It was a cool winter and a misty morning. We walked along the giant greenery stairway at the center of Tunghai University shaded by local banyan trees, a common scene in school campuses with long history around Taiwan. Along the two sides of the stairway are modern buildings designed with a touch of traditional wood and brick materials, while the stairway is decorated with Christmas puppets as the holiday vibe was in the air. For Luvian, it was nice to share with Hema fond memories of being a student on this beautiful campus. And for Hema, it was interesting to observe the Eastern-Western, modern-traditional mix of styles around the campus in which Luvian completed his bachelor studies. Somehow this style of cultural melting pot felt relevant to the special mission we had for this trip, which is to bring inspiration from the ecovillage and regeneration movement around the world to young local and international students currently studying here at the International College of Tunghai University.
Our experiences of participating and engaging with the ecovillage movement have been life-transforming and empowering, to say the least. In the past few years, Hema has been visiting ecovillages and communities around the world, participated in Ecovillage Design Education and became an EDE trainer, and is also a part of the team behind GENOA’s REGEN-Nations program. Luvian has been studying ecovillage development for his master’s program and is currently a resident of Sun Clover Ecovillage, an aspiring ecovillage community on the east coast of Taiwan. He is also working as the Communications Coordinator in the GENOA Office Team. Both of us have become actively involved in the ecovillage and regeneration movement in the region in various ways ever since we discovered these concepts and practices.
When we found out about the NextGENOA Seed Grant last year, we thought it’d be a great opportunity for us to do something together here. We came up with the idea of holding sessions for us to share about ecovillages and regeneration, our stories and experiences of being involved with the movement to university students. We hope this session will facilitate them to internalize the issues we face today as humanity and realize that the future is in the hands of us, the young generation.
By early December 2021, we had the funding granted, sessions booked, and materials prepared. And on the 21st of December, we made our way to Tunghai University located in the western part of Taiwan. When we met that night, it was the first time we got to meet each other in person. Although we are both living on the same island, we have only been interacting in the online space prior to this. It was a wonderful experience being able to meet friends from GENOA in the three-dimensional realm and work on an on-the-ground project together.
Our session flow
The way we designed our session was inspired by Joanna Macy’s Work that Reconnects. We started our session with an attunement of gratitude. Then we honored the pain of the world by taking an overview of the complex and interconnected socio-ecological problems we are facing as humanity, sinking in the fact that we are living in planetary collapse, and that within our lifetime, we will continue to witness the degradation of our planet. The session then continued by a section where we saw the world with new eyes through learning about the concept of regeneration and seeing the plethora of regenerative action that has already been happening for decades across the globe, including the ecovillage movement. And finally, we offered pathways of how to go forth in integrating regenerative practices into our lives. You can take a look at our presentation slides here.
We conducted two sessions in total. One with the freshman students of the Sustainability Science and Engineering (SSE) program and the other with the sophomores of International Business Administration (IBA) program of Tunghai University International College. With the different backgrounds of students, it is interesting to see the difference in their responses towards our session. Students from the SSE program are those who already want to learn about how to solve sustainability issues in the world. During our session, they were active in sharing their thoughts, perspectives, and views about the global problems we are facing. On the other hand, the IBA students were not as vocal in sharing their perspectives and opinion in the big group, although they were listening attentively to our talk and did participate in smaller groups. Perhaps this is a topic that they haven’t had much chance to pay attention to before.
Most students found the Map of Regeneration activity very engaging and mind-stimulating. In this activity, students explore the principles within GEN’s Map of Regeneration and were asked the questions “which principles do you feel more energized about?” and “which principles do you feel are most neglected in your community?” It was interesting to see which principles or aspects of the map resonated with the students at the moment. To our surprise, in the SSE class where students are learning about sustainability, a lot of the stones and sticks (where they find most energetic and feel most neglected) were placed in the economic dimension. While in the IBA, where students are learning about businesses, a lot of the stones and sticks were in the ecolo gy, culture, and whole system design aspects of regeneration.
For us as facilitators of the session, the sessions are also insightful. We learned what students in that particular age group are thinking and feeling about the current situation of the world and the idea of regeneration. During the small group discussions, we were able to connect with the students and listen to their sharing- the deep sharing with fellow students by which most of them appreciated.
