by Tom Moroz
The commons were traditionally defined as the elements of the environment—forests, atmosphere, rivers, fisheries, or grazing land—that are shared, used, and enjoyed by all. In our digital age, ‘the commons’ is also used to describe the information available to everyone on the Internet. In the past year, the Alliance for Sustainable Communities–Lehigh Valley has developed a digital commons specifically to support communication, collaboration, information sharing, and action on social, economic, and environmental issues that are important to all of us in the Lehigh Valley.
This new platform, called the ‘Sustainability Commons’, has so far hosted lively discussions and collaborative interactions on subjects such as:
• Climate Action—lively discussions on what we can do individually and collectively to address the urgent and critical issue of climate change.
• Campus Sustainability—groups of students from local universities discussing how to initiate more sustainable solutions for local campuses.
• Summit for Smart Growth—a very lively discussion on what ‘smart growth’ means for the Lehigh Valley—how we can still support growth without depleting our non-renewable resources
• Envision Lehigh Valley—2014 is the third year of a $3.4-million HUD sustainable communities planning grant, and reports have been prepared on housing, local food, transit, and economic development.
This Sustainability Commons allows community members to access the reports and discuss the recommendations before they are finalized. The social and environmental issues we are facing locally and globally are too complex for one person to fully comprehend and resolve. It is only by bringing together our collective wisdom and knowledge that we can begin to co-create a sustainable future for the Lehigh Valley. We have the technology to do this, but it will take more than technology.
It will take a new, adaptive form of leadership that empowers each of us to take action on important issues. Sometimes, it feels that our individual actions cannot possibly have an impact on big, global issues such as climate change and poverty. This could not be further from the truth. It is only by our individual actions that we can begin to realize the shift that needs to happen. It was Mahatma Gandhi who said, “We need to be the change we wish to see in the world.” But it will not be easy. We need to be willing to physically come together to continue to have meaningful conversations on these complex issues, work toward consensus—then move to action, individually and collectively.
Today, much of the dialogue we see in the media is polarized between left and right, rich and poor, and in so many other ways. At the local and regional level, we need to transcend this polarization and come together, listen to one another, form connections and relationships despite our differences and work together towards solutions that make sense to everyone. The Sustainability Commons will support connectivity and community building by letting you know of events and discussions that are taking place in the Lehigh Valley.
The more you can attend these discussions and the more friends you can encourage to participate, the better our collective vision will be represented. If you cannot attend meetings, outcomes will be posted on the Commons and you will be able to participate and respond online. The Commons will also help you connect with others that have the same passion for change. By coming together, we will be able to make a difference.
If you are interested to learn more—check out the Alliance website and if you are ready to join the Commons, just send a quick message to firstname.lastname@example.org and you will get an invitation within a day. We look forward to seeing you and connecting on the Sustainability Commons!
Tom is a consultant for Techné Verde, which works globally to connect people and organizations working on sustainability and social justice issues. He is based in New York City, but grew up in Allentown and still spends much of his time in the Lehigh Valley.
(Published in the 2014 edition of Sustainable Lehigh Valley)