Sustaining Cape Cod

January 23, 2007

The next time you go to Anthonyís Cummaquid Inn in Yarmouth Port in the mid-Cape region, or the Flying Bridge Restaurant in Falmouth, or one of the wharf restaurants in Provincetown, youíre sure to appreciate one of the Capeís many majestic views of the wetlands and water that attract people from every part of the world. In understated ways, these businesses raise our awareness of the unique ecosystem that is this place. And yet itís not likely that any one of these establishments could be built today.

The next time you visit Sandy Neck in Barnstable or Sandwich, or Grayís Beach in Yarmouth Port, or the boardwalk in Sandwich, or the Drummer Boy Park in Brewster, look out across the Cape Cod Bay and see if you can see the Boston Harbor Outfall Pipe.  It's big. Itís nine miles long, but because it sits under the surface and doesnít obstruct your view, itís not likely that youíll give its presence much thought or wonder why it was permitted, or what its impact may be on fish stocks and the encompassing underwater ecosystems that scientists say make the bay an ocean sanctuary.

The next time you drive across the bridges, Bourne or Sagamore, or along the Scenic Highway, or Route 132, or Route 134 for that matter, or along Route 6, or try to turn into the entrance to the Upper Cape Cod Regional Technical School, you might wonder why there is such an emphasis on the bike path. Did you ever wonder if we would now be able to enjoy this recreational pathway or enhance it with overpasses and street connections if there had not first been a railroad here?

In each of these cases, there are histories that chronicle what has come to pass. Anthonyís was once a doctorís house. The outfall pipe was key to the successful clean-up of Boston Harbor. Traveling along the bike path is a trip back in time that opens onto vistas that recall the Capeís heritage of cranberry growing and farming.

Yet, with the passage of time come changes, technological innovations, and a host of reasons why priorities that were once clear need to be reassessed and reordered. This process works best when all voices can be heard, when different opinions can be expressed, and when we can forge a consensus. However, achieving such an end is not easy because of the competing values and unique experiences we each bring to any discussion. Which explains why the collection of objective data and accurate information helps foster a context of objectivity and prevents decisions from being based on whims.

All of which serve as the principles that make up the body of thought that goes by much too big a name: sustainability. To sustain anything is simply to keep it going, to protect it, to preserve it, to prime it. To sustain the Cape and islands, we need to connect our economy with our natural environment. We need to provide health services that at least satisfy our basic welfare needs. And we need to offer education and training programs that lead to the stable employment and the career opportunities that nurture families and relieve their financial strains.

The Cape Cod Center for Sustainability is a nonprofit organization established with the best of intentions: to build bridges that connect our natural environment, our economy, our human condition, and our individual need for personal growth and fulfillment. As an organization, we work to support the efforts of other Cape organizations and connect people with them.

Itís clear that the Cape is much more than the ocean and the dunes that attract visitors. There is a vibrancy of life and an independent spirit here that propel people to tackle our problems and to forge ahead in the effort to find solutions no matter what the resource limitations may be. 
The Cape Cod Center for Sustainability is interested to support these efforts. We're interested to assist the gathering of accurate information and data about the Cape region and to encourage its objective assessment. In any context, we look for a balanced discussion of options and consequences. We work to connect Cape residents with local organizations and to find ways to supplement their combined efforts. We appreciate Cape Cod as a place where people live, work, raise families, and retire surrounded by incredible natural beauty. We encourage you to simply pitch in however and wherever you can. And by doing so, you'll be sustaining Cape Cod.

          Allen Larson, President
          Cape Cod Center for Sustainability