Communities Mobilizing Society

Beyond design and helping to rebuild local economies, communities can use members' energy and resources to help green society more broadly—restoring local ecosystems, educating the broader public, or engaging in efforts to reform local or even national political agendas.

One way communities are readily engaging in this effort is helping with ecological restoration projects in their area. The Los Angeles Ecovillage was instrumental in helping the Bresee Center design The Bimini Slough Ecology Park at the end of LAEV's street. Now the runoff from two neighboring streets drains into a small stream in the park. Here the water is cleaned by stream plants on its way back to the watertable instead of moving directly to the ocean, with all of its pollutants, via the storm drain.40

An example of a much broader-ranging restoration project comes from the community of Las Gaviotas in Colombia. This village was established on degraded savanna and made it a point to replant 8,000 hectares of surrounding land with forest—an area larger than Manhattan. Along with providing the community with food and tradable forest products, this land now absorbs 144,000 tons of carbon a year and will continue to do so while the forest grows. Gaviotas' efforts are impressive, but the village's decades-long plan is even more ambitious: Gaviotas hopes to replant another 3 million hectares with the help of other villages and towns; that's enough to absorb a quarter of Colombia's annual carbon emissions.41

Some communities—in particular ecovil-lages—are reaching out globally to local leaders to help spread the knowledge needed to make towns and larger regions sustainable. Many ecovillages have regular training courses. At The Farm, an ecovillage in Sum-mertown, Tennessee, the Ecovillage Training Center hosts dozens of training workshops— from how to install solar panels to how to cultivate and build with bamboo. Ecovillages like The Farm also host longer apprenticeships for people wanting to learn about the many aspects of community sustainability. In 2003

Engaging Communities for a Sustainable World many ecovillage and other community sus-tainability leaders founded Gaia University, which offers accredited bachelors and masters degrees in Integrative Ecosocial Design, in which students learn how to design societal, community, and personal behaviors that are in line with ecological principles.42

Communities are also increasingly getting involved in local political efforts. Today in the United States, many of the 300,000 homeowners associations (HOAs) ban their members from hanging clothes outside to dry because of the perception that clotheslines look unsightly and thus reduce property value. Yet if Americans dried just half of their clothes outside instead of in dryers that were powered by coal-fired power plants, they could save enough electricity to shut down eight such plants and reduce CO2 emissions by 23 million tons. Communities and community groups are approaching HOAs to get this and other sustainability measures implemented. Project Laundry List is an organization that helps homeowners appeal to their HOAs and that is coordinating broader efforts to change state laws to uphold "the right to dry."43

At the town and city level, there are even more opportunities to foster local-level sus-tainability through policy changes. A key strategy is to push for "smart growth," shifting urban planning away from car-dependent low-density housing to one of walkable neighborhoods with a mix of commercial and residential space. Smart growth is essential for reducing car dependency and for making towns and cities more sustainable. Some communities are joining broader coalitions working on campaigns as varied as increasing public transit, organizing to make cities bicycle-friendly, and lobbying to strengthen urban

0 0

Post a comment