My Ecovillage Adventure in Quebec
By Leslie Carbonneau
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.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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- How Yarrow Ecovillage Got “Ecovillage Zoning” — May '08
- Is The Farm an Ecovillage? — Oct '08
- L.A. Eco-Village Stops Bulldozers! — May '08
- Our Whirlwind Aussie Road Trip, Part I — May '09
- What Visiting Huehuecoyotl Taught Me — May '09
- What We Can Learn from Ecovillage Sieben Linden — Jan '09
- Whole Village Moves Ahead — Oct '08
- Will Earthaven Become a “Magical Appalachian Machu Picchu”? — May '09
- “In Grave Danger of Falling Fruit” — Jan '09