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#728 - A Vision Statement -- Part 2, 04-Jul-2001

Here we continue publishing the draft consensus statement that
emerged from a 3-day "future search" meeting at Oberlin College
in January. (See REHN #727, http://iee.umces.edu/ESDA/, and
www.futuresearch.net.) The purpose of the meeting was to see if a
fairly diverse group of people could reach any agreement about
a sustainable and desirable world.

Many community activists who know what they are AGAINST (including
us), may not be so sure what they are FOR. But if we don't
know what we are for, how can we tell whether we are getting
there? How can we devise strategies to reach goals that we have
never specified?

The Oberlin group tentatively named itself ESDA -- Envisioning a
Sustainable and Desirable America. The group has invited RACHEL'S
readers to join in the visioning process. The ESDA group said,
"We hope you can take the time to read our vision, and offer us
your comments. Would you like to live in this world? Are there
elements of our vision with which you disagree? Are important
pieces missing? When you are done, please send your feedback to
farley@cbl.umces.edu," the E-mail address of Josh Farley at
University of Maryland.

The ESDA vision statement is organized into five parts:
Worldviews, Built Capital, Natural Capital, Human Capital and
Social Capital. In REHN #727 we began publishing the "Worldviews"
section, which continues here:

An essential step to reaching a steady state economy is full cost
accounting. We must recognize that production and consumption
decisions incur environmental costs of pollution and resource
depletion as well as social costs such as poverty and misery. At
the very least, these costs must be accounted for in prices. The
idea of full cost accounting must also be reflected in national
accounts. The gross national product will be replaced by measures
such as the Index of Sustainable Economic Welfare or the Genuine
Progress Indicator. (See REHN #516.) Any effective measure of
sustainable economic development must also include indicators of
the health of the ecosystems that sustain us.

Finally, values will outweigh technical expertise in the decision
making process. No longer will policy makers pay attention to
economists' mathematical analysis of whether the costs of global
warming outweigh the benefits. Instead, people will recognize
that complex moral and ethical values cannot be boiled down to
simple equations and pure rationality. Emotion will no longer be
disdained in the decision making process, but will be recognized
as a fundamental component of the human psyche. Science will
still be respected within its sphere, but people will recognize
that that sphere does not include moral decisions of right and
wrong. Technology will be a servant helping us to meet the moral
and ethical ends we decide on together, not an end in itself, not
a master.

Though these are some characteristics of the dominant worldview
we envision in 2100, we also envision a society robust enough,
productive enough and tolerant enough to allow room for a wide
range of people with differing world views to live together in
harmony.

II. BUILT CAPITAL

Built capital is the human made infrastructure used to meet human
needs. Though technological advance over the next hundred years
will have a large impact on the type of built capital we find in
Sustainable and Desirable America 2100, different priorities will
have had as much or even greater impact.

COMMUNITIES : Communities will be dramatically redesigned to
integrate living space, community space, and work space with
recreational needs and nature. Workspace includes the stores that
supply our every day needs as well as production facilities for
most of the goods those stores supply. People will live very
close to where they work, where they shop and where they play.
Communities in general will be much smaller, though specifics of
community size and design are determined by local ecosystem
limits.

In addition to these very practical aspects, communities will be
designed as "soul satisfying spaces that resonate with our
evolutionary history." Most communities will be surrounded by
natural areas and incorporate parks and other green spaces
(though this is a misnomer in drier parts of the country, where
xeriscaping will be the norm) that will also serve as common
space for community members. They will also foster social
interaction and mutual dependence on community. Rather than
something new, this is simply a resurgence of a millennial
tradition of settlement patterns.

Because community space is abundant and well designed, private
homes will in general be smaller (hence cheaper and easier to
care for) though still palatial by world standards. Private lawns
will virtually disappear, though lawn-like community green spaces
will exist, and private gardens will abound. Private gardens in
fact meet a substantial portion of community food needs.

Rapidly increasing energy costs will probably provide the initial
incentive behind the unified, largely self-sufficient communities
where walking and bicycle riding will effectively become the
dominant forms of transportation, except in the worst weather.
However, Americans will quickly discover that there were enormous
benefits to such pedestrian communities. One of the biggest
impacts will be simply getting people out of their cars. Walking
to work, to the store, to community meeting places or to nature
preserves on the outskirts of town will bring people into direct
contact with the other members of the community. People walking
together in the same direction naturally converse, establishing
friendships, informing each other of current events, and
discussing issues of relevance to the community. In fact,
developing community and social capital will become one of many
explicit goals for designing built capital.

Modern communities will be very healthy places for humans and
other species. The invigoration of exercise and the nurturing of
the human need for social interaction will replace the stress of
hour-long commutes, road rage and the pollution of vehicle
exhaust, improving both physical and mental health. Air quality
will be very high. Many roads and parking lots will become
redundant, and in their space will stand parks, streams and
greenways, providing clean air, clean water, and healthy
recreation, among numerous other vital ecosystem services.
Dramatic reductions in impervious areas will reduce flooding and
allow the land and the ecosystems it sustains to filter water,
restoring the nation's waterways to health.

