Economy

“If You Don’t Have It, You Don’t Need It”

WaldenPond_cc_400x267.jpgPhoto: Walden Pond, Creative Commons

I saw a girl today wearing a t-shirt bearing the slogan, “If you don’t have it, you don’t need it.”

My first thoght was, Probably true. My second thought was, Only in this country would a shirt like that read like a poignant insight. My third thought: If that’s the case, so much for capitalism and the market economy. And then with a smidgen of sarcasm, What are we all so worried about?!

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Not Letting “The Moment” Get Away

hand-reaching-soap-bubble_300x182.jpgWhile I would love to see the economy bounce back to what it was, I believe any further thinking along these lines is tantamount to the proverbial ostrich with its head in the sand.

I don’t mean to suggest we should just give up; what I do mean is that if we expect things to return to the “old normal,” we’ll miss key opportunities to proactively prepare for the “new normal.”

With our life, culture and society transforming in fundamental ways, it behooves us to embrace this paradigm shift and challenge our old assumptions.

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Building Civic Capacity

rosie-the-riveter_civiccapacity_300x389.jpgAs part of our Heart & Soul Community Planning work with towns in the Northeast and Rocky Mountain regions, we at the Orton Family Foundation work to train residents in facilitation, story gathering, outreach and communication, scenario planning, implementation and stewardship.

We know our time with a community will end and the long-term success of our collaborative efforts depends on the community’s ability to carry on the challenging work of navigating change.

Many foundations and non-profits share this goal, but the difficulty of achieving it cannot be underestimated. Building sustained civic capacity requires immense dedication, awareness, encouragement and stewardship, and it is the linchpin to a community’s long-term success.

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Time to Get Stuck

A stop sign near a community health center in Ouje-Bougoumou in English, Cree syllabics and French: “Stop Stop Stop” (Photo by Dave Hoheschau)
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Last year, my little family was relieved to finally settle down and buy a house in a small town in Vermont. I guess this was poor timing, since I just found out that Americans who settle down nowadays are ‘stuck’.

Being stuck means your prosperity is at risk—you can’t move for a new job or even the possibility of a job. Coined by urban theorist Richard Florida (“The Stuck and the Mobile”), he goes on to tell us that

“Many more people – if things continue as they are – will have to join the ranks of the mobile if they want to prosper or even survive....I’m saying it because it’s an economic fact.”

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A Tale of Two Visions: Growth, Sustainability and ‘Living Cities’

Image: A boundary of the Living Bend site, transformed into a “linear greenstreet” with urban agriculture, native landscapes and an “integrated greenshade” featuring water catchment, solar PV and UV protection.

BendLCD_GreenwoodAve_Before-After_500x333.jpgFifteen years ago, Flagstaff, AZ, a small city perched on the edge of the Colorado Plateau, launched a community visioning project: Flagstaff 2020. It was the largest public dialogue ever conducted in Flagstaff, and the hot topics at the time were rapid growth and urban sprawl.

The result was a sweeping 25-year vision for the city, leading the way to some notable accomplishments:
completion of an Open Space and Greenways plan; institution of new logging practices in surrounding national forests; and a new downtown public square.

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Staring at the Crystal Ball of Development in America

nexthundredmillion_kotkincover_278x423.jpgI work with people more than natural resources in our land use planning work here at the Foundation, so I sometimes miss the “purer” discussions around preservation or enhancement of a balanced, sustainable natural environment. That’s why I always eagerly await the next issue of Orion Magazine.

While the field of conservation has moved significantly towards the inclusion of humans in the discussion of and decisions about natural resources, the ethereal yet powerful spiritual elements of nature still find a constant thread in the articles, poetry and photography found throughout Orion.

Orion’s July/August was a different delight for me, however, as it looked at issues closer to home. It examines the interplay of climate change and peak oil and the responsibility of communities to plan accordingly and in a principled way.

The editors exhort the reader by asking, “When we take to the streets of our communities...shouldn’t we feel a sense of home that encompasses the past, the present and especially the future—a sense that our places are being made and remade to reflect the best of who we are and who we aim to become?” I’ve recently read two competing visions of how to answer these questions.

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Passive House Annapolis: On the Architectural Frontier

gus_pha_sitevisit_300x400.jpgYou hear a lot of talk about sustainability and the Green Revolution, about shrinking carbon footprints and maximizing solar gain, about new, innovative methods for building energy efficient homes using local or renewable or recycled materials.

You also hear a lot about how these methods can be prohibitively expensive, sensible only for those with large expendable incomes that afford them the luxury to consider their impact on the environment—unlike most other, average, working Americans.

Well, here’s a story about a young couple of Annapolis, Maryland, who have neither expendable incomes nor much “luxury” in the way of resources, time or connections, let alone cash. They have three children, ages 11, 6 and 1. One, Carri Beer, is an architect at Brennan + Company Architects, the other, Michael Hindle, a Passive House consultant who works out of their small home in Catonsville while also caring for their youngest. Read their bios here at INDRAlogic, a passive house and holistic sustainability architecture firm they co-founded.

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Count the Ways Your Town Can Say No to the Strip

stripdevelopment_jbpost_350x178.jpgHave you had it with trying to fend off yet another strip development proposal in your town? Are you tired of your reasons for opposing big box being discredited by those who say aesthetics are subjective and have no place in economic development or planning? That it’s a free country and you just can’t go against the market?

I’ve seen this debate played out many times, having served on the Planning Commission of my town for a dozen years.

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