How to Embody Creativity and Abundance: Cinderland Ecovillage
In April of 2015 I was researching permaculture farms online and stumbled upon Cinderland Ecovillage, located near the town of Pahoa on Big Island, Hawaii. I have dreamt of visiting the Aloha State for quite some time always, and with my growing interest in intentional communities, my discovery of Cinderland sparked the exact opportunity I needed. Only nine months later I found myself in the rainforest of Cinderland at a community potluck set under dim lighting: surrounded by people sharing the harvest , fire dancing, where a couple of kids tempted me with magic tricks, and all vibrated in the cacophony of sound created by drums, shakers and the constant croak of frogs. A new friend beside me picked up a watch that had fallen beneath us, the clockwork had been removed, irregretably replaced by the word “NOW”. There are occasions when it feels like time stops; when we forget about its intrusive existence. “Now” is the answer to many of our troubles, now is the time to follow our passions, now is the time to start making the tangible changes the earth needs so much. To our fortune, these two examples are interconnected, as the wise beauty of Cinderland eloquently showed me. I sat feeling the timeless moment, delighted by my evening’s conversation with the owner and founder of the ecovillage, Jezus. In telling him about my research, he was generous to share his knowledge and experience as an ecovillage developer, which I luckily pass on to you.
Jezus explained to me that he came to Big Island to live off the grid. He was inspired by a man in Brazil who succeeded in transforming 1,000 acres of devastated land into a healthy food forest. He began by planting nitrogen fixing trees interspersed with rows of fruit trees. After this, all he did was Prune. Jesus explained something new to me: how pruning stimulates hormones in trees, so they grow and produce more. So from this planting, the area grew and regained the ability to retain water, capturing billions of gallons of water that became flourishing streams. This proved that regeneration could be achieved on a large scale, not just at the micro scale which had been achieved by small properties. In the year 2000 Jezus bought the land to start the ecovillage, which was bare lava rock. So, he also started by planting a nitrogen fixing forest which “gave birth to a food forest”. He explained that it takes 20 years of commitment to create a forest that is self-sustaining, which in retrospect to the earths billion year dance, is not all too long.
While we conversed, Jezus shed light on the importance of permaculture in changing how we think about food production in the age of factory farming and genetically modified food, which has been labelled by corporations as producing the highest yields. Permaculture disproves this, permaculture creates healthy systems and promotes treating people, animals, and land with compassion – contrary to the way corporate farming operates. Though permaculture is becoming an environmental buzzword, its philosophy has been around for a millennia. In the 1970’s Australian born Bill Mollison and David Holmgren coined permaculture, meaning permanent agriculture. Jungho Suh points out in “Towards Sustainable Agricultural Stewardship: Evolution and Future Directions of the Permaculture Concept” , Mollison and Holmgren “often acknowledged that the idea of permaculture was inspired by traditional and Indigenous agricultural wisdom”. Permaculture is a science based systems way of designing agricultural systems so that they represent as well as harmoniously contribute to patterns and relationships found in ecological systems. Permaculture calls for thoughtful observation, mindful consumption, diversification, self-sufficiency, resource recycling, is not energy intensive and relies on renewable energy as much as possible. Suh articulates the parallels between Eastern traditional farming systems and permaculture, including the linkage between permaculture ideology, buddhism, and taoism. From what I have seen, I think it can be said that permaculture also parallels the wisdom of Indigenous agriculture, from coastal Indigenous nations in British Columbia to Native Hawaiian’s. I believe in the coming years this connection will be made more frequently in environmental discourse and practice.
I asked Jezus how ecovillages are significant to the current wave of environmentalism, and of course, climate change. Many of the ecovillages that are popping up across the planet use permaculture, since it is a system that can be implemented in any type of landscape. This is valuable in the face of our global environmental crisis because soil is regenerated and forests are created which means more carbon being sequestered. We have created an abominable amount of carbon in the atmosphere, on top of many other pollutants like volatile organic compounds that interact to create secondary pollutants, which we do not even know the full effects of. Of course, we need to change the way we power the world so that we do not continue to burn fossil fuels, but it is also essential that we fix the carbon back into the earth and in the process create food, habitat, and human lodging. And this leads to the social implications of living in an ecovillage. Jezus states that anytime you live in an ecovillage, you lower your carbon footprint. You share resources like carpooling, use water from water catchment, use energy from solar panels and biodigesters. On top of this, ecovillages are built to be conscious of the ecological system it is a part of, so people living there become more in tuned to their environment through activities like yoga, gardening and green building.
Yoga space at Cinderland: Build into the natural landscape, seen here with buildings incorporation of lava rock!
An ecovillage space often inspires creative impetus; Jezus believes there is a positive feedback loop between abundance and creativity. This means that abundance and creativity mobilize each other; leading to a greater diversity of creativity and fruits of abundance as well as a greater network of people involved as time continues. Jezus commented that the whole development of the ecovillage has been so fun, being able to co-create a space with so many people with different skills, passions and backgrounds. This reminded me of Deepak Chopra’s The Seven Laws of Success, the second law being to Give What You Seek. “In our willingness to give that which we seek, we keep the abundance of the universe circulating in our lives”. The word affluence means to flow in abundance, which Cinderland certainly is. We shared the most incredible vegan spread, a potluck worthy of spontaneous tap-dancing, a lot of which had been created from what was harvested at the ecovillage.
The creativity and abundance relation is an illumination of the infinite amount of potential on the planet. I think it is easy to become stagnated by the overwhelming numbers that signify impending planetary doom. Its good to be aware of the reality, and the grieve over what has been lost, but there is hope weaved in and around our individual and collective potential. We are all active agents on this planet, and we many people have the privilege to choose to be contributors of a healthier planet. It is up to us to get involved in initiatives that are motivated to regenerate the planet, initiatives that, by the way, are not factored into climate change projections. I believe Cinderland Ecovillage is among many spaces that are challenging the narrative that cataclysmic climate change is inevitable, that there is no hope, and then nothing we do can make a difference. This is not naive optimism, this is the best kind of pragmatic thinking.Like the clock gestured to me at Cinderland, the time is now. I could go on in extensive detail on the amount of work needed to heal this planet, but I don’t need to. We know that already. The time is now to use our passions, to manifest everything we want for ourselves, and use that inner power to co-create a more wonderful, diverse, celebratory, healthy, abundant, creative and united earth.
Check out Cinderland’s website:
http://permacultureprinciples.com – Thinking Tools for an Era of Change
Jungho Suh.”Towards Sustainable Agricultural Stewardship: Evolution and Future Directions of the Permaculture Concept”.