73. Civic Ecology: A Citizen-Driven Framework for Resilient Communities
Communities are experiencing profound impacts from unsustainable growth on a finite planet: resource scarcity, species extinction, food insecurity, and poverty – all which threaten our future. Undermining a timely and an effective response is a persistent lack of political will to address these issues. Building long-term resiliency in the face of these challenges will require citizens, businesses, and government to work together at the grassroots level to develop a local web of environmental, social and economic systems that can create an enduring capacity for a sustainable future. The Civic Ecology framework has proven effective in achieving systemic change in contentious communities. It addresses the need for stronger forms of democracy in service of creating shared local projects and programs. The framework provides opportunities for project implementation, sustainability education and leadership training so that communities can customize the framework for inter-generational use.
Many communities and institutions are realizing that attaining sustainability requires more than green buildings and green infrastructure. Energy flows, local food production systems, local-global economic webs, social networks, community governance, resource sharing networks, and integrated land use/transportation are just some of the community systems that, when synergized in a specific place, constitute a complex human ecosystem or “Civic Ecology.” Nurturing this web of relationships and flows affords communities the means to enhance their local wealth (environmental, economic, and cultural), resilience, and competitiveness, and to take control of designing and managing their future. Civic Ecology (“community software”) together with the green buildings and infrastructure (“community hardware”) constitute a sustainable community. Communities with a strong Civic Ecology all share several qualities, which can be translated into five principles. Specifically, these communities: 1. Employ a whole systems approach. Civic Ecology is the web of flows that animates community life. All enduring communities – whether rural farming villages, suburbs, urban neighborhoods, or institutions – have a refined array of locally-based systems that facilitate resource, economic, and social flows. Moreover, these flows cross sectors; that is, economic, ecological, and social systems are intertwined rather than set in opposition. 2. Focus on place. The systems of flows must be focused within the community, and, to the greatest extent possible, must provide locally-produced energy, use local resources, enhance community economic multipliers, and draw upon social capital. 3. Require a new social contract. Presently, paying taxes and voting in exchange for services are viewed as the defining factors of citizenship. Civic Ecology draws upon a community’s social capital by requiring active civic engagement in the creation, management, and monitoring of community systems. 4. Match needs and assets. A community’s capacity to create a positive future is dependent on the assets and strengths it has developed over time. The whole systems approach seeks to understand problems in terms of their root causes and broader needs. Matching assets to needs is at the heart of creating community systems that will result in an enduring Civic Ecology. 5. Are dynamic. Communities are continuously-evolving organisms. Because of this, Civic Ecology must be designed as a “learning ecology,” – a web of systems that adapts based on knowledge gained through vigilance and monitoring. Communities that nurture their Civic Ecology enjoy five essential benefits: 1. A high degree of control. By creating a shared vision along with the adaptive framework and embedded systems necessary for implementation, citizens maintain more control of their community assets and collective future. Community ownership and control is enhanced by developing systems that rely largely on locally-based resources. 2. Enduring wealth. Because Civic Ecology integrates systems flows across sectors, it is possible for a community to realize the multiple benefits of ecological, economic, and social wealth. The common alternative pits the economic, ecological, and social camps in “zero-sum game” opposition, resulting in economic growth at the expense of ecological and social impoverishment. 3. Community resilience. Integrated systems that are locally created and managed generally result in richness and redundancy. An example is a diverse economic base of locally - owned businesses and local resource inputs that is less affected by rising transportation and labor costs. This local web contributes to a community’s resilience, allowing it to weather inevitable peaks and valleys. 4. An enhanced sense of place. With globalization, and the increasing homogeneity that accompanies it, communities that are resilient, distinctively local, adaptive and ultimately unique, will succeed as valued places to live, work, and play. 5. A deep sense of community. Citizens of communities with a strong Civic Ecology share in envisioning their community’s future. They collaborate on designing the systems to implement that vision and labor together to keep the community on course. They work with strangers, friends, and occasionally enemies to create a collective future for themselves and the next generation. In doing so, they become citizens in full and experience a true sense of community. Civic Ecology’s whole systems approach yields a snapshot of the community’s desired future, the “software” necessary to achieve that future, and the ability to chart whether means and ends are in alignment. It provides the fundamental context necessary for making decisions about capital investment in “hardware” (buildings, streets, parks, and utilities), economic revitalization, business growth and retention, main street improvements, and virtually anything related to the common good.
Why it should be recognized:
Using the Civic Ecology framework, communities challenged with political division and broken social capital become more unified as they work to develop local webs of environmental, social and economic systems. The CIVIC process (Convening citizens; Investigating baseline conditions; Visioning futures; Implementing systemic change; and Charting progress) has helped communities implement, fund and manage sustainability projects. The Civic Ecology framework features innovative techniques such as community resource flow mapping. This tool has proven effective in helping citizens create community-specific integrated resource flow systems. By mapping conceptual food, energy, water, waste and local economic development systems, citizens realize their shared vision of a sustainable future. Teams extract projects from their flow maps, create business plans and funding strategies, implement the projects and monitor their effectiveness. Recognition as a Solution for Planetary Sustainability would enable communities, institutions, non-profits and government to learn about Civic Ecology. The systems design exercises embedded in the process will appeal to the Silicon Valley technology community and could result in collaboration on community and regional problems. Local governments would find in Civic Ecology—particularly in politically polarized contexts--a useful framework for engaging citizens at the grassroots level in EcoDistrict and sustainable community planning and design.
On Apr 19, 2013 steve.raney said: Kudos for deep thinking about community culture. Excellent holistic approach!
On Apr 12, 2013 Thomas.Loeber said: Yesterday I heard a brief mention on KPFA of the Fukushima nuclear power site having 3 of 7 waste storage sites leaking long-lived powerful radioactive isotopes. On March 29 I sent the following message to the Global Brain email list with the subject line "Top down - bottom up?":

