Happy Holidays, Urban Visionaries!

Happy Holidays, Urban Visionaries!

(Reblogged from wintertimegirls)

PBS video on climate change conferences


I would love to hear your thoughts on this video. Mary.ANALYSIS    AIR DATE: Nov. 28, 2011

New Climate Change Deal to Succeed Kyoto a Long Shot


What’s behind the long struggle to reach a new international agreement on reducing greenhouse gases? Margaret Warner and The Washington Post’s Juliet Eilperin preview the U.N.’s annual climate conference.

New York Times article on Durban conference

Hi Eric,

Yes! I feel your frustration. Why is it taking so long to make decisions that will ultimately save the planet?  ”Worst-case-scenarios” of climate change are visible, but I think the lack of inaction is because it may not have affected enough people personally yet. Unfortunately, it may take more instances of erratic hurricanes and earthquakes to speed up decision making in some countries. 


The conclusion of the meeting was marked by exhaustion and explosions of temper, and the result was muddled and unsatisfying to many. Observers and delegates said that the actions taken at the meeting, while sufficient to keep the negotiating process alive, would not have a significant impact on climate change.

“While governments avoided disaster in Durban, they by no means responded adequately to the mounting threat of climate change,” said Alden Meyer, director of policy at theUnion of Concerned Scientists. “The decisions adopted here fall well short of what is needed.”

Mary on Co-housing - I love the idea, reminds me of Kibbutzim’s in Israel.

What Is Cohousing?

Cohousing at Hearthstone
Cohousing communities offer nurturing places where people of all ages grow and age well.

Cohousing is a type of collaborative housing in which residents actively participate in the design and operation of their own neighborhoods.

Cohousing residents are consciously committed to living as a community. The physical design encourages both social contact and individual space. Private homes contain all the features of conventional homes, but residents also have access to extensive common facilities such as open space, courtyards, a playground and a common house. See our Frequently Asked Questions, below, and the widely quoted Six Defining Characteristics of Cohousing.

Next Steps

1. Attend the Conference

2. What’s for sale or rent?

3. Take a virtual tour

4. Take a real tour

5. Visit the directory

See more at the bottom of this page.

Old-fashioned sense of neighborhood

Cohousing communities are usually designed as attached or single-family homes along one or more pedestrian streets or clustered around a courtyard. They range in size from 7 to 67 residences, the majority of them housing 20 to 40 households. Regardless of the size of the community, there are many opportunities for casual meetings between neighbors, as well as for deliberate gatherings such as celebrations, clubs and business meetings.

The common house is the social center of a community, with a large dining room and kitchen, lounge, recreational facilities, children’s spaces, and frequently a guest room, workshop and laundry room. Communities usually serve optional group meals in the common house at least two or three times a week.

The need for community members to take care of common property builds a sense of working together, trust and support. Because neighbors hold a commitment to a relationship with one another, almost all cohousing communities use consensus as the basis for group decision-making.

What makes cohousing communities unique

The cohousing idea originated in Denmark, and was promoted in the U.S. by architects Kathryn McCamant and Charles Durrett in the early 1980s. The Danish concept of “living community” has spread quickly. Worldwide, there are now hundreds of cohousing communities, expanding from Denmark into the U.S, Canada, Australia, Sweden, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Germany, France, Belgium, Austria and elsewhere.

In a cohousing community, you know who lives six houses down because you eat common meals with them, decide how to allocate homeowners dues and gratefully accept a ride from them when your car’s in the shop. You begin to trust them enough to leave your 4-year-old with them. You listen to what they have to say, even if you don’t agree with them at first, and you sense that you, too, are being heard.

Cohousing residents generally aspire to “improve the world, one neighborhood at a time.” This desire to make a difference often becomes a stated mission, as the websites of many communities demonstrate. For example, at Sunward Cohousing near Ann Arbor, MI, the goal is to create a place “where lives are simplified, the earth is respected, diversity is welcomed, children play together in safety, and living in community with neighbors comes naturally.” At Winslow Cohousing near Seattle, the aim is to have “a minimal impact on the earth and create a place in which all residents are equally valued as part of the community.” At EcoVillage at Ithaca, NY, the site of two adjoining cohousing neighborhoods, the goal is “to explore and model innovative approaches to ecological and social sustainability.”

Many other communities have visions that focus specifically on the value of building community. Sonora Cohousing in Tucson, AZ, seeks “a diversity of backgrounds, ages and opinions, with our one shared value being the commitment to working out our problems and finding consensus solutions that satisfy all members.” Tierra Nueva Cohousing in Oceano, CA, exists “because each of us desires a greater sense of community, as well as strong interaction with and support from our neighbors.”

For more on “What is Cohousing,” see the widely quoted Six Defining Characteristics of Cohousing.

The Cohousing.org website has lots of ways for you to learn more about cohousing. Some of them are:

Take a quick virtual tour: This slideshow offers a glimpse at the variety of cohousing communities and the people who live there.

Cohousing in the News: Lots of magazines and newspapers have introduced their readers to the idea of cohousing. Here’s a list of that coverage with links to the articles.

Cohousing Now!: We publish a free online newsletter sharing what’s new in cohousing. Click the “Subscribe” button in the upper right corner to receive the free online publication.

Visit cohousing communities: Visiting a half dozen actual cohousing communities is an eye-opening experience. And here’s an article that describes why it’s such good exposure to the idea.

