This article was written by Luvian Iskandar.
When I first discovered the idea of ecovillages and saw existing ecovillage communities in various countries, I was instantly captivated. I became fascinated with how people choose to live together while intentionally and holistically designing their way of living upon shared values of regenerative living. I saw a community of people that understands the global socio-environmental problems (climate change, inequalities, etc.) we are facing and choose to take matters into their own hands instead of waiting for change to come.
For my master’s program, I wanted to study the development process of ecovillages as I had the feeling that I might be involved with one in the future. After looking around for feasible study sites around me (I was studying at National Dong Hwa University on the East Coast of Taiwan), I was introduced to a new ecovillage initiative called Sun Clover Ecovillage which was only two hours away from my campus. It is a community started by a husband and wife who moved to rural Taiwan from the city to build a space where people can live a more healthy lifestyle while cultivating a strong connection with each other and nature. For my research, I got the opportunity to join the initiative as a participant observer for eight months, being involved in all of the daily activities.
Through my immersion there, I learned and experienced a lot about the things that happen in the initial stage of an ecovillage community and also developed a deep relationship with the Sun Clover family. In fact, I enjoyed my experience so much that I ended up back in Sun Clover and became a resident there for a year after I completed my studies. During that year, I feel that I grew and healed a lot as a human being. I feel more connected with myself, people, and the environment around me. I have just recently moved back home to Indonesia, so I thought it was a good time for me to share some of my experiences and reflections from the 20 months I spent in Sun Clover Ecovillage.
When I first came to Sun Clover, I came as an ecovillage enthusiast whose idea and experience of ecovillage came solely from articles, books, and videos I found online. I brought along with me my interpretation and imagination of how life would be completely different in an ecovillage from the way of living in the mainstream: how people live a very low impact lifestyle through living simply and intentionally, having a deep connection with nature, living in natural structures that mimic their surroundings, having food grown from our very own multi-variety gardens, living with a community of people that supports each other, practicing nonviolent communication all the time. My imagined version of an ecovillage definitely falls into the utopian side of the spectrum (not that that’s a bad thing) but with it, I also have this mentality “if I just go to an ecovillage, all of the world’s problems -as well as my own- will disappear!”.
My experience of living in Sun Clover is very different from this imagined version. Being a new ecovillage initiative, Sun Clover is more like a family rather than a community of people. There were only the two co-founders and their baby when I first came (I was the first person who lived with them for an extended time). We were living in a regular concrete house that the family rented. We were farming rice using more eco-friendly methods of natural farming and selling our rice online, but we didn’t have a garden where we grew our own food. Instead, we purchased all of our groceries from the market.
At times, I was wrestling in my head with the mismatch between my imagination and the reality I was experiencing. It took me a while to realize and accept that even though the ecovillage that I imagined was similar to where Sun Clover is moving towards, we’ve got to start somewhere and the mismatch is simply a part of the journey.
Living in Sun Clover made me realize a lot of the practicalities of starting an ecovillage. For example, one of the reasons we were not growing our own food (although we do have space for a garden) is because we simply didn’t have the time and energy to do it. Our natural farming rice farm requires a lot of our time and energy as we do a lot of the work manually and we need to take care of orders and delivery. There are regular chores like cooking and cleaning, and on top of all of that, we have a baby to take care of. We only have three people to do all that work, and we were busy bees a lot of the time and often a day went by just like the flick of a hand.
Towards the end of my stay there, I was already able to see the progress we made. One more person joined to live full-time with us, which made us 5 people (including the baby) and it already felt a little bit more like a community. We started our garden and within a few months started to eat the vegetables we grew. We built a few rooms for people to stay, in and built an irrigation channel using natural materials. It’s really nice to see how we have made a few baby steps towards our ecovillage vision.
Through this experience, I learned that developing an ecovillage is not as simple as I naively thought before, especially in the beginning phase. It tied my dreams and visions of an ecovillage into the ground and taught me how to use the dreams and vision as my north star while starting with the realities of being on the ground where my feet are.
My admiration and appreciation towards people who are building, developing, and living in ecovillages have only grown and multiplied since I first came to Sun Clover as I witnessed the commitment, actions, thoughts, heart, love, patience, and life energy that are compassionately poured in every step of the way towards manifesting “the more beautiful world.”
I’m utterly grateful for being able to be in Sun Clover in its nascence, witnessing and being a part of this very interesting stage full of mysteries, possibilities, and uncertainties. It has been such a rich experience the past year. Although I only shared about how it has been grounding in this piece, the time I spent in Sun Clover has been healing and nourishing too. But that’s another story for another time 😉.
I have endless gratitude for the family in Sun Clover. Jensen and Michiko, the co-founders, for letting me in although both of them weren’t ready for having an extra member when I first came (I learned about it later), and for the love, care, and guidance that both of them give all the time. Ah-Hsu for joining us, anchoring us with his calmness and his deep and genuine care for everything. And, of course, Sarasa (the baby) for the unbearable sweetness, cuteness, and chaos that adds so much flavor to our daily life. Cheers to all the times spent together and all the things to come!
About the Author
Luvian Iskandar, Indonesia
Luvian works with GENOA as a communications coordinator. When he became aware of the social and environmental degradation in the world, he found out about the holistic approach within the ecovillage movement to regenerating social and environmental systems and resonated with it. He chose to study the early development stage of ecovillages for his master’s program, thinking that he might be involved in such a project in his home country, Indonesia, in the future. Upon graduation, he lived and worked in an aspiring ecovillage community in Hualien, Taiwan for a year before moving back to his home country, Indonesia, where he now resides.