[permaculture] Solving the big environmental problems

Keith Johnson keithdj at mindspring.com
Sun Aug 21 12:58:01 EDT 2005

Folks on the Permaculture listservs may be interested to hear from you. 
I'll pass this along.

Keith Johnson
Permaculture Activist Magazine
PO Box 1209
Black Mountain, NC 28711

also Patterns for Abundance Design & Consulting
Culture's Edge at Earthaven Ecovillage

ecocity at igc.org wrote:

>Dear writer friends and members of the press, a few of whom I don't know
>I will be from time to time sending a press release and commenting on the
>point where environmental problems and solutions intersect with urban
>problems and solutions.  If you'd like not to receive these, just let me
>know and off you go!
>Why, though, have environmental victories that seemed so great left us with
>a far worse situation than the planet has seen in 65 million years?  I'm
>reaching out trying to say it has something with building our cities, towns
>and even villages on the basis of cars and the far-scattered built
>community.  I'm feeling the press of time running out.  Maybe you can help.
>Good luck to us all!
>Richard Register
>P R E S S     R E L E A S E
>Contact Richard Register
>President, Ecocity Builders, Inc.
>1 510 444-4508
>ecocity at igc.org
>Cities for People, not Cars:
>Campaign Launched to Redirect the Environmental Movement.
>Why has the environmental movement seen so many victories since the first
>Earth Day yet the really big problems ­ global warming, species extinctions
>and rapidly approaching 'peak oil' are far worse now than ever before?
>Because, says educational non-profit Ecocity Builders, society has yet to
>seriously confront the largest things human beings create:the city.  The
>city is not being examined in its most basic design and functioning and no
>strategy to transform it in any meaningful sense has been suggested by the
>environmental movement.
>The following letter was sent today to the twelve large environmental
>organizations listed below who are campaigning to improve the policies of
>The invitation to participate has been issued and now we will see if the
>challenge is accepted by these organizations.  The ideas and strategies
>exist for replacing the city based on the parameters of cars and very cheap
>energy ­ which is about to end forever­ with cities built around the
>measure of the human being and the health of nature.  The hour is late, but
>the necessity for turning around our disastrous trajectory as a civilization
>is absolute.
>The following letter has been sent to the organizational members of the
>Exxpose Exxon campaign:
>Alaska Coalition                    Alaska Oceans Program
>Alaska Wilderness League            Defenders of Wildlife
>Friends of the Earth US             Greenpeace
>MoveOn.org                          National Environmental Trust
>National Resources Defense Council  Sierra Club
>Union of Concerned Scientists       US Public Interest Research Group
>The letter follows.
>Dear Exxpose Exxon Campaign Leaders,
>    Regarding your Exxpose Exxon campaign, I have a strategy suggestion.
>Let the current campaign play out as it is going, then consider something
>very different.
>    On one hand you will find a criticism here, but may also notice that a
>change in strategy could make more difference than practically any other
>approach to solving the Earth¹s environmental problems at this crucial time.
>    The essence of it all is that we need to change the whole
>car/sprawl/paving/oil system to a pedestrian/compact & diverse
>city/rails/renewables system.  To make a small difference in oil company
>policy or promote a 'better' car prolongs and expands the larger system of
>which the smaller change is a part.  'Ecological' or 'whole systems'
>thinking is at the root of the strategy I¹m suggesting here.
>    Denis Hayes, organizer of Earth Day in 1970 and head of the Solar Energy
>Research Institute before Ronald Reagan eviscerated that government agency,
>gave the keynote address at an Earth Day 1990 conference I organized called
>the First International Ecocity Conference.
>In that address Denis asked how it was that with so many victories under the
>belt of the environmental movement, why, regarding the really big problems
>were we in far worse condition than before?
>At another Earth Day talk he gave in 2000 he echoed the same theme again,
>and now five years later yet, 35 years from Earth Day #1, global warming is
>approaching catastrophic proportions for many parts of the world, species
>diversity is collapsing ever more rapidly and the threats of 'peak oil' are
>moving toward us quickly.
>    What I hope to encourage you to see is that what is missing is a clear
>understanding that cities are the largest creations of humanity and that if
>we do not address this largest of our works we will not solve the largest of
>all environmental problems.  Simple in concept, yet hard for people to
>grasp.  My best guess is that progress on that subject is difficult because
>people need to face some big questions personally in order to deal with that
>particular solution, from changing the neighborhood to thinking through our
>relationship with the automobile on a deep level.
>    For example, looking at the whole system, we can notice that the
>'better' car with high gas mileage encourages sprawl ­ and feeling good
>about continuing driving.  In fact we should be building cities for people,
>not cars.  It's a very big order, but not one that is by any means
>    My organization has been working for years, largely ignored by
>mainstream environmental groups and foundations while maintaining with a
>small membership, drawing together many tools that can actually reshape
>cities.  These include something called 'ecocity mapping', another called
>transfer of development rights (TDR), another called ecological
>demonstrations projects or 'urban fractals' and more.
>    The ecologically informed city for radically reduced energy use, much
>smaller physical footprint and much smaller ecological footprint can be
>built and you can help it happen.  The Exxpose Exxon campaign is doing all
>right to expose Exxon for its destructive activities, but we need to avoid
>the notion that oil companies can be OK and cars can be a real contribution
>to a green future.  They can't, even the 'better' ones.  We can instead move
>directly to building an alternative to the whole car/sprawl system.  It is
>time to stop giving the impression that Exxon could save us if it just tuned
>up its policies, or that the Prius will save us because it's cleaner, drives
>farther per dollar and cleans our conscience.  Such thinking falls far short
>of sufficient to the needs of our present crisis, which is a crisis for the
>deep future too.
>    So please do join us in thinking this one through.  You have enormous
>power to mobilize people and it is important that we have no "blowback" for
>helping perpetuate the car/sprawl/paving/cheap energy Empire.  You can
>literally build a better future.  We hope to hear from you soon.
>Richard Register
>President, Ecocity Builders
>P.O. Box 697
>Oakland, CA 94604
>ecocity at igc.org

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