What I really liked about Sieben Linden, my overwhelming memory, is that it totally shut me up. For at least 24 blissful hours, I didn’t need to listen to my own incessent internal cynicism. For those 24 hours, I could wander round and not be saddened, disappointed, or jaded by what us humans like to call progress. Sieben Linden is the clear conscience of human endeavour, so clear that you can drink it without adding fluoride, eat it without msg and hear it without turning up the volume to drown out the noise in your own head. If this is human potential, there’s hope.
Now, I immediately need to add that I was a tourist there. What I mean is, I don’t live and breathe, discuss and debate this eco-project day in day out. I walk in, marvel at the straw bale houses (one of them 3 storeys high), take in the natural water filtration system, express respect for the regeneration of the forests, admire the craftsmanship, sensitivity, the beauty and the consideration and then I leave – but not before my solar shower of course.
Sieben Linden is a cooperatively run project and, from what I know about cooperatives, which is a fair amount, they’re not an easy structure for humans to live and work within. SIeben Linden has encountered problems along the way and encourages open discussion and mediation where necessary and this apparently helps keep things fairly harmonious. But, the reality of cooperatives will always be that when you give people a voice, they will – quite rightly – use it. And this will inevitably lead to disagreements, especially when the people feel passionately about the subject.
Another reality of a project like this is that it needs to generate an income. Sieben Linden gets money from external funders to develop sustainable, low impact dwellings, so this keeps people in paid employment for at least 4 hours per day. The rest of the day they give their time voluntarily. The part of Germany they’re based in (Sachsen Anhalt) is rural with high unemployment, so outside of the project, employment prospects are poor.
To boost income and no doubt to spread the word, Sieben Linden welcomes visitors – around 3000 last year. This makes for busy times and dilutes the peace in the community. And of course people are getting there in cars and buses and whatever else runs on fossil fuels.
So is Sieben Linden just a green oasis in the middle of the chaos? Quite possibly. But, that didn’t bother me. For me, it was great to be around people who want a better world doing what they can in their own lives to further that want. I enjoyed feeling the optimism of this project, I think the word is ‘inspirational’ – not a word I use very often.
You can read more about Sieben Linden here.