‘We need to redesign our human presence in the world in the next 10 years’
These were the words of May East, for 10 years she has been one of the driving forces behind Gaia Education. Gaia Education delivers the Ecovillage Design Education (EDE) program, available in 34 countries worldwide, and as an online course. The EDE teaches a holistic approach to redesigning our human communities, and is an official contribution to the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development. I joined the program at Findhorn Foundation in Scotland last October, and it was a total eye opener.
Why Redesign Our World?
I started to look for a course like the EDE, because the problems in our world are mounting and I wanted to know what I can do.
For the first time in the history of the earth, humans are having a significant impact on the Earth’s ecosystems. Scientists have even started calling this new era we have entered the anthropocene, the human age. It is us humans that are responsible for climate change, and peak oil leading to destructive methods like fracking. We are causing acidification of the oceans, and extreme weather events leading to droughts hitting densely populated regions like California and Sao Paolo, a city of 6.5 million where taps ran dry last October.
As a result of the changing earth dozens of species going extinct daily – as many as 30 to 50 percent of all species possibly heading toward extinction by mid-century. As for effects on us humans, it has been estimated that 150-200 million people will be climate change refugees by 2050. How to act when so many people need relocation is becoming a hot topic. These is just a little bit of the challenges we are dealing with. Our whole earth and human presence is much more fragile then we like to think.
Ecovillages Are Learning Labs for a New World
So what can we do beyond despair, and how can we create positive change? This was a question occupying my mind when I started freaking out about the severity of our problems. The Ecovillage Design Education program addressed a lot of my questions, and is rooted in the ecovillage movement. When I first read the curriculum I realized there was a lot I did not know about ecovillages.
I soon realized, everything is happening in the ecovillage movement. Ecovillages are learning labs for conflict resolution, inclusive decision making, new economic models, bioconstruction, participatory community design and much more. It is not just about ecology, but about a holistic approach to our problems. A grassroots revolution is happening all over the world. Ecovillages help us learn what we forgot, how to relate to each other and the earth. And so it makes sense that an education program rooted in the ecovillage movement can strengthen us with the right skills for change.
What We Learnt at the EDE
In 5 weeks we covered facilitation skills, social skills, ecology, new economy and worldviews, with a lot of interactivity and experiential learning. One moment I was facilitating a group discussion, the other I was calculating how many heat pumps we needed to generate energy for our case study. Another day we were pitching a financial proposal for our community project, or learnt everything about bio construction. We worked hard, and we learnt a lot!
Our group was inspiring and diverse, with people from Brazil, Canada, USA, Italy, Norway, and so on. Reason for this global diversity is also because Findhorn is where Gaia Education originates from, the mother of EDE’s so to say. We all felt really close already in the first week. Sharing a house, our meals, all these new learnings and experiences was intense, and bonding. We are still in touch and eager to hear how each of us is doing moving forward from the course.
I left with new understanding of the world we live in, a whole lot more learning to do, a renewed sense of purpose, and some amazing new friends from all over the world.
Needless to say I am a dedicated ambassador of the Gaia Education program and ecovillage movement now. I’ll be adding a Resource page to this website soon with more links, books and videos, below a good start:
On the cutting edge of sustainability education
The Global Ecovillage Network (GEN) is a growing network of sustainable communities and initiatives that bridge different cultures, countries, and continents. GEN serves as umbrella organization for ecovillages, transition town initiatives, intentional communities, and ecologically-minded individuals worldwide
The South american sister of GEN. CASA is the Council of the Americas Sustainable Settlements, which coordinates and strengthens Latin American national networks that promote, educate, investigate and disseminate sustainable lifestyle.
A wonderful resource of ecovillage projects in middle and South America. The Común Tierra Project is a research of sustainable communities in Latin America (from Mexico to Brazil), began in May 2010. Over a five year journey, Letícia and Ryan are visiting sustainable communities, eco villages and permaculture centers documenting their ideas, creative techniques and tools that can be applied around the world.