Heading straight from Tamera Healing Biotope after the end of the ICSA conference to the next community related conference, the GEN (Global Ecovillage Network) Europe 2016 conference, a week long gathering of hundreds of people from around the world working on, living in or interested in ecovillages and intentional communities, to exchange research, experiences and ideas about communal, sustainable and regenerative living, from personal and community development and governance to practical ecological research projects to ecovillage design. spiritual and artistic aspects of community life with contributions from around the world. An amazing multicultural and diverse and inspiring event showing the strength and beauty of what is possible in a future our hearts know is possible.
But more on the GEN Europe conference will come in a separate blog bit later, but thought to also briefly describe the conference venue, a relatively recent intentional community and ecovillage in the old agricultural village of Arteida, Narvarra province in northern Spain south of the town of Paplona.
The Arterra Bizimodu project started in 2014 when a group of around 50 people purchased a large old monastery, with ample space for living in a multi-level building, large kitchen and recreational facilities (e.g. swimming pool). The place is located at the edge of the small agricultural village of Arteida within undulating alluvial valleys, dotted with small old villages, largely used for production of cash crops, and surrounded by steep mountain ranges. The area has typical mediterranean climate with relatively dry and hot summers and mild and rainy winters.
The guiding slogan for the community is “Another world is not only possible, but necessary“.
This approach is reflected in the Arterra’s core values of collaboration, care, sharing and participation. Based on these values Arterra missions is to:
- Encourage the creation and growth of sustainable settlements (humanly, ecologically, economically)
- Promote the exchange of information and resources among various rural and urban projects.
- Explore and disseminate Co-Inhabiting modes (Cohousing) as an alternative to the current way of living.
- Convene various events and national and international meetings to share different experiences in this area.
- Any activity that the association consider in their fields.
The current focus in the early stages of Arterra is to work on achieving self-sufficiency (through application of Permaculture in the production of local food) and develop alternative economies (e.g. a local currency already exists). Another major area of work is the hosting of events of various nature (e.g. GEN Europe conference) to teach and distribute the skills and knowledge needed for a transition to a sustainable and just world. Some of the works and offerings of Arterra include a craft brewery, a permaculture garden, a free school, a recording studio, chicken composting system, GEN Europe office, horse work seminars, seminars and events centre and also offer lodging, courses and workshops and shared office space.
Arterra experiment with Sociocracy for their governance, exploring other ways of self-governance and collective management. It is an innovative model of self-government that seeks to harmonize the distribution of power and efficiency in organizations.
The community organises in circles for the management of the different common areas, and meet once a month the whole group to share as we inquiring structures capable of hosting a group growing.
Joining Arterra is possible best through initially by doing some volunteer work at the place, later by at least three months of co-living and working in the community so that the community can get to know prospective members by participating in all community and governance processes. But also to allow individuals to explore their own “fit” with the community and for space and time for self-development within the community. The acceptance of new members is then decided upon by the whole community by consensus decision, after which an integration process will be started to train and teach new members to take more responsibilities and initiatives within the community.
Because I have visited Arterra as part of the GEN conference I do not have detailed insights into the community, but based on the fact that within two years of existence the community has taken on the task of hosting this large event, shows high levels of energy and enthusiasm and can do attitude and the creation of an interesting experiment of a co-living community in an existing building. Of course much work is still to be done, by renovating and creating the space the community wishes to and of course the way to higher levels of self-sufficiency through local food production. But a great place and wider environment for events of any size and enjoyable experience, other than a bit hard to get there (without car) and from.
And to end this blog I also wanted to draw your attention to a developing community in the beautiful green mountains south of Bilbao (Basque Country). I did not have the chance to visit the place myself but a reliable friend has reported it as an amazing place, which looks for people who want to join a developing community.
The community of Amalurra, Basque for ‘mother earth’, was formed from a meditation group with life-coach Irene Goikolea over 20 years ago. Wanting to take their practice further, they bought an old seminary and oriented their lives around making it beautiful and offering hospitality. Fast forward to now, and there are several gleaming buildings, including a hotel, hostel, spa, cafe, restaurant, many spaces for meetings and workshops, a sweat-lodge next to a stream and extensive gardens. Every niche resonates with aesthetic abundance and the community has many friends and even two satellite communities elsewhere in Spain. In their pursuit of spiritual wealth, the villagers have created very tangible wealth, which is all the more valuable for being shared. Amalurra introduced Permaculture in their agenda some years ago, but now it is expanding this practice.
Arterra Bizimodu Community (in Spanish – use Google to translate)