(this article is a chapter of my future book – Conscious Evolution – Crafting Our Way Together)
In our world that abounds in types of community organizations (the vast majority labeled under the umbrella term eco-village), the reader could ask: Why still a new proposal? What does a “Butterfly” community differ from an eco-village? What valuable vision could it bring?
Though the outcome is apparently similar (a community), the difference in their 1) metaphysical basis, 2) way of organization and 3) purpose is huge. I hope my answer will bring clarity to the reader in this respect.
GEN (Global Ecovillage Network) defines itself as “a global confederation of people and communities dedicated to restoring the land and living sustainable lives by putting more back into the environment than we take out”. This definition makes it clear that GEN is an environmentalist movement. It takes no stand at all on the political/economic/social institutions which determine the unsustainability of our society. It considers that it can achieve its aims by taking the existing system for granted. The listed GEN members may differ in many respects, but they have one thing in common: they all take for granted the existing system. (see Takis Fotopoulos critique and its Inclusive Democracy project). The present eco-villages do not want any institutional change. As Mary Garden stresses, their very existence depends on the capitalist state (both its means of production and its disappointed citizens). Of course, due to its similarity to the dominant political and economic ideology, the eco-village movement has failed to deliver on its promises, proving to be part of the problem we face rather than the solution. It disorients people with respect to the causes and possible ways out of our systemic crisis.
The natural question is: what is the real reason why this movement failed so miserably? Mary Garden, a veteran of this movement, puts it very bluntly: “Rather than a movement, it would be more appropriate to describe GEN as an elitist exclusive club (controlled by a self-appointed central group), which has capitalized on the growing interest in sustainability in society at large”.
Troy Wiley, a movement enthusiast, seeking to understand the unseen causes why this movement failed, asked himself: “Can we ever have sustainable communities embedded within a global system of capitalism?” In his critique, he concludes that “we can’t have sustainable human culture embedded within an unsustainable economic and political system”. He reaches a very important conclusion, which caught my attention: “Eco-villages face a series of difficulties in achieving sustainability – both internally as much as in their attempt to influence society. Some challenges emerge within the movement’s own process of legitimization. For example, Inclusive Democracy — a theory and political project that emerged through the work of philosopher and activist Takis Fotopoulos — presents some important criticism of eco-villages, by associating them with forms of utopianism, apoliticism, escapism, elitism, or even individualism, which brings into question their status as a social movement and validity as a source of social transformation. My own belief is that nobody intends for this to happen — to become privileged, or elitist, or overly individualistic, or escapist — but it just ends up being the net effect. So there’s no one to blame; it’s a system problem, especially when you try to create sustainable eco-villages embedded within a socioeconomic system that isn’t sustainable.”
The aims of GEN were, indeed, to “support the development of sustainable human settlements; assist in the exchange of information among the settlements; make information widely available about eco-village concepts and demonstration sites”. They failed in this mission.
Another criticism of the eco-village members and supporters is that they do not have a true guiding vision and a shared worldview. That is why eco-villages are not real communities. “The eco-village movement could hardly be called so. A movement presupposes, at least, common vision and purpose and, at best, common strategies to achieve the shared goals, as well as a common understanding of the present situation. There is no common vision and even the goals do not seem to be shared.” (Takis Fotopoulos)
My critique seeks to understand the real causes of this failure. We cannot hope for an ecologically sustainable world, as long as we do not address its main roots – our political and economic system (which is conducive to unfairness and unsustainability). We cannot hope to address our political and economic system without addressing – first and foremost – its metaphysical foundation. “Butterfly Community” concept and open project was born from the understanding of what we have to do to avoid another failure. That is why it primarily addresses the causes that lead to the unsustainability of our society: our current metaphysical basis. Consequently, it proposes: 1) a new metaphysics, science-based – that of the Living Universe, conducive to social fairness and ecological sustainability; 2) based on this new metaphysics, a holarchic organizational model – that is mimicking Nature organization, which can be scaled from a small fellowship to a global dimensions, also conducive to social fairness and ecological sustainability; and 3) a purpose – the creation of a fair and – over time – sustainable human society.