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The Eco-village: Innovative Ways of Dealing with the Environment

   
 In these days, many developed countries are trying to deal with growing problems with the environment.  Either directly or indirectly, the effects of too much industrialization lie at the root of this.  Needless to say, Korea has huge environmental problems of its own. One example of this is the South Korean 4 rivers project. Local environmental groups and the project’s organizers argue that the ecology of the mountains, rivers, seas and countryside of Korea is under threat because of rapid development.  There are, however, some lingering doubts as to whether the environment is as badly affected as these people claim.  Even so, there is no doubt that the natural world is a vital factor in determining the future of Korea.   
A solution to the problem may lie in learning how to overcome environmental problems. We can take lessons, for instance, from Europe where countries are facing up to ecological problems. The model of an eco-village is generally recognized as being one of the best ways of solving this.  To this purpose, some Korean students supported by the Korean Welfare institute had an opportunity to experience the eco-village experiment in Northern Europe. The Post went with them to report on the eco-village in detail. So, what is an eco-village and how will it help to solve problems within the ecosystem?
There is a popular misconception that the eco-village is only about environment related issues. This is absolutely not true. "Eco-villages should consider environmental problems and social problems at the same time,” said Matwain boo, a staff member in Dyssekilde, a successful village in Denmark. “Because the eco-village is part of the local community, we too have a responsibility to the rest of society.  For example, there is a kindergarten in our village for teaching children."
Student reporters learned about the eco-village while living at Svanholm, a successful eco-village in Denmark, for a month.  What surprised them first was that all the village residents had dinner together every day except for Wednesday in the same kitchen,.  There was an emphasis on a common daily life where neighborhood organizations had to provide a web of family-like relationships. When working, the residents are divided into groups for building, farming, cooking, and so on.
The most enjoyable aspect of the village is the fact that there aren’t any community leaders.  “All the villagers have an equal right in making decisions. This is because this village is ours. We want to operate our village without any complaints," said Bolaesso, one of the oldest inhabitants of Svanholm.   It seems that every one of the 100 villagers shares the feeling of being part of the village.
Compared to the eco-villages in Korea, Svanholm has many strong points.  First and foremost, all the dwellers are environment-friendly. "Life-style is very important. We have to preserve the earth for the next generation. This is why we want people to share our vision” a dweller said.  For this reason, Svanholm provides guesthouses so that non-residents can experience the village.  Such a life style has been handed down from generation to generation. "In kindergarten, children are taught to treat the environment with respect.  As a consequence, children learn to enjoy and love nature.  “By being conscious of nature from an early age, they will be more mindful of doing harm to the environment as they become adults", said Frederiksen, a kindergarten teacher.
The second important point is eco-village management. When people think of an eco-village, they tend to think of self-sufficiency in food-crops.  The reality is a lot more complicated.  It was evident in observing an activity of a farming group. "We have to be ready to change farming areas each year in order to re-fertilize the soil,” said Mar, a member of the farming group. "Also, we have struggled to develop environment-friendly farm technology. Thankfully, the government has helped us in this: providing us with technology that is not a drain on the ecology”.  For the above-mentioned reasons, Svanholm has been able to maintain its standing as an eco-village.
Then, what makes this eco-village more successful than other villages? "Of course, it is really difficult,” stated Matawin-boo.  He added that the village of Dyssekilde started with just only 4 people. "Many other eco-villages have already failed.  The reason for our success is that we have always had concrete goals toward the environment. This is very important because it has guided us for several generations now.  The following is a course of action used by the village: first, have a dream; second, action speaks louder than words and, third, celebrate your achievements with your family and friends.  This is how we made our-village successful."
Vikki, a city with the population of 576,000, unlike the eco-villages of Dysskillde and Svanholm, is an eco-city set up by the Finnish government.
“Finland also has to find answers to environmental problems,” said a member of staff at Helsinki City Hall.  “Now we face a battle to save our trees from being stripped for paper or pulp.  Moreover, the world’s energy resources are severely depleted. That is why we decided to create eco-villages in Finland.”  During a staff presentation, someone boasted about how much the gas, oil, coal, water and CO2 emissions declined due to the new environmental strictures.  “As an example of our future planning we shall open a university and science park in the eco-village," he added.
The eco village model is viewed as a useful alternative to treat environmental problems.  Nonetheless, Korea should be careful about introducing the eco-village system.  The example of Su-dae village tells how the Korean eco-villages failed due to the problems in food distribution systems and others.
To make the eco-village work in Korea, governmental help is necessary. The fact that the government has created several new cities such as Bun-dang and Pa-ju among others shows that it is possible to build eco-cities along the lines of Vikki in Korea.  Last but not least, no matter how long it takes, the people of Korea should change their attitude toward the environment.  

Social Desk Editor Kim Ji-heon

Kim Ji-heon  kim556@dongguk.edu

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