The Art of Resilience: What does “The FLAT” really mean?

Heather here!

Welcome to my UM FLAT blog series, “The Art of Resilience.” [resilience (n): an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change.] Once a week this semester, I’ll be digging into some aspect of what we strive to do here at the UM FLAT. A huge part of why we exist is to demonstrate projects that are easy for anyone to bring into their own lives. In that spirit, I want to share ideas, tips, and simple steps that even the most broke college student can take to live a little more sustainably.

But what does sustainability actually mean, anyway? And while we’re at it, what’s with that weird acronym, the FLAT? I want to explore the often-ambiguous and overused idea of sustainability throughout this series, but for now, I think looking at the UM FLAT’s acronym can help shed a little light on both questions. Three and a half years ago, an environmental studies grad student worked with the university to make this student-run sustainable demonstration house a reality. He created the acronym FLAT to summarize the mission of this new living-learning community: Forum for Living with Appropriate Technology.

It sounds impressive, but there are a lot of different ways you could think about those words – even the phrase “appropriate technology” could conjure up images of all kinds of solar-powered, expensive machinery. Last weekend, the current residents of the FLAT sat down to hammer out how we would describe the meaning behind our name. These are some of the ideas we came up with.

Forum (n): a physical place of facilitation, an active center, a space for conversation and collaboration    As a forum, the FLAT provides a space for students to experiment, conduct research, engage in dialogue about issues they care about, and collaborate with one another and with experts in the Missoula community.

Living (n/adj): a practice, a way of being, aware, mindful    In being a living community, we seek to demonstrate that the way we do things (with mindful awareness) is just as important as what we actually do – our philosophy permeates everything from our biggest projects and events to our daily habits.

Appropriate (adj): applicable, relevant, sustainable, resilient, healthy, environmentally conscious     Whenever we make appropriate decisions, we consider the health, safety, resilience, and well-being of people and their environment, both present and future.

Technology (n): innovation, art, experiment    The way we use technology involves artfully experimenting with traditional innovations as well as the latest scientific developments to achieve our goals.

What do you think? How would you define sustainability, or appropriate technology? Do you have suggestions for topics “The Art of Resilience” should cover? Comment below, or on our Facebook page!

Until next Friday, be resilient!

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