About This Newsletter What is an Ecovillage? Ecovillage Resources Diana Leafe Christian, Editor

C.A.S.A. Ecovillage Network Born in Latin America!

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By Diana Leafe Christian

(February 2012)

ENA/CASA meeting participants at the end of our meetings.
In early January in Colombia, in a long sunlit room filled with people in bright colors speaking rapid Spanish, a brand new ecovillage network was born — C.A.S.A.! An acronym in Spanish for Consejo de Asentamientos Sustentables de las Américas (Council of Sustainable Eco-Settlements of the Americas), C.A.S.A. is a network of ecovillages and other eco-projects in South America, Central America, and México. (C.A.S.A. includes Brazil, and the letters create the same acronym in Portuguese too.)


Ecovillage Network of the Americas (ENA)

We met in the main house at Atlantida Ecovillage. Photo, Ivan Sawyer
About 15 of us met at Atlantida Ecovillage, which is located in a beautiful mountain valley in southern Colombia about two and a half hours south of Cali. It was a meeting of Ecovillage Network of the Americas (ENA), one of the three GEN regions, on January 5-7. This was just before the eight-day Llamado de la Montaña (Call of the Mountain) — the sixth annual ecovillage celebration and Vision Council hosted by the Colombian Ecovillage Network at Atlantida Ecovillage, and this year extended to people from all over South America. (See article, this issue.)

Thomas Enlazador form Brazil advocated passionately for a Latin American organization.
Longtime ENA activists from seven of GEN’s nine regions attended: Giovanni “Gio” Ciarlo, co-founder of Huehuecoyotl Ecovillage in México and former GEN president, and Arnold Rincalde of the Ecobarrios project in México City (MesoAmerican region); Carlos “Pato” Gomez from Colombia (Northern South America); Lucia Battegazzore from Uruguay and Javiera Carrión from the Chilean Ecovillage Network (Southern South America); Thomas Enlazador, a social justice activist and new representative from Saõ Paulo (Brazil Region); Alberto Ruz, cofounder of Huehuecoyotl in México, and Penelope Baquero, cofounder of Sundog Ecovillage in the US (Mobile Region, representing caravans and projects not connected to a country); as well as ecovillagers, eco-activists, and eco-caravanistas from many Latin American countries.

I was there as a liaison to ENA from the US, representing Eastern and Western US ENA regions. Although not able to attend, Linda Joseph from Colorado, US, ENA core group member and central office administrator, was instrumental in organizing the meeting, along with Gio, Lucia, Pato, and other ENA core group members.

This two-and-a-half-day ENA meeting was apparently the first one ever held in Spanish and the first in which there were more Spanish-speaking than English-speaking representatives. This turned out to be quite significant.

(Left to right) Thomas, Brazil; Gio Ciarlo, Mexico; Lucia Battegazzore, Uruguay.
We began by discussing the history of ENA in South, Central, and North America so far (as the three continents of the Americas comprise the large ENA region, as designated by the original GEN founders in 1991). And ENA’s intercontinental meetings held so far (at The Farm Community in the US; at an eco-center in Ontario, Canada; at an eco-center in Colorado in the US; at Sasardí Reserve in Colombia; and in Peru; and in Brazil), and what major decisions were made at each ENA meeting.

Reports from the ENA Regions

Each person gave an update on the ecovillage movement in their country or region. We heard reports from México, Costa Rica, Colombia, Bolivia, Uruguay, Chile, and Brazil. We learned that national ecovillage networks are particularly strong in Colombia, Chile, Mexico, and Brazil.

We also had reports from two different couples who were traveling researchers in Latin America making videos of the places they visited, including ComunTierra — Ryan Luckey from the US & Leticia Rigatti from Brazil, and CodeEarth — Renny Freitas from Brazil and Kali Vaux from Australia.

