Sustainably Yours: Mindful Development

It’s so interesting when seeds of manifestation you planted as a youngster germinate unexpectedly many years later. As a very dorky teenager, a question I always found intriguing was how to integrate nature with culture, two forces more often opposed than not. With conflict frequenting the headlines, one would have to wonder if terms like ‘green development’ were ultimately oxymorons.

Growing up in the US, where subdivisions were the last century’s ultimate pledge of allegiance to cheap oil and the automobile, it was evident that this development style was outmoded against the awakening environmental consciousness. There have been many quips about cutting down trees and then naming the streets after them. And then there were the obvious patterns of these dormitory communities: waking up in a box, showering in a box, driving in a box, logging in 8 hours at a cubicle, then reversing the process back home.

But early-twenties I was fascinated by the proposed solutions of many turn-of-the-century urban planners like Ebeneezer Howard and even genius creatives like Goudi. The former was godfather of the ‘Garden City Movement’, a radical new vision for development born from the slums of 19th century industrial urbanism. The latter, while most famous for his zany organic architecture in Spain, was also inspired by the above mentioned movement. His project Parque Guell in Barcelona, was originally conceptualized as a subdivision! While its completion was derailed by the advent of World War 1, by today’s eco standards, Goudi was practicing cutting edge environmentalism over a century ago with his community planning. For example, homeowners were heavily fined for any trees they sought to cut down. The community’s runoff water was even diverted into sand-filled columns, being filtered and cleansed through the columns supporting the community’s “subterranean” theater and festive gathering space. Most tourists snapping pictures at this destination fail to recognize the subtle and radical intentions of the mind behind it.

Delving into these ‘radical minds’ inspired a college thesis on the topic. Despite my horticultural career’s focus on individual homeowners, the idea of community planning was always rattling around the noggin.

Which boiled down to this: there are 3 interconnected webs that pertain to ‘green development’ and sustainability in general. These are the Community, the Ecology and the Economy. If one or two of the three are missing from focus, the whole project falls apart. In fact, I would even state that any development is only as good as the weakest link between the three. How many times have green projects stimulated a gentrification cycle that ultimately ousts the original population, leaving them clinging to unfortunate fringes? By the same token, how many noble projects unravel the moment funding is cut because they were never modeled to be economically viable? And it goes without saying how development that exhausts its ecology’s baseline resources is not long meant for this world (lookin’ at YOU, Vegas!).

Well, I’m excited to say, that I’ve been invited to participate in crafting a development that will tackle all three Pillars of Sustainability. EcoBravo is a 15 lot space nestled in Lo de Marcos, Nayarit. We are at the beginnings of conceptualizing its brushstrokes – its architecture, environmental footprint, water management, gardens, symbiotic role in the community, investment benefits, etc. I won’t say much more now, other than – SPOILER ALERT!!! There will be Super Food Forests!!! Because EcoBravo represents a personal passion for mindful development, I will be profiling its progress regularly. If you have any personal questions about it, please write me at sustainablyyourscolumn@gmail.com. In the coming months, prepare to be wowed by a new vision for culture built with nature!

Emily Majewski

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