Every second person on this planet lives in a city or town. We definitely need vision and solutions for a sustainable and humane urban lifestyle. We need in other words – eco-villages in cities. Los Angeles is the second biggest city of the United States and in its urban heart, the Los Angeles Eco-Village of forty inhabitants works to strengthen communities, and bring neighbors, art, and environmental action together. It intends to ‘reinvent how we live in the city’. This update is about three areas where the Eco-Village has inspired the City: urban gardening, a bicycle program after a role-model in Bogotá, and an alternative economy.
The White House Place Learning Garden
LAEV is within walking distance of approximately 50 000 school children, so it is fitting that we struggled with our Los Angeles Unified School District to save a small piece of property on the block that the District planned on using for their new parking lot, and the District signed a five year lease to create a learning garden there. Years K-12 children that are within walking distance will have the opportunity to come learn in the garden, and take what they have learned back to their school campuses. Eventually, through working with the local schools, some of us hope to do the same in adjacent neighborhoods to help residents develop more sustainable urban living practices. It’s slow going, working with the School District, but we anticipate getting into the ground by Summer 2013.
The advancement of bicycle culture
Los Angeles exhibits major leadership in the development of bicycle infrastructure. It started in the mid 1990s when two Eco-Village members, Joe Linton and Ron Milam, started the nonprofit Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition. That organization went on to be among the major bicycle planning and advocacy groups in the City. By the late 1990s, Eco-Village resident Jimmy Lizama started the self-help bicycle repair group known as the Bike Kitchen in the kitchen of one of our vacant apartment units. This grew to become a national movement in self help bicycle repair. By 2009, two new Eco-Villagers arrived on the scene, Adonia Lugo and Bobby Gadda, having spent time in Bogotá, Colombia, where they were inspired by Ciclovía. They brought the concept to the attention of Los Angeles’ Mayor Villaraigosa, and worked hard to help make it happen, with the full support of the Mayor. Last year the Los Angeles City Council approved 1500 miles of new bicycle lanes. Today, LA’s CicLAvia is a three-times-a-year event, drawing more than 100 000 people to ride and play in miles and miles of car-free streets. We expect, in the not so distant future, it will be a weekly event – as it is in Bogotá and other parts of the world. Bicycle culture: a proud tradition in LAEV.
An Alternative Economy: Time Banking
Local currencies are a big piece of the puzzle for a sustainable economic system. Whether local paper currencies, time dollars, local exchange trading systems (LETS), or community labor exchanges – all being used in diverse communities across the nation and the world. The use of such systems helps wean us from our dependency on national and global currencies, and provides a solid foundation for increasing local resilience.
Time Banking is a pay-it-forward system that connects unmet needs with untapped resources. For every hour you help another member, you earn a Time Credit. Then you can use that Time Credit to have a neighbor help you: planting a garden, harvesting an orchard, learning sustainable practices, getting a ride, learning a computer app, getting a haircut, etc. Time Credits value everyone’s contributions equally: one hour equals one Time Credit. They can also be used to exchange goods and services.
More than 25 Time Banks can be found throughout the State of California, thanks to the California Federation of Time Banks. They are supported by the Metabolic Studio, a direct charitable activity of the Annenberg Foundation. See http://laecovillage.org/time-bank/