Friday, June 19, 2009

Collaborative Urban Design Strategies

Thanks to Joe Recchie for pointing me to this link, for the C.L.E.A.R Village project. It looks to be something of an open-source design project to develop a sustainable community over the next five years. It includes an open lab, a forum for public critiques and discussion, a blog linking to and commenting on other sustainable design projects and a host of other interactive features. A fascinating experiment.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Sustainable Consumption

Boston's New Dream Foundation is one of the most consistently informative and interesting green organizations around.  Rather than cause-oriented activism, they take a big-picture approach, seeing the need to change deeply ingrained habits and practices (rather than "awareness" in general).  Drawing on the work of scoiologist Juliet Schor, NDF offers fine-grained analyses, thoughtful commentary and practical advice.  One of their recent studies looks at Americans' patterns of consumption, and tries to think about what more sustainable consumption might look like. 

Meanwhile, Andrew O'Hagan in the London Review of Books takes a look at three recent books about car culture (mostly in the US) and explains why governments--not just the US, but world-wide--are deeply reluctant to let the carmakers go under. In O'Hagan's view, the issue is much more than economic, but goes to the heart of modern (male) identity, especially as its been made in the image of Americanism:

"In American fiction, a great number of epiphanies – especially male
epiphanies – occur while the protagonist is alone and driving his car.
There are reasons for that. One may not have a direction but one has a
means of getting there. One may not be in control of life but one can
progress in a straight line. When your youth is over and definitions
become fixed, even if they are wrong, it might turn out that the
arrival of a car suddenly feels like the commuting of a sentence. It
may seem to give you back your existential mojo. That is the beauty of
learning to drive late and learning to drive often: it gives you a
sense that life turned out to be freer than it was in your childhood,
that time agrees with you, that your own sensitivities found their
domain in the end, and that deep in the shell of your inexpensive car
you came to know your subjectivity."
O'Hagan is not an apologist, merely honest about the deeply visceral experience of highway driving.  (Not one I share, incidentally, but I can appreciate the perspective).  That sense of personal power is a key promise of modernity, and not easily restrained or displaced.  The private automobile is one of the linchpins of the current consumption regime, which perhaps suggests how much work a serious transformation is going to take.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Environmental Citizenship at OSU

Last year, we've had a small group of people interested in promoting environmental citizenship at Ohio State University meeting periodically to share notes and ideas about what OSU is doing, could do or should do about advancing the cause. The composition of the group has changed from time to time, but it's been gratifying to start making connections and to see how much work is actually going on.

We'll be meeting again this Weds to take stock of this year's activities, and to look forward a bit, perhaps to lay some plans for what things we can do together. I sent out an invitation with these questions:

--What has been the most satisfying development at OSU this year, in the area of environmental awareness/citizenship?

--What would you like to see happen over the next year or two?

--How can our group best support the work you want to do in this area?
I hope these can kick off a good conversation. I'm also inviting anyone who can't make the meeting to leave comments below.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Experiments in Sustainability

We all know getting to sustainbility is going to take creativity, innovation, experimentation and research--not just on isolated topics, but in ways of life.  What better role for artists than to explore the cultural--physical, psychological, aesthetic, political--dimensions of new life patterns. 

The NYT reports on The Waterpod,
an experiment in sustainable aquatic living.