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Ecovillage Conference Tokyo 2010: Relocalization in Action!

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By Penelope Reyes

Author Penelope Reyes (left) and Michiyo Furuhashi of Konohana Family Farm, in traditional costumes.
(July/August 2010)

On May 28-30 I was honored to be one of the keynote speakers at the fourth International Ecovillage Conference in Tokyo. The conference theme was “Relocalization for a Sustainable Earth.”

(As you may know, "Relocalization" is a term used recently by groups responding to Peak Oil and climate change, including the Transition Town movement and "Relocaliation Movement," for creating local, bioregional sources of food, energy, and economic livelihood.)

Sponsored by the nonprofit BeGood Café, conference participants from all over Japan and other Asian countries heard keynote speakers and participated in practical breakout workshop sessions — 40 different sustainability topics in all. BeGood Café founder and Board Chairman Kiyoshi Shikita and his dedicated team pulled off another huge success!

Professor Itonaga describing the many ecovillage projects in Japan.
Professor Koji Itonaga of Nihon University gave the keynote address, an overview of the different kinds of ecovillage projects in Japan. As the building blocks of modern society increasingly disintegrate, he said, the Japanese are finding ways to integrate their traditional culture and innovation in building many settings for relocalization.

Tomiaki Tomura, Director of Arcosanti in Arizona, describing the project.
We were inspired by descriptions of ecological settlements outside Japan too. Tomiaki Tamura, director of Arcosanti in Arizona, described how visionary architect Paolo Solari is creating an experimental urban setting in order to combine the best features of high-density visionary architecture and ecological design. Most buildings are passive solar, and built with tilt-up concrete panels cast in a bed of silt acquired from the surrounding area. The silt gives the concrete a unique texture and color and helps it blend in with the high desert landscape. Although Solari does not consider Arcosanti an ecovillage but an educational center, Arcosanti nevertheless provides a model of how we can organize and design human settlements using fewer resources. The experiment was established to present “a lean alternative that incorporates elegant frugality,” Mr. Tamura said.

Professor Mohanty spoke about Auroville in India, her home.
Professor Bindu Mohanty described Auroville, the well-known spiritual community and ecovillage in Pondicherry, India. Founded in 1968 as “an experiment in human unity” and often called, “The City the Earth Needs,” Auroville is intended to one day become a city of 50,000. Currently it is the world’s largest ecovillage with 1800 residents from India and all over the world. Professor Mohanty, who joined Auroville in 1994, has participated in many aspects of Auroville’s development, including issues of environmental justice and participatory rural development, and in organizing university-level seminars on sustainability. Her presentation focused on Auroville’s view of the three fundamental dimensions of life: Soil, Soul, and Society. “Soil represents nature, the Earth,” Professor Mohanty said. “Soul represents the individual and the constant aspiration for perfection and to be of service to Earth and society. Society is the living and learning community that embraces all the nations of the world, all the cultures, and all of humanity.”

Participants came from all over Japan and other countries too.
Professor Li Jingsheng, an urban planner at Tongji University in Shanghai, described a project to create a sustainable city and regional development and ecology village in China. Rural farmers in China have private ownership of land. Professor Li’s project aims to organize two farming groups of 100 to 200 people each, Qan Wei village and Dong Ying village, on Chong Ming Island near Shanghai. The community will be organized with the nuclear family as the basic unit, he said, and then expanding to extended families in a “nature village.” Several nature villages together would comprise a village, and several villages together would comprise a town. The project is exploring the possibility of using biogas, wastewater treatment, solar hot water heating, and community buildings which would also serve as training centers.

Permaculture co-developer David Holmgren spoke from Australia on Skype.
Permaculture co-founder David Holmgren of Australia gave his keynote presentation by Skype conference call, in order to keep his commitment to maintain a low ecological footprint and not use air travel. His keynote address was called “Future Scenarios: How Communities Can Adapt to Peak Oil and Climate Change,” which is also the title of his new book. His dialogue with conference participants, moderated by Professor Itonaga, was on the importance of the ecovillage movement and its future, from the perspective of a long-term permaculture practitioner.

Together, Michiyo Furuhashi and I gave a presentation about GENOA (Global Ecovillage Network for Oceania & Asia)i. Michiyo, the GENOA representative from Japan, is a member of Konohana Family Farm, a spiritual community and ecovillage near Mt. Fuji, and I'm the director of GENOA and live in the Philippines. Michiyo and I discussed the many different kinds of community-based sustainability initiatives in Asia: start-up ecovillages, transition towns, eco-retrofit communities, eco-homestead or eco-resorts, traditional village communities, and sustainability education centers.

Author Penelope Reyes (right) launches the revised GEN website.
A highlight for me at the conference was unveiling GEN’s newly revised website, which went online live right at the conference. This was an important moment for me, because as focalizer of GEN’s Communication Committee I worked for several months with the website designer to make a more informative, inclusive, user-friendly site. Please take a look!

Conference participants at one of the many breakout workshops.
One of the breakout workshops was about the rapidly growing Transition Town movement in Japan, led by Transition Town activists Hide Enomoto and Shunro Yoshida. Hide is also an ecovillage activist affiliated with GEN’s program, Gaia Education, and its month-long EDE (Ecovillage Design Education) program. Bindu Mohanty, who teaches in the EDE program at Auroville, led a sample training in her breakout workshop. Other workshops touched on E-Art and Community Art. An initial meeting of the Japanese Ecovillage Network was also held as a breakout session.

All in all, it was a wonderful conference!

Author Penelope Reyes, fifth from left (waving) who is helping create a Transition Town in Cabaio, Philippines, celebrates with fellow Transition Town activists in Kamakura, Japan.
Penelope Reyes is Director of GENOA (Global Ecovillage Network Oceania/Asia), and a trainer in the month-long EDE (Ecovillage Design Education) course, a project of Gaia Education, a program of GEN. She is founder/director of the Happy Earth environmental education nonprofit, and active in the Transition Town movement in the Philippines. Penelope lives at Tuwa - The Laughing Fish, a eco-resort Bed & Breakfast in Cabiao, Philippines.

From August 28 through September 25 Penelope will host and co-teach an EDE course at The Laughing Fish. For more information, see the Happy Earth website.

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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