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Ecovillages: between utopia and reality

Some consider life in ecovillages the greatest utopia of our time, inspired by a rather radical concept of ecological sustainability. For others, it might be the only possible socio-economic model to limit the damage humans have done to the earth. Of course, the ecovillage stands for all these things together, but also for much more.

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Ecovillages: what are they about?

Sustainability and sharing are the key principles of ecovillages, ecological communities where people can live with respect for nature and for others. Ecovillages are defined as "sustainable intentional communities" to affirm the intention to live together according to models of environmental and economic sustainability. They are based on some basic rules: voluntary membership, use of renewable energy, shared lifestyle aimed at reducing the ecological footprint and impact on the environment, and a diet based on organic farming. So each village has its own specificities, but the cornerstones are the idea of living in contact with nature and with people who share the same values.

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Alternative communities

The first ecovillage was created in 1970 when a professor from San Francisco, Stephen Gaskin, founded "The Farm" in Tennessee (United States), which still exists today. Today, ecovillage projects are spread all over the world, with about 2,000 settlements in the United States and a community population of about 100,000 members. In Europe, the largest number of alternative communities is concentrated in the UK and Ireland, with about 250 communities for 5,000 members. The creation of an ecovillage requires at least 5 people who come together and decide to live a lifestyle in harmony with the environment and away from the mechanisms of modernity, sharing resources and labour and adopting other social forms, education and breeding methods.

Asia and Franz’s story

Asia and Franz had two companies: a B&B with an alpaca farm and a company that produced organic apple juice. When in 2020, due to Covid-19, the closures of shops, restaurants, cinemas began, they understood that they wanted to change their lives. So, they put the two companies up for sale and, in the meantime, they searched all over Italy for a place that had characteristics for self-sufficiency. At the end of September 2021, they found a suitable place for their idea: to create an ecovillage, a community where to live amid nature, in contact with animals, creating relationships in harmony to share everyday life in simplicity. This is how the Eden ecovillage was born, located 10 km from Pieve Santo Stefano (Tuscany). This ecovillage is made up of 110 hectares of land, 9 farmhouses with several apartments inside, a restaurant kitchen, a pond, water springs, course rooms and much more. Currently there are about ten people who have decided to stop for a trial year and consciously choose to live this new reality. Other people, on the other hand, are at the beginning of the experience journey.

Carlo's story

Carlo fled Turin at the age of 20 because he felt a strong inner unease. He had gone through years of violence, drug addiction and alcohol abuse. To give himself a chance and get out of his addictions, he began to travel. The journey became a therapy for him. After traveling hundreds and hundreds of kilometers in fifteen years, discovering almost a hundred countries and writing books that became bestsellers, he decided to return to Italy with a vision: a self-sufficient reality in terms of energy, water, food, but above all on an emotional level. In fact, for Carlo, self-sufficiency concerned not only our external needs, but above all our internal ones: People who know how to be together, who know how to be self-sufficient and at the center of their lives, without depending on anyone else and without needing an authority to impose a model of life on them. Active since January 2021, Progetto Meraki is an ecovillage that takes care of the relationship between people, the environment and local communities. It is located in the province of Bologna on the Emilian Apennines, surrounded by green forests and on a 35-hectare plot. Currently, Progetto Meraki is dedicated to the development of permaculture. It carries out training activities, in particular experiential retreats with yoga, music, dance, workshops for personal and group growth, conferences, activities in nature, crafts and constructions.

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Camilla's story

Camilla, 23 years old, lives in an ecovillage where she takes care of wood, oil production and, above all, personal growth events. Before deciding to do this, she was enrolled in the Natural Sciences course at the University of Turin, where she also graduated. After travelling around Latin America for months, she realized that what she wanted was in Italy: she joined the Piumani Ecovillage. In an interview, she explains that the decision to make this life change was strongly influenced by the environment she was used to living in, a very competitive environment where the quality of relationships was very low. Another reason that led her to take this step was the belief that there was an alternative to the life she was already living. She graduated from university, looked for a steady job and hadn't lived in the meantime. She understands that it wasn't what she wanted for herself. Today Camilla still lives in the ecovillage of Piumani, founded in 2015 by Mario Dal Mare.

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Many people still have the idea that the ecovillage is a place where there is constant smoking and drinking, like a permanent party. In reality, the people who choose to live like this also choose to live as healthily as possible, to share an equal state of consciousness with each other. So what do people do in these communities? In their daily lives, in addition to practical work, they stay together, sing, dance, cook, talk a lot, often even argue, but they always manage to draw something positive from these arguments that makes them continue to grow. Therefore, among those who join the ecovillage life, besides the basic goal of environmental protection, there is also an individual goal: the desire for an inner change in the way of listening to oneself and thus responding to the others.

Written by Matilda D’Urso

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