Noelle Romero from the Ecobarrio Project in Mexico City.
We also heard a report by Alberto Ruz, co-founder of the Rainbow Peace Caravan (La Caravana), which traveled from Huehuecoyotl through 17 Central and South American countries for 13 years. La Caravana ended in Brazil just a few years ago, and Alberto is now back at Huehuecoyotl. He told how in La Caravana many hundreds of volunteers from over 40 countries offered musical, theatrical, and circus performances at towns and villages and cities along the way, first to amaze and delight people and also to inspire them to create eco-settlements, eco-habitats, ecovillages and to use permaculture design, natural building, organic agriculture, off-grid power, consensus decision-making, and so on. Alberto wrote a regular column about the project for Communities magazine for several years, back when I was its editor. La Caravana was a fabulous success, and — I’m not kidding — ecovillage projects sprang up in their wake, including several in Colombia, as their founders told us. So La Caravana was a major cultural phenomenon and basically seeded the ecovillage movement in many Latin American countries. Amazing!

Some spontaneous theater about CASA and ENA. (Left to right.) Thomas, Gio, Jason Guztmer, US. That's me in front.
I gave an overview report about various ecovillages in the US and Canada. I drew a rough map of North America with dots in all the states and provinces representing ecovillages. I briefly described various different kinds of ecovillage projects, from urban create-it-in-your-existing-neighborhood projects (for example, LA Eco-Village, and Enright Ridge Urban Ecovillage, Cincinnati); to ecovillages in or on the edges of small towns (for example, Port Townsend Ecovillage, Washington; Yarrow Ecovillage, British Colombia; EcoVillage at Ithaca, New York); to the famous-old-rural-spiritual-community-now-also-ecovillage (The Farm, Tennessee), and famous-old-rural-commune-now-also-ecovillage (Twin Oaks, Virginia); to more recently formed rural ecovillages (for example, Dancing Rabbit, Missouri; Earthaven, North Carolina). Penelope, originally from Colombia, gave a report about Sundog Ecovillage in Montana, US, which she and her husband Jason Gutzmer co-founded with others in 2008. (Both are former caravaneros from the Rainbow Peace Caravan.)

A Latin American Ecovillage Network — It's Time!

One of many different ways we imagined C.A.S.A.
The real heart of the meeting was the strong impulse — articulated many times, and which we all felt — to create an organization solely of Latin American countries, with Spanish and Portuguese as the languages and culture of the new organization.

Our discussion revealed a Catch-22. Most of more active people who have been administering the ENA organization all these years have been in the North: (Linda Joseph in Colorado, and Gio Ciarlo, half-time at Huehuecoyotl Ecovillage in Mexico and half-time in Connecticut). Consequently, many Spanish-speaking and Portuguese-speaking ecovillage activists had the perception that ENA was a “US-based, English-speaking” organization that didn’t include them.

Paradoxically, the people in the North have been devotedly caring for ENA — as unpaid volunteers — keeping the website going, seeking/hoping/asking for articles and news for the website in Spanish and English, and . . . not getting much response. There have been only intermittent funds from GEN to pay a part-time person to answer emails to the ENA website, and only some ENA regional representatives had emails forwarded to them from their regions, so many emails to the ENA website went unanswered. Also, the ENA website was badly hacked at one point and no emails went through while it was being restored. So when Latin Americans emailed ENA, or when I did, we sometimes didn't get a response. Because all of the news about ENA activities for the former ENA column in Communities magazine came from ENA meetings and events in Latin America, and the fact that when I emailed ENA I got no answer, I had presumed the opposite all those years — that ENA was an organization by and for Latin Americans and the South!

C.A.S.A. Is Born!

Verónica Sacta Campos, from Ecuador and Mexico. Photo, Ivan Sawyer
So, what emerged was C.A.S.A. — Consejo de Asentamientos Sustentables de las Américas, which means, as noted above, “Council of Sustainable Eco-Settlements of the Americas.” Much discussion ensued about whether CASA would be incubated and birthed by ENA and remain a part of it or become a new entity altogether.

Unlike ENA, CASA will not be focused solely on ecovillage projects, but will include other kinds of intentional communities, urban ecobarrio projects, transition towns, traditional sustainable villages, eco-caravans, sustainability educational centers, and NGOs and other organizations that further the values of sustainable projects across Latin American borders.

Language, Cultiure, and C.A.S.A.

