Keynote Address - 13th Annual Affordable

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Perry Bigelow - Spirituality of Sustainability Given at the 13th Annual Affordable Comfort Conference, April 21, 1999

And for the first time many of us realized that we had an energy problem.

Some of us started building energy efficient houses in the late 70's, to save energy. Remember the super-insulated houses with 12" thick double walls with polyethylene sealed with Tremco - that black sticky sealant. If you got any of it on your clothes you just threw your clothes away.

Then a brilliant, obstinate, obstreperous Canadian came up with ADA - the Airtight Drywall Approach. Joe Lstiburek developed the concept that allowed us to build super-insulated production housing and guarantee the heating costs at $200 per year.

There is still no better description today for our not-so-big homes with guaranteed heating costs than Affordable Comfort.

Gradually we all realized we had a bigger problem - environmental pollution - Love's Canal, Chernobyl, Three Mile Island.

It was a direct result of all of us pursuing the American dream:
Get all you can
Can all you get
Sit on the lid
Poison the rest.

For me the real awakening came when Oliver Drerup gave a chilling, sobering plenary speech at a conference similar to this (I believe it was in Saskatoon) in which he showed slides of the absolutely dreadful effects of Chernobyl, strip land mines, et.al.

Some of you remember - you were there. It was a terrible awakening for me. So we all developed a bigger, better vision than just saving energy. We were now out to - Save the earth, - Save the environment, Save the rainforests, etc. This vision has come to be called environmental sustainability.

Today, I want to talk about a yet bigger, better vision than environmental sustainability: Cultural sustainability.

I want to talk about saving our neighborhoods - about saving our children and future generations.

What is Cultural Sustainability?

Amory Lovins, the brilliant physicist and founder of RMI once asked me: What kind of a house would the master carpenter, Jesus, build?

An equally good question is: What kind of a city would God develop? Listen to the answer given in the Old Testament of the Bible in Zech. 8:4. Zech, the prophet, wrote down God's plan for the ultimate culturally sustainable city where people live in peace and comfort: This is what the Lord Almighty says: Once again men and women of ripe old age will sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each with cane in hand because of his age. And the streets of the city will be filled with boys and girls playing in the streets.

Do you see the same picture I see? This is a city or town that works for children and old folks. Because the old folks and the children are using the streets together, the children are learning from the old folks the principles and values that will allow them to grow old and then teach the same principles and values to the next generation of children, and so forth.

When we talk of sustainability in nature we mean that the ecology of a place works in such a way that the plants and creatures of the place reproduce so that the ecological balance and health of the place is maintained and sustained.

A community that sustains and maintains itself in health and comfort can only happen when a community is designed for children, and the children are enculturated by the adults that they are safely interacting with all the time.

How would you design a community for children?

Dallas Willard is a philosopher and chairman emeritus of the UCLA Philosophy Dept. Willard in The Divine Conspiracy says that every person and child has a "kingdom" or queendom A realm that is uniquely our own, where our choice determines what happens. This reaches to the deepest part of what it means to be a person. We are made to have and want to have dominion within an appropriate domain or range of reality. Willard says that our kingdom is simply the range of our effective will. Whatever we have the say over is our kingdom.

And our having the say over some thing or some space is precisely what places it within our kingdom.

In creating human beings God made them to rule, to reign, to have dominion in a limited sphere.

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