The climate change rhetoric has become redundant lately. Not because it’s any less true, but because there is a bombardment of dramatic environmental news happening on a global scale, and most of the world now agrees that it is definitely escalating. Events seem to occur so often that it’s getting harder to keep up with the ongoing global disasters.
Somehow society seems largely to be carrying on as usual, despite carbon footprints projected to increase over the next years as global populations continue rising. How is it that awareness does not translate into drastic measures to prevent further catastrophe?
When considering the prevailing factors that discourage people from shifting to a more sustainable lifestyle, the worst one seems to be that sustainability is painted by the media as unrealistic. Small change such as reducing plastic bag use or carpooling is plausible, but large shifts such as sustainable housing or growing organically at home are too expensive, demand the sacrifice of most of our modern comforts and take too much time to practise.
We can cut down our plastic consumption, visit the farmer’s market from time to time and maybe carpool or bike more often for transportation. Yet a future of whole communities being virtually impact-free is a far-off dream, isn’t it? Attention needs to be shifted to living proof examples of sustainable lifestyle. It is not merely possible, for some is already successfully happening, but necessary if we are to coexist with the planet’s natural balance.
On a personal journey to discover constructive answers I encountered a solution-based community led by young entrepreneurs with the vision to make a sustainable shift plausible for an increasing number of individuals. At Valhalla, located near Montreal, Canada, a movement centred around Freedom Culture has been expanding for more than 4 years.
Freedom Culture is focused around key values that help proliferate a successful community of thinkers, creators and builders. Valhalla is gradually reaching out to fellow freethinkers across the globe. Through cooperatively taking on modern life’s necessities by encouraging the utilization of passions and skills, the movement enables a prosperous and expanding network of people to join.
What originally made Valhalla stand out among other grassroots groups is their strong ability to reach out to other eco-minded groups and connect green-focused projects and individuals to one another. This is achieved through a strong media presence using high quality blogs, videos, podcasts, articles and graphics. Connecting together through the internet has never been more powerful or more relevant, and tends to be overlooked by some groups that are preoccupied with the hands-on aspects of project building.
I visited Valhalla to meet the group and get a first-hand vision of their activities. Each Saturday a public gathering occurs on over 60 acres of property where work involves gardening, documenting, constructing new sustainable structures, reviving soils, cooking communal meals, raising chickens and bonding with a tribe of very welcoming people.
Tours are given each week to newcomers, exploring the vast expanse of organic potential situated just a few minutes’ drive from Montreal’s city centre. The property, once home to a large monocultured, pesticide-treated commercial farm is slowly becoming a fertile and livable space. The proximity to a large city makes Valhalla accessible to many more people, including those in urban dwellings. Visitors and members include people of all ages and backgrounds, inviting people of all disciplines and skill levels to partake.
The 5 acres that have already been healed through years of organic-based methods and dedication are teeming with lush, biologically healthy plants including orchard trees, berry bushes, herbs, flowers and vegetables. A sufficient pond located adjacent the large garden offers a fresh water supply.
A bridge directs a path over a meandering stream trickling across a wide stretch of wooded area up until the driveway’s end. It’s a pollinator’s haven, and frogs, rabbits and other birds can be seen as well. There is even a plot of logs where mushrooms are grown for harvesting.
Around there are tool storage facilities, a filled greenhouse, a beehive area, a kitchen section equipped with a pizza stove and outdoor fridge, a newly built and inhabited chicken coop and solar panels. Permaculture methods, the beginning of hydroponics systems and an impressive soil and compost production space are some of the features a visitor can come experience.
Journeying across the agricultural fields leads to about 30 acres of richly forested lands that are otherwise healthy and protected from poor treatment. Upcoming projects include an under construction indoor soil facility, Wisdom sustainable housing buildings (sustainable houses that are architecturally and elegantly designed to appeal to a large demographic of potential residents) and most significantly, a Sustainable Learning Centre for educational and example-setting purposes.
These can sound like large ambitions for something that was started by a modest handful of people on a piece of property that had been spoiled from poor farming practices- yet Valhalla boasts over 58,000 followers on Facebook alone. In fact, Freedom Culture has set the example for what is possible through the collaboration of people with unique skills.
Through methods such as podcasts, crowdfunding and a successful mentorship program named The Superhero Academy (all thanks to the high-quality media content mentioned before), Valhalla has found the means to keep things running economically smoothly in an area where many well-intended ecovillages fall short.
Valhalla attracts many visitors and entrepreneurs, some traveling long distances and internationally to receive knowledge and wisdom or even become members themselves. Mentorships run online, in Montreal at the headquarters and even on occasions abroad to suit the needs of everyone interested.
When focusing attention on examples of solutions that will continue to work, it is possible to see a future where sustainability is an attractive and realistic possibility.