The Earth seen from Apollo 17.

Photo by NASA. From the Wikimedia Commons.

I have been writing in the past several months about various different environmental issues and posing various practical and philosophical solutions. And while that is all fine and dandy as they say, today I had a realization.

What about the big picture?

I mean, great. All these ideas are fine. But what exactly are we supposed to do? And not just a few things. But the whole enchilada, as they say.

After all, we have been working since, quite arguably, the 1970s with the advent of Earth Day to bring about environmental change. And look where it has got us. We now have the BP oil spill, the threat of drilling in the Arctic, an ever increasing problem with global climate change, and more. Our efforts to use reusable mugs, programmable thermostats, and the odd carpool simply have not cut the mustard, so to speak.

In two words, I feel that what we need is extreme cooperation. I mean, seeing people seriously come together in new and innovative ways to solve these problems.

What form would this cooperation take? Well, to draw on planning theory (which I can’t help but do, given my background in urban planning), I think we need to take a long hard look at feminist planning theory. This facet of planning theory advocates the creation of things like

1) common play areas, gardens, and dining halls,
2) communal kitchens, and
3) cooperative garages.

Now my crunchy granola friends (yes, believe it or not, there are some who are even “greener” than me), inform me that this type of arrangement is called an “intentional community” (with other terms, like “cohousing” and “ecovillages” falling under this umbrella.)

When you think about it a little, this sort of thing really makes a lot of sense. By using communal kitchens for instance, food could be cooked more efficiently in larger batches (which is important given that home food preparation, according to Just Food by James E. McWilliams, uses 25% of the total energy required to produce food). Additionally, fewer rooms would need heating since not so many rooms would be in use.

By working together more, other efficiencies could be gained. For instance, people could make trips together to places like stores. What is more, we could implement these changes quickly, using existing infrastructure. For instance, a street in a typical suburb could designate one house to be the “hub” where people do things cooperatively.

Now you might think this idea sounds a bit idealistic and unrealistic. After all, people are notorious for not getting along with their neighbours. Which is why so many have taken to cocooning in their homes (with their home movie-theatres and work-out rooms no less). But I say, if getting along is all that’s required to get us out of this environmental quagmire that we’re in, it’s worth a try. Is it not?

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