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Sustainability Resources


DEFINITION: Sustainability is the ability of this generation to meet its needs without undermining the ability of future generations to meet their needs.

There are thousands of websites relating to sustainability. We can only list our favorites here. We want to raise an important issue, though, as we do: Most advocates of sustainability think sustainability is about the relationship between human economics and natural ecology. We propose there's more to it than that. Human politics and governance (or, more accurately, human collective intelligence) is a (if not the) critical factor because without it a society has no capacity to change its economics and interface with nature. It will just keep on going as it has been. So our societal collective intelligence is fundamental to sustainability, in practice. -- Tom Atlee


Sustainability-related pages on this site include: deals with the global eco-village network of conscious eco-living experiments around the world. The Rocky Mountain Institute and The Institute for Local Self-Reliance provide guidance for communities that want to be economically and ecologically more sustainable. People interested in intentional communities will find the Fellowship of Intentional Communities site fascinating; it, too, has great links to sustainability subjects. John Curl provides compelling history about how people have worked together for mutual aid, including an inspiring story of Oakland, CA, in the 1930s ("Living in the UXA"). And the Simple Living Network provides "tools and living examples for those who are serious about learning to live a more conscious, simple, healthy and restorative lifestyle."

TraNet, In Context, Grassroots Economic Organizing, and Yes! are all magazines that provide inspiring, educational and practical articles about building a sustainable, humane, positive future. Many useful articles are on-line, and they can lead you to more resources. Listserv archives are another good source of information. Check out the Ecobalance archives or some of the other archives compiled by Communications for a Sustainable Future.

Among my favorite sites which offer link-lists to other community and sustainability websites are Empowerment Resources, People in Action for a Better World, One Earth, Motherheart (especially the community section), Sustainable Development and Communications for a Sustainable Future (which has a permaculture and sustainable living page and a self-sufficient sustainable village page, neither of which are easily accessible from the home page). Many of these provide interesting online articles, as well as links. The Alliance for a Paving Moratorium promotes depaving many roads for food gardens, pedal-power transport, and restoration of local food supply/distribution for "sustainable village economics." articulates a "pattern language" for bioregional sustainability.  "A pattern language" is architect/planner Christopher Alexander's term for a collection of elements that make a liveable place -- from micro-factors to macro-factors -- all interrelated in a coherent whole.  Stuart Cowan of EcoTrust has created such a list of modular factors.  His pattern language is a veritable mini-encyclopedia of sustainable ideas and practices, such as Awareness of Consumption and Its Effects, Beauty and Play, Community-Based Financial Institutions, Cyclical Patterns of Production and Consumption, Local Currencies and Trading Systems, Practical Skills in Support of Place, Regional Tax Revenue Sharing, Urban Growth Boundaries, Waste as a Resource, Wildlife Corridors, and dozens more.  Click on any item in the list and you get a succinct description of it and links to related elements in the pattern language.  It is, itself, a web of life -- a truly remarkable achievement.

And don't miss New Rules -- THE site for local economics -- at

When you go to, the first thing you see is a biomandala, in the center of which appears three phrases in sequence:  "It's all alive.  It's all connected.  It's all intelligent."  And then you encounter a larger mandala divided into ten sections -- Nature, Culture & Spirit / Green Entrepreneurship / Cultural & Biological Diversity / Through Indigenous Eyes / Green Media / Natural Design / Natural Medicine / Activism - Environmental, Social & Political / Environmental Education / Organic Food, Farming and Seeds.  Click on any of these and you are carried to articles, links and other resources having to do with that subject.  It is all exquisitely designed and user-friendly -- and all connected to the annual Bioneers Conference coming up in October in the Bay Area, which Paul Hawken describes as "central to the re-imagination of what it means to be human."

Basic principles of sustainability can be found at The Natural Step.


The Post-Corporate World : Life After Capitalism, by David C. Korten (Berrett-Koehler, 1999). A vision to move beyond corporatism to "eliminate the economic pathology that plagues us and create truly democratic, market-based, life-centered societies."
The Ecology of Commerce, by Paul Hawken (HarperBusiness, 1993). How an economy world work that fully collaborated with nature.
Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution, by Paul Hawken, L. Hunter Lovins, Amory Lovins (Back Bay Books, Oct 2000) - More about a nature-based economy, including powerful technical developments.
Who's Counting: Marilyn Waring on Sex, Lies, and Global Economics - A very moving film about the measurables and immeasurables in our lives, and how economic measurements and policies affect them.
Complexity, by M. Waldrop (Simon & Schuster, 1992). This book opened my eyes to the way nature generates totally new phenomena through the co-evolution of complex synergies.
Leadership and the New Science, by Margaret Wheatley (Berrett-Koelher, 1999). How to relate to organizations as natural systems.
Seven Life Lessons of Chaos: Timeless Wisdom from the Science of Change, by John Briggs and David Peat (HarperCollins, 1999) - A brief layman's introduction to chaos theory and how it applies to life.
The Web of Life: A New Scientific Understanding of Living Systems, by Fritjof Capra (Doubleday, 1996). Our favorite all-around introduction to the new sciences.
Seeing Nature: Deliberate encounters with the visible world, by Paul Krapfel (Chelsea Green, 1999) - Engaging examples of nature dancing entropy into life, and how we humans can join that dance.
Reworking Success, by Robert Theobald (New Society, 1997). An accessible re-examination of how to make communities and societies work better in the 21st Century.