Let us remember Aesop’s The Goose That Laid Golden Eggs. A man discovers that every day, his barnyard goose can lay a golden egg. But soon he grows ambitious and seeks a speedier cash flow. In his greed and haste he kills the goose, cuts her open and finds no more golden eggs., Aesop’s moral for us all: Much wants more, and loses all.
Sometimes life becomes a real-time fable. In my last post I invited readers to visit a barely fictional island on the southeast coast. Once upon a time, in the early 50s, developers discovered this beautiful beach and fishing community. Seeking more eggs, they embraced tourism. The island became popular, and this spawned runaway development. Rapid population growth and nascent urbanization overwhelmed the island community’s social balance, natural resources and native lifestyle. After a steep rise, the resort reputation paled and its economy flagged. Much wants more.
This island is no fairy tale. The community has a choice. It can guard its treasure and avoid further decline. Maybe the goose is gone, but its last golden egg remains. Its name is sustainability.
Taken from the Latin word meaning “to nourish,” sustainability is the collective will to grow economically in a manner that benefits its people and natural resources. This everyone wins ethos sounds grand. But how does this community morph from an aging resort economy to a more conscious approach that improves the environment and the way of life for its citizens? It does it one step at a time.
10 STEPS FOR SAVING YOUR SUSTAINABLE COMMUNITY.
1. Admit it. Community leaders, citizens and local business admit that the current system isn’t working well enough. After this honest truth-telling the community can begin the shift from denial and acknowledge the need for making changes. Taking the historical perspective will help leaders see when things started going downhill.
2. Do your homework. Find out what other towns have done to rectify economic-social-environmental downturn. Customize what has worked elsewhere to needs of your own locale.
3. Build partnerships. Business and conservation groups can do great work together. Each party should invite the other into their decision-making processes. Example: resorts involve plant ecologists in their landscape planning.
4. Create long-term skilled jobs. If business leaders invite clean small industry and tech jobs to the community, this raises the median income and benefits the economy in multiples. Example: For many sunny coastal locales, solar installation firms would thrive.
5. Eliminate social barriers. Example: Many leisure industry writers, planners, and visitors see the gated developments as anti-social. Open the gates and join the community.
6. Reduce gridlock. Some of the most tony resort towns have the worst traffic reputations. This wastes time, gulps fossil fuel and degrades air quality: three strikes against a community’s reputation. This island town should build more bicycle trails must provide well advertised public transit fueled by hybrid or natural gas energy.
7. Preserve, protect and restore natural resources. It was the landscape and the sea that drew people to the island at first. Above all else, conserve these and people will come back with respect.
8. Ecotourism is “green” in more ways than one. It is adventure travel to unique environments and cultures that draws more tourists. The island would be wise to focus on nature and history based experiences only found at this location. Golf and tennis? You can play these almost anywhere.
9. Protect lives and safety. The highest-ranked places to live to are safe communities for children and the elderly. Vital: the island hasn’t been rural for 50 years. Provide well designed, energy-efficient street lighting to protect people and increase property values. But turn lights out facing the beach when sea turtles lay eggs.
10. Ask the elders. Good community leaders listen to the the native people. They were here first and carry the embedded knowledge place, people and nature.
This coastal community has to change in fundamental ways. It should preserve its small town essence, rebrand itself as a low-impact ecotourism destination, and grow into a vibrant service economy with well-paid professionals working in innovative, energy efficient buildings. Community leaders will preserve natural resources and the cultural heritage. And they will guard the last golden egg: the natural island hospitality and seaside that attracted people in the first place.