the blog posts

we need more earth

Earth Overshoot Day. Heard of it? I hadn't. Not until very recently. It is the day when, according to the Global Footprint Network, "humanity's annual demand on nature exceeds what Earth can regenerate in that year." 

This year, Earth Overshoot Day was 13 August. In 2000, it was during the month of October. It is a record you don't want to continue to break but, notwithstanding the Rio Earth Summit and the "sustainable development" vocabulary that is part of everyday life now, apparently we will. 

 source: global footprint network

source: global footprint network

The impact of this ecological overspend, as the Global Footprint Network terms it, is evident to anyone paying attention. Drought. Water shortages. Deforestation. Extreme weather events. As you can guess, humanity's carbon footprint is a significant part of the problem. The irreverent conclusion, therefore, is that we need more earth. China needs 2.7 Chinas. Japan needs 5.5 Japans. Greece needs 2.6 Greeces (as if the country didn't have enough problems already). In fact, we need 1.6 earths to support current collective ecological consumption. 

Where is Bermuda in this mix? I would imagine somewhere worse than Japan. Our ecological consumption is going to be higher than our domestic biocapacity - and I make that statement boldly without checking any facts or figures since we import just about everything, and consume much in the way of fossil fuels in the process.

Is change possible? Yes it is. If we, the 'global we' that is, can reduce our carbon emissions 30% by 2030, which is what the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report recommends (see previous blog post), we can push Earth Overshoot Day back to 16 September (Global Footprint Network press release).

While that's not balanced, it's better. We need better because there is no more earth.

is planning better for opponents?

I read with great interest Patrick Fox's Op-Ed piece in Planetizen entitled "Broken Planning: How Opponents Hijacked the Planning Process." It is one person's view of the American system but, nonetheless, some issues are transferable.

While there is a big hint of "Oh woe is me" developer-think throughout the article, Fox does highlight a certain dysfunction, if you will, in the planning system.  That is: how do you get a community to be energised in favour of development, either on the policy or project front? It is the bane of every Planning Department's existence that community outreach efforts seem only to excite the same ten people. According to Fox, those ten people will always be opposed to the development project.

 Social media does extend, and can enrich, the debate but, still, how do you get more than the usual ten to stand up and be counted? Let me know because I can't help but think the final product will be better for the community if more of the community engages in the process.

cohousing for bermuda revisited

Cohousing is a concept foreign to Bermuda but one that is worth looking at again. 'Again' suggests Bermudians considered it at all when, in reality, I keenly researched it back in the nineties but appeared to be alone in my interest.

The topic came up recently, when (and this happens when you reach a certain age) friends asked us if, in retirement, we would consider some form of communal living. The discussion centred on private accommodation around a square of some sort where we could keep an eye out for each other but not actually live together. We like these friends but not that much.

After dispensing with the term 'commune', which has unfortunate Koolaid connotations, I realised we were being asked to ponder a form of cohousing.

 cohousing in sebastopol, ca: image - schemata workshop

cohousing in sebastopol, ca: image - schemata workshop

A familiar form of residential development in Denmark, Sweden and, to a lesser extent, USA and UK, cohousing communities are made up of groups of families or couples living in self-sufficient private residences but who access and use shared facilities as well. The key component of cohousing is a Common House with a kitchen and dining facilities where everyone can share an evening meal, have community meetings and generally socialise. Links between residences are important too, as the notion of watching out for each other is a primary reason for living in a cohousing set up. Other shared facilities can comprise playgrounds, laundry facilities, workshops and guest accommodation. 

As described by the UK Cohousing Network, advantages include:

             common kitchen: image - schemata workshop

            common kitchen: image - schemata workshop

  • a sense of community and shared values, a sense of belonging,
  • keeping one’s privacy while having an active and locally based social life,
  • living more economically and sustainably – sharing skills, tools, heating systems, all sorts,
  • neighbours that become friends and the mutual support that comes naturally with that (anything from shared childcare to a shoulder to cry on to a pint of milk to someone noticing if you have not been seen for a day or two),
  • support in older age, and,
  • feeling useful/making a contribution.

Cohousing is something Bermuda should investigate. It could be an alternative to traditional assisted living situations or as a (new to us) way of building healthy and sustainable communities.