A New Movement for Ecovillagers, Part 2

Welcome to the Neighborhood

Something radical is happening here, but you wouldn’t necessarily notice. From the street, this looks like just another block of century-old brick rowhouses, semi-attached like pairs of conjoined twins, with front porches over tiny curbside yards — which, now that you squint, appear to include more native-plant rain gardens and fruit trees than on neighboring blocks. The real surprise is hidden, though. Only when you step between two houses and into the alley behind can you see the real paradigm shift underway.

Organize and They Will Build It

I’ve long since lost count of the times progressive-minded architects and developers repeated that old Field of Dreams line, “build it and they will come.” The thinking goes, our neighborhoods are laid out for cars and stuff, not for humans and relationships. This much is obviously true. For better social outcomes, what we need is to start over with new buildings and grounds that are conducive to community and virtuous living, right? This is, by the way, the very same logic behind every “urban revitalization” project that has plowed under slums, also known as poor folks’ neighborhoods, to replace them with the next generation’s slums. I only wish I could count one time I have seen this thinking lead to truly progressive results.

The Community Land Co-op

We recognize our neighborhood is a whole system, so what we want is a way to own and guide our neighborhood as a whole. We want the ability to plan for the long-term material needs of ourselves and the people we live among, because we want to live in a thriving place. To these ends we want to share the costs, benefits, and stewardship of the land and buildings that comprise our common habitat.

Images from Ecovillagers’ free online learning.
Images from Ecovillagers’ free online learning.
Images from Ecovillagers’ free online learning.
Images from Ecovillagers’ free online learning.
Images from Ecovillagers’ free online learning.
Images from Ecovillagers’ free online learning.
Images from Ecovillagers’ free online learning.

The Path Ahead

Community Land Co-ops are substantially different from traditional housing co-ops. In some respects they are patterned more directly after worker co-ops and cooperative investment funds. This hybrid approach emerges from neighborhood organizers around the US, including groups I’ve been privileged to work with in Seattle and Washington, DC, wrestling with the limitations of housing co-ops as well as the Community Land Trusts that often rely on them. Specifically, housing co-ops are designed narrowly for housing per se, leaving out the livelihoods, greenspace, food, energy, and other services that comprise human habitat. They also tend to look like condo or homeowners associations, reproducing the dog-eat-dog dynamics of any private property market. We have been striving for a more holistic way.

Ecovillagers Alliance Servant-Leaders

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Ecovillagers Alliance

Ecovillagers Alliance

Organizing earth’s first community land cooperatives, we believe in a just economy, sustainable ecology, and grassroots democracy. https://ecovillagers.org