Monday, August 27, 2007

Reflection #1:Key to sustainable cities


Hallsmith uses simple language to explain the complicated interactions of human nature. I would imagine that when she looks at the varied conflicts humans get into, her solution would be an increased level of community. Community actors include 1)individuals/households 2)organizations and 3)governments. These actors create an interconnected web of interactions (community) that demand and supply its various and interrelated needs ( physical, economic, governmental and social ). Communities are thus made up of cyclical dynamics that satisfy the needs of the community members involved on a number of levels. Hallsmith discusses the many explanations for the various needs of human beings, citing Maslow, Manfred Max-Neef and Jurgen Habermas. After explaining the communities are made up of the various interactions that fulfill the needs of the individual, she then applies this concept to common community issues. Her chapter “Community capacity and sustainability” describes multiple scenarios in which the dynamic cycles of a community are not seen in whole and how this can lead to inefficient solutions. Inefficient solutions compound upon themselves, creating a negative feedback loop. If the problem which exists in the community which is causing it to not provide for the needs of the people in one area of their level of needs, this has an effect on the over levels of need. is seen as a whole. However, if the issue was seen as dysfunctional part of the whole which is effecting the provision of other needs, then the solution can be created that treats the problem and not its symptoms. In order to clearly think about a community as a whole system, systems thinking is necessary. Systems thinking allows us to analyze the causes and effects of a particular feedback loop so that we can appropriately react.

B) & C)

While Hallsmith’s explanations of communities as whole systems seemed to be repetitive and simplistic, her examples are issues commonly faced by all of us—which allows for practical application of the information she is sharing. I found it fascinating that the reading connects with so many of my life experiences and that I was able to personally relate to her arguments. Planning books often seem over analytical, repetitive and simplistic to many readers because these books organize thoughts that we all have about the communities we live in. Because we ourselves have pondered these issues, we find what is written to be beneath us, or somehow not adding to our intelligence. I would argue that we should resist the impulse and give ourselves and the authors a bit more credit. We have thought about the cause and effect of various community issues, but we most likely didn’t take the time and effort to share our insights with others. Hallsmith mentioned that communities suffer when people do not take the time to care for others, despite numerous innovations to increase efficiency. She takes this a step farther by pointing out that we try to reduce wasted time by falling into habits. This decreases the thought processes we use to judge the importance of each action we take in our day, so we end up brainlessly working at the job we hate to provide for the strangers that live in our homes who we call family.

Hallsmith introduces the phrase “critical mass” as the proportion of assets to the amount of need being met. Can critical mass exist outside of material resources? If so, then why doesn’t she use this word throughout the chapter?

No comments: