In times of globalization, community does not only connect people who physically live together. Cynthia Tina is co-founder of NextGENNA and part of a modern nomad tribe.
An ecovillage is nothing new. Throughout history communities of people have lived lightly on the same piece of land, sharing skills and resources, celebrating their culture and values. With the advent of agriculture, these villages have increasingly rooted to a single geographical area. The majority of people are settled, yet there has always been a distinct minority on the move. In various cultures these are the traders, sailors, gypsies, bards, messengers, explorers, philosophers, actors, pilgrims, tourists and doctors - the nomads.
The function of the nomad is to connect isolated groups through the sharing of goods, services, stories and, primarily, ideas. In the digital age, we still have our nomads, but their essential function has largely been replaced by the tiny gadget you are likely reading this article with. Technology has allowed us to achieve global connectivity at previously unimagined levels. I can guarantee that the wandering bard had no iPhone in his rucksack, or else he could have saved himself much time on foot.
I teach about, consult with, and represent sustainable community projects as my profession. I am deeply committed to the ecovillage movement. This is a ‘back-to-the-land’ movement, celebrating solutions that are ecologically and culturally appropriate for the locality of each community. The activist and author, Gary Synder championed a life rooted in one’s bioregion. In his writing, he encourages us to: “Find your place on the planet. Dig in, and take responsibility from there.”
The ecovillage movement is a place-based movement yet, in many ways, I am placeless.
In the past six years I haven’t lived in a single spot for longer than 12 months; and I use the term “lived” pretty loosely. Even while I have a home-base, I often make sporadic trips lasting a fews days to several weeks. You may begin to appreciate how tricky it is for me to answer the question: “Where are you from?”, in casual conversation.
I may not live in a land-based community, but the community I consider myself part of is every bit as real and as rich. My community doesn’t share daily meals or tend the same garden. Our “community glue” isn’t found in front porch gossip and potluck lunch, it comes in the form of a meaningful Skype chat, heart-felt email, or even the quick check-in via text. We are digital nomads. It’s a new breed of nomad and a new kind of community.
The wider community of digital nomads is growing, as more and more people shed their planned careers to adventure in meaningful directions, and awakening students find greater fulfillment in the school of life than the study hall. A new platform, called NuMundo, directly serves the traveller craving educational opportunities in regenerative land-based projects. Gaia Education offers the Design for Sustainability course now as a fully virtual experience. Hundreds of other academic institutions are allowing students the freedom to both roam and study. Databases of work-trade and short-term stays (such as WWOOF) are growing exponentially.
For some of us it is a phase of life, while for others full-time travel is a permanent lifestyle choice. A few friends I may only see once a year, but the trust in our bond and virtual communication is sufficient for each period of re-connection to be just as profound as the last.
There are two modern technological advancements that have made the community I am part of possible: 1) Far and free communication, 2) Far and relatively cheap transportation
Since I can only be in one place at a time, I stay connected to my web of relations through the grace of modern communication technologies, primarily Gmail, Facebook, Slack, Zoom, Skype, Whatsapp and iMessage. My daily virtual chats with co-workers, friends, mentors and mentees from around the world is my lifeline to community.
In case I’m in danger of falling into the stereotype that all privileged young people are born knowing how to adeptly use these virtual tools, let me make a correction. Just several years ago, I considered myself something of a Luddite (the English workers who destroyed those new-fangled cotton mills at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution). I lived in a woodland village of yurts, without cell reception or computer, and only a single solar panel for some lighting at night. Now, I’m on a tech device practically every day. My marketing, website, and graphic design work mandates that I put in long hours at the screen. The transition between these two realities was catalyzed by the recognition that technology is a tool, and just like any other tool, we can use it for noble or contrary endeavors.
