From a talk given at Atlanta Unity’s World Day of Prayer 9/13/2012: An Interfaith Celebration of Peace and Diversity
Architect, designer, and author, William McDonough, who is known for his work in sustainability, asks a powerful question, “How do we love all the children, of all species, for all time?”
Coming from the Earth Care Ministry perspective, the answer to this question sounds like an Ecotopia. However, a sustainable community, where people are in harmony with the earth and with each other, is an essential part of a peaceful future. What does a peaceful world that works for all look like?
Imagine waking up to natural light and bird songs flooding through the windows in your bedroom. Your home is modest, but it lovingly holds all the essentials and meaningful treasures that you have accumulated over the years. While you slept, the energy that your house collected from solar panels during the day, kept the water warm for your shower, ran the appliances, and had a surplus energy to store and give back to the main grid to help power the public utilities. Because your house is so energy efficient, it maintained a comfortable temperature while you slept.
The water from your shower goes into a grey-water system in your house, which supplies the toilets and is also used to water your garden, along with your rain barrels. You step outside and water your lovely garden with this reclaimed water and pick some ripe fruits for your breakfast, along with a few fresh eggs from your speckled heirloom chickens. Rather than a lawn, your land plot is filled with fruits, vegetables, native plants, and habitats for the butterflies and honeybees.
A block up from your house is one of the many community gathering areas, with playing fields, open-air markets, storefronts showcasing local goods, meandering woodland paths and a beautiful stage which showcases anything and everything – from bluegrass to classical music, to dancing, storytelling, and art displays.
As you walk through the commons you pass by the co-housing units where the dwelling areas are private, but the extensive common facilities are shared by the multi-generational residents. It is not uncommon to see teenagers helping out their elderly neighbors after school, or families making dinner together while their children play safely together in the yard.
Just a bit further down the permeable roadway is the community center which is covered by a vertical garden, and houses a local bank, tool library, book exchange, repair-or-reinvent shop, farm to table restaurant, rental center for cars and bicycles, and an internet café where you can log into the community time bank and swap your carpentry skills for a friend’s accounting skills.
In this town there is a business center hub, where people from various professions share office space, so that they are not isolated and have the benefits of office amenities, yet do not have to endure a long commute. The building has a green roof, a courtyard, small wind turbines and solar panels on the roof to generate electricity, and is a zero-waste facility. Everything is reused, recycled, or composted. This hub is a center for learning, connecting, and sharing ideas using an open source methodology that promotes free redistribution and access to a product design and implementation. This office center is also home to one of the leading Biomimicry firms, which uses nature’s time-tested patterns and strategies to design a myriad of solutions, from more efficient flight to a glue that aids in the repair process of broken bones.
At night this community center offers a variety of lectures, films, debates, and music, which appeal to the diverse population in the area. At events like these, people celebrate their customs and traditions, but also realize that we are much more similar than we are different.
For the people in this town who need to commute into Atlanta or another surrounding area, they can walk to the closet train station, where a clean, renewable energy train runs every ten minutes into town. Or they can use the extensive bike and walking trails which are the main arteries, linking neighborhoods together along the public transit system.
Many corporations have given way to member-owned cooperatives, business externalities are now part of the cost of doing business, and people and planet are just as important – if not more so- than profit.
While the laws of the community are fair, unbiased, and communicated clearly, there are unfortunately times when a law is broken. This community justice system is modeled after the Maori, the indigenous people of New Zealand, where the community is involved in the process, and the intended outcome is repair. It is a restorative justice program which is designed to support offenders as they take responsibility and change their behavior, to empower the offenders’ families to play an important role in this process, and to address the victims’ needs. When needed, people also have access to what the Hawaiian’s call a pu‘uhonua, which is a sanctuary where those who break a taboo or rule can go for forgiveness and transformation.
In this community there is less of an emphasis on party politics, yet there is a thriving democracy, with engagement in local government and policies. The focus is primarily on creating a resilient infrastructure. Since the community produces the majority of its’ power, has reliable access to healthy organic food from its’ gardens and nearby producers, has a clean water source that maintains safe levels due to water conservation programs, and has mutually beneficial relationships with nearby communities, there is the sense that it would be able to recover from disruptions caused by climate change or global events.
Because of the abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables from a nearby biodynamic farm, a walking culture, and low stress-levels, due in part to a culture of community rather than consumption, people are generally healthier. But when a doctor’s care is necessary there is a publicly funded state of the art medical center close by, with a holistic approach to health care, including acupuncture, energy medicine, and a medicinal herb garden on the grounds.
Near the healthcare facility, lies an interdenominational worship center. Various groups in the community use this space, and others nearby, to come together to mark major life events and celebrate their faith traditions. People respect each others’ beliefs and appreciate the freedom to explore their connection to the divine in the form that is most meaningful for them.
The last stop in our tour around town is the beautiful school campus. The buildings are LEED certified, and there are outdoor classrooms and permaculture gardens which supply the culinary arts program and cafeteria. In addition to the core courses and valuable life skills, students are taught non-violent communication, systems thinking, mindfulness and meditation, and how to be a responsible global citizen, who advocates for human, animal, and environmental rights. This school encourages life-long learning by offering continuing education classes at night on wide array of topics. As we watch the children climbing on the playground that is made from reclaimed materials and recycled rubber, we see the light in their eyes that comes from being born into a community where they will never face discrimination based on their gender, race, or sexual orientation. They also know that they are free to pursue their gifts and cultivate their talents, without sacrificing prosperity, because they live in a place where they are valued and fulfilled by the simple pleasures in life. There is peace in your heart, because you can see this way of life continuing for the next seven generations.
I encourage you to expand upon this vision of a peaceful, sustainable community and become a co-creator in our conscious evolution.
The way is long – let us go together
The way is difficult – let us help each other
The way is joyful – let us share it
The way is ours alone – let us go in love
The way grows before us – let us begin