Greening Greater Sarasota
This is the Reith Energy website as adapted from the earlier international practice of its namesake, Charles C. Reith, to a portfolio of service activities dedicated to my home community's environmental challenges and opportunities.
Sarasota County is a lovely place to settle for my latter years although our ecological, built, and political environment is so replete with clamoring needs that so-called retirement is by necessity just another word for volunteer service. Having nobly fulfilled its commercial mission, this website now refocuses itself to serve as a platform for observation, postulation, advocacy, and activism on those many fronts where I have bandwidth and expertise to contribute...or at least I think I do.
Sarasota offers an exceptional quality of life that includes many environmental amenities: natural areas, green buildings, eco/edu-tourist facilities and celebratory events around the sustainability agenda. Our community is replete with environmental nonprofits and engaged citizens. And yet our once-celebrated claim to a clean, rich, and livable community seems to be slipping away beneath the interrelated scourges of over-development, deteriorating water quality, and a stubborn preponderance of environmental complacency among many citizens and leaders.
How do we elevate the level of environmental engagement in Sarasota to reach a tipping point of effective activism, not just to slow the damage but to restore our compromised ecological resources and re-energize the environmental inclinations that precipitated the founding of Mote Marine, Selby Gardens, the Florida House Institute, the Celery Fields, Myakka River State Park, and other icons of an earlier era of leadership and vision? How do we increase the traction of both established and newly founded NGOs to advocate for improved policy and protective/restorative infrastructure on water quality, climate stewardship, habitat preservation, and just plain livability?
Reith Energy has advocated and advanced sustainability in climate, energy, water, and waste through working with governments, businesses and academia to institutionalize a commitment to ecological sustainability and initiate environmental improvements. We've worked in twenty countries on four continents, most recently in West Africa. However, now our focus is sharply local. Reith Energy is supporting stakeholders in Greater Sarasota's government, nonprofits, and broader community to advance the sustainability agenda in our region's planning, decision making, and regenerative development.
Partnership and Participation
Every dedicated volunteer is a star in the galaxies of service organizations that comprise the universe of civil society.
My particular star happens to glow in the constellation of Sarasota's NGOs, boards, and committees dedicated to energy, environmental, and climate stewardship. As a former consultant, academic, and corporate executive, I have worked in a broad enough array of circumstances and applications to have something to contribute to many organizations around Sarasota. Foremost among these is the Florida House Institute, a showcase for residential and landscape sustainability and a centerpoint for future-by-design, a term I love that paves the way for a truly regenerative economy. If since its founding, the Florida's House's simple concept were to have been embraced that all new development should incrementally improve environmental quality -- not just minimize or mitigate damage -- then Sarasota would still be the vibrant place that once commanded national respect for its quality of life.
My charter on the Florida House board is to foster partnerships and collaborations that leverage the talents and activism of many organizations toward the environmental betterment of Sarasota. Many of these partners and initiatives are mentioned below,
For instance, The Florida House is a longstanding beacon for storm water stewardship, something Sarasota sorely needs in the face of deteriorating water quality in the estuary, red tide, and meteoric flooding. The property's contoured and permaculturally inspired landscape -- enhanced by residential cisterns -- serves to retain, transpire, and purify storm water rather than contribute to nonpoint source pollution.
An important priority is to incorporate Florida House storm water strategies into the development or reshaping of residential and commercial landscapes and infrastructure. A good place to start has been my home community. As a member of Mira Lago's board and lake committee, I work with a dedicated team to collect monthly lake watch samples, maintain ecologically vigorous lakes, and inform the community about the appearance and importance of healthy lakes. In both this capacity and as a member of the Natural Asset Committee of Palmer Ranch, I am working on a professionally produced version of this draft video that describes how ecologically responsible communities should aspire to manage their lakes.
Perhaps the most admired (by me, anyway) advocacy group in the water stewardship space is Solutions to Avoid Red Tide. I coordinate my activism at the Florida House and in Palmer Ranch with START's tireless leader Sandy Gilbert.
Another important storm water solution is the design an installation of a high performance micro-forest, which is a demonstration project I am coordinating thanks to a generous grant from the Sarasota Bay Chapter of Rotary International; the project will be performed by the Florida Veterans for Common Sense as part of an effort to launch a veteran-operated enterprise that enhances Sarasota's urban resilience. This forest is being designed based on lessons learned while I was a professor at Tulane studying the successes and failures of the urban forest in New Orleans in withstanding and, when successful, ameliorating the impacts of Hurricane Katrina.
The most valuable coin in the currency that will underwrite Sarasota's future has Climate Stewardship on one side and Sustainable Energy on the other. As a steering committee member of the Sierra Club team to support our City's awesome commitment to be 100% renewable by 2030 in its municipal services I'm part of team that meets with communities and service organizations to present the hows and whys, with the biggest why being the economic and environmental threats of climate change to our imperiled County.
It is a privilege to contribute to Sarasota's remarkable constellation of service organizations in as many ways and for as long as as I have the energy, bandwidth, and expertise to do so meaningfully.