Nov 062016
 

Sometimes I feel like I have to hold the world by hand, just as I did when my kids were little. I am an overprotective parent. But the world doesn’t need me dragging it. I wanted to build a unique place, an intentional community working to make human life better. But it is already getting better by means of us experimenting, living, evolving anyway. Even if I found 100 like minded people to help me, we only could do a drop in the ocean of human endeavor.

Maybe it is the time to let the world go?… originally published here

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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 092016
 

We are humans. All our friends, mentors and family are. And we are here, dominating this planet. If we never developed, would other intelligent species took over the planet one day? Could dolphins, elephants, crows, chimps, dogs or perhaps rats give rise to a new civilization? Would they be “gentler” with the Nature and each other than we have been? We can not know at the moment.

For all our sins, we are the only force so far which could potentially save life from a global disaster like an asteroid strike.

Wishing for our civilization to disappear, I think, is an immature way of thinking happening sometime withing environmentally aware community. I too might have been like this – when I was ten.

In the book “Ecovillage at Ithaca” (a useful record of an ecovillage development and a part of my ever growing list of potentially useful books for creating new ways of living)

Liz Walker starts with describing her young son’s attitude, his wish for humans to “just die of” because of species disappearing at an incredible rate. She herself, although shocked, could see his point, as “at the beginning of the 21st century, we face a world that is falling apart at the seams“…

Is it? Or we humans just intrinsically like tragedy, our media picks up on this and paint us a, alas, desirable picture of “our world … drenched in the blood of seemingly endless warfare” and “miserable living conditions for much of the world’s population“.

If we wont to build a real better future, we have to deal with facts, not the ever-changing media theater. Violence, disease and poverty are the enemies of our future. What has been happening to them?

First, I would recommend the well known Steven Pinker’s book

where he meticulously proves the diminishing of violence through the history and talks about the reasons for this.

Here you can find the data on the global decrease of poverty.

Historical data shows that global life expectancy has increased drastically over the last couple of centuries, with substantial long-run improvements in all countries around the world” – according to Esteban Ortiz-Ospina and Max Roser. Is this data good? Let me know if you find otherwise.

Life is wonderful. One of its miracles is the ability to recover. There have been a series of devastating mass extinctions throughout the geologic history of our planet.  In some cases up to 60 percent of species were gone. Of course, it took Nature from 20 to 100 million years to recover the biodiversity (see

 

for more information). We may argue, that the life would never evolve to be so inventive and resilient if not for those extinction events, but we don’t need another one. According to WWF at the moment we might be loosing between 0.01 and 0.1 percent of all species per year which is 1,000 and 10,000 times higher than the natural extinction rate. We took over the planet, this changed all the ecosystems… Bit since we realised what is happening we ought to change. It could be that the knowledge itself makes it impossible for humanity to avoid the coming change.

Living this change, this is the purpose of the Good New Town project. It has to have solid foundation: verifiable data. Doom and gloom might induce some people to act – for a while. Only complete honesty can sustain the movement.

So let’s question every piece of information coming to us, examine the evidence and try to accept the world as it is.

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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.

alexfarmboysmall

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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Oct 022016
 

When you dream big it is so difficult to find a way to start small. Is it really necessary? Is it just shortchanging yourself? Is it fooling yourself with false business?

If in you mind you see something which can change the whole world for better, how do you design the baby steps?

With the Good New Town project as a way to redesign so many aspects of our lives I am thinking a calendar, blogging, social media, a simulation game (?), a book, and relatively small scale local projects which will raise awareness and draw in the like minded. Watch this space.

Any other suggestions?

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Sep 162016
 

Culture of fear and mistrust in people’s ability to judge is a root of many evils. What if this tree, healthy and full of birds, falls on somebody’s head? There’s always a chance. Better chop it down. That’s how our local council thinks.

What if reaching a certain age, say 18 or 21, people just could sign a special paper saying I know the risks and take my chances. Breath deep, go and enjoy your life.

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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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Jul 202016
 

Good New Town (ecovillage) Manifesto ideas

http://www.facebook.com/groups/goodnewtown/

The purpose of the community is creating a better way of living, more sufficient and efficient, closer to Nature, and with the help from newest technologies. Living a honest, creative and compassionate life, building a strong community, improving health and wellbeing. Making edible landscapes and wildlife habitats. Learning. Finding true calling. Creating better lives for ourselves, our friends, neighbors and families, for the whole Earth.

