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- A tumblr site dedicated to the people and places that make up Oregon and Southwest Washington.
This initiative is strong on the physical elements of sustainability, and it is right in focusing on scale - the neighborhood will be the boundary for most people's lives in future as energy prices rise and environmental limitations increase.
A problem - actually twin problems - exist, however.
First, the governance of a neighborhood is an entirely new kind of project. And unless it is to be a sort of hidden dictatorship that obeys the experts and the government agencies in its environment, it must be envisioned and formed by its own citizens according to their own vision. As Bruno Bettleheim once observed, you don't give people freedom; they take it. As a founding member of Transition PDX, a local manifestation of a worldwide movement to build local town organizations based on shared visions of a rich future and ways people ourselves can create resilience, I have discovered that this is a long, demanding process, and we don't know much about how to do it. Work is going on in over 70 towns and cities in the US alone and more around the world. But what we have found is that it is crucial to start with people; the material, water, energy and information flows will follow.
Second, the city government - all city governments - will need to create a new kind of organization. The bureaucratic models that have served us so well for the last 500 years or so are reaching the end of their usefulness. While we need the ongoing reliability of government agencies and regulations such as building codes, sanitary laws, etc., we also now need to allow those rules to change as people perceive new needs. And many of those perceptions will come from the bottom up; it no longer serves us to have government agencies that, like most citizens themselves, divide the world into officials and clients. The authority of the agencies has to begin bending - including the empires that bureaucrats often end up building.
The real work of sustainability, as it turns out, is the social restructuring, rather than the physical.
Jim Newcomer, Ph.D.
Transition PDX Hub Member
Social Sustainability Colloquium, PSU
posted 2 years, 7 months ago
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