5KL: Citizenship and Governance for a Five Thousand Pound Life

Illustration by Raj Kottamasu

Print“Democracy’s work is not to end conflict, but to enable us to identify the next problem and solve it.”
—Dayna Cunningham

In September, The Architectural League announced The Five Thousand Pound Life, an ambitious initiative of live programs, digital releases, and a major design study that seeks to imagine a viable American future in light of the urgent challenge climate change poses to our environment, economy, and society. As part of this initiative, the League has commissioned and curated a series of articles in which guest authors give voice to themes and debates central to the concerns that animate the project. Since the launch of The Five Thousand Pound Life, League Executive Director Rosalie Genevro and J. Clawson Mills Fellow Andrew Wade published an introduction to the premises, prospects, and primary components of the project; Worldwatch Institute Senior Fellow Erik Assadourian argued that true progress demands degrowth and the responsible stewardship of resources; The Breakthrough Institute’s Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger called for sustained government investment in research and innovation to move us past our environmental challenges; and Herman Daly outlined a series of recommendations that would lead us toward a steady-state economy.

This week, the focus of this curated digital series turns to decision-making, democracy, and civic engagement. Dayna Cunningham — Executive Director of the Community Innovators Lab (CoLab) at MIT — begins this shift with a call to recognize voices from across the full spectrum of society as vital to sustainable development. Drawing from innovative examples from across the United States, she argues that progressive social movements must gain wider currency and effect environmental change by viewing issues of employment, crime, and health as ecological concerns. By making a clear connection between The Five Thousand Pound Life and the democratic decision-making that must get us there, Cunningham’s “Five Thousand Pound Democracy” highlights citizenship and governance as environmental priorities. Read the full essay on the League website.