Ecovillages & Environmental Settlements

Notions about 'green living' and 'sustainable lifestyles' emerged in the 60s and 70s and were commonly associated with rural 'self-sufficiency'. At the same time the idea of 'intentional communities' emerged, often referred to as 'communes', 'collectives' or simply 'communities'. The two strands were closely related, and loose networks of such communities developed all over the western world.

One of the earliest intentional communities was the Findhorn Foundation in Scotland, which gradually adopted an environmental agenda. In 1995 it hosted an important conference based on the ideas of Robert Gilman, who had been exploring the principles of new sustainable settlements, which he called 'Ecovillages'. Most of the largest and best-established intentional communities took part, many from far afield.

The first two items reproduced here draw largely on this particular tradition, reviewing progress after ten years. Perhaps I shall revisit the question in 2015...

Ecovillages: How Are We Doing? 2005 (doc)

Ecovillages presentation 2005 (ppt)

As a complement to this 'bottom up' approach, it is as well to consider the matter from a top-down city planning perspective, such as I use in courses on global sustainability.  What I see as the 'sacrifice' of cities to private transport in a largely unrecognised 'transformation window'  between 1960-1985, is a major influence.

Cities and Transport 2013 (ppt)

As a small afterthought, there is obviously some merit in experimental settlements that will try environmental innovations one at a time to see what difference they make. A case in point is Prince Charles' initiative at Poundbury, outside Dorchester in Dorset, which aims to provide a high density settlement with the kind of agreeable layout and architectural diversity that most people enjoy when on holiday in exotic locations. My views of this have mellowed, but this is what I thought in 2004.

A Visit to Poundbury (doc)