Ky. Voices: Ways to encourage sustainability, creativity

The author, left, helps a high school student plant at the Winburn Community Art Garden.
The author, left, helps a high school student plant at the Winburn Community Art Garden.

I was asked to spend a few minutes talking with Mayor Jim Gray's transition team to share my thoughts about his Fresh Start plan.

This is a brief sketch of my presentation to the Quality of Life Committee, which centered on fresh solutions for sustainable development.

The full presentation with links is on our Web site http://sustainlex.org/freshstart.html. The ideas include:

■ Teach all employees of the Urban County Government, the University of Kentucky and Transylvannia University how to make a paradigm shift in our way of looking at the world. Use such texts as Leadership Reconsidered by the Kellogg Foundation and Planet U-Sustaining the World and Reinventing the University. Then initiate a citywide learning project for all citizens.

■ Implement Local Agenda 21 adopted by the United Nations in 1992 as the guiding framework for our comprehensive action strategy for environmental protection, economic prosperity and community well-being.

■ Create a city Food and Agriculture Division and a GROW Lexington Food Policy Council that would work to strengthen the local food system and provide food security.

■ Create a Commission on Youth patterned after the Hampton, Va., Youth Commission that would provide an opportunity for youth to have a formal role in the city's planning and decision making.

■ Establish in Lexington an affiliate of Manchester Craftsmen's Guild founded by Bill Strickland.

■ Create a Sustainable Cities Commission headed by University of Kentucky professor Richard Levine who designs entirely new cities for China and who can guide a human systems view integrated within our eco-system.

■ Create a Youth Green Corps in every council district with young people involved in planting trees, supporting garden plots, cleaning up empty lots, creating art installations from recycled objects and learning environmental literacy.

■ Create a Lexington Ecumenical Sustainability Council that would articulate ways the faith community can support our community direction toward sustainable development.

■ Create an Arts and Sustainable Development Council composed of arts organizations, artists and the media working collaboratively to create the new songs, poetry, theater, dance and visuals that help make our transition to sustainable living irresistible.

■ Create a Diversity in Skilled Trades Commission that would open the closed doors of the commercial construction skilled trades in Lexington to workers who are African-American and Latino.

■ Create a Commission on Women to improve the quality of life for all women and in particular those who are at risk. Such programs as Vermont Works for Women should be studied as a model for similar efforts in Lexington.

■ Provide language translation services on the government Web site like on the Boston website, www.cityofboston.gov. Many people have come to Lexington from other countries also seeking a fresh start and should be embraced as an important part of our future.

■ Use the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative (dsni.org) of Boston as a model for Lexington's East End. DSNI is a high performing holistic community change effort that began in 1988 and continues to create a vibrant, high-quality diverse urban village.

■ Study and implement the Mondragon (Spain) worker cooperative enterprise model. Cleveland, Ohio, is building a re-localized cooperative economy based on the Mondragon model and recognizes that worker co-ops are one of the most transformative things communities can undertake to rebuild the local economy.

■ Institute a Meatless Monday campaign patterned after the effort instituted by Johns Hopkins School of Public Health as a way to improve our health and reduce our carbon footprint that impacts climate change.

A Fresh Start plan can be a springboard to dynamic activity and purposeful innovation. But it is also an opportunity to inspire people on their deepest level to change their behavior and their collective actions to secure a sustainable future on Earth.

To succeed, we must involve all sectors of our community, and draw from our traditions and new technologies, from our hearts, our minds and our spirits.