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What I Want For Christmas

I decided to move to OUR Ecovillage for the winter to rejuvenate after a long year of finishing my MBA and being present with the passing of my father Chris in the summer. I’ve come here because something very special about this place has lived in my heart/mind since I was first here in 2008 for a permaculture design course. In a nutshell, what I think it comes down to is that people here are striving to create alternative ways of being and living that establish mutually beneficial relationships between each other AND the natural world. The end result is a loving, supportive culture that thrives on diversity and is deeply integrated with the land, soil and water. People feel seen, included and are supported to show up fully, share their gifts and develop new ones. The land is developed with an aim to protect and enhance diversity, fertility and resilience while directly providing for peoples’ nutritional and housing needs. It is such a wonderfully positive story compared to the perpetual din of negativity evident almost everywhere from living without such a principled stance.
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Regenerative Communities: How big should they be?

Bill Mollison's Permaculture Design Manual I was reading some more of Chapter 14 in the Permaculture Design Manual and found some useful insight on village size. I’ve been asked many times and have thought about ideal sizes for intentional communities for some time. Some prefer small and others’, myself included think a larger group is more compelling. The Dunbar Number is often pulled into this conversation as Robin Dunbar theorized that there is an upper limit to the number of people we can maintain stable social relationships with. It is not an exact number but an approximate one – roughly 150.

Bill Mollison reasons it this way:

  • At about 100 income-producing people, a significant financial institution can be village-based
  • At about 500 all people can know each other if social affairs are organized from time to time
  • At 2000 people theft and competitiveness is more common and sects are set up in opposition

He goes on to add:

Perhaps we should start small at about 30 or so adults, build to 200-300 people, and proceed slowly and by choice to 500, then “calve” into new neighbourhoods or new villages

He supports this reasoning with the Mondragon Cooperative example from Spain which:

at first grew large (3,000 – 5,000), but later reduced to 300-500 to preserve the identity of every individual

This reasoning seems sound to me. Obviously, village-scale needs to be matched to the local environment’s ability to supply food, energy, water and other resources as well work for the citizens of the community.

What are your thoughts on this? Do you know of any communities that have followed this development path?

Ethical Basis of an Alternative Nation

Bill Mollison's Permaculture Design Manual
I started reading the final chapter of Permaculture: A Designers’ Manual with the hope of gleaning insight into how to create resilient and regenerative communities. The title of the chapter is: Strategies for an Alternative Nation.

It is basically about how we must develop an ethic and practice that places care for the earth at an equal footing to care for people. By doing so we can avoid the perpetual destruction of the global commons and bring about a sustainable society.

Here are some of the highlights from my reading so far:

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Regenerative Community Development

My terminology on the subject of community development has evolved a little since my first post on the topic. Since beginning at BGI and increasingly so, I’ve had the sense that “sustainable” is not a high enough ambition for our individual and collective pursuits. For example, in the relationship or marital realm, do you feel inspired to aim for “sustainable”. I don’t.

So what lies beyond sustainable? If sustainable is doing things in a way that will allow you to carry on doing what you are doing into the indefinite future; then what lies beyond that is the ability to experience and create more than you currently do. Considering the enormous environmental and social deficit human civilization has dug itself into, we better start designing systems that do just that, improve our collective social and natural capital, while producing whatever goods or services humanity needs.

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