  1. The community as a whole should stay away from all dogmas, political, religious, social, dietary, ecological, spiritual, etc. This should be firmly placed in our constitution to prevent future take-overs by any individuals. The community needs to be build by friendly, honest, diverse people (with many different opinions of their own), open to many ideas and experiments and ready to do the hard work involved. The main criteria in choosing the common course of actions should be “Does it work for us?” and “Is it beneficial for people and the environment on both the small and on the big scale, now and in many possible futures?” but not “This is what our kind of people normally do”. We should try to show an example of better co-existence, devoid of name-calling, smear campaigns, plotting and bullying.
  2. We will respect freedom of expression and freedom of speech. Expressing an opinion, unpopular with the others, should not be considered an offense and should not be feared by anyone. Everybody should be willing to listen, to try to understand and to learn from each other. To stay together we need to learn to be patient, compassionate, rational, open minded and objective. Everybody should have the right to express their opinion even if they don’t have a loud voice. No idea affecting the community should be ratified without scrutiny.
  3. Cooperation should be built into the community structure. For people wanting to live a completely hermetic life there’s no reason to join an ecovillage! Yet we all have our need for privacy, for a room of our own and a (small) secret garden. We all also have different requirements for social life, some needing company more than others. There should be plenty of sharing, various common spaces and tools which would save everybody on buying their own. There should be regular working meetings in various sub-groups and plenty of recreational (optional) get-togethers. The aim is to fight isolation and loneliness at the same time as providing privacy, all in balance.
  4. We don’t know what the future brings. The community should be built flexible and capable of existing in different circumstances: technological boom, economic collapse, increasing population, decreasing population, trade, self sufficiency, etc. We should work together developing a number of efficiently working systems of energy, food, social dynamics, etc – with backup plans too.
  5. This is going to be a living experiment, a living lab, a prototype, and its achievements need to be shared with the world. Everybody will decide how open they are going to be, but there should be enough information to attract visitors, (investors?), prospective new members and sponsors. We will need accurate, scientific publications and presentations about our progress, and proper research conducted. The research on the site could be about community forming, nutrition, exercise, wellbeing, reintroducing wildlife, food production and waste recycling systems, automation, developing creativity, solar panels and other ways to get power, new building methods, new educational systems, restoring some ancient agricultural practices, and so on.
  6. This should not be an isolationist “town”. It needs to be connected to the world in many ways, especially benefiting from new ideas and radiating our own ideas in return.
  7. We should affirm that all of us have talents, and all in a different way. We can’t build the stable community without variety. Some will be better at generating new ideas, other at developing efficient methods of work, etc, there always will be people more skilled at particular crafts and activities, working on different schedules, people with different physical abilities. Everybody is a conglomerate of several strengths, developing at different paces. We should respect this and help everybody to contribute in the best way. We also should keep in mind that the speed and ability of adaptation to any new circumstances vary significantly among us.
  8. Exposure to nature is very important to our wellbeing. This includes fresh air, fresh food, plenty of space to walk, work and play, low levels of light pollution and noise pollution. Yet the location should be within a good public transport network, easy to visit for car free people (who could also be a significant part of the ecovillage’s population).
  9. We need to develop a yearly calendar of celebrations and special rituals, acceptable to people of various views, celebrating Nature and seasons, creativity, friendship, stages of life, cooperation, curiosity, love, work, connection to the world, to lives and achievements of people before us. This is essential for building a strong community with good emotional connections.
  10. New members should be accepted after a trial period of time, on the base of loving the project and willing to cooperate, to help, to learn, to listen, to work hard. If people feel they do not belong anymore, it should be easy for them to leave. Eviction would be the last measure for people absolutely refusing to cooperate. There should be a well thought voting system for various issues, for example people get evicted after 5 warnings each issued by more than 70 per cent of the members.
  11. We should work on a “unschooling” education system, without forgetting that some kids need much more structure and authority than others. All of them need a lot of space and time to play outside!
  12. There should be a very clear, transparent financial record for the community funds, everybody should be aware where grant and donation money are going to. Inviting volunteers should be done tactfully, carefully, without exploitation. Prospective members should start as volunteers. People dreaming of creating they own intentional communities should be encouraged. As for others, they need to be asked regularly if they still interested to help, making sure there’s no exploitation of vulnerable people, who often are reluctant to say “no”. If volunteer activity contributes to any financial gain, either for community of for its members, everybody should be aware of this. Ideally, I would rather see cooperation than volunteering, where people clearly gain for their efforts be it knowledge, enjoyment, food, accommodation or money.
  13. It would help people if they feel more in charge of their lives and connected with their neighbours. They hopefully will live in a community knowing and valuing their talents. The production of (at least) significant part of food, energy and water will be happening all around them. The culture of sharing, helping and listening will be encouraged. People will be able to say their word in any important local matter. All this should give the sense of belonging, security and responsibility. There should be less clutter in homes as people know there always will be some community safety net. There will be lots of exchanges with similar experimental communities around the world too.
  14. There hopefully will be many opportunities for work, both inside and outside the “village”. The inside part could include: growing food and other crops, creating surplus electricity, accommodation, hosting events, research, teaching, arts and crafts… Outside jobs could be anything either done within commuting distance or online. Every person/family should be able to decide what suits them best. There could be a system when everybody works certain amount of hours for the community, still doing whatever they love, for example, web design, plumbing, animal care, working in the community shop, counseling, etc, to get free electricity, fuel, childcare, food and water, access to shared tools and facilities, e.g. workshops, gym, library, sauna. This should be a fair, very efficient and transparent system.
  15. The building should be made durable, healthy (for people and environment) and with greatest possible variety plus ability to personalize them later, so people escape feeling of being a part of a caged hens installation with everybody living in identical houses. There should not be such thing as unused monoculture lawns, but playing fields, playgrounds, spaces for gathering and resting, meadows, pastures. Roof should be green, or used for solar panels, or flat, used as rooms when the weather permits. Trees and bushes around houses should bear fruit (they also provide blossom in the spring!), nuts, firewood, branches for basket making or be useful for people and wildlife in some other way. Multiple use of space would be among our values, as well as zero waste and working with nature rather than against it.
  16. Like any community, we would benefit from being a good mixture of people of all ages.
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May 132016
 

The spring brings changes – like any other season. I’ve been maintaining this site and the Facebook group for a while but haven’t encountered much active enculturecooptitl1pethusiasm. Perhaps, it needs to be developed in a different way. With Plaxy we’ve been working on ideas to create a group of curious, open minded and forward-thinking people in Newtown and Mid Wales in general. The first attempt was called International and Creative Friendship circles, then she came with idea of the Culture Coop – in connection with what Robert Owen had started. This group will hopefully help to promote interest in the new forms of living too. Please join us on Facebook and, even more important, at the meetings and events. Future we want never come unless we work on it.

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