We’ve been pretty keen to try out different sustainability models for housing and community and recently I’ve read two books that are focused on communities rather than sustainable structures and technologies. I thought I’d write a short book review on these, as there’s not much out there worth reading on the topic.

Village The first of these is called Ecovillages: A Practical Guide to Sustainable Communities and is a book that has caught me by surprise. For me, politics is one of the last things that comes to mind when a discussion of villages and collage life pops up, but for this author, politics and other groupings such as environmental or religious groups form the backbone of ecocommunities or ecovillages and everything else in the community flows from these ideologies.

So what is an EcoVillage? Before picking up the book, I probably would have said that it was a small town that embraced environmental and sustainable principles, however, this isn’t the general description that the author would use. Bang would probably say that sustainability must be incorporated at all levels and in all aspects of village life, from work and food production, even in some cases to money and asset sharing.

The sub-heading of the book is “A Practical Guide to Sustainable Communities”, and I’m not entirely sure that it is truly practical for the average person seeking to incorporate sustainable practices into their community or lifestyle. Rather, it is a book focusing on ways to share and create more as a community, through sustainable practices and alternative lifestyles. It’s the alternative lifestyles that would make many readers of the book a bit uncomfortable, particularly western readers living in cities or communities that don’t exhibit community-like relationships. Read more after the jump…

Ecovillage Case Studies

However, some of the case studies are excellent, with color photos and descriptions of technologies or practices used, as well as the ideology that binds the community together. Presenting examples from all around the world, Kibbutzes in Israel to permaculture communities in Australia it is a good look at alternative communities that live sustainably and in most cases very differently that your average suburb.


Sustainable Methods

Aside form the community descriptions and functions, the book’s middle chapters describe housing construction, agriculture, water and sewerage as well as energy sources. These chapters present clear compelling evidence that alternative methods are viable and can be easily incorporated into housing or community design, although occasionally the author is a bit ideological in his thoughts on traditional construction or technologies.

Following these chapters, there are 22 pages devoted to “Alternative Economics”, which in my mind is at the more radical end of sustainable communities, but only when considered from a capitalist Western perspective. The final chapter is entitled putting it all together and gives a sensible approach to creating, presenting and building an alternative community, you may not want to go down the path of fully alternative sustainability, but if you have a desire to make a difference in you community, this is a good book to start thinking about the topic, and seeing where others have gone before you.    

Published by Mike Thomas

Mike Thomas P.Eng. ENV SP, is the author of UrbanWorkbench.com and Director of Engineering at the City of Revelstoke in the Interior of British Columbia, Canada.

One reply on “EcoVillages”