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Haiti & Deepening Perspectives on Sustainable Land Development

Terry Mock, SLDI Co-founder

By Terry Mock
Follow Terry on Twitter: @SustainLandDev

January 2010

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.

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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


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  • TMock

    Brazil to build five new dams in the Amazon but with “oil-rigs” technology

    January 10th 2012

    Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff signed the decree for
    the construction of five new hydroelectric dams in the Amazon basin and
    readies for a renewed attack from domestic and international
    environmentalists against the project.The five will be built along the Tapajós River in the state of Para
    to which access will only be by helicopter, to preserve the Amazon rain
    forest and there will be no constructions in the surrounding area to the
    dams, announced Mines and Energy minister Edison Lobao.
    “This new model of hydroelectric dams is almost like a science
    fiction film, it reminds us of Avatar” said Lobao in direct reference to
    film director James Cameron… http://en.mercopress.com/2012/01/10/brazil-to-build-five-new-dams-in-the-amazon-but-with-oil-rigs-technology#comment82770
     

  • http://twitter.com/SustainLandDev SLDI

    Greening the blues — what business can learn from Avatar
    Public release date: 20-Mar-2013
    http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2013-03/ip-gtb032013.php

    Learing the lessons of sustainability and corporate ethics at the movies

    Norm Borin of California Polytechnic State University and Arline Savage of the School of Business at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, argue that the fictitious mining company in the 2009 James Cameron movie, Avatar, makes a perfect case study for how not to be a sustainable company and offers lesson to more down to earth corporations
    hoping to gain green credentials as opposed to the blues. We hear a lot about indigenous peoples (the Na’vi in the movie) whose health and lives are all but destroyed by invading corporations such as Resources Development Administration (RDA) in the movie. The researchers draw a parallel between the problems faced by the Na’vi and the pollution and deforestation, facing people from Alberta to Ecuador, from Kenya to the
    Philippines and beyond.

    Fundamentally, the fictional plot hinges on RDA seeking to procure a valuable resource for profit while ignoring and violating the social and cultural needs and desires of those who live where the resource is located and at the same time destroying many of the unique environmentalcharacteristics of their environment. The researchers suggest that it is unlikely that James Cameron developed the movie with the objective that it would be used as a case example for business sustainability, butit is likely that he was well aware that Avatar represents an allegory for the malignancy of corporate greed and certainly has some valuable lessons for corporations, the team says.

    The team provides some useful approaches to show how a company might improve its corporate responsibility as it ventures into new areas of the planet. These include a consideration of prioritizing the three p’s in this order – (1) planet, (2) people, (3) profits. They also suggest expanding stakeholder groups to include at the base of the pyramid the inhabitants and hiring managers with knowledge and an interest in ethics and environmental resource allocation. Finally, they believe that building accountability feedback systems from the company board to the indigenous groups is important for sustainability.

    “There have been repeated examples of successful sustainable ventures by companies,” the team concludes, “but they require implementation of these ideas to avoid failure on the Avatar scale.” Borin adds that, “We believe it does cover an important topic that
    impacts any business dealing with indigenous populations.”

    ###

    “The sustainable corporation: lessons from Avatar”, Int. J. Sustainable Strategic Management, vol 3, 294-313

  • http://twitter.com/SustainLandDev SLDI

    Permaculture
    James Cameron’s Avatar: a Masterpiece of Permaculture Design?
    Chris Johnstone | 30th June 2010

    Chris Johnstone reviews James Cameron’s epic from a permaculture perspective

    “Can we take some of this tree–hugging crap out?” asked Fox executives, after reading the script for Avatar the movie.

    “No”, said James Cameron, the director, “that’s why I’m making the film”. His vision was to take audiences into a different world, to show a different set of possibilities. “Avatar asks us” he said, “to see that everything is connected, all human beings to each other, and us to the Earth.” With its huge budget and groundbreaking 3D effects, this film has already made more money than any other movie in history. Could it also be regarded as a masterpiece of permaculture design?…. http://www.permaculture.co.uk/articles/james-camerons-avatar-masterpiece-permaculture-design#comment-775

  • SLDI

    Considering & Reconsidering Columbus Day
    Oct 14, 2013 – http://momentarydelight.com/2013/10/14/considering-and-reconsidering-columbus-day/

    …Is Columbus Day when we celebrate the good parts of exploration and discovery?

    …Is Columbus Day when we remember the indigenous people who were displaced by the first American settlers?

    …Is Columbus Day when we consider and rethink our stewardship of the
    land?

  • SLDI

    ASLA
    Novel Ecosystems: Not So Novel Anymore
    10/16/2013 by J. Green

    Few of the world’s ecosystems have been left untouched by humans. While we can restore many ecosystems damaged by people to their historic function, some may be beyond repair and have become “novel ecosystems.” According to experts at the Society for Ecological Restoration (SER) conference in Madison, Wisconsin, some 36 percent of the globe’s ecosystems are now novel, meaning that more are now novel than wild…. http://dirt.asla.org/2013/10/16/novel-ecosystems-not-so-novel-anymore/

  • SLDI

    James Cameron’s new lifestyle inspired by Avatar
    Sustainability and living off the land clear themes of the Avatar universe
    By Christopher Morris | Yahoo Contributor Network – Tue, Oct 22, 2013 – http://uk.movies.yahoo.com/avatar-themes-avatar-universe-redolent-james-camerons-lifestyle-104000590.html

  • SLDI

    The New Zealand Herald
    Three new Avatar films to be made in NZ
    By Claire Trevett
    Dec 16, 2013

    The next three Avatar films will be made in New Zealand, the Prime Minister has announced at a press conference with the film’s director James Cameron.

    Mr Cameron said he was delighted at the news, not least because he and his family were about to become New Zealand residents. He has recently bought land in the Wairarapa.

    “For that reason it’s a real pleasure to know I’m going to have so much of my work done here over the next few years.” He said work was already underway with Weta on the movies. “Its important for everyone to know this [agreement] isn’t just about the Avatar films directly, it’s about trying to lift up the New Zealand film industry, incubate new talent and develop new IP.”

    Mr Cameron would not say what the expected budget for the three films would be, but
    said critical factors that ensured New Zealand was the choice included the rebates, as well as the local workforce and skills. He said he would have liked to see even higher rebates but could live with the 25 per cent on offer, and believed other major productions would agree.

    He said he was friends with Peter Jackson and expected to coordinate with him to ensure they did not have major productions overlapping, which could stretch the workforce too much.

    Mr Cameron sang the praises of local film workers, as well as New Zealand. He
    said his decision to buy the Wairarapa land was not because he had always expected to film the Avatar films in New Zealand – but rather a hankering for the rural life it offered….

  • SLDI

    Los Angeles Times
    The myth of the wild
    The notion that America was ‘wild’ when Europeans found it is more than a little racist; it assumes Indians didn’t act like humans everywhere else
    By Jonah Goldberg – April 28, 2014.

    The pristine natural world is gone; get used to it… http://www.latimes.com/opinion/commentary/la-oe-goldberg-geoengineer-salmon-russ-george-20140429,0,841306.column#ixzz30IK4DxIt