Oct 162016
 

If the word eco-village is too loaded with images of low tech and countryside to be used for a nature- and future- friendly intentional community also in towns and cities, what could it be called? There is a therm for a nuclear family. Maybe there should be one for a Nuclear Community, as an alternative building block of any society? To put everything on the shoulders of a small present day family is being too harsh on people. Wait… Then if you say “I plan to build a Nuclear Community here” the residents will suspect you are planning to install a small nuclear power plant in their neighborhood…

Maybe it just has to be a “Good New Town“. I live in Newtown, Powys. Newtown is small yet it is the biggest town in Mid Wales. It is old. We all heard about “Good Old Days”, “Brave New World” and “The Good Life”… Some may also know about “Good Life Project” and “Good Sense Foundation”. – those are my influences for the name.

Whatever the name, I think for true happiness and healthy development this community should not be dogmatic. In his “What’s Left”


Nick Cohen paints a good picture of a political cult. In a way we could try to reverse engineer the good community based on his observations.

  1. The cult leaders “blacken” the word outside their group. We should support honesty and optimism in our perception. If you cry “Doom and gloom!” – that is what you’ll get.
  2. Cult members are not allowed to conduct an open minded inquiry into other points of view, especially critical ones. We should encourage this in ourselves and the people around us.
  3. Cults try to separate people from their friends and families, so they won’t change their mind. We should encourage warms and trust between people, and not just inside the community.
  4. Cults exhaust people so they have no time and strength to think for themselves. We should make sure everybody has plenty of time for reflection and solitude. Community building activities are no good if the people feel like loosing themselves and their way.
  5. That’s a tricky one. Cults make people to invest physically (labor) and emotionally in the cause, so it is just heartbreaking to walk out. The question is whether it is possible to built a stable community without any attachment? I think there should be some balance. It wan’t be e good community if people who feel they don’t belong any more can’t easily pack up and leave. This is why, I think, renting a place to live (potentially indefinitely with a right for inheritance) is better than owning. And a just mechanism for the community to terminate that renting agreement if a tenant completely refuses to cooperate.

Another interesting therm I came across is “Sacred Naturalism“: “a special respect and care for the scientific approach to understanding the natural world, and to the natural world generally”. “Sacred Naturalism honors and serves that part of human nature that seeks transcendence and longs for sacred community and ritual. It answers the real human need to feel a part of something greater than the self and the longing some feel for a connection (oneness) with community/nature/the cosmos. Reverence and awe of the natural world is enough for sacred naturalists who do not believe in a traditional, anthropomorphic god, but nonetheless view science and mystery as both valuable and compatible”. And there also is Sacred Ecology: “Contemplative practices, rituals, ceremonies, and other activities in the world that bring people into a closer relationship with the natural environment and other beings engenders deep caring. Indeed, many sacred naturalists share a desire to protect and nurture ecological wisdom, the rights of nature, a sustainable future, as well as human flourishing and well being”.

I think it is very important to have the feeling of sacred, mystery and communion among people, and there is no additional need for any supernatural beliefs to cultivate those feelings. The world and its people are beautiful and mysterious enough already. That said, you can not and should not force this point of view to anybody.

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Oct 042016
 

Here’s my contribution to the debate

Many small scale experiments for a more resilient future

Now that we have an opportunity to rethink the future of agriculture, land management and the life of rural communities in Wales, let people to experiment and to find out what will work. There is no need to play havoc with all of the rural economy at once but please allow innovation and initiative on a small scale, as long as there is no clear and obvious risk to people, animals and the environment. There must be people willing to experiment, creating all sorts of new businesses, eco-villages, homesteads and seasteads, various intentional communities. Give them a good fighting chance then take evidence-based decisions, not affected by fads or overrated opinions of the most vocal of lobbies. Even then, no government should ever place all eggs in the same basket (be this sheep farming or timber). Diversity in business models and lifestyles improves the resilience of any economy just like biodiversity helps ecosystems to survive changes and hard times.

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Why the contribution is important

Presently there are lots of things going wrong with our lives. Our towns are surrounded by countryside but people may feel very distant from it. The farmland creates backdrop to their lives but is inaccessible due to lack of footpaths, public transport and human connection to the farming community, lack of internet – and lack of interest too. This is not a healthy relationship. The people are suffering, stuck to cities and towns with ridiculously small gardens and manicured parks. People need real nature and countryside for mental and physical health. People need fresh quality food, need connection to the land and to the community. So, we need our intelligence to develop a way of living in harmony with nature, surrounded by nature everywhere where we are. I am thinking in the direction of sustainable small scale farming, food forests, “garden cities”, decentralisation, edible landscapes, living roofs and walls, passive houses, forest farming, green burial sites, silvopasture, permaculture, aquaponics, real community gardens serving real communities, etc. – whatever works. I believe human activity and flourishing could be conducted within a healthy ecosystem made of us, our stuff, wide variety of plants and animals.

