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Blog item: Sustainable Development and Authentic Community

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1 comment on Sep-20-2008   Add a comment   Author:  zpaiss (Aug-9-2008)    Play a Video
Categories: Economic/Financial, Philosophical & Quality of Life, Population Growth and Control, Sustainable Living

Sample ecovillage layoutNote: this is taken from the opening words of a seminar run by Zev in 2007 in the virtual world of Second Life, where he has created and runs Etopia, a virtual eco-village demonstrating and exemplifying the principles of sustainable development and sustainable living.

Good morning everyone and thank you for this opportunity to speak with you about topics that are very close to my heart.

I would like to begin by welcoming all of you to Etopia Island, which has been created to show the residents of Second Life what a modern-day Eco-Village could look, and feel like.

It is so good to have you all here. Many of you I know and many I do not. Great to see you all.

Today I will briefly present the concepts underlying sustainable development and the principals that are necessary to create and maintain an authentic feeling of community among its residents.

If you would like, I am happy to offer a tour of the Island afterwards so you can see these things in person.

Because of the limitations of chat and the complexity of this subject, please understand that I will only be touching on the surface of this topic and would be happy to dive into it more depth at another time.

My real life background is in the areas of Environmental Planning and Sustainable Community Development. Over the past 17 years I have been one of the leaders in the U.S. Cohousing movement helping over 25 groups of people create custom neighborhoods across the country.

So what do I mean by Sustainable Development? 

There are three main aspects of this concept, environmental sustainability, financial sustainability, and financial sustainability. In this talk today I will be focusing primarily on the environmental aspects of sustainable development.

In order for a place to exhibit environmental sustainability it needs to develop in such a way that it does not reduce the ability for future residents to enjoy a high quality of life.

This can be achieved by using as many of resources from local sources as possible. 

This would include things like building materials, energy production, and food production and as much of the items used in the community as possible.

As an example, we have attempted to show this on Etopia by recycling the pre-existing building of this small town, generating all of our own electric needs through the use of renewable energy in the form of wind power and photovoltaic power,

We grow our own food from the main community garden and a scattering of smaller gardens around the island,

and recycling our water and waste water through the use of an aquaculture treatment facility that produces methane gas, fish and water for the garden and the island landscaping.

For items that we are unable to produce locally like the steel for the train and gondola we have reciprocal arrangements with those place to give them things that they do not make such as our Etopia bamboo bikes.

Let me stop here and see what questions you have.

My second topic is how to create Authentic Community around a certain location.

In my work I have found that there are five elements needed for this to talk place.

The first is Availability.

In order to create true community people have to be available to each other.

There has to be a willingness to stop for a moment and talk or catch up on important news.

If we are always rushing around we will not create the time to spend time with one another.

The second aspect is Spontaneity.

If all of our interactions are planed by others or ridged in their format there is no room for real connection s to happen. Instead they are the cardboard connections we see most often at community functions.

The third element is Frequency.

It is just obvious that if we see one another on a regular basis there begin to be created the foundation for real friendships. It takes time for these to develop. Community is not something that we can create in an instant.

The fourth are Common Meals.

No in SL shearing meals is somewhat unnecessary but even here I have experienced wonderful times with people over a formal meal. However in RL breaking bread together is an age-old recipe for community.

And finally is Geography.

By being physically close to each other all of the above thing are made much easier. That is why villages are compact communities where people can easily run into each other again and again.

Thank you very much for your kind attention.

I leave the rest of our time for questions.

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Comment by: City Worker (Sep-20-2008)   
I understand everything involves trade-offs, but I was wondering, when looking at the houses built of lumber, how the problem of fires ties into the whole picture.

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About author/contributor Member: zpaiss (Zev Paiss) zpaiss (Zev Paiss)
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Member: zpaiss (Zev Paiss) Over the past 30 years I have been involved in a variety of sustainable development activities including, solar design and construction, biological wastewater treatment facility design, and sustainable neighborhood development.

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