I’ve always loved these Lennon/McCartney lyrics: “You say you want a revolution…You say you got a real solution…Well you know you better free your mind instead.” It’s deep, man. And wonderfully applicable to so much in everyday life. Which in my life includes where the 275 acre Sustainable Fairview development is heading, and where I myself am heading.
Under the “Sustainability” category to the left I periodically rant and rave about the opportunities that so far have been missed to make Sustainable Fairview a truly world-class model of sustainability. Laurel and I are investors in Sustainable Fairview Associates, the limited liability company that has been stumbling along, crippled by poor management and a lack of vision, casting about for a way to be as Green as possible without losing the green stuff that we and others put into this cause several years back.
There are some glimmers of hope on the horizon. I’m looking forward to Chris Jones and his Eco-West Development company becoming more active in Sustainable Fairview—which needs a new name as desperately as it needs competent professional management (I still like “Terramore,” a name I suggested way back that got the most votes in an online poll I conducted of Sustainable Fairview Associates’ name candidates, none of which have been adopted yet).
Regardless, I think John and Paul hit it on the head. Sustainability won’t change the world if people just mess around with outward solutions. Recycling. Solar energy. Smart growth. Fuel cells. All these Green buzz words just point toward programs that fail to get at the real problem facing our Earth: us. What you, me, and everyone else wants out of life obviously is directly related to what we have to take from nature to get what we want.
I read in the Oregonian recently that Green buildings are a hot commodity in Portland now. People are willing to pay a lot to live and work in them. Real estate developers see sustainability as a new way to make more money, to feed the American Profit Machine that is one of the root causes of why our planet is in so much trouble. I find this deeply disturbing, the same reason I have found the direction of Sustainable Fairview Associates so disturbing. A commitment to sustainability should lead to business-as-unusual, not business-as-usual. Also thinking-as-unusual, not thinking-as-usual.
Tom Bender, who lives on the Oregon coast, and who I got to spend a pleasant few hours once discussing the Fairview vision, talks about the need for qualitative change in his book “Learning to Count What Really Counts.” Tom says, “Our present society and the sustainable one which we need to become operate on totally different principles and values.” Amen. This is what Russ Beaton, one of the founders of Sustainable Fairview Associates and a friend of ours, has been preaching to largely deaf ears in the company for several years. I’ve been echoing what I’ve learned from Russ, but it is hard to get through to people who see “sustainability” as something you can buy at the Green Technology Store rather than something you have to create within your own mind and heart.
Russ, me, and the other visionaries who tried to make Eco-Enterprises, Inc. a go wanted Sustainable Fairview to be founded on a whole different land ethic. We wanted these 275 acres to be owned by a Community Land Trust, with a generous share of the profits accruing from the land to be plowed back into the land—rather than being harvested by outside corporate interests, as will probably happen now at Fairview. We had a truly sustainable vision; we weren’t content with playing around with a few sustainable programs.
I’ve started reading one of Daniel Quinn’s books, “The Story of B.” There’s a lot to like and also quite a bit not to like in Quinn’s animistic philosophical perspective. I do resonate to his distinction between new visions and new programs, though. This is precisely what I’ve been railing on about since Laurel and I joined Sustainable Fairview Associates. Absent a new sustainable vision, supposedly sustainable programs are like spitting in the wind. Vision is the wind itself. It carries you where you need to go with hardly any effort. But it takes guts and a willingness to change to follow a vision, which is why most people are content with programs. Here’s a few excerpts from “The Story of B”:
“If the world is saved, it will be saved by people with changed minds, people with a new vision. It will not be saved by people with old minds and new programs. It will not be saved by people with the old vision but a new program…Recycling is a program…Programs invariably run counter to vision, and so have to be thrust on people—have to be ‘sold’ to people…In our culture at the present moment, the flow of the river is toward catastrophe, and programs are sticks set in the riverbed to impede its flow. My objective is to change the direction of the flow, away from catastrophe.”
If people get in their Toyota Prius’s (we’re proud owners of a 2004) to drive a thousand miles to Disneyland every year in search of plasticized fun, or ten miles every week to WalMart and Costco to bring home the next new gadget (made overseas) that relieves the boredom of their lives, we’re not really moving toward sustainability. We’re using less gasoline to do the same things, but that is something totally different.
I don’t know what a truly sustainable society would look like; I do know it isn’t what I see around me now, and what Laurel and I are living now (yes, we regularly go to WalMart and Costco). Well, at least we’re seeking the vision, which is more than most people are doing. And those who seek will find, or so we’re told.