More than 3 billion people worldwide are currently linked to the Internet. In North America over 88% of the population is online. This is a huge potential audience, a largely untapped capacity for mass dissemination of ideas and mass coordination. The Occupy Movement, Arab Spring, Icelandic Revolution and other sparks of social unrest at the end of the mid-2000s attribute their successes to the speed and ease of virtual communication, especially through social media. These are examples of the power of the Internet, when backed by real communities of people, ready to effect real change. This is the reason I am online.
Yes, I take a lot of flights to maintain my lifestyle and, yes, it is not the most ecologically conscious mode of living. I’m often asked how I justify the upwards of five flights I will take in this month alone, not to mention the car and bus rides.
From one perspective, there is no justification for the ecological destruction that results from my portion of CO2 emission. However, I’m convinced that the engine of modern consumerism will devour every bit of petroleum it can, for as long as it possibly can. I’d rather see the remains of this incredibly concentrated form of energy go into massive permaculture land re-formation projects to regenerate our ecosystems or into the purposeful education and networking opportunities that travel can facilitate. I don’t travel for vacation. I’m working just about every place I go - offering support, nurturing connections, and feeding my hunger for personal growth.
I have friends, old and young, who follow a similar lifestyle. We share the same community, a community of communities and those who travel between them. We are the pollinators, sampling the nectar of the world’s blossoming projects. From each encounter we are dusted with inspiration and insight. We travel with a head full of ideas and a meager wardrobe on our backs (trust me, ideas are easier to transport than the suitcase!)
With enough distance for wide-lens perspective, our unique advantage is in seeing the whole and the parts of the whole. Recognizing patterns and linkages is our forte. For some of us, these insights are the currency that enables us to travel even more. It may not be forever, but it is a way of life that is working well for us now.
Much like the nomads of old, we travel because virtual connections must be bolstered by live ones. A human heart will always find more depth in another beating heart than in the glow of a laptop screen. As good as the internet is, my community would dissolve without the relief of a genuine hug, not too long overdue, and the promise of another visit to see us through the months of pure digital existence.
Written by Cynthia Tina - www.cynthiatina.com
Cynthia works with communities internationally - catalyzing people, places, and ideas towards a regenerative future. She serves on the board of the Global Ecovillage Network, as well as the Fellowship for Intentional Community. She is the marketing lead for NuMundo and a co-founder of NextGENNA. She holds a BA degree in Sustainability from Goddard College, along with Permaculture & Ecovillage Design Certificates.
Open sky, warm summer days, friendship, and adventure. The idealized “summer camp” has been enshrined for decades in movies, Uncle John’s yarns, and perhaps your own childhood memories. It serves as an adolescent's wild escape from the boring confines of suburban neighborhoods and primary school, at least until “growing up” happens. But what if the fleeting joys of summer camp never ended? What if you could live in summer camp?
Obviously, the creation of such a place would be driven by the demands of the children, and the ready acquiescence of their family. Certain challenges would need to be addressed, such as providing the children with a formal education, the parents with jobs, and ample housing for all while respecting the natural environment. Would it be possible? Yes, and indeed it has been done.
La Cité Ecologique was founded amongst the rural hills of Quebec over 30 years ago, although the community’s children had been attending summer camp on the 700-acre property for several years prior. Falling in love with camp, as many children do, these kids somehow convinced their parents to join them. Banding together for their children, the parents took a leap of faith and figured out the details along the way.
Today this "Green City" is the largest ecovillage in Canada, with its own school for village youth, several ecologically minded businesses, and acres of organic food gardens. It is one of the few thriving examples of intentional communities which are more or less financially, socially, and ecologically sustainable. The majority of adults are employed through on-site enterprises, including Keops International, selling new-age products, Respectare Clothing, utilizing recycled fabrics for women’s fashion, and a successful organic food market. The school’s teachers (kindergarten through high school) live in the community and much of the produce served there daily is grown on La Cité land (which is says something to anyone who has gardened in the colder reaches of North America... agricultural internships are offered!)
