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Cloughjordan Ecovillage

The Challenges we Face

Amid our financial and economic crisis, we can be lulled into a belief that it is only a matter of time before we get back to a ‘business as usual’ scenario. But with climate change, oil depletion, biodiversity loss, and the growing strains that our ways of living are putting on the ecosystems on which we all depend, we know this is not going to be possible. As the 2013 and 2014 reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have made clear, we are facing a systemic crisis for which we are little prepared. We are fast reaching the long predicted ‘limits to growth’ and find ourselves facing a convergence of challenges which are inextricably connected.

We urgently need to rethink the way we do things and to design systems and processes from the bottom up, in ways that fit this planet’s carrying capacity and we need to learn to do this together, as communities. The ecovillage project is striving to create a fresh blueprint to do this and be a model for sustainable living in the 21st Century, showing society in Ireland and beyond how we can transition to a low-carbon society by 2015.


For over two decades sustainability has been the catchphrase of environmental activists and anyone concerned about the complex, fragile systems of our planet. Sustainability is a fantastic aspiration. It can help to assess what works and what doesn’t from an environmental, economic and social point of view. However the word is now so misused and misleading it is beginning to mean nothing. 

Sustainability is inherently static. It presumes there is a point at which we can maintain ourselves and the world, and once we find the right combination of behaviour and technology that allows us some measure of stability, we have to stay there.


For these uncertain times we need a new approach. We have to build our capacity to be able to handle unexpected changes. We, and our communities, need to be more than simply sustainable, we need to be regenerative and build the capacity not only to absorb shocks, like economic or financial crises or changing weather patterns, but to evolve with them. In a word, we need to be resilient. If sustainability is about survival, resilience is about being able to overcome the unexpected, to adapt and to thrive.

The building of local resilience will help us weather the storms that are fast approaching. Resilience is not a new idea and it is as important a concept for the individual as it is for society. Resilience can be understood as the flip-side of vulnerability and is the ability of a system to hold together and function in the face of disruption and shock. This means having the capacity to deal with adversity and the ability to find new ways of doing things when current approaches no longer serve us. Because the possibility of abrupt breakdown in our vital social, economic and environmental systems is rising fast we need to find ways to accelerate building the resilience of our local communities.

Building a Resilient Community

The Village project is a lot more than an eco-housing estate, it set out with the objective of ‘Building Sustainable Community’ and is now putting in many systems to build resilience.  As well as the 130 high performance homes, renewable energy for heating, land for growing food and trees, an enterprise centre and community buildings, the project is championing community supported agriculture, exploring community currencies, introducing local democracy and governance systems and playing a part in the strengthening of the local and regional economy.

To be able to thrive in the 21st century we will need to rebuild our social, economic and environmental systems, localise our communities and most importantly, we will have to learn to do all this together.

If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.

Old African proverb, quoted by Al Gore in his Nobel Prize acceptance speech

Building sustainability in the next generation
Building sustainability in the next generation