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April 23, 2013

Oberlin to Carlisle

, April 23, 2013

By Courtney Blinkhorn

David Orr brought a calming and comforting presence to the classroom setting. It was interesting to hear about the Oberlin project since Carlisle will be trying to follow a similar model. I was hesitant about the Oberlin project itself, and still am, due to its top-down model of sustainability. It makes me question how to incorporate generally underrepresented groups from the community into this model and Orr didn’t have a very convincing answer to this, other than making sure it’s open to everyone. This is one of the most difficult things to address in the development of a more sustainable community. Furthermore, social and environmental issues need to be addressed simultaneously in order to enact the amount of change necessary since the issues are so intertwined.

I appreciated Orr’s point that after the development was up and running, the school should get out of the process. It may be helpful to have the structure of the institution to make it happen in the first place, but then he entire community must structure how things go from there. In order to enact change, it’s important to gain the trust of a community. It seems that this should include the planning portions of development rather than hoping the all demographics will find their place in it after. This reminds me of the failure of seemingly harmless community gardens in areas that weren’t consulted early on about their development.  These larger structural adjustment are even more likely to fail in this way, but also have more potential for change if done well.

I spoke with a student that goes to Oberlin who is rather conscious, and is likely to see what’s going on. He explained, “I can’t really speak to much about the non-college community, because unless one really puts in effort to be integrated with it, the bubble keeps things really separated”.  This is of course an issue in every college I’ve ever come across, that there is a strong resistance against merging the two. It seems one of these projects could be an avenue to counter this sentiment if tackled in the right way, it’s just figure out how to bring everyone to the table and get buy in due to good experiences with these interactions.

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