Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Saxon Villages of Transylvania: A Mediaeval Model for the Future Eco-Village?

I was prompted by an article in the most recent Ecologist magazine to find out more about these remnant mediaeval villages as a potential model for future farming as I see it.  All the links from the article had the inevitable "coffee-table magazine' look about them- pretty flowers, wild animals you know the sort of thing- triumph of style over substance.
Eventually I came across this report commissioned by H.R.H. the Prince of Wales and published way back in 2001

It still has lovely pictures but more importantly it has diagrams, aerial views and descriptive text. The producers of the report have included the inevitable nod to "sensitive tourism" and  "appropriate integration of agricultural technology",  but then this was ten years ago before peak oil awareness and agricultural commodities were at very low prices. The need for "cash earners" was predicated upon the notion that cash is needed to provide the "mod-cons" that must be provided to discourage all the young people from deserting their communities.  I believe that ten years later with agricultural prices rising, peak oil a historical fact a billion hungry people in the world and apparently a change of heart in the E.U. that has until recently sought to destroy the remnants of "peasant farming", this mode of living could suddenly become very attractive to those who formerly might have wished (and been encouraged by politicians) to abandon it for a "better life" in the cities.

I am particularly impressed by the combination of family autonomy in the gardens and arable lands and community co-operation in the use of the common pastures and woodlands. As you will see from the village layout the houses, yards and barns are all very similiar in size indicating a self-imposed egalitarianism in these communities (remember these people were free peasants- not vassals of some feudal lord). I am sure that hundreds of years fighting off Mongol and Saracen hordes built a great sense of community solidarity.

As you know, I pretty much sit firmly in the "doomer" camp when it comes to the notion of sudden vs. gradual collapse.  I have been a long time looking for a model of what I see as a realistic and practical solution to post peak  secure and sustainable living and have found on the one hand a lot of fluffy co-operative idealists (everything is everyones responsibility so no-one does much) and individualistic fortress building survivalists on the other. Here I find inspiration- but sadly I have little confidence in our ability to act in a suitably urgent fashion. Perhaps I need to take a crash-course in Romanian language?


  1. Interesting post - these Transylvanian villages make it an area high up on my list of places to visit.

  2. It's pretty interesting that prognostication is ahistorical. Since man started scrawling on cave walls, he's been predicting his own downfall. More often than not, the 'great calamity' has been godly in origin, but times appear to have changed. This particularly baseless shout of "we're all goings to die!" appears to be one part paranoia and two parts misunderstood economics.

    For other examples of hilarious conspiracy theories, see the "Illuminati". It's similar in that it's all down to the 'elites' (whoever they are...) but distinct in that they're pretty open to magic and mysticism. This recent 'economic apocalypse' bullshit appears to be open to magic in the sense that you don't have to actually understand economics to go on about it. Endlessly. By reading the same 'end of the world' blog over and over again, such as "The Automatic Earth" you too can become a pseudo-economist at no expense to your pocket or brain!

    Gee-whizz, if Occam were here, he'd be angry. That is, we're presented with two scenarios. The first is that despite the constant watch of politicians, economists, mathematicians, statisticians and other intelligent individuals with the health of the economy very close to their heart, said economy is still going to fall apart. Forever. Or the food supply will run out. Or some other vague calamity will befall us all (as you seem to be so vehement about) and a group of internet vigilantes have cracked it all just in time! - Plus, while they've seen the light, the rest of the world is still living in ignorance, safe in the naive delusion that maybe all those professionals in positions of power will actually do their jobs. You know, as they've been doing for hundreds of years now.


    Yet another paranoid cult has appeared on the internet based on exactly the same hilarious psychological slip-ups as Nostradamus capitalised on 500 years ago. Namely: "The world is ending and only WE know about it! - And you're all sheep because you don't believe us, despite our lack of training in any of the fields we claim to know so much about! It's all the rich people I tells ye!".

    Let's whip out Occam's razor for a second.
    Oh yeah, that's right, every recession spawns another wave of paranoid amateur economists.
    The great thing about prognostication is you never actually have to admit you're a fear mongering ass. The time never comes when the rest of the world can actually call you out on a specific date when a specific calamity never actually happened and say "Oh, so what the hell was all that then?". It must be great to be right all the time.
    Anyway, must dash, I hear there's loads more grass up the paddock and I'm hungry. Baaaaa.

  3. Dave- I'm sure you would find it a fascinating area professoinally- apparently it is home to 1/3 of all european species. I think if I was still living in the UK but I am fully committed to my farm here in NZ. I once had a plan to walk from Rotterdam to the Black Sea via the Rhine / Danube but there was a war there at that time. This would have made an interesting detour.