In September 2006, Findhorn was selected by the United Nations Institute of Training and Research as home to one of its CIFAL sustainability training centres. This has been the culmination of almost a decade of assiduous work on the part of many people, not least our own May East (pictured left) who is the director of CIFAL Scotland. In this brief report, May introduces CIFAL’s work as part of a wider trend that is seeing ecovillages around the world increasingly reaching out to make alliances with local governments and other organisations in their own bioregions.
“It started as a family group; it is now a community; it will grow into a village, then into a town, and finally into a vast city of light.” Eileen Caddy
“By the time this century passes its first quarter, more than a billion and half people in the world’s cities will face life and health threatening environments unless we can create a revolution in urban problem solving.” United Nations Conference Habitat II
Our village on a wind swept sandy peninsula covered mainly with couch grass, heather and gorse is today a reality. We couldn’t have found a more apt site on which to co-create with life. The village, on land formerly used by the Ministry of Defence for parking aeroplanes and troop training during the war, was transformed into a caravan park where people lived in damp tin boxes for most of the year and where the community was first born. Many years later came the replacement of caravans with beautiful eco-buildings – old runways making good roads and tin boxes recycled for site offices and eventually for the tin itself – and thousands of trees and plants lovingly planted and cared for over the years. Forty-four years later, Findhorn ecovillage’s work and experimentation with renewable energy systems, biologic waste water treatment and ecological building were key factors in UNITAR’s decision to establish a CIFAL Training Center in Scotland, the first in Northern Europe.
Over the next five years CIFAL Findhorn will train in how to design and retrofit settlements in such a way that its ways of life, businesses, economy, physical structures and technologies do not interfere with nature’s inherent ability to sustain life. Our training sessions will explore how settlements can eliminate the concept of waste, using energy and materials with great efficiency; capturing the natural flows of the sun, the predominant winds, the relief and rocky system, the hydric resources, the forest reserves and creating productive cycles in the system.
CIFAL Findhorn Sustainable Cities upcoming seminar in Spring will reflect on the state of the world’s growing cities and slums and our planet’s rapid urbanisation and will explore how ecological design principles and lessons from systems and complexity theory and from ecovillages worldwide can inform the design of more sustainable cities.
The cities of the 21st century are where the human destiny will be played out, and where the future of the biosphere will be determined. Cities require a concentration of food, water, energy, and materials that nature cannot provide. Concentrating these masses of materials and then dispersing them in the form of garbage, sewage, and as pollutants in air and water challenges city managers and dwellers everywhere. With the number of slum dwellers reaching the 1 billion mark in 2007, where on average 1 in every three city residents will be living in inadequate housing with no, or few, basic services it is time to fundamentally rethink the design of our cities. There will not be a sustainable world without sustainable cities. The Sustainable Cities seminar will present an integrated model for sustainability, as a resource to inspire the imagination of urban planners and mayors and to encourage environmentally responsible design of our contemporary megacities.
To find out more about the work and programmes of CIFAL, visit: www.cifalfindhorn.org