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Posts Tagged ‘urban planning’

Richard Florida, professor of Business and Creativity at the University of Toronto, and the author of ‘Who’s Your City?: How the Creative Economy is Making Where to Live the Most Important Decision of Your Life‘, was on NPR Talk of the Nation yesterday. Richard Florida had a lot to say about a wide range of fascinating topics. Most interesting to me were the results of his Gallup Survey on Place and Happiness.

What makes people happy?:

  • A job they love
  • Social connections and relationships
  • A good place to live 
Richard Florida added some observations:
  • Beyond a minimum threshold, income does not make a difference. 
  • People are suffering from fewer and fewer close social connections (with one the average)
  • Good places to live all share the following five factors: 1) safety and good schools, 2) economic and social opportunities, 3) good mayoral and business leadership, 4) good across the board for a variety of people, 5) physically good in term of aesthetics, pleasant to live in. 
What I find especially encouraging about this research, is that it supports visions for a more sustainable world as well. This includes the need for strengthened communities, and some ideas such as David Holmgren’s permaculture that could be adapted to living in the big cities. Note that accumulating more stuff, driving more, living in bigger houses, and more generally engaging in activities with a big footprint, are not part of this ‘make you happy’ list.
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Not as sexy as Cassandra‘s video, but just as, if not even more informative, is the new documentary; ‘Peak Oil – Sprawling From Grace; Driven To Madness‘. The trailer just came out:

According to EMotionPictures,

‘This feature length documentary explores the ravages of American suburban sprawl, what America has lost as a result, and the perils we face if we don’t change the way in which we build our cities. Americans have been lulled into a false sense of security by cheap energy that has allowed us to spread endlessly into our landscape. We are trapped behind the wheels of our automobiles. With the demand for oil outpacing the Earth’s ability to supply it, this suburban living arrangement will fail. America’s love affair with the automobile is unsustainable and, like Nero, we are fiddling away, confident that tomorrow will be as promising as today. The wake up call is coming.’

It seems as if everyone‘s got an opinion on how to handle the American suburban sprawl . . . What I think: we are not going to raze our suburbs, let’s get real. Instead, we have to live with what we have, adapt, conserve and retrofit, using a combination of new policies, new technologies, and new behaviors.

Now, what do YOU think?

 

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Seed Magazine is one of my favorite science magazines. Last night I finally got to the July/August issue, and came across a great article by Jonah Lehrer, on ‘The Living City’. Lots of interesting thoughts about cities as living organisms. The one that stuck with me, was the idea about cities as ‘bastions of environmentalism’ :

‘People who live in densely populated places lead environmentally friendly lives. They consume fewer resources per person and take up less space. (On average, city dwellers use about half as much electricity as people living outside the city limits.) And because efficiency scales with the size of the population, big cities are always more efficient than small cities. An environmentally friendly place is simply one with lots and lots of people. While rural towns might look green -all those lawns and trees are reassuring-their per-captita rates of consumption and pollution are significantly higher. The secret to creating a more environmentally sustainable society is making our big cities bigger. We need more metropolises.’

And here I thought I was doing so well, living in Palo Alto, in my suburban house, with a garden, and lots of trees along the street . . .

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