Of course, though the near extinction of the single occupancy
vehicle will make many roads nothing more than useless pollution
taking up space needed for forests and other natural areas, it
will not be easy to clean up the mess. The energy costs of simply
tearing up all the pavement may prove more than America can
afford, and ecological restorationists will need to discover how
plants can do much of this for us. Certain plants can thrive when
planted directly into cracks in asphalt and others can be planted
in holes dug through the roads, the roots mechanically breaking
down both asphalt and concrete. Different plants will prove able
to chemically break down the pollutants in the soil from both the
asphalt and the vehicles that drove over it for so many years,
and these will 'pave the way' (an archaic expression) for the
return of native plant communities.

The huge cities of course will not disappear in one hundred
years, but will be dramatically reorganized. In 2100 cities will
be aggregations of smaller communities in close physical
proximity, but where each community meets the housing,
employment, social, recreation and shopping needs of those who
live there. Natural areas will also make a big comeback in urban,
and ecological restoration will play an important role in
decontaminating urban brownfields. Huge cities will remain of
course quite different from more isolated smaller communities,
with both advantages and disadvantages. Communities within a city
will still be organized in many cases on ethnic or cultural
lines, so cities will provide exceptional cultural diversity and
richness. There will simply not be enough land within or nearby
most cities to provide all the agricultural production and raw
materials for manufacture they require, and much of this must
still be shipped in.

TRANSPORTATION: As already mentioned in the description of
communities, single occupancy vehicles will be exceedingly rare.
The dominant modes of transportation within communities will be
walking and bicycling, and between communities it will be high
speed rail. Public transportation will be important within
communities, and will be designed not just to transport
passengers but to transport goods as well, making it convenient
for grocery shopping and the like. Because so many people will
use public transportation, it will be abundant and extremely
convenient. Rail will be common, but so will buses and taxis
powered by fuel cells. Traffic will be a thing of the past, so
public transportation will get people around much more quickly
than private vehicles do today, at a fraction of the cost.
Dramatically fewer vehicles on the roads will also cut
maintenance costs to a fraction of what they are today, and new
roads will be unnecessary. Some people may still own private
vehicles -- hydrogen powered hyper-cars -- but these vehicles
will be expensive, and their owners will pay a higher share of
costs of road maintenance. Most communities will have hypercars
available for rent when private transportation is absolutely
required, and when not in use for driving, the hypercars may
prove a clean and efficient source of electricity for those rare
occasions when local solar cells are insufficient.

ENERGY: Renewable resources will meet virtually all of the
nation's energy needs, the conversion from hydrocarbons
facilitated by continuous increases in efficiency of energy use.
Photovoltaic tiles will be ubiquitous roofing materials, and
roofs alone will meet over half the nation's energy needs. Much
of electricity from wind farms and solar farms will be used to
create hydrogen for fuel cells. Large scale hydropower will be
decreasing in importance as more and more rivers are restored to
their natural states, but low impact mini-turbines will be
increasingly common. In spite of the abundance of non-renewable
non-polluting forms of energy, energy efficiency research will
still be important, the primary goal being to reduce the area of
the country covered in solar cells.

INDUSTRY: Industry will change dramatically. Industrial design
will be based on closed loop systems in imitation of nature,
where the waste product from one industry becomes the feedstock
of the next. Wasted heat from industrial processes will be used
to heat nearby homes and workspaces. When possible, industrial
production will use local materials to meet local needs, and
process wastes (the few that are not put to use) locally. Most
industries will be locally owned as well. While these
characteristics will not always maximize productive 'efficiency',
the benefits will outweigh the costs. First, local production
will dramatically reduce transportation costs, helping to
compensate for sometimes higher production costs. Second, it will
make communities directly aware of the environmental impacts of
production and consumption. Costs of waste disposal will not be
shifted elsewhere. Third, industries will be part of a community.
Most of them will be locally owned by the workers they employ and
by the people whose needs they meet. Rather than simply trying to
maximize returns to shareholders, industries will strive to
provide healthy, safe, secure and fulfilling working conditions
for workers. Those who produce goods and those who consume them
will know each other, so workers will take particular pride in
the quality of what they produce. Fourth, the decentralization of
the economy will mean that the economy as a whole will be much
less susceptible to business cycles, increasing job stability.
Fifth, an emphasis on local ownership and production for local
markets will reduce the importance of trade secrets and patents
-- competition will be replaced to some extent by cooperation.
Finally, decreased competition will lead to a dramatic decrease
in the size of the advertising industry. This means that money
once spent on convincing people to buy one brand over another
will be spent on making those products better, or simply not
spent, making those products more affordable. [To be continued]