Sunday, September 30, 2007

Week 9/30 Chapter 8 and Field assignment

Register begins Chapter 8 by describing the complexity of Earth’s natural systems and the responsibility that man has to take care of them. He then outlines a 4 step method for approaching this complexity: 1) Create maps that highlight our resources, strengths, weaknesses, physical environment, etc. 2) Construct a list of available technologies 3) Provide incentives that encourage sustainable living and 4) Recruit people who will get excited about the plan and who are willing to start making lifestyle changes now. He asserts that we have the power to build our society however we choose. He then expresses his opinion about what this society looks like (socially) and the types of decisions that we should make to start moving in his direction.

Honestly, I was quite disappointed with Chapter 8. I feel like Register makes a lot of ethical and moral judgments about the types of behavior that people should adopt yet offers very little data, fact, or objective observation to back his judgment calls. For example, he claims that “the capitalist dream… contaminates reasonable voting” and that “we need to begin voting for what’s best for the great majority” (225) instead of “thinking as little as possible” (223). He also divides the American public into two categories: those who subscribe to “a false construct based on denial” and those who “shop at the corner store rather than Wal-Mart… because they want to see their money circulate in the community rather than go to Wal Mart owners out of town” (221). If Register wants to encourage people to adopt behavioral changes, he should stop exalting his belief system above those of other people. Moreover, he should also acknowledge that his belief system is not the final authority nor does it represent the absolute best way to live.

As for my journey into Ithaca, I thoroughly enjoyed the time that I spent thinking about the city’s future. I decided to go to the intersection of Cascadilla Street and Cayuga Street—a site that Connect Ithaca describes as a potential urban village. Now that I have seen the site, I agree fully with this description.

When I arrived at the site at 11:30 Friday morning, the area was bustling with activity. The site hosts a wide range of mixed use development which draws people into the urban environment. A small coffee shop sits at one corner of the intersection, while various commercial establishments occupy two of the other corners. A public park rests in the remaining lot. All of these facilities are surrounded by residential development and connected by roads.

If we were to eliminate cars from Ithaca, this intersection could potentially grow into an even more energized commercial and residential hub. I drew several sketches of the site to demonstrate how much space is taken up by roads. If these roads were closed to cars, then we could expand the existing urban block into the street and increase density by a significant amount. The coffee shop already sits inside of a three story building, so I imagine that we could build as high as 5 or 6 stories without disrupting the cohesiveness of the neighborhood. I also think that an elevated rail would fit fine within the context of this neighborhood.

If I were a low income resident, I might not feel completely comfortable in a trendy urban village like the one that we are proposing. Consequently, we must make a conscious effort to preserve the public park at the intersection and to incorporate other public spaces into the plan of the development. We might also provide some sort of affordable housing in the immediate area to ensure that all Ithacans have access to this hub. The proposed improvements to this site will certainly increase land value and attract college students, professors, and professionals to the area (especially with such amazing access to the transit line) so we will have to fight hard to make sure that low income people can claim some part of this project.

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