|Letter from Giovanni Ciarlo|
Product Development Coordinator
I have been involved in the ecovillage movement since the early 80s when a group of my closest friends and collaborators joined forces to create an ecovillage. Founded on the intersection of art and ecology in central Mexico, Ecoaldea Huehuecoyotl is now known worldwide for its achievements as a new model of a small rural ecovillage.
Thirty years later I am honoured with the opportunity to take on a new role in the ecovillage movement: that of Product Development Coordinator for Gaia Education. This new role takes me full circle: In 1996 I helped create the Ecovillage Network of the Americas (ENA). This culminated in joining the GEN board in 2003 and becoming board president in 2009. In between, I was part of the founding group of GEESE and ran the EDE in Mexico and Norway. Last year I joined the Gaia Education Design for Sustainability (GEDS) faculty at the Open University of Catalonia (UOC) and now, in 2010, I join the product development team.
The exciting role of the product development team is to take the EDE forward to new and wider incursions. The team provides guidance and curriculum material for designing sustainable villages, organisations and lifestyles for the emerging, low-impact civilization.
The best part of this role for me is that I will be working closely with the GEESE, Gaia Ed’s board and Gaia Ed’s fabulous director, May East, who has been leading the GEESE on our flight to the four directions over the past six years.
It is with great excitement and humility that I take on this new role. Coming into the sustainability debate with original and substantial offerings, offerings that are applicable to human settlements everywhere, is one of today’s challenges. Yet the EDE is doing just that - it has now been offered in 22 countries, on every continent and in settings ranging from grass roots centres to institutions of higher education. The effect the course has had has been phenomenal and the welcome it has received is nothing less than inspiring, transforming lives and communities everywhere.
The product development team aims to continue in this direction. People around the world are ready to make the transformation towards social justice, environmental conservation, security and well being, reconnecting with each other and the higher self. This transformation starts with the transformation of society to a new worldview, encompassing the highest ideals and technology of our times. Gaia Education continues to lead the way, offering cutting edge learning opportunities and experiences that accelerate the achievement of these goals.
My role as Product Development Coordinator begins with two initial mandates.
1. Complete the upgrade of the existing EDE curriculum to reflect the urban issues of sustainable design. I will be following up on the wonderful work done by Chris Mare, Potira Preiss and others after the Brazil symposium. The upgrade will draw from the piloted urban EDE in Brazil plus the experiences and successes of many independent urban projects
2. The development of the EDE for traditional and indigenous villages. This will be done in partnership with regional stakeholders and the newly emerging GEN Africa network. For this, I will be inviting people working with such villages to contribute new thinking and research that can achieve the dual goals of both learning from their wisdom and harmonious practises, and in turn, offering appropriate solutions to their contemporary challenges.
The goal is to present these additions to the EDE curriculum at the next GEESE meeting in Copenhagen, June of 2011. Focus from there will shift to developing and coordinating a hands-on, design for sustainability course for EDE graduates, equipping a cadre of sustainability designers and consultants to assist in the creation of new ecovillages everywhere. Further ahead is the production of new educational materials aimed at reaching populations living in slums, refugee and youth camps and disaster recovery areas.
From my vantage point, as faculty on both the Sustainable Businesses and Communities Master programme at Goddard College and the GEDS programme, I see first-hand the rising demand for training and development of academic programs in sustainability. My students are both challenged and inspired by the vision put forward by the EDE and Gaia Education.
As president of GEN I see the opportunity for GEN to serve as a hub for research, networking, and leadership in the growing sustainability revolution. Despite the usual challenges of a volunteer organisation, I am confident that we will succeed in providing continuous inspiration and state of the art solutions to current global problems.
While the challenges are many, the energy and commitment to meet them is strong and growing. GEN and Gaia Education are a source of inspiration and hope to all those who believe that a better world is possible.