is encouraged. (Each section has its own index.)
Cape Cod Center for Sustainability
From the Editor archives:
March 3, 2009: Priceless Philanthropy
April 30, 2008: Looking
Back, Looking Forward
March 20, 2008: Small
February 1, 2008:
Anticipating Super Tuesday
January 20, 2008: What's in a Name
18, 2007: The Story of Stuff
October 8, 2007:
Collaboration: Doing More with Less
September 7, 2007:
Winds of Change
August 1, 2007: A
Way to Collaborate
July 12, 2007: Laying a
June 4, 2007: Let the Turf Wars Begin
May 1, 2007: Building
March 27, 2006: Opportunity Expo, May 1, 2006, Cape Cod Community College
March 14, 2006:
Ideas on Sustaining Cape Cod's Water and Open Space
23, 2005: Sustaining a
7, 2005: The Pulse of Progress at Cape Corps
2004: Volunteering to Sustain Cape Cod
2004: The World Series
2004: The Cape Cod Center for Sustainability Brokers Successful
Partnerships among the Cape's Nonprofits
2004: Building the Wealth of the Cape
2003: A Knuckleball of an Idea
Street, Bourne, and Buzzards Bay
Any development project that includes as a measure of its value the
benefit it provides to a community is never easy to bring about. Such
projects are generally large in scale. The community they benefit is
made up of competing interests and objectives. And the number of
entities that have a stake in the outcome, and thus a voice in the
planning of that outcome, is large.
We ascribe to the notion that there is a common wealth in which we all
share. We hold to the idea that we each possess fundamental rights. And
we elect as leaders of our representative government those we expect
will act to preserve and protect our rights as they strive to advance
our individual interests.
Therefore, any proposal that relies on public funds or resources faces a
difficult task to gain approval of the use of these resources in order
to proceed. The debate on the Cape about the proposed offshore wind farm
is one current example. So, too, is the proposal to establish a regional
wastewater facility intended to protect the Cape's water supply.
A half century ago, Cape Cod residents were engaged in debate about the
merits of using public funds to take private lands in order to establish
the Cape Cod National Seashore. The idea seemed directly opposite to the
Cape's heritage of independence and self-reliance. It undercut our
Constitution's reverence for individual property rights. It threatened
entrenched economic interests.
By contrast to these detriments, the benefits of the idea were abstract.
There were few projects of comparable scope to look to for guidance and
likely outcomes. Nevertheless, the idea stuck, and the years have long
since established the conclusion that broad community benefits resulted.
Without the seashore, the majority of us who do not make our living from
the sea would have little appreciation of its grandeur or any sense
either of the small habitats that make up our shoreline and at times get
in the way of our recreational uses today.
Now, the Cape Cod National Seashore is generally appreciated despite
periodic controversies that continue to question how it fulfills its
mission and interacts with its neighboring communities. And though it is
well established, it continues to engage the public in questions of
broad significance. One is the leadership role it is taking to define
and implement projects that give meaning to the evolving concept of
Often associated with other emerging and broadly used terms like
“climate change” and “green” initiatives, “sustainability” is
semantically linked with these others because it, too, places value in
living in a way that does not negatively affect the well-being of other
generations of life on earth.
Yet, the more intriguing application of “sustainability” arises from a
definition that focuses more directly on its effort to maintain and
improve our quality of life. Rather than a limitation on our activities
that tends to arise when we focus on setting limitations to our use of
resources, considering sustainability more as a way to find alternatives
that realize equivalent or greater quality-of-life benefits opens up our
thinking and encourages our creativity.
Where these abstract questions and considerations begin to take
meaningful, observable, and tangible shape is in projects (of which
there are few) like the one the National Seashore is undertaking with
other interested entities at the site of the old air station that
operated for years in Truro. This project, called Highlands Center,
takes to a next level what some other development projects have
accomplished in their contexts.
In Woods Hole, the addition to the Ordway Campus is a construction
project that first incorporated sustainable concepts throughout. It
showcases what is possible and what will become common as materials and
construction practices learn from the efforts undertaken there. It's a
beautiful, breakthrough piece of architecture envisioned by the
much-honored architect William McDonough.