La Cité’s incredible story invites us to imagine what is possible when young people work with elders to create a more beautiful world. For this reason, NextGEN, an organization connecting youth with ecovillages, will be hosting its 3rd Annual Youth Ecovillage Summit at La Cité in Quebec this June 9-12, 2016. Old and young will gather from near and far to visit this magical summer-camp-turned-ecovillage. Want to experience the magic yourself? Join us as we explore what works and doesn't in the ecovillage model, hold intergenerational dialogues and, without a doubt, share a weekend of profound transformation.
Registration is still open for this year’s Youth Ecovillage Summit. Visit the Summit Page to learn more and reserve your space before the event fills up! Email email@example.com with questions.
We at NextGEN are thrilled to announce the 3rd Annual Youth Ecovillage Summit this June 9-12, 2016 to be hosted at La Cité Ecologique, in Quebec, Canada. It has been a joy to plan this year's event and ride a wave of energy generated by our work these last years. Past participants have become life-long friends and partners in creating a world inspired by the ecovillage model. Communities have benefitted from the passionate group of young people who gathered in their home for one weekend. A tribe is growing, of those who have been deeply touched by the spirit of the Youth Ecovillage Summit and seek to carry it forward.
We want to invite you to join us for a special three day journey, in a very special community, founded amongst the hills of beautiful Quebec. Over 30 years ago, La Cité began as a summer camp for children. The youth saw that another way of life was possible and convinced their parents to join them. Today this "Green City" is the largest ecovillage in Canada, with its own school for village youth, several thriving ecologically-minded businesses, and acres of organic food gardens. There are few better models for how real change is possible.
We invite you to come taste the magic of La Cité. To experience the power that we all have, even as young people, to bring real solutions into this world. Join us as we explore what works and doesn't, dive deep into our dreams and fears, and hopefully share a weekend of profound transformation.
Early-bird registration ends on Thursday, May 5th. We are expecting to fill for this year's Summit so register soon! To learn more and reserve your seat, head to our Youth Ecovillage Summit Page.
We hope to see you there!
NextGEN North America Team
Cynthia Tina, USA – Regional Representative – NextGEN NA
“I began my journey with NextGEN when I attended the GEN Conference at Schweibenalp, in Switzerland, in the summer of 2013. When I left that inspirational gathering as one of two elected NextGEN Representatives for North America, I was extremely excited and eager to take action, but also entirely unsure about what exactly to do next. Luckily, I found a community of support when I returned to the U.S., from my friends at Sirius Community, the ecovillage where I live, and from my fellow Canadian NextGEN representative, Nebesna Fortin. Uncertainties dissipated as I learned that one doesn’t need to have all the answers, just a good amount of passion and a team of people who believe in the possibilities. The second step is becoming clear about what you want to stand for. After careful forethought, our team in North America came up with an answer: we are young adults empowered by the ecovillage model and committed to building the interconnected world of our generation, through the teaching of integrated sustainability and offering of immersive experiences.
As we enter our second year of establishing a strong team in North America, NextGEN is thriving. We have created an online presence through our website , and received grant funding from Goddard College for our educational programs, which are now certified as “Inspired by Gaia Education.” We have built a growing network of Ecovillage Ambassadors, passionate youth living in intentional communities across North America. We are thrilled to be collaborating with like-minded individuals and organizations in our region, including the Fellowship for Intentional Community, the Ecovillage Network of the Americas and Canada, the Valhalla Movement, Generation Waking Up, and more!
One of our most noted accomplishments: in the spring of 2014 we hosted the first-ever “Youth Ecovillage Summit” in North America. This was a multi-day gathering of close to forty young people, hosted at Sirius Community. Since then we have hosted and presented at dozens of gatherings throughout North America. In the coming year, we hope to continue these outreach efforts by holding more Summits and the first-ever Ecovillage Design Education Course taught in French, at La Cite Ecologique in Canada. Using young energy and creative minds we are pioneering ways to invigorate the ecovillage movement as well as bring sustainability education to youth!”
