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The Original Green: Unlocking the Mystery of True Sustainability Paperback – January 31, 2010
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The Original Green is the sustainability our ancestors knew by heart. Originally (before the Thermostat Age) they had no choice but to build green, otherwise people would not survive very long. The Original Green aggregates and distributes the wisdom of sustainability through the operating system of living traditions, producing sustainable places in which it is meaningful to build sustainable buildings. Original Green sustainability is common-sense and plain-spoken, meaning “keeping things going in a healthy way long into an uncertain future.” Sustainable places should be nourishable because if you cannot eat there, you cannot live there. They should be accessible because we need many ways to get around, especially walking and biking because those methods do not require fuel. They should be serviceable because we need to be able to get the basic services of life within walking distance. We also should be able to make a living where we are living if we choose to. They should be securable against rough spots in the uncertain future because if there is too much fear, the people will leave. Sustainable buildings should be lovable because if they cannot be loved, they will not last. They should be durable because if they cannot endure, they are not sustainable. The should be flexible because if they endure, they will need to be used for many uses over the centuries. They should be frugal because energy and resource hogs cannot be sustained in a healthy way long into an uncertain future.
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Color photos on every page illustrate Steve Mouzon's many ideas about how places become sustainable instead of a blight. Even the photos of places Mouzon does not think sustainable are interesting. You must read his explanation to know more about why they are a problem. Scenic photos of people strolling and interacting along various kinds of streets, sidewalks, piazza and patios surrounded by handsome buildings ( small businesses and multiple family residences), are seductive.
The Original Green changed my thinking about sustainability. Being a fierce environmentalist ever since a developer took down a beloved forest ( by all the kids in the Bethesda Maryland suburb in 1954), I have been generally anti-building. My focus the last two decades has been on public transportation, watershed protection and open spaces. Now pressed by "Original Green", I admit people must live and work somewhere. Mouzon has made me look again at civilization and construction, so I can more rationally separate out what will be sustainable, useful and beloved from what will make the "slums of tomorrow" (my term not his). His concepts could compliment the goals of environmentalist like me.
In creating a sustainable environment he warns us not to rely solely on technological gimmicks, but to rethink about how we meet our daily needs, emphasizing "quality of life' over maintaining current notions about our `standard of living."
Although the book concentrates on the effects of urban sprawl and poorly conceived architecture, he also presents an extremely thoughtful explanation of the difference between our society's obsession with increasing our "standard of living" while often disregarding the more important "quality of life."
As a residential designer and New Urbanist, I think Steve's book is perhaps the most relevant work to date regarding the issues of sustainability. However, each individual who has even the slightest concern for our environment and our way of life will be inspired by his writing and motivated to pursue his practical solutions. After all, as Steve so eloquently explains, for our civilization to really make a difference, it takes us all.