Tuesday, October 04, 2005

How to

For the following post, I've adapted an action plan for a real organic farm near Guelph, Ontario. While reading this post, I encourage you to consider your own neighbourhoods for the processes. Here goes:

1. Complete an Ecological Impact Assessment.

2. Organise the existing residents of [your neighbourhood], the community garden renters group (not the Community Shared Agriculture group, yet), and workshop site, to not only co-operatively grow food, but to make and repair things, share tools, exchange surpluses, spend some leisure time, and hold meetings. Work co-operatively and share crops as a team.
a. Initiate resident-controlled co-housing co-operative to ensure permanent affordability of housing on site.
b. Hire professionals: facilitator and a retrofitter

3. a. Option 1. Small-scale poultry and possibly aquaculture (possibly referring to Ireland, S. 1997) production collective. This collective could collect and trade useful waste for the whole co-operative to use.
Option 2. Initiate small-scale on-site textile project (Darroll, 2002).
b. Possibly integrate the on-site bakery as a second collective. (A bakery will be necessary.)
c. "Gleaning" operation whereby people living in the area, i.e., organic farmers, give permission for some of their surplus to be harvested by the co-operative group.

4. Integrate the Community Shared Agriculture at this point. This phase may initiate the redistribution of surpluses to [your city]-based food bank, mental health institution, etc.

5. Encourage low-income, unemployed, aged and disadvantaged people to become involved in the community garden and workshop co-operative (to provide the things they need) including company and activity. Organise recycling and renovation of furniture, toys, clothing, building materials and compostable material.
a. It may be appropriate at this stage to initiate the Common Hall, or Common House, where people could engage in craft-making and shared meals.
b. Kiloh (1995) suggests that the single-parent family is perhaps the greatest beneficiary of the closer (ecovillage) community.

6. Analysis of export and import dependence. What products are being "imported" that could reasonably be produced on site? What collectives might be set up to produce locally the things needed?

7. The ecovillage will include the group of co-operative members who are participating in the localized, small-scale, zero-growth economy at this stage.

8. Permacultural edible landscape development: good water catchments, sewage recycling, home gardens, community gardens, and especially many trees to produce fuel, timber, food, and craft materials (Hu 1998)
a. Smaller fruit trees are used on the south side of houses where they are most protected and can provide shading of windows in the summer.
b. Species chosen either for their food production capabilities or for their appropriateness as 'native' species.

9. People can work for each other and trade without money, possibility of a LET System at this stage. It is critical to the development of a sustainable small-scale economy, that currency and firms do not become part of the economic model. Even small firms could result in unemployment.

10. Establish non-market exchanges of locally produced basic necessities.

11. Consider what collectives might be set up to provide mutual services on a non-profit basis. Consider local energy production, food production, child minding.

12. What collective activities can be organized to provide for the ecovillage some of the goods and services it needs? Can some energy sources, e.g., biogas, be built and maintained? Are monthly "ecovillage improvement" work days a possibility? Do not raise money to hire a contractor, these jobs can be done by the ecovillage co-operative members.

13. Emphasize the importance of living simply, making things yourself, having home gardens, repairing and reusing. Encourage more household production, e.g., bottling and sewing.

14. One of the collectives could study ways of reducing living costs at this stage, e.g., alternative energy sources such as solar panels, regular energy audits and retrofits, a green building code, wind energy, and/or low energy lighting and appliances, and structural rehabilitation and reuse such as domestic hot water preheat, solar hot water, heat recovery ventilation, recycled heat exchange, and/or rooftop gardening.

15. Develop craft collectives to increase local production of many items. Organise classes, skill sharing, display days, local sources of material for pottery, basket making, weaving, etc.

16. One collective could focus on the possibilities for providing local and cheap entertainment. Concentrate on drawing local talent to these activities.

17. Set up a work co-ordination committee to grapple with the problem of ensuring that all who need some work and some cash income have access to these. Does the study of the ecovillage's imports indicate new collectives that could be set up? Help people live more simply.

18. Give high priority to the need for continuing education, for increasing and maintaining understanding and commitment to the ecovillage. Explain to local people the purpose of the project, reasons why it is important to pioneer a path others can take toward a sustainable world order.

19. Work out procedures for unifying and co-ordinating the ecovillage. There should be a forum or mechanism whereby people can keep in mind the overall pattern of ecovillage development and evaluate particular ideas in relation to a vision statement. It is not ideal if many different groups go their own seperate ways trying to do things that are not carefully integrated into the overall strategy. Scarce resources are best focused on selected tasks with all clearly aware of how it fits into the basic vision. It is most important to get to the stage where the whole ecovillage consciously and deliberately takes control of its own development and determines to work hard at the process.

20. There must be much careful, critical and altruistic thought analysing the ecovillage's functioning and needs. Aim to have eventually developed a climate of solidarity and citizenship and clear awareness that the people of the ecovillage will willingly and constantly devote energy to keeping the ecovillage's community, economy, culture, and ecology in good shape.

21. It is crucial that the ecovillagers understand that their community will not survive unless they make considerable effort to support it, by making voluntary contributions to working bees and projects.

22. It is most important to understand from the start the goal is not to find an alternative path to conventional affluence for the ecovillage. Living standards in dollar terms will certainly fall. The goal is to provide sufficient and satisfactory standards to build community and solidarity, and above all ensure that the ecovillage can survive and is secure in the knowledge that it can control its own fate and continue to produce for itself most things it needs, regardless of what happens on national and international economies.

Referenced Material

Hu, D. and R. Wang. 1998. Exploring eco-construction for local sustainability: an eco-village case study in China. Ecological Engineering 11(1-4): 167-176
Ireland, S. 1997. Aquaculture: the Chan way. Western Fisheries: 33-35
Kiloh, G. 1995. Armour Park eco-village prairie settlement for a sustainable future (Saskatchewan). The University of Manitoba. 141 pp
Trainer, T. 2000. Where are we, where do we want to be, how do we get there? Democracy and Nature 6(2): 267-286

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