Lisa Lee Benjamin, one of the LSG designers, writes from Kenya where she is working with a team building the first of four “community homes”. Her enthusiasm manifests in 4-exclamation-point punctuation. (Style is better than punctuation but punctuation beats emoticons.) I google Alpine Initiatives, the tag her team uses, and the cynic in me lazing on his couch giving the raspberry to the idea of another save-Africa project conjured by folks who fly in and fly home is routed when I watch a video put together with time-lapse photography. Here are young Americans pushing wheelbarrows, laying concrete, carrying stone, constructing gables—creating an impressive structure that will be a home for AIDS orphans. Bravo. Benjamin writes that they have also “implemented a Bio Intensive garden and have started several demonstration gardens in the community.”
In the email Benjamin uses the word “community” four times. “As good design is good as long as it has good bones, is treasured and kept alive…here it is by community.” Parsing this I discern the cultural shift that has taken place, a generation, perhaps a century in the making. Sustainability comes from community, from the ground up, without which things fall quickly apart. From a broader viewpoint, it is clear that we as a race (human) rise and fall together; the glaciers on Mount Kilimanjaro are melting as surely as the ones in Alaska. Tribalism is out, diversity in.
“I want to do things that have an impact on the planet,” she writes. As I get older, my bent is the opposite, to have as little impact as possible. But these impulses are not mutually exclusive. The trick is in reconciling them.