Becoming Better Weavers

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Green Convene
November 13 & 14, 2010
Bellarmine University
Louisville, Kentucky

Welcome, to the watershed of the South Fork of Beargrass Creek, to the Belknap Neighborhood, and to the campus of Bellarmine University, which has incorporated a number of energy efficiency and green construction concepts into its expansion, including a geothermal heating and cooling system beneath the parking lot outside of this building.

If you will turn over your program, you?ll see the sponsors and supporters who helped make this event happen. When you’re spending your consumer dollars; when you’re looking for groups to support, please consider them.

Louisville has much to celebrate, in terms of advancing the concept of “mindful living” that is at the heart of sustainability. Over the next two days, in breakout sessions and in informal dialogue, you will share information and insights on advances that have been made in energy efficiency, in sustainable building practices, in partnerships that are evolving to lighten our collective and individual energy and climate footprints, in energy efficiency and in the use of renewable energy.

There is much to celebrate, and yet there are daunting challenges that must be met and overcome, and it will take each of you, thinking creatively and acting purposefully, and in concert, to do so. I have been asked to identify some of those challenges this morning.

Our way of making goods and providing services, our way of moving people and things from one place to the next, the way we build - all need your fresh eyes and creative deconstruction and reimaging if we are going to learn to live within our ecological means. Our national aspiration to accumulate the “mountains of things” of which Tracy Chapman sings of have not made us a happier, healthier people and it is time to rethink what makes communities and families healthy, what makes living worthwhile and full, and how do we move from here to there.

We start from a difficult place. We are the 48th poorest state in our nation, 98% dependent on fossil fuels for our electricity. With 1/3 of the stainless steel, 1/3 of the aluminum, and 1/5 of the cars and trucks in the nation produced here because of artificially inexpensive energy, the potential for disruption of the state economy is very real, unless we begin now to plan for a carbon-constrained future. We have envisioned ourselves as a “cheap date” for so long that we find it hard to imagine ourselves otherwise. We meet annually in Frankfort, and find the time to name the state sports car and agricultural insect, but cannot find the time to pass a bill creating a feed in tariff and portfolio standard for renewables. We waste energy thoughtlessly, and with among the lowest combined rates for electricity in the nation, some score or more of other states residential customers see lower monthly bills.

So we begin today with some challenges:

How do we, as consumers, as voters, as citizens, as mentors, as architects, as consultants, as advocates, as students of life, as participants in electoral politics, infuse the concept of sustainability – of mindful living, as a core value that animates our decisions and our actions?

How to we reshape an economy that will value ecological stewardship and the essential services that the commons provide to us?

How do we move our electric and gas utilities away from favoring the generation and sale of more power, towards rewarding efficiency in the conversion and use of energy, and how do we more honestly price and account for environmental and social costs, while protecting the most vulnerable of our brothers and sisters who already spend a quarter of their monthly income just to stay warm in the winter?

How do we move towards deployment of renewable distributed energy at a scale that will soften the impact of carbon constraints and make more robust our energy portfolios, in a state where entrenched interests oppose any policy shift that will make their fossil fuels less desirable and necessary?

How do we improve the health at home and in the workplace of one of the unhealthiest populations in our nation?

How do reconnect our farms and cities, so that our food no longer travels thousands of miles from farm to plate? How do we make a healthier Kentucky and move towards investing food dollars in locally owned, locally grown, healthy agricultural products that provide Kentucky farmers with fair prices for their product?

What reforms are needed in our land use policies and in our educational systems to move us from being a people who pave over arable land for development and then punctuate our arrogance by naming the subdivisions after the most prominent natural features we’ve obliterated, to a community that values topsoil and our local farms and those who tend the land?

How do we assure that the benefits of energy efficiency, of high-performance and low-footprint housing are extended to all, in Portland as well as Prospect, in Shawnee and Chickasaw and Limerick and in Irish Hill as well as Indian Hills, and including the thousands of children in our public school system that at any time are homeless? How do we expand the affordable housing available in our community and make our existing low and moderate-income housing stock more energy efficient?

How do we assure full funding for our environmental protection programs, and end the use of the public’s land, air and water for disposal of industrial and municipal wastes?

How do we recreate our transportation systems to make them more sustainable, and that we address mobility needs and cross-river rush-hour problems in a manner that is affordable and measured?

The April gulf oil spill released some 5 million barrels of oil into the most productive estuary and fishery in the planet; larger than the Ixtoc spill in 1979 and more than any spill other than the intentional release of oil in the waning days of the Kuwait invasion; and ¼ of what we consume each day in the United States.

How do we create and sustain a political environment that supports sustainability rather than short-term political advantage and partisanship?

How can we best create and recreate our institutions to meet community needs and to sustain and uplift communities?

We start, here, now, today. Margaret Mead was right when she said, “Our humanity rests upon a series of learned behaviors, woven together into patterns that are infinitely fragile and never directly inherited.” Today and tomorrow, you will have many opportunities to learn to be better weavers, and to share tools from your tool chest for community weaving. Savor the time you have together over the next two days, and the opportunities to learn and to teach, both formal and informal, how to become better weavers, with an excellent and diverse group of presenters and array of topics.

As we move forward, let us aspire to be less acquisitive, less aggressive in our relationships with each other and with our built and natural environment. Let us face our tomorrows with hope and humility and continue together in fellowship to live more mindfully and to improve the environmental legacy we will leave to our children’s children; to become, as Mary Lou Northern suggested, better ancestors.
By Kentucky Resources Council on 11/23/2010 5:32 PM
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