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Cloughjordon

Individually, we are one drop. Together, we are an ocean.” Ryunosuke Satoro.

Our trip to Cloughjordon was planned well in advance so I had time to check out the website but I could not have imagined what was in store. Many of us including myself expected mud huts that would do no damage to the earth and people who were very alternative. I thought it was surreal that we were greeted in the Church hall, which has been there since long before the Cloughjordan eco project was even a dream. I had imagined that local people would be suspicious of these “eco freaks” we had come here to meet. I could not have been more mistaken about the houses, the people and the relationship between the Cloughjordon villagers and the eco-village. When entering the eco-village I was quite shocked to notice that all the houses and sites where planned like a normal, modern housing estate. Where were all the mud huts I had expected to see? Some of my peers thought the houses were quite close together but I think some of the houses built in estates during the “boom” were just as close and very few of us complained about them. I had expected the houses to be spaced out but it was explained that the houses were built close together so less cement was needed for making footpaths and the likes. This made good sense as resources were shared and it would I think also encourage a sense of community with all the benefits that brings. The main aim of the eco village is to provide sustainable living with the focus on the people, the villagers, who live there. The village will it is hoped “provide a healthy, satisfying and socially-rich lifestyle while minimising ecological impacts” http://www.thevillage.ie/ ( 25-2-11). The main focus of the village is its people, the community.

As the actual development of the village only started four years ago I was really surprised with the number of buildings that were already fully completed and the number of others still under development as the budget for many of these houses was planned during the “boom” and many peoples circumstances have changed since then but people are obviously very committed to this lifestyle change. As we toured the village it seemed to me that all the buildings were made from wood so it was quite a surprise to see that there were actual houses made from cob. Cob “is a building material consisting of clay, sand, straw, water, and earth ….. Cob is fireproof, resistant to seismic activity, and inexpensive”. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cob_(material) (24-2-11). My favourite house was the circular house which was being developed from this cob material. “This technique requires almost no money or skill, and involves very little environmental destruction while at the same time allowing for creative and organic designs which blend into the surroundings” http://www.iaosb.com/html/cob_construction.html (25-2- 11).

It is intriguing to think that residents can be totally independent in the constructing of their own house, which was not what I had expected; residents can build it themselves, as many have, or they can employ contractors the only restriction is that the house conforms to the Village Eco Charter. “The Ecological Charter is a document drafted by the members, in consultation with a broad range of specialists, and agreed by the members through consensus. It is a ground-breaking document setting out the rules and aspirations relating to the ecological objectives of the community. In relation to construction of homes, the Charter states the objective of creating ‘safe, healthy homes, using materials that have as low an environmental impact as possible (including embodied energy) from manufacture, transport and disposal’ and outlines practical ways in which this can be achieved.” http://thevillage.ie/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=77&Itemid=2 (24-2-11) . It is freedom with a sense of responsibility not what I had expected at all. The Eco village provides “self-organising adaptive systems instead of command-and-control ways of organising.” http://www.thevillage.ie/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=78&Itemid=2 (25-2-11)

Cloughjordan Eco village has the largest solar feed in Ireland which they resourced from pooling together their grants; yes this is a friendly neighbour hood where people care about their neighbours, locally and globally. This solar feed along with the woodchip boilers provide the water and heat supply for the entire village. These are both 100% renewable with the use of zero fossil fuels, so people who live here are not contributing to Climate Change. This village is all about people caring for each other, working together to make their lives and our planet a better place. They are providing a model of sustainable living that works for them where people like us can go and be challenged. “The eco village project is striving to create a fresh blueprint to …. be a model for sustainable living in the 21st Century.” http://www.thevillage.ie/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=35&Itemid=7 (25-2-11)

The streets are designed to encourage people to walk and cycle which in turn should discourage vehicles. This will all contributes to a happier, more active community. Along the paths there will be fruit trees, nut trees and shrubs grown which will help lower the CO2 emissions but also provide healthy food for the community. They explained to us about the Community Farm. The farm is co-owned by the eco-villagers and other people from around the Cloughjordon area. It really impressed me that the eco-village has made such strong links with the native Cloughjordon community and do not isolate themselves; the people who live here are part of the wider community. This has many benefits for both communities- the ecovillagers are spreading their ripples wider all the time, like the stone thrown into the pond. The local people get to make little changes to their own lives and move towards sustainability and both communities get the benefits of sharing resources and ideas as they work together. Two communities become one better and stronger community.

The farm is comprised of 28 acres outside the village and another 12 acres within the eco-village. This farm produces a wide range of vegetables, milk and often meat. When it is at full capacity it’s expected to be able to provide for 80 families. Along with this each house in the eco-village is given an allotment for their own personal use. The villagers are therefore sustainable with their food supply and are calculating zero food miles, always a bonus! Community Supported Agriculture “creates synergy between growers and producers with grain produced for local bakers and milk for cheese-makers, resulting in a democratic and integrated food production system leading to employment and local food security.” http://www.thevillage.ie/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=58&Itemid=12 (25-2-11). The idea of creating jobs within the community that are locally generated and supported in the current recession has got to be the way forward.

Having studied critical thinking I believe it is clear to see that the Villagers are critical thinkers. The village is really well planned by the community and as far as I could see they have everything included: a variety of house styles to account for individual taste, accommodation for visitors, enterprise centre and even live/work units. “Sustainability is inherently static. It presumes there is a point at which we can maintain ourselves and the world, and once we find the right combination of behaviour and technology that allows us some measure of stability, we have to stay there. For these uncertain times we need a new approach. We have to build our capacity to be able to handle unexpected changes. We, and our communities, need to be more than simply sustainable, we need to be regenerative and build the capacity not only to absorb shocks, like the current financial crises or changing weather patterns, but to evolve with them. In a word, we need to be resilient. If sustainability is about survival, resilience is about being able to overcome the unexpected, to adapt and to thrive”. http://www.thevillage.ie/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=35&Itemid=7 (25-2-11). While the village is set out to be sustainable now with the economic crisis they hope the community will be resilient and sustainable. We have run our economy into the ground. Our economy and the world economy are in virtual ruin. We have traded sustainability for excessive growth, resilience for global trade. Peak oil sees the end drawing near of the first world’s race to expand into every corner of the planet and to consume every last resource. We rely on oil to transport our food and are living in a time when cheap oil is becoming a thing of the past. The cost of food will significantly increase and our capability to get it from source to end user decrease unless of course we can become sustainable and more community based like the Cloughjordon model.

I found the whole trip extremely interesting and would love the opportunity to return when the development is complete. I went expecting mud-huts while I return with a new vision for Sustainable Developments future. The most amazing thing was that the houses were modern yet individual but there was still a strong sense of community and self-sufficiency. There is an old African proverb, quoted by Al Gore in his Nobel Prize acceptance speech, “If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

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