In the mid-Cape, in Barnstable, the recent completion of the Lyndon
Larusso Applied Technology Building at Cape Cod Community College is
also worth noting and worth seeing. It applies new sustainable features
in a campus setting that has now established a new standard by which
other state-financed buildings will be measured against.
In Yarmouth Port off Exit 7 on Willow Street is the new headquarters of
the International Fund for Animal Welfare. It, too, incorporates many
sustainable features in its design and construction. And even more, it
is an incredible example of the reclamation of a formerly contaminated
site, a former "brownfield" of which there are many more throughout the
Cape and the rest of the state.
As each of these projects has pushed the limits of possibility, the
National Seashore, in its effort to reuse the old air station in Truro,
has taken on an even broader set of goals in a setting that is even more
constricted and complicated with regards to its site location.
Highlands Center is a project that not only maintains but will actually
improve our quality of life. As envisioned, it will be a center of
scientific research regarding the ocean and the shoreline it overlooks.
The science is already underway at the National Park Service's Atlantic
Research Center, which functions as a field research site. Similarly,
the Coastal Wave Observatory Station has been operating at Highlands
Center since 2005; this project was undertaken in conjunction with the
Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies.
Highlands Center also strives to sustain the arts. The Payomet Center
for the Performing Arts at Truro installed a performance tent in 2006 in
which it has presented theater productions on site. Under Guy Strauss'
creative leadership as the Program Director, the Payomet Performing Arts
Center has crystallized for other artists as well as the general public
the possibilities that the site holds.
So, too, the Truro Center for the Arts at Castle Hill has been the force
behind the effort to construct and operate a wood-burning kiln at
Highlands Center. The value of this initiative is far greater than the
cost as it demonstrates the extent to which we can expand the capacity
of arts-related creativity by establishing resources readily available
to an artist-rich community.
The Fine Arts Work Center, located in Provincetown, is working to
establish a residency capacity at Highlands Center that would encourage
creative exchanges among artists and offer an opportunity to the
community to see firsthand the process and the struggles that artists
work through in creating works that enhance our quality of life.
These examples are just the jumping-off point for what Highlands Center
can sustain. They suggest the kinds of real promise that exist at the
site as the interests of the people that live in the region intersect
with the talents and the promise that this site holds. These examples
only begin to outline the possibilities that exist when one considers
other demographic trends.
As we live longer and age with greater well-being, more opportunity for
multiple career pursuits, and an ability to exchange ideas
instantaneously over greater distances because of technological
innovations, the Highlands Center is a resource that is growing in its
value. The market is expanding of people interested to engage in ways
that challenge and stimulate their minds. The site is a perfect one for
continuing education offerings that take advantage of the neighboring
In this context, Highlands Center can be a significant economic engine
to connect visitors with the arts and theater of the lower Cape, the
beach and the destination resorts of the region, and the
thought-provoking residents who live and work and recreate on the Cape,
often in purposeful quiet and solitude. Highlands Center is a place that
could connect people who are already here.
There is enormous educational promise to be found at this site. As
educational institutions look to find ways to expand the resources of
their faculty and researchers in ways that more broadly connect to a
campus that extends beyond their existing facilities, Highlands Center
is a place that could well serve as a point of connection. It's these
connections that are the future of our global as well as our local
At an event that the Highlands Center hosted recently in Boston,
Northeastern University professor Barry Bluestone presented some ideas
on how a project like Highlands Center can work to stem the outflow of
young people who are leaving Massachusetts for locations that offer a
more desirable quality of life, one that is not only less costly but
also one that presents greater potential for career development and
If you are interested to
learn more about the effort underway at Highlands Center, please contact
us. This is an exciting phase of the project's development. It relates
well to the directions and collaborations that other institutions are
shaping in their own contexts. Perhaps you, like us, are
interested to look for ways to make these connections. Doing so would
significantly expand our community capital and enhance the Cape's
quality of life.
Editor of the Larson Report and president of the
Cape Cod Center for Sustainability