While at Boom festival I recorded a series of lectures that have relevance to my dissertations theme based on the transformational festival movement and its importance in the 21st century.
The text below is the transcribed version of the first recorded lecture 'Project Nuevo Mundo' which was presented by Ivan Sawyer.
Within the lecture Ivan talks about networks that are being developed in central and south America which link eco-villages so that ideas and information can be shared. The lecture was very inspirational and was relevant to various aspects of my dissertation, specifically the part which will talk about permaculture and the external networks and groups linked to the transformational festival movement.
Project Nuevo Mundo – Presentation by Ivan Sawyer
So good evening everybody and good afternoon.
First of all I just want to say thank you to the symposium and to Liminal village, all of this week has been really amazing and i feel really honoured to be invited to share.
The topic of this conversation is expanding more upon this topic of 'free cultural spaces' which has been discussed today but taking to it another region of the planet, which is Latin America. My name is Ivan I am from Mexico, my work there, my experience has been with a series of networks, organisations, communities all working to link each other in sustainability but also with the festival culture.
The sharing is from two different organisations mainly, which is CASA and Project Nuevo Mundo, I will share what these organisation are and how they are expand this network of free cultural spaces.
First of all, what is an eco-village? How many of you have heard this term or have been to an eco-village? This is the definition of the eco-village, one of the many definitions; it is actually a very recent term only coined in the 1970's. This is the definition made by Robert and Diane Gillman of the Eco-villages and sustainable communities manual. Even though this is a new term the eco-villages have existed as we know for thousands and thousands of years all over the world. Indigenous villages were eco-villages seeking to integrate our social our community with the environment and try to maintain this into the future. It’s only after the industrial revolution that we can say that villages or towns were not eco anymore.
This is a new term to describe something that has existed for millennia, and then also integrated into this topic is the subject of permaculture. How many of you here are familiar with permaculture?
Permaculture is a combination of design, techniques and values that are a way to design our habitat around us in a way that it can be sustainable and help to regenerate the planet while building our culture and communities. It’s a way to link the development of our culture with the sustainability of the planet. Permaculture comes from 'permanent agriculture' which is a term that started in Australia in the 60's by Bill Mollison and other thinkers who came up with the term mainly thinking about the agricultural aspect. But it has expanded now to also mean permanent-culture, so not only permanent agriculture but also how to build a permanent culture on the planet. Also, like eco-villages permaculture is something we have done for millennia, it’s a way that communities have interacted with the planet. Therefore, permaculture it is a new term to describe something that we have always done.
This is the flower of permaculture (picture shown) it shows the different areas that it expands into, which includes education and culture, health and spiritual wellbeing, finances and economics, land tenure and community governance, land and nature stewardship and building. So, these are different areas of the flower of permaculture and in the centre you can see what the values of permaculture are; care for the earth, care for the people and share fairly. Basically, it’s something that is explained in modern language but in fact has come from the ancient way many cultures have lived on planet earth.
What I’m talking about here mostly is about weaving networks, and how we can weave networks of communities together with festivals. Today we have the tool of the World Wide Web and the main thing about networks is how we can interconnect each point with each other without having to have a centralized connection point. It is using the World Wide Web now that we have the capability of supporting the interaction between these types of centres which are often living off the grid or seeking alternative lifestyles. They are outside the system in a way, so to be able to strengthen the communication and interaction between these communities and these movements it is important to strengthen and create networks.
