Platinum Unity

We received some good news this week. Here’s the lead from a press release we’re sending out today:

Bensonwood’s Unity House Achieves LEED Platinum Status

Unity, ME – Unity House, the second home designed and constructed by Bensonwood Homes as part of the groundbreaking Open Prototype Initiative (OPI), has achieved LEED Platinum designation, the U.S. Green Building Council’s highest rating for environmentally sustainable construction.

It is exciting news, and also a reminder to me that there are several facets of Unity that help to define the path of hope in these hard times.

First, unity is a noun:

1. the state of being one; oneness.
2. a whole or totality as combining all its parts into one.
7. (in literature and art) a relation of all the parts or elements of a work constituting a harmonious whole and producing a single general effect. Unabridged

You can’t fake unity. You have it, or you don’t. I’m proud to say we have it. Nothing lasts very long without unity at its core. At all scales, unity is the soul of human organization and its source of sustainability. Unity is such critical lifeblood to organized behavior, that if it can’t be engendered, it will be enforced. For our governing bodies at all levels, most of us believe the most benign and powerful kind of unity is in our democracy rather than in the subjugation associated with autocracies. On the other hand, most corporations have opted for some form of command-and-control instead.

Unity is important, but it matters how it happens.

Second, Unity is a place. It’s a small town; rather Unity is the name for lots of small towns. There is a Unity in Illinois, New Hampshire, Maine, Ohio, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Oregon and Wisconsin. Is it coincidence that most of the Unity communities have a population of fewer than two thousand and only one exceeds twenty thousand? Is small better…more unified? I don’t know, but it is well understood in democracy that unity needs local expression as well as national expression. That’s how we the people get involved.

I’ve been to three of the Unity towns and live close to one of them, Unity, New Hampshire. Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton declared peace—and unity—here.

Still, I have a special place in my heart for Unity, Maine.

Unity, ME
Location: (44.619003, -69.336696)
Population (2000): 486 (319 housing units)
Area: 1.818322 sq mi (land), 0.000000 sq mi (water)
Zip code(s): 04988

Unity (perhaps all of them) is a remote and quaint little place. You don’t go through Unity because it’s not on the way to somewhere else. Getting to Unity must be your purpose, the destination. It’s so appropriate, because unity is like that.

Third, Unity is a college in Unity, Maine. The college is uniquely focused around environmental learning, particularly sustainability and conservation biology. Not coincidentally, its curriculum unifies the left and right, hunters and vegetarians, snowmobilers and cross-country skiers, dirt bikers and bicyclists. Sustainability, after all, can’t possibly succeed as narrow ideology or divisive agenda. What they understand at Unity College is that—beginning with the education of the next generation—the pursuit of sustainability is either inclusive or failed.

As in politics, we can choose unity and do our best to control our destiny, or conditions will eventually enforce our collective behaviors to align for better or worse.

Finally, Unity is a house on the Unity campus. Unity House was built as part of the commitment by Unity College to invest in the future they are trying to educate toward. It is my good fortune to be friends with the President of the college, Mitch Thomashow, and his wife Cindy. This project was the realization of personal philosophy and vision. They were eager to build a carbon neutral, LEED platinum home, and even more eager to live in one.

Unity House Interior

Unity Exterior, Night

Mitch is an internationally known environmentalist and educator who has authored two important books: Ecological Idenity and Bringing the Biosphere Home. Cindy is a dynamic teacher and activist with irresistible charm. One of the major themes of their work has been about building new connections and repairing the broken links between ourselves and in the world around us…in a word, unity.

Mitch and Cindy are now writing a blog about life in Unity House. It’s obvious from their posts that they are enjoying the experience and that it has become a laboratory for them about not only living with renewed awareness of the qualities of their new home, but also reflecting on their own needs, desires and habits. It is one thing to build a carbon neutral house, it’s quite another to live a carbon neutral life.

What the Thomashows already knew has prepared them for a deep understanding of this new experience: the solutions to our issues–local and global, personal and ecological–have much to do with finding the best path to Unity.

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