Envisioning A Future With Lots of Children: an Interview with Frederic Laloux

A recent demographic survey of EcoVillage found that there are 48 children who live here (out of 100 households). However numbers have dropped for the youngest set. We interviewed Frederic Laloux, a resident with two small children who decided to be pro-active in bringing more young families to EcoVillage.

LEARN:  When did you realize that the number of children in the village was declining?

RESIDENT: When I heard that two families with 7 children in the age range of my children, Raphael and Noemie, were moving out of the third neighborhood this summer. Just as I realized that there would be almost no children their age left, I stumbled upon a poster from 2004 that showed that there used to be 30 children in the age range 0-7. When I started counting how many will be left here after this summer, I became really concerned. I had experienced how Findhorn in Scotland had almost no more children when we spent time there, and heard about other communities that had “grown up” and failed to attract new families. Could this be happening to us? The realization was almost surreal to me. This is probably one of the best places to live as a family and to raise children in the US (this is no hyperbole, we moved from Europe to live here!)… and yet we have significantly less children here than the average US population would have. 

Children playing at the village pond

LEARN: What did you (and others) decide to do about it?

RESIDENT: I wrote an email to parents whose children Raphael and Noemie play with, to see how they saw things and if they shared my concern. It turned into a very long and active email thread. Clearly, everyone was concerned! The Village Membership committee heard about the conversation and invited us to discuss this concern with them – something that they were aware of also. 

We felt that there were lots of things we could do, but that the first step would be a village-wide conversation about the topic. How does the village feel about this? Do most of us share this concern? How much of a priority does this topic deserve? We decided to organize a specific meeting, and I had this idea that we could make a short video for the invitation. We have so many events and meetings here, I felt the topic was so important that the invitation needed to stand out. 

LEARN: What were the results of the May 20th  meeting on this subject? Were there ideas presented that were worth pursuing?

RESIDENT: The topic attracted a large crowd, and the conversation was very constructive. There was a profound sense that, for lots and lots of reasons, we want an intergenerational future for EVI, and want to purposefully attract young families to move in when houses become available.

Playing broomball

There was much earnestness in the room (this is not going to be easy!) as well as hopefulness that we can do this if we make it a priority. Raising children here is magical. And it can also be hard at times. We could do better in terms of valuing children, teens and different perspectives on parenting.

The millennials in the room expressed how purchasing a home is often beyond the possibility of younger generations, and how rentals and affordability are key to attracting families today. 

Many adults without children or whose children have grown up also expressed a wish to be more involved with children in the village, but we haven’t cracked how to make that happen. 

We split up into four groups who brainstormed around various topics. A long list of projects emerged, practical things we can do. To highlight just a few: 

* we need to emphasize more clearly on EVI’s website how this is a great place for families. We could organize events at EcoVillage with local schools (public, Waldorf, Montessori) to bring parents and children up here – many have heard about EcoVillage but have never been up here.

Primitive pursuits meeting with children

*  We could create an inventory of interests of adults without children and pair them up with children who have the same interests. 

* We could create a loan fund to help families who are outbid purchase a home after all. 

* We could have affordable rents through section 8 (government subsidized housing), or perhaps even have neighborhoods purchase one or two units and rent them out through section 8.

LEARN:  Where do we go from here?

RESIDENT: I hope everyone reads the list of ideas that came out of the brainstorming, and that we all pick the one or two items we feel we’d like to do. If many people contribute, we can make this happen!  I will meet shortly with others to think about creating a core group and some regular events to keep the focus and the energy up for this topic! But don’t wait for us or assume that we can make this happen. Go ahead and take action.