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What is a Sustainable Community?

Blue Planet United is dedicated to promoting an agenda for sustainable living and sustainable communities.  But what do we mean by sustainability?

The term is often defined as having an equal balance of the three Es: Environmental quality, Economic vitality, and social Equity.  Building sustainable communities requires careful integration of environmental, social and economic strategies. If we can focus on all three – not just one – these strategies create a sense of place, personal responsibility, and social well-being that together foster improvements in quality of life.

Sustainable communities are healthy communities where natural resources are preserved, jobs are available, sprawl is contained, neighborhoods are secure, education is lifelong, health care is affordable and all citizens have opportunities to improve the quality of their lives. Who doesn’t want to live in a place like that? Who doesn’t want clean air and clean water and tasty local food and safe playgrounds for children? We can achieve those goals by changing our focus and our behavior.

To sustain is to support without collapse. As the 21st century lurches forward, sustainable communities will be the ones that become more resilient. Pandemics and the climate crisis will require rethinking how we live. For example, in order to avoid pandemics, the world needs to shut down wild animal markets, which are cruel and unsustainable anyway. To avoid worsening climate disasters, we need to transition away from fossil fuels as soon as possible, fossil fuels that are not good for our health in any case.

In this respect, the current pandemic has produced some unexpected and thought-provoking consequences.

  • People have noticed and appreciated bluer skies and cleaner air as a result of the declining use of fossil fuels. Waterways are cleaner too!  The shift to renewable sources of energy, such as solar and wind, has accelerated, supported by changing public attitudes.  
  • People have seen that disadvantaged communities, minorities, marginalized groups and low-wage industries have been disproportionately affected in the pandemic, highlighting the increasing inequality of the social order that has attracted widespread attention.  It is a reminder that a sustainable community is also a just community that guarantees the right to equal treatment and equal opportunities for everyone.
  • People have experienced a dramatic change in the relationship between work and home life, raising questions about the emergence of new and better ways of living and working.   

If nothing else, we have learned that people can make substantial daily lifestyle changes very quickly when required to do so.  To live sustainably we must endeavor to be civic minded, to treat ourselves and others with respect, and to create innovative solutions to our current problems. 

To be sure, the problems we face are complex, systemic and multifaceted.  But to get started, individuals can take steps on their own, such as:

  • Get to know the place where you live as a bioregion, not just as a political jurisdiction. Get to know native plants and animals. Appreciate the roles they play in your health and well-being.
  • If your income rises, instead of buying more, bigger, or fancier things, reward yourself with less stuff and a simpler life that allows you more freedom and more time for family, friends and community.
  • Engage in social discourse that explores complex issues, avoids stereotyping and extremism, and searches for creative solutions.  

As we work together to make a more sustainable world, we must be kind to ourselves and others, and creative in envisioning solutions for a better future.  

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In Memoriam: Lamont C. Hempel

It is with deep shock and sadness that we share the news that Dr. Lamont (Monty) Hempel, founding president of Blue Planet United and Blue Planet Films, passed away on December 4th, following a brief illness. He was 69 years old.

Monty was a documentary filmmaker. He made more than 25 films, specializing in works about coral ecosystems, sustainability, wilderness preservation, and biodiversity.

In addition to his filmmaking, he was the University of Redlands Hedco Chair in Environmental Studies and the Director of the Center for Environmental Studies, 

Monty truly believed that people would join together, build sustainable communitites, and create a better world. May he and his work for environmental justice live on in our lives as the best way to memorialize Monty and perpetuate his passion and purpose.

One colleague reflected: “We have lost a pillar of the environmental community, a towering intellect, and a kind and gentle friend. My heart grieves with you all.”

Monty joined the Redlands College of Arts and Sciences faculty in 1999 and, as the Hedco Chair, directed the transformative growth of environmental programs at the University, including creating the Department of Environmental Studies, curriculum development in the former Whitehead College, and the Redlands Institute. Monty also chaired the Sustainability Council of the University.

Each year for the last 19 years, he took students to the tiny island nation of Palau, to study sustainability in action in a place known for its beautiful fragile coral reefs and traditional culture trying to withstand the ravages of modern society. He was devoted to young people and believed they were the promise for the future. 

Monty’s films and teaching focused on environmental science and policy, with particular emphasis on issues of climate disruption, marine environmental protection, and international environmental governance. His professional work, strongly interdisciplinary, was guided by the goal of pragmatic idealism.

Dr. Lamont C. (Monty) Hempel

Dr. Lamont C. (Monty) Hempel, 1950-2019

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