An Action Plan for Cape Cod

Part 1.  Are We Better Off

Part 2.  Sustaining Cape Cod

Part 3.  The Truro Survey

Part  4.  SWOT

Part 5.  Quality-of-Life Indicators
Part 6.  Opportunities for Truro

Part 7.  Confessions to Soothe My Soul and Clean My Dishes

Part 8.  An Academic Chair

Part 9.  A Personal Tool Kit


The Cape Cod Sustainability Scorecard


Perspectives on Sustainability


Sustainability Reference Desk


Articles on Sustainability


Articles on Sustainability Indicators


To download the Cape Cod Sustainability Indicators Report 2003, click here.






An Action Plan to Achieve 
Sustainability on Cape Cod


Part 1.  Are We Better Off?

An editorial by Glenn Ritt


More than 40 years ago, this newspaper invested its credibility and goodwill in the successful pursuit of a national seashore.  Today, the park system that extends from Provincetown to Eastham confirms the wisdom and prescience of our predecessors. 

As we enter 2002, there may be no single initiative before us as heroic as that venture. But the challenge it represented -- to sustain our unique quality of life -- remains very much the same as it did in 1961.

As editor of the Cape Codder, I constantly ask: How can we nurture that legacy? One way is to help develop a common understanding of our strengths as a community, while also appreciating our weaknesses. Another is to identify opportunities before us, while also acknowledging threats to our quality of life. A third is to develop yardsticks to measure whether we are getting closer to common goals, or lagging behind.

As we enter 2002, we’re organizing these endeavors under the banner "Sustaining Cape Cod."  We have many partners: the Cape Cod Center for Sustainability; Seth Wilkinson, Brewster’s conservation commission administrator, who has let us follow the construction of his state-of-the-art home aimed at husbanding natural resources while contributing to the economy; Alan AtKisson, a global expert on sustainability, who is helping us develop townwide forums throughout the year; Sarah James, a consultant and planner, whose essays aim to show Cape Codders how they personally can engage in sustainability. 

Our project’s most modest goal: Help weave the word sustainability into everyone’s vocabulary. Its most ambitious goal: Help the Cape and its diverse communities develop projects and processes that sustain our environment and economy in mutually beneficial ways.

Two strategies personally have helped me get my head and heart around the concept of sustainability. One hinges on a single question: How can we maximize our current quality of life on Cape Cod without sacrificing our children’s future here? 

The second focuses on ecotourism. Simply put, we jeopardize our top economic engine, tourism, if we damage our environment. One can’t sustain itself without the other. Costa Rica, for example, has long understood this concept. While other Latin American nations are uncontrollably destroying their rain forests for highways and building materials, Costa Rica has preserved, and even extended, its forests to attract ever larger numbers of tourists.

In the weeks and months ahead, this newspaper will publish many stories focused on sustainability. Our current bumper sticker contest will run through January. We have received more than 100 entries, including a slew from the Harwich Middle School.

We hope to recruit more schools to design stickers. We look forward to publishing scores of these entries so you can pick the winner. Sarah James’ essays continue throughout the month, and we encourage our readers to respond directly to her with letters and e-mail. We will publish them in the newspaper. Staff writer Adam Martignetti begins a year-long series, “Are we Better Off?”  It will focus on a dozen indicators chosen in 1998 by the Cape Cod Center for Sustainability -- from nitrates in our water to open space -- that help measure our quality of life. Are we improving, falling behind, holding our own?

We will conduct forums in many towns, inviting you to participate in exercises aimed at identifying the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats facing your community. These sessions also will develop indicators to annually measure your quality of life. This last activity is inspired by projects occurring from Seattle to Orlando, from New Orleans to Sweden -- often under the guidance of Alan AtKisson. 

We actually began this process in Truro shortly before Christmas.  We invited about 20 residents for an evening at the library. Their initial responses will appear in the form of a survey in the paper. We hope that many other Truro residents will fill out the survey and expand the community’s involvement in the project. Based on responses to the survey, we hope to invite a larger group to continue the conversation. 

We also have joined forces with the Orleans Chamber of Commerce to develop a similar -- but somewhat larger -- series of forums in that town. By year’s end, we intend to reach into every one of our eight Lower and Outer Cape towns. It will be fascinating to see which indicators are common to all the towns and which ones may be unique to a single community -- and why. Our hope -- with all these activities -- is to be a catalyst for community conversation and engagement.


Editor's note:  All of the articles included in "An Action Plan" were published and are copyrighted by the Community Newspapers'  Register, Cape Codder, and Upper Cape Codder.


Next:  Part 2. Sustaining Cape Cod