Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Shards of Hope

The days of intense focus on the WTC memorial have concluded, and what remains is to sift through the shards of hope remaining after a decade of our country's self-destruction in the name of revenge.

The WTC Memorial disappoints. This memorial amounts to a hole in the ground, a blank nothingness, a relevant metaphor for the Great Hole in our country's policies and the lack of respect for democratic process and transparency in government. This site has been about immense greed and unthinkable evil. That hole is robbing us of a vision of renewal and life, which is a fundamental necessity for the kind of regenerative work that must be done in our physical environment. The vision initially proposed was one of life, renewal and that of greater horizons filled with light.

So how do we move on from here? Turn around and look up, with a renewed commitment to restoring the processes of the natural world that give us life. There are ways to use economics of rebuilding cities and repairing nature that produce cycles of renewal for nature and humanity. The engagement of the people, the corralling of resources that exist and can be reintegrated into cities that foster creative ways of living, establishment of Natural Capital benchmarks, can all be accomplished with a greater vision of how living environments increase in depth and complexity, building on itself year after year.

Storm Cunningham has outlined a process for civic revitalization that goes deeply into ecology and economics. His book, Rewealth! is an outline and a case study of cities that have started revitalization around their dying port cities, specifically Chattanooga, Tennessee and Bilbao, Spain. To cite the book:

Revitalization programs differ from renewal projects in three key characteristics:

DURATION: A program is ongoing, or very long term, whereas projects normally have end dates measured in months, or a few years;

SCOPE: A program addresses the entire community or region, whereas a project normally focuses on a specific property or asset;

PURPOSE: A program has softer, harder-to-measure goals, such as inspiring confidence in the community's future (to attract investors, employers, and residents), reversing a decline, raising quality of life, enhancing overall environmental health, etc. A project's goals are usually more tangible, such as attracting a particular employer to a particular site, widening sidewalks to make a downtown more pedestrian-friendly, etc.

Mr. Cunningham has also established the Revitalization Institute to help other cities develop these P3 partnerships and keep them alive with renewal vision and renewal culture. There is also a RevitalizFORUM for the discussion of the integration of resources to do these processes.

This process of engagement, focused on life and its meaningful expression, can take these shards of hope and bring them fully into a regenerative vision that restores our world to us, rather than the destruction that the old industries and extractive energy sources have wrought on our planet. Mr. Cunningham's presentation at TEDxMidAtlantic 2010 is a 22-minute presentation of his material on how to restructure our vision.