I dream of savvy cities across America wooing Boomers back downtown by enabling 'green building' in mid-density mixed-use zones while simultaneously leveraging this generational effort to forge a more 'resilient community'.
Boomers could be at the center of a 'great turning' toward sustainability simply because we're now looking to move… and that's what we (or some of us) want our next move to be and do.
Imagine a 'fruit-basket upset' game where Boomers step away from our scattered over-sized homes and scramble for openings of new smaller spaces in these high 'walk score' locations (and may the quickest Boomers get the best spots)!
This dream is prompted by a careful reading of our sustainability learning thus far, and I'll parse some salient parameters of our planetary challenges below.
To be clear, this dream is born not of my former 'save-the-world' visions. Rather, it is born in acceptance of the coming collapse.
Acceptance has not come easy, yet with it has come a laser focus on what we can—no, must—do now to bolster community resilience.
And, the best part is: we don't need to elect anybody, or make any new laws, or get any grants. We simply need to just do it…preferably in bunches…and probably in places that want to help make it happen.
Fact is, many of us are considering a move toward a smaller, 'greener' residence for our final years. We don't need so much space anymore, and we'd like to minimize our 'carbon footprint' and optimize our 'community engagement'—plus perhaps save some money.
So, moving to a high 'walk score' location and selling the car may make sense for many of us.
This is all good, and timely, and promising, yet – and here's a tip from our new 'sustainability thinking'— it's not just about housing.
Our sustainability learning alerts us that we won't really resolve our housing challenge without also resolving our energy, food and transport challenges (which is the origin of the HEFT acronym).
When we sum up these HEFT systems, we're looking at 80% of our household emissions, which means that getting to 'net zero' in these elements could go a long way toward fixing our share of the climate mess.
So, as part of our next move, we'll need to resolve this bundle of sustainability challenges together… without making new ones.
Framed in this way, the occasion of making a new housing choice also offers an opportunity to re-balance some of our ecological deficit while investing in 'productive assets' and shaping a 'circular economy'.
Either way, before we make this choice about our next move, it probably makes sense to puzzle-out all these interconnections by using our new thinking about systems—because we now see that "we can't do just one thing".
To paraphrase Amory Lovins' 'parachuting cats' story, "if we don't understand how things are connected, often the cause of our problems is our solutions."
Whereas we could separately build 'net zero' homes that generate our own energy and charge our EVs, manage our own water and waste, and grow our own food—and many of us are already thinking along these lines—this could be short-sighted.
Of course, we wouldn't want a 'Boomer cluster' solution to create problems for others (although we may want to plunk our pods in places that are now parking lots. Heh!).
Yet, surely we could add something in the process. Just get us there, says here, and we'll do the rest—occupy, volunteer, shop, home care, self-organize, etc.
This could be a win-win-win for our communities…if we put our minds to it.
Meanwhile, I'll be over here dreaming about how Boomers and communities are going to do this all together.
Ken Stokes is a green economist who knows who knows what in sustainability thinking and the resilient communities movement, and he regularly blogs tasty bits on what we're learning and what it means for Boomers, with links to our best thinkers. Ken is on the startup team at Boomer HEFT, a co-housing enabler still in stealth mode.