Tuesday, September 13, 2005

A blueprint for sustainability

Jamais over at worldchanging found an important resource for rebuilding after Katrina--a five year old document from FEMA that focuses on building for sustainability.

The chapter on community discussed they ways that the local government powers can help develop sustainable land use planning, housing, and infrastructure after a disaster. It points out that community members are more open to this kind of thinking when face to face with the obviously unsustainable. There is a window of opportunity to be taken advantage of.

Jamais explains:
The FEMA website is called Rebuilding for a More Sustainable Future -- An Operational Framework, and each chapter is downloadable as a separate PDF (unfortunately, there isn't a combined single-download document). The document has a publication date of November 1, 2000, indicating that it was produced late in the final months of the outgoing agency leadership. Sadly, the material hasn't been updated since then, and the link to the document -- along with a link to a glossy short overview document, Planning for a Sustainable Future: The Link Between Hazard Mitigation and Livability -- is relegated to the bottom of the "additional resources" section of the Planning Resource Center page.

But no matter -- despite its age, this is terrific stuff, spelling out the links between disaster recovery and economic, environmental and social sustainability. It's exactly the kind of thinking that should be the foundation of reasonable, forward-looking conversations about rebuilding after Katrina, as well as the inevitable disasters to come. That it comes from the efforts of a government agency half a decade ago just underscores its mainstream cred -- this isn't some fringe movement or funky weblog trying to promote the idea of sustainable rebuilding.

Simply put, the very existence of this document bolster the claim that sustainable design -- of buildings, of neighborhoods, of communities -- is very much within our capabilities, and should be part of all kinds of planning efforts. It also makes clear that the US government is well aware that sustainable rebuilding is an option in the post-disaster landscape. We should not accept any future claim that "nobody could have guessed" that sustainable reconstruction was possible.


Pip said...

Well spotted. You're doing a great job on this blog. Greetings from an Australian permaculturist.

Liz Logan said...

Thanks, Pip!