Positive Images of Future that Inspire Ecological Movements and Actions

Existing Cases in Russia and Possible Projects for the Western World

Foreword

This essay I stored in my drafts until I’ve watched ‘A Gathering of the Tribe’ — a short film by Charles Eisenstein with Jon Hopkins & Aubrey Marcus.

Aubrey Marcus, who produced it, wrote:

My tears always come from a revelation of hidden truth. As if the frames of perception themselves liquidate out of my eyes so I can see clearly again. This story made me cry the first time I read it in Charles Eisenstein’s book, “The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible” and every time I have watched it since. Because to me, it is a true story. Whether actually true or metaphorically true, it doesn’t matter.

I definetly agree with Aubrey.

Intro

Thanks to the Global Ecovillage Network I’ve been to two of its events that raised two questions for me to think a lot:

  • How to significantly gain awareness to the broader audiences about ecovillages’ values and approach as a probable solution for the unfolding crisis?
  • What are the sustainability-related experiences we have in Russia that are so strong and unique that can be shared with European and international ecovillage communities?

Here is a suggestion for both questions.

Kovcheg — kins domain settlment, ecovillage and intentional commuity in Russia (140 km from Moscow). 200+ inhabitans, community owned property (121 heactars), school and theatre. Photo source.

Kin’s Domains as a Gamechanging Narrative in Post-Soviet Countries

It’s hard to raise awareness and change peoples’ customs to face ecological demands in countries like Russia, where people for ages were threatened by wars and political troubles and many still live in poverty. Appealing to peoples’ minds doesn’t work. Those who are in bad conditions hardly can see any logic and long-term consequences. In such a situation to succeed ecological denial is to go directly into hearts and souls. Feelings are more important than understanding. There is a Russian example that strongly proves it.

It is kin’s domain (or kinship homesteads) concept. For now, it has resulted in 230+ Russia and 130 in other countries newly created communities and villages where people learn to be self-sufficient and do restorative agriculture (within one hectare — 2,5 acres property) while adopting a vegetarian diet. It became possible due to 11 million ‘Ringing Cedars’ books by Vladimir Megre about Siberian Anastasia sold around the world (translated into 20 languages) since the end of the XX century (proponents report even bigger numbers). There are followers in Europe, the US, and Asia. In post-soviet countries (Belarus, Ukraine, Kazakhstan), kin domain settlements are as popular as in Russia. German specific of the Anastasia movement is about particular local people there (as any set of influencing ideas it could have very special projections).

Anastasia’s stories sound like a fairy tale about a native Russian woman who lives in taiga and her miracle visions of the past and future times. But it has such a noticeable impact that is now studied by sociologists and anthropologists.

Harder times and conditions bring stronger solutions. Post-soviet and post-empire people who for centuries were threatened as slaves and had lost self-identity, self-governance, and can-do mindset. Kin’s domain villages now work as laboratories for collaborative learning on how to live as free and responsible persons, families, and communities and how to build more self-reliable relations with government and businesses. One of the key ideas is ‘re-constucting’ internal indiginoucity in Russians — with Vedruss (Ved-Russ) concept, which is a term to describe a person who comes from Vedic Slavic culture and that is in each Slavic and is alive just in a deep sleep to awaken someday.

Even more, the poor and rotting in Russian rural areas’ school system forces any back-to-the-landers to co-create local schools and/or up-to-date unschooling environments with the freedom to start in greenfield.

For people in post-soviet countries who consider Anastasia books childish and misleading (e.g. engineers) or who finally was disappointed with Ringing Cedars stories and ideas (as real life hadn’t proved idyllic countryside living easiness ), but keen on ecological/sustainable values, even for them the whole movement created hundreds of spots across rural territories that they could join as close or middle-distance neighbors just sharing common values of a healthy lifestyle, small organic agriculture and nature preservation. Anastasia movement popularized permacultrue in Russia and even invited Zepp Holtser to visit the country.

Vegetable garden in the Mishurny family kin’s domain in Zvon-Gora settlement (Republic of Belarus). Photo by Alla Mishurnaya

Initially considered as a sect, the kin domain idea followers was then classified as a new religious movement. While making an own political party (‘Rodnaya partiya’ — due to internal disagreements they closed in 2020) they get the hectare idea for self-sufficiency and small organic family farms to policymaking with regional social and agricultural laws and programs with largest one as ‘Far Eastern Hectare initiated in 2016. As of December 2017, more than 107,000 people have applied and 40,000 people have become owners of the land. In Russia’s Belgorod oblast (population: 1,5 mln) the local law on kin domains works since 2010.

As ideas go worlwide its easier to see how good they fit the world’s agenda, e.g. here is US-based Anastasia Foundation, they have mapped kin domains with SDG. While focusing on restoration/regeneration of kin (that is actually all family members in this context) is right in line with therapeutic method known as Family Constellations by Bert Hellinger. So it’s quite propable, the next generations of the ecovillage definition will include dimension of kin whether of based on kin domains vision or a broader kin’s interpretation by Donna Haraway.

The two other Russian rooted perspectives are to mention here, while the detailed discussion is to be followed.

Dolphin Embassy

The organization’s founders Alexander and Nicole Gratovsky have chosen to communicate their ideas in the first channel to the audience by feelings showing dolphins’ beauty, joy, and mindfulness and only as of the second channel by logic and scientific information. I do believe that it’s one of the efficient ways to deal with climate and extinction denial. Not to scare with terrible future pictures as it seeds fear and rage against the message and its delivery, but to appeal to hearts and souls with opportunities that naturally lead to responsible behavior. They have an international community but are still best known in Russia then outside the country.

A film ‘Intraterrestrial. A Fleeting Contact’ by Alexander and Nicole Gratovsky

Recent activities by this couple can be followed on their Facebook page.

Old Believers

(Russian: староверы or старообрядцы, starovery or staroobryadtsy) are Eastern Orthodox Christians who maintain the liturgical and ritual practices of the Russian Church as they were before the reforms of Patriarch Nikon of Moscow between 1652 and 1666. Actually it’s a very broad range of communities across the world (even in South America). They could be considered as semi-indiginous people of Russia preserving through ages sustainable living practices on a strong basis of their belief system that allows them a high adaptability and entrepreneurial mindset with keeping love for the God, the land and each other.

A film of 2020 ‘Russian Old-believer in South America’ (in Russian) by Aleksey Pivovarov.

Directions for the Western World

Considering this kin’s domain phenomenon I would suggest that in Europe and worldwide it’s also an option to ‘storytell’ and even moreover to visualize (as soviet countries are still in the tradition of book reading) bright, hopeful and idea-full images of the possible present and future as well as the indigenous past.

Visualization could be done as e.g. a Miyazaki or Pixar cartoon movie or a hopepunk Netflix serial, additionally promoted by media persons as from Greta Tunberg to Jimmy Oliver can get ecovillages images and values to as high as Harry Potter level of popularity and copycut behavior. And that is the fiction plane where the whole story doesn’t appeal to any scientific base. While the documentary with scientific basis, but with a focus on feelings and emotions, it could still be a starting point from dolphins and Old-believers.

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