Vol. 10, No.1
January 3 - 9, 2001
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Step Closer to Sustainable Living in 2002
by Albert ‘Abby’ Ybarra

It’s time to re-think the way we live. That’s what a recent summit sponsored by the Alliance of Sustainable Communities attempted to do. From local, state and beyond the borders of Maryland, concerned minds came to save the vanishing countryside. The summit attracted more than 300 to listen and share information to help communities analyze their entire development process.

Building sustainable communities, says summit organizer Anne Pearson, is based on the not-so-new concept of selecting and sharing information that will get the current governing system off its “fix of development money.”

The current system forces governments to use growth to pay for services it now operates. This pattern creates a never-ending need for development money from fees and permits to pay for governmental services and community needs. In the process, “the human spirit and environment pay heavily,” says Pearson.

As many of our areas of natural beauty disappear to the clear-cutting ways of new development, many people don’t realize what is happening until it is much too late for action.

How do we solve the need to house people and to save the vanishing natural environment while providing a safe and healthy place to live? Where do regular community people join in the process? Will the long-held natural areas of Maryland succumb to the sunburned track-home phenomena?

At the Economics of Place Summit, some of the country’s best thinkers on sustainable economic development helped to answer such questions. Among them Michael Shuman, who directs Community Ventures Consulting Group to help cities and companies improve their economic and environmental performance, argued that we need to abandon the subsidies for big-scale out-of-town business in favor of support for local growth businesses, whose dollars help achieve a sustainable economy by circulating and recirculating money at home.

Parallel questions are being considered in almost every region of the United States.

For example, in the heavy populated state of California, large population centers like Los Angeles County pay out an average of $1.5 billion dollars a year to remove water from the streets during the brief periods of rain. A new sustainable plan will include watershed management and principals of urban forestry to help re-establish a more natural ecosystem, where the seasons and cycles produce the fresh water, air and balance to provide what people, plants and animals need for a sustainable life.

Developers recognize that many people are actually looking for such communities as well as ones that share a place where people socialize and know their neighbors. If new plans brought forth by local non-profit groups, engineering firms and the local stakeholders of Maryland communities are developed, we can reach such goals. At the same time, sustainable land management techniques will save millions of tax dollars now scheduled for more development and improved services throughout the county.

It is a lofty goal to re-think the way we live, but the Chesapeake Bay will not recover unless there is a change in land-use patterns, especially the way we plan for the future developments.
“It’s time for the community to be involved in the beginning of the process and not at the end of the line of the building process,” said Pearson.

Abby Ybarra, a Native American of the Yaqui tribe who has worked for sustainable development in the Western U.S., now lives in Chesapeake Beach.

Copyright 2002
Bay Weekly