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The spirit of localism : examining the beliefs that underlie the environmental action of membership in an ecovillage Dolter, Brett David

Abstract

Humans in the rich nations must consume fewer resources if we are to achieve environmental sustainability. This thesis examines a group of people who have chosen to create an intentional ecovillage community in order to lower their resource use and live simply. By understanding why the members of this ecovillage have chosen to pursue the ecovillage lifestyle we can understand how to encourage others to partake in similar environmental actions. I interviewed eighteen members of a Canadian ecovillage called Deepwater Ecovillage to learn about the factors leading to their lifestyle choice. I theorized that the members of Deepwater Ecovillage hold specific beliefs about the nature of life on Earth, and specific values about what "should be," that led them to choose the ecovillage lifestyle. Results indicate that members of Deepwater chose to create and live in an intentional ecovillage community because they: believe that life is sacred; fear an ecological and/or economic collapse; see the inter-connection between the well-being of the Earth and human well-being; feel responsible to act to prevent environmental problems; believe that their actions will make a difference in solving environmental problems; and enjoy living in the ecovillage because it provides: a sense of belonging, community support and celebration, opportunity for self-development, and life meaning. This thesis describes the specifics of beliefs such as "feeling responsible to act." These specifics point to ways that environmental educators, such as activists, teachers, and government, can effectively encourage environmental action. The findings of this thesis also throw into question mainstream economic models which characterize humans as consumption machines; ever-seeking greater levels of material consumption to increase well-being. The members of Deepwater Ecovillage are evidence that the desire to consume more or less resources is related to meta-economic assumptions about the nature of Earth, and definitions of "the good life."

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