Environmental Studies Program

 

Date of this Version

Fall 12-2011

Abstract

Since 1970, the role and function of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been to promote environmental quality and to form strategies for carrying out environmental policy1. The EPA has committed to sustainability as the next level of environmental protection. The agency states that sustainability calls for policies and strategies that meet society’s present needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs2. Presently, society’s requirements have resulted in natural resource exploitation and population distention- projected to reach 10 billion people within two human generations3. These paired occurrences are widely accepted as the most threatening and long-standing environmental challenges for the global community. Sustainability offers a starting place for addressing these threats and correcting the environmental degradation of the developed and developing nations4.

Ecovillage advocates define an ecovillage as, “A human-scale, full-featured settlement that is supportive of healthy human development and can be successfully continued in the indefinite future”5. Robert Gilman, founder of the Context Institute (one of the first non-governmental organizations’s to focus on sustainability)6, refers to this description as the “sustainability principle”. With at least 80 different contesting definitions of sustainability, it is reasonable that the EPA and Gilman’s definitions do not align perfectly7; however, the importance of these two definitions exists within their similarities. Ecovillage inhabitants and the EPA are both concerned with the well-being of future generations on Earth and have proposed sustainability as an effective solution to combating environmental threats.

Sadhana Forest is an example of an ecovillage that fits the criteria of the “sustainability principle.” It is located on the southeastern coast of India in the province Tamil Nadu8. Sadhana is an extension of the larger ecovillage, Auroville, and is situated west of the city Puducherry (Figure 1)9. The founders of Sadhana Forest, Yorit and Aviram Rozin, have taken residence there with their two children. As a family, they have dedicated their lives to living sustainably in addition to the ecological revival of the once thriving tropical dry evergreen forest (TDEF) of Southern India10. All residents and volunteers of the ecovillage respect the sustainability principles of the community and the vegan diet, which epitomizes the communal endorsement of non-violence11.

Though the mission of Sadhana is to re-establish the TDEF while simultaneously living sustainably, community activism has gone beyond definitions of sustainability aforementioned. Yorit and Aviram’s home is a local and international place of opportunity for people to learn methods of sustainability. The Sadhana Forest web site, www.sadhanaforest.org, highlights what the ecovillage has done to establish itself with the local community and the work that the volunteers from all over the world have carried out in the forest. They uphold their maxim, “A forest to grow people”, with invitations to free workshops taught by professionals living in nearby Auroville and weekly movie nights that feature environmentally conscious documentaries for all who wish to attend.

The purpose of this case study is to examine whether or not the residents of Sadhana Forest agree that they are effectively achieving their goals to revive the ecological condition of the TDEF and to live sustainably. This examination provides information about the human experience within a functioning ecovillage. Furthermore, understanding current perspectives of permanent and temporary residents of the community allows for reflection over the success of the community. This reflection is useful for further improving the sustainability methods of the future. In the end, Sadhana Forest offers inspiration to environmental conservation and sustainability as a global lesson for survival.