Building an island of sustainability in a sea of unsustainability? A study of two ecovillages
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Original versionTemesgen, A. (2020). Building an Island of Sustainability in a Sea of Unsustainability? A Study of Two Ecovillages. Sustainability, 12(24). doi: 10.3390/su122410585
Ecovillages aim to foster community around sustainable practices and encourage low-impact lifestyles. This article explores the strategies employed by two ecovillages to scale up their practices through physical expansion and the consequence for the maintenance of said practices. The ecovillages under study are Hurdal in Norway and Findhorn in Scotland. The study employed a multi-method approach: document study, participant observation, and interviews with ecovillage residents. The ecovillages applied different strategies to gain access to economic resources for expansion. Hurdal ecovillage sold its land to a private developer while Findhorn chose a different path: raising funds within the community, accessing public funds, and adopting low-cost building designs. The study finds that collaborating with investors and developers results in expensive housing that excludes low-income individuals and attracts well-off house buyers with mainstream values. Both ecovillages dropped introductory courses that aimed to equip new members with the necessary skills for shared practices and establish a common ground. These two consequences led to a weakening of competences for shared practices as private property took precedence. Prioritizing affordable infrastructure and accessing local (community and public) financial resources opens up paths for expansion that can maintain the necessary skills and meaning for community living.