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My Ecovillage Adventure in Quebec

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By Leslie Carbonneau

A meeting of Habitavie, first community of the Terravie Land Trust.

(Nov/Dec 2009)

In April 2009, I began visiting ecovillages and intentional communities with a strong ecological focus in my home Province of Quebec. I hoped to collect information for a French-language directory of Quebec communities, inspired by the Communities Directory in the United States. I'm happy to report that our new directory, Répertoire des écocommunautés du Québec, will be available January 15, 2010.

On November 21, 2009, my colleagues Vicky Veilleux, Michel Desgagnés, Emmanulle Hudon and I hosted a celebration of the new communities directory at La Cité Écologique Ham du Nord, a 25-year-old ecovillage in Quebec. Diana Leafe Christian, editor and publisher of this newsletter, was our keynote speaker.

On my tour, I soon learned that there aren’t many ecovillages in Quebec, although there are many smaller communities with a strong ecological focus. The concept of ecovillages is also pretty new in the province and its definition sometimes differs from one group to another. With these observations in my mind, I began my journey. So far, among the communities I’ve seen, I’ve visited two ecovillages: Habitavie and La Cité Écologique de Ham Nord.

A site-planning meeting at Habitavie.
Habitavie (Habitat for Life) is a forming ecovillage located in the very small town of Montcalm in the Laurentides, a region of Quebec north of Montreal. Habitavie is part of a greater project called Terravie (Land for Life). Legally Terravie is a community land trust called “Fonds Foncier Communautaire," a land conservancy organisation created in 2003. Terravie has three main purposes: preservation of the land, creation and settlement of an ecovillage, and education about sustainable ecological ways of living.

The core value of Terravie is to preserve land from speculation and to offer low-cost housing. The group is composed of about 40 people, 20 of which are actively developing the ecovillage. In 2006 Terravie bought 268 acres in a beautiful region, with a 40-acre lake, 2 rivers, a small mountain, and a wetlands. Twenty-five percent of the property will be preserved for residential development — the ecovillage — for educating visitors and as an ecotourism destination. The sustainable homes will be built primarily by future residents, and often with recycled materials. The remainder of the property will be an environmentally protected area.

Terravie members hope to establish other communities like Habitavie.
Before beginning construction the group will construct a road and bridge over the river in order to have access to the property. A 26-foot yurt is already on the site, and this is where they hold their monthly assemblies. They’ve already cleared a portion of the forest for a permaculture-based community garden.

When I visited Habitavie in early May, I sat in on a monthly assembly in their yurt. They worked in small groups: physical infrastructure, communication, and finance. In the morning, every committee shared its work with the whole group. In the afternoon we went out to have a look at the roadwork being done before the construction of the bridge. At the evening meal people laughed, dreamed, and exchanged ideas and stories. Some were planning tasks for the next day while others played games with the children.

Children of La Cité Écologique served as tour guides for author Leslie Carbonneau.
My impression was that Habitavie members have already accomplished a great deal of the legal and administrative aspects of creating an ecovillage and in developing a relationship with the local municipality. In the future, Terravie wants to create a coaching service for developing ecovillages and to offer their legal model to other communities, who can then use it to preserve other land parcels from speculation.

La Cité Écologique de Ham Nord (The Ecological City) an established community of 150 residents, is located on about 800 acres in the region of Les Bois Francs near the city of Victoriaville, in the center of Quebec. They celebrated their 25th anniversary this summer. In 1984 twenty families founded the community to support an alternative school that still exists today, with thirty children from kindergarten to high school attending classes. The school offers regular lessons in the morning and educational projects in the afternoon, such as planting trees or working in individual garden plots. On the first day of my visit I spent the afternoon with groups of first graders and sixth graders who were preparing songs and handmade gifts for Mother’s Day. During my six-day stay the kids served as my tour guide, telling me about their everyday life and their school projects, showing me their favourite books and demonstrating their skills and talents. It was fascinating the see the community through the eyes of its children.

An organic fruit and vegetable farm is one of La Cité's cottage industries.
Since the school is located in a rural area with few prospects for employment, the parents developed several cottage industries within walking distance of the school: a natural-fibre clothing business, organic fruit and vegetable production, an organic restaurant, a bed and breakfast, and a health center. The community even employs a few people from regional towns in the clothing business. I spent half a day in almost every business, which allowed me to meet community members and participate in the work. It was through these many small glimpses that I had the chance to really connect with the people.

Because La Cité Écologique’s land is zoned for agriculture rather than as residential, the families couldn’t build individual houses. So they built two large apartment buildings, and some families moved into houses already present on the site. During my stay one family hosted me and I met other families when I was invited over for dinner.

People eat together at shared meals during lunch and dinner during the week, and the children share breakfast in the community dining room before school. On Friday people pick up food supplies from a central pantry to prepare the meals taken at home during the weekends.

The November 21, 2009 publishing celebration of the Quebec communities directory was held in La Cité's enormous barn-like community building (left).
The community is now managed by the second generation, and their children — the grandchildren of the founders — are growing fast. Eight teenagers who were born in the ecovillage founded a group called Volonterre, producing dance concerts, musical events, and plays with ecological themes. This summer, teenagers of Volonterre will travel through ecovillages in Europe to meet and exchange with other ecovillage youth.

Four years ago, in 2005, 30 members moved to Colebrook, New Hampshire to start a second ecovillage. In the coming years, members of La Cité Écologique hope to contact other ecovillage projects internationally to organise workshops and exchange opportunities.

Now that I’ve visited these two ecovillages, one longtime community and one just emerging, I’m impressed by the diversity and will of people who seek this way of life. It’s not easy to create an ecovillage (or any kind of intentional community). However, the communities I have visited so far convince me that there are successful initiatives in Quebec. I felt privileged to stay in people’s homes during my visits and to participate in their daily lives for a few days, as if I was really living there. I met warm and passionate people who cheerfully shouldered their enormous workloads and loved their simple-living lifestyle.

Author Leslie Carbonneau
Passionate about ecovillages and alternative living, Leslie Carbonneau earned a certificate in Anthropology at University Laval in Quebec in 2005. Since November, 2008 Leslie has been compiling a French-language directory of communities with a strong ecological focus in Quebec, inspired by the Communities Directory published in the US by the FIC (Fellowship for Intentional Community).

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Also in this issue:

Coming in Future Issues:
  • Anastasia Ecovillages in Russia (Andrew Jones)
  • Konohana Family Farm in Japan (Hildur Jackson)
  • First Philippines Ecovillage Design Education Course (Diana Leafe Christian)
  • Pintig Ecovillage Partners with a Local Green Business (Diana Leafe Christian)
  • Our Whirlwind Aussie Road Trip, Part II (Russell Austerberry)
  • Svanholm in Denmark Becomes Carbon Neutral (Christina Adler Jensen)
  • Ecovillage Conference Tokyo 2009 (Hildur Jackson)
  • ‘Glue’ or ‘Shrapnel’ in Your Ecovillage (Diana Leafe Christian)
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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