Next Stop: Auroville

UnBox Fellowships 2012 - banner graphic

I’m packing today to leave for India on an overnight flight tonight.  I’m lucky enough to be one of a handful of UnBox Fellows on the Sustainable Lifestyles fellowship put on by Quicksand Design Studio and anchored by Chintan Jani of Auroville.  The fellowship will last from Jan 24–Feb 1 and then we’ll take part in the UnBox Festival in Delhi, Feb 2-5 (registration is open to attend).

About the Festival:

“The UnBox Festival celebrates interdisciplinary processes and experiences that shape contemporary thought and action.”  More info + registration at unboxfestival.com >>

About the fellowship:

“Auroville, an international township in South India, is a hotbed for innovations in sustainable lifestyles and life practices. Fellows will interact with experts who would advise them and give them a hands-on experience in technologies around organic food and farming, sustainable building technologies, renewable energy and waste management. Besides building a broader understanding of sustainable technologies, they would, with the help of some long term Auroville residents, immerse themselves in a few of such sustainable communities discussing the advantages, challenges and pitfalls.”  More info on the fellowship’s home page >>

About Auroville:

I’m excited to visit, observe, participate and learn. Auroville looks like an amazing place, described as “a universal city in the making” on its website.  “Auroville is a place in south India where, for 40 years now, an increasing number of people from all over the world have been quietly and painstakingly working on the construction of a new township, a new way of living, a new way of being. Something is being attempted here for the benefit of all. … Today, the Auroville project is quite well established, having found ways of collaborating with the villages in its bioregion, with the Indian authorities, with many non-governmental organisations and world bodies worldwide.”  There are some 2,000 people from 40 different countries living there today.

Auroville lists their core challenges:

  • to shape, plan and build a city for an ideal society of the future
  • to let the indigenous population of Auroville’s bioregion co-evolve along with it
  • to educate our young in a way that their deeper identity is allowed to remain at the forefront
  • to organise a collective life without authoritarian structures
  • to manifest beauty in all facets of living
  • to consciously, wisely and justly manage the wide variety of resources available
  • to heal, and to evoke healing energies
  • to relate to the earth in a truly appropriate manner
  • to artistically express newly found realities within

As they state, “underlying all this is the main challenge of living an actual human unity.”  So Auroville is surely a community with a combination of spiritual and practical goals, with the conviction to meet them.

From what I’m starting to learn, researching ahead, this place has a pretty far-out layout. And with more than 40 years under their belts, there’s been time to set up some pretty advanced stuff here.  The grounds and the Matrimandir plaza look beautiful.

On December 30, unfortunately, Cyclone Thane hit the Tamil Nadu coast and swept through Auroville and surrounding areas, leaving a ton of damage in its wake.  “With heavy rains and wind speeds of up to 135 kmph and tidal waves of up to 1.5 m, Thane uprooted innumerable trees, snapped over 150 electric poles, destroyed most of our windmills, damaged buildings and water supply lines and cut off access to entire communities.”  Efforts are underway to restore power, water, shelter and other items and infrastructure that suffered, and I believe we’ll have a chance to help.  If you’d like to know more about the damage, or if you’d like to make a needed contribution to the relief and rebuilding, you can find more info here >>

I’m excited for this experience.  I can’t wait to see some great sustainable technologies and techniques in practice, along with the motivations that let people choose and commit to their use.  And personally, I’ll be happy to enjoy the spiritual side of Auroville too, continually seeking more knowledge and practice of the optimal balance between life as a member of our chaotic human society and as a natural being, part of our larger universe.  I think that’s one of the cores behind sustainable development—to help engineer a better, healthier balance between man and nature, in our physical objects and our perspective of interaction with each other and our natural environment.  It feels right and good to pursue, and it feels good to help spread the knowledge and bring the benefits of healthier, happier, more sustainable living to communities and cities around the world.

I’m also excited to meet the other fellows, who all have their own stories and rich backgrounds to share, and the people we’ll meet at Auroville and at the Festival.  I’m sure there will be a lot to enjoy in new friends and personal relationships.  And as part of the fellowship, I’m looking forward to sharing our experiences, new knowledge and insights through various media we’ll be using to record our learning and display it at the UnBox Festival and beyond.  We’ve all been given access to a central UnBox blog with multiple channels for all eight UnBox Fellowships.  We’ve begun to post observations on sustainability, food and waste from home, and we’ll continue posting throughout the fellowship.  You can find the 2012 UnBox Fellowships website and blog here >>

Another link for a quick summary of Auroville >>

And more: