Cardboard Castles and Other Amenities...

I am really interested in using different forms of cultural action to help build better communities. Communities are a vital social model, allowing us to tackle problems beyond the ability of individuals with the focus of a defined (usually relatively small) group of people. How do the arts and cultural work in general help communities grow more sustainable futures? If you have a cool website or project or your own ideas on these subjects please let me know.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

TED Talks

I finally checked out some of the speeches from the TED (Technology, Entertainment, and Design) conference that are online. If you have not heard of TED, it is a four day conference of innovative thinkers.

The first person I watched was Majora Carter Founder and Executive Director for the Sustainable South Bronx. A grass roots non-profit dedicated to sustanable and environmentally just urban development in the South Bronx.

Much of the speech was pretty basic ideas. Carter made the connection between economic, environmental, and social degradation. She also talked about nurturing nature as an effective way of developing valuable community resources.

Drawing on the example of Enrique Peñalosa’s (Mayor of Bogota, Columbia 1995-1998) “people first” urban planning (worth checking out), Carter proposed a triple bottom line of sustainable development. In short, this is an understanding that sustainable development can (and must) be “profitable” (of value) to the developers, the community, and the government. What I like about this approach is that it is not predicated on a notion of “sacrifice” (that healthy community development can only happen when people forfeit personal gain.) Instead, what Carter suggests is that developers can (and should) profit from sustainable development, and that they can benefit local communities and larger municipal governments while doing it.

She also talked about making sustainability sexy. To use SSB’s slogan making “Green the new black.” This would seem to me to be a place where the arts can really be of value. Not only as a means of public education (some call it propaganda) about how sustainability is not only possibly, but has meaningful benefits; but also as a means of aestheticizing sustainable community development. Not only should low income housing projects (and all housing projects for that matter) be built green, but they should also be built beautiful (to those who will inhabit them) and supportive of the positive cultural practices of their inhabitants and the community around them.

The last and best point about the speech Carter conveyed through an experience she had just had. She was talking to Al Gore (go see An Incontinent Truth why?) and she asked him what he was going to do to include more environmental justice activists. Gore informed her of a grant opportunity. However, Carter pointed out that she was not fishing for funding. She was not asking him for his help, but was offering him hers. This is one of the keys ideas us grassroots community developers must come to understand. We are not meant to bestow help, but are in constant need of it.


At 11:21 PM, Blogger mobilemob said...

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