Re: Environmental values
From: Odysseus Levy (
Date: Sun, 13 Mar 2005 20:53:25 -0800 (PST)
I think the first thing you should do is pat yourselves on the back for living in community -- that goes a long, long ways towards getting us where we want to go.

I think it comes as a surprise to most cohousers when I say one of the most powerful environmental things we can do is to live in a community. What do I mean by that? If we want to live in a more sustainable world we are going to have to change the way things are physically structured (public transportation rather than cars, smaller houses, local organic farms, etc.). But -- and this is the key point -- in order to get there we have to change the culture. That is, until we change the way people feel and think about things we are not going to get them to change their physical structures. And the physical structures are working against us. I used to live in a suburb, a very nice suburb actually, where everyone walked into their garage in the morning, clicked the garage door opener and drove their car out to their workplace's large parking lot. Then in the evening they would drive back again never needing to make any connection with their neighborhood. That kind of physical structure reinforces the notion of everyone separate and apart, and makes it hard for people to feel like they are protecting a shared environment. Cohousing on the other hand first changes the culture (by getting people together and talking) and that allows the physical world to get changed in a way that it normally would not (clustered housing with lots of shared space and a common house).

This is something I've thought a lot about and could go on and on -- if you have any interest, check out this article I wrote about the topic:

At Winslow Cohousing (Bainbridge Island, WA) we have recently done some things that I am very proud of:

* We just last week signed an agreement that put over an acre of our property into a protected land trust which guarantees that it will never get developed. Downtown Winslow is zoned for high density development, and just about all of the common green space is rapidly disappearing so this will be one of the last intact green spaces.

* We bought an electric car, and have set up a car coop to share it. We are seriously considering adding to other cars to the coop as well.

In both cases an community member got inspired to do something and just made it happen. Now to be sure, before they went charging off there were lots of informal, around the dinner table discussions. Neither of these actions came from the top down. As a community we do value the environment, but I think the magic is that our culture allows us to encourage and support those individuals that have a great idea and want to make it happen. So maybe it is not so important to come up with the perfect value statement as it is to make sure that the community is vibrant and trusting enough so that the idea of doing something like sharing an electric car seems like fun. Does that make sense? I guess what I'm trying to say is that by nurturing the wonderful cultural changes that cohousing promotes (ie. sharing, cooperation, listening, etc.) wonderful environmental things will spring up from just that alone.

Maggi Rohde wrote:

Our community is beginning to consider our values surrounding environmental concerns. We had a successful weekend retreat in which we made a list of our values, but although "caring for the environment" was on the list, we are having trouble nailing down exactly what this means.

I am interested to hear what other communities have done to identify common environmental values.

-Maggi Rohde
 Touchstone Cohousing, Ann Arbor, MI

Cohousing-L mailing list -- Unsubscribe, archives and other info at:

Results generated by Tiger Technologies Web hosting using MHonArc.