During these harsh economic times I’ve read about some of the most creative and inspiring planning and design projects in my career. Whether they are the product of the underemployed looking for a creative outlet or a resetting of our values and goals, something magical is happening in the world of planning. Below are 5 things that have inspired my inner planner.
Automobile travel imposes significant health risks. Traffic fatality rates, obesity and related illnesses such as diabetes, and total air pollution emissions tend to increase with per capita annual vehicle mileage. These risks help explain why United States residents have significantly shorter life spans than peer countries: average longevity is almost 1.5 years below the OECD average, despite spending about 2.5 times as much per capita on healthcare.
By all logic, the comic strip character Dagwood should be fat, sick and impoverished due to his gluttonous eating, sedentary habits, and automobile-dependent lifestyle. Blondie should worry about his high blood pressure and clogged arteries, and the Bumsteads should struggle to bear rising automobile expenses. Yet they are all thin, healthy and financially secure, protected from all consequences of indulgent consumerism.
In the short story The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas, Ursula LeGuin depicts a utopia that is made possible by the transference of all misery to a child who is kept in a cellar. Some in the community ignore the scapegoat’s existence, choosing the easy life of bliss that is offered to them. Those whose consciences do not allow them to live in willful ignorance often chose to leave Omelas and live complete, full lives that include awareness, and shouldering their own pain.