One of the biggest networks, i don’t know how many of you have heard of the 'Global Eco-village Network' can I see some hands. Well, it’s a global network of eco-villages, there's GEN Europe, these are the regions of the global Eco-village network, GEN Europe, Gen Oceania and Asia, GEN Africa and then there is the Eco-village network of the Americas. This for a long time was the region that was pertinent to the American continent. So, a few years back there was a series of meetings between different Eco-villages in Latin America in which I participated. The Latin American movement of Eco-villages is very diverse, and in some way they have not been able to find themselves to fit under this definition of Eco-villages, which is a more westernized understanding of the Eco-village. The permaculture in the Eco-village movement in Latin American has expanded so diversely it’s not only Eco-villages mostly referred to as intentional communities, which are communities that started in the 60's and 70's with people deciding to leave the cities and make a commune or community. In Latin America the movement is very diverse and also involves the organisations and communities in the urban environment, co-housing experiments, educational centres. So not always the sorts of places that can be defined under the word Eco-village. Also, there is the language barrier, the Eco-village network of the Americas is in English and CASA pertains to the region of Latin America where we speak Spanish and Portraguese and many people don't really understand or speak English which creates a communication problem. So we decided to create a new region within the global Eco-village network called 'CASA' which is the 'The Council of Sustainable Settlements of the Americas'. Basically what this is is a network, an online database of communities all over Latin America that are intentional communities, that are Eco-village but that are also many other different things.
These five petals (picture shown) are explaining a little bit what the different areas of CASA are, and these are; The urban focus, Rural focus (Eco-villages), Educational focus which are educational projects maybe not communities themselves but just a place you can come and learn about different techniques both ecological, social, spiritual, Organisation (non-profit, foundations co-operatives) not necessarily communities themselves but are supporting the expansion of this diverse movement and also the Nomadic focus which speaks about the nomadic groups that maybe are a nomadic community not fixed in one place, but are travelling in bus' or horses, there are many examples of that right now.
(Referring to the diagram) So, I will just share a little bit more deeper about the different petals, this is the community focus, these are eco-villages, the ones that do define themselves as eco-villages, intentional communities which not necessarily is an eco-village it’s just and intentional community that can have more of a spiritual focus rather than an ecological focus. Co-housing projects, these can be things in rural areas or in urban centres but just sharing one house not necessarily larger land. Also indigenous villages, this is important because there are many communities in Latin America which are indigenous communities, indigenous villages that maybe do not define themselves as an eco-village or did not study permaculture but they have been applying this for thousands of years and have all the right tools to be recognized as an eco-village. For the network it is important to integrate these communities as they have a lot to offer as well in terms of learning and exchange. The other area is the urban focus and this includes transition towns which is a growing movement of urban spots where they are integrating tools to reduce their carbon footprint and to educate people about sustainability issues, not necessarily turning your city into a complete eco-city but at least by neighbourhood hood and park by park it’s a growing movement all over the world. Eco-barrios is also very big in Latin America it started in Columbia, 'eco-barrio' means eco-neighbourhood. It is also a word now like eco-villages and these are places where it is an urban co-housing. But basically eco-barrios are seeking to target places where there are a lot of economic challenges, social challenges, violence and by bring these ecologic tools such as permaculture, urban gardening and decision making tools into these barrios into these neighbourhoods. They are not only eco-villages and communities for people that are privileged enough to leave the city and construct the dream that they want, but also to bring these tools to people that need them most inside urban areas. This is where the eco-barrios idea and also why the urban focus for permaculture and the eco-village movement is... (Interrupted by clapping).
The nomadic focus is also something very original to CASA, but it comes also from an ancient term called 'chaskis' which means travellers or messengers in the ancient Ketra language in South America. It was in these ancient times there were always nomadic groups that where travelling from nation to nation, from tribe to tribe, they were the collectors of stories, of seeds, they would create this exchange between the communities. So actually these networks have existed for millennium as well, and the chaskis, the nomads have always been an important part of it. So today we have many nomadic tribes, many rainbow tribes, buses, educational caravans and this part of CASA is a way to help network between these communities and help these travelling communities to connect with centres as they travel, to connect to different centres in different countries in Latin America. I will share a little more later about the Rainbow Peace Caravan. This one here (referring to screen) horse caravan, i don't know if any of you have heard of or met them, but Careen the founder is camped at the Sacred Fire, he has the circular tents which he design. He’s been travelling for thirteen years all over the world but mainly in Central America, South America and India and is now going to do a caravan here in Europe where people travel on horseback. Sometimes they have up to forty horses travelling through different countries living completely off the grid, they are really an example of one of these chaski, traveller caravan communities. There are several other, this one is called (referring to screen) Comuntiera and they also have a website and they traveled through all of Latin America in the last three years visiting different eco-projects. The organisational focus has more to do with the NGO's (non-profit organisations), foundations, networks, there's many different of these but it’s important to have them here because (even though) they also might not necessarily have an eco-village or live in that community they are doing a lot to support these grassroots organisations to flourish. And the educational focus of course! There are many educational centres which are like alternate educational projects, permaculture demonstration centres and eco technology demonstration centres. Now many of these educational centres can be called one or the other you know, I think that Boom, when it develops more and they own the land it could become and educational centre and a community. So they can combine, you can be one, two or three of the petals at the same time, it’s just a way to understand the diversification of these movements and organisations.
