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New Horizons in Philosophy and Sociology

Edited By Hülya Yaldir and Güncel Önkal

What is our responsibility as scholars in the Humanities and Social Sciences in the face of global issues threatening humanity today? This book provides a platform for an interdisciplinary, cross-cultural dialogue among philosophers and sociologists on the most pressing global issues facing humanity today. Combining the critical thinking of philosophy with sociological methods and researches, this volume offers fresh and stimulating perspectives with regard to various issues including environmental degradation, democracy, gender and economic inequalities, religion, war and peace.

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Life Support Units and Rings of Sustainable Cities: Ecological Villages

1 Introduction

Villages constitute one of the very important life support units and rings based on nutrients and energy, for the sustainability of the biological existence of all living beings. The importance of villages as a life support unit and ring arises not only from the nutrients within its borders, but also from their supply of nutrients and resources to places and urban habitats, which are nearby, a slightly outside or very far from its borders. However, today villages are losing their quality of being one of the life support units and rings, as balances that can sustain biological diversity cannot be established due to non-compliance with certain ecological principles and due to extreme and unbalanced growth. Therefore, the sustainability of all living beings is endangered. It also seems unlikely that traditional methods and techniques can be implemented to overcome such danger and thus, make villages once again become a life support unit and ring. In other words, attempts to solve problems using old methods, brings about a crisis based on deadlock.

Then, once it is accepted that we are living in a world of risk, it becomes very important to set forth alternative options for managing and resolving encounters with risks and potential crises caused by risks. Ecological villages have been one of these alternative options in recent years. In this sense, focus is made in this chapter on ecological villages, which can reduce the external dependence of cities, minimize ecological footprint, thus eliminate the food and nutrient alienation of the habitats of a certain city, region or locality and especially support a sustainable ecological agriculture.

2 Aims and background

It is necessary to construct a harmonious balance in the face of structures causing unsustainability, in order to bring a sustainable future to both ourselves who live in compliance with our own nature and other living beings living in compliance with their own nature. Otherwise, it is inevitable to face the truth that nature shall never endure a gap. Considering the fact that no one will be willing to face such a dreary end, it is necessary to sustain a sustainable ecological agriculture ←303 | 304→and living beings in the specific case of “ecological villages”, as a life support unit and ring.

Today, ecological villages refer to “full-fledged settlements qualifying conscious communities gathered for a new and special purpose, where human activities are integrated with the nature in a harmless way and where support is provided continuously, healthily and successfully sustaining human and nature development” (Dawson, 2014: 15–18, our own emphasis). The most prominent full-fledged ecological villages include “Auroville”, “Sieben Linden”, “Ithaka”, “Ecoovila”, “Sölheimer”, “Damanhur”, “Findhorn”, “Svanholm” and “Torri Superiori”. The most defining important features of these ecological villages are as follows:

1.The community establishing the ecological village has a priority by itself,

2.Ecological villages are civil initiatives fully dependent on community members in terms of resources, mission and vision,

3.Ecological villages are settlements where residents seek alternative ways to regain control over both the resources in their location and over their own fate,

4.Ecological villages are based on a strong structure consisting of common values, in short, when they support common life, community members take it as a duty to live in cooperation, equality, justice and productivity for world peace and ecological sustainability,

5.Each ecological village has an education center, where they make and exhibit their own researches (Dawson, 2014: 43–53, own translation).

In the light of these defining features, the functions of ecological villages are above all to reduce the ecological footprint of practical actions, to show that high-quality standards can be achieved with low technology and finally, carry out consciousness-raising works by spreading intellectual sharing through communication and discussions. Through such work, attempt is usually made to prove that all reduced use of resources and energy can be combined with a real growth at the life quality of the rest of the society. In this sense, it can be said that ecological villages are a leading force in both the process of creating a difference ecological consciousness and in ensuring a cultural transformation (Lüpke, 2012: 76–77).

