Thursday, November 29, 2007


Note italics for fresh emphasis based on recent conversations

BEHAVIOR/JOURNAL due today, Thursday, (in my box, if not brought in to class), to be returned at Dec 5 session. Ideally, (it’s not too late!) share appreciation and feedback with others you have been involved with in your change work.

THURSDAY NOV 29: PROJECT PRESENTATIONS: up to 25 min each. Whole Community Project, Connect Ithaca, Caroline Group, plus Presentation by Libby
These are opportunities to educate the rest of the class and warm up and get feedback for your community presentations.

FINAL CLASS CELEBRATION: Wednesday, Dec 5 12:00-2:30 Sibley, Room ? **NOT OPTIONAL** I will provide lunch, an appreciation circle and a short evaluation process. You can design (or co-design with me) the remaining time, roughly 60 minutes - stories, reflections, games, music, dance, closing ritual, shoulder rubs, whatever you like, that celebrates and completes the community part of the class. I’d ideally like 1 or 2 people to help pull this together - this can be EASY & FUN! (Default –Ron or I can do it)

Completed by your whole group 10-20-pages (2 copies due in my box at Sibley, on or before Friday Dec 14 at 2:00, or second copy given directly to project guide) in collaboration with your project guide and/or community group. Be sure to share an outline and/or rough draft and discuss with them before completing the report.
Goal: A synthesis and COMMUNITY RESOURCE that can educate and engage the community/organization it serves and carry the project forward through future groups. Content & form can be modified with approval of Project Guide to suit project needs. Think of this as an effective public education document, a user-friendly handbook for community groups and future project teams.
Content: Must incorporate feedback, insights, and action steps coming from surveys and interactive presentations with community groups and our class. It should concisely and clearly include, though not necessarily in a linear way: Goals/Brief Overview… Resources and Stakeholders (not in full detail, as in appendix)….. Strategies/Key Steps….. Successes….. Obstacles….. Outcomes….. Lessons Learned….. Recommendations/Next Steps … an Appendix with Data, Resource lists, etc. as appropriate. Some parts may be electronic (CD, DVD, etc.)
Method: You are encouraged to be creative, and engaging, but still cover the content You can divvy up the writing among team members, but whole team, should be involved in conceptualizing the core content and in editing and coordinating the final draft so its coming from a collective intelligence. Remember to include your guide and/or community group early on in the process so you know it is addressing real needs.

EACH team member will hand in a 1-2 page reflection on the project, electronically or in hard copy in my box at Sibley, on or before the last day of finals (Dec 14, 2 PM). Topics to cover: A) My evolving role and leadership in the project and in the group process. B) What I saw and learned in the team's development as a learning community and as a sustainability/social change action team. C) How the project work integrated with the course work for me. Overarching insights. D) Other observations and lessons learned, such as how to improve the project work in the course.

EVALUATIONS: Besides the online departmental evaluations, I will soon send you an electronic evaluation that includes brief evaluations of a) course, b) instructor, c) self, d) project & project guide, and e) project team members. Items a & b will primarily cover material not in the departmental evaluation. These evaluations, designed to take 30-60 minutes of your time, are REQUIRED for course completion and will be due by Tuesday night Dec 4, (NOT Dec 14) at 12 AM

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Week of Nov 18-23 Assignment

Congratulations on a great job last night, Greg, Carlos, Gabriella, Caitlin, Libby, Maya, Kendra and the teammates supporting them! Many people, including a couple of public officials, have told me how moved they were by your sincerity and dedication and the quality of the presentations. It was also great to have more contact with the IC teams. And thanks for the good food, it made the evening festive and easy for others. This kind of campus/community interaction is very exciting and important. You are making a positive difference!

As I noted on the field trip, there is NO REQUIRED READING OR WRITING for Tuesday, Nov 20

Next Tuesday, we will have an opportunity to get to the many PRESENTATIONS you are eager to share. Please tell me if there is a mistake in this list and also what you will be presenting about, so I can see if there's any sensible order.
Nature in the City: KENDRA, CAITLIN, EMILY

Continue BEHAVIOR/JOURNAL work, (continue the Personal & Community Health thread, if you like). We will have time set aside for sharing on Tuesday. Observing how you fare with this when the crunch time happens is an important part of the learning.

Continue PROJECT work, first and foremost.

