Albert Bates

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Albert Kealiinui Bates (born January 1, 1947) is an influential figure in the intentional community and ecovillage movements.A lawyer, author and teacher, he has been director of the Global Village Institute for Appropriate Technology [1] since 1984 and of the Ecovillage Training Center at The Farm in Summertown, Tennessee, since 1994.

Intentional community Planned, socially-cohesive, residential community

An intentional community is a planned residential community designed from the start to have a high degree of social cohesion and teamwork. The members of an intentional community typically hold a common social, political, religious, or spiritual vision and often follow an alternative lifestyle. They typically share responsibilities and resources. Intentional communities include collective households, cohousing communities, coliving, ecovillages, monasteries, communes, survivalist retreats, kibbutzim, ashrams, and housing cooperatives. New members of an intentional community are generally selected by the community's existing membership, rather than by real-estate agents or land owners.

Ecovillage Sustainable intentional community

An ecovillage is a traditional or intentional community with the goal of becoming more socially, culturally, economically, and ecologically sustainable. It is consciously designed through locally owned, participatory processes to regenerate and restore its social and natural environments. Most range from a population of 50 to 250 individuals, although some are smaller, and traditional ecovillages are often much larger. Larger ecovillages often exist as networks of smaller sub-communities. Some ecovillages have grown through like-minded individuals, families, or other small groups—who are not members, at least at the outset—settling on the ecovillage's periphery and participating de facto in the community.

Lawyer legal professional who helps clients and represents them in a court of law

A lawyer or attorney is a person who practices law, as an advocate, attorney, attorney at law, barrister, barrister-at-law, bar-at-law, canonist, canon lawyer, civil law notary, counsel, counselor, counsellor, solicitor, legal executive, or public servant preparing, interpreting and applying law, but not as a paralegal or charter executive secretary. Working as a lawyer involves the practical application of abstract legal theories and knowledge to solve specific individualized problems, or to advance the interests of those who hire lawyers to perform legal services.


Bates has been a resident of The Farm since 1972. A former attorney, he argued environmental and civil rights cases before the U.S. Supreme Court and drafted a number of legislative Acts during a 26-year legal career. The holder of a number of design patents, Bates invented the concentrating photovoltaic arrays and solar-powered automobile displayed at the 1982 World's Fair. He served on the steering committee of Plenty International for 18 years, focussing on relief and development work with indigenous peoples, human rights and the environment. An emergency medical technician (EMT), he was a founding member of The Farm Ambulance Service. He was also a licensed Amateur Radio operator.

Solar power conversion of energy from sunlight into electricity

Solar power is the conversion of energy from sunlight into electricity, either directly using photovoltaics (PV), indirectly using concentrated solar power, or a combination. Concentrated solar power systems use lenses or mirrors and tracking systems to focus a large area of sunlight into a small beam. Photovoltaic cells convert light into an electric current using the photovoltaic effect.

1982 Worlds Fair

The 1982 World's Fair, formally known as the Knoxville International Energy Exposition, was held in Knoxville, Tennessee, United States. The specialized Expo themed "Energy Turns the World", was recognized by the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE).

Plenty International

Plenty International is an environmental, humanitarian aid and human rights organization based in Summertown, Tennessee, United States.

Life and work

Albert K. Bates works on a Kaypro-10 computer from his home at The Farm in Summertown, Tennessee, in 1981 Albert Bates, 1981.jpg
Albert K. Bates works on a Kaypro-10 computer from his home at The Farm in Summertown, Tennessee, in 1981

Bates first came to national prominence in 1978 when he sued to shut down the entire U.S. nuclear fuel cycle from mines to waste repositories. The case, which went four times to the United States Supreme Court and was later profiled in a law review article [2] and two books, was ultimately unsuccessful but raised troubling questions about the health effects of nuclear energy and the ethical dimensions — and civil liberties implications — of the federal role in promoting it.

Bates has played a major role in the ecovillage movement as one of the organizers of the Global Ecovillage Network (GEN), and served as GEN's chairman of the board (from 2002 to 2003) and president (from 2003 to 2004). He was also the principal organizer of the Ecovillage Network of the Americas and served as its president (from 1996 to 2003). In 1994 he founded the Ecovillage Training Center, a "whole systems immersion experience of ecovillage living." [3] He has taught courses in sustainable design, natural building, permaculture and technologies of the future to students from more than 50 nations.

The Global Ecovillage Network (GEN) is a global association of people and communities (ecovillages) dedicated to living "sustainable plus" lives by restoring the land and adding more to the environment than is taken. Network members share ideas and information, transfer technologies and develop cultural and educational exchanges.

Natural building

A natural building involves a range of building systems and materials that place major emphasis on sustainability. Ways of achieving sustainability through natural building focus on durability and the use of minimally processed, plentiful or renewable resources, as well as those that, while recycled or salvaged, produce healthy living environments and maintain indoor air quality. Natural building tends to rely on human labor, more than technology. As Michael G. Smith observes, it depends on "local ecology, geology and climate; on the character of the particular building site, and on the needs and personalities of the builders and users."

Permaculture agriculture practices using few energy resources and human intervention

Permaculture is a set of design principles centered around whole systems thinking simulating or directly utilizing the patterns and resilient features observed in natural ecosystems. It uses these principles in a growing number of fields from regenerative agriculture, rewilding, community, and organizational design and development.

Bates' Climate in Crisis (1990) was the first book published on web (rolled paper) press using a 100% recycled product without chemically removing clays or inks. Since then, he has been planting a private forest to sequester carbon dioxide and related greenhouse gas emissions from travel, business and personal activities. At 40 acres under mixed-age, mixed-species, climate-resilient management, primarily being managed for ecosystem services, that forest now annually plants itself as it expands. [4]


In 1980, Bates shared in the first Right Livelihood Award as part of the executive board of Plenty International. In 2012, he received the Gaia Award from Gaia Trust of Denmark for his efforts in fostering the ecovillage movement.