Hence, in many countries today, ecological villages are regarded as a motivating and supporting force that can reverse the rise of gradual disintegration of socio-cultural structures and destructive environmental practices throughout the world (Garden, 2006: 2). Such a force can be considered an alternative integrated social model that can respond by using less resources and achieving ←304 | 305→higher standards and efficiency in the long term and thus, which is developed to protect the welfare state (Jackson, 2004: 4–5).

In short, ecological villages are approached as a life support unit and ring. However, the sustainability of this unit and ring also depends on implementing alternative agriculture and energy policies. In other words, ecological villages cannot be made sustainable and thus cannot become a life support unit and ring with the agriculture and energy policies currently practiced for certain gains.

3 Practices and potential gains of sustainable ecological villages

In many countries today, certain arrangements are made to achieve certain gains in practices related to ecological villages, which reduce dependence and ecological footprint. It is striking that the leading one of these arrangements is including not only material, but also spiritual values in the sustainability of ecological villages. In other words, ecological villages are taken into consideration as a certain type of society that has aspired to be in a solidarity relation, knitted with the patterns of certain beliefs, common environmental values and ethical principles. Considering each solidarity relation with certain interaction styles, it can be asserted that ecological villages not only raise implicit criticisms to the society in general, but also represent an alternative belief, value and ethics (Newman & Nixon, 2014: 3–4).

The represented beliefs, values or ideologies are separate and exclusive, but on the contrary, embracing. Thus, ecological villages become places where the residents both share environmental values and endeavour to make sustainable their dependence on the nature and on each other, in their life spaces. In such a place, with the strength given by the sense of being together, residents of the ecological community are in active determination to contribute in their daily lives to “a better world” that complies with their own ideals. This is because the ecological village is a model to eliminate the deficiencies of the existing society. Therefore, by continuously motivating, this model positively directs the desires of each member of the ecological community for building “a better world”. Thus, each time ecological villages become both organic places where we commit to jointly protect environmental values and self-sufficient places for the sustainability of living beings (Meijering, 2012: 35–39).

The best example of this is the “Torri Superiori” ecological village in Italy. Through its support and trainings, this ecological village has contributed to establishing the “Balkan Eco Villages Network”. The network of ecological villages established with the supports of the “Torri Superiori” ecological village ←305 | 306→is giving great hopes in healing the wounds of civil war. The most important evidence of this is the emergence of many ecological villages in connection with the deepening concerns on war and global justice (Dawson, 2014: 80–85, our own emphasis). As seen, with the development of ecological villages, local solutions can be combined with sustainable solutions in other places (Myles & Olesen & Poonia, 2016: 11). Then, taking this combination into consideration, through ecological villages it becomes possible for each city to reduce or minimize dependence by obtaining the opportunity to attain ecological gardens, just like “the example of honeycombs in a beehive”.

In this context, it can be said that gardening based on ecological agriculture is one of the most important gains achieved through spread of ecological villages. It is referred to as “permaculture” in the literature. Permaculture garden is actually a design system aimed to create sustainable human settlements. In these gardens, it is desired to not only sustain permanent agriculture, but also permanent culture. The aim here is to act in the guidance of a series of ethical rules to design human communities that are ecologically sensitive and economically rich. In such a design, it must be taken into consideration that for empowering the nature, each organism must be dependent and mutually connected to many other organisms (Hemenway, 2009: 9–10). In the case of ecological gardens, as long as this mutual relation is kept in a balance, it is inevitable for all plants living in a certain place, to create conditions that are attractive for other species. In other words, diversity gives rise to diversity and as microclimates increase in number, they accelerate the formation of conditions suitable for more species (Hemenway, 2009: 126). In this context, there is a single option that shall save us from monocultures. The most important change in this option is the preference of production instead of consumption. When such a preference achieves even only 10% success in practice, it is sufficient for everyone to experience a meaningful change (Mollison, 2015: 226, our own emphasis).

