Monthly Archives: August 2011

The Ecovillage Sieben Linden

I started off my ‘Wanderjahr’ in the Ecovillage Sieben Linden in Germany, taking part in the Ecovillage Design Education by the Global Ecovillage Network and Gaia Education. Following is some information about the village that we got on our first day. As I ll find time to work myself through my notes I ll post more information about the stuff we’ve learnt.

The idea of founding an ecovillage was formed in1989. In1993, aproject centre was bought where the core group stayed for four years before buying land in Sieben Linden. Today the village has around 120 to 130 citizen, of which 40 are children.

The village started off to ideally and experimentally be organised in different neighbourhoods around interests like healing, family, radical community living (Club99 inSieben Linden). People were able to move between the different neighbourhoods if they found themselves more attracted by a different interest groups. The size of 24 to 30 people in a neighbourhood would enable intimate relationships between the people. This concept should give the community a structure of different integrated support circles. This has not fully worked out and even though the concept of neighbourhoods still exist in Sieben Linden, individual places and homes start coming up.

The village Sieben Linden is a settlement cooperative. People that come and live there and want to become members of the community will pay their share, so that the community owns the land together. Ownership makes the people stay and see the land as “theirs”, making them recognise their responsibility. The fee to pay is around 12.300 Euro. The same amount is paid back to the person on departure, even though often it isn’t returned all together. There is a small loss to the one who leaves as the inflation rate is not integrated. A solidarity systems is available to help people that want to join and don’t have the money, so that individual solutions with loans can be found. Houses are built by individuals or groups with individual freedom whenever money is there. This makes the village designs an organic process and for some a bit chaotic.

The decision making in Sieben Linden started out with consensus decision, based on the ideal that the community should listen to all. As the group was small in the early years, having around 20 to 30 members, this was possible. As the community grew, this process became tiring, leading to a lot of “I can go along with that”, lukewarm agreements between the members. The solution that the community found was to combine decision making with building trust and organise the community in different delegations, the five elected councils of Sieben Linden: the landholding cooperative, the educational association, the building cooperative, the self-sufficiency council and the social council. These councils meet to take decisions in their field. This year in September a sixth council shall join them, the visionary council, consisting of elders and being a sort superordinate council to unite the other ones. The vision part represents for the villagers, next to the appropriate decision making process and the trust building, the third leg of a strong forward moving community. Today, decisions need to be fully agreed upon by 2/3 of the community members. Every individual is however able to step into his/her power and call out a veto. He/She has then two weeks to organise meetings and find more people to agree with the veto.

Most projects that break up, in Sieben Linden but also in other communities, do because of personal conflict. Therefore, some of the members of Sieben Linden use the non-violent communication method of Marshall Rosenberg to make themselves transparent.

Of the approximate 80 grown up members of the community, 50 persons are earning most of their money in being involved in the seminars inside of the village. There are approximately 4000 visitors every year. A lot of people earn additional money through giving seminars and consultancy related to community and ecovillage design outside of Sieben Linden. Other income are craft and building, 10 to 15 people working in this field, mostly in the village but also outside. Beside that there are subsistence workers in the village like the gardeners and the firewood collectors. The people from Sieben Linden pay 150 percent of the normal price for food that comes from inside of the village to be able to pay the gardeners higher wages.

In Sieben Linden, there are different gardeners that use different techniques. 70 to 80 percent of the vegetables that are eaten in the village are grown there. Reconsidering that there are 4000 visitors each year that eat from the same foot, 70 to 80 persent self-sufficienci is a lot. However, there are no grains or wheat grown. There are tunnel houses to grow tomatoes, zucchinis and eggplants. Some gardeners have started to sell wild herbs and export their produce to restaurants and hotels. Every toilet in the village is a compost toilet, which doesn’t use water, so that the gray water is much less polluted than in most settlements. A reed bed system is cleaning the gray waters back to a drinking quality. This cleansed water is however used for the garden and will charge the groundwater again. The houses in Sieben Linden are mostly built of clay, wood and straw.­

Sieben Linden has a small commercial area where noisy businesses, such as woodcraft and electric engineering, are executed. There is a small household cash that villagers pay everyday for the community food and facilities.

