Skala Ecovillage, Greece
Greece: Community Building in Times of Crisis
At Skala Ecovillage, a network meeting of grassroot projects from all over Greece brought ideas, actions for change, community building, and hope as Anna Fillipou writes in her moving letter.
Dear Friends of Skala Ecovillage,
Next Sunday, on 20 September, elections will take place once again in Greece.
After Tsipras put Greece in the third international bailout and austerity measures, the political party Syriza has split into two parties. The demands of a radical overhaul of the Greek economy, including major reforms of health, welfare, pensions and taxation, that was the only way to ensure Greece remained in the eurozone, bring many people to even deeper despair.
But the issue which moves us more than anything else, is the situation with the refugees. Lesbos, Kos, and all the Greek islands on the East coast are on the verge of an explosion, as refugees crowd onto Greek islands. Greece is the southern gateway for Europe. The island of Lesbos (with 85,000 inhabitants), is currently hosting as many as 25,000 refugees in its capital alone. The television shows scenes of chaos with the refugees crowding the island’s port with a cruiseliner being pressed into action to transport newcomers to the mainland.
Athens’ caretaker government, which has made the handling of the crisis its top priority, ahead of general elections on 20 September, said it was also stepping up emergency aid, dispatching doctors and medical units to the islands. We, in Greece, are very familiar because of our history with the issue of being refugees. We know this pain so intimately. All my grandparents were refugees and the same with the grandparents of Nikiforos. We grew up with their history. It is very painful to experience again this shame of Europe and of the humanity in front of our door again and again.
In between this political and social situation, in the middle of the hot Greek summer we have run our Community Gathering from 22-28 of August (link), and the big Network Meeting 29-30 of August.
A team of experts in Permaculture led us in the 'Dream of the Land' of SKALA Ecovillage, with both theoretical and practical advice.
Bernd Mueller with Sandra and Christine from the Community of Tamera-Portugal, introduced us to questions about water management and helped us in a major permaculture design on newly acquired land and built swales and terraces for future gardens. Nature teaches us that nothing is a waste and we learned that water is a living organism.
With Jay Abrahams from U.K. we went through improving the existing situation and planning from scratch a piece of land situated 3 km from the our living area. It was a strong input that promises a new way to see and go with the place where we live.
Side by side with this, SKALA Ecovillage managed to set up a Biogas system during the Community Gathering. Biogas (or Anaerobic Digestion), is a very high potential alternative source of energy, that is, nevertheless, not very widespread.
In a very fast time, and with the valuable guidance of specialist Martin Funk from Tamera, a double digester of 1 m3 each and all infrastructure was installed. And the first flame was spark already! With some isolation improvements, we aim to keep the system operational all year-round.
(More detailed report about the ecological work in Skala here: http://gen.ecovillage.org/en/node/5855 )
One of the most important questions about the crisis is, how can we live together in ways that allow us to manifest the change? How can we create sustainable projects, where people can live with dignity? How can we create realistic models in crisis areas, and everywhere, where the alternatives can be experienced, where the taste and the smell of the new perspective of life can touch us so deeply that it awakens our longing for community and cooperation with life?
Many people in western countries live very isolated and allienated from each other. When we come together, we need a safe place where we can again allow ourselves the experience of being related and connecting, with ourselves, with nature and with other human beings.
In the Community Gathering in SKALA Ecovillage, 40 adults and 10 children live together, work together, learn together and have shared skills, knowledge, inspiration, feelings, joy, worries and, of course, celebration.
One part of the gathering was a practical one, with the permaculture design and the biogas system. The other was the social aspect, the community, trust building and possibilities of real understanding as an precondition for every cooperative interaction.
Some of our guests from Germany asked us “but how can you celebrate and dance and sing, when you are in such a difficult political and economic crisis?” The answer is that in Greece, and maybe generally in the South, the people know in their heart, that the really important things in life are untouchable by the crisis and by politics inside and outside Greece. Our music, our dance, our coming together is our way to resist.
In circles of trust, sharing touched our hearts deeply. Men and women came together and dared to open themselves without fear of judgment. Even the children made their own circles and spoke from their hearts or asked courageous questions to the parents, like: am I your child? Or why you are not anymore with my father?
Many people felt at home here in SKALA and I think that this is one of the core characteristics that the South can bring to the network. The feeling that you are welcome, you are accepted, and you can breathe out again before the next action, has a significant healing effect in the human soul.
After a very moving week, we moved to Open Space, 29-30 of August, where about 70 adults from 7-8 different nationalities, 6 Ecovillages, 2 ecological farms, and 8 initiatives for sustainability with the guidance of Irini Kourdaki (Agnanti Vegoritidas), Thomas Anemos (Oikologika Choria) and Zisula Kourdaki (ZEGG, Germany) with the tool of Open Space came together, shared knowledge, experiences and visions and discussed various issues:
- CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), actions to relief people from economical crisis
- Free flowing water in the landscape as a basis for ecovillage design
- Mental coordination for understanding (forwarding the model of ecovillages)
- EDE Greece 2016
- How can we exchange knowledge
- Managing conflict and disagreements
- Hero’s Journey
- Visiting – exchange between Communities like Zegg/Findhorn/Tamera etc.
- Support ecovillages and initiatives for sustainability (creating a network)
The Working teams for the next step are:
- Youth, eco movements sustainable villages - hear-see-do
- A proposal: 14 May- 11 June 2016, a 4-week EDE (ecovillage design education) training
- 10 October 2015 - Action: Sos Asopos river
- CSA (Community Supported Agriculture)
- Creating the Greek network of ecovillages and initiatives for sustainability
- Ecoreto.gr (greek network between volunteers and projects)
The people asked us to remain on the path of creating hope and not to give up. Everybody understands that the world is in a major transition, and that the ecovillages can offer realistic alternatives and hope.
We have understood that we need inspiration as much as information and exchange and most of all we need to come together with a common vision of care, friendship and compassion.
Thank you all for your cooperation and your support!
The team of SKALA Ecovillage