One of the tensions most cities face is how to create the conditions for multiple generations to speak together. In an Ecovillage which is at a smaller scale of “human hive” than a city, the generational tensions can seem even more intense, because people are closer together in time and space on an everyday basis.

During the Global Ecovillage Network Europe 2018 Conference, The Wisdom of Conscious Communities, a circle of 5 Elders and 5 Youth (from different ecovillages) dialogued about each other’s perspectives and relationships living in an Ecovillage. Each generation alternated with questions and answers. What follows are some of the “call and response” inquiries that emerged, as each generation engaged respectfully but passionately with the inquiry.

Readers should know this report comes from my personal notes as well as my personal interpretations. Some responses may have been combined from several speakers to provide a flow and flavour of the narrative but where possible the sequencing of responses has been retained.

This was one of the most powerful engagements at the conference, demonstrating the Integral City Inquiry and Living Intelligences in dynamic interaction within the contexts of Ecosphere, Individual (Inner and Outer) and Collective (Cultural/Storytelling and Structural/Social) Intelligences.

Marilyn Hamilton, Scribe

Youth / Elder Listening Circle

Youth Question1: What view does your ecovillage have for youth to vision and integrate into your approaches to sustainability?

Elder Responses:

  • In Damenhur youth and elders work together.
  • At The Farm we are now 47 years old and have 4 generations living together. We started with a generation of 20 somethings, whose parents noticed their kids had a good thing going – so the parents moved in. That made 2 generations. Then our younger generation had kids and they in turn are now having kids. So, I get to be with my parents, my kids and my grandchildren.
  • We have a Council of Elders who hold a mature vision. But we also teach meeting skills to young children, so they are facilitating meetings from a very young age.

Elder Question 2: These days it seems difficult to have hope. What keeps you going?

Youth Responses:

  • I am full of hope.
  • The old age ended in 2012.
  • I feel the astrology of the times.
  • There is post-war healing.
  • [These days] babies’ eyes seem to be warrior eyes.
  • I look inside and make a choice.
  • I am pessimistic but hold on to values.
  • I have hope in every day actions.
  • I live next to a forest-system and that system is inside of me.
  • I don’t want to “dance the last dance on the Titanic”.

Youth Question 3: Is it worth it to start an ecovillage?

Elder Responses:

  • Our paths are different – always learning.
  • I never worry – life is fun and interesting and beautiful.
  • [I ask] how to bring the future into the present?
  • [Life is] so creative, exciting – I’d never go back.
  • It’s about the people rather than the place.
  • It’s like “close encounters of the 3rd kind”.
  • Find the others who think like you.
  • It’s exciting to be with people like you.
  • What else [could I do]? Everything else – is it worth more? No!
  • It’s a 24-hour workshop.
  • I started as an individualist in Damenhur, living in community – but I would never go away now [from the collective experience]. It accelerated my pathway to become a Human Being.
  • It keeps you young – always open to learn.

Elder Question 4: Why is age important?

Youth Responses:

  • There seems to be a lack of representation without initiation.
  • Need to find my tribe.
  • I don’t identify as youth.
  • We are all in this together. The more we look at years of experience, the more I feel empowered in my community – for other youth to see the issue at last – but who don’t know how to engage.

Youth Question 5: As an older person, how do you engage youth when they are a different age?

Elder Responses:

  • [I see] different levels [of engagement] – one is personal – where everything is new and can be considered. Then there is interpersonal.
  • At the community level, in Damenhur the elder chooses a youth to pass on the stories.
  • In the political structure, youth get results.
  • Each of us try to be bigger/smarter and we are [altogether] working on the same path.
  • We talk face-to-face with respect.
  • We know about each other and help each other.
  • We empower ourselves.
  • In my 20’s I would have been insulted to be treated separately. [So, I don’t treat youth any differently than people of other ages/generations.]
  • [The relationships] need contact. We don’t need distinction between young and old.
  • It’s a bigger challenge at the community level than at the personal.

Elder/Youth Question 6: What are the most important things you want to learn?

Youth Responses:

  • The regular school system is out of balance (e.g., in creative subjects and math) – how can we value the topics equally?
  • How to get along with people? Social Skills, Communication, Working Together?
  • How to disagree with others so that leads to deeper relationships and supports the community?
  • People care – healthy relationships.
  • Shadow, inner ecology.
  • Decisions/consent.
  • How can we regenerate a big part of Earth?
  • Fair share – how can we make this possible?
  • How to deal with people you don’t get along with?
  • Leadership – how to be a leader clearly/cleanly?
  • How do you and your communities work to make space for visions and values that youth bring in?

Elder Responses:

  • How can we bring in new ideas without losing the essence [of what we stand for]?
  • How can we work together?
  • How can an idea shared with many others become a movement (not a mere idea)?
  • Work-in-Process
  • Avoid division – seek addition.
  • Open up the subject.
  • When things touch you (e.g. story of Africa and Cameroons) stick to values despite the conditions because [we all want] a new humanity.