Historical Perspective – By Dr. Reese Halter
Leonardo da Vinci, born in the middle of the 15th century, was the founder of modern science and an interpreter between nature and humanity.
He sought to understand the nature of life two centuries before the microscope was invented. He believed the Earth was a living, self-organizing and self-regulating system.
Leonardo had exceptional powers of observation and a powerful visual memory. And his “sublime left hand” (as his friend and mathematician Luca Pacioli, called it) drew in excess of 100,000 drawings in over 13,000 pages. Some 6,000 pages were preserved as manuscripts now in libraries and private collections, others in larger forms known as codies are held by the British Royal family and Bill and Melinda Gates.
As a young man Leonardo trained as a painter, sculptor and engineer in Florence. Astonishingly, he was a self-taught scientist, inventor, designer, mathematician, linguist, systemic thinker, cartographer, geologist, ecologist, botanist, hydrologist, complexity theorist, humanitarian and physicist.
He was humble, compassionate, graceful, talented, sensitive, regal spirited, physically beautiful, eloquent, charming, practical joker and he possessed an insatiable thirst for knowledge.
By Greg Wendt
In November 2010, I moderated a panel discussion at The Global Summit conference in San Francisco.
The two panelists were leading thinkers in the sustainability: Andy Behar – CEO of As You Sow Foundation, who’s mission is to “promote corporate responsibility through shareholder advocacy, grantmaking, and innovative legal strategies” and John Perkins. As Chief Economist at a major international consulting firm, John Perkins advised the World Bank, United Nations, IMF, U.S. Treasury Department, Fortune 500 corporations, and countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East. He worked directly with heads of state and CEOs of major companies. His books on economics and geo-politics have sold more than 1 million copies, spent many months on the New York Times and other bestseller lists, and are published in over 30 languages.
This article is Part 1 in the Fractal Sustainable Development Trilogy.
Part 2: Like Life Itself, Sustainable Development is Fractal
Part 3: The Universal Principles of Sustainable Development
Everyone who has ridden a tricycle understands the fact that three wheels are more stable than one or two. In fact, a three-legged stool gives greater stability than one with four (or more) legs when the surface on which the stool sits is not perfectly level.
We also have learned that the simple balance of three applies not only to working with the laws of gravity, but to all aspects of life, hence the triple bottom line of sustainable development. What is harder to understand is why humans have so much difficulty applying this basic scientific fact through better balanced public and private policy.
Here’s a fantastic video from one of our members, The Bioengineering Group.
to restore our earth,
to build responsibly,
to change our ways.
Never underestimate the power of a small group of people to change the world. In fact, it’s the only thing that ever has.
By Terry Mock
Follow Terry on Twitter: @SustainLandDev
There are now local, regional, national, and global opportunities for individuals in a wide variety of land development professions to participate in long-range environmental sustainability for our society. A common element of all of these efforts is the importance of a healthy community forest. In the United States it is estimated that 90 percent of the entire population now lives within the boundaries of what is defined as community forest. Additionally, the total yearly economic value of community forest services is more than $400 billion.
Many of these services are now required due to various government initiatives. They include energy conservation, reduction of atmospheric contaminants, enhanced property values, and NPDES (National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System) Phase II requirements such as erosion control and storm water runoff. In some instances, the desire for improved social and professional aesthetics is a motivating factor as well.
To achieve sustainability of our rapidly expanding community ecosystems and deliver the maximum level of benefits to the inhabitants, the community forest must have three components:
By Monica Fischer and Brent Lawrence
As European expansion moved ever westward, southwest Oregon was one of the last regions to be settled. However, the area’s abundant natural resources proved to be a very valuable commodity and served as an unavoidable enticement.