The first EDE of Canada will be host at La Cité Écologique, a 30 years old ecovillage in Québec. In a dynamic environment, the participants will have the possibility of joining some experiential activities, lectures, field trips and participatory learning sessions. The course will be benefiting from the experience of the thriving host community and sharing inputs from the wider youth ecovillage movement, NextGEN NA.
This EDE will be offer in French. Find more information on the web site www.capecocommunautaire.org.
NextGEN NA at UMass Amherst's recent Revisioning Sustainability Conference!
This summer Heathcote Community is offering a special Permaculture, Ecovillage, and Arts Community Education (PEACE) program. This features internships in farming and carpentry plus a variety of educational workshops!
This program is designed for those who are interested in a focused month of work experience and learning about permaculture, ecovillages, community living and personal growth. Workshops led by experts will be offered in the following subjects: Ecovillage Education, Permaculture Design, Community Skills, Wilderness Awareness and Survival Skills, Consensus and Facilitation, Empathy in Action, Social Justice, Breathwork, Conflict as a Doorway to Intimacy, Interplay, Enneagram, Meditation, Yoga, and more.
Note: People can take the workshops without doing an internship. They can also do an internship without taking the workshops. Internships are available year-round. Tuition options are posted online.
We think this program will be of particular interest to students of: Environmental Studies, Sustainability, Peace Studies, Women's Studies, Permaculture, Farming, Historic Restoration, Carpentry, Intentional Community, Sociology, Social Justice, Conflict Resolution, Consensus, Facilitation, and Mindfulness.
For more information:
See the original article as posted on the Valhalla Movement website here.
Sirius Community is among the oldest ecovillages still thriving in North America. Timber-framed buildings, permaculture gardens, and sustainability activists have nestled themselves into this woodland oasis in western Massachusetts for over thirty-five years. Although humans have been living in community since before becoming Homo sapiens, the word “ecovillage” is a recent term. According to the Global Ecovillage Network(GEN):
“An ecovillage is an intentional or traditional community using local participatory processes to holistically integrate ecological, economic, social, and cultural dimensions of sustainability in order to regenerate social and natural environments.”
GEN emerged during the 60’s to support a growing movement of groups of people beginning to return to living in communities that seek to care for each other and the earth. Today these ecovillages are often international hubs of activism, learning, and living. Their gardens are some of the world’s most productive sustainable agriculture sites. They are experimentation centers for alternative decision-making processes and economic models. In a way, ecovillages are tiny microcosms of possible future worlds. By achieving sustainability in full-scale human living settlements they serve as powerful models for the rest of the world to learn from. Sirius Community in Massachusetts is one of thousands of these inspiring ecovillages around the global (see www.ic.org for a community directory based in North America).
This April 24-27th Sirius Community will be the location of the 2014Youth Ecovillage Summit. An educational event, the Summit will gather together some of the most exciting activists, educators, and students launching the next wave of the ecovillage movement. The focus will be placed on learning about integrated sustainability, theecovillage model, and how to participate this initiative. Guest speakers will include pioneers from the movement who have founded long-established communities, to millennials starting their own land-based projects. Participants will also have the opportunity to experience first-hand communal life and sustainable design, as they work and dine with the residents of Sirius Community.
The is hosted by NextGEN North America, a youth-run organization committed to empowering young people to build the more sustainable world of the next generation. Founded within GEN International, NextGEN is creating a network of Ecovillage Ambassadors and Sustainability Educators, connecting youth with the ecovillage movement.
You can visit www.nextgenna.org to learn more and to register for the Youth Ecovillage Summit before the April 14th deadline. Help us join the wisdom of the old with the energy of the new – together building the more beautiful world of the next generation.
Nebesna Fortin, a NextGEN Educator in Canada, gives a presentation to youth at a local university. As part of her presentation, Nebesna tells about the ecovillage where she grew up and still lives, La Cite Ecologique outside of Quebec, CA.
(Only in French!)
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