Sustainability, as an idea, has been making its rounds for decades, taking on different forms and shapes to serve varying agendas, soothe fears, and attempt, in some fashion, to stop or limit the damage that humans have been doing to the earth for our entire existence. However, that’s the problem with traditional understandings of the word “sustainability” – they are focused more on how humans can continue on our trajectory while doing less damage. In reality, sustainability should be focused on creating a symbiotic relationship between humans and our planet, not emphasizing one more than the other.
The idea of “regenerative sustainability” is more in line with creating a situation in which humans and nature continue to thrive, advance, and get healthier over time. It’s a holistic approach to sustainability that sees the resources humans use to survive and the humans themselves as equals, each one requiring respect, care, and happiness. The challenge with regenerative sustainability is that it requires a paradigm shift; for it to be effective, humans have to completely alter how we, as a whole, see our relationship with earth and our responsibility to earth.
Learning from Indigenous Communities
Indigenous communities in the US and all over the globe have been practicing regenerative sustainability for centuries. You’ve probably heard of controlled burns that were conducted by tribes in the US to help keep the forests healthy and reduce the risk of wildfires. Eventually, the government intervened and prohibited or severely limited these practices, and in the years since, wildfires have been running rampant.
Also known for sustainable farming practices, refraining from using chemicals, and often moving around to not place too much damage in one area of earth for elongated periods of time, indigenous communities have seen their relationship with the planet through a regenerative lens throughout history. We have a lot to learn from native tribes and other communities who called these lands home before the era of colonization swept the earth.
The Practice of EcoVillages and Micro-Communities
Perhaps one of the biggest lessons indigenous communities have been illustrating for centuries is the power of ecovillages and micro-communities and the role these small, regenerative villages play in finding harmony with the resources they use to survive. Ecovillages today exist all over the US, with upwards of 400 communities being widely known.
This community-led approach to living isn’t new, the practices and mindsets that exist in ecovillages are beneficial for humans and all other living species. Usually emphasizing regenerative farming practices, conservation, and a symbiotic relationship with our surroundings, these communities could be the answer to how humankind is meant to move forward. Something has to change on a deep level and it all starts with how we perceive our reality. That’s why true regenerative sustainability seems difficult to attain to many people, because it would require them to do deep internal work to see the world around them differently and rebuild their relationship with nearly every single thing.
Logistics of EcoVillages
Ecovillages and micro-communities can operate differently from one another, depending on what works best for that specific community, though they often operate with a similar set of values. Designed to be economically and socially sustainable, these communities focus on how they can thrive while also supporting the health of the land and resources they are using to do so. Seeing themselves as visitors and borrowers of land and nature instead of owners and users helps drive regenerative sustainability.
These communities can come in different shapes and sizes but are often a collection of semi-permanent dwellings with families and couples having their own living quarters and shared community spaces for all residents to enjoy. The “cost” to joining an ecovillage usually comes in the form of work, which could be tending the garden, cooking food to provide for the community, or other jobs that keep things running smoothly.
Our geodesic domes are the perfect accommodation for many of these communities because they come in different sizes, can be connected with one other if desired, are easy to assemble, and do not require any damage to be done to the earth they sit on.
EcoVillage Regenerative Focuses
This helpful map of regeneration illustrates the areas in which many ecovillages aim to regenerate. The categories include social, culture, ecology, and economy, showcasing just how holistic and well-rounded ecovillages aim to be. There is still the desire to create a sense of community and care for its people while ensuring that people are not considered more important than their surroundings.
Regenerative sustainability doesn’t mean we all have to live miserable and unhappy lifestyles to save the planet. In fact, it’s quite the contrary. By leading lives that help us live in harmony as equals with everything around us, we can avoid natural disasters, widespread hunger, poverty, and many other ailments that the human race currently battles against daily. What if, instead of trying to push back against all these realities, we target to get to the root of the problem and change how we live? If the earth is happier, we’ll be happier, and that’s a guarantee.
It’s a Necessary Shift
The brightest minds in all of science are telling humans there’s only a number of years before the damage we have done to our planet is irreversible. At this point, we don’t have the liberty of doing what’s convenient, we must do what’s right. We know the path forward, and while it might not be easy, it will benefit every living thing, including humans.
Shifting to regenerative lifestyles doesn’t necessarily mean everyone has to live in an ecovillage, but these communities can help drive accountability, develop better, more restorative ways of functioning, and maybe, if we’re lucky, get us to a place where we can find harmony with our natural resources instead of using and abusing them. All it takes is a few geodesic domes, dedicated community members, and ambition to restore the earth – sounds easy enough, right?
Ecovillage at Ithaca
In 1991, EcoVillage at Ithaca was one of only a handful of co-housing communities in the U.S., and about 20 intentional living communities in the world. Today, EcoVillage at Ithaca is part of a global movement of people seeking to create positive solutions to the social, environmental and economic crises our planet faces. EcoVillage at Ithaca has evolved into a large, fully functioning community with buildings, landscape, roads, paths, farms, gardens, governance structures, group process and intentional relationships. Even though Ecovillage at Ithaca is one of the oldest ecovillages in the world, they are still accepting new members that fit within their structure.
The Solheimar eco-village, Iceland
the Solheimar eco-village. Located just half an hour away from Geysir and Gulfloss, and Hveragerdi, Solheimar lies on the road back to Reykjavik. This tiny village deserves more attention than it gets, as it is one of the oldest thriving ecovillages in the world, and is a model community for green-minded individuals.
Volunteers and interns from all over the world visit Solheimar to learn about sustainable living, and contribute to the community.
The Findhorn Foundation, Scotland
The Findhorn Foundation is a spiritual community, ecovillage and an international centre for holistic learning, helping to unfold a new human consciousness and create a positive and sustainable future. Bi-annually a cultural explosion takes place in the area in the form of Findhorn Bay Arts Festival, which showcases local and international visual, musical, and theatrical artists. The community of Findhorn and the wider Forres area have been awarded a Creative Place Award in 2015 in recognition for their involvement in this, and other creative projects.