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The Vital Importance of Livability

Posted on May 01, 2018 | by Bob Carter
 The Vital Importance of Livability

At The Patterson Foundation (TPF), beautifully presented inspirational quotes adorn the walls. One I have always had a special affinity for is, “We do not inherit this land from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.” I have never considered myself an environmental activist, but I nonetheless believe in environmental science and have an ongoing concern for our local and global habitats.

It was my recent good fortune to represent TPF’s Age-Friendly Sarasota initiative at the 2018 Environmental Summit. The summit, presented by the Science and Environmental Council and Elizabeth Moore, took place on April 25-27 at New College of Florida in Sarasota. I was there to connect and learn as well as to explore potential engagement and collaborative opportunities between the local environmental movement and the local age-friendly movement. My learning at the Summit extended beyond the science and subject areas that included estuaries, water quality, land conservation, climate, and urban ecology which were all fascinating and personally eye-opening. I was struck by many things including the audience of approximately 250 multi-generational participants balanced in equal parts of professionals, volunteers, and students who all seemed to be universally engaged throughout. Attendees sat through two full days of session after session with keen attentiveness and passion; the auditorium room always appeared to be filled to capacity.

A distinction in the maturity levels of the environmental and age-friendly movements became clear to me. The modern era environmental movement has its roots in the 1960’s with concerns about air and water pollution. The age-friendly movement is much younger, perhaps tracing back to 2006 when the World Health Organization (WHO) began a formal program of age-friendly cities and communities. Its concern was the rapid aging of populations taking place without many communities giving thoughtful planning to the demographic changes taking place and related repercussions. AARP became affiliated with the program in 2012 and Sarasota County was the first community in Florida to join the global movement in 2015.

Both movements have many commonalities of strategy and purpose. At their heart, they are both about the vital importance of “livability.” They both stress the high cost of denial and the importance of future planning. Ditto the importance of building public support. To be successful, both movements must emphasize community education, dialogue, and involvement, for fundamental change only happens when people make it happen. Essential to this is the messaging, often translating complex data into understandable information that creates an emotional connection with people that inspires action even while acknowledging significant concerns. Passion for the environment seemed deeply rooted in so many of the attendees at the Environmental Summit.

There was also the lesson about the great value in building relationships – actively looking for shared goals to create collaborative opportunities which can be leveraged into partnerships with the evolving focus on complementing established resources and looking at them not as fragments, but as parts of future coordinated and collaborative systems. The Environmental Summit had a quick-paced, varied format containing viewpoints, panels, lightning talks, and digital interaction. It was about turning aspirations into actions and celebrating the achievement of a livable community for all ages.


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