Right Livelihood Award international award to honour and support those offering practical and exemplary answers to the most urgent challenges facing us today

The Right Livelihood Award is an international award to "honour and support those offering practical and exemplary answers to the most urgent challenges facing us today." The prize was established in 1980 by German-Swedish philanthropist Jakob von Uexkull, and is presented annually in early December. An international jury, invited by the five regular Right Livelihood Award board members, decides the awards in such fields as environmental protection, human rights, sustainable development, health, education, and peace. The prize money is shared among the winners, usually numbering four, and is EUR 200,000. Very often one of the four laureates receives an honorary award, which means that the other three share the prize money.


Albert Bates is the great-great-great-great Grandson of Issachar Bates, Revolutionary War fife major and among the most prolific poets and songwriters among the early 19th century Shakers, whose 1805 house is a National Historic Landmark in Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill, Kentucky. Bates is also related to Katherine Lee Bates, author of the lyrics to America the Beautiful. The Bates family traces its arrival in North America from England to four Puritan families who sailed aboard the Winthrop Fleet in 1630 and settled in Massachusetts. [5]

Published works

Bates is author of many books on law, energy, history and environment, including:

The Post-petroleum Survival Guide and Cookbook: Recipes for Changing Times, was published in 2006. [6] In it Bates examines the transition from a society based on abundant cheap petroleum to one of "compelled conservation." The book looks at the ways of preparing for this transition. He regards the coming change as an opportunity to "redeem our essential interconnectedness with nature and with each other."

In his introduction, Bates outlines the realities of declining fossil energy and global climate change. He puts forward a "twelve step petrochemical addiction recovery program," from post-growth economics through methods to conserve fresh water, manage wastes, generate energy, produce and store food, and travel without the aid of fossil fuels. As a review by Ryan McGreal states: "The central message in this book is sustainability and permaculture. A recurring theme is that every waste product is something else's food, and that the most sustainable arrangement works with the prevailing conditions, not against them." [7] McGreal summarizes Bates' proposals for human adaptation as follows:

Instead of wasting energy trying to fight nature, it makes more sense to understand nature and use it to your mutual benefit. This, of course, means the end of one-size-fits-all industrial solutions and a return to decentralized, idiosyncratic plans based on local conditions. [7]

The Biochar Solution: Carbon Farming and Climate Change, was published in 2010. [8] In it Bates traces the evolution of carbon-enriching agriculture from the ancient black soils of the Amazon to its reappearance as a modern climate restoration strategy.

In The Biochar Solution, Bates repeats the urgency of declining fossil energy, especially in the context of chemical and energy-intensive progressive agriculture and global climate change. He proposes a carbon-oriented agricultural revolution that could double world food supplies while simultaneously building soil fertility and lowering atmospheric and oceanic concentrations of carbon. Bates suggests that, if sourced cautiously, biochar energy systems could eliminate fossil fuel dependency, bring new life to desertified landscapes, purify drinking water, and build carbon-negative homes, communities and economies. Peter Bane, the editor of Permaculture Activist, describes Bates' talents in this way:

If there is a smart, multi-functional, low-cost, democratic strategy that can help to pull carbon out of the atmosphere, it's probably in this book: chinampas, step-harvest planting of trees (with six times the carbon density per acre), harnessing youth to the task, agroforestry, greening the desert, uneven-aged forest management, carbon farming, the soil food web, and more. Each of these gets a relatively brief, punchy, and fairly technical description. Bates is a good and stylish writer; he has an ear for the pithy phrase, and reading him is generally a pleasure. This book, based on original scholarship, vast knowledge of a rapidly changing global field, and the arcana of many loosely linked disciplines brings the skills and interests of its polymath author together for a supremely important purpose. [9]

Bates' most ambitious work to date is The Paris Agreement: the best chance we have to save the one planet we've got, published just weeks after the close of COP-21, the United Nations Conference on Climate Change in December, 2015. The book follows Bates' year-long travels leading up to the Paris conference, the delicate and often fractious negotiations, and dissects the final document agreed to by 196 countries. It includes anecdotes from a range of surroundings, from inside the halls of Le Bourget to boating the Seine with indigenous peoples there to protest the talks.

See also


  1. Global Village Institute. Global Village Institute for Appropriate Technology, Summertown, TN. Retrieved on: 2013-06-12.
  2. 3 Journal of Environmental Law and Litigation iii (1988) "The Karma of Kerma: Nuclear Wastes and Natural Rights" or "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2006-08-11. Retrieved 2006-06-11.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link). February, 1988. Retrieved on: March 27, 2014.
  3. Ecovillage Training Center Archived 2006-05-04 at the Wayback Machine . The Farm, Summertown, TN. Retrieved on: June 22, 2007.
  4. Bates, Albert (January 20, 2013) "A Personal Forest (Parts I and II)." The Great Change. Retrieved on: June 12, 2013. Simultaneously published in The Permaculture Activist 88:40-43 (May 2013) (print edition).
  5. Medlicott, pg. 3-16, 40-41.
  6. .The Post-petroleum Survival Guide and Cookbook: Recipes for Changing Times (2006). New Society Publishers.
  7. 1 2 McGreal, Ryan (January 10, 2007) "Reviews." Raise the Hammer, Hamilton, Ontario. Retrieved on: February 25, 2007.
  8. .The Biochar Solution: Carbon Farming and Climate Change (2010). New Society Publishers.
  9. Bane, Peter "Corraling CO2." Permaculture Activist, Bloomington, Indiana. Retrieved on: June 7, 2011.

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