In The Spirit of Synchronicity: OUR Ecovillage, Shawnigan Lake
Late in my university career I became interested in places that share and transform space in the spirit of collaboration and renewal, so I began foraging for information on these spaces, which led me to world of ecovillages. Ecovillages are intentional communities that are built using permaculture principles, described as a “creative design process based on whole-systems thinking that uses ethics and design principles. It guides us to mimic the patterns and relationships we can find in nature and can be applied to all aspects of human habitation, from agriculture to ecological building, from appropriate technology to education and even economics” (http://permacultureprinciples.com). Permaculture is holistic in nature and connects everything from the well-being of the human body and spirit to the ecological landscape it is situated in. Ecovillages, and thus permaculture, restores the idea that humans are not meant to be separate from nature in order to preserve it, humans can be active co-creators of healthy ecosystems. Though, this is not a new perspective; many cultures all over the world have lived by this ecological worldview since time immemorial and persevere against great odds to continue this way of existence. I am filled with gratitude to learn about this in my community amongst the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nations in Clayoquot Sound who are revitalizing their culture, seen with dugout canoe carving and tours. This is part of the Tribal Park system, which unlike the traditional park system, recognizes humans as part of the environment. This revitalization resists neocolonialism that is in the formation of corporations like Imperial Metals that want to dig up the mountains and taint the sea. However, Ill get into what ecovillages can learn from Indigenous nations in a later blog, for now..
I started learning about a nearby permaculture location called OUR Ecovillage, in Shawinigan Lake on Vancouver Island. They were holding their annual Zimbabwe Music Festival in July 2014, I cant honestly say I know what that entailed at that time but I was intrigued then as much as I am now about the role of the arts in strengthening our bond with the earth and each other. So, on my time off of work, I hitch hiked across the island to figure out what the whole thing was about. O.U.R Ecovillage, which stands for One United Resource, was founded in 1999, and since that time has been through many phases of development on its bountiful 25 acres. In my time there, I was blessed to be gifted tours and knowledge concerning how to grow effective food forests, how to ethically keep agriculture, among many other details on how an ecovillage operates day to day. The community there believes in the idea that we are all teachers and learners, and in fact, that we learn the most by teaching. This reality is manifest here in these very words! It is a sumptuous atmosphere to be in, with dopamine being released in the brain by the cornucopia of information revealed around every corner.
Upon graduating in May 2015, I returned to OUR Ecovillage say a brief hello with my dad. We decided we would tour farms and ecovillages on Vancouver Island, as well as other surrounding islands. I started to talk about Starhawk with volunteers, an amazing author, political and environmental activist, feminist, and author. At a time when I felt despair from learning about the environmental crisis in first year university, Starhawk’s words of wisdom changed my entire perception from a hopeless stagnant state to one of positivity and realistic optimism. Starhawk visits O.U.R. Ecovillage once a year to help teach the Permaculture Design Certificate – Earth Activist Training.This courses is dependent on earth based spirituality, and teaches rainforest ecology, how to heal soil and cleanse water, gardening, natural building using cob, as well as permaculture projects in diverse landscapes from Kenya to the Middle East. The course is strongly rooted in in unifying social and ecological justice, and thus demonstrates to all participants that scarcity and separateness are an illusion. Everything is alive, and the life force flows through the interconnectivity of all things!