GEN Online Ecovillage Design Course Testimonial by Karen Wyeth
Without the knowledge I gained through the Ecovillage Design Education course, I would have never had the confidence to speak to people about something as complicated as forming an ecovillage.
I receive GEN newsletters on occasion, and when I learned they were offering an online Ecovillage Design Course, I thought right away that I’d sign up. I’ve been dabbling in community living for over 20 years, having visited many communities and permaculture properties all over the world including Lammas in Wales, Land Matters in Devon, The Farm in Tennessee, Earthaven Ecovillage in North Carolina, Occidental Arts & Ecology in California, Riverside Community in New Zealand, and Crystal Waters in Australia. My family and I rented in a cohousing community in Boulder, Colorado, and again rented a house in a small ecovillage in Port Townsend, Washington. Having had this exposure to community life, I wanted to delve deeper and more fully understand the inner workings of what makes for a successful and harmonious community.
The four dimensions of ecovillage living – Social, Ecology, Economy, and Cultural World View are very well presented in each online session and helped me to understand how these dimensions are equally important aspects of community life and how they are integrated. In my own experience, I’ve sometimes seen ecovillage initiatives fall by the wayside because one or more of these dimensions were not given the attention they needed.
Shortly before the EDE commenced, I met some landowners in the north of New Zealand who were thinking about forming a tiny house village on their land. It’s a huge 1,000-acre dairy farming property that also has a horse riding stable, a backpackers hostel, and a facility for hosting events like yoga retreats. With the borders closed for nearly two years and no visitors coming to the farm, they were looking for ways to diversify their business to survive financially. The original plan was just to have people come and rent rooms in the hostel or park their campervan or house truck on the pasture and use the common house. This haphazard style of living had been going on for over a year and many of the residents I spoke with there were anxious for something more permanent and organized.
I hosted an initial mini dragon dreaming session with around 25 of the residents and the owners, and together we came up with almost 100 micro enterprises people could start up if given the opportunity. Our bubble charts covered everything from beekeeping to event planning and organic farming. Once the owners could see the potential for creating a thriving self-sufficient community of like-minded people, they began seriously looking into forming a Community Land Trust so residents could have some ownership and put down roots. It’s been four months since that meeting and I will be going back to the farm in a week to host another Dragon Dreaming session, this time a more in-depth discussion about developing a mission statement, talk about the social aspect of community living, and how they will self organize to form their agreements and expectations for people joining the community. We will be looking at different areas on the farm to consider where to site small clusters of naturally built homes. There will be financial considerations – how much will it cost to buy into the community, how much will the monthly land lease be, and how will they make decisions on how to spend money on community infrastructure and maintenance? What will the membership process be for potential new residents? How will they deal with conflict resolution?
Without the knowledge I gained through the Ecovillage Design Education course, I would have never had the confidence to speak to people about something as complicated as forming an ecovillage. I really don’t like talking in front of people, but I’ve become more comfortable doing just that during our online classes, as well as with these future ecovillagers. It’s a wonderful feeling to know that I can help guide them through the many processes and stages they’ll go through in realizing their dream. I’m even thinking about holding a natural building workshop and building the very first cob cottage on the property. I might rent it out, or live there myself one day after my kids leave home. I want to help empower people to take charge of their lives, learn to build their own little dwellings, and live full lives without being saddled with the crushing debt so many people find themselves in due to our broken financial and housing industries.
I can honestly say that taking the EDE has drastically changed the course of my life. It was serendipitous during this course that this opportunity arose to help a budding ecovillage, and have all the tools and resources at my disposal through GEN and Gaia University. It’s very exciting to be working with these people and as soon as they have a legal framework with a Community Land Trust, I will be registering their project with GEN. Thank you, GEN, for all the vitally important work you do.