Dec. 29, 2009
by Dave Thier
The British government awarded a grant for £350,000 -- about $550,000
in U.S. currency -- last week for further researching and developing
a low-carbon living project in Wales that will be independent of
public electric and water facilities.
Lammas finally began construction on its ecovillage in the fall,
after its proposal to build was rejected twice. Named after the
festival that marks the first wheat harvest of the year, Lammas plans
to expand the ecovillage to nine small properties, a campsite and a
community building, situated on 76 acres of pasture and woodland.
The houses will be designed to blend into the landscape, with cob
walls and turf roofs. Initial renderings are strikingly reminiscent
of hobbit holes from "The Lord of the Rings." According to its Web
site, Lammas plans to provide water and power for residents through a
combination of wind, biofuels, spring water and rainwater.
The Lammas project is part of a global movement of ecovillages:
communal living projects designed to be as energy independent and
ecologically low-impact as possible. This sort of commune has long
been associated with counterculture and leftism in America, but the
notion of intentionally building self-sufficient communities of all
sizes is long extant in urban planning, most notably in the work of
late 19th-century British planner Ebenezer Howard and his concept of
the "Garden City."
The British government's plan to build carbon-neutral "Eco Towns"
throughout the country bears similar marks of intentional community.
However, the program has been dogged by controversy since plans were
announced in 2007 by future Prime Minister Gordon Brown. It took
Lammas two years to win approval for its project.
Ecovillages like Lammas are spread across the United States as well.
Some sustainable living projects are clearly recognizable as
'60s-style, commune projects like "The Farm" in Tennessee, which was
founded by people in a caravan of 60 buses, vans and trucks from San
Francisco. Others, however, are adaptations of that concept folded
into modern capitalism. "Cohousing" developments, developed in
Denmark and brought to America in the 1980s, are residential
arrangements designed to encourage a sense of community and
sustainability without attempting to provide a source of income for
Among the largest of these developments is Auroraville, in South
India, a community of more than 2,000 people organized with clearly
defined residential, industrial and cultural zones surrounded by a
large agricultural "green belt."
Lammas plans to use the recent government grant to build a community
education center in an effort to encourage others to live low-impact
"This will enable us to reach out and inspire people to create their
own sustainable land-based lifestyles," Lammas project coordinator
Paul Wimbush said on the Web site. "The Community Hub building will
be a launch pad that will celebrate and promote the new opportunities
that are available to create eco-smallholdings in the open countryside."