Saturday, November 21, 2009

Passive Solar at Work

The late afternoon sun streams through a bank of south facing windows to cast warm rays across 18 feet of living room. It creates beautiful shadows amid the warming rays. Passive solar design is primarily to allow the natural heat of the sun to warm the home but the natural light is also fabulous. This is what makes an ordinary home extraordinary. 

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Building on Beauty

Randy Veitenheimer was a guest speaker on the final panel at our OLLI class. People were intrigued by his discussion about the "community overlay" he has developed as an economic redevelopment tool for Tecumseh, Oklahoma.

His strategy has several tenets. One is based on increasing the amount of opportunities for social interactions. This allows for an exchange of economics of course, yes, but equally as vital, giving

Another is to build beauty. A beautiful structure is not diminished by people looking at it. No one saves an ugly building from demolition, but a beautiful structure will be repurposed and remodeled for decades or centuries if possible. Beauty gives. 

Rights and Responsibilities is another tenet interwoven into his approach. Your community deserves to be beautiful AND each member has an obligation or responsibility to provide beauty by whatever means they possess. Everyone can do something.

Randy quoted the Navajo poem "Walk in Beauty" as a source of inspiration. Google it and read aloud. 

Randy's house is 1,300 square feet but lives large. Infill. Fruit trees. 9 ft ceilings. The thoughtful details abound. It has taken 3 years to build because it is build to last a century. The intentionally is what sets this house apart from others. It provides shelter, it gives beauty, it is not a burden to its future owners. "It is finished in beauty," echoes the Navajo. 

When I see cheap thoughtless new buildings erected in my community I cringe at the permanent blight being forced onto the public realm. When the only metric is the economic dollar, beauty is cut from the budget. It is no small tragedy to watch selfishness manifested in the name of economic development. The track house, the metal building, the bare structure, these all favor only one but cheat the rest. We must be proud of what we do and what we build, it is a measure of our humanity. 

Saturday, November 7, 2009


"Notice" she slowly repeated with emphasis to make sure I had heard her use her newly found word. Sage, now two, began our conversation this morning with this statement. 

"I NOTICED my bow. noticed."

All day that "noticed" stayed with me. Isn't that how we gradually change our culture and develop an environmental ethic, by noticing? 

There is distinct perception and deliberate discernment in the word noticed. It implies that intrinsic value has been assigned. She appreciated something previously overlooked.

I was overjoyed. And inspired. She noticed something tiny and lovely about her blouse today. Noticed and celebrated and shared her discovery.
This made me smile and instilled a glimmer of hope.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Osher lifelong learning institute at OSU

It has been my privilege to teach Sustainable Prosperity to the OSU alumni this fall. It has been a challenge to condense a 16-week class down to a 4 hour buffet. The final session had a plethora of multi-media clips which are now assembled in one easy-to-access place. Enjoy!

The OLLI members asked the same questions as the college students. Where is our leadership?! Why isn't anybody doing anything?! Well.... they say when you point one finger in blame three others on your hand are pointing back at you.

Our conversations circle back around to education, citizenship, and ethics. Frankly all three involve a lot of work. Yet I am hopeful because sustainability is being universally demanded by multiple generations. Do you suppose it is instinctual? I know it is contagious. I propose the motto:

Sustainability: The Good Pandemic

The photo? My 10-year-old son rocking climbing Old Central. Hanging on to education is what OLLI is all about! Click on the links in green below to connect to a 1-3 minute video clip of the topic.

Latest News in Science (also bad news): CO2 levels have not been as high as they are now for 15 million years. 15,000,000 years. We are at 387 ppm now and 350 ppm is considered a stable desirable level. We increase 2-3 ppm every single year. Like compounding interest, we are compounding carbon.

"We Call It Life" commercial by the people who want you to believe CO2 is nothing to worry your pretty little head about.

Bill McDonough of Cradle-to-Cradle Fame speaks at Wal-mart (24 minutes)

Just like the Wal-Mart store, you could spend an entire afternoon on their sustainability site:

Ray Anderson, Greenest CEO in America speaks for 15 minutes.

In summary, a 12-minute video from Patagonia with many thought leaders on achieving sustainability in organizations. Refreshingly honest.

Why I won't switch to CFLs with toxic mercury to save $10 per month on my lighting bill but instead employ natural daylighting and dimmer switches.

I hope you have enjoyed this free education brought to you courtesy of the Environmental Science Graduate Program at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, Oklahoma.