What have you done today to lower your impact?

We are washing away the foundations of our existence on every front. It is high time we move from crashing about on the planet like a bull in china shop and find a way to go forward with intent. We must find systems of living based on sustainability. The systems and tools exist, it is up to each of us to adopt them.

Blog Archive

Sunday, 22 June 2008


This was posted on the community gardens listserve. It is so good I couldn't resist re-posting it here. Here is a bit of bio on Mrs Boggs from the Milwaukee Renaissance blog,

"Grace is 92 and still going strong. She won a PH.D. in philosophy from Bryn Mawr in 1938, partnered with C.L.R. James in a highly signficant “anti-communist” left tendency in the 1940s, married renowned Detroit auto worker/philosopher Jimmy Boggs in the 1950s, was a major leader in the labor, civil rights, peace, black power, Asian American women’s and environmental movements in the 1960s and 1970s, and, since the 1980s, has been a major planetary actor of the permaculture movement."

Look for her interview on Bill Moyers on PBS.

By Grace Lee Boggs
Michigan Citizen, June 22-28, 2008

A lot of people are angry these days about the high price of gas. But one hundred years from now our posterity may bless this period when soaring gas prices finally forced Americans to bike or take public transportation to work and to start dreaming of neighborhood stores within walking distance.

An interview with Enrique Penalosa by Deborah Solomon in the June 6 New York Times Magazine inspired this thought. My eye was caught by his statement that "The 20th century was a horrible detour in the evolution of the human habitat. We were building much more for cars' mobility than for children's happiness."

Never having heard of Penalosa, I googled him and discovered that he was a journalist born and educated in the United States. Elected Mayor of Bogota Colombia, on his third try in 1998, he served until 2001 when he was forced out by term limits. Since then he has become a senior fellow at the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy and is advising other world cities on transportation.

Penalosa believes that "We need to walk, just as birds need to fly. We need to be around other people. We need beauty. We need contact with nature. And most of all, we need not to be excluded. We need to feel some sort of equality."

To make Bogota a city that could be enjoyed by the carless majority, he closed 120 kilometers of roads to motor vehicles for seven hours every Sunday. This enabled a million and a half people of all ages and incomes to come out and ride bicycles, jog, and simply gather with others in the community.

Penalosa views children as a kind of "indicator species." "A quality city is not one that has great roads but one where a child can safely go anywhere on a bicycle. If we can build a successful city for children, we will have a successful city for all people."

"When we tell a three-year-old child anywhere in the world, 'Watch out -- a car' the child will jump in fright -- and with good reason because more than 200,000 children are killed by cars every year? In any month today there are more children killed by cars than were eaten by wolves all through the Middle Ages. But we have come to think that that's totally normal. As soon as our children come out of their houses, we are afraid they might get killed. 5,000 years of cities, is that where we are?"

Penalosa learned from Jaime Lerner, who was the maverick mayor of Curitiba Brazil, for 3 four year terms between 1971 and 1992. The three keys to a livable city, according to Lerner, are Mobility, Sustainability and Diversity.

Believing that a livable city begins with children respecting the city, Lerner gave Curitiba children the responsibility for separating and recycling garbage. He gave the Curitiba homeless a stake in a clean city by offering them a bag of food in exchange for a bag of litter. He speeded up the buses by building stations where riders could pay fares before boarding.

You don't need a lot of money to come up with measures like these What you need is the courage to think outside the box of "economic development" or trying to catch up with the cities of the Global North which are in deep trouble.

After the splitting of the atom, Einstein warned that we were drifting towards catastrophe because we had changed everything but the way we think. Imagination, he said, is more important than knowledge.

Penalosa quotes a Danish urbanist, Jan Gehl, who says that a good city is like a good party ? people don't want to leave. It is a city where people want to be out of their houses. The good city is the one where people want any pretext to be in the parks, on the sidewalks, in the cafes.

We have a choice: between a city that is friendlier to cars or a city that is friendlier to people, especially children.

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