had so many stories that we had to choose between them, which was painful. We chose in a way to have to largest possible diversity: all regions, intentional communities and traditional villages, large and small, projects with their main emphasis on economical, ecological, spiritual or political work. We have published 30 stories from ecovillages and initiatives being told in the book – plus general reflections about the GEN history from the founders Ross and Hildur Jackson, from Kosha Joubert as President, and from myself as author. The ones not published in the book will still be published on the website.
The personal experiences of ecovillagers are precious. We know that for every ecovillage that has survived the first ten years, there are many others that have not. Every project has to undergo crises, radical changes and, again and again, give birth to itself anew. There are conflicts and political, personal, economical, legal, and many other challenges to meet before a group really stabilizes and finds its unique path. Many times the original vision has to be modified and reconnected to.
As human beings we are community creatures, but modern society has left this path long ago, we forgot the knowledge that is needed to share, to support each other, to be together in peace, and to create things together. Ecovillages are places to remember that knowledge, and we need to remember it in order to survive the coming global challenges. Communities have to row against the mainstream tide of isolation and separation that is the character of modern society and, at the same time, find out how to nourish individuality. The same goes with ecology or economy: ecovillages have to find alternatives to the mainstream. But something has changed. Today, facing many crises, society is looking very strongly for alternatives and solutions and is as open as never before for the teachings of ecovillages.
Working on the book showed me that the ecovillage movement is at a turning point. There are the old projects with their precious experience of community building of many years. And now, in many places, there are new nimble and active groups and individuals, easily communicating with the mainstream and its sectors. It is like the next generation standing on the shoulders of the older, larger communities.
GEN can be the platform for their mutual support. And then there are more and more ecovillage initiatives of the Global South. Their memory of a sound ecological and social life is still alive, they enrich the movement with their traditional knowledge and with reminding the rest of us how necessary our work is in order to find solutions against poverty, for autonomy and ecological healing. And there are the urban initiatives, often born from the necessity to create a healthy surrounding worth living for children, with neighbors, with economical justice and a minimum of nature. We all form the ecovillage movement, we all form GEN. We might feel reminded of the metaphor of a mountain: as we find our way upwards, we could easily believe that we are walking alone. But then, once we have reached the summit, we see that our paths have always been connected to the same goal. Today, we still have a long way to go. We see this book as a kind of basecamp, where we can rest for a while, to reflect, exchange and support each other.
We are excited to see how you will all receive the book, and we cannot wait for the GEN+20 summit to share it with you, to discuss and to envision which future GEN is going towards.