Ecovillages are people-based initiatives to model sustainable, low-impact, human settlements. They are applicable to both rural and urban settings and accessible to all. Eco-villagers utilize green energy technology, ecological building techniques, and human-scale design to reduce exploitation of natural resources, facilitate community self-reliance, and improve quality of life.
They are about the creation of new settlements as well as retrofitting existing villages and urban areas. An eco-village is designed in harmony with its bioregion instead of the landscape being unduly engineered to fit construction plans. By thinking in terms of bioregions, sustainable settlements are planned considering water availability, the ability to grow food, and accessibility.
Many projects use the principles of permaculture for creating integrated, interactive and efficient systems for structural planning, food production and social needs in their community. Eco villages are human scale, (somewhere where you can feel you know the others in your community), fully featured settlements, (comprising housing, businesses, agriculture, culture, etc. as appropriate to the local setting), in which human activity is integrated harmlessly into the natural world, supports human development and can be continued into the indefinite future.
Robert Gilman’s Definition of an Ecovillage
After working as an astrophysicist for NASA twenty-five years ago, Robert Gilman decided that "the stars could wait, but the planet couldn't." Since than he has devoted himself to the study of global sustainability, futures research and strategies for positive social change. He and Diane Gilman are cofounders of the Context Institute and In Context Journal. Black Leader’s Coalition gives credit to Robert and Diane Gilman for the Ujima District Template.
What is an Ecovillage?
An ecovillage is;
- human scale, that is, something where you feel that you know the others;
- a full featured settlement, it's not just a housing development, business or agriculture it’s all those things;
- in which human activities are integrated harmlessly into the natural world, this is an ideal, and lots of biological systems exist in a relationship with the surrounding world where they are part of cyclic flows;
- supportive of healthy human development;
- that can be successfully continued into the indefinite future.
The eco-village challenges. The first is the physical layer, biological systems: wastewater treatment, food production, animals, etc. Then the built environment: the buildings, roads, etc. These are really important parts of what an ecovillage is all about, and in some ways perhaps the easiest parts. Underneath is the human part: the economic system and the governance. All these parts must be brought together.
In order to work out the practical economic parts communal glue is mandatory: spiritual, emotional, cultural, something that enables you as a community to hold together when you go over inevitable rough spots.
The communal glue for Ujima Districts is economic and cultural support for Descendants of Enslaved Africans.
Model Ecovillage Guidelines for Development
The Guidelines below were developed by the future residents of an Ecovillage at Ithaca, California. The substance of this document was developed over the course of nine months and involved the input of over 100 people.
Ecovillage at Ithaca held four Land Use Planning Forums from September '92 to March '93 in which future residents, architects, landscape architects, students, professors, planners ecologists and energy experts met in task groups. This document is a compilation of what emerged from the Planning Forums. These are meant to be taken as guidelines rather than rigid requirements.
The Ecovillage Board of Directors approved this document on October 7, 1993.
Residential Neighborhood Guidelines
- To foster the formation of a sense of community, both within neighborhoods and within the Ujima District as a whole, while maintaining residents' privacy.
- To support sustainable relationships among residents.
- To establish a sustainable relationship between human habitation on the land and the living matrix of plant and animal life.
- To encourage pedestrian and bicycle circulation, and to limit vehicle access into residential areas. Ujima Districts one stop shop concept hopes to diminish the need for vehicle transportation to multiple locations.
- To maximize open space: Ujima Districts will create or restore existing parks that have fallen into disrepair or neglect by the city.
- The reparations housing budget for the African American community will include no-interest loans to renovate existing domiciles, upgrade homes to meet green requirements and provide developers incentives to construct new housing in African American communities.
- Based on the $100 million budget to 17 states and Washington DC, two to three commercial centers per state will be built within residential areas, with construction phased over a period of ten to fifteen years.
- The Ujima Business/Commercial District will serve as the center of each Black community.
- A city-square block area will be purchased and repurposed for the Ujima 4-Pillar Project
- A centralized cluster of black businesses will create a synergy of support and growth.
- Neighborhoods will fit into a design framework specified by a comprehensive plan tailor-made for each particular project. Although no two Ujima Districts will look the same, the signature of a Ujima District are the “four pillars”* supporting surrounding Black Businesses .
- Neighborhoods will surround an open, vehicle-free village green.
- The neighborhoods will be tied together by a continuous pedestrian loop that passes through the central part of each neighborhood.
- Each District will build or renovate existing parks.
- Ujima Districts will build low-income and senior housing with common house facilities for community dining, laundry, and other neighborhood-wide activities.
- Household dwelling units will be self-contained, but access to common house facilities will tend to reduce the individual unit's size and cost.
- Neighborhoods will have a pedestrian emphasis.
- Neighborhoods will be designed to allow for the possibility of home occupations and cottage industries.
- Within the constraints and spirit of Ujima District’s comprehensive plan, future residents have the freedom to plan their neighborhood’s housing, exterior spaces, and amenities according to their own desires and needs.
- Future residents will choose the professional assistance they wish to engage on a neighborhood-by-neighborhood basis.
- Danish Style Co-Housing provides a proven residential community model consistent with Ecovillage’s goals, and will be included in neighborhood development.
- Other housing models may be considered, if they provide at least as much basis for community as Co-Housing.
- Design will support the needs of children, the elderly, and the differently abled.
- To the extent possible make buildings and other facilities wheelchair accessible.
Ujima District Commercial Center
- To reduce vehicle travel by establishing an on-site commercial center. One stop shop concept.
- To create a gateway to the village (together with the water elements) which will create a memorable impression for all visitors.
- To develop on-site employment opportunities for Ujima district residents
- To create a dynamic, village atmosphere through activity, people and movement.
- Open space incorporating a fountain, sculpture, water, playground, bandstand, amphitheater, plantings, gardens.
- Commercial buildings including environmentally oriented shops and cottage industries, offices, bed and breakfast inn, restaurant, post office.
- Second-story residential units may be included
- Ujima Districts will diminish the carbon footprint by centralizing services that serve the community more efficiently.
THE FOUR PILLARS*
“The 40 Acres and a Mule” is comprised of a city square block “four pillar” Ujima District.
- Pillar 1 – Top-notch medical facility with an emphasis on mental health modalities. Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome has led to major dysfunction of African descendants. We have to offer modalities that heal our folks body and mind and appropriately. Lots of public education/seminars and workshops. Out of respect for God and the universe the study of herbs for healing will be a requirement for all doctors practicing
- Pillar 2 – Whole Food quality grocery outlet/ Public Bank/Credit Union. Quality Food is Essential. Public Banking systems serve the people and takes profit motivation away. Credit Union for small businesses to pool money for additional community building and access to low-interest loans.
- Pillar 3 – Pre to 12 African-centric Public school, Pre-school and parenting school. Elementary, Middle, High School with emphasis on green technology/STEM and arts.
- Pillar 4 – Community/Art Center/Gathering Center – Community Theater with 300 seats/ 100 seat Black Box Theater. Gym facilities with pool. Art Museum Boutique, gathering hall for 500, Senior Center, Dance/Martial arts room, café.
- Public Square/Green Space: in the Center of the four pillars complex is a green “Park-like” area with small outdoor theater space including a water treatment/sculpture center In-between the four pillars are black-owned small businesses and offices.