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Pre-Program Assignment- Brazil

Pre-program assignment-Brazil

Pre-Program Assignment- Brazil

United States Massachusetts, United States  |  Jun 22, 2009
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 Pre-Program Assignment-Brazil 

Hi Everyone,

I hope you are well and getting excited about the program, which starts in less than one month!  I am writing to share a pre-program assignment we would like to ask you to complete prior to traveling.

Please read the following text about ecovillages and write a short (300-500 words) reflection piece responding to one or more of the questions appended below.   You might also spend some time learning more about Ecocentro IPEC and ecovillages at the following sites:




We ask that you then post some or all of your reflections on the program weblog as a way to share your thoughts with each other and to orient you to our weblog system.  Moe sent instructions on March 20 and May 6, so please refer to that and register if you haven't already.  Feel free to contact Moe if you have any technical questions or me if you have any questions about this assignment.  Thanks!

Take care and I look forward to hearing from you.

In community,

 - Daniel

Pre-program Blog Entry - Reflections on Ecovillages

Living Routes' mission is to create opportunities to live and learn within human-scale communities that are consciously striving to live well and lightly. By offering positive visions and "stories" for humanity and the planet, ecovillages offer amazing "campuses" for students to explore possible futures, both in the world and in their own lives.

But what is an ecovillage?  While still open for debate, Robert Gilman, in his 1991 article, "The Eco-village Challenge" offered perhaps the first comprehensive definition of an ecovillage as a...

    "Human scale, full-featured settlement in which human activities are harmlessly integrated into the natural world in a way that is supportive of healthy human development and can be successfully continued into the indefinite future."

This is clearly a tall order. In fact, by this definition, one could argue that that there are no ecovillages on the planet today. The communities Living Routes takes students to are certainly on the path towards sustainability, but they still have a long way to go. This makes them both inspiring and frustrating - inspiring because they are reaching so high and, in many cases, have accomplished so much; frustrating because with close to seven billion people on this planet, one might expect at least a few fully manifested ecovillages. Sadly, it appears humanity is still in kindergarten when it comes to living in harmony with each other and the planet.

Ecovillages are not utopias. Real people - like you and me - trying to create something new, often under very difficult conditions, develop these unique communities. Challenges often include inadequate financial and human resources, restrictive zoning, local fears and misconceptions, and even language barriers within these often very international communities.  Ecovillages encounter the same hurdles any new business faces while at the same time building residences, decision-making structures and interpersonal relationships.  This is hard work!

In addition, there is little being attempted in ecovillages that isn't - on its own - being done better elsewhere. One can easily find more successful organic farms, renewable energy facilities, green buildings, and even decision-making processes outside of ecovillages. What makes ecovillages unique and relevant then is not these individual pieces, but that they are trying to put the pieces together into wholes that are more than the sum of their parts. They are, in effect, creating new cultures, new "stories" about what it means to live interdependently with each other and our planet. This is perhaps the most important work of our generation.

It is often tempting, when spending time in an ecovillage, to focus on perceived shortcomings, both individually and in "gripe sessions" with others. Adding fuel to this fire, you will almost certainly meet community members who deeply question their community's designation as an ecovillage or, worse, are not even aware of the term. While critical reflection on your host community is essential and encouraged, we also invite you to "try on" as many perspectives as possible as you delve deeper into the world of ecovillages.

Questions to guide your first entry

    * What does the term ecovillage mean to you?

    * What expectations of ecovillages are you bringing?  What will you compare this community with?

    * What is the articulated vision/mission of the ecovillage you will visit?  How does it model or differ from your image of an ecovillage?

    * Can an ecovillage ever be truly manifested or will it always be in process? Explain.

    * What challenges might you face if you were to start an ecovillage? How would you overcome them?

    * Can you imagine living your life in an ecovillage?  What would that look like?


Daniel Greenberg, Ph.D., Executive Director


284 N. Pleasant St. Suite 1, Amherst, MA  01002

413-259-0025 (p); 413-259-1113 (f)


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  • Pre-Program Assignment- Brazil

    June 22, 2009
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