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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Dec 082015
 

It has been less than a year since I’ve got obsessed with an idea of creating an ecovillage in Newtown, Powys. At the 2014 local environmental charity’s Christmas party I still remember pestering people about starting an art and craft center. I think that would be a great endeavor, but it wouldn’t be enough for me. Just selling handmade and, hopefully, promoting creativity… “Hello, I am a local artist, would you like to buy a painting from me?” Is this how I want to spend my life? Not inspiring.

Building an ecovillage requires a lot of knowledge and creativity. Every new one should be a step forward towards… turning ecovilsystems[1]everywhere into an ecovillage. An efficient system of people, their creations and nature. Not a hippy hermitage but a part of the town for anybody willing to live by its rules: be more integrated with ones neighbors and with the Nature.

I am an introvert and by no means I am asking people to live all their lives in public view. I know the value of the room of one’s own and of a secret garden. But I also know too well the feeling of deep isolation of modern world. I want to build a social structure which would encourage the neighbors to became good friends or the friends to become neighbors.

I agree with Kevin Kelly that we can’t build an Utopia but we should always strive to build this work in progress, a world just a step better than it was before, – the Protopia. Our Good New Town growing on the side of the existing one. Happier, healthier, greener. So the rest of the town would follow.

We already have a lots of this Future shoots growing through the fabric of Present. What we need is to study the evidence with honesty and attention. We can’t afford to be dogmatic or to blindly follow what was done before. And this sounds really exiting form me, both as a scientist and as an artist. I want to read, to visit places and to talk to people. I hope to write about my discoveries on this journey in a way that would inspire more to follow. Let me know how I am doing.

 

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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 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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Jul 282015
 

I should admit straight away that I don’t know much about eco-villages, but I want to learn.  Because I feel that lots of things gone wrong with today’s living.  Because I’ve seen how some things could be done better.

I am talking about my childhood and student memories. It’s not just me: I’ve heard stories of people joining or starting eco-villages and intentional communities for the similar “nostalgic” reasons.

When me and my friends were kids in 1970s-1980s Russia, our grannies and grandads were WWII survivors. They mended clothes, cooked homemade meals, never would waste anything.  In summer, when they stayed with us at the countryside, they would grow fruits, herbs and vegetables (and also of course flowers),  they would burn all paper and wood for heating and cooking, they would compost all organic waste, they would pick wild berries,  herbs and mushrooms,  which they would preserve, can or dry.  Nobody had to do all this, but it was perceived as a part of good healthy life.

We were free range kids, in summer playing in the forest and loving exploring wild nature. We never had any “play dates” – we could knock on each other door at any time. We shared books and things. We learned skills from our “survivalist” grandparents.  We were inventing our own games and making our own toys. Later we would create our own plays or sing our favourite songs around campfires. I thought this was how life supposed to be. It was far from perfect, but it was good.

Then came isolation and disconnection… Some of my grown up life package was actually great: like the possibilities to learn anything through the Internet, to travel, to start my own family or to try creating an online business (although this didn’t quite worked out yet).

I am wondering if it is possible to have the best of both worlds? To live closer to Nature, to each other, be efficient and environmentally friendly but without giving up the privileges of being also close to the whole wide world and of doing our dream jobs according to our abilities and interests.

I am going to research how this could be done. What I suspect already is that we can’t build a good community without honestly, transparency and respect of different ways in which people would want to contribute and to do good things. Because a good deed done by order stops being a good deed.  This is why I think that instead of creating strict rules and regulations (which happens in some communities) it would be better to give people opportunities,  examples, incentives and encouragement. Let the good life win because it is better.

What do you think?

ecovillage

an eco-village?

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Jul 262015
 

We would like to create an eco-village on the outskirts of Newtown. The town will grow – it would benefit from growing in the right direction.

We would like to create a happy, beautiful and efficient place, a model for future semi-rural developments: powered by renewable energy, surrounded by edible landscapes, both wildlife- and people friendly. Unique yet organically connected to the town.

We would like our inhabitants to produce a significant amount of their own food but without taking a large amount of their time, hence allowing them to work within a wide variety of jobs.

We want to address the modern sense of isolation by creating a prototype of future community: caring, locally close-knit but also participating in global life and its newest developments, educated and open minded. We want this place to be healthy, future-proof and resilient.

Please watch this space, meanwhile join our Facebook group.

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