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Engaging Communities for a Sustainable World

Engaging Communities for a Sustainable World

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Published by: KakkarasAntonis on May 08, 2010
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T H E WO R L DWAT C H I N S T I T U T ET H E WO R L DWAT C H I N S T I T U T E
STATE OF THE WORLDSTATE OF THE WORLD
2 0 0 82 0 0 8
Innovations for aSustainable EconomInnovations for aSustainable Economy 
25th Anniversary Edition25th Anniversary Edition
 
 WWW.WORLDWATCH.ORG
151
To the west is Vermont Avenue, one of themost congested traffic corridors in Los Ange-les, tiled with a mosaic of fast-food chains, nailsalons, and dollar stores, all nested in a half-dozen strip malls. To the east lie three autorepair shops, housing, and a giant concretechurch that dominates the street. To thenorth, there are two more auto body shops,three overcrowded schools, and a couple of car dealerships. And to the south, just beyondthe Bresee Community and Youth Center, aretwo giant supermarkets with equally giganticparking lots, tailored to be one-stop shoppingfor people commuting along the Vermont Avenue corridor.
1
In the middle of this car-centric infra-structure—what some might call “sprawl”—lies a little green oasis: the Los AngelesEcovillage (LAEV). This community, twosmall apartment buildings with about 55 res-idents, was started in 1993 as a demonstra-tion project on how a community cantransform its surroundings, helping to createa sustainable society.
2
In its 15 years, the LA Ecovillage has hadmany impressive victories. Within its grounds,LAEV has facilitated technology and lifestylechanges, such as installing solar panels andcomposting facilities, providing rent reduc-tions for people who live car-free, and trans-forming its courtyard into a 7,000-square-footgarden that produces nine types of fruits andmany more vegetables as well as a lush com-mon area to sit and relax in. LAEV has alsoincubated businesses like the BicycleKitchen—a shop that repairs bikes and thattrains neighborhood children in bicycle main-tenance skills. And perhaps most important,the community has influenced the broaderpolitical process of Los Angeles, from lendingsupport to “green” mayoral candidates toengaging in public planning processes, suchas the restoration of the Los Angeles River,transportation planning, and local redevel-opment—all while continuing to be an afford-able, accessible place to live, located within a10-minute walk of two subway stops and 20bus lines.
3
Through its built infrastructure, the socialrelationships it generates, and the way of life
CHAPTER 11
Erik Assadourian 
Engaging Communities fora Sustainable World
 
it promotes, the LA Ecovillage highlights thepowerful contributions that communities canmake in helping to facilitate the transitionto a sustainable society. (See Box 11–1 for thedefinition of community used in this chapter.)
4
Community practices and choices aboutland use, technologies, and transportationcan be used to model sustainable living. Theproduction of social capital—the glue thatholds communities together—can be tappedto help community members become leadersin sustainability and can provide the resiliencethat helps communities weather difficulttimes. Communities’ engagement in eco-nomic activities can help localize agricultureand the production of other essential goods. And their unique design can help stimulatenew ways to finance sustainability. Whilenational and global-level initiatives will beessential for building a sustainable world,community-level programs may prove indis-pensable in providing better models and theleadership to drive global-level change.
Modeling Sustainability
Perhaps most concretely, a community man-ifests its values through its physical design.Local gardens, solar panels on rooftops, and wind turbines spinning on a hilltop are typi-cal signs of an ecologically minded commu-nity. Built primarily to reduce ecological andfinancial footprints of communities, thesedesign features also play a strong role in mod-eling a sustainable way of living. Many aresimple enough to be taken on by practically any community. No matter the size—whethera small town or a neighborhood block—thereare immediate opportunities to retrofit a com-munity’s design and thereby lower its envi-ronmental impact, save money, and modelsustainability as well.Often all that is needed to make thesechanges is a bit of social support and peer edu-cation. This has proved to be the case inLydney, England, where residents set up aCommunity Energy Club to help bringenergy efficiency measures and small-scalerenewable energy projects to the area. Sinceit started in 2001, the club has grown to 115members who together have introducedabout 500 energy efficiency measures. Alto-gether these efforts will save 3,865 tons of car-bon dioxide (CO
2
) emissions over the life of the projects—a significant amount consider-ing that the average U.K. resident producesabout 9 tons of CO
2
emissions each year.
5
Other times, what is needed is not justsocial support but mobilization of a com-munity’s resources—for example, to invest ina community-owned wind farm. In 2006,Findhorn Ecovillage in Scotland completedinstallation of four wind turbines that have acapacity of 750 kilowatts. Together theseproduce 40 percent more electricity than thecommunity needs, allowing them to generaterevenue by selling some back to the localutility through the broader grid system. Of course, this project took several years to planand construct, but now the wind farm pro- vides the community with both a source of clean electricity and revenue.
6
Opportunities to enhance the sustain-
152
 WWW.WORLDWATCH.ORGSTATE OFTHEWORLD 2008
Engaging Communities for a Sustainable World
Community typically refers to a wide range of groupings of people:a church,a city,a politicalparty or other affiliation.But more funda-mentally,a community suggests a group of geographically rooted people engaged in rela-tionships with each other (though many of the examples of community discussed in thischapter have relevance to broader definitionsof community as well).Through theserelationships,members in a community haveshared responsibilities—as the Latin roots of the word suggest:
com
(with)
munis
(duties).
Source:See endnote 4.
Box11–1.What Is a Community?

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