Is Cohousing "Green Enough"? Continued

Given such inescapable trends as climate change and water, energy, and food scarcity issues, Laura Fitch, in her article, “Is Cohousing Green Enough?” in the Coho Now #85 issue, asks an important and necessary question. Her answers provide a good beginning to the kinds of realizations needed to support cohousing as a way of life that stimulates a broader acceptance of the Green movement across larger communities, regions, and the globe.

Her closing sentences subtly recognize two factors that need to be made more explicit in discussions surrounding the cohousing movement, the Greening of cohousing, and the potential for a Greener cohousing Movement to take a leadership role in changing the communities and regions in which they are located. The two factors are people, or the social foundation on which any movement rests, and boundaries, both geographical and topical boundaries that often unintentionally restrict discussions too narrowly. Ms. Fitch recognizes cohousing residents as agents of change working across the larger community outside their cohousing neighborhood or village. This relationship of cohousing and larger surroundings needs to be explored more fully in all the discussions surrounding cohousing as a factor in the Greening of America.

Given Ms. Fitch’s answers, she and Kraus Fitch Architects, Inc. are already fashioning a critical building block in the Greening of cohousing. That building block is their recognition of the social dynamics necessary to energize the movement, perpetuate it, and sustain it both within cohousing communities and across the larger communities in which they are located.

Kraus Fitch Architects, Inc. are providing excellent examples of how to extend the strategic influences of Greener approaches to cohousing beyond the boundaries of a cohousing community. But the two factors 1) the role of social relationships in the development and extension of greener cohousing as architectural design and land planning and 2) the strategic extension of Greener living beyond the boundaries of cohousing communities, remain more implicit than explicit in Ms. Fitch’s article. Making them explicit, making them the focus of detailed and extensive discussions regarding cohousing is critical to realizing a deeper goodness in the answers to Ms. Fitch’s question.

Becoming Greener is not a movement to be imposed and regulated as a way of life (horizontally) across a neighborhood, community, or region. Becoming Greener is the acceptance of technologies and new behaviors into their daily lives, into their core social dynamics that transmit, foster, and sustain Green through citizens, youth, elected officials, business owners’ taken-for-granted daily routines.

Becoming Greener is not a (vertical) movement that encompasses K-12 service learning exercises, university students and their faculty, voters and those they elect, and the elected’s staff (so often the quiet decision makers giving form, content, and character to the community).

Becoming Greener is as much a developmental process within cohousing communities as it is an active interdependent player in the dynamics outside the cohousing community’s boundaries. It is an interplay of discussions aimed at mutual arrival at land planning and building regulations that are accepted by citizens (voters) within and outside each and every cohousing community.

My hope is that participants in every session at the Cohousing Conference, “Aging Better Together: the Power of Community,” in May 20-21, 2016 consider the boundaries that characterize their topics and strive to make their discussions as inclusive as possible: inclusive of the role and resources found in children, youth (K-12), and retirees; inclusive of the overlap and interplay of such topics as climate change, energy and water scarcity, aging, obesity, and food (all of which have the built environment as a common denominator), and inclusive of the kinds of interdependencies that will move all communities to a Greener place.

References:

Hopkins, R. (2008a). The transition handbook: From oil dependency to local resilience. Totnes, England: Green.

Princen, T. 2005. The Logic of Sufficiency. Cambridge, MA: MIT.

Wilding, Nick. 2011. Exploring Community Resilience in times of rapid change. Dunfermline, Scotland: Carnegie UK Trust.

Wolff, Tom. 2010. The Power of Collaborative Solutions: six principles and effective tools for building healthy communities. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Bob Scarfo, Ph.D. a landscape architect and land planner. He may be contacted at Land and Life, LLC in Spokane, WA: bscarfo [at] landandlife [dot] com or 509.252.0629

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