After some great discussions on reddit and more research building on my previous ideas for the BioHarmoncy EcoCenter, I am stepping back to lay out my ideas more generically for starting an OpenSource EcoVillage.
What is Open Source?
Open Source is a well-known term in the software world. It applies to code that is open, can be copied, modified, and re-used in almost any way you'd like. It has been a critical element towards much of the technological growth over the last century. It helps build open platforms for people to build on top of instead of requiring everyone to re-build everything from scratch, or purchase licenses to all the platforms they might need. And it does so in a way that is itself open and free. While rules and standards around each project vary, the key idea that contributions are open to anyone who is willing remains constant.
The underlying concepts of Open Source have been branching out to more than just code for a while now. It can be applied to any piece of information, any process. We see this all the time, from people sharing their own recipes and DIY projects, to organizations like Wikipedia, One Community Global and Open Source Ecology, which have made Open Source a pillar of how they operate.
I am hoping to show that there is enough Open Source information and technology available to build a network of self-sustaining OpenSource EcoVillages.
What is an EcoVillage?
An EcoVillage is a community built with the intention to take care of the earth it sits on, and the people that inhabit it. They take many shapes and forms, as unique as the bio-region where they are built and the people that build them. They can use varying forms of architecture, and reach varying levels of self-sustainability.
With that background information, I will now dig into how I see using OpenSource ideas and technology to build up an EcoVillage. Some of these ideas will look similar, if you've already read about the BioHarmony EcoCenter. The exact order in which some of these things happen could certainly change and adapt to what your own community has and needs. This is just loosely how I see things flowing.
1. Find Community
First, you need to know who you want to build with. The community needs to have a shared core set of intentions and some basic trust in each other. The amount of trust usually required for something like this is one of the biggest reasons they fail. Using ideas from how OpenSource projects run will help ease that burden of trust, and give more structure to how the community governs itself.
You will need to get on the same page about how you plan to build and how you will govern yourselves. I hope that the following ideas will help bring clarity and consensus.
2. Find Land
For many, this is the hardest part to getting started. Having a physical location to start bringing people and ideas together is fundamental.
Rural, where nobody monitors what we build. "Building Codes" in some regions haven't yet caught up with sustainable technology like BioGas Digesters and aren't usually a fan of sustainable building methods like Earthbag, Cob, or Strawbale.
The land doesn't need to be huge or fancy. How big it is will only limit how many people you can safely and comfortably sustain. Having some natural resources available will help keep building costs down, but that is not a hard requirement.
I highly recommend putting the land into a Trust of some sort, to limit power struggles over ownership.
3. Start a Makerspace/Tool Library
In order to build the rest of the village, we need to get our tools in order.
Start with what our community already has. Time to clean out your garages.
Clean up and take inventory (using an OpenSource Library Platform)
If desired, you can open up membership to the public as an additional revenue and networking source.
Utilize Open Source Ecology to start building towards the Global Village Construction Set.
4. Start building
This is where the "pioneer" types -- the ones who are comfortable to "live with less" can get going on their dwellings.
Use what you have to build what you want, aiming to be as resource and energy efficient as possible.
I will be Domesteading, but I understand that those ideas may not resonate with everyone.
5. Bring in the animals
Animals will help us take care of the land and provide food.
Goats will help keep the walkways and building sites "mowed" down, while providing milk.
Chickens will help keep the pests in check while providing eggs.
Plenty of OpenSource knowledge about how to care for animals.
6. Start planting the food forests
Once people will be on the land regularly, and can take care of young plants, we need to get planting.
Plants take time to grow and be fruitful, so we need to get them going ASAP.
Food forests are awesome, providing food for years with minimal maintenance.
Loads of OpenSource information for how to care for plants.
7. Extend Tool Library to be a Vehicle Cooperative
Share tools and experience to keep vehicles in operating condition
Use the same Library Platform as the Tool Library to reserve vehicles for when you need to take them off-site.
Another option for allowing non-resident members for revenue and networking.
8. Open a "Stuff" Library
When people move out of their old lives and into the village, they will likely bring a lot of "stuff." Any stuff that doesn't have personal or sentimental attachments should be made available to those that can use it, or to be sold to fund other EcoVillage needs.
Even after initial move-in, you can continue to bring items here. If a child grows too large for clothes, or you simply find you no longer need something, let it go.
Anything that doesn't already fit into the Tool Library can go here, from books to clothes.
This can start as simply as a dedicated storage area, eventually making the stuff more accessible with racks and shelves.
9. Start a Grocery Cooperative
It will be a while until the village is self-sustaining. We will likely still need to buy some staple foods and supplies for a while.
Save money and waste by working as a community to buy in bulk, and keep the supplies in a safe and central location.
Use an OpenSource inventory management system.
10. Start a Recycling Center
We're turning trash into our building components. Plastic, Glass, Aluminum, Copper, anything Infinitely Recyclable.
As we transition out of needing to buy so much, keep as much of the "waste" as we can to be recycled into building materials.
Also utilizing tech from the Open Source Ecology project
Feed materials into the Makerspace
11. Build A Community Center
Kitchen/dining for shared meals and events
Technology spaces for Education and Entertainment
A park around the edge for exercise, recreation, and outdoor events
12. Formalize Community Governance
Before we increase the village population too much, we need to formalize governance structures.
Anyone who can read and write has the ability to propose changes.
This topic is going to require a whole blog post, more to come soon.
13. Move in the "Settlers"
At this point, there should be enough amenities that more people would be comfortable moving into the village.
To fully take advantage of everything we've built, we need to scale up the number of people living together. Be mindful of how many can live comfortably in the space you have. It is a tricky balance to have enough hands but not too many mouths.
14. Start a community Intranet
Hopefully we've been using off-grid energy sources as we build the other components. To continue to reduce grid dependency, the community should build up its own local network and self-hosted components to keep critical functions online even if the grid falls or shuts us out.
VaultWarden to help keep everyone's digital identity secure
Git server for hosting governance repositories and other projects
MailInABox for hosting an email server
RocketChat server for real-time communication
Mastadon server for staying connected to outside perspectives
Jellyfin Media Server for education and entertainment
NextCloud for files that don't belong in Git or Jellyfin
Metabase to track and share important data about the EcoVillage
Containerization and management tools like Portainer, MeshCentral, Uptime Kuma
HomeAssistant for monitoring for visual security or any IOT devices
OpenSprinkler for irrigation automation
... and the list goes on. The possibilities are amazing. There is so much Open Source Software out there that is easy to host yourself to empower your community. In the spirit of SolarPunk, we truly can keep all of the benefits of technology and let go of the aspects that do not serve us.
Thanks for reading. This is by no means an exhaustive list or foolproof plan, but hopefully one that might introduce you to a concept or technology that you hadn't heard of yet. I firmly believe that we have created enough Open Source content to take back control of our lives without having to give up the aspects of technology that improve our lives. My hope is that these ideas inspire others to consider what a future living in an OpenSource SolarPunk EcoVillage might look like, and eventually take steps to build and live in one yourself, as I plan to do very soon.