Applying Ecovillage Principles To A Worldwide Reality

In North Pembrokeshire, off the train from Clunderwen, just down from the junction at Glandwyr, and up the top of the hill lies Tir-y-Gafel, home to many. In 2009, nine partners teamed together to buy land to form what’s now a renowned Welsh eco-hamlet known as Lammas. In eight years, land has moved from field to fruit where now grow an abundance of crops, wildlife, and flowers.

Studies say that there is enough land, excluding the arid and barren, for every family in the world to have three acres each. That’s enough for a home, for crops and for animals if necessary.

Difficulties for the ecovillage, besides slugs, have largely come from the battle for planning permission. After two rejections and a tireless effort from members of the Lammas community, the group was finally accepted to build their eco-hamlet under the premise of Policy 52, a Welsh government guideline practice to ensure the countryside is not damaged by the infiltration of human life.

This idea of humans living on land as being separate from ‘natural’ countryside such as mowed green fields eaten by farming animals, seems to be a perception derived from a weak understanding of the natural and the manufactured. A house made of local wood, straw bales and natural lime which is surrounded by a jungle of plants, leaves, trees and shrubs is a closer call to earth’s wildlife than the barren tufts of industrial agriculture.

The carbon footprint of anyone living with the land is significantly reduced by way of setting standards for this lifestyle: initiatives such as Policy 52 and One Planet Development ensures that landowners with this goal have to reach a certain level of self sufficiency. This means generating energy through solar panels, wind, hydroelectricity and more, depending on the materials available. Infrastructure is erected using mostly local materials, sustainable sources and manual labour. The use of machines is limited and there is a strong focus on organic farming without pesticides or unwarranted chemicals.

At Lammas, eight years have shown the fruits of hard-work: blackcurrants, blueberries, nine houses and small holdings, a central hub and barely countable satellite residents taking place nearby with the inspiration to be involved.

Living with the land is no easy feat, it is a continuous assessment of possibility and sustainability. But when compared to the global costs of making every purchase from a large white supermarket, the payout of growing one’s own food and building from local resources is infinite.

Urban lifestyles, whilst theoretically smaller in space usage than owning a couple of
acres, actually pose a far greater strain on the environment. An average of seven hectares per person is used for food consumption in the U.S.A, and an even higher 8.9 in Kuwait. If every person lived like that, we’d need 5 more earths to hold us.

The solution does not entail frugality or starvation, rather the potential to thrive.

Permaculture means assessing land’s capability and making the best of that. What one location grows in abundance, another may lack, which means that the trade industry can exist in unison with a push for self sufficiency. However, instead of importing foods from the other side of the globe which could be grown in our own back gardens, shopping can be a supplement to resources, rather than the sole provider. People in ecovillages still make wholesale orders, drink coffee, buy bread, and have bulk supplies of rice and lentils.

I do not suggest that every person commence solitary land-owning. It should still be possible to travel, move, change plans and be flexible in housing. What’s realistic is the use of local land space for growing food. Even houses in London and other built-up cities have the capacity for this. Every household could have their evening salad growing in their garden. If this was something built into and normalized in societal structures, it would become habitual to shop in one’s garden before venturing out to the store.

The increase in plant life and greenery would also help to counteract pollution from fossil fuels, whilst the increase in knowledge of organic farming and healthy environmental practices may reduce the use of non-renewable energy. Anaerobic systems could be installed when new toilets are built, solar power encouraged and wind turbines and hydroelectricity made accessible.

The resources and the possibilities are there for a greener future, the largest blockades are legality and societal habits.