Sunday, August 26, 2007

Key To Sustainability

a) Cities function as systems. Looking at only parts of a city, its problems and its symptoms will only lead to an unhealthy city. Therefore in order to fix a problem one must see all the factors involved, and how every action can cause a reaction.
People have many different needs; economic needs, social needs, and physical needs. All of the needs are interconnected and need to function together for a healthy city. Cities originated out of social needs (the need to be part of a community), however currently social needs are being artificially replaced by objects such as television and the internet.
Often vicious (negative cycles) or virtuous (positive cycles) cycles are in play in cities. Therefore struggling cities will often become worse off.

b) Ideas of social capital and community are important to look at in our daily lives. Hallsmith discusses Putnam’s theories that television, the internet, and changing women’s roles are leading to the decrease in social capital, clubs, and community. Often new technologies and advances which we view as promoting social interaction actually degrade it. System thinking is also important and often unfortunately overlooked. Often I am asked “what’s the point in trying to change/fix anything when it is only going to have a negative reaction on something else.” From viewing both the symptoms and from there identifying the cause there is less chance for negative repercussions, however I am always weary of the possibility of uniting factors such as environmental, social, and economic without negative reactions. The importance of community also provides another way to look at cities and what shape they are in.

c) The need for community is not only necessary for individuals but for the survival of the community as well, however, how to regain the sense of community and clubs once had is a question which needs answering. Although I feel Hallsmith makes good points about system thinking, much of her points seem hard to apply in reality. I found this both in her plea to unite economic, social, and environmental factors, and in her advice to treat the root as opposed to the symptoms (as in the story of fixing the bad roads first). Often in cyclical situations the root becomes too difficult to find, and there is simply not enough resources to spend on every part of the cycle.

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