Are you a tree-hugger? Then Örkeltopia is the place for you! Located in a forest just outside Örkelljunga, the community lives in treehouses at varying heights dispersed throughout the woods.
Örkeltopia formed as a reaction to modern forestry practices. The founding group consisted of biologists, activists, and ex-foresters who met while indexing rare species in forests that were about to be clear-cut. Frustration was rampant, and the group believed that large monocultures of spruce and pine were ecologically, economically, and aesthetically undesirable. They wanted old trees with character! To showcase alternative forestry practices, they jointly purchased a spruce plantation that was soon to be cut down and set out to run it according to a continuous forestry model.
Since its conception twenty years ago, parts of the forest have been re-wetted to increase carbon sequestration and provide habitat, some of the spruce has been harvested to build dwellings and let the light get through the trees for under vegetation to grow and enable native deciduous trees to be reintroduced. In 2041, Örkeltopia received the Forest Care Award from Lund University and SLU Alnarp for their efforts in halting the spread of the European Spruce Bark Beetle in the area. The re-wetted soil, diversity in tree species, and varied age made the forest less susceptible to the beetle. They have also made an effort to accommodate the beetle’s enemies; the woodpecker, beetles, and parasitoid wasps. It will take many years until all of Scania’s forest ecosystems are fully restored, but in the meantime, the residents of Örkeltopia seem satisfied with their lives in the forest.
Development of the settlement has been slow but steady. Örkeltopia wanted to be different not just in what it does, but also in how it makes decisions. Drawing on courses in sociocracy taught at the nearby folkhögskola, all major decisions are made by consent, meaning that they only pass if no one vehemently disagrees.
Visitors are welcome, and there are weekly tours of the forests—but be sure to allot a whole day, as they struggle to keep to time slots. If you find yourself at home in Örkeltopia, there is a membership process… but be warned, it is pretty lengthy, and requires you to meet all inhabitants so that they can vote on whether you get to join the community.