I am finishing up project-specific variations of Project Reports with guides. They are due during Finals Week, < NOT last week of classes> after incorporating feedback and insights from doing from presentations. Of course, you can get started on them earlier on in tandem with presentation work, and make the changes later on.
Basic project report plan is to write up as a group a 10-20-page (2 copies) project synthesis that can educate and engage the community/organization it serves and carry the project forward through future groups. It should concisely include, though not necessarily in a linear way: Goals/Brief Overview… Resources and Stakeholders (not in full detail, as in appendix)….. Strategies/Key Steps….. Successes….. Obstacles….. Outcomes….. Lessons Learned….. Recommendations/Next Steps … an Appendix with Data, Resource lists, etc. as appropriate. Some parts may be electronic (CD, DVD, etc.) *******You are encouraged to be creative and engaging, but still cover the bases.*****

Again, thanks, for your inspiring efforts and enthusiasm

EWeek of lan

Ecology in Popular Terms
digitally mapping the language of ecology.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Application of readings (Roseland ch. 11 “Housing…” and Beatley Ch. 10 “Building Ecologically…”) to Denver, Colorado.

“Ideally, closeness to other people is mirrored in a closeness to nature and integration of ecology into community living” (Roseland, 156).

During my time working at a transitional housing program for homeless families in Denver, I found myself constantly wondering what type of setting would facilitate community building between the families we were working with – to promote empowerment amongst the people as opposed to continued reliance on government assistance. I found it so unfortunate that the families who had gone through such similar turmoil and hardship in their lives, who could benefit from their empathy to build relationships and self-reliance, would often end up fighting, putting each other in danger, taking no responsibility for their shared housing, and choosing isolation over interaction. From my background in environmental design and architecture, I had a suspicion that much of the issue had to do with the poor design of their housing and surrounding neighborhoods, but I wasn’t sure what would help. (Although I remember thinking maybe they just needed more trees along their streets – but dismissed the thought thinking ‘too simple…but now I’m learning I was on to something!) When I came to the Design and Environmental Analysis program here at Cornell – my main hope was that I would learn about neighborhood-design-interventions that might facilitate the community-building processes that I had seen lacking in the mainly subsidized-housing neighborhoods I worked in. So… my thesis work has ended up focusing on Community Gardens and how they are a sort of “sanctuary” setting in a chaotic urban environment. My hope now is that after I graduate and move back to Denver that I will find a career where I am working with the community to solve the housing crisis as well as the community and social justice crises. So, needless to say, I found the Roseland “Housing and Community Development” chapter to be extremely meaningful and applicable to Denver city planning and policy!

I appreciate Roseland’s suggestion to design neighborhoods where residents can thrive. This statement really resonated for me: “To create a ‘sense of place’ and foster connection among people, the physical characteristics of neighborhoods must draw people together and encourage an atmosphere of peace, security, and pride among residents of a community” (156). Beatley mentions the community of Oikos (the Netherlands) where the physical design is intended to facilitate interaction between residents (297). These ideas from the readings are reminiscent of a statement from Jules Pretty, (professor of Environment and Society at the University of Essex) in an article titled “How nature contributes to mental and physical health,” where he suggests that policy makers and planners should focus efforts towards creating “healthy environments in which people can flourish rather than flounder” (Pretty, 2004, p. 69). It is so imperative that planners realize what an opportunity they have to create environments that not only “cause no harm” but go as far as to improve health and wellbeing.

As I’ve mentioned in a previous blog, but I think it’s worth mentioning again, energy efficient housing is extremely important, after seeing some of my former clients public service bills which were near $800.00 – 1,000.00 /month. The chapters of Habitat for Humanity that are building with energy efficiency as a priority are making a very necessary change.

In addition to my obsession with community gardens, I am beginning to become fascinated with other aspect of community-sharing that seem to have beneficial effects on community building. Roseland describes cooperatives and cohousing, where residents share cars, computers, laundry services, meal preparation, and childcare to reduce living expenses. While I believe this could work, I am a little skeptical without seeing the ideas in action. The single-mothers I worked with were extremely distrustful of almost everyone they came into contact with, (justifiably so) and I worry they would have a difficult time with the sharing and especially with the childcare, although it would be extremely helpful to them if it did work, as it seemed to be their biggest obstacle to finding and maintaining employment. If I were a policy-maker, I may be a little more inclined to opt for the Beyond Shelter model, which provides the childcare center (among many other important services) as part of the program services. If I were a citizen activist though I would argue that the problem with this is that it is not a sustainable or empowering as the community members providing their own childcare for themselves.

I thought that an aspect of Beatley’s example of Morra Park (Friesland region of the Netherlands) would probably work well in Denver; homes with 30% of the floor area “devoted to occupants’ primary economic livelihood” (294). Commuting in the Denver-metro area is a nightmare, and if there were a cultural shift towards more facilitation of working from home, I think many people would be thrilled.

I am a big fan of buildings that “learn,” (to refer to Stewart Brand’s book) and so if I were a Denver city planner I would definitely move to implement more buildings designed to adapt to changing needs and uses, by layout and ability to be dismantled and reconstructed, such as the examples Beatley gives of the school houses in Nieuwland, (Amersfoort) or the dismountable police station in Boxmeer, or the Dutch National Building (299-300).

