Dear GEN-Network, dear friends of ecovillages in the world,
The Global Ecovillage Network was founded in Findhorn, Scotland in 1995. Gaia Education grew out of GEN and was founded in 2005. This year, GEN and Gaia Education will celebrate our 10th and 20th anniversaries together. From 6-11 July 2015, we will return to Findhorn for a focused time of reflection: where has GEN come from, where do GEN and Gaia Education stand now and how can we serve best into the future? What is the future calling for?
GEN has grown and evolved over the years. From more isolated ‘islands in the green’, ecovillages have transformed into highly vibrant and interconnected hubs: inspiring living and learning centers for high quality, low impact life styles. Increasingly, politicians are starting to appreciate the impact ecovillages have on their regions. More and more, ecovillages are recognized as participatory, community-based responses to today’s realities, such as climate change, loss of biodiversity, or lack of social cohesion. In the words of Tim Clarke, former EU Ambassador to Tanzania, Ethiopia, Djibouti, AU, EAC and IGAD: “I have no doubt in my mind that GEN has a unique ‘niche’ amongst all international NGO’s as the ONLY organization which actually develops models in the field of community development that are truly sustainable.”
GEN is evolving from a network of deep exchange amongst ecovillages and intentional communities to a cooperative partner for governments, the corporate world, Universities, the UN, and other NGOs. GEN is learning to not only participate in, but also to initiate and facilitate, dialogues between different sectors of society. Today, GEN reaches out to around 10 000 villages, settlements and urban communities. People from all continents are deeply involved. Together, we are building a vessel for an embodied expression of global awareness, and a space for healing and reconciliation of our collective history.
2015 will be a year of major political conferences and meetings on the question of our responsibility towards future generations. What on earth are we leaving them with? More and more people are voicing that we need to go beyond individual appeals for environmental and social justice: We need systemic change. Humankind needs to come home to its own caring for life, and to the joy of cooperating with nature and each other, beyond all cultural or religious boundaries.
We need to come home to the deeper values that infuse our lives with meaning, so that our attachment to false securities, over-consumption, and the exploitation of Nature and people fall away. Ecovillages provide spaces for us to learn, practice and explore how simplicity can become luxurious when we combine appropriate technologies with fulfilling lifestyles. We find that true cooperation with Nature can lead to sustainable education and jobs for young people.
We see how sharing, participation, true collaboration and trust, in community can heal conflicts. The ecovillage approach seems to be more appropriate and timely than ever before. However: incubator support systems for the founding of new individual ecovillages need to be combined with strategies for whole systems change – how to support ecovillage transition strategies in whole regions or countries? Today, our question has to be: How can every city become an eco-city, and every village an ecovillage?
This was the core question of the Global Ecovillage Summit, which took place in Dakar this December (please find more info in the summit report).
Senegal is the first country with a governmental strategy to transform thousands of villages into ecovillages. A hot topic at the summit was: Can the ecovillage movement actually be the catalyst for transition, and co-operate with many different sectors without watering-down its unique character? Can we, as a ‘bottom-up’ initiative trustfully co-operate with ‘top-down’ actors?
The answer is: we have to! And we should now work on clarifying our strategies. A result of the summit was a first draft of a strategy paper that will become a living document, to be presented during the summit in Findhorn. A first draft will soon be made available on GEN-websites. Some suggestions are already being made in this newsletter – and the topic will accompany us throughout the year.
GEN is committed to stepping into its responsibility of being one of the major factors that tips the scales towards a sustainable future for our world.
Let´s keep holding and living this dream!
We wish you great inspiration!
Kosha Anja Joubert, President GEN International
Leila Dregger, Jenefer Marquis, editors