Neighborhoods for sustainability

Ecocreative transformation

Ecocreativity can be defined as creativity guided by ecological knowledge and aiming at planetary health. It rests on the assumption that freely and openly communicating, conscious human beings can solve the socioecological problems of our time. Alternatively, we can think of it as a concept intended to restore our sense of urgency and remove our fear of using whatever means necessary to put an end to the socially and ecologically destructive. As such, it is liberating, but only as long as it provokes our thinking, encourages us to act as if we were free to reorganize society.

An ecocreative approach to human development is not hostile to technology, but does not substitute prevention and precaution with quick fixes. Rather, it reminds us that we are free to use appropriate technology and collaborative tools in a responsible manner, free to use ecological knowledge for the common good. Far from providing a ready-made solution, it invites us to look for new ways to meet human needs and new ways to express solidarity, in short, to explore the possibilities of neighborhood-integrated commons.

Interpreted as a human-centered and commons-based initiative, emphasizing the decentralization and democratization of social systems (in particular, energy, water, soil, food, shelter, communication, learning, and health systems), ecocreative transformation makes explicit the difference between real and fictional dependencies – we cannot eat money. In so doing, it suggests that neighborhoods can become the birthplace of self-mediated, non-antagonistic relations, indeed, the basis of sustainable human development. Democratically controlled and collectively designed from below, self-governing and self-regulating neighborhoods would then allow us to realize our potential, however, without destroying the biological foundation of all human development.

Healing the rifts

Ecocreative transformation is a revolutionary turn, not only replacing creative destruction with creative reconstruction. It turns our attention away from the production and consumption of goods and services toward the reproduction and well-being of all species – the long-term healing of the human-produced ecological rifts. It urges us to think of ourselves as bearers of alternatives and not of values. As globally connected creators, concerned citizens, deeply involved in the replacement of a rapidly changing mode of destruction with a sustainable mode of reproduction, we would then make room for ecocreative practices of all kinds, that is, radically change – in the most encompassing sense – what it means to be interdependent beings on this planet. As united restorers of degraded, damaged, and destroyed terrestrial and marine ecosystems, we would then live the revolution.

Here we must recognize the need for self-sufficiency, but do not confuse this with self-imposed isolation. It is important to make this distinction, since it helps us to avoid the trap of parochialism. More precisely, in a non-growing, materially closed system like the Earth, self-sufficiency presupposes shared resources, shared experiences, and shared knowledge, which, in turn, presupposes openness of a kind that fosters curiosity and solidarity. In a similar fashion, ecocreative neighborhoods must necessarily be extended neighborhoods, in that they ultimately depend on the functioning of the Earth system as a whole (that is, the complex interactions of the atmosphere, hydrosphere, cryosphere, litosphere, pedosphere, and biosphere). The simple but powerful truth is that we cannot do it alone. In other words, sustainable human development is scale-dependent and intricately linked to all levels of ecological organization; the continual reproduction of any human society is simply impossible without the continual reproduction of nature in its entirety.

Another social order is not only possible, it is within reach. By rethinking and reorganizing our neighborhoods, we can all contribute to a sustainable society. Briefly sketched, this is a society with radical democracy; substantive equality; global adoption of ecocreative practices; free and open access to information and appropriate technology; safe and healthy environments; participatory education and research; and global federations of neighborhood-integrated social commons. Today, it is obvious that this is a substantially egalitarian, biologically and culturally diverse society powered by the sun.