Escaping the Pitfalls of Professional Discourse

Kaid Benfield returns to his popular blog at the NRDC's Switchboard site after a three-week hiatus, with thoughts on the purpose of his writings and how "overly familiar vocabulary can lead to overly familiar thinking."
September 5, 2012, 1pm PDT | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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Returning from a restorative, and introspective, break from writing, Benfield muses on the role of our common vocabulary, and his role in particular, in advancing (or obfuscating) a professional discourse. Diving into this summer's simmering debate over the use of the term "vibrant," Benfield swears off his own use of the term, and promises to retire "urbanism," as well, for good measure.

"While I am definitely pro-city," writes Benfield, "my first problem with urbanismis that in some circles it has taken on the air of a cult, providing a verbal badge of identification....I would rather discuss what makes a particular solution appropriate to a particular situation than apply a formula... I also believe that, just as the principles of smart growth have gotten stale, so have the overlapping principles of urbanism."

"I want this blog – this is post number 1,125 – to be not about advocating any script or preset system of belief but instead about thought, the pursuit of truth and, yes, sometimes about finding a balanceamong the various competing interests – planetary health, local environmental health, individual aspirations, community, solitude, economy, equity, the whole messy gumbo – that, pretend as we may, cannot always be aligned when it comes to cities, neighborhoods or the environment.  "Isms" of any sort can get in the way of those objectives."

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Published on Wednesday, September 5, 2012 in Switchboard
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