Book List: Building Sustainable & Resilient Communities

Gaviotas, A Village to Reinvent The World – Alan Weisman (Chelsea Green Publishing Company, 1998; 10th Anniversary Edition, 2008)

A look at the founding, development and ongoing evolution of Gaviotas, a sustainable permanent village in the savannas of eastern Colombia. Founded by visionary Paolo Lugari, the village is considered one of the world’s most celebrated examples of sustainable living and speaks to the strength and ingenuity of the human spirit and human community in forging new paths. Excerpts by author Weisman have been shared previously on NPR and in the Los Angeles Times Magazine and the New York Times Magazine.  

Read this March 2010 article by two men from New Mexico who were inspired to visit Gaviotas after reading the book. Learn their impressions of lessons to share and how the citizens of Gaviotas address environmental and social problems in a sustainable, inclusive way, relying heavily on the creative and trial-and-error processes to evolve adaptation strategies and ideas.

  • Review at Sarasota Livin’ blog
  • Review at Canadian Network for Environmental Education and Communication
  • Review at Spike Magazine

Walk Out Walk On: A Learning Journey into Communities Daring to Live the Future Now – Margaret J. Wheatley, Deborah Frieze (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc., 2011)

Authors portray the learning journeys of seven communities who rediscover and recreate community in order to solve pressing problems. Columbus, OH is one of the featured communities, shown implementing the Art of Hosting leadership practices that bring forth collective intelligence, authentic conversations, and lead to innovative and comprehensive co-created solutions. Title refers to walking out of limiting beliefs and assumptions and walking on to create healthy and resilient communities. See also www.walkoutwalkon.net.

Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet – Bill McKibben (Henry Holt, 2010)

Twenty years ago, with The End of Nature, Bill McKibben offered one of the earliest warnings about global warming. Those warnings went mostly unheeded; now, he insists, we need to acknowledge that we’ve waited too long, and that massive change is not only unavoidable, but also already under way. Our old familiar globe is suddenly melting, drying, acidifying, flooding, and burning in ways that no human has ever seen. We’ve created, in very short order, a new planet, still recognizable but fundamentally different. We may as well call it Eaarth.

The Transition Handbook: From Oil Dependency to Local Resilience– Rob Hopkins, Richard Heinberg, forward (Chelsea Green, 2008) and The Transition Companion: Making Your Community More Resilient in Uncertain Times – Rob Hopkins, Hugh Fearmley-Whittingstall, foreword

These two publications are the go-to guides for creating a grassroots, community-based response to climate change, resource depletion, and economic woes. Since its beginning in England in 2006, the “Transition Town” movement has spread to hundreds of communities across the globe. The UK-based Transition Network and Transition United Stateswebsites and Transition Culture (the author’s blog) are continuously updated with new projects and information to encourage and inspire those in the movement.

Choosing a Sustainable Future, Ideas and Inspiration from Ithaca, NY – Liz Walker (New Society Publishers, 2010)

Author and EcoVillage Ithaca resident profiles and shares examples of small and large sustainability efforts in Ithaca, NY to help others transform their communities. Areas included: local food, green building and green energy, smart land use and transportation, local economy, education, health and wellness, addressing racism, waste, local government and institutional change, and culture.

The Sustainable Learning Community: One University’s Journey to the Future – John Aber, Tom Kelly, Bruce Mallory, editors (University of New Hampshire Press, 2009)

This book gives a detailed account of the development and application of sustainability principles and practices at UNH over a ten-year period with the goal of lowering its environmental footprint and enhancing quality of campus life. It focuses on operations, areas of teaching, learning and research, and engagement with larger community. Topic areas include: biodiversity and ecosystems; climate and energy; food and society; and culture and sustainability.

Designing Healthy Communities – Richard J. Jackson (Jossey-Bass, 2012)

This is the Companion book to the four-hour documentary series aired on PBS in 2010/11. A pediatrician and professor of Environmental Health Sciences at UCLA, Dr. Jackson brings a strong focus on impacts of built environments on personal, public, environmental, mental and social health, with an emphasis on children and social inequities. Seven US communities are profiled as examples of change. Concluding chapters address bringing change to your community: assessing, auditing, identifying problems and challenges; building a community of key stakeholders; and creating an action plan. Set of four DVDs also available online at Designing Healthy Communities website.

Superbia: 31 Ways to Create Sustainable Neighborhoods – Dan Chiras, Dave Wann (New Society Publishers, 2003)

Superbia! is about remaking suburban and urban neighborhoods to serve people better and to reduce human impact on the environment. It is filled with practical ideas for creating more socially, economically, and environmentally sustainable neighborhoods. Even though this book was published ten years ago, it is still timely, especially for those new to the concepts.

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