Re: Community & environmentalism
From: Peter Starr (
Date: Thu, 18 May 95 02:04 CDT
>Dear friends, I need your help.
>I have a beleif that living in community leads to a greater environmental

First off, let me say that I don't have that one study you are looking for.  
But for a great analysis of sustainability and the importance of place and 
community, I would recommend "Ecological Literacy: Education and the 
Transition to a Postmodern World," by David W. Orr (State Univ. of New York 

A few suggestons.  I would guess that the first thing that you would have to 
do then is to define community and environmental conciousness and then 
establish a causative relationship.  Be careful, though. Greater 
environmental conciousness may lead to living in a community.   

>And I suppose that one reason for my being attracted to
>cohousing is that I see it as a means to raising that conciousness and
>ultimately, as a force for improved neighbourhoods and cities in terms of
>environmental quality. I am doing post-grad research which is attempting to
>establish this link.

If this is to be a sociological or anthropological study then I would 
suggest a questionnaire.  You might be able to get a list from someone.  I'm 
not suggesting who.  Ask cohousing members if their behavior or attitudes 
have changed since living in such a community.  Find out what if anything 
has changed.

"Have your attitudes about the environment changed since joining a cohousing 
group or moving into a cohousing community? Has you behavior changed?  What 
sort of activities on behalf of the environment have you inititated since 
joining (or moving in?)

Prompt the respondant.  Ask about specific building materials, techniques, 
decisions. Find out if they drive less, walk more, spend more time in the 
garden, less in front of the tube.  People are not always conscious of their 
own motives, especially when peer pressure is intense as it can be in 
consensus situations.  Assume that everything slovenly and lazy is bad for 
the environment (and leads to state of entropy,)and everthing that is 
energetic and involved (and doesn't use lots of machines)is good for the 

>The trouble is, that my supervisor doesn't agree. He is Bill Metcalf, a long
>time researcher of communities whom some of you might know. He points to
>examples such as the Bruderhof and Kibbutz where, over very ling periods
>people have not demonstrated any particular environmental bent.

The average European today is -- by dint of their own limitations of space, 
resources, particulary petroleum, and their high population densities -- 
more conscious of waste and the high price of stupid behavior.  We in the 
U.S invented the sprawl.  We ripped up our rail lines and created a 
dependency on automobiles, trucks and asphalt.  We gobble up our land for 
front yards, driveways, and parking lots.  To say the Europeans don't have 
an environmental bent is not right.  Oh, and by the way, the Israelis are in 
general environmentally inclined.  They are among a minority of peoples 
along the Mediterranean sea that don't eat passing songbirds. Really.

>I beleive there is a link ... almost BY DEFINITION.  I don't want to get
>into semantics, but if you beleive that people live in intentional community
>for the interconnectedness and interdependence with others that it provides,
>then IMHO it's likely they will develop an awareness of the effect of their
>thoughts and actions upon those people. That awareness, if their attitudes
>are caring, translates into a conciousness of the quality of the shared
>environment ... a desire to keep things 'in order' for oneself AND ONES
>FELLOWS. The nature of that 'order' will vary of course, and whether those
>attitudes develope into a wider global conciousness is another matter.
>Graham Meltzer.

Here, here I absolutely agree!

Here are a few of the basic cohousing design elements that directly benefit 
the environment, however subtly.  Don't forget -- individually, few of us 
are environmental criminals.  Collectively, however, we are raising the 
temperature of the planet and the level of the oceans.

1. Fewer driveways, roads
-less runoff -- healthier local aquifer, less local ground-water pollution
-less asphalt -- less oil production, hence less water, air pollution
-more plants - more photosynthesis, less CO2 buildup
2. Closer neighbors and support structures.
-less driving -- less auto-emmissions
3. More commons walls in clustered housing
-less heat loss
-possibility for zone heating and cooling -- less energy use.f
4. More common building space
-less lumber -- less habitat destruction in timber removal
-less flooring, molding, wiring, glass, concrete- less resource extraction
5. common land
-less frontyards -- less wasted lawn (mowed and not used)
-more time for productive use of land
6. more common possessions and more sharing of tools
- fewer items bought -- less manufacturing, less transportation
- higher quality purchases -- less breakdown, less garbage

Hope that I was of a little help.

Peter Starr
           Starr Track
We Track the Natural Products industry
  Peter Starr___________Sara Starr

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