We Refuse to be Enemies

How 100 people are making the world a better place

Freshly back in Findhorn after a couple of weeks of gatherings of the European ecovillage family in Italy. Still getting used to the heavy, grey-green light and the leaden skies after the light, blue airiness of the Mediterranean.

Every year at our General Assembly, GEN-Europe (the Global Ecovillage Network) presents the Ecovillage Excellence Award to one of our members on the basis of specific achievements over the previous 12 months. This gives us an annual opportunity to celebrate one of our number and to get a little press coverage for the ecovillage family as a whole.

This year’s winner, the ecovillage of Tamera in southern Portugal, deserves a special mention. The community has a strong focus on peace work and is highly internationalist in nature. Community members have organised peace pilgrimages in various conflict zones, most notably Israel and Palestine. Several years ago community members undertook a pilgrimage in the Holy Land in cooperation with both Jews and Palestinians and put on several performances of a theatrical piece they had created — We Refuse to be Enemies.

Over the last couple of years, Tamera has also developed a close working relationship with the Colombian ‘peace village’ of San Jose de Apartado. In the face of pressure from both government and insurgent forces in Colombia’s bitter civil war, San Jose has declared itself a neutral zone dedicated to peaceful development and has refused to collaborate with either side.

Tamera has developed technologies that collectively it describes as comprising a Solar Village and it is helping transfer many of these to San Jose. Plans are now afoot for the creation of a global peace campus, with training and demonstration sites worldwide, including San Jose and various initiatives in Palestine and Israel.

Back at the community base in southern Portugal, the Monte Cerro project — a three-year experiment in creating sustainable and peaceful community and involving an international group of over one hundred people — has entered its second year. Tamera has also planted tens of thousands of trees over the last several years — and kept most of them alive through Portugal’s worst ever drought.

This is a prodigious (if still incomplete) list of achievements for a community of around one hundred people. I remember last year discussing with one of the numerous young people who are in senior management positions in the community about the various projects that were in the pipeline at Tamera. Towards the end of our conversation, I asked her where the financing was coming from. ‘Oh, we have no idea’, she replied cheerfully: “But it will certainly come!”

Ecovillages are becoming progressively more difficult to create and grow. A combination of rapidly rising land prices, more restrictive planning regulations and an ever more individualistic society simply make the process that much more challenging. Would it have been possible to create the Findhorn community had we started the process in the last ten years? I have my doubts.

In the face of these constraints, the ecovillage initiatives that make it through to maturity tend, like Tamera, to be those that are rooted in deep vision and commitment. It is as if those involved simply have no choice in the matter. They are prepared to endure the challenges and sacrifices involved because their vision is simply too powerful to be abandoned.

Given the nature of the challenges that face us as we move into a world framed by the twin threats of Climate Change and Peak Oil, the news from Tamera is encouraging. Fired by strong vision and deep commitment, people are capable of achieving the most remarkable feats.

In the words of anthropologist, Margaret Mead, we should “never doubt that a small, committed group of people can change the world … indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

Jonathan Dawson
July 2007

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