I am an artist and a geographer interested in creating a prototype semi-rural intentional community (an eco-village, an eco-block or an eco-neighborhood), an ongoing experiment for a better way of living, more sufficient and efficient, closer to Nature, working with the help from newest technology. An open lab of an honest, creative and compassionate life, strong friendly community, better health and well-being. Doing research into reintroducing wildlife, into more efficient food production and waste recycling systems, into automation, working on the new ways to get energy, new building methods, new educational systems, restoring useful agricultural and building practices from the past, and so on. People of various interests and abilities creating better lives for themselves, their friends, neighbours and families, ultimately, for the whole Earth. In the world obsessed with divisions this should be a place of honest enquiry, free of prejudices and any party rhetoric.

What we need is relaxing of planing permissions and other regulations for experimental / alternative communities, eco-villages, or self-built houses; we need land and we need grants. It is vitally important that public money won’t go to some smoke screen / green wash projects for clever bureaucrats but to real people building real future. There also should not be any exploitation of vulnerable and gullible “volunteers”, like in some modern social enterprises. People who will be living and working in those future communities are also the best candidates for building them.

The wast green spaces of Wales are treasures. We have a chance to make them also different to all other rural parts of the world in being a magnet for innovation and future-friendly experiment, brain-and skill- gain rather than drain, place for openness and cooperation, honest work for common good.

 

If you are interested in participating, please join the New Good Town project athttp://goodnewtown.uk/ and our Facebook page athttps://www.facebook.com/groups/goodnewtown/

by AlexandraCook on October 04, 2016 at 11:27AM

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Sep 072016
 

It seems that things more likely to happen in cities, but the countryside and nature heal and give inspiration. What if the future manage to merge both? What if we learn to live among proper woods, seas, meadows, streams and mountains yet be able to participate in interesting conversations, attend live concerts and generally be with like minded people with ease?

This could happen either through virtual reality, or through some new form of very fast and cheap travel. Individual flying machines?

The third option is to always settle near like minded people and move when you feel the need to join the new circle.

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Jun 142016
 

On Saturday I was very fortunate to visit Lammas Eco Village. This Thursday, June 16th, at our weekly creative Culture Co-op meeting @ the Newtown Open Hub (Siawns Teg, The Park, Newtown SY16 2NZ, 6.30-8.30pm)  I will bring my photos to show and it would be gvisitor-centerreat if somebody else could bring theirs (we hopefully will have a screen & a projector; definitely a laptop). This is a good occasion to talk about ecovillages and other new ways of living. Tea and coffee provided. Everybody are welcome!

 

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Dec 132015
 
I am a scientist and I believe that scientific evidence is necessary for majority of important decisions. When we talk about building a community, there is another, much less concrete and easy to understand domain. It is people’s feelings and everything which is going in this bundle: values, relationships, openness, subjective perception, fairness, transparency, honest communication, unresolved conflicts, motivation, trust and so on. By no means I am an expert on this, just a very keen amateur and an observer.
I don’t think any organisation dealing with living people (all of course being vulnerable in one way or another), especially an intentional community, set as something intended to be beneficial and to recruit keen supporters, can go without addressing people’s feelings and their interrelationships, also the fairness of group’s practice from various points of view. No committees, protocols, agendas, rules, regulations and all the hellfire of bureaucracy can really deal with this delicate domain. I think we simply can’t build a better place without honest ethical/psychological considerations. It is not a precise science (yet?), feelings should not be used as the only justification for group decisions, yet it is something impossible to ignore or put under the carpet. Try – and see everything just sadly falling apart either in cold disinterest or in flames of a conflict…

The best way to deal with feelings and relationships, as far as I can see at the moment, is a constant honest conversation, both one to one between all the members of the group and within the whole group (on a condition that people are feeling safe to talk about their inner stuff). This should be done right from the beginning and on regular basis. Somehow this should be set as a group rule, carved in the founding stone.  It’s not some new age woo woo,  it is a necessity. There’s no way around it.

