January 25, 2011 | General

Editorial: Sustaining Communities

BioCycle January 2011, Vol. 52, No. 1, p. 4
Nora Goldstein

IN 1979, one year after we founded The JG Press, Inc., we published Energy-Efficient Community Planning, a book authored by James Ridgeway. In the 1970s, we experienced the Arab Oil Boycott that led to fuel shortages and the catastrophe at Three Mile Island caused by a partial core meltdown at a nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania. Like today, the country struggled to establish a national energy policy that would transition us from the age of fossil fuels to the era of renewable energy.
In the book’s introduction, “Building A New Energy Base,” Ridgeway wrote a paragraph that could easily have been written today versus 32 years ago: “All too often, changing the nation’s energy policy is perceived as merely increasing domestic oil production, mandating the compact car, halting nuclear power and so on. Yet an effective policy need not be only a national one. Rather, various parts of the nation can adopt the innovations that suit their needs. …. In Hartford, Connecticut, officials have worked to reorganize agriculture by revitalizing nearby farms, reintroducing growing practices that went out with the western migrations of the last century … In all of this, they seek to provide jobs for the city’s unemployed people …”
“While energy policy begins with a reassessment of agriculture in Hartford, it is centered on water policy along the eastern slope of the Rockies … Water feeds the suburbs, which are dependent on the automobile. As these energy-inefficient communities grow, they require more and more fuel, both in gas for cars and energy for housing …”
Energy-Efficient Community Planning may likely be one of the first books ever published focusing on sustainable community development. The JG Press published Jim Ridgeway’s book because the concepts and communities profiled embodied the core principles of our company and our publishing mission – management of natural resources to sustain a community’s well-being, from clean air and clean water to healthy soil and healthy people, from renewable energy and recycling to composting and conservation.
In March 1979, The JG Press also began publishing In Business, the magazine for “Creating Sustainable Enterprises and Communities.” In Business ceased publication at the end of 2007, yet its mission continues to guide and energize us. So it is in the spirit of the core principles that have guided us for 33 years that BioCycle is launching a new article series on Sustainable Communities. Managing Editor Dan Sullivan is working on the first community profile of the city of Philadelphia, where sustainability initiatives include “surface-level greening” to manage storm water to establishing 1,000 Corner Stores to provide access to fresh produce and other healthy foods to all residents in all neighborhoods.
The communities we profile may take the form of a municipality (rural, suburban, urban), a neighborhood within a community, a college campus or school district, a healthcare network or an innovative business subscribing to the triple bottom line of “people, planet and profit.” Our definition of sustainability includes terms like “durable,” “permanent” and “business as usual” (when best practices become commonplace). A concrete goal of this article series – working with the communities and people we are profiling and learning from – is to develop benchmarks or metrics to quantify sustainable natural resource management. Establishing a measurable baseline, and setting achievable goals using that baseline, will be a huge step forward to truly sustaining communities.

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