Living a Sustainable Life Doesn’t Suck… A discussion with Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage

On April 1st, Ma’ikwe Ludwig, Executive Director of the Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage in rural Missouri visited the Repair the World office in West Philly to share the practices that allow members of Dancing Rabbit to happily and bountifully live on just 10% of the resources that the average American consumes.  That’s the reduction in resource usage that scientists say we’ll all need to adjust to if we have a chance of minimizing the impacts of climate disruption, which threatens humanity with potential extinction.  Here’s a TEDx talk which covers some of what was discussed.

The talk was inspiring to say the least.  The members of Dancing Rabbit have been learning to live collectively, sharing resources, and minimizing their ecological footprint.  They’ve installed a utility-scale solar power system that allows them to export 2 times the electricity that they use in the village.  They also use composting toilets rather than wasting fresh water for human waste.  Open space in the village is for gardens, not lawns, and the village has a swimming pond which allows members to reduce reliance on showers.  The buildings utilize good passive solar designs and good old wood burning for extra heat.  Meals are cooked with solar ovens or haybox ovens whenever possible.  The members of the village don’t own personal vehicles, rather the village shares only a few.

Members are encouraged to “Eat Local, Organic, and Low on the Food Chain.”  However, I was surprised to hear that food transport accounts for only 11% of greenhouse gas emissions from the food industry.  So, “Eating local won’t solve all of our problems.”  Consumption of meat and dairy products make up a significant percentage of greenhouse gas emissions from U.S. food choices, leading many members of Dancing Rabbit to choose vegetarian or vegan diets.

foodchoices

Ma’ikwe revealed that the four secrets to the success of Dancing Rabbit were Creativity, Courage, Compassion, and Cooperation.  She also emphasized that conflict resolution, and inter-personal relationship work was a large part of what makes it possible for the 60+ member community to function.  In addition to these focus points, members of Dancing Rabbit live by 6 Ecological Covenants.

Ecological Covenants (more info here)

  1. Dancing Rabbit members will not use personal motorized vehicles, or store them on Dancing Rabbit property.
  2. At Dancing Rabbit, fossil fuels will not be applied to the following uses: powering vehicles, space-heating and -cooling, refrigeration, and heating domestic water.
  3. All gardening, landscaping, horticulture, silviculture and agriculture conducted on Dancing Rabbit property must conform to the standards as set by OCIA for organic procedures and processing. In addition, no petrochemical biocides may be used or stored on DR property for household or other purposes.
  4. All electricity produced at Dancing Rabbit shall be from sustainable sources. Any electricity imported from off-site shall be balanced by Dancing Rabbit exporting enough on site, sustainably generated electricity, to offset the imported electricity.
  5. No lumber harvested outside of the bioregion, excepting reused and reclaimed lumber, shall be used for construction at Dancing Rabbit.
  6. Waste disposal systems at Dancing Rabbit shall reclaim organic and recyclable materials.

If this sounds interesting to you, or even if you have no desire to live in an ecovillage, but want to make a difference within your own life, Ma’ikwe mentioned some ways to be particularly effective.

What Can I Do to Make a Difference? (more details here)
  1. Reduce your automobile use
  2. Reduce your fossil fuel consumption
  3. Become aware of your food choices
  4. Start using renewable sources of energy
  5. Prevent deforestation
  6. Reduce the amount of waste you produce

Ma’ikwe also mentioned another way to help is to support a Carbon Fee and Dividend policy. This would place a fee on polluting carbon production, returns all the funds collected to U.S. households, would be protected from rising prices, and would reduce pollution as it stimulates investment in and use of clean energy.  Sounds like a good idea to me.  The Citizens’ Climate Lobby is a volunteer-based, non-partisan organization working on passing a Carbon Fee and Dividend Policy.

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