Another gain specific to ecological villages is related to both the resistivity and the organic quality of the products obtained from plants and animals. Especially according to research findings, the wide array of abundance of products obtained from plants and animals as a result of spread of ecological gardening in ecological villages, is the basis of resistivity. Another issue is the spread rather than centralization of factors that control resistivity. Thus, organic products are obtained in ecological villages through gardening. Those producing in such gardens are, in a sense both “eating what they grow and growing what they eat” (Heinberg & Bomford, 2016: 43–50, our own emphasis). A good example for this is the 79% increase of organic grape production in Bulgaria in 2009–2010 and the state support for this as a welfare-state policy with the aim of raising an interest in ←306 | 307→the organic grape production among farmers (Toteva & Atasoy, 2014: 1083–1089). The essential point here is that, all this is achieved with small-scale family enterprises or farmers included in the “value chains” (Hoering, 2013: 10). For example, in the early 1990s, Cuba has managed to minimize energy and labour force inputs and maximize outputs by implementing permaculture, an organic agriculture method, by using ecological principles (Wall, 2010: 39–40).

The resistivity and organic nature of products obtained from plants and animals are actually closely related to other gains: the proximity principle and reduction of ecological footprint. The proximity principle is found to be very meaningful when the sustainability of the natural and ecological environment is in question, and therefore, is regarded as the basis of a consistent institutionalization in environmental spaces (Hoffman & Jennings, 2015: 17). Another reason for the positive approach to the adoption of the proximity principle, is to ensure that local, fresh, seasonal and high-quality food can be accessed not only by those with sufficient purchasing power, but also by all citizens (Rose, 2014: 71, our own emphasis). Thus, the size of ecological footprint is reduced or minimized. In general, “ecological footprint” is an expression of the variety of living species, to which we adapt ourselves in order to maintain our individual or collective lives. It is an indication within a time frame, of an inherent relation between the natural environment of a human community and its goods and services (Dobson, 2007: 71). These indicators are very important depending on whether a city, a place or a life space is dependent or not.

It should not be forgotten that as the standard of living increases, the ecological footprint of a city grows and on the other hand, as the efficiency of the surrounding ecosystems of the city increases, the ecological footprint shrinks (Odum & Barrett, 2008: 74, our own emphasis). Such shrinking is of vital importance not only due to the fact that organic foods are healthier and tastier, but also in terms of not using chemicals in the agricultural process, minimizing extreme transportation costs to eliminate the part consuming highest energy, minimizing carbon emissions and revitalizing local shopping. Also, local organic foods are both obtained at a lower cost with respect to imported food and fresh throughout the year (Lynas & Kutluğ, 2009: 135–137, our own emphasis).

However, successfully maintaining all these requires protection and support for small-scale farmers who have taken it as a duty to practice ecological agriculture in ecological villages and who are respectful of and sensitive to the natural environment. Hence, today in many countries it is expressed that food independence can be achieved through the support and preservation of the traditions of farmers who respect the environment (Rose, 2014: 62, our own emphasis). When this requirement is fulfilled, it can be expected that the ecological gardens ←307 | 308→of ecological villages can become “a gene bank for seeds” and thus, create the “building blocks of civilization” (Ray, 2012: 191–192). Also, this issue is of great importance not only in terms of food independence, but also in terms of creating the standards of food safety.

4 Discussion

In recent years, it is observed that on the one hand, farmers operating small and medium scale agricultural enterprises are being forced to abandon their lands, and on the other hand, more than half of world population is living unhealthily in extremely inappropriate conditions and that this population is increasing day by day, rather than decreasing. For example, while Costa Rica was fully covered with tropical forests before the rule of farmer families who destroyed forests for grazing cattle, today only 17% of these forests have remained (Brisk, 1997: 95). This situation forces those deprived of life support units and rings to seek new life spaces. However, each life space has a certain capacity. We are faced with the problem that those forced to leave their places reduce the capacity of the place they arrive. In other words, people who used to be self-sufficient are forced to seek new fields of dependence and shall be forced to live in a dependent manner in these fields.

