True sustainability targets self-reliance in region

True sustainability targets self-reliance in region

Posted 21 July 2011, by Galen Chadwick, News-Leader (Gannett),

Springfield’s draft 20-year strategic plan includes the “diverse interests” of bankers, financial experts, realtors, city employees, and advocates for low-income residents who created the housing plan [July 3rd, 2011].

Didn’t these same folks generate the Vision 2020 plan, equally memorable for lack of citizen euphoria? Also to be noted: the LEEDS standard has changed four times in five years, begging questions about message and direction.

While we’re at it, will somebody please define “sustainability”?

If the planners cannot, why should we get involved? Truth is, the urge to control the “sustainability franchise” by business and institutional elites is old hat. Springfield’s Partnership for Sustainability, to name one, seems created for the singular purpose of defining “green wash.” Two questions: How much of our money have they spent, and “where’s the beef?”

One of the oddities of “sustainability” planning is that people arrive already committed to protecting vested interests, wedded to bedrock assumptions of the Chamber of Commerce present. But globalism will fail when OPEC oil ends. Odds favor a major terrorist attack sooner than later. A minority perspective is essential to strategic thinking: “What if our normalcy bias is wrong?”

Journalistic skepticism, like the proverbial needle, seems missing in this haystack. Not to mention the elephant in the room. Springfield no longer grows or manufactures the bare minimum required to sustain civic cohesion. If we had to independently feed, house, clothe, and fuel ourselves again, using local and regional resources, what will it take? How long? How much? How many?

Quantifiable answers exist, suggesting the practicable mechanics of a true sustainability mission: “In 20 years, Springfield restores its food, energy, and economic self-reliance to its highest historic levels.”

Restoring food and energy freedom is the basis of continued political autonomy. Legalize sustainability! Begin by passing a food sovereignty ordinance like that of Sedgwick, Maine [http://www.]

A better plan would connect relocalization with sustainability and be grounded in a bioregional [food shed] framework. Planning and zoning departments can partner across some 30 counties to coordinate regional restoration. City councils can incentivize and relocalize building material industries, change building and housing codes to create demand, jobs and a vibrant economy.

The production of local biodiesel requires only 1890s technology. A few hundred acres of sunflowers can fuel trucks and tractors in every township, and recent field trials show costs matching imported diesel!

News-Leader support for mandating locally grown food in public schools, universities, jails, and hospitals would help. Beyond food security, a revived tax base would more than relieve Springfield’s chronic revenue shortfall.

Springfield’s City Utilities commitment to sustainability exhausts the Buddhist ideal of formlessness, leaving substantive ideas to others. How about promoting voluntary energy vulnerability audits for businesses, recasting the supply chain metrics for oil-dependent products, and researching redevelopment of surface coal deposits 50 miles north of the city?

Our foreign oil addiction is not sustainable; transition and relocalization is the only way forward. We face the collapse of an era. Ignoring this fact is no plan at all.

Editor’s note: City Utilities began experimenting with biodiesel fuel in 2005 with buses running on a 2 percent blend of soybean oil and diesel fuel. CU was testing the product in all CU buses to see how well it performs. A CU spokesman confirms that a biodiesel mix is still being used in the bus fleet.

Galen Chadwick is with Well Fed Neighbor Alliance and Feed Missouri First Coalition. He lives in Springfield.


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