CAT, Environmental Centres and Ecovillages

Since its emergence in the 60s and 70s, the environment movement has generated a great range of ideas, techniques and what might be called 'principles for living'. Although many of these can be adopted anywhere at random, they do not always fit well into mainstream patterns of life, and there has been a persistent feeling that they would work best when applied 'synergistically' in physical places deliberately separated from the mainstream.

Attempts to create such special places have two forms. One is a living community of people with shared ideas, which might be of any size from a single household to a settlement of many thousands. The other is some kind of institution where sustainable hardware and software can be developed, demonstrated and communicated.

There has never been a received terminology for the two approaches, but here I shall call the settlement approach 'ecovillages' and the demonstration approach 'environmental demonstration centres' or 'ecocentres' for short. Click on the links here.




It might well be asked why we cannot have both these in one institution in one place, and indeed there have been a few instances that got close. On the whole however, the two ideas have separate functions and are incompatible in one location, as explained in this article:

What is the difference between ecovillages and ecocentres? 2000 (doc)

The Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT) where I worked for many years is a rather special case. It set out as an ecovillage and gradually turned into an ecocentre.  Its history and evolution are rich in useful information and have attracted a great deal of attention. I myself have written extensively about the organisation, and in recent years a process of recording and cataloguing its history has been undertaken. It needs a category of its own.