Sustainable Silicon Valley, a non-profit corporation, launched what it calls a sustainability solutions challenge at the close of last year with entries accepted up until January 31st of this year. I submitted 5 entries (the most of any participant) and I can think of some more. You can see the entries people made at their "Ecocloud:" http://www.sustainablesv.org/ecocloud/ . They had preliminary judging finalized by February 23rd. I received notice shortly thereafter that my "entry," singular, had not made the finalists. NASA released a news article during the start of the challenge stating that the 200 best would be chosen as finalists. The number of entries is now right about 100. The only thing I can surmise is that my entries were not acceptable to their idea of what solutions should entail. The entire SSV endeavor seems to be for the sake of established institutions with Microsoft, Google, and other big companies participating. It does not appear to recognize human beings and their welfare as the goal of the endeavor.

Have you seen the movie "Cloud Atlas?" The danger depicted in it is that a major radiation release renders earth relatively uninhabitable, with the survivors descending into gross cannibalistic behavior as higher life forms die. Last week Fukushima reactors and the cooling ponds with high level radioactive wastes in storage lost operation of their cooling systems for about 24 hours. I saw no notice of that on any main stream media channel, only through deep searching on the web prompted by a short notice made of the problem on RT. That situation is not secure there in Japan and the nuclear industry and their adherents in our so-called governmental institutions don't really want to acknowledge the danger. Seems it is just that old epistemic relativism come to roost, the idea that majority opinion determines truth. That state of mind, suggested to be a psychological aberration by Daniel C. Dennett, appears to be a major argument for propaganda, both disseminating and believing the swamping lies that saturate most media outlets. The danger of a major melt down at the Fukushima reactors site has been stated as possible with halting of the cooling systems for 24 hours so we can consider ourselves as narrowly having averted major global disaster though the situation is probably now more risky there as damage to the containment has probably happened and the next cooling system loss could result in major release of high level radioactive isotopes within less than 24 hours of cooling systems failure. An Oregon senator and a retired US admiral have visited the Fukushima site and both state that serious danger exists, perhaps on the scale as depicted in "Cloud Atlas."

The dysfunction apparent in SSV's efforts appears to be due to an ardently held belief that authority determines truth, that knowledge is a fixed absolute phenomenon delivered from the top down, from experts. That ignores what appears to be the nature of existence, each of us with our own unique time and space frame see truth and knowledge that is relative to our own position in universe. Reality is different and unique to each individual. Our time-space frames overlap a good deal though not entirely, so there is much we could call real that we all share but, explicitly and implicitly, reality is different and unique to each of us. This idea of finding authority outside of ourselves, as what the "experts" convey, people making tokens and their supposed livelihoods from top-down claims of organization justifying their getting more rights than others, is terminally dysfunctional. Notice that the managers of this mailing list give links to an archive of this list that apparently doesn't exist or at the least, the links are not working. As far as I can tell, the belief in epistemic relativism can be described in a set of more common terms as follows:

Might makes right.
Killing the messenger invalidates the message.
What you don't know can't hurt you (ignorance is bliss).