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If some members of the group see “feeling talk” as just rocking the boat unnecessarily, imagine a bunch of people, all very nice, but all of them have they own vision of where their enterprise is going, not aware that some people find their conduct strange, not very considerate or even unethical… Everybody are afraid to admit their vulnerability (without which there won’t be any trust and true friendship)… Lots of people loosing their faith in the cause just because they have no chance to talk about it honestly and affirm their feelings or because their feedback always seems to fall on deaf ears… Nobody is asked for honest feedback very often anyway… Members don’t know where other’s strength and experience lies and don’t know who to ask for help and advice in different situations as all the doors in everybody’s inner worlds are always shut… And I haven’t even been in an intentional community yet – but seen it all. This is deadly poisonous stuff for any group, really. Even more so for an intentional community.
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Nov 222015
 

I think it is worse than fear of terrorism. It is unreal. Yet we have many examples. Lets just promise ourselves that if we ever build our Good New Town, we won’t be afraid. We won’t be afraid to express ourselves, we won’t be afraid of non-existing far away person getting offended of our yoga poses or feather headdresses. If somebody is personally uncomfortable with me enjoying myself – lets have an honest face to face conversation about the issues and hopefully resolve them. Nothing should go under the carpet. art by Alexandra Cook

I am ethnically mostly Russian. We are not a minority world-wide, but I am in a minority where I live. It is surprises me sometime when people do, as they think, something Russian, and it isn’t. If they are close friends I may joke about this and correct them. But ultimately, it is their business as long as they don’t directly bully me for being Russian. As simple as that.

There is no ethical value in political correctness. There’s no wisdom or kindness in it. It what people scared of their own shadows do. And we want to live in a good new town…

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Oct 152015
 

I am very keen on studying people’s personalities and I think that to build a happy stable community everybody need to know of all sorts of differences in perception and behavior which stream from differences in personality.

Some types are naturally more flexible, others are more commanding. We need them all, but it is very important to make sure that the project won’t get completely taken over by a few. There is a good article (don’t bother about jargon type names) on the 16personalities.com website:

“There is a tendency to overcompensate when something we value is missing. Let’s say in this scenario, the thing missing is organization in the company – art can be a messy business. A Sentinel may become extremely rigid in response to what he sees as a lack of regard for the rules. A lot of “coloring outside of the lines” would not be unusual among Explorers. The Sentinel’s rigidity would be overcompensation by the Sentinel in an attempt to get control over the “lawless” environment he finds himself in.

However, we know from experience that dictators are rarely welcomed among free-spirits. It may be necessary for our Sentinel to be adaptive and to adopt a less rigid attitude if he really needs the job. Adapting, in this case, might mean survival. The question then becomes: Can the Sentinel take their extreme organization back a notch so as to function better among the free-wheeling artists? Can he stay true to his core self and the traits where he functions best while adapting to the quirks of a certain workplace? If he can stay true to himself while squelching his rigidity, it might save him a job. What is the cost of not being more adaptive?

Or, on the other hand, it might also indicate it’s time to find a new place to work that doesn’t feel quite so much like a madhouse. Either way, the situation requires a decision by the Sentinel about how he approaches this particular environment and how he’ll adapt (or not adapt) to it.

So, adaptation is one way in which we might get along better with the world around us. We need to remind that we are always adapting and that some adaptation is healthy. It’s part of what happens in a society made up of differing personalities and beliefs. We end up compromising by necessity. It’s inescapable. How else we will get along with others if we demand only our own way? Sometimes we just have to suck it up and change our behavior to make things work.

However, while adapting is often necessary, we should always be vigilant for fear that we might over-adapt at the expense of our happiness. When we give up our strengths to adapt, then we’ve gone too far. There is nothing more miserable than being in a place where we don’t fundamentally fit.”

I personally seen a community project which looked a bit like this example and it definitely has some misunderstanding going on. We need to build our intentional community in a way so different personalities would work in harmony not in discord.

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Sep 162015
 
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Sep 142015
 

A family can’t be, as they start and split, kids grow up and move, partners unfortunately outlive each other. Some people just want to stay single. There should be a recognizable community all people could belong if they wished. Workplaces change, more and more people work from home. Yet everybody needs to live somewhere.isolation1

I think to feed the hunger of belonging, all places of living should have real active neighbourhood communities, so nobody feels isolated and not cared for.

This may not necessary be called an ecovillage but still should exist. It won’t happen overnight. We all need to get used to the idea of being friends to our neighbours and moving into a neighbourhood, into an intentional community, not just buying an affordable house, – as a step towards a happier future.

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