The Times of Trenton

Live Long and Sustainably

Tuesday, January 15, 2008


Here's the way Ralph Copleman sees it: "Sustainability is not rocket science, it's social science."

It's an interesting and entirely apt assessment from the leader of Sustainable Lawrence Inc. That's the community group that's been striving for two years to improve our treatment of the Earth. They're tak ing little steps to reduce the enormous carbon footprints that have trampled the world.

But Copleman and his group are focusing on just a tiny corner of the world -- Lawrence Township -- and relying on its membership of residents, businesses, congregations and other organizations to guide the township toward becoming an "eco-municipality."

Other municipalities across New Jersey, including West Windsor, Princeton, Hopewell Township and Hillsborough, are taking up the green mantle of sustainability in formal ways. Countless communities are engaged in efforts not officially linked to the state Department of Environmental Protection's Office of Planning and Sustainable Communities.

Sustainability is premised on a mode of living that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. It's balanced on three systems that support civilization: the economy, the environment and society. For a community to be sustainable, each of these systems must be healthy and in balance with the others.

From green building, to open-space preservation, to mass transit, the components of a sustainable community are ones that you've heard about before. And directions to such a community include the oft-repeated litany of ecological ad vice: Turn down the thermostat, switch to compact fluores cent light bulbs, walk instead of drive whenever possible, etc.

But groups such as Sustainable Lawrence Inc. also focus on the middle ground between mammoth state-driven projects such as land preservation and individual efforts such as riding a bike to work.

Copleman described it to Staff Writer Alex Zdan as "a shift in the way we live together in a community," and an emphasis on getting people to talk to one another.

And, so, the conversation's on about reducing fossil-fuel dependence and wasteful use of scarce metals and minerals.

People are talking about reducing dependence on harmful chemicals and wasteful use of synthetic substances.

Methods to minimize en croachment upon nature are being discussed, and there's debate on how to meet human needs fairly and efficiently.

That the discourse is result ing in action is admirable; that it is bringing about cooperative action means a better future.

© 2008 The Times of Trenton
© 2008