Ecovillage Communities in the time of COVID-19

Like the rest of us, ecovillage communities around the world are adapting to the best of their abilities to this pandemic. They face familiar financial, social, and spiritual challenges as in the rest of society, but with some inherently differing assets and liabilities with which to contend.

Social distancing remains a major adjustment. At Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage, groups of residents that must inherently share exposure, such as the eating cooperatives, have expanded to become social lifelines, with members holding games nights and excursions but remaining distanced from other groups. At Damanhur in Italy, the community was already organized into “nucleos” of around 20 members, but the pandemic has necessitated an emphasis on infection control, handwashing, and limited interaction outside of the group. Many ecovillages are intergenerational, and therefore have adapted mechanisms to assist and protect the most vulnerable members, while also rising to meet the challenge of educating and caring for children. Ecovillage at Ithaca started an online “read-aloud” in which various members of the community take turns reading to the children. Earthhaven Ecovillage in North Carolina developed a way to help children understand social distancing by employing “care bubbles,” an imaginary protective space around each person that children seemed to understand and incorporate with inspiring zeal

The financial implications of social distancing within ecovillage communities are varied among residents, just as they are in the broader society, but overall the impact is negative as with the global economy. Many ecovillage communities generate income from education and tourism. On-site events and stays are almost entirely shut down, but Dancing Rabbit has been developing “virtual visitor programs” and expanding its online workshop offerings. Many residents in community had already been generating income through online or remote work, and so are perhaps a step ahead of the rest of us trying to set up Zoom at home. Agricultural production can (and must!) continue, but retail outlets to sell the products are often limited. The trusting relationship amongst residents of Ecovillage at Ithaca allowed a farmer to set up a self-service farm stand on an honor system, removing the need for face-to-face contact. Work exchangers and interns are still being accepted at many ecovillages, but with quarantine periods before integrating with the communities.

Many people living in ecovillage communities across the globe have commented on the spiritual impact of this sudden major disruption in their lives. While there is without a doubt much suffering as a result of the pandemic, many members of ecovillage communities have embraced the opportunity to slow down and the time for self-reflection. Many have appreciated the strengthening of core relationships, whether by regular online check-ins, or days on days of quarantine together. The sheer scale of the impact on modern human civilization, and the resultant reemergence of wildlife and clearing waters and skies has been a particularly powerful reminder of the importance of building sustainable communities in harmony with nature. Sabine Lichtenfels of Tamera Peace Research & Education Center in Portugal expressed eloquently, “I feel it is a learning that we cannot control life with more and more security and more and more weapons. We have to fight back to the divine order of life.” People living in ecovillage communities across the globe are salvaging hope from this human tragedy and finding renewed energy and purpose in creating a better world.

Ecovillages and the Coronavirus Pandemic: how communities are supporting each other in time of crisis:

Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage Newletter:

Earthhaven Newsletter: