Etymology of “Eotopia”
Eo is related to the ancient Greek εἶμι (“to go”), to Sanskrit एति (“he goes”), to Latin eō (“to go, to advance, to take place, to pass, to pour out”).
Utopia is a term invented in 1516 by Thomas More in an eponymous book. It is linked to the Greek τόπος (“place”) and to the Latin privative prefix u.
Eotopia could therefore mean “a place where we advance”!
Eotopia begins with a trip without money from Netherlands to Mexico (to know more about this: sansunsou.wordpress.com). During this travel, the protagonists, Raphael, Benjamin and Nicolas learn to live without any money and discover the happiness of simplicity. They become vegan and convince each other that an economy based on giving is the only fair and solidarity-based economy for all.
They dream about a world without money… first, they imagine a vegan ecovillage based on the economy of donation. Vegan for the respect of the living in all its forms and a maximum ecological coherence; economy based on giving because it’s the natural economic model.
Eotopia stays a dream until the beginning of 2013. Raphael married Nieves, before to welcome the birth of a child. Benjamin returns from Mexico with Yazmin. At four “and a half”, they decide to make their dream comes true, create a website to present the project and organize a meeting in Freiburg in a Steiner school at the end of October 2013. More than thirty people gather there, some to get informed, others to get involved more durably. German, French, Portuguese, Swiss, English, Spanish, Italian people and a Mexican!
Benjamin and Yazmin come back in France and begin to seriously search for a place. Fortunately, following an article published on an online newspaper, they are put in contact with a vegan owner, who is looking for people to populate his lands. They don’t hesitate one second and come to visit him in January. They organize a new meeting in March, in a squat, to discuss about this option. More than forty people are present, including fifteen people who had already participated in Freiburg meeting. Goals: presenting the project, evoking the possibility of taking a place with André, and getting to know each other.
Following this meeting, Benjamin, Yazmin and Johanna (a German who joined the group at Freiburg meeting) moved with André in Wwoofing to study the possibility of settling there. André proposes 17 hectares provided that there is no animal exploitation. The place is beautiful. Only disadvantages: the lack of water and the lack of ruins. It’s hard to obtain a building permit. A third meeting is organized this time around Barcelona to consolidate the group and give people of the south a chance to participate. More than forty participants gather in an existing eco-venue: Can Pipirimosca.
Few days later, at the end of August 2014, twenty-three citizens of the world find themselves on the lands of André to decide whether the Eotopia project can settle there. They organize a temporary encampment by installing a shower, dry toilets and a rocket stove for cooking.
During five days, they discuss project values that require clarification. A decision is made: the ground is perhaps not ideal – no water and few possibilities to build – but some members of the group are motivated to start, to experiment. They are five to stay: Joh, Guido, Renaud, Yazmin and Benjamin.
The announcement is made on the Internet and many visitors join the group, members of the 23 also in time to lend a hand. They build a shower, dry toilets in pallets, install a kitchen covered with tarpaulins, dig a well discovered by a dowser, a dome and start the garden. Meanwhile, Yazmin draws plans for the future eco-village in order to present it to the town hall.
Unfortunately, this one is opposed to the idea of building on the place. At the same time, André announces his wish to see cultivated all the agricultural land (including most of the 17 hectares).
The Eotopians explain to him that this is not the aim of the project and that the vocation of Eotopia is above all educational, but … he insists. These differences of opinion are not serious but with the impossibility of constructing, they prefer to retire at the end of year 2014.
Then followed several “empty” months, Yazmin and Benjamin are very busy with the birth of their daughter Ada and the other members of Eotopia are moving towards different horizons. It becomes clear that in order to cement the foundations of such a project, it is first necessary a place.
Several months passed during which false hopes followed one another until September 2015, the month of the meeting with Tonio, a peasant living near Pau who insisted that Eotopia should be made at his home. The enthusiasm is there again.
Benjamin and Yazmin decide this time not to form a group before securing the place and only Antoine and Sandrine are added to the adventure. They meet Tonio, discover a strong but endearing personality and decide to settle there from March 2016. The farm is huge; there are 12 hectares of land and about thirty animals (cows and sheep) to be saved. Tonio wants to stop his exploitation for the project and the small group of Eotopians believes in it hard as iron. Sandrine leaves her job and sells her house, and everyone gets ready for the big start.
Another disappointment: Tonio had “omitted” to tell them that he was burdened with debts and that he was in court. The place doesn’t belong to him (it belongs to his family), then the risk of expulsion and his lack of honesty prompt the group to withdraw.
And so Eotopia is one more time on the roads, in search of its promised land. Thousands of people follow the protagonists via the website, hundreds of emails a month confirm to them that the project is beautiful and has its place in this world. Nobody gives up!
After this last setback, the team, joined by Roman, decides to reunite his savings to buy a place and in April 2016 a compromise of sale is signed! A land has been found in Saône-et-Loire... Everybody settles there in July 2016.To follow the rest of the adventures, take a look at the newsletters!