Commuting is not sustainable
From: William Thornton (William_ThorntonBayNetworks.COM)
Date: Tue, 23 Jan 1996 11:02:36 -0600
Perhaps the word  "sustainable" has a lot of Earth-first connotations for
some people, but that is not what I mean by the word.  I don't believe that
atavistic and romantic impulses are a very good basis for community.  I am
not so ambitious that I believe I can start my own bank or entirely divorce
myself from the current society.  I just feel certain that we need to move
toward sustainability and that our housing patterns, especially as they
relate to employment and the consequent commuting, are a big part of the

I think that reducing commuting should be the number one priority for
cohousers and everyone else, because of the toll commuting takes on the
environment, our psyches, and our relationships.  It seems to me that
commuting is the primary source of many of the problems that cohousing  is
trying to address.  Picture an ordinary housing development where everyone
walks to work and and compare that picture to a cohousing project where
everyone drives 60 miles to their jobs every day.   I think you have to agree
that the first picture is not only more sustainable, but achieves the goals
of cohousing better than the latter. 

There are three ways that come to mind to reduce commuting:

1. Locate cohousing near employment
2. Incorporate telecommuting centers and technology into cohousing
3. Develop local businesses
Number 1 is difficult because of the high market price of developable land
near labor markets.  Number 2 might not be practical unless some corporate
sponsorship could be obtained.  However, in regard to Number 3, I see  no
reason why motivated people could not develop cooperative small-scale
businesses, taking advantage of the opportunities provided by new
technologies for remote education, entertainment, and mail order.  Obviously,
no one should quit their day jobs, but cohousing businesses could start small
and involve more members as they succeeded. 

My own first step toward sustainable cohousing is to explore with interested
parties, cooperative businesses that can eventually be relocated to a rural
location and which could form the basis for some kind of cohousing project.  
I believe that it might be easier in the long run to develop our own economic
basis and move it to a development-friendly region than it would be to
wrestle with urban zoning boards and spend the rest of our lives paying
interest on the exhorbitant cost of the land.  Of course, the risks are high
because everything depends on the viability of the business.  But our current
commuter life style is hardly free from risks.             


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