Together towards sustainability of the island of Brač
On Saturday, 10th of May, a public panel Sustainability of the island of Brač was held in Nerežišće, organized by the NGO Earth For Us. The NGO was founded only last year, but experienced women stand behind it. Their life in Stipanska bay from 2006 was their practical school of sustainability. These unusual girls were at first greeted with scepticism from the locals, who coined the name “the Witches of Brač”, but today the girls are one of the main drivers of change on the island. Interesting speakers, good attendance, and great interest for public discussion have proved that these kind of events are very necessary and useful.
The event was opened by Eko šufit, a small fair of ecological products and handmade items. The plan to also display ecologically grown fruits and vegetables had failed because eco producers were too hard to find on the island. People have such produce for their own consumption, but those who grow larger amounts tend to abandon the old farming ways.
The return of eco farming to the island is one of the goals of NGO Earth For Us, presented by coordinator Luce Terze. Their starting point is the love of planet Earth; attitude that man is not the master, but a part of a whole.
Terze stated some of the foundations of sustainability: collecting rain water, installing sollar systems and windmills, growing food in accordance to the climate and characteristics of soil, and the zero waste concept, which is achieved by composting and recycling. She accentuated the importance of using natural materials for construction, like stone and wood, which also aesthetically fit into natural surroundings. The human and community element is probably the most complicated one, but it works when differences are supported, the principle of equality cherished and communication constantly developed.
The NGO Earth For Us strives to achieve all of these in their ecofem village. The terrain had been struck by fire and was neglected when they arrived. Up until now, the access road and parts of drystone wall have been repaired, the first house built and about a third of olive trees renewed. Their greatest challenges at the moment are those with NGO administration and finances. Along with local and national tenders and international funds, they plan to obtain the necessary funding by crowdfunding. Their next steps are building a water tank and a compost toilet, further clearing and renewing the terrain, and planting perennials. The discussion that occurred thereafter lead to a common conclusion of the necessity of connecting eco producers on the island in order to share experiences and good ideas.
Andrijana Parić spoke about experiences from Eco station Barbaroža which she co-founded. “The time is ripe, the islands are starting to wake up”, said Parić at the very beginning and pointed out that more and more people are contacting her with their own new eco stories. Barbaroža is situated on Dugi otok on the outer side of the Nature park Telašćica. It started off as an eco camp idea. Today it produces its own fruits and veggies and offers different educational content, such as creating homemade solar panels. It all started in 2010 with the help of a few friends and support from the local community and media. Up until today six volunteer camps were held.
Barbaroža is also proud of the first compost toilet in Zadar county that receives required energy and light from a solar panel and a small windmill. Due to a collision between two laws in Croatia, their current challenge is legalization of the camp on agricultural land.
Parić also spoke about fundraising for NGO projects, and advised new initiatives to use national funds and small donations that build capacity, while EU funds can come only later. One capacity indicator could be at least one person employed in the NGO.
Her lecture raised discussion among the locals about mutual support. Hot topic was the current situation in LAG Brač/Šolta (Local Action Groups which exist nationwide with the purpose of organizing cooperation in areas with similar preconditions).
Zdenko Zeman followed with the presentation of joint work with Marija Geiger Zeman; both are scientists at the Pilar Institute, and the content of the lecture was a theory of sustainability, that is “a reconstruction of ideas going 20 years back”. Zeman emphasized local aspects because that is “the here and now of our lives”. The place where we reside represents more than physical space since we give it meaning. It is interesting how the English term sense of place can mean both meaning of and feeling of the place. The Witches of Brač have developed a special connection to rocks, which is a probably a feeling well known to other inhabitants of Brač.
Mirela Holy, president of ORaH, was contacted by the Witches of Brač two years ago while she was the environmental protection minister and was endorsing realizations of ecofeminist villages. Holy was introduced to the term ecofeminism back in the late nineties, and later wrote her doctoral thesis on this topic, called Mythical Aspects of Ecofeminism.
Ecofeminism unites feminism, the movement for women’s rights, and ecologism, the movement for the protection of the environment. It differentiates from other feminisms by insisting on the preservation of the environment and interest for the spiritual dimension. Ecofeminists believe that there is a deeper, mystical connection between women and nature, which makes them more sensitive to matters of devastation and care of the environment.
Although ecofemism is mostly based on theory, Wangari Maathai from Kenya with her project Green Belt, and Vandana Shiva from India with her project Chipko can serve as good examples. It differentiates from other ecologisms by perceiving the causes of environmental devastation in androcentrism, not anthropocentrism.
“The base of ecofeminism is opposition to the patriarchal society in which we live today, despite all efforts of women’s movements in the past one hundred years.” said Holy. Ecofeminism criticizes sustainable development because it is just buying time, and not changing the worldview that has lead to the problematic situation in the first place.
“As long as people are not aware of the patriarchal constructs in which we still live today by following certain gender roles, nothing drastic is going to happen; we will still be buying time for the prolongation of life in this society” , said Holy.
Sustainable development stands on three pillars, namely the environmental protection pillar, the economy pillar, and the social justice and human rights pillar. Unfortunately, the social pillar is usually completely forgotten in the implementation of sustainable development projects.
Barba Jure Ivko from Ložišće has gathered many life experiences in his 80 years so far, and has shared some of them with the audience at the end of this panel. “It was all done by mašklin, motika and sić (local names for tools)”, said the barba, wistfully reminiscing on our people.
The panel was not long enough for all interested participants and different opinions to be heard, and spontaneous applause went through the hall a few times. Therefore the panel’s moderator Đurđa Knežević did not have an easy job. However, she handled it with experience, even managing to bring smiles to people’s faces. She commended the organization of the panel, the structure of the lectures, and the selection of speakers. She also mentioned that Mirela Holy made a bold political move by coming to a small village to talk about ecofeminism.
The panel’s supporting program started at sunset with an unannounced performance by fire jugglers, which had to be a most unusual sight in that small community. The band Žen followed with an acoustic concert. Along with performing their usual repertoire, an appropriatesong by EKV, Earth for Us, was performed as an acoustic cover. Another surprise came in the form of their guest Goga who sat on stage to perform her song. Afterwards, acting on requests from the audience, she played a series of bhajans that brought the event to a meditative end.
The organizers are content with the panel event, and are especially glad that many different people attended and took the opportunity to speak their mind and network with one another. It was important to them that everyone heard that there were people on the island who worked on protecting the environment. They hope that the effects of the panel will spreadfurther through word of mouth among the islanders.
Another panel is planned for the autumn, sometime around olive picking season. That event will have a stronger emphasis on the spiritual dimension, which I would say is one that comes to them very naturally.