Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Hallsmith's "Success" from Key to Sust. Cities

I decided to read the chapter called "Success" in Hallsmith's Key to Sustainable Cities because of the discussion in class on Tuesday. It seemed important for the group to understand what exactly Hallsmith means by terms like, "whole human life," "basic needs," and even sustainability itself. What, for her, is a successful sustainable community? Is such a thing possible?

Unfortunately, I was not able to discover her exact definition (not a surprise). It was more the case that by not telling us what she thinks, she was hoping for us to examine what we think is successful.

Most usefully, she cautioned that rather than following procedural guidelines to the tee, one should carefully delineate the goals or aims of a certain project before beginning. This way, it will be more clear at the end whether the project was a success or not. Instead of spending time fulfilling the requirements of the funders, one should spend time evaluating whether the initial (ideals?) goals are being met.

This is almost common sense, it seems. So I wonder a couple of things. The system that is in place currently, where a foundation or organization calls for grant proposals include certain requirements for an appropriate project, is the way things are right now. How can we change that? Can we? (Who is we?) Also, I begin to wonder how it came to be this way. I ask this in a larger context as well. It seems to me we cannot fix something we don't understand. So how has society come to be the way it is?

In the end, she writes that, "Ultimately the success of efforts to improve the sustainability in communities will be evaluated based on whether or not all the human needs are being satisfied in the community." (P215) Still, one might wonder what are needs and who can/should define them. Is it like Thoreau said, and all a person needs is food and shelter? Or are needs defined by the television? Or as we are wont to do in the United States, entirely on an individual basis?

Lots of questions!

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