Only when planning and design factors are right can we together re-create a rich social fabric in which to wrap ourselves and our children, capturing that elusive fulfilment and happiness that we all, either knowingly or unknowingly, seek,and thus creating security in a fast changing world with an unknown future.
“We form our housing; then our housing forms us.” [Winston Churchill]
A quick look back into our not-so-distant past tells us that we were almost totally sustainable – functioning as villages, with security often being the main social glue that kept homes very close together. Some people produced most of the food on land surrounding the village, with assistance when required. There was a variety of trades and activities, mainly for trading with others in the village (a ready-made market that was based on ‘need’). As cities grew, they too were supported by food production close by, and, according to Dr Leonid Sharashkin, 70%of ALL food inRussia is still grown in cities on small plots, by individuals.
The sustainable village concept has been lost with the need to accommodate population growth and torn apart with the utilisation of fossil fuel, the automobile, and the efficiency of the industrial revolution, that then ‘sorted’ and categorised our towns and cities into mono-type ‘zonings’ ranging from hobby farms, to urban sprawl, to pockets of high density, all controlled by developers, banks and real estate agents, with profit as the primary aim.
Unfortunately the term ‘sustainable’ has now become mixed up with ‘autonomy’ (the idea of everyone owning a little piece of land on which to grow food, or a house with its own power and water), and the term ‘village’ has got mixed up with our concept of ‘community’. With food so readily available, we lack a real ‘need’ for each other, and even though research abounds on the advantages of ‘Walkable Neighbourhoods’, ‘Housing For Life’ and the value of community, we are documenting that loneliness, mental health, and other social issues are increasing, and our general well-being and happiness is decreasing. Our dependence on the dollar, oil and food milesmakes us more vulnerable than ever before.
‘Happy’, a documentary on ‘what makes people happy’, suggests that Denmark is one of the happiest countries in the world because of CoHousing, which has attracted social scientists from all over the world to study the many positive social phenomena.
We all belong to many different communities over our lifetime, but that is very different from a tribal belonging, where all ages of the life cycle are acknowledged, remunerated and honoured for what they love to do, or what they do best.We are tribal by nature; so when there is a beneficial feedback loop, enhanced by a village trading system, and a not-for-profit entity to operate all the village services and facilities, then a deep sense of security, responsibility, purpose, meaning, and collective effervescence evolves, that in turn enhances ‘social capital’ and trading.
If people earn enough credits in their people bank, they will most likely not need the increasingly costly institutionalised or corporate care services that often lack common sense and compassionate understanding of our human experiences. No amount of money can buy dignity, caring and respect of people we have grown to love over time within correctly planned semi ‘sustainable/autonomous’ villages.
“The knock-on effects of local participation and investment are vast: building strong communities, and fostering employment, exchanges, and food security.” [Michael Shuman, economist, attorney, author, and entrepreneur, working on local economy issues for 15 years.]See YouTube – Creating self-reliant communities in the global age.
Villages don’t just happen. There are some design and planning principles required, and many site assessments, and usage calculations to be done:
- The amount of land surrounding the hub needs to be calculated in regard to its carrying capacity in a similar way to the calculation of the optimal number of stock per hectare. This simple design concept stands to save billions of dollars, as well as save the environment; no requirement for the big pipe in (water) and big pipe out (sewage) system, and all that it perpetuates, such as dams, ideas of desalination plants, sewage works polluting our rivers, etc; no power stations and their complex infrastructure, minimal roads and servicing – one light rail public transport stop per neighbourhood, and, most importantly, produce can be grown for the village café and residents, by young ‘wannabe’ farmers, or retired gardeners, living in the village, thus reduce the impact of food miles – food production, processing, wholesaling and retailing account for the greatest amount of environmental destruction.This surrounding land would be an oasis because of the utilisation of our so-called waste; hence double up for a spectacular recreation area.
- A large multi-storey building, within 300 meters of the majority of homes, that includes a village café; a business incubator (with space to lease); guest accommodation; an abundance of parking and storage that is interchangeable; and a new model of housing based on the provision of living spaces for each stage of life.
Flexible living spaces
When a young person leaves home they can buy a bed-sitter for a deposit and no loan. When they find a partner, they expand their amount of living space and pay a little more ‘rent’, or they may have some more saved capital between them. They expand again if they have children. Eventually the children leave, they are able to contract and either pay less ‘rent’ or maybe even receive an income if they have completely offset their rent. Then finally, when one of them dies, the remaining spouse can retract to a bed-sitter.
Stina’s passion is social sustainability, and the dream of a utopian lifestyle influenced by cultures she experienced during the making of the first TV travel series in the early 1960s. Integrated EcoVillages, the organisation run by Stina and her husband Garry, has won many national and international awards.
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