Sustainable Community Development
Denver Gardens, an affordable housing complex for seniors in Colorado, is going green thanks to financing from the stimulus package’s Tax Credit Assistance Program. The renovation plan for Denver Gardens, totaling $3 million, includes nearly $1 million of sustainable features to lower the project’s energy costs and improve livability for its residents. Green features include the installation of photovoltaic panels and energy-efficient appliances, windows and lighting. View Colorado Housing and Finance Authority’s video on the project
The Lincoln Institute of Land Policy recently published The Community Land Trust Reader, a new collection of essays that traces the roots, evolution, and prospects of the community land trust — an innovative model of affordable housing shaped by the likes of Henry George and Ebenezer Howard, and flourishing today in hundreds of U.S. communities.
A number of people are writing about the need to replace consumption with communities built around values of justice and sustainability. Recent authors on the subject include John Robbins, author of Diet for a New America, who has published The New Good Life: Living Better than Ever in an Age of Less, and Juliet Schorr, author of The Overworked American, who has published Plenitude: The New Economics of Wealth.
Is there a cultural shift occurring? Some are calling it a Return to Utopian Thinking. Others, like the Tellus Institute, argue we are in a moment when we must turn towards a civilization of enhanced human well-being and environmental resilience. You can read more about how we can get there in the Tellus report Global Scenarios for the Century Ahead: Searching for Sustainability.
It turns out Canadians are suffering from a democratic deficit similar to their American counterparts. To help assess and drive national priorities many are arguing for new indicators, including the Canadian Index of Wellbeing. The index measures standard of living, health, the quality of environment, education and skill levels, the way individuals use personal time, the vitality of communities, participation in the democratic process, and the state of leisure and culture. It is the only national index that measures wellbeing in Canada across a wide spectrum of domains.
The struggle for comprehensive financial reform continues but many are pleased with the Senate passage of corporate governance reforms, consumer protections, better regulation of derivatives, and oversight of credit rating agencies that are included in the bill. According to Lisa Woll, CEO of the Social Investment Forum, “The most recent financial crisis highlighted for all Americans the urgent need to instill greater discipline among corporate boards and in financial markets. Majority voting, proxy access and ‘say on pay’ will help address these failures and strengthen America’s financial markets. SIF members have been filing shareholder proposals at U.S. companies requesting majority voting standards and a ‘say on pay’ for more than a decade, so this is a very welcome victory.” The House and Senate must now conference to reconcile the differences in their two bills. It is hoped a comprehensive bill will be on Obama’s desk by July 4th. Read a detailed summary of the bill.
Microfinance and community banks were again in the news this month. Domestic microfinance recently made the pages of Businessweek for providing credit to those in need while the big banks continue their lending freeze and Shorebank’s infusion of capital from the bigger banks elicited a defense from the community banking community.
The Capital Institute and advocates of a Speculator Tax argue it will help move investors away from short-termism and improve the sustainability of our markets. Will it make it into the financial reform bill?
Investors continue to target the destructive practice of drilling in the tar sands with shareholder resolutions amid the outrage over the BP oil spill. In a new report by CERES, investors warn that the environmental and financial risks from drilling in Canada’s tar sands could be as great as those in the BP spill.
The American Power Act continues to elicit analysis, from a new Peterson Institute study claiming it will work to a recent Grist article examining the divide between “big green and little green” and a Friends of the Earth piece on how to game carbon markets.
The Institute for Southern Studies recently ran a series on the dangers of coal ash, a largely unregulated toxin with the potential to devastate multiple communities throughout coal country.
And, of course, BP continues to spew millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf. Activists have responded with boycotts and flamboyant protests while BP has responded with further greenwashing and ineptitude. Check out logo spoofs, viral video, and the latest Onion article to get a taste of the public sentiment.
The struggle for immigrants rights and a new economy continues in the wake of the recent Arizona legislation. In New York City over 25,000 people joined together in Union Square on May Day to demand legalization for undocumented workers and education and social services for all.
Miners, investors, environmentalists, and activists have all recently focused on Massey Energy and the Upper Big Branch mine disaster this spring. Both survivors and families in the area are on record that the mine was just a disaster waiting to happen. Activists and union leaders converged on the recent shareholder meeting with the hopes of forcing a change in leadership. That did not happen. The company now faces a lawsuit that includes CalSTRS.
Democracy and Corporate Accountability
Could the recent corporate failures–Massey, BP, and Toyota–have been prevented? Many now believe that the deregulation of the Bush years, combined with the recent furor over the Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United will help us push beyond an era of corporate malfeseance at taxpayer expense.
Planned obsolescence contributes to waste and consumerism, but The Green Products Innovation Institute, using the Cradle to Cradle® (C2C) certification protocol, will address the issue in their work with leaders from academia, the NGO environmental community, government and industry to establish a rating system for evaluating products. Products that meet the transparent criteria of this rating system will receive the C2C certification mark representing the company’s work to sustainably design or redesign these products.
The Arizona Clean Elections Law was recently upheld in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, a huge win for advocates of campaign finance reform. Opponents immediately went to the U.S. Supreme Court to block the decision and were ultimately successful–the state will not be allowed to disburse any public campaign matching funds until the constitutional challenge to the law is resolved, although it will continue to make public finance grants. It is expected the Supreme Court will take up the case in October for the 2010-2011 term. It is also expected public matching funds in Connecticut , where the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals is reviewing a similar challenge, will be blocked as well.
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