Ecovillages and the Great Turning: 1,000+ ways to heal the planet

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

By Silvia Di Blasio

Last May I had the amazing opportunity to be part, both as a guest facilitator and participant, of an EDE: (Gaia Education Ecovillage Design Education) program at O.U.R. Ecovillage, located in the Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island, BC.  I spent 10 days sharing, learning, and facilitating as a guest in areas such as alternative economies, right livelihood, and the role of social and regenerative entrepreneurs in The Great Turning.

Starhawk  Permaculture Design Certificate at OUR Ecovillage, 2017

The EDE has been taught for over 10 years in more than 35 countries and more than 10 languages around the world. Dozens of participants also graduate each year from the online programme, which includes the four dimensions of the “sustainability wheel”: worldview, ecologic, economic, and social. As it turns out, the Work that Reconnects is a key component of the “Worldview”, so I also had the honour to facilitate my first Work That Reconnects workshop for 15 participants from all over the world. It was a fantastic, humbling, challenging and life-changing experience.

Have you ever questioned your choices in the Great Turning: should I stay, or should I go? Stay “in the system” trying to change things from within, awakening others who may be sitting on the fence, supporting those who experience distress and may need tools to navigate the mess? Or going “away” to find community and build the structures and systems of the world we know in our hearts is possible? Where am I most needed? Where is my place?

We all have learned about the three stories of our time and how the “third story”, called “The Great Turning” by David Korten and Joanna Macy, is emerging all over the world and being created every day by people from diverse communities.

Many of these stories are emerging from broken or wounded places and communities. They involve changes that impact how we eat and grow our food, how we use energy and where it is coming from, how we live and make decisions together and much, much more.  

No one planned this, and no one is in charge, but the initiatives, even when diverse and locally adapted, share similar values towards the Earth and her ecosystems, the people and the future. Many of these peoples don’t know each other, but all are looking at aboriginal roots, ancient spiritual traditions and the new holistic science for answers. Many argue that this “awakening” is created by Gaia, our Mother Earth, healing herself through us.

Many argue that this “awakening” is created by Gaia, our Mother Earth, healing herself through us.

The answer to the question of whether to stay or to go is complex. There is much work to do in both realms, particularly at the edges. Uncertainty, says Joanna Macy, is what keeps us awake and engaged in the delicate balance between passion and wisdom necessary to “dismantle the weapons” and create a regenerative world for all.

Ecovillages, as it turns out, are showing the path: although there are as many types of ecovillages as they are ecovillages, they all share the core values that manifest through looking for solutions on the ground. Ecovillages are a prototype of how to live lightly and more responsibly in this planet as well as how to work and make decisions cooperatively. They have become “regional and national beacons of inspiration for the social, cultural, ecological and economic revival of rural and urban areas.”(1) .

The ecovillages concept started in the 1980’s as an alternative living arrangement to consumerism and exploitation, and usually included people intentionally choosing to live together and trying to do things differently. Increasingly, however, ecovillages include both traditional villages and initiatives where people have decided to take their future in their own hands, the line between “choosing to stay and work from within” and “withdrawing and build something new” is starting to fade, and concepts that were radical 30 years ago are now becoming “mainstream” and infecting many.

In the early 1990’s, GEN (Global Ecovillage Network) was born, with the belief that while we can change society from the bottom up, we cannot do it alone. We need radically revised global trade agreements, consensus on how to tackle climate change and real empowerment for peoples in the poorest countries (2). We need organizing and working together. That is how Gaia Education, which initially came from a GEN’s project, was born: to facilitate “education for sustainability” through ecovillages around the world and their online programme.

There are many ways to be part of the Great Turning.

There are many ways to be part of the Great Turning. Most of us have learned permaculture, have changed our lifestyles and livelihoods, are part of one or more local initiatives and study and support groups. If you are new, or even if you have many years working towards the Great Turning, I can assure you that visiting an ecovillage, taking an EDE and considering becoming a member or even starting one will rekindle your flame.

For more on ecovillages, visit GEN’s website here:

To check for learning opportunities, visit Gaia Education for sustainability here: (online) and here:


(1)(2) Joubert, Kosha & Dregger, Leila “Ecovillage: 1001 ways to heal the planet


Silvia Di Blasio is a GEN Ambassador and long time O.U.R. Ecovillage friend and supporter, currently working towards becoming a co-op member and EDE facilitator. Working as a career and life coach who uses ecopsychology and systems thinking in her practice, Silvia also teaches permaculture, resilience, right livelihood and food sovereignty in different communities. Wearing many hats, she also acts as one of coordinators for The Work That Reconnects Network and the Food Action Coalition, and is the social media wizard behind Seeds of Change Surrey.  Silvia lives in Surrey, BC with her small family.


4 thoughts on “Ecovillages and the Great Turning: 1,000+ ways to heal the planet

  1. Access to land and teamwork with simple vision. Working class and people of color centered. Follow ups to Standing Rock. This is essential to any ecovillage. Who is doing this without huge debt and with focused attention?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.