Almost all old-growth forests were logged in the late 1880s and early 1900s. The gold rush of the late 1800s caused increasing friction with indigenous peoples living in the area, which ultimately displaced them to the Siletz Confederated Tribes Reservation outside of Newport, Oregon, though some members of the local tribes still comprise 2% of the area’s population. It wasn’t until 1932 that the Patterson Bridge was constructed across the Rogue River in Gold Beach (as were many bridges along the Oregon Coast at that time) thus connecting the coastal communities to vehicular traffic in what we now call Highway 101. Salmon were taken to the point where commercial fishing was banned by 1935. Mining, forestry and fisheries depleted the natural resources of southwest Oregon in relative short order. By the 1980s, most of the larger lumber mills were shut down.
By Hugh Wheelan
Why the time is right for sustainable thinking by pension funds and institutional investors.
When Roger Urwin, global head of investment content at Towers Watson, the investment consultant, turns his mind to a subject, the pensions world listens. Urwin, one of the most influential investment advisors around, has worked with many of the world’s largest retirement schemes. His recent attention to the theme of sustainable investing is notable because of his experience in the reality of pension fund practice and governance. Urwin says his concept of sustainable investing is a blend of long-term investing, integrated environmental, social and governance (ESG) considerations in investment, active ownership and inter-generational solidarity.
By Rick Harrison
Comparing and contrasting New Urbanism and Coving.
No matter how good any idea is, there are ways to make things go terribly wrong. Take for example, New Urbanism, a design concept that seems so easy to implement, yet when stripped of just one or two of its basic elements falls short on its promise.
In New Urbanism, neighborhoods are formed around the theory to encourage walking and social interaction. The use of cars is discouraged, as well as the visual impacts of garage doors. Thus alleys are the norm or any form of rear yard car storage to keep the streetscape clean. Grand porches are connected to walks just in front of the home so passing residents can wave and talk about their day. Common areas throughout the neighborhood allow a congregation of residents.
New Urbanism promises employment, entertainment and shopping within a short walk from home. So simple, yet it gets bastardized on a regular basis. Even if everything seems to go well before and during the approval stages, after approval the city may have just a recorded plat with nothing in place to guarantee any critical elements will actually get built. Lots are sold and the builders may not be educated on the strict adherence of landscaping and architecture that must be held. If “after-approval” elements are not held, the formula for disaster exists. The same can often be true in before, during and after approval stages of coving.
By Tony Wernke
Follow Tony on Twitter: @Sustainable4U
Sustainable Land Development International (SLDI) announced recently that it has completed and is releasing the world’s first comprehensive sustainable land development best practices system. After undergoing an extensive review by a number of experts in the industry, phase two of its implementation – pilot testing – is underway. Currently, a number of projects throughout the United States are serving as pilot projects.
By Terry Mock
Follow Terry on Twitter: @SustainLandDev
We are part of nature too…
In previous articles published in this magazine, I have supported a more environmentally-friendly approach to land development.
“Understanding the Sacred Bond we have with Trees” pointed out the historical importance of wood to the rise of major civilizations and the link between deforestation and environmental collapse, and the fall of many of those same civilizations. The article “Biodiversity is the Living Foundation for Sustainable Development” was published to highlight the fact that underlying all efforts to achieve a triple-bottom-lined sustainable future is the fundamental requirement that certain environmental building blocks must exist, or little hope for civilization can remain. Finally,“Building a Sustainable Community Forest” addressed the need for a comprehensive approach to build sustainable “designer ecosystems” for the future.
Having taken an early environmentally defensive position on land development issues in the past, I now find myself in the position of defending our industry in the face of recent publicly reported criticism and dire predictions which have outlined a very bleak future for humanity as a consequence of the collective eco-sins of present and preceding generations. While the consequences of bad environmental practices are now evident and obvious to any rational observer, I now offer an opinion contrary to the current hysteria-media-driven fear of a coming “Dark Age” for civilization.
