The idea of the Eco-village has been percolating since 2005 when Rebecca, the founder of our project, came to Panama for the first time to do some consulting work in the Darien Province. Working with the municipalities and the local people she realized that most of the problems confronting the world today can be resolved with local solutions.
Over the next few years she kept working with local communities in Panama, studied sustainable development, permaculture and many other topics, and she joined an international consulting firm where she worked with local communities around the world. All this time she was figuring out how to get the land for an “Ecological Work-Life Initiative” that, in addition to being a healthy place to live and create community, would become a model to replicate and a laboratory for ideas to ease the acceptance of new practices and techniques by the people living nearby.
She also realized that there are many people who also want to take the step of moving to a simpler rural lifestyle, but who don’t have the resources, support, information or contacts to do it successfully on their own. She heard about lots of people and families who took the leap only to end up returning to the city several years later having lost a bunch of money, energy an enthusiasm.
She heard of many others (and even met a few of them) spending years and decades traveling around the world, looking for the perfect project, place or community to settle down in, or hoping to accumulate enough inspiration & experience in order to ‘start their own project’, but that never happened. Huge amounts of money are being spent on such ‘eco-tourism’ which effectively sucks resources away from permaculture projects & toward the transport multinationals: PLEASE re-think what you actually want to subsidize.
Rebecca didn’t want to end up being one of these cases. In 2011 she began to look for land and had already enrolled in the Integral Permaculture Academy and started to formalize her knowledge and practice of permaculture. It was a long search and at the time she didn’t find land apt for the Initiative, but instead in 2012 she found a property that would be ideal for the Community Guest House in a rural town. Work began almost immediately to convert the house (it was pretty run down) into a Guest House while she continued looking for the land (and working as a consultant in order to afford the house and repairs).
In 2015 Villa Astoria Guest House opened its doors and Rebecca began to learn the world of rural tourism, running the Guest House while working as a consultant and of course, still looking for the land. In May of 2016 a piece of land strongly called her attention because of its price and location. She visited the land several times and got to know its (then) owner, she sat with the idea until she was sure, until the land spoke to her – now it’s our Finca.
With this project, she hopes to help turn the big resource drain that is tourism, whether traditional, rural, green, ecological, adventure, ‘digital nomads’, etc., into something positive, creative & constructive, instead of another form of consumerism. This means finding the most effective ways to accelerate the action-learning necessary to make such big changes in one’s life — because most people have been ‘civilized’ into many patterns which are very counter-productive to living sustainably or rationally.
Many experiences in forming community and in action-learning programs have informed the curriculum of the PDC+++ Course. It is now available online in two languages to help people design their own communities, without the need to travel quite so much. The 8thLife Panama Initiative is taking advantage of this valuable resource.
It’s clear to us that small Eco-villages, intentional communities, and other such alternative solutions are needed as ‘seeds’ for changing local economies and that the only real way to make a sustainable change in society and the world is at the local level — starting on the “human scale” with people care. We need many more of these projects and we need to document our progress, so that we can help others not repeat our mistakes, as we aim to not repeat the mistakes of those who precede us. A network of small local solutions, each with its own ‘flavor’ and ‘personality’ will eventually include enough Eco-villages, intentional communities and such initiatives that everyone who seeks to live in such an environment will find a home.