Sunday, August 8, 2010

A Map of Ecovillages in the USA: This is what I do with my freetime...

Q: What does an urban planner do when s/he develops a passion for ecovillages over the summer and returns to campus where s/he has access to data and mapping software?

A: S/he makes a map (click to enlarge).

It was only a matter of time. With an easily accessible data source thanks to the Fellowship for Intentional Community (, some tinkering with MS excel, MS access, and ArcMap, I managed to map existing and forming ecovillages in the USA. The colored forms are individual counties, which makes states with geographically large counties (e.g. Arizona) seem rife with ecovillages. Arizona has no shortage, to be sure, but that entire big green blob is home to one "existing ecovillage" and one "forming ecovillage."

Of course, much more aggressive analysis awaits, and I imagine there exist ecovillages outside the FIC directory that have to appear on the map. Nevertheless, we see some patterns emerge. I've enlarged three interesting areas of the national map: the Pacific Northwest, where it seems ecovillages are forming like wildfire around the Portland area; Missouri, the home of Dancing Rabbit (note to DR fans: Skyhouse appears as its own "community" in the FIC directory. Hence the existence of four (4) communities in Scotland Counties.); and the Northeast, where there are lots of existing and forming ecovillages.

The map raises some interesting questions worth further investigation: 1) To what extent to do ecovillages form near existing ecovillages? I know this is absolutely the case of Dancing Rabbit which settled intentionally near Sand Hill Farms and later sparked the foundation of Red Earth Farms. It also seems like many of the counties that host "forming" ecovillages are also counties with existing ecovillages. In other words, formation doesn't appear random with respect to existing communities. 2) How does proximity to urban areas influence community formation? 3) How does proximity to universities influence community formation? It seems like there are many forming in central Massachusetts- there are colleges there, right?

I, of course, am interested in how local and regional land use regulations influence the formation. This will take some extra data and probably some on-the-ground investigation. Which means I'll have to travel to these places. Excellent! Enjoy the map. Remembers, it's only a start.


  1. Hi Robby,

    FYI If you want, I can get you the data in an easier format.

    One thing to note about that data is that anyone can use the term ecovillage. There are now specific criteria that a community would need to meet to be in the data set.

    Two other things that I think contribute to the patterns:

    --Affordable land - thats how DR ended up in MO
    --Local progressive population which often correlates with colleges (but has a negative correlation with affordable land)

    There are communities at all population densities from rural to urban but it certainly affects the type of communities that form.

    Check out for more maps.

  2. Thanks, Tony. I was actually planning to talk to you at some point (probably later) about this data, and what qualifies a group as a "forming" or otherwise. I'll be sure to check out the other maps.