"Sustainability is not a topic that ever really gets covered completely, for it is a host of ideas that are continually evolving and being redefined by communities and societies all over the world," said Patty Gates, executive director New Priorities Foundation, after I asked her about whether Ted McGregor should put to rest the one-year series I've been writing for this newspaper. "As new knowledge and new technologies emerge we must continue to move our attitudes and energies forward with those new discoveries if we are going to sustain the planet and ultimately survive and thrive as a species. Kenny Ausubel, co-founder of the Bioneers movement, says that 'sustainability is the place between degradation and restoration.'"
Two weeks ago, Gates was still reeling from the 17th Annual Bioneers Conference held in San Rafael, Calif., where visionaries from around the globe presented ideas and projects that reflect the work of thousands of groups and individuals on restoring the people and our Earth. New Priorities Foundation funded eight people from Spokane to go to the Oct. 20-22 event, but now Gates is steeling NPF for 2007 and the likelihood of Spokane hosting a Bioneers downlink to save fossil fuel and to reach more of us.
Writing articles for "Treading Lightly," after a year's journey covering topics tied to the new shift toward renewable energy, food security, and how we organize ourselves in our built environment, has taken me to the heart and soul of the movement: farmers, builders, academics, social critics, business owners and social activists all trying to make connections and build a community of ideas centered around a movement, practical applications, and a philosophy that has already been a strong part of this global network of people and organizations pushing for change.
& lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & W & lt;/span & hat is the core principle behind sustainable development? It's "development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs." For Gates, and guys like Chuck Tingstad of Eco-Depot, philosopher and film producer Mark Spyder Thomson, Community Building owner Jim Sheehan, or cattle rancher Maurice Robinette of Washington Sustainable Food and Farming Network, Spokane is just getting started when it comes to sustainability.
What I've seen in Spokane over the past year and half is a concerted movement to grapple with the issues of global climate change, war for oil, energy dependence, and collapsing ecosystems and governmental infrastructure created in part by our country's consumption of 30 percent of the world's energy by 5 percent of its population.
I've spoken to citizen groups in Sandpoint and Coeur d'Alene on the topic of sustainability, and hands down, as local septuagenarian activist Buell Hollister attests, "This part of the country needs some lessons, and quick like, on the effects of global climate change... and this thing called sustainability."
We've got so many sectors in this community now just starting the sustainability, green building, and alternative fuels discussion. Spokane Community Action Group is a diverse group of citizens interested in gaining political clout for sustainable building and planning. Out There Monthly has its own sustainability section. Citizens meeting out of the Lutheran church in Browne's Addition -- the Need to Know group -- have had dozens of speakers on topics ranging from peak oil, biofuel, war for oil, and the Spokane River.
Two huge workshops were conducted this year on the Spokane River and all the associated topics tied to that gem and linked to this city's promo, "Near Nature, Near Perfect." Not everything tied to sustainability is environmental. Currently, the Institute for Extended Learning is running a nine-month course on sustainable building to graduate advisors in the field of green building.
Does this weekly have a mandate to cover more of these goings-on? Hands down the answer is yes, according to Gates: "The Inlander in particular should continue to highlight sustainability in the future."
Certainly when James Howard Kunstler came to town October 2005 with his pugnacious approach showing how America is rapidly becoming a "geography of nowhere," he ruffled many feathers. He lambasted the education system, which he believes churns out more and more useless degreed individuals every year, incapable of helping with, let alone surviving, the impending cold, dark days of expensive energy and dysfunctional food systems.
His book stumping was tied to a major theme -- The Long Emergency: Surviving the Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-first Century -- which many people here or in Phoenix, Denver, or L.A. just can't grasp because of what he labels delusion thinking and a psychology of previous investment tied to the automobile.
& lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & J & lt;/span & ust a few years ago, during the One Spokane Summit of Mayor Powers' inspiration, hostility against the sustainability philosophy just about sank "the movement" here. Since then, over the course of two years, this rather reactionary community, through a banquet of ideas tied to the social-cultural, environmental-ecological, and economic-consumption aspect of the sustainability cornucopia, responded positively. Spokane is currently in the "exploration" stage, though key adherents here have already jumped to "acceptance" and "commitment."
Expect to see much more on the sustainability front for 2007. In the next four months, luminaries such as David Helvarg (author of Blue Frontier), Bill McKibben (author of The End of Nature), and Winona LaDuke, an enrolled Ojibwe member who ran as VP on the 2000 Ralph Nader ticket and is a giant proponent of sustainability, will be in Spokane beating that drum for sustainability.