National Cohousing Conference: If you really want to know more about cohousing fast, consider attending one of our annualNational Cohousing Conferences.

Questions?: Your questions may well be answered in our FAQ, below - or Contact Us by email or voice mail (toll free).

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Thich Nhat Hanh-a Buddhist Approach to Peace and Ecology

The role of journalists and corporates in combating climate change

Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh in a rare interview on the risks to our civilisation

Path of global warming
A fisherman in the dried reservoir of Lam Takhong Dam, northeast of Bangkok, Thailand. Photograph: Vinay Dithajohn/EPA

I recently had the privilege of conducting a rare interview with the 84-year-old Zen Buddhist master Thich Nhat Hahn, who has written a best selling book on climate change, called ‘The World We Have – a Buddhist Approach to Peace and Ecology.’

He has been in the UK to lead a five-day retreat called ‘living peacefully, living mindfully’ at Nottingham University, which was attended by nearly a thousand adults and children. He had also spoken to several thousand people at London’s Hammersmith Apollo.

I have written an article about his views on the spiritual revival that he believes is essential if we have a hope of saving our civilisation and protecting the planet but also wanted in this blogpost to pick up on a couple of specific points we talked about: On the responsibilities of journalists and other media folk to head off catastrophe as well as his views on the role of corporations in promoting sustainable consumption.

We have carried a few blogposts already on how journalists can responsibly cover the issue of climate change. Nick Ceasar, head of the sustainability practice at Ashridge, wrote just the other day about looking at how Integral theory can help improve coverage.

There is also a really interesting article on the same subject by journalist Christine Ottery on her ’Open Minds and Parachutes’ blog.

Thich Nhat Hahn, or Thay as he is known, believes in essence that our society has become spiritually polluted by the dualistic notion of god, or Buddha, being outside of ourselves, which has created feelings of separation, anger, fear and despair. We cover this up with over-consumption and a search for power, fame sex and so on, which has created the mess we are in.

On the question of the role of the media in bringing us back from the brink, he believes that it is not enough for journalists just to write about the issue of climate change, but that it is important they become the change they want to see.

He told me: “Without collective awakening the catastrophe will come. I think people in the mass media, journalists, film makers and others, you can contribute to the collective awakening if you are awake and then your life will embody that awakening.

"The way you eat, the way you live your life, will embody the awakening and what you say and what you do will have the power to create the collective awakening or we will be destroyed.

"Civilisations have been destroyed many times before and this civilisation is no different; it can be destroyed. We can think of time in terms of millions of years and after that life will resume little by little. The cosmos operates for us is very urgent but geological time is different."

I also asked Thay about the role of corporations in responding to the multiplicity of issues we face including climate change, the over-use of resources and loss of biodiversity. It’s difficult enough for an individual to break out of their consumptive habits but how does a company do the same if it’s very purpose is to grow and increase profitability.

This is what he had to say: “In our community in Plum Village [in France] we also want our work to expand and we want more people joining us and establish more communities everywhere. We believe it is possible to do so in such a way that we can protect the environment, we can create happiness and conditions for living happily.

"The same kind of thing could be done within corporations if the directors and associates and members of the corporation have that kind of healthy idea of happiness. Then the motivation to grow will not create damage. The idea of happiness is crucial and we know that in Plum village our happiness is not made from power and wealth and fame of sex. Our happiness is each day building brotherhood and sisterhood, having understanding and love among us.

"When people practice with us, we see the transformation and healing that is a very nourishing and rewarding for us. That is why we can continue and we want other people to help us because we have an aspiration and the same aspiration and spirit can be in every corporation. If they have the same kind of idea of happiness then the development of the corporation will not go against their awakening or the environment. That is why a spiritual dimension should be brought into the life of a corporation. There should be an awakening, happiness, love and mutual understanding. Without these the conflict is always there."

Whether or not you agree with Thay, it is refreshing to hear a spiritual perspective around climate change, rather than just the scientific view.

To some, Thay may come across as naïve or over-simplistic. Hearing him speak, reminds me of the character Chance in the film ‘Being There,' played by Peter Sellers in his last major role before his death. Through a series of co-incidences, the simple gardener, who has lived his whole life in isolation inside a walled New York mansion, becomes a key adviser to the American president because his descriptions of tending his garden are seen as profound metaphors for revitalising the economy.

Thay, a prolific author with more than 85 books under his belt, also uses simple metaphors, such as the need to water flowers, to express how people wilt without love and recognition. He too loves to tend the garden in Plum Village.

But there the similarities end, for behind Thay’s simple words lies a lifetime of developing spiritual knowledge and wisdom. What he has developed is the ability to cut through the Gordian knot of modern day complexity and remind us that our search for happiness is an inner journey.


At the ‘Boston Pledge’ sustainability conference last weekend, many of the above themes ran throughout the presentations. Presenters highlighted the need for companies to care less about their profits and more about the happiness of their employees. Many of the wonderful Indian presenters spoke about the spirituality behind a company’s existence. They asked that companies regularly examine why they are in existence and if their business product would be missed if not around.


On November 9th, Maeve Curtis Myers became the world’s 7 billionth inhabitant, give or take a few million. In 2030, when Maeve is 18 (wowza, deep breath!) around 5 billion people will live in cities, according to the UNFPA.