Last January, Þórarinn Einarsson announced on Facebook that he had acquired a 1368 hectare (3380 acres) uninhabited plot of land in the North of Iceland, to share with others interested in creating a sustainable settlement in the area. The name of the land is Laugasel, and the project has been named Laugasel Eco-Village.
The main notion behind the project is permaculture: a concept that first referred to “permanent agriculture” but has since expanded to include “permanent culture” in general. The project caught only modest attention until last week, when a dedicated Facebook group showed up for Laugasel Eco-Village.
Þórarinn Einarsson is well known as a contributor to, and organiser of, various social projects and campaigns throughout the last decade or two. He says he doesn’t have strong opinions on which titles are attributed to him, but says permaculturist might not be far off now.
Þórarinn says that he has dreamed about founding an eco-village for years. The long-term goal is to make it as self-sustainable as possible “but certainly it is not possible to say how fully or how long it takes to reach that goal,” says Þórarinn. He emphasises that the project is international, and says that he actually did not expect many participants among Icelanders to begin with “although that might be changing.”
One farm inhabited the land into the 1980s, but Þórarinn says the old farm now lies in ruins. Roughly as large as two thousand football fields, Laugasel lies around 200-400 meters above mean sea level, 7 km west of lake Mývatn, framed by two rivers. Some ponds, minor streams and fountains can be found within the plot’s boundaries. According to Þórarinn, it is mostly covered in low growth, but includes some swamps and barren plains. The only road leading to the place is pretty rough, and laying a better road is among the project’s first priorities.
Officially, Laugasel lies within the boundaries of the municipality Þingeyjasveit. Þórarinn says that he has spoken with the municipality’s building and planning officer, who “at least was not negative towards the project”. Nonetheless, he adds, both of them realised that regulation might be an obstacle for some ideas. “Nothing seems to be in the way of building an activity centre and even get permits for a new, more beneficial, plan for the area.”
No construction work will start until May or June 2015, according to Þórarinn, as snows tend to be heavy in the area. “But I expect that we will use the winter for social preparation. We must register an association and make some sort of founding covenant.”
More can be read about eco-villages on the Global Ecovillage Network’s website.