“Why don’t you live in an ecovillage yet?” — Part 2

In my first post under this title, a few days ago, I posted the original question as well as a link to the group where you can find lots of people’s answers to this topic.

Here’s mine, with a few exclusive additions for you who have found your way to this blog and been so kind as to read this far:

I prefer a neighborhood approach. Some of my neighbors are growing food and sharing seeds and things. Most of my neighbors do not collect rainwater yet, but I’m always promoting it and encouraging people to get started.

Also I educate people about solar cooking and passive solar cooling etc. For me it’s easier to try to create a more connected community in my own urban neighborhood than it would be to buy rural land and try to survive out there.

Plus, building from scratch has a high footprint, not only physical and financial but in terms of social capital as well.

I participate in efforts to protect rural land from development. And I support my local farmers by buying food from them and by helping them publicize their produce.

At my house I have two housemates and occasional guests. So the house itself is sort of a mini village. I provide extremely inexpensive, steady housing, and also have created space for emergency for refugees to stay here. And most recently, I created an extra sleeping spot in my little off-grid garage apartment for interns who want to come learn experientially about permaculture design and low-footprint, off-grid living.

Worthy of note is that even though I run my place as a low-footprint living laboratory, both of my housemates are “civilians” and both of them have continued to express that they are very happy staying here.

I have turned my garage into an off-grid mini “apartment” where I sleep and have my studio. (Not having a car is great because it gives me a whole extra building to use.)

There are a lot of empty houses in the USA. For some of us, it makes more sense to live in an existing house then to go out somewhere onto remote land and try to build everything from scratch.

Furthermore, my house has a public educational function.

As I’ve shared extensively in my Facebook posts, TikTok videos, and here on this blog, my house is on a corner lot and I have designed things to maximize the public education interface of my place.

So for example, we have the solar oven right next to the sidewalk where people can see it and smell food cooking; we have the little micro greens boxes next to the sidewalk where people can see them (and even pick if they like — though I don’t have a green thumb so things are a bit puny most of the time).

We have quite a few different types of native plants, and the site overall is an example of stormwater sponge and heat mitigation. We also have publicly visible rainwater collection, etc.

Furthermore, my place has elements of community in action, via my “porous property” at the corner. Several different types of benches where people can step off the sidewalk to sit in the shade or enjoy the sun. Many many people have expressed their appreciation of this amenity.

I also ran my little free library here for 10 years, although that is on hiatus right now while we are troubleshooting the persistent theft and vandalism that has suddenly become a problem in the past few months. At this point I am attributing it to a decline in foot traffic — either because some of the old steady users have moved away, or because some of those people got cars, etc. It doesn’t take much to make a shift in the chemistry balance of the social environment, for better or for worse.

Also, regarding a question posted by a friend/colleague, “How much land is required to grow all the food a household needs?”:

— Regarding growing all the food a household needs, many of us have decided that a better approach is to support local farmers. By supporting local farmers and growers, we widen our food-shed and weave a more resilient web of beneficial relationships that will stand the test of time. (Even if not every connection persists over time, the web as a whole is still in place. And able to keep growing.)

And, responding to a friend who has a great deal of plant knowledge but has a crushing work schedule, so there is an economic catch-22 at play when it comes to him maybe making a video or offering a workshop. (Even if we pay him.):

— Everything is a lot of work tho. Maybe there’s some other transmission pipeline that would be less work for you. I know you share my wish but this area would become more sustainable in terms of growing more of our own food right here locally.

I feel the same about YouTube videos , I do make them (TikTok also) but A) I have like seven followers; and B ) I don’t have four hands or my own personal videographer like a lot of people who make videos seem to — it’s a process.

Over the past few years of occupying my house, I have made it into a “Low-Footprint Living Laboratory” — kind of one big publicly visible “Uncle Milton’s Ant Farm,” which is “broadcasting” sustainability knowledge 24-7 in meatspace.

I take it as a testimonial to practicality that my two “civilian” housemates have managed to continue to put up with living here. <laugh emojis>

And regarding another person’s question, about why the costs aren’t lower in ecovillages:

— It seems like it should be more affordable, yes. Since people are pooling costs.

But I think because people build new buildings instead of using existing buildings, and also since a lot of people go out in the country they have to build new infrastructure instead of using what’s already existing. So I think that’s one factor that drives up the cost.

There can also be a lot of legal expenses involved when people try to buy one piece of land together.

I live in a small city and I consider my house a micro-village. We have three people living here, plus occasional guests, and we share expenses and help each other.

Also, a lot of neighbors are trying to build more connections in the neighborhood, sharing resources and helping each other. And we work together to try to promote sustainable actions by our local government.
It is not an official ecovillage but that is my intent.

And — My reply to a perennial city-hater who thinks that cities are doomed, no one should live in cities, etc.:

— I share your frustration, but ultimately I do not believe the consumption and paving will continue unabated.

A lot of cities are re-introducing nature, and de-paving large areas, And expanding native plants and food-growing areas, and so on. The Nature of Cities Festival is one organization/annual conference that has been highlighting and amplifying such necessary efforts.

And, that said, not everyone wants to live in a city. And no one has to!

But if all of us city dwellers were to move out to rural areas, the rural areas would become very crowded and resource-burdened, and I’m sure you rural-dwellers would not want that.