Something that bothers me when I read about the need for density in cities is the fear of how this may reduce the natural light in the majority of spaces in densely built areas. So I was really excited to hear about some of the designs Beatley mentions that bring natural light into all areas of buildings. This is especially significant in the context of implementing these ideas in Denver, where sunlight is so plentiful, it would be detrimental to one’s wellbeing to sit in a windowless office all day – and unfortunately I know! (I tried to find an example of the “sun paintings” – the metal sculptures in the building that help to further bounce sunlight into the interior of the building, but I was unsuccessful. Too bad – I really want to see how it looks – I wonder if there’s a problem with glare?) The Queens Building at De Montfort University in Leicester is another example Beatley gives where bringing in natural light is a priority in the building-design.

I think that while many of these wonderful examples would be possible from a bottom-up approach, it would be so much easier with support or at least influence from the top. As Beatley says, “an important lesson … is the potentially powerful role government can play as a facilitator and catalyst for sustainable building” (318). I hope that the Denver city government will continue to move towards taking on this responsibility!

Friday, November 9, 2007

Week of 11/11-16 Assignment Community Economic Development

Week of 11-16 Assignment
(Optional: Briefly review readings from last class &/or finish out readings you haven’t done yet (Beatly, Roseland, Apollo report) &/or pursue an aspect of this topic that most engages you)

B) INDIVIDUAL PRESENTATIONS –None for this class, they will be rescheduled forward or turned into reports sent out on blog

C) BEHAVIOR CHANGE – Continue to experiment and record, with continuing extra focus on the links between what you’re doing and ****personal and community health***. What is a systemic, holistic approach to health? Note: Journals will be collected on Nov 29 and returned to you at our final meeting.

D) FIELD TRIP – TUE Nov 13- COMMUNITY ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT - We will meet as ONE group at Significant Elements in the Southside neighborhood, on Plain and Center St. (1 block South of 96B/Clinton) as close to 10:10 (10:15?) as possible.

Here’s a fun exercise in nonhierarchical “learning community”, that can hopefully also be energy-efficient: We will need 4 carpool vehicles, unless enough people want to make it to that location by 10:10 using alternative modes, or go by project teams, which will require 5 vehicles. Please use group email (perhaps supplemented by phone) ASAP to get clear on the number of vehicles, drivers (we already chose 2) and who is riding with them. Include Ron & I in your emailing, so we can assist, if glitches occur.

Please assemble & carpool from parking area behind Snee Hall, and be ready to go as close to 10:00 (10:05?) as possible, unless you and your driver choose a different location. Keep phone numbers on hand and make phone contact if someone does not show up, so 5 people are not waiting a long time for one person. We’ll head back up at 11:55 to get you back on time.

We’ll be meeting with Diane Cohn, director of Significant Elements, to explore plans the for reuse businesses, such as a Deconstruction team and a Reuse Center in the Big Box area, with special focus on green collar workforce development; with real estate developer Frost Travis (from the Connect Ithaca team) on State St, to consider green, transit-oriented oriented development there, from a developer’s business perspective; with Elisabeth Harrod, of Snug Planet, at the same location and time, to look at the same issues from the perspective of a Southside resident and an energy-efficiency business owner; and with Leslie Ackerman, a manager at the Alternative Federal Credit Union, to discuss their programs that support community economic development , especially with the low-income and minority populations.

E) PROJECTS- Good opportunity to catch up in this area. I’ll summarize the emerging schedule and info on presentations & reports in another document.


Thursday, November 8, 2007

Powershift 2007: "We Want More"

powershift-34.jpgI’m going to join everyone in saying that Powershift was absolutely mind-blowing! The energy there was incredible and no words can describe what we all felt when we were together as a growing movement with its eyes on a clean energy future. We are ready to take this to the next level. It’s Getting Hot In Here should continue to grow and tell the stories from around the world (see here). I wanted to share with everybody Ted Glick’s Future Hope Column for this week. Ted, one of the best activists in the nation, has been fasting for over 60 days now. He was at Powershift sharing with all of us young people the incredible energy that this movement has. His column sums up what most of us feel like after Powershift:

Words fail me as I try to figure out how to capture in words the profound significance of the student-based Power Shift conference which took place November 2-5 at the University of Maryland and on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.

Historic—Powerful—Deep—Amazing—Awesome—Astounding—Incredible—Hope at the Highest Level: these are the adjectives and phrases that come to mind.

So what happened?

Read More!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Majora Carter video link

This is a link to a speech by Majora Carter - Executive Director of Sustainable South Bronx - who has been brought up several times in discussions in recent weeks.

It is very interesting and inspiring.