(Left to right} Natalia Alonso, Spain; Noelle; Lucia; Carlos "Pato" Gomez, Colombia.
CASA meetings will be held in Latin America and conducted in Spanish. This is muy, muy importante for the CASA folks. How significant language and culture is! The pride and delight in one’s own language and culture. How our language and culture includes us; how different languages and cultures separate and divide us. How different languages make important information and resources less accessible to us, even if we do read and speak the other language.

The Latin American ENA folks didn’t want to dishonor the North Americans who have been holding the fort for so long. They want to keep the hands of friendship between South and North. They are like a new energy leaping up and saying, “We emerge!” There is so much pride and delight in Latin Culture — as I saw so vividly before me every day — and they want to do their international, tri-continental ecovillage and friendship network inside their own culture. Of course!

(Left to right) Natalia; Arnold Rincalde, Mexico; Diana. (In rear) Jorje "Mono" Calero, Colombia.
I understood this completely, and when people in the ENA meeting asked me, “Do you think the other ENA people and ecovillagers in the North will understand and support this?” I said “Yes, of course, absolutemente! The whole purpose of ENA and GEN is to trigger and seed wonderful projects and get people turned on to the more sustainable way of life, and to make their own! To do it in the frameworks of their own cultures! Yes! Lois and Linda and Daniel and Jeff and Lee and Russ (the US and Canadian ENA representatives) will completely understand and say, Sí, sí, con mucho gusto! Sí!”

CASA representatives will be from each country, not several-country-regions. On the last morning of the Llamado, Jorge Calero, one of the Atlantida co-founders who was very involved in the meetings, told me CASA had nominated me to be one of the liaisons from the North to CASA. Did I accept?, he asked me. “Sí! Claro!” I said. “Es un grande honor!” (The other liaison from the North is Penelope Baquero from Sundog Ecovillage.)

C.A.S.A. Meetings at the Llamado

Many participants of the ENA meeting and other Latin American ecovillages attended the subsequent meetings of the Ecovillage Vision Council, one of the ten Councils in the eight-day Llamado gathering that followed the ENA meeting. (See article, this issue.) In these meetings participants continued discussing how CASA would evolve. Gio Ciarlo later wrote, “CASA will work alongside ENA, amplifying relations with parallel movements, creating partnerships and helping to empower all of the eco-community projects to succeed and gain recognition as real-life solutions for our current global transition.” The organizational process is now is in the hands of working groups who are organizing activities for the Peace Village to take place during the RIO+20 conference in Rio de Janeiro in June 2012.

Our last ENA meeting circle. (From lower left) Pato, Arnold, Gio, Thomas, Diana, Lucia.

Diana Leafe Christian is author of the books Creating a Life Together: Practical Tools to Grow Ecovillages and Intentional Communities and Finding Community: How to Join an Ecovillage or Intentional Community. She is editor and publisher of this newsletter, a columnist for the GEN website, and liaison from the US to ENA and CASA. She lives at Earthaven Ecovillage in North Carolina, US.

Other activists who participated in the ENA/CASA meeting included Verónica Sacta Campos, originally from Equador and keeper of Andean traditions, and former Caravana member who now lives at Huehuecóyotl; Noelle Romero and Ivan Sawyer from the Ecobarrios project in México City; Holger Hieronomi, permaculture teacher and organic farmer from México; Gustavo Rojas and Rosita Elena Blanca from Costa Rica; Bruno de Roissart, who lives with indigenous Andean people in the Shasawasi community in Bolivia; Natalia Alonso from Spain; Penelope Baquero and Jason Gutzmer, former Caravana members who live at Sundog Ecovillage in the US; and two more members of the Colombian ecovillage network, R.E.N.A.C.E.: Beatriz Arjona, of the Change the World nonprofit and formerly from Aldea Feliz, an ecovillage near Bogotá; and Carlos Rojas also from Aldea Feliz.

Also in this Issue:
Personal tools

Newsletter Staff

  • Diana Leafe Christian,
  • Jan Steinman,
    Website Designer, Mailing List Administrator
  • Marie Marcella,

Mission & Purpose

To encourage and inspire new and existing ecovillage projects with news about ecovillages and related projects worldwide.

