Tonight I was taught how to get serious about sustainability. Most people I know merely talk the talk, and they would rarely, if ever, consider making significant voluntary changes to their life styles in order to preserve the planet. Solar panels on the roof? It might offend the neighbors. Take public transportation? Outside of a handful of American cities, it is considered beneath one’s dignity to the extent that one can afford to own a car. Refrain from taking a pleasure trip across the world? Why would anyone do that? Car pool? Are you crazy? Ride a bicycle to work? I can’t because I might get sweaty. Eat only local food? I need more variety!
Tonight I listened to Tony Sirna describe Dancing Rabbit, a community of people truly dedicated to shrinking their ecological footprint. He discussed his community, sustainable living options, and what the future holds for all of us. The following is from the introductory literature to the presentation:
Dancing Rabbit Eco-village in Northern Missouri has been at the fore since 1997 and its members are living one vision of a sustainable future right now.
Over the last 15 years Dancing Rabbit has built over 25 energy-efficient homes using reclaimed lumber and natural building methods such as strawbale and cob. By reducing electricity use to less than 10% of the American norm, the village is now a net exporter of renewable energy. Three vehicles are shared among the 75 residents, who drive only 7% of the US average. Food production is integrated into the design of the pedestrian-scale village. Cooperation, a strong gift economy, and a vibrant alternative currency support the economic stability of the community. Natural ecosystems are preserved and restored on the community’s 280-acre land trust. Sustainability is not just a dream. The residents of Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage are living it right now.
I learned that the 75 residents of Dancing Rabbit use only 10% of the energy of the average American. They do this through the power of cooperation–a strongly interconnected community that strongly encourages each other. This is not a religious community. It is not a group that shares it’s income (every individual controls his or her own wealth).
The residents have erected a small village of homes, mostly built of clay, sand and straw. These are small houses by modern standards–about 1/3 the size of new houses in the U.S., but this is the size of a typical house from the 1950s. The community compact forbids the private ownership of cars. Three community vehicles are shared among the 75 residents. Ride sharing is strongly encouraged, and almost no one drives alone.
Water use is only about 12 gallons per day per person, compared to 135 gallons for the typical American. They accomplish this through composting toilets, cisterns for rain and constructive wetlands. They are getting fairly close to having zero carbon buildings. The aim is to be entirely free of fossil fuel. They grow much of the food they eat.
The residents include many college educated people, many of whom work jobs from the isolated village up in Scotland County, Missouri. Some of the residents run a B&B in the village. The original residents were transplants from Stanford University; that was 15 years ago. Sirna indicates that it is an extremely fulfilling lifestyle, where residents live life by their values, among those who share their values. The current plan is to recruit more residents in order to expand the eco-village to 500 residents.