Recently there was a post made to this list suggesting that Google was going to be a part of the Global Brain. Quite exhaustive and thorough analysis of the brain using fMRI, targeted towards determining characteristics of the networks used by brain cells, suggests that the major feature of most of the brain is that it does not depend on fixed hierarchies. At least some 70% of the cells in the brain appear to use networking that does not work on a top-down determination of truth but rather a bottom-up and continually reassessed approximation of truth that is used to coordinate all of our functions hopefully for survival and continuous welfare of the self. There is nothing like a "Google" in the human brain. Seems we see systems where there aren't any and we mold our lives for these assumed entities while basically ignoring quite distinct and quite real entities, our selves. We may just lose real systems for the sake of the fantasies we have come to assume unquestionably as real.

The SSV challenge continues with ratings of the entries available to whomever chooses to join the cloud, just an email address is all you need and apparently with no check as to its authenticity. I guess they have a vested interest now in none of my entries getting much of any support so please, don't go there and rate my entries high. I don't want to be a messenger that is targeted for killing. In that movie, "Cloud Atlas" the bad guys are basically just people who unquestionably support the powers that be with targeting anyone who transcends their social status, who questions the status-quo of fixed hierarchical structures. Just seems so apropos to our global condition. Is the danger really that serious? I suppose one way to find out is to stay subservient and unquestioning of official pronouncements. If our family members, kids first probably, friends et all, start dying from radiation induced maladies, well, I suppose that would be one way to learn.

Tom Loeber

On Mar 14, 2013 stan.curtis said: LIKE: People-centric approach... and scalable-framework for incubation. HW "built-environment" frames the choice, but SW "activity-flows" support better choices. Sustainability as a dialogue, not just a footprint.
On Feb 24, 2013 Thomas.Loeber said: I just entered the number of responses and the ratings into two columns of Calc. Appears that just about half of the ratings are within the first quarter entries. Of the ratings, about twice as many are given a rating of 4 or more within the first half of the entries. More than three times as many are given a rating of 0 for the last half of the entries. Does appear that just the simple characteristic of the entries' chronological order biases the results.

What about biases of individual ratings? That is relatively undecipherable by the common person. Not enough is disclosed about the operating parameters to rule much of anything out. There is one bias that may be common among the entrants that biases all responses, that is, the entrants are of those who were willing to volunteer for a relationship where all of the rights and functions of the managing forces are not disclosed. Notice that the only entrant that appears to be anonymous is this one, EcoCloud Admin. Does appear that who ever that is has more rights than us common folk. We were not given enough information before becoming a participant about the internal rules of the game to judge if they be fair or not. Their fuzziness seems to be further suggested by the allowing of some things before announcement of the function's availability and the changing of the web interface's operating options while up towards a predisposed judging, the categories you can select to view entries. Seems one should suspect that a general characteristic of the participants is to join a game that requires quite a bit of unquestioning faith as to whether or not its function is a fair game. Might the entries themselves as well as the responses be biased towards accepting unfair games?

Is game theory inapplicable to analysis? This is not a game? Does science matter? As an example, some people ascribe dating of universe events to be specifically what is related in some ancient scripture of some so-called religious faith. Their models of universe commonly do not include enough time to see the characteristics of Earth's climate oscillations. Seems they require blind faith that has to ignore lots of science.

I am seriously considering not showing up March 7th for the dinner and announcement of the "winners" of the challenge. Doesn't look like the function of this thing is to find win-win solutions. I find humility is fundamental to being of integrity, a major requirement for good science. I further find that the information explosion is forcing us to get real or lose it. The question as to whether or not to value integrity seems to be the whole conundrum we face in seeking a viable paradigm shift. This whole function could quite do the total opposite of the good intentions that motivated it. Oh my goodness gracious, looks like it might be back to the ink well for Coco the clown.

∞ 4 1 & 1 4 ∞ v 0
On Feb 22, 2013 Thomas.Loeber said: Seems the comment option was put in to encourage discussion but it seems to be little practiced. I'm afraid people are fairly afraid to talk openly and there does seem to be a set of powerful and unreasonable forces that do not like honest open communications. For example, I made a rather obvious mistake in my last post here. The word "race" is not in the first sentence of the pdf. It is in the first paragraph. Somebody could have offered a little friendly banter pointing out my mistake. I suppose one could argue that the content was listing "race" as a complicating factor to structuring ecological communities but wouldn't it have been more cogent to refer to the problem as "racism?" To tacitly support the idea that there are races seems to not concur with the scientific evidence that phenotype is not an ecological factor of humans. What constitutes a human is so much more worthwhile to consider and bigger than appearance differences. The idea that there are different races of people is not being genuine with the evidence available to all.