Advisory Board

  • Lois Arkin,
    CRSP; ENA; Urban Ecovillage Network; Los Angeles Eco-Village, US
  • Peter Bane,
    Permaculture designer; publisher, Permaculture Activist, US
  • Albert Bates,
    Co-founder, GEN; Post-Petroleum Survival Guide; Director, Ecovillage Training Center at The Farm, US
  • Tree Bressen,
    Consensus & Facilitation Trainer; Cofounder, Walnut St. Co-op, US
  • Ernest Callenbach,
    Ecotopia, Ecotopia Emerging; US
  • Giovanni Ciarlo,
    GEN; ENA; Huehyecoyotl Ecovillage, Mexico
  • Raines Cohen,
    Cohousing Association of the US; Fellowship for Intentional Community (FIC); Berkeley Cohousing, US
  • Leila Dregger,
    Peace journalist & writer, Peace Research Center & Ecovillage, Tamera, Portugal
  • Chuck Durrett,
    Cohousing; Senior Cohousing; Architect, The Cohousing Company; Nevada City Cohousing, US
  • Jonathan Dawson,
    Ecovillages; Findhorn Foundation, Scotland
  • Robert Gilman,
    Co-founder, GEN; Ecovillages & Sustainable Communities; City Council Member, Langley, Washington, US
  • Michael Hale,
    Yarrow Ecovillage, Canada
  • Jeff Grossberg,
    Guidestone Consulting Group, US
  • Martha Harris,
    Earthaven Ecovillage, US
  • Scott Horton,
    Editor, Permaculture Activist, US
  • Hildur Jackson,
    Co-founder, Gaia Trust; cofounder, GEN; Ecovillage Living, Denmark
  • Kosha Joubert,
    Editor, Beyond You and Me, GEN's EDE Program; Ecovillage Sieben Linden, Germany
  • Elana Kann & Bill Flemming,
    Co-developers, Westwood Cohousing, US
  • Joseph F. Kennedy,
    Designer/educator; The Art of Natural Building, US
  • Fred & Nancy Lanphear,
    Northwest Intentional Communities Association (NICA); Songaia Cohousing, US
  • Mark Lakeman,
    Founder, Portland City Repair & Village Building Convergence, US
  • Max Lindegger,
    Cofounder, GEN; Director, GEN-Oceania/Asia; Crystal Waters Ecovillage, Australia
  • Chris Mare,
    GEN's EDE Program; Village Design Institute, US
  • Ronaye Matthew,
    Canadian Cohousing Network; Cranberry Commons Cohousing, Canada
  • Kathryn McCamant,
    Architect/Developer, Cohousing Partners, Inc.; Co-author, Cohousing; Nevada City Cohousing, US
  • Dr. Bill Metcalf,
    Findhorn Book of Community Living; Professor, Environmental Sociology, Griffith University, Australia
  • Ina Meyer-Stoll,
    Co-director, GEN-Europe; ZEGG, Germany
  • Tim Miller,
    The 60s Communes; Professor of Religion, University of Kansas, US
  • Hank Obermayer,
    Mariposa Grove Cohousing, US
  • Toshio Ogata,
    Professor of Economics, Chuo University; GEPA (Global Environment Project in Asia), Japan
  • Craig Ragland,
    Executive Director, Cohousing Association of the US; Songaia Cohousing; New Earth Song Cohousing, US
  • Penelope Reyes,
    President, GEN-Oceania/Asia; Tuwâ - The Laughing Fish, Cabiao, Philippines
  • Michael Rios,
    Network for a New Culture Summer Camp East; Chrysalis, Washington DC, US
  • Jim Shenck,
    Enright Ridge Ecovillage, US
  • Nicola Shirley,
    The Source Farm Ecovillage, Jamaica
  • Tony Sirna,
    Communities Directory; Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage, US
  • Jan Steinman,
    EcoReality Co-op, Canada
  • Liz Walker,
    GEN's EDE Program; Ecovillage at Ithaca; EcoVillage at Ithaca, US