Real utopias to tune in to the rhythms of the Earth
An article by GEN volunteer Rubén reflecting on his year long volunteering experience in Findhorn
Pandemics, the threat of a global nuclear conflict, increasingly frequent disasters related to climate and ecological emergencies… In the times we live in, more and more people, especially young people involved in activism, are suffering from what more and more experts are calling “eco-anxiety”.
Before my experience as a GEN ESC volunteer living in the ecovillage of Findhorn, in the north of Scotland, I was one of those young people with eco-anxiety. But it was not always like this. I have always been characterised by my enthusiasm for understanding and transforming the world we live in: I contributed to the Fridays For Future movement in Spain, participated in degrowth movements, and even created an association called La Ecoaldea UCM at my university (Universidad Complutense de Madrid) to promote an eco-social transition in the university and the city of Madrid. However, with the arrival of the pandemic, pessimism and despair overwhelmed me. The dystopian feeling that we live in the Age of Consequences, in which we will inevitably have to live with many of the most adverse and hostile impacts of the ecosocial crisis, was too great and paralysing.
Then, at the end of 2021, I received the opportunity to join GEN and move to Findhorn Ecovillage for a year. One of my first responsibilities at GEN was to review and moderate the project profiles that are registered on the Ecovillage Map. This made me read one after another many stories of people who keep their hopes and dreams alive and continue to mobilise to heal their lives and the planet. Suddenly, I began to come into contact with a lot of projects all over the world that were taking action and bringing about positive change in their communities. Today, one year after I started volunteering with GEN, I realise that this opportunity has given me back the enthusiasm, hope and motivation to keep fighting to transform the world.
One of the main conclusions I have drawn from my experience in GEN and Findhorn is that ecovillages bring a propositional and practical approach that allows us to make tangible alternatives that we advocate in our discourse and to experience here and now what a post-capitalist society could look like. Erik Olin Wright developed the concept of “real utopias” and proposed three criteria for evaluating them: desirability, viability and feasibility, in a hierarchy whereby not all desirable alternatives are viable and not all viable alternatives are feasible. Ecovillages, understood as laboratories of sustainability and social change, would successfully overcome the three filters proposed by Olin Wright, thus becoming key ingredients to articulate a new utopian narrative for the 21st century around the possibility of moving towards a good life.
Environmentalism has often been characterised by acting as the prophets of the apocalypse, generating a fear in society that does not invite mobilisation (why make an effort to transform the world if we are inevitably going to collapse?) That is why, today more than ever, we need desirable, exciting, hopeful horizons. We need strong utopias that mobilise emotions and bring about a change of lifestyle and socio-economic model at an unprecedented speed. In this sense, if human settlements must be socially just and environmentally sustainable at all scales, this powerful and exciting horizon could well be that of the “Global Ecovillage”: a world organised in eco-communities through diverse forms of multilevel coordination. This may seem like a chimera, but it is in fact the goal for which the Global Ecovillage Network was born, to think global and act local, but also to think local and act global, pushing real utopias and pushing the boundaries of what is possible.
This year collaborating with GEN has shown me that ecovillages have the power to transform the future. On the other hand (as I am also a musician), my experience living in the Findhorn ecovillage has brought me closer than ever to music as a way to connect with myself and the community, something that has been essential to ease my eco-anxiety and dedicate some of my time to live as if we were not going to collapse, which makes my activism for a better future more honest, more credible and brighter, for those with whom I share it, but most of all for myself.
It is through the mixture of my passion for the impulse of ecovillages and my passion for music that I have discovered one of the most profound ideas of my life: what is the realisation of utopia today, if not a collective exercise of tuning ourselves to the rhythms of the Earth?
The future is yet to be written. Let us dare to dream.
Rubén Gutiérrez Cabrera
– GEN Ambassador profile: https://ecovillage.org/user/ruben_gutierrez_c/
– Personal website: https://rubengutierrezcabrera.org/
– Twitter account: @Ruben_GCGC