According to data by “Via Campesina”, the global villager farmers’ union, approximately sixty thousand farms are closed down each year due to market liberalization and insufficient investment. Due to these closures, countries lose their capacity to feed their own people and usually, dependence increases on external markets that are thousands of kilometres away (Rose, 2014: 63, our own emphasis). For example, in United States of America, one of the most developed countries in the world, according to data from a research conducted on 28 fruits and vegetables, it was shown that although these products had travelled an average of 2440 km between countries, from the field to the consumer, local products in the country only travelled for 72 km (Gardner, 2016: 46, our own emphasis).

In a study contributed by Lynas and Kutluğ, this issue is approached in terms of CO2 emissions from transportation. The study “uses data from a report published in recent years and asserts the food on the table of a traditional English Sunday meal prepared with imported materials, travel a distance of approximately eighty-one thousand km”. Equivalent to circumventing the world twice, the carbon cost of this travel is 3900 g CO2. Whereas if those steaks, potatoes and vegetables were produced or supplied in a circle with a radius of 50 km of the dining table, such an elaborate meal would have a carbon cost of only 48 g (Lynas & Kutluğ, 2009: 127, our own emphasis).←308 | 309→

Callenbach elaborates the issues, to which Lynas and Kutluğ’s study draws attention. According to Callenbach, approximately 4 - 20 grams of petroleum is used for fertilizers, material fuels, pesticides, herbicides, processing operations and distribution, per each calorie we take. According to Callenbach’s calculation, the food we eat is nothing but petroleum (Callenbach, 1998: 27). Based on data, the conclusion can be reached that depending on the industrialization of agriculture and food, both product and food quality has decreased and modern urban residents are increasingly alienated to the source of the food they eat (Heinberg & Bomford, 2016: 14–15, our own emphasis). Yet this problem can be overcome and resolved through ecological villages. For this purpose, Christian emphasized the necessity of a mission and vision that can sustain and preserve ecological villages (Christian, 2003: 194).

Otherwise, all life is at risk. Today, countries that wish to minimize, if not fully eliminate, the problems caused by such risks are making great effort to preserve and support small-scale family enterprises investing in agriculture in ecological villages. This is because they consider that through such efforts, they can healthily guarantee their sovereignty, independence, safety and quality standards, as much as product and food diversity, against problems caused by monoculture.

The concrete reflections of this thought are found in Turkey as much as in throughout the world. For example, in the printed and visual media it is observed that the grant-supported “young farmer” project is realized in Yalova Çınarcık. “Ecological villages” are being established for organic agriculture in the Bursa Central Nilüfer District, and Konya Karapınar is experiencing the excitement of “sun fields”. Also, gains achieved regarding “ecological tourism practices” in Bartın Soğutlü Village further increase the optimism about the future of ecological villages (Açıksöz & Bollukcu & Çelik, 2016: 3621–3636). Therefore, it can be said that ecological villages are a “design” embarked by countries of varying levels of development in order to minimize life spaces based on dependence and to realize alternative practices.

5 Conclusion

As known, cities are residential areas that are known for their consumption rather than production features and which try to sustain their living by leaning on villages in the food supply chain. However, in recent years, villages have started to lose their production features, in connection with the existing agricultural model, and have started to become more dependent on external life spaces that contain ecological diversity. Therefore, an increase in the size of ecological footprint becomes inevitable with the increase of the number of dependent life ←309 | 310→spaces. This makes life in all microclimate areas unsustainable. Hence, today we witness the extinction of many species every day within natural habitats. However, what is witnessed is not something to be proud of.

Therefore, we must take action for things to be proud of, seek alternatives and create different options and preferences. At this point, it can be said that ecological villages are a preferable option that can make all life sustainable as a result of a movement and alternative pursuit to be proud of. Such an option can be expected to both eliminate hunger as a manufactured risk and rescue those disciplined through food control from living in dependence.

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