A living partnership
As the climate emergency deepens and new means of countering it are developed, the obvious conclusion is that the way we, as a species, havelived up until this point is at direct odds with the health of the planet.
Although the vast majority of pollution and ecological destruction does fall at the feet of a handful of corporations, we will inevitably have to rethink our impact as individuals and communities upon the earth to ensure that our species can continue to thrive.
Due, in part, to our rapid technological advancement in the past few centuries, and the resulting population growth, humanity’s relationship with nature has mainly been defined by an attitude of endless expansion, conquest, and acquisition.
The new way of living, if it is able to emerge, will be one that works in partnership with the natural systems that predate human civilization and technology.
Fortunately, the environmental movement is rapidly gaining support and when we turn to our fellow humans that live in small, indigenous communities, we find wisdom and technology both old and new that can make a transition to a partnership and stewardship model of living on Earth possible.
We wanted to uncover a few of the eco-communities across the UK that are already putting this model into practice.
Founded in 1990 by Shivam O’Brien, you’d be forgiven for mistaking the original site for a small festival since it first consisted of a few tipi’s established at one end of a huge field in Wales.
However, over thirty years later the community has grown larger than O’Brien could have dreamed and now occupies 200 acres across the Welsh countryside that is being gradually re-wilded (a term used to describe allowing areas of nature to regenerate with limited human intervention).
The community now consists of a wide array of yurts and roundhouses and hosts regular retreats for visitors to come and reconnect with nature and learn how to reduce their impact on the planet and help to regenerate local biospheres as Spirit Horse has done.
Probably the best-known eco-village in the UK, although ‘village’ might be shortchanging what has been achieved on this rural coast of Scotland.
In 1982, various local residents from the surrounding area hosted a conference entitled “Building a Planetary Village” whose goal was to establish a residential community that could be considered truly sustainable in the environmental, social, and economic sense of the word.
Since then, they have built their own wind farm, water treatment facility – which uses a diverse array of flora and fauna to naturally purify water, and developed a new currency, the ‘Eko’, which has since become a standard monetary unity in eco-villages around the world.
When hunting for the UK’s first net-zero community you might not think to look in south London, but architect Bill Dunster has made it happen.
Although this community perhaps is less impressive than the other grassroots efforts on our list, purely because it was designed from the ground floor with sustainability at the forefront, that makes its contributions to eco-conscious living and what it represents no less impactful.
The guiding principles of the site are that it only uses what renewable energy can be produced on location, exclusively recycled or renewable materials from within a 50-mile radius make up its construction and that it boasts a ‘Living Machine’ water treatment plant similar in design to the one used at Findhorn.
Although water treatment has proven challenging at BedZED, it has achieved some astonishing results when compared to the rest of the UK. Across the 82 homes, power consumption is 25% lower while freshwater consumption has been reduced by twice that amount.
While each of these communities is facing and overcoming challenges in their quest for a sustainable way of life, these are nothing compared to the challenge that we all face if climate change is left unchecked.
Perhaps what we can learn from these groups is that any effort we can contribute is better than none and that, while our efforts may not always be perfect, they will nonetheless contribute to a greater good for all.