Chelsea Green Publishing

Chelsea Green Blog

Donella Meadows and Cobb Hill Cohousing

From the Burlington Free Press:

About a decade after first breaking ground, Cobb Hill Cohousing in southern Vermont is taking stock of its progress toward building a sustainable community. Residents of the 22 green-built households are motivated by the words of the development’s founder, the late pioneering environmental scientist Donella Meadows: “We need people willing to work seriously at human community and at loving this land, caring for it, and making it productive.”

HARTLAND FOUR CORNERS — On a recent cool, damp afternoon at Cobb Hill Cohousing in southern Vermont, there were plenty of warm spots in which to seek refuge from alternating drizzle and steady rain.

There was the toasty room housing the wood-fired gasification boiler that heats Cobb Hill’s 22 clustered, green-built homes and provides back-up water heating power to the solar panels on each roof. (Even though it had not yet been turned on for the season, it radiated heat from a recent maintenance run.)

Then there was the animal-generated warmth in the long red barn, where calves from the on-site farm’s registered Jersey milking herd were cuddled down in straw near the first few of Cobb Hill’s Icelandic sheep to move into their winter quarters. Another option was the steamy cheesemaking room, where two of the business partners (also Cobb Hill residents) of one of the community’s many independent enterprises packed molds full of fresh curds made from the Jersey milk for their award-winning farmstead cheese. And, finally, in the cozy common house dining room — where many of the 60 residents, ages 3 to 76, gather twice weekly for communal meals — a visitor was offered a cup of hot herbal tea. The tea accompanied conversation about the ongoing mission of Cobb Hill, originally envisioned by its late founder, pioneering environmental scientist Donella (Dana) Meadows, as “a loving human community that does its utmost to practice the skills of sustainable living.” A little more than a decade since Cobb Hill’s first buildings were completed, the resident-members of the community are proud of what they have built together through joint investments of energy, effort and capital. But they also are cognizant that future decades will call for renewed efforts and fresh approaches toward their goal of living as lightly as possible on the land. “It isn’t the same world as it was 10 years ago,” said Judith Bush, 76, a social worker and former cheesemaker at Cobb Hill who has been involved since the early planning stages. “Communities need to figure out what makes them resilient for whatever comes along.”

A Clear Vision of Sustainability

In the common house, on the mantle above the community’s only fireplace, sits a photograph of Meadows. Among many accomplishments, Cobb Hill’s founder was a Harvard- and MIT-trained scientist, longtime Dartmouth College professor, organic farmer, MacArthur Foundation fellow and Pulitzer-Prize-nominated columnist. Perhaps most famously, she was lead author of the influential and controversial 1972 book “The Limits to Growth,” which was based on a computer model that suggested global resources would run out in the face of continued population growth and unchecked consumption patterns. Meadows died unexpectedly in 2001 at age 59 after a brief illness — about six months after the groundbreaking for Cobb Hill. “Dana was one of the most important environmentalists of our time,” environmental author, activist and Ripton resident Bill McKibben wrote in a recent email. “She did more than anyone else to explain the essential fact of life on earth: the planet is finite, and can’t support endless growth. She did this with computer models, but also with beautifully written essays, with her farm, and with the vision that became Cobb Hill.” Added Bush, “She was the seminal thinker. She was the glue that brought people together to realize her vision of sustainable farming within a sustainable residential community.” Cobb Hill, Bush said, is a living example of the mission of The Sustainability Institute, a nonprofit that Meadows founded in 1996 to apply systems thinking, system dynamics modeling and organizational learning to economic, environmental and social challenges. It was characteristic of Meadows, Bush explained, that while others founded think tanks, she created what she called, “a ‘think-do’ tank.” Read the rest of the article over at the Burlington Free Press’s website. And check out a forthcoming book by one of Meadows’ coauthors on The Limits to Growth, Jorgen Randers. Next summer we will be publishing his book 2052: A Global Forecast for the Next Forty Years. (Photo: GLENN RUSSELL, Free Press)


To Create Climate-Secure Foodscapes, Think Like a Plant

The techniques and prophetic vision for achieving food security in the face of climate change contained in Gary Paul Nabhan’s Growing Food in a Hotter, Drier Land may well need to be implemented across most of North America over the next half-century, and are already applicable in most of the semiarid West, Great Plains, and […] Read More

The Future Is Hopeless, So Give it Your All

The never-ending national election in the United States, the “surprise” pro-Brexit vote in the United Kingdom, climate change … the list goes on and on about how easy it can be to lose hope in the future.Like many of life’s frustrations, or overwhelmingly large topics, most people in our society find themselves somewhere on the […] Read More

How Carbon Farming Can Save the Planet

Carbon farming alone is not enough to avoid catastrophic climate change, but coupled with new economic priorities, a massive switch to clean energy, and big changes to much of the rest of the way our societies work, it offers a pathway out of destruction and a route to hope.Along the way carbon farming can also […] Read More

Welcome to the Lyme Wars

Lyme disease infects a minimum of 300,000 people per year in the United States and millions more throughout the rest of the world. Symptoms run from mild lethargy to severe arthritis to heart disease to incapacitating mental dysfunction. Although tests have improved over the past decade, they are still not completely reliable, and antibiotics are […] Read More

Look Under Your Feet for Global Soil-utions

For several years, Chelsea Green has been publishing books that look under our feet for solutions to some of the most vexing problems facing the planet – hunger, drought, degraded farmland and grasslands, damaged waterways, and much more. Those books focus on (mostly) one thing: Soil.  In 2016, we’ve published two more important books that […] Read More
Follow us
Get every new post delivered to your inbox
Join millions of other followers
Powered By WPFruits.com