By Terry Mock
Follow Terry on Twitter: @SustainLandDev
As we started to publish this issue, Haiti was devastated by yet another catastrophic event that literally drives the inevitable outcome of unsustainable land development into the ground. Beyond the immediate relief efforts, perhaps now is the time to seriously consider restoring a sustainable Haiti.
This past month, three other ground-breaking events provided differing, yet deepening perspectives to the discourse on sustainable land development. Interestingly, all of these events become well integrated when looked at through the holistic lens of SLDI and The SLDI Code™.
Opening to critical acclaim and unprecedented commercial success, James Cameron’s 3-D movie spectacle Avatar has become the fastest film to reach $1 billion in box office receipts. Here’s the plot set up – In 2154, the profit-focused RDA corporation is unsustainably mining Pandora, a lush, Earth-like moon of another planet. Pandora is inhabited by the Na’vi, a sapient species who has adapted to integrate their lives in ways that sustain their planet. The Na’vi resist the colonists’ expansion, which threatens the continued existence of the Na’vi and their ecosystem – sort of like Dances with Wolves meets Star Wars.
Meanwhile, back on Earth, Charles C. Mann sets the record straight with a new nonfiction book released this past month that provides a fascinating look at the real lives of ancient Meso-American people – Before Columbus: The Americas of 1491. This is an adaptation of Mann’s best-selling nonfiction book 1491, which turned everything I had previously learned about American history on its head by demonstrating that a growing number of anthropologists and archaeologists now believe that the Western Hemisphere before Columbus’s arrival was well-populated and dotted with impressive cities and towns – one scholar estimated that it held a hundred million people or more – more than lived in Europe at the time. The Indians had transformed vast swaths of landscape to meet their agricultural needs by using fire to create prairies for increased game production, and had also cultivated at least part of the forest, living on crops of fruits and nuts.
The contentious debate over what the ecosystem looked like before Columbus arrived has important ramifications for how we sustainably manage the landscape of the future – one which many environmentalists may not like to hear. According to Mann –
Guided by the pristine myth, mainstream environmentalists want to preserve as much of the world’s land as possible in a putatively intact state. But “intact,” if the new research is correct, means “run by human beings for human purposes.” Environmentalists dislike this, because it seems to mean that anything goes. In a sense they are correct. Native Americans managed the continent as they saw fit. Modern nations must do the same. If they want to return as much of the landscape as possible to its 1491 state, they will have to find it within themselves to create the world’s largest garden.
And finally, green building certification programs today pay scant attention to landscaping, but they should, according to the Sustainable Sites Initiative, which has just announced release of “the world’s first rating system for the design, construction and maintenance of sustainable landscapes.” For the next two years the program will be tried out on test projects nationwide in order to fine-tune the landscaping standards. This and other certification programs fit well within the scope of The SLDI Code™ and SLDI embraces their development. In fact, SLDI pilot project Ocean Mountain Ranch has applied to participate in the Sustainable Sites Initiative as a portion of its pilot phase participation in The SLDI Code™ best practices system.
Your participation and comments are welcome.
Related Stewardship Links
SLDI Sets Sights on Haiti
One Island – Two Worlds
‘Avatar’ the movie from Wikipedia
Official ‘Avatar’ website
‘Avatar’ has News Corp seeing green
‘1491’ by Charles C Mann
The Pristine Myth Interview
The Sustainable Sites Initiative
The White House Grounds Are Greening
National Mall Plans for Sustainable Sites Initiative
Sustainable Sites for Roads