Reflections on a year of professional activities related to visioning, strategic action and sustainability – punctuated by a month of traveling in Kenya.
In the United States, buildings that are 50 years old can be considered for historic designation. We celebrate Independence Day as the start of our 232-year old nation and the culture and technology it has shaped. Santa Fe, NM is notable because the 400-year old city is the oldest continuous settlement by Europeans within our nation’s borders. When we think about sustainability, we may consider strategies that retain or maintain the natural ecosystems, communities and culture we experience here today.
In Kenya, the scale and context are different. Australopithecas, one probable human ancestor, lived here at least 4 million years ago. The climate and ecology have changed dramatically and repeatedly. The Aksum culture, just north of Kenya in modern-day Ethiopia, built stone buildings, used a written language, was part of a global trading network, and lasted for about 2,000 years – yet many of us are unaware of its existence. Today, the Nairobi metropolitan area has almost 3 million residents, yet has room for the 45 square mile Nairobi National Park within Nairobi’s city limits.
Global climate, geology and ecology have changed in past millennia. Today they may be changing more quickly than before, as a result of human activities. Sustainability must mean value systems and consumption patterns that are in balance with renewable natural resources and that minimize the use of non-renewable assets. In addition, sustainability must mean resilience and adaptability – to reduce destructive changes and to modify custom and behavior in response to inevitable change occur over time.
The start of a new year is always a time to look ahead. As we begin 2009, we know it will be a year of notable change for our nation and challenge for our communities and our planet. May this new year be one of positive change and resilient sustainability for you, your family, your community and your environment.