It is really interesting to have these [discussions and activities] because I learn what other people think about climate change or environmental problems. Actually everyone notices the issues or news, so they have their thoughts about the questions. And when they share their thoughts, I get different opinions.
A lot of students also feel that they know about this problem(s) but have been feeling disconnected from it as they are not feeling the direct impact of the social and environmental problems. Some also mentioned that their attention has been so distracted that they haven’t been able to pay attention to crucial and existential issues. Some shared that they were overwhelmed by the scale and complexities of the situation and they felt powerless as individuals, but they feel more empowered and motivated to act now instead of waiting for others to find solutions. Some students shared in their reflections :
I am happy that I got this opportunity to listen to a new perspective of people who focused themselves on developing their community of sustainability like Luvian and Hema. I was reminded of how climate change is real and is slowly destructing our earth. They reminded us that the world is changing and everyone needs to be alert to contribute to their communities, especially the youth, because the future is in our hands. A lot of youngsters are indifferent, in the sense that they already care about their interests and showed less enthusiasm and sympathy for things that matter. However, we need to start to care for things that are around us. Therefore, we can improve ourselves according to our fields and change in our ways, for the future ahead of us.
I felt inspired to look at my own life and see how I can make a difference in the world so my children can have a better future and Earth. I also learned about regeneration and how I can implement this into my life by becoming mindful of my choices. I have a responsibility to make the world better.
Some students also appreciated the social and community aspects of regenerative living, the students said:
Personally speaking, the concept of sharing and living together of ecovillage fascinated me. I believe having this kind of village around the world glues everyone together. In the present world, people are becoming more selfish than before. Hence, having goals to work together as a community might reduce the self-centered idea.
Some concluding words
Overall, we felt our aim of the project was delivered and well-received when we saw feedback like the following:
“This talk was very engaging. The main topic of this subject is a topic that all of us can relate to. All of us are aware that climate change and the destruction is being inflicted on the environment, this issue should be prioritized over everything. If our survival as a species is threatened, you would think every single person would be motivated to do all that they can to solve this issue. Unfortunately this is not a reality. People care, but are not motivated enough to take action towards making a change in their lifestyles. So I was really impressed with the speakers. It was nice to see two people who have taken it upon themselves to do something, and live in a way where they not only take but also give back to the environment, as it should be.”
We are thoroughly moved by the depth of some students’ reflections and feedback after the session. The whole process of this project has been a deeply rewarding experience for both of us. We got a glimpse of what students in universities from various backgrounds are thinking and feeling about the current state of the world and their response to ecovillages and regeneration ideas. We got to test out our materials and see the response of the students to the sessions we designed and held and now we have a better idea on how to further improve our sessions to better suit the needs of university students.
We’d like to express our gratitude to Dr. James Sims and Dr. John J. Perez from the International College of Tunghai University for kindly welcoming and supporting us to share about ecovillages and regeneration to their students. We’d also like to thank NextGENOA for the seed grant that helped us cover the preparation of materials, travel, and accommodation expenses of the trip. And finally, we’d like to thank all the students who have actively participated in the workshop sessions with us. May the experience we delivered through the sessions be a source of deep meaning and inspiration to regenerative actions for the youth, as well as for the regional activators in the network.
About the Authors
Hema Wu. EDE Trainer & Facilitator/ GEN Ambassador
Hema is an intentional community and transformative process facilitator and an Ecovillage Design Education (EDE) trainer. She has worked in the field of international development around South/Southeast Asia, the Pacific Islands, and South America. Upon seeing the international scene of all types of projects, she was driven to think more deeply about the impacts and sustainability of human development, which inspired her commitment to foster a more conscious culture of human existence on earth. She is currently founding her own school with the goal of rehabilitating relationships between/with humans and all beings.
Luvian Iskandar. Communications Coordinator, GENOA
Originally from Indonesia, Luvian came to Taiwan for his studies. He completed his bachelor’s program in International Business Administration at Tunghai University and master’s program in Humanity and Environmental Science at National Dong Hwa University. During his master’s program, he focused on the early establishment stage of ecovillages. After his graduation, he moved to live in Sun Clover Ecovillage, an aspiring ecovillage community in Fuli, Hualien while working as GENOA’s communications coordinator.
Edited and proofread by: Alisa Sidorenko, Matt Inman & Thao Kin