I'm curious. Does the order of the entrants in the Solutions challenge bias the results? Just from cursory observation appears number of ratings is highly weighted towards the earlier entries. Could this just be because they are listed first when a person looks at the entries? That would mean this thing is kind of biased towards earlier entries. Heck, who knows what people are doing to get ratings of their pet projects. Maybe the paradigm shift we are struggling with is whether or not circumstance should hold ultimate control.
On Feb 20, 2013 Thomas.Loeber said: Started to take a look at the pdf and I see it is an exploration of terms by an individual addressing the Portland, Oregon area. In the first sentence I see the author recognizes “race” as a category distinction for people. I don't. I think this exemplifies a common mistaken assumption born of our never having had a functional governing system. In order to recognize all of the false constructs that pass themselves off as governing systems now science needs to be ignored. In the early part of the paper. I see an attempt to recognize what boundaries need to be considered and I find them sorely lacking and posturing instead of being observation based. All of the boundaries used appear to not be ecological boundaries. For example a “geographically-defined community” misses the necessary components of an ecosystem such as air, water and gravity that transcend any “geographically-defined” area.

I don't know. I was not compelled to read much of the paper. Seems it is an attempt to accommodate institutions that were instigated and sustain on the basis of the “might makes right” paradigm. That is by nature thoroughly discombobulating of any attempt to come to systemic understanding. “At the heart of the Civic Ecology model is the expectation that the community is in control,
and in need of links to bigger institutions and systems.” misses the understanding that there is nothing bigger than an ecological community. The word “institutions” is an interesting one. In recognition that a system that is ecological continually reassesses and reformulates parameters of operation, sustaining institutions seems like a rather discomfiting notion. If we do not have a government now, if what we have always known is anarchy in its fundamental general systems compliant meaning, it is understandable that science would be compelled to be in the back seat and not at the controls. It is due to no one's fault. This idea of good guys verses bad guys is a causality denying stance preserved by this non-genuine conspiratorial stance we falsely recognize as systemic. If our lives and their ecological necessities for sustainment get in the way of these brute force founded ideas of organization a major component of the propaganda cloud would be to divide and conquer any realistic perspective, anything that might place human welfare in high regard.

I guess we have an example of what this idea might foment in this “Ecocloud” process. Seems rather spurious that it is called a cloud at all. I think I have a list of some five observation based characteristics of this thing that tells me it is not necessarily functional. In that regard, it could serve to steer attention away from workable solutions. It could actually accomplish the opposite of its intent if its means is given too much weight. There is the understanding though, expressed at least in the intent expressed by SSV that includes lots of fuzziness attesting to a willingness to explore and experiment. I just hope the staff of SSV doesn't get too attached to its methods losing touch with humanity, inside and out.
On Feb 19, 2013 Thomas.Loeber said: Seems fairly wordy but reasonable. The wordiness caused me to avoid looking at the pdf for now. The generalized clarifiers used throughout help as the intent is currently more important than the content as we are still exploring what tools to use. As far as the nuts and bolts go, that appears to be lacking. Maybe some of the research I've conducted into what those may entail could help. I do not like dependence on proper noun use for recognizing things. It makes analysis more arduous having to find reference to totally clarify what one means. KISS, keep it simple smarty and good luck.
On Feb 18, 2013 Babar Yousuf said: By keeping a citizen and civic administration collaborative creation and consumption approach, in managing the civic ecology processes SERA offers a customized approach towards an integrated sustainable civic and social structure creation and quality control. The team consists of experts in areas of concern and a clearly vibrant pathway is offered to its customers by SERA towards any of the approaches offered by SERA for meaningful out come if SERA's services are used.

The attachment provided is an excellent run through of the various sustainability processes, structures and through puts, frameworks that are possible to be customized however on the website or in the submission nor in the attachment is there any reference to a tangible solution such as a software or app model presented which may be used for data inputs and algorithms for getting outputs on one's case for example which a community could use for integrating with. A universal solution interface for humanity to draw from as a resource and replicate. Most of the work presented seems to be subject to experts getting into each case differently that approaches them for services.

I am however going to rate SERA high for their quality of work accomplished and because I can see them moving towards the collaborative creation pathway, offering the beginnings of a "Universal Solution" to the industry and the world through their experience.
Submitted: Jan 30, 2013
Author: EcoCloud Admin
  • Energy (Resources)
  • Water (Resources)
  • Culture and Engagement (Human Systems)
  • Stakeholders/Community/Infrastructure (Enterprise)
  • Resource/Waste Management (Regional)
  • Food/Agriculture (Industry)
  • Energy Capture, Transport, Storage (Planetary System)
  • Habitation Systems (Planetary System)
  • Waste Recycling (Planetary System)
  • Food Production, Transport & Storage (Planetary System)
URL: http://serapdx.com/vision/innovations/civic-ecology/