By Terry Mock
Follow Terry on Twitter: @SustainLandDev
It is the combination of life forms, and their interactions with each other and with the rest of the environment, that have made Earth a uniquely habitable place for humans. Biodiversity — the variability within and among living organisms and the systems they inhabit — is the foundation upon which human civilization has been built. In addition to its intrinsic value, biodiversity provides goods and services that underpin sustainable development in many important ways. First, it supports the ecosystem functions essential for life on Earth, such as the provision of fresh water, soil conservation and climate stability. Second, it provides products such as food, medicines and materials for industry. Third, biodiversity is at the heart of many cultural values.
At the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, world leaders agreed on a comprehensive strategy for “sustainable development” — meeting our needs while ensuring that we leave a healthy and viable world for future generations. One of the key agreements adopted at Rio was the Convention on Biological Diversity.
By Mark Hieber
A look at history provides a glimpse to a better future.
A verdant, park-like low forest, stretching west for 1000 miles…that’s how the eastern half of North America appeared prior to European settlement. At that time, Native American Indians managed the vast forests and prairie and savanna meadows by burning off the deeply rooted grasses and wildflowers on the ground plane every autumn with fire.
These frequent, low intensity fires shaped the landscape, while preserving the trees. The appearance to the early Europeans resembled a well maintained park in Europe, with massive, high-branched, virgin, old growth trees towering above a shadedappled flowering ground plane. It was said that a squirrel could climb a tree at the shore of the Atlantic Ocean and never set foot on the ground until reaching the Mississippi River.
Last month in SLDI in Focus, we identified the SLDI Guiding Principles – nine universal tenets which comprise the foundation for a successful sustainable project according to the triple-bottom-line needs of maximizing social, environmental and economic capital. These principles adapt the concepts of the Hannover Principles originally developed by Bill McDonough and Michael Braungart and modifies them (as put forth in their original form and in the words of their authors, the Hannover Principles “may adapt as our knowledge of the world evolves.”) to conform to the triple-bottom-line approach of truly sustainable land development (http://www.mcdonough.com/principles).
These guiding principles provide the framework for the 27 interrelated sustainable land development goals. Naturally, not all of these goals can be fully maximized on every project. Rather, these goals can be thought of as the ideals of holistic sustainable land development. The specific best management practices in each of these areas (and ultimately, the products and services employed) that provide the greatest leverage and value depends on the specific geographic and political landscape of each individual project. Not every product and/or process (best practice) is practical or effective on every project, but working through the decision model toward achieving each of the goals in a comprehensive fashion right from the beginning of the project can result in a project which delivers maximum sustainability.
“Climate change is inevitable, proceeding and even accelerating.”
With those alarming opening words, British scientist James Lovelock, author of the new book, “The Vanishing Face of Gaia: A Final Warning,” is delivering a sobering message to large and influential audiences around the world. He says there’s nothing we can do now but adapt and survive. He claims it is too late for sustainable development and says civilization’s best strategy is “sustainable retreat.” If we stopped burning fossil fuels tomorrow, he explains, it wouldn’t do much. We’ve already released enough carbon over the past hundred years to push us past the point of no return.
When pushed, Lovelock says, the only way we could do something meaningful to avoid catastrophe is to extract and permanently store CO2 from the atmosphere, in addition to dramatically reducing our emissions. And the approach with the most potential, says Lovelock, is to turn biomass material into charcoal, now re-branded as “biochar,” in a process known as “pyrolysis” and then bury it. The biochar, unlike the original biomass, can’t rot and release CO2 into the atmosphere. It doesn’t oxidize. It is chemically stable for hundreds of years, meaning the carbon is permanently sequestered. “This makes it safe to bury in the soil or in the ocean,” writes Lovelock.
SLDI recently conducted a survey of land development professionals designed to gauge the industry’s perceptions of who/what is responsible for the current economic situation, what will be needed to improve it, the industry’s overall acceptance of and receptivity to sustainable land development principles and practices, and the industry’s current level of implementation of the most common “green” programs currently available.