So, basically CASA articulates and strengthens the Latin American national networks that promote, educate and research about sustainable and regenerative lifestyles. A big aspect of CASA that is not in the petals is the gatherings and the festivals, there's a big tradition, like my friend said before there is a movement of about twenty years. I started participating in the gatherings when I was only fifteen, and these gatherings are like an eco-village permaculture gatherings, they are not really festivals like this or like we know them, they are kind of self-organised, people come and start offering different workshops, everyone participates and does shifts in the kitchen, we all work together to make the gathering happen and these gatherings have happened in many Latin American countries in the past twenty to thirty years. It is a very important gathering point to exchange ideas, to exchange seeds, to exchange dreams for the future. It is sort of an independent autonomous cultural zone. The main one that is in Mexico is called the Council of Vision, 'vision council guardians of the earth'. It started about twenty years ago and happens every other year, not consistently. It is hosted in a different community every time. It is around six hundred to a thousand people each time and brings together a wide variety of different movements and organisations that are linked to the permaculture movement but that also have to do with different areas of human life. There is a model for the organisation of the council since it is an autonomous zone and all of the decisions are made in-consensus during the event. So it can be a little chaotic to come to some decisions as we don't have an organising board that is making all of the decisions for us. But everybody is really a part of the construction and the development of the program of the event. So, this is in Spanish but it is showing the different councils which are ecology, spirituality, social movements, economy (alternate currencies), art and culture (concerts and music), eco-villages and sustainability, youth, Mayan calendar (alternative time), education, health and healing. So these are like mini camps, like here we have the stages (referring to screen) there would be like a stage where it’s all about youth, all about spirituality, all about social movements, and what this is like a model societies where each of the councils make decisions between themselves and then bring it to the larger council when things need to be decided around issues regarding ecology or decision making. I think even kids is not here, but there is also a kids council, early on in the forum they were talking about how to involve kids in the decision making and this is something that’s very important in the vision council as its giving a voice to the children as well.
And so, the vision council was greatly inspired by the bio-regional movement of North America which is an ecological movement basing itself on the bio-regional idea which is instead of political boarders we should be focusing on national boarders such as rivers, mountains, lakes that is what divides natural areas and that is how indigenous people always divided their land. When we divide ourselves by political reaches we may not be taking into consideration very important aspects of the bio-regional movement, which was a source of inspiration for the Vision Council events and gatherings that have been happening for around twenty years. A big part of the vision council is integrating indigenous traditions and indigenous cultures. So we have elders from different communities come and share their ceremonies and stories, and sit around the fire with us all during the week, so it’s a very beautiful event in that aspect. Also, the art aspect is very important, so we do have music we have theatre, we have all types of performances, but we are not paying any of the artists to come. Everybody is part of the community, even the elders and the artists just come as everybody else and participates like everybody else in the building of the event and community.
