This article is a short summary of the GENOA community call written by Roky Biswas and Thao Kin
On 21st September 2021, GENOA conducted its monthly community call for restoration and transformation of the earth as a global ecovillage. The topic of this month is Ecovillage Transition – transforming existing communities into regenerative communities. At the beginning of the sharing and discussion Amena Bal – GENOA Network steward & Fundraising Coordinator – led the whole group into a meditative spiritual prayer. After that, Thao Kin – GENOA Networking coordinator – described the purpose of this call where she emphasized that a lot of the work in the Oceania & Asia region are with existing communities; supporting and working with how the communities can be more regenerative. Anna Kovasna from GEN International took us through a tour of the Ecovillage Impact Assessment which is now officially launched, every community and project with a profile on GEN website can now take this impact assessment either as individual or collective.
The focus of this call was to learn from the practices of Ecovillage Transition around the region. We welcomed Thalea Tane – Aotearoa New Zealand, Hiroko Katayama – GEN Japan, Hai Chao Wang – Sunshine Ecovillage Network, China, Karen Wang – Sunshine Ecovillage Network, GEN China, Tanya Mottl – Narara Ecovillage, GEN Australia – five-speaker from four different countries have shared their experience about the regenerative activities in their communities.
Marrying the ecovillage map of regeneration with the local/indigenous wisdom
Thalea Tane from Aotearoa/New Zealand, shared about her research and experience on ecovillage, she showed how to incorporate the concepts, tools, ideas from GEN to communities in Aotearoa. She said, “In our traditional communities, they already have this regenerative sense.” She is a tutor for sustainable living courses, builder of earth brick homes, facilitator of workshops, developer of people and communities. The Universal Maori Principles – Mana, Tapu, Mauri, Kaitiakitanga – are the same principles that the GEN cards have. When she uses the Ecovillage cards, it speaks volumes to her people as it resonates with the Maori principles. They have the belief system that we are the guardians of their landscape – the land, the rocks, the trees, the animals, etc. in their surrounding environment. One of the things that they have realized in Maori culture is that we need to re-indigenize ourselves and the community. People need to go back to the principles passed down by our ancestors and these principles are no different than the GEN principles. She has been incorporating the GEN playing cards for her community, this made the community feel that they are one with GEN.
Modeling a new world that we can live in
Hiroko Katayama from As One Community shared that Japan has a capitalistic economy and people do not have much interest in environmental or ecovillage issues. In Japan, her community has been networking with different communities and ecovillages. GEN Japan works on networking to connect, raising awareness, education and supporting domestic initiatives around the country. They have also been trying to engage young people in the ecovillage activities and teaching the ecovillage concept.
Communities like As One Suzuka are experimenting and creating a model to showcase a “new world” – showing how eco-communities are the gateway of the next civilization. They are interacting with mainstream society through trade, selling goods, education programs, workshops and other activities. The As One Community has developed the ScienZ Method for living together – learn more about ScienZ Method here.
Demonstrating and educating the ecovillage lifestyle
Haichao Wang is the co-founder of Sunshine ecovillage in China. Together with Karen Wang, he shared a very motivating experience from his ecovillage concept and practice. In 2015, Sunshine Ecovillage ran the first international ecovillage forum in China. This is the first time the ecovillage network was introduced to China. Now there are already more than 100 aspiring ecovillages in China. People living in the cities are slowly realizing that they need green life. While city people would like to bring their city life back to villages, Haichao and his team bring the ecovillage concept to them to show that there are different ways of development. They wanted to demonstrate what eco-living really looks like by the life in their ecovillage. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the community created online programs for people to learn about ecovillages.
This ecovillage has about 20 ecovillage-related online courses and workshops on permaculture. The community organized a eco-person gathering activity every new year (Jan 1st). In this gathering the community awarded one person who has outstanding contribution to the regeneration of China for the ecovillage transition. With the high rate of urbanization, the Chinese government is trying to promote rural revitalization. The Ecovillage team in China are building a model ecovillage (like Sunshine Ecovillage) for people to see and learn from.
Envisioning with the aboriginal community
Tanya Mottl shared how GEN Australia has been engaging with the Jumbun Community to look at the way that the community wanted to come back to their traditional values and not depend on the government so much. They held a 3-day workshop which led to envisioning and strategizing with the local community. A key initiative they are undertaking is a truth-talking circle. The message that came out is strong and clear: we have the power to change this. GEN Australia is also supporting Permayouth working with the local school in Jumbun. They have created the ecovillage design cards to be culturally appropriate to the community. The Jumbun Community shared that the ecovillage cards align with their community values. What they’d like to work on is to engage their youth in the regeneration of the community.
The rich sharing from representatives around the network has sparked interest in all of us. It is important to realize that the process of Ecovillage Transition is very much context-dependent, we can utilize the sharing from our network, with the guidance of the Map of Regeneration and adapt it to our local context. As shared from the group discussion, building ecovillages is challenging in many countries and people who are living in urban areas would like to seek ways to live regeneratively where they are as well. This gives us the opportunity to explore how members of the ecovillage network can engage the urban sector and communicate eco-living to more people in different contexts.
For more information, you can watch the replay of this call on youtube here.
Below are some resources to dive deeper and explore other Ecovillage Transition work in the region:
- Ecovillage Transition in Bhutan – Lhundup Dukpa
- Ecovillage Transition Scaling Up Community Led Change Processes
- Women Transforming Traditional Villages into Ecovillages in India
- GENOA Ecovillage Development Program Brochure which was done for a GEN’s project in 2018
- Video Ecovillage Development Program – GEN
We’d like to take this opportunity to introduce and invite you to take the Skills and Capacities Mapping, this will help us to understand and map the abundant skills and expertise of people within the GENOA network. With the results of the survey, GENOA will build future connections, projects, and consultancy services, which in turn will strengthen resilience for each member and also the network as a whole.
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Cover picture credit: GEN Japan