The first Sunshine Ecovillage Network Forum in China was held at Anji near Huangzhou from 28-30 October. It was beautifully situated near a bamboo forest at the foot of the mountains, in an open air bamboo amphitheatre especially built for the occasion with green and white curtains flowing in a gentle breeze. It took only one day to build! There were market stalls selling local organic products, including the tea for which Anji is famous. The audience sat crossly legged on neat white square cushions and listened attentively to a wide range of both Chinese and international speakers on a wide range of topics from soil health & maintenance to solar energy, permaculture and building design. Dorota Owen reports.
The organiser, an energetic youthful 44 year old Chinese local who has Johnson as his English name (but does not speak English), had a huge following of volunteers who arranged everything: building, cooking, driving, translating… it was a massive effort, and all the participants were amazed by the success of the gathering.
On the first evening, audience and presenters were moved to the local village cinema to view a short film of environmental successes in the area and interviews with Premier Xi when he was the leader of this province before becoming Premier of the entire (more than 1.3 billion strong) country. In the centre of Anji itself – a very pretty and well kept town filled with fliers, trees, bamboo groves and a clean river running through it – is a tall standing stone with the Chinese characters in red of Premier Xi’s words, here translated as: “Green land and pure water is the true wealth.”
In a country where the main cities are frequently choked with thick toxic smog, these words ring particularly true. No-one is unaware of the effects of environmental degradation and climate change, and in Beijing itself there was a real wake up call in the widely reported recent case of a 4 year old diagnosed with lung cancer.
After the film there was a long question and answer session with the audience very keen to learn everything about how to start an Ecovillage!
The Ecovillage Forum then relocated to a large, well appointed exhibition hall to escape the rains that fell on the second day. Here, speaker after speaker showed examples of the problems China faces with regard to environment and to current industrial practices, including the influence of the many multinationals which have their production lines in China. These companies make huge international profits, but the workers here endure tough conditions and very low pay. These are not easily solved problems.
Permaculture was a big interest of the people in the audience – how to design , how to promote, how to keep the traditional wisdom that still operates in relation to indigenous farming and living in the old villages, and how to keep the people on the land by helping these places to become attractive.
Dorota Owen, GEN ambassador, member of New Findhorn Association