Archive for September, 2007

Imagining the Sustainable Communities of the Future

September 22nd, 2007

One of the challenges we face is just conceiving of the nature and scale of the change required to make the world a sustainable habitat for human beings. We know that our present reality is literally unsustainable, and is already beginning to show signs of critical deterioration through the effects of our industrial and post-industrial economic activity.

Scientists have reported that a record amount of Arctic sea ice melted this summer (2007). According to the UK Daily Mail, “The ice cap shrank by 386,100 square miles – an area four times as large as the UK – from the previous low in 2005.”

…”It’s the biggest drop from a previous record that we’ve ever had and it’s really quite astounding,” said Walt Meier, from the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Centre.

See complete story.

Our entire way of living, our society and our economy, are about to undergo a radical change. The question is, how will we adjust to the already unavoidable consequences of climate change? And what steps will we take to prevent further global warming?

Our housing needs to change – and indeed our entire concept of community life may also change as a consequence. Our transportation needs to change. We can no longer keep building roads for fossil-fuel burning vehicles; while we can certainly switch over to electric vehicles, we have to look further at how we are generating that electric power, and whether indeed our whole aging infrastructure of highways and bridges – built originally to allow the military to move swiftly across the country to counter a Communist invasion – is really worth renwing and expanding to create more congestion and sprawl.

The question is, are we going to need to build entire communities that are little islands of cool, green, health – and eject their heat and waste into an even more degraded and overheated global environment? What are the alternative visions of the future that genuinely take into account the realities of our stratified, belligerent, and economically self-aggrandizing societies?

Notes and Aphorisms

September 18th, 2007

Here’s where to begin:

My head is filled with the words of other people, but the words on this page are entirely my own. My life is unique, though not always honorable or even uncommon. It is simply is unique, more or less by accident – if you believe in accidents. It did not happen to anyone else. Yet it is also in some respects universal (though what those respects are is sometimes not easy to discern). As a human being there is nothing about me that is not human, nothing that can truly be foreign to anyone; yet at times it seems to me that I literally share nothing with anyone else in the world.How far back does this go? My parents were unique, and their parents before them (though, to be honest, I know nothing about my father’s). My sister was (and remains) a unique, complex, unclassifiable character; and her children and grandchildren are strangers to me. My childhood friends, long abandoned, remain individual stories of mine, and have in reality taken on very different existences. I do not belong to a single country, or ethnic group, or profession. I have not grown up, or settled down. I have been and remain an “entrepreneur,” which is to say a sort of mountebank and intellectual adventurer who chooses to cloak his completely arbitrary preferences in the language of business.

But on the other hand everything that I am belongs not only to me but also to the world. It is one aspect of what it means to be a human being. It is a fact. Even if it is only a feeling, or a fleeting thought, or a false belief: it is a fact that humans have and are all these things, and my experience is simply a more or less representative sampling of this. Less, no doubt, but a sampling nonetheless. Each new individual reveals another layer of what it means to be human.

For the most part, everyone we meet is a hustler. If they’d already made it, they wouldn’t be where you are, since you’re only there because you haven’t made it.

In the end, no matter what we do, things will turn out.

Of course, they may turn out well or poorly. But there will be an outcome that will clearly be the result of our actions. (Some religious folks may want to dispute that, if they feel God is controlling everything anyway; but in most religions God also grants us free will, and merely manifests on earth how well we exercise that free will. So we are back to the idea that it will turn out as a result of how we act.)

If things turn out well, the planet will dial back its temperature, and we humans will reach a new equilibrium with nature. We will live in peace and harmony with each other, recognizing our differences and our past violent natures, and basking in the abundance of a limitless universe. We will learn to create energy from the sun, from the movement of the planet, and from the heat of its inner core. We will stop putting greenhouse gases into our atmosphere, stop burying our wastes in landfills, and make every community, every company, and every individual “sustainable.”

But if they do not turn out well, there may be some pretty dismal days ahead for the planet. Things will get warmer, everywhere but most noticeably the further north or south you are… the ice will melt, the seas will rise, and hundreds of millions of people will be displaced. As the seas rise, the overall land mass of the earth will shrink, and coastal residents will be forced to higher ground. The vegetation around us will change, adapting rapidly to the new environmental conditions; but life will become much more uncomfortable for all of us.

As Kenny Ausubel (founder of Bioneers) says, it’s not about saving “the” environment, it’s about whether it will continue to support us. The planet has undergone many changes before we got here, and will continue to undergo changes with or without us – in part because of what we as an increasingly numerous species are putting into the water, into the earth, and into the air.

Green Blog

September 7th, 2007

Right now I’m working on what seems like a half-dozen “sustainability” initiatives – and finding an overwhelming amount of new information and initiatives that relate to these in some way. At times, this level of activity is almost overwhelming – there is already way more happening all over the world than any single human being can keep track of – and yet when you venture outside into any ordinary American neighborhood, you can’t yet see much of difference being made.

So although I’m already running a half-dozen web sites to support these initiatives (not to mention 30 or 40 others, for clients, political groups, my neighborhood – and for many of my other innovative ideas, some of which are necessarily “on the shelf”), it seems to me that there is still room for a way of keeping a record of some of the more interesting and useful ideas, sites, and opportunities I am finding along the way.

Here are some of the things I’m already working on:

Here are some interesting discoveries along the way:

Shaklee has reinvented itself as a completely green company. It is still using all the old MLM techniques, and signing up distributors to promote it both as a product company and as a business opportunity, but the pitch has some unique angles, and the company seems to be serious about being “the first certified climate neutral company in the world” (in 2002).

I don’t know if it’s kosher to link to the video that is at the heart of its current promo campaign, but I’m going to do so anyway – until someone tells me not to – and if you’re interested in getting connected to the operation I’ll refer you to someone else, until and unless we decide to use and promote these products ourselves. We’ve had such bad experiences with MLM lately, however, that even this pitch may not be enough to get us to buy into another one – even though we like the products, we find they’re costly and the business opportunity is, if not entirely illusory, so onerous and time-consuming as to be uneconomic…. (- enter code 15725282 in the left or center boxes)

It’s the message in the video – past the segment from Oprah – that, much more than the marketing hype, is what’s interesting.