The 'Caravan for Peace' left Mexico in 1996 and travelled for thirteen years all over central and south America visiting different eco-villages and organising these types of events. They started in South America and eventually ended in Brazil where they were working with the Minister of culture, Gilberto Gill who was at that time the minister of culture Brazil. The minister of culture hired the caravan to do a cultural caravan, a cultural free space caravan to travel through Brazil during two years organising these types of events and going also to a lot of indigenous villages, favelas and this type of thing. This is a little bit an overall view of the gathering that have been happening for twenty years in Mexico, four years in Costa Rica, eight years already in Columbia and also one in Brazil, one in Peru and one in Puerto Rico. It’s the same model idea of gathering, self-organised free cultural space gathering. The Inca is well known in Brazil as the National Gathering of Alternative Communities, also anarchist communities and rainbow communities coming from rainbow. It’s been going on for thirty years, it has five to six thousand people that come and it lasts for two to three weeks. It’s all run on 'Magic Hat' a fully non-commercial event and also off the grid, no electricity, a little bit like a rainbow gathering but more focused on the educational aspect. This is just an example of the agreements of living that we make in these types of gatherings, it is just somewhere where we come together, there are basic agreements, so it’s like a semi anarchic event with no rules just a series of agreements in which we can live in harmony during the time we are together. It is showing the different organisations regarding garbage, communication, the sacred fire and so on. I have little time so I’m going to move faster.
This is an event that they do, the Inca takes to a larger forum, which is a world social forum, and that’s happened in many countries but mainly in Brazil every year. There is a big camp of the eco-village, permaculture movement and the Inca that come there to make a free cultural space focused on sustainability and spirituality and bridging political, spiritual and ecology into one space, so it’s a very radical free space in a big event. Just to finish the part about CASA, this is the website (referring to screen), it’s just been launched this year, it took around two years to get the whole thing going. It’s a network where everybody can have a profile, the centres have a profile and each centre can show what activities they have going on. Basically it allows people to generate better exchange, exchange of resources, exchange of people, of skills and so it’s an online network that has been already launched and is part of the global eco-village network, the potential is this crisscrossing of different communities all over Latin America. Then, the other organisation that I want to share with you is project Nuevo Mundo, this organisation is more focused on linking people, travellers from all over the world that want to go to Latin America and experience volunteering or working or staying at one of these types of centres, it is a little bit like the idea of 'couch surfing' or 'woofing'. It is being launched this month in Berra so you can also have a profile and see the profiles of the centres, you can recommend people, people can recommend you and you can find out where you would like to visit. The idea is to link individual people with projects and centres to create a regenerative planet, and our hope is to expand this all over the world in the next few years. The way we define the centres here is called 'impact centres', so its non eco-village as like I said the eco-village is a very new definition, this can also be an indigenous village or an eco-tourism centre. (Let’s have a) quick look at what the website will look like (referring to screen), like the centres can open a profile and list what type of facilities they are offering and so on. And so I invite you to check it out, its projectneuvomundo.org and if you’re interested in travelling to central or south America or helping to expand this to your region of the planet please, stay in touch.
When this organisation started being launched last year we created a caravan of two buses that left California, this is an organisation that is based in the United States trying to link with the movement in Central and South America. This was called 'Earth Odyssey' and it was a bus tour taking twenty educators, sustainability educators and activists to different communities in Central America to more or less tell this story and also to portray this type of world that is possible that we want to create. So I’m going show you a quick video that we made. Volume, please Felipe.
(Informational video plays)
Thank you, sorry for the format complication, the titles were cut, but you can see this video on 'Vimeo' and we also actually have five shorts that came out of this journey, five short videos that you can see on Vimeo, Project Nuevo Mundo. Really, my time is up but I will just finish really quickly, we organise these events in Central America every year one is 'Cosmic Convergence' which is a new year festival in Guatemala, your all invited and 'Tribal Alliance Retreat', which is a post envision festival in Costa Rica along with different organisation and trying to bridge this festival culture with eco-village, permaculture and also indigenous wisdom. Also there is a workshop at the beginning of January in Guatemala, and we are currently supporting the 'Permaculture Action Tour' with Polish Ambassador which is an artist tour in the US. There is a campaign online which was launched last week which is all about bringing permaculture education along with artist and festivals. Finally, this art (referring to screen) is by Mark Henson, it is really representative to me as it is showing this middle point from where we are coming from, which is a time of chaos and destruction of the planet. What we are moving to is called 'Neo-pioneers', and it is saying that this is just the beginning, it’s a growing movement and invite you all to this new movement of regenerating the earth, of greening the earth of beautifying the planet. Boom is definitely an example of how they have been doing this, trying to make this a permanent festival applying all of these permaculture tools all over. So yeah, thank you.