After three years apart, the European and global ecovillage movement came back together in a joyful celebration of community, tackling themes of crisis while gathering hope, inspiration and important lessons from projects, practitioners and experts from around the world.
I left with a lot of inspiration, fascination and force to tackle the collapse and the diverse possible futures that ecovillages can play a big part of.Gathering Participant
Watching the sun set across the fields of Ananda Gaorii on the closing night of the European Ecovillage Gathering, hundreds of participants walking hand in hand after four days of intense learning, sharing and connecting, was a deeply touching experience after almost three years apart. Throughout the days of the General Assembly and Gathering one could witness joyful reunions happening at every turn, old friends meeting once again in the gathering that feels like the heart of the ecovillage movement.
With participants from as far as Japan and Mexico and as close as Copenhagen, with first-timers and old friends, this year’s gathering truly felt like a global ecovillage celebration and as well as a welcoming window into community life for all those curious about community living and what ecovillages can offer the wider world.
The Gathering once again combined plenaries designed to provoke reflection and inspire action, workshops to get closer to a diverse range of topics from ecovillage economics to how to build an electric bike to community-building tools to meditation, and an evening programme of dance and music to unwind and connect. All this was gently held by our host community, Ananda Gaorii, who bravely stepped up at the last minute to host the Gathering and met the enormous logistical challenge with grace and immense generosity. We enjoyed their delicious cakes, their music and mantras, and were truly touched by and grateful for their welcoming spirit.
The role of ecovillages in times of crisis
While a joyful reconnection, the Gathering also grappled with more challenging topics. Themes of crisis – climate breakdown, social unrest, economic collapse, disintegration in communities, racism and injustice – were present and provided rich material for reflection on the role of ecovillages and community in these times. In his keynote address, Dougald Hine of the Dark Mountain Project offered one possible vision: at the end of the last Ice Age, the tiny pockets of seeds that survived gradually brought life back to the land. After the ‘ice age of modernity’, could ecovillages and other communities be the key to re-seeding our social landscape when faced with change and collapse?
Many workshops offered ecovillage solutions to the crisis we face, but sessions on power and privilege were a reminder that we cannot shy away from reflecting on our own roles, our own shadows, and the work we still have to do in tackling bias, discrimination and conflict within our own communities.
Meet the Ecovillages
As is now tradition, a whole afternoon was dedicated to Meet the Ecovillages, where participants could sit down and meet representatives of communities from across Europe, ask questions, and get a taste of what daily life in community is really like. Ecovillagers brought community-made food and drink, photos, maps, music and a wealth of knowledge to share.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, thanks to the longstanding close friendship between the Danish and Ukrainian ecovillage networks, the Gathering had a uniquely Ukrainian flavour. When the war began, Danish ecovillages were quick to offer support to those who wished to leave, and some members of GEN Ukraine came to join their friends in Denmark and have been working hard to support their country and communities at a distance.
Other members of GEN Ukraine – mostly women, as men are forbidden from leaving the country – came to volunteer their time and energy at the Gathering and spread the word about the Green Road project, opening up Ukrainian ecovillages to those seeking shelter and a new life in community. As well as daily song, dance and storytelling from the Ukrainian volunteer team, we heard how despite the tragedy, the war has also been a powerful catalyst for their network and members are looking ahead to rebuilding, integrating new arrivals in the long term, and creating stronger ties between communities.
Representatives of Busha ecovillage told Gathering participants about their ambitious plan to build, in a few short months, a straw-bale winter house for the hundreds of internally displaced people currently hosted in their community. Within days, a fundraiser had been set up, and building is already under way – you can read more about the project and support it here, and we look forward to the day we can celebrate the European Ecovillage Gathering there!
Did you miss this year’s Gathering? Next year we’ll be back – and we’re also taking on a comprehensive feedback and reflection process to make it even better, and more accessible. To be the first to hear about the 2023 Gathering in Nature Community, Germany, as well as other ecovillage news and activities, sign up to the GEN Europe newsletter!