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19th European Roundtable on Sustainable Consumption and Production – Circular Europe for Sustainability: Design, Production and Consumption

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From the Village to the City, Scaling up the Global Ecovillage Network model to our big global cities

In response to Climate Breakdown, this paper examines what a Post Carbon and Degrowth scenario for modern cities could look like, based upon Creative Descent responses to the twin challenges of Global Warming and Peak Oil. Moving beyond the limited term of Sustainable Cities, to include the contemporary urban concepts of resilience and urban ecological regeneration, it examines the concept of Ecocities based on scaling up the existing Global Ecovillage Network model, to where “every village is an ecovillage, every city a green city” (Joubert, 2017), without losing the 3 core values of that model. That network has currently over 10,000 communities around the planet, but only includes two projects in urban districts, both with an inherently political component: Los Angeles EcoVillage in the US and Christiania in Copenhagen, Denmark. The urban challenge is to understand how a vision of a truly ecological society can be implemented globally in today’s massive cities. Municipalism offers solutions here: A fractal-like network, consisting of communities within communities; a confederation of clusters of ecological neighbourhoods, communicating with each other non-hierarchically, organizing both horizontally and vertically through local assemblies. Where any node within the structure is both local and global at all times. The key to this urban transition lies in seeing Municipalism as both a structure and process, as outlined by Bookchin and other Social Ecologists, which suggests that organised groups of active citizens are the ones best suited to manage local affairs with decisions moving upward from the local to the global: communities, streets, neighbourhoods, regions, cities, Bioregions. Based on Participative Active Research and examination of Case Studies, this paper suggests this hopeful urban vision is starting to materialise with examples “being rooted in local participatory processes”. Examples include the current Active Citizenry experiments in the Kurdish region of Syria, where the Tekmîl process has created a Feminist and anti-capitalist society, structured from the bottom up and based around networks of grassroots people’s assemblies, co-operatives and communes. The recent Rebel Cities experiments in Spain also offers hope, especially the growing Fearless Cities network developed by Barcelona en Comu that has now spread to Latin America. Recent developments from the Brazilian city of Curitiba, referred to as the “Greenest city on Earth” (Barth, 2014) by many urbanists, also show that citizen led movements have emerged based around ecological urbanism, principally cycling infrastructure, urban agriculture, an open artistic culture and a desire for safer and more connected communities. The recent United Nations report stated that limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees requires rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society. The 17 Sustainable Development Goals can only work when goal number 11 is realized. The New Urban Agenda calls for a cultural shift where urban citizen get a greater role in the creation of a more sustainable future for their communities. These models can be built upon to transform our cities where planning becomes a community facilitation process led from the bottom-up; to create a municipalist structured Global Ecocity Network.

Duncan Crowley
ISCTE - Instituto Universitário de Lisboa


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