A forest kindergarten exists, with two educators and 15 kids.  It is the wish of the villagers to start a free school for primary education somewhere in bicycle distance to the village to also attract children from the larger region. The kids that go to secondary school go by bus to the nearby town,30 kmaway from Sieben Linden. This gives them the opportunity to get out of the rural area and come in contact with the larger society.

It is the vision of Sieben Linden to become a settlement for 250 to 300 people. However, the villagers are well aware that the moving towards that goal should rather be a slow process so that the community and the resource use can follow in a sustainable way.

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The cycle of violence…

What I ve remembered from the short non-violent communication workshop that was held on the London Permaculture Festival this year is mainly the set up of the cycle of Event, Feeling, Judgement and Punishment leading to another Event and deeper into the cycle, that is keeping us from finding a solution to our difficulties and communication problems.

It s very interesting to understand the cycle, so i ll try to explain it with a simple example. If I lie to my dad and he finds out, we have an Event that could create conflict. From that Event a Feeling will come, which might be anger. His anger will make him judge me for what i have done; his Judgement: I m his son, how could i lie to him, i am such a coward, i ll never make it in life being a liar, aso. So, from there he ll punish me, maybe not with an intentional Punishment but at least by being angry, letting it out on me, and being very grumpy. He has completed the circle and now it jumps over to me.

His grumpiness and anger create an Event that give me the Feeling of being rubbish, being offended or misunderstood. From there I ll make the Judgement that he s not compassionate or patient with his son. I ll punish him with grumpiness and shame from my side, which again leads to another Event.

It might be interesting for you to use it on a real life situation of yourself.

What does it do for us to know this cycle? If we keep it in mind we can at first analyse conflicts after they happened, see where the problem is and why it doesn t come to an end. We can approach the conflict or the person differently next time. Getting into the habit of consciously analysing situations will make us see the conflict differently while it is happening. We might stop after the Feeling that we get from the Event, stay with our Feeling for a while and deal with it, without judging the person opposite of us and without punishing him/her. We find a solution ourselves and will listen to what he/she wants to say with a clear mind and open heart.

Many questions, missing answers…

What s going on in London?? What s going on in the world?

We ve been witnessing – at least in the news – quite a few revolutions, riots and violent outbursts in the last months, even years or decade. After 9/11 there were bombs and terrorist acts, war in Iraq, Afganisthan, Palestine; there are revolutions taking place in Tunesia, Egypt, Syria, … . The world is watching how dictatorships are taken down by the people. In Europe countries are bankrupt. Is economic recession spreading over the world? Even the United States drop through the back door and postpone their financial woes for some other time. Who s got the money that is missing everywhere? Does it even exist? How can oil companies and retailers be richer than whole states? Who is dictating the prices? What s more to come? What the heck do I know??

A lot of questions and no answers. But something must have been wrong in the system. There must have been a mistake in the financial system as much as there must be a basic problem to our way of life, our values and interests. There is something that hasn t been working and most of us know that. Just look at the paradoxes of our time: companies getting richer – people getting poorer; more food producion –  more hunger in the world; more people on the planet – becoming lonlier everyday; bigger houses we live in – less time to spend there; more cars, more televisions, more computers, more more more… less time, less love, less freedom, less understanding, less happiness… .

What s going on in London now? What are the people doing? Smashing shop windows and steeling sneakers. There is no common goal, there is no reason to fight for, there is no light at the end of the tunnel; there is only a whole lot of dammed anger. We re living in a violent society with poverty, robbery, murder, betrayal, lies, inequity, falsehood. What do we expect? How long shall people who are the victims of injustice pretend everything is okay?

Is there right or is there wrong in what is happening? Who will we blame? Will the army come out and silence people through more violence? Is there any difference between cause and effect? Is there any difference between what you do and how you do it? Are the consequence of an action and the action itself not ultemately connected? Is it not the time for us to change our way of seeing the world, living, communicating, exchanging, working, existing?

Many questions, missing answers…

There s always been the problem with the rioting when people know what they are fighting against but not what they are fighting for. We don t seem to go anywhere if we don t know where we re going. Even though we know there is a reason to fight. Let us stand together and give hope, love, laughter and a positive vision for the future to our close ones, our neighbours and the people out there on the streets – no matter which side they are one.

we ll be burning and a-looting tonight… burning all illusion.