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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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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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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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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