I read a comment on a Dena Stevens blog a couple of days ago by Michael Rossregarding his opinion that the Green Movement(my definition below)was anti-growth, anti housing, anti builder, anti developer, anti business, anti property owner's rights. Dena responded by saying the editor of the local newspaper also shared his opinion that being Green meant opposing growth and new developments. While I know most members of the Eco-All Stars Green Scene would not agree with this idea I believe that there may be more than a few out there in the Active Rain community and the general public who might share the same sentiments as Mr. Ross. So I got inspired to write this blog because I have had many years to watch, experience, and mull over this issue.
To start my definition of Green Movement here would include: green building concepts the use of energy efficient designs, utilizing easily renewable or sustainable building materials , the use of low or no toxic materials in paints and other green building products, as well as sustainable site design.
In addition to the above segments of the Green Movement in Real Estate, I also include environmentally sound development practices. Here lies the broader issue of how does a community manage growth in an environmentally friendly manner without sacrificing economic growth and jobs. These are two biggest reasons IMHO that political and business leaders will use to justify any type of development that comes in to a community. It is on this point where the rubber meets the road and where a great deal of conflict and adversity over the years have been experienced by environmental activists who were against "overdevelopment " and residential developers and business leaders who supported "progress and growth for our community".
I have to confess that up until the past decade I think that Mr. Ross' assessment of the Green or environmental movement being anti-growth was for the most part accurate.I say this because there were few if any alternatives to stop out of control growth from overrunning a community(usually in unincorporated areas) and creating a negative effect on the quality of life in that town or region for the residents already living there. There are hundreds of examples in all 50 states where development has occurred in a haphazard and unplanned manner totally overwhelming a communities infrastructure of roads, schools, sewer and water treatment facilities, and social services while residents watched helplessly as more and more of their way of living was permanently altered by subdivision after subdivision sprouting up all around them. Absent any alternative models to over development many people in affected communities began to come together in citizens and community coalitions to pressure political leaders to do something about runaway growth. These ordinary citizens joined the Green Movement whether they knew it or not since they shared common goals. The words" moratorium on new development" have struck fear into hearts of many building and business communities, as well as Board of Realtors. It has also caused numerous politicians tremendous anxiety as they seek to calm a disgruntled public while also attempting to assure their building community campaign donors that all will be OK. I have personally watched this type of scenario played out in several places I have lived and it is never pretty. Battle lines get drawn and intense conflict usually follows. Many communities get split down the middle over how growth should occur. And it is easy to see why being Green has automatically translated to being anti-growth. Labels are such an easy way to define people.
However, since the year 2000 the concept of sustainable development has begun to become more widely discussed and understood and does offer an alternative model to the more cut and slash development models that have been prevalent in the United States for at least the past 50 years. The model, while having some similarities to Smart Growth is ultimately a paradigm shift in our way of thinking about growth, focusing on three different aspects of how development will influence and impact an area:
This model plugs the community needs and desires in to the equation. And as this link points out, sustainable development can be different from green development in that green development will tend to always favor the environment over the economic or social factors while sustainable development will consider all three variables in planning on how growth and development should occur. I believe that the Green Movement is evolving toward supporting the model of sustainable development and away from the anti-growth stance that it has had to embrace for the past three decades in order to preserve environmental resources in different communities. This alternative path to sustainable development is, however, a more challenging one I think, since it requires dialoguing among groups of people who have historically seen each other as the enemy.
How this all plays out in our Asheville, North Carolina real estate market will also be interesting to see since we are experiencing intense growth and development here that is threatening out mountainsides, viewsheds , while also having a marked impact on affordable housing . There are a variety of citizen groups that have formed and environmental organizations that are networking with each other to deal with the scores of mountainside residential subdivisions that are being planned, some already permitted to allow over a 1000 new homes. Our challenge is now to educate all sides on how growth can be accomplished in a manner that is a win/win for all sides. The Eco Consultants of the Asheville Board of Realtors as well as the Board itself are in a unique position to educate all sides, including our political leaders on how sustainable growth in Asheville and the surrounding areas in Buncombe County can be achieved. This will be a good test to see whether the Green Movement in our area can make the shift toward a sustainable growth dialogue. I hope to keep you updated as process evolves.