Eco-Community model could be start of a better society

Put ecological theories into economic practice

By dan newth
contributing columnist
street roots

There will come a day when we, the outcast and downtrodden, shall lead by example. I see a vision of an eco-community, an open model of sustainable living. Experimental housing made up of a variety of eco-friendly structures. Electricity generated from photovoltic systems and windmills spinning in the breeze. An open-air market with shops selling handmade goods, produce organically grown on site and seminars about everything from ecologically sound building practices to grassroots organizing. This is one way to showcase Dignity Village's charming diversity and parlay it into a financially self-sustaining community.

Dignity Village is positioned to develop into just such a community. While it is true they already have experimented with these various concepts on a small scale, in order to become sustainable, the scale of the model must grow. Ten to 20 acres of productive land would be room to grow into a self-sustaining eco-community. A section for eco-housing, a section for raised-bed gardening, an area to meet, teach and have conferences, a workshop area all villagers can share and an open market, similar to Saturday Market with music and a festive atmosphere.

Dignity Village already has international renown. Turned into an eco-community, it would be a draw for tourism as well as an added landmark in Portland. A savvy politician would recognize the concept's significance is beyond just another baseball team. The future economic and ecological challenges we face are going to take some serious decisions. Now is the time to put a model in place and work toward living in the solution.

Let us look to the outcasts of society for the solutions of tomorrow. The homeless community has long been a breeding ground of social change. The poor are not as heavily invested in the status quo as those burdened with materialism. We are a population conditioned to endure what other segments of the community would not.

From a vision of village, in a pioneering spirit of cooperation, we (those of us with enough conscience to care) shall demonstrate how to walk on this earth and leave a small footprint. Although those who idle in high places look upon us with derision, we shall stand with our heads held high. We shall respect the balance of the earth. We have been chosen to lead, not by the powers controlling this earthly government, but by ourselves and our enlightened sense of responsibility. Our own sense of well-being tells us that the ecology, economy and society have lost harmony. It is on our shoulders to demonstrate a way of living at peace with our environment.

We need continuing help to build momentum up to the point that the inertia of this project can sustain itself. The project that first started as "Out of the Doorways" was, in the beginning, little more than a hope and a prayer. It blossomed into Dignity Village that survives today on less than an acre of asphalt. The city put them out there to wither and die. But like the dandelion growing through a crack in a concrete sidewalk, Dignity has struggled, grown and flourished. The chain link fence surrounding Dignity Village is a mere physical barrier. It does not bind the spirit that is the life-blood of Dignity. It is the spirit flowing throughout the communities of Portland that have the power to make this vision come to fullfilment.

Dan Newth is, and that's enough in his mind. He's also homeless, with mighty high ideals about how Portland can, and must improve itself by creating sustainable lifestyles for the future.