Affordable And Efficient Communities for 2013

Just getting started here, so I hope you'll give me time to set my voice and you will tune in to provide a thoughtful dialogue. Like many of you, I am an urban planner with a distinguished background. My current emphasis is on new community development that will begin to emerge in the United States by 2013. Over the past two years, I was lucky enough to have a patron who sent me all over the world to see and record the best places, and meet with experts in energy efficiency, health care delivery, workplace transformation, learning and transportation demand reduction. Money was not an object and being pretty resourceful, I was only limited by my own research, access and imagination. My goal was to collect relevant information and form strategic relationships with global companies interested in building seven new communities in Texas and New Mexico that would truly enable families to lead better lives. In summary, I learned three important lessons:

  1. Complexity Theory - All our problems are interrelated and if industries stay within their own silos of expertise then change becomes difficult, if not impossible.  By intertwining, innovation and efficiencies emerge almost immediately.
  2. Practically all of the products and services that we need to build sustainable communities already exist today - and are affordable, if implemented on a community scale.
  3. The United States is not the leader in new community development compared to England, Germany, Australia, Netherlands, Japan and Korea.

Therefore, my blog is about sharing what I learned. Throughout, I kept a journal from which I will remember my experiences and blog from. I am hoping to learn more from you along the way, to exchange ideas and discuss how to build better communities for people to live, work and stay healthy.

Rick Abelson is a Director at Online Land Planning, LLC.



I like your comments on

I like your comments on "intertwining." It seems to me that planning is the art of intertwining within a given geopolitical unit. That said, it's puzzling that planning is not more widely regarded as the prerequisite for solving the world’s most pressing problems -- environment, economy, equity, peace, public health, the lot. There is an urgent need for the planning establishment -- perhaps even individual planners -- to examine planning's role.

Santa Fe Institute

Thanks Tervor. You might enjoy learning more about 'intertwining' by linking to the excellent work of the Santa Fe Institute and their approach to solving complex problems.

Rick Abelson,
Online Land Planning

Related Writing

Good to get feedback Rick. I'll contact SF Inst. Meanwhile, please let me know if you can think of an outlet for the following essay. I tried putting it in the Planetizen General Forum, but I don't see it when I do a search.

© Trevor Burrowes

The president is concerned with everything. Terrorism, economy, environment, energy, health care, education, international leadership predominate among oth er issues. Is there a way to wrap all these issues up into a ball and address them systematically? I think there is.

We needn’t go far to find that proverbial ball of issues. It is Planet Earth. Our cultural traditions have taught us to see the world as fractured little fiefdoms, and not as a unified whole. This needs to change.

Humanity must evolve to take in the whole planet as a single sphere of governance. The best catalyst for this evolution is climate change, since it is no respecter of geopolitical boundaries. But global terrorism, economy and health are also catalysts for a change of paradigm.

I suggest that a way for the president to wrap his head around the globe’s problems and opportunities is to focus on the discipline of planning (as in urban planning and city Gene ral Plans).

Why? Because every square inch of the planet falls firmly or loosely under some planning jurisdiction or other. In the US, planning jurisdictions can be cities, counties, states, federal government, tribal governments, and overlapping jurisdictions like national parks, rivers, oceans, bioregions, metropolitan districts, etc..

Huge resources go into these plans, which, for the most part, claim to promote sustainability and to address the range of issues mentioned above. Plans are also supposed to be internally consistent, so that one element of a plan, like open space, can be consistent with another, like community health, if open space encourages people to walk more.

So why, with all this planning don’t we have a better environment and better overall prospects for a good life? Because, just spea king of the US, there is no overarching policy from the federal government to require that a) various plans lead to common sustainability goals, and that b) all plans within the nation be consistent with each other.

Rather than single projects out of the context of planning, stimulus funding should be rated as to its ability to bolster planning for nationwide sustainability. Likewise, foreign aid and intervention should help direct international planning toward internal consistency and sustainability on a global level.

I further suggest that immediately, or as soon as feasible, there be a survey of planning nationwide and globally. The aim would be to assess the effects, benefits, deficits, gaps, and possibilities for international planning for global sustainability. This will get the ball rolling.

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