Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Habitat Follows Behavior

The possibility that we can create a thriving, truly sustainable civilization on Earth will arise from our willingness to choose "unreasonable" responsibility. So, dear reader, I challenge you to choose to live your life as though the scale and form of your built environment is a direct result of your scale and form – and my own - as we occupy and move through it:


Another way to state this is: "Habitat Follows Behavior". Now this definitely flies in the face of conventional wisdom! In fact "starchitects" would have us believe that humanity is a product of the physical built environment (and, therefore, Man can be perfected by Architect!) Surely this god-like delusion puts the cart before the horse; the evidence is overwhelming that built environments reflect the nature and values of the specie which inhabits them.

Introduce a gluttonous, power-obsessed, hyper-individualistic species and you will get Wretched Habitat regardless of the good intentions of the architects and planners who serve them. Introduce a humble, frugal, community-oriented species and ironically – even though their built environment will not be a top priority for the inhabitants – great (if modest) architecture will arise organically and mainly as a consequence of pragmatism.

What does our scale and form while in motion have to do with it? Earth is finite and the laws of thermodynamics are well-established – albeit very poorly understood by most citizens. Given a planetary population of 6.6 billion people and counting, and given that per-capita rates of consumption, emissions, and environmental degradation are growing even faster, it is abundantly clear that our current arrangements in Amerka – especially those related to transportation – are energetically and ecologically unsustainable. Given our supersized waistlines and debilitating levels of social isolation, it is clear that our current transportation arrangements are not good for us.

If we accept the imperative of good stewardship, our plans to create a sustainable civilization must be founded on conservative, realistic assumptions rather than on speculations, wishful thinking, and the tremendous inertia of "business as usual". This inevitably means we denizens of the First World – and our descendants – must live far smaller in terms of the physical environment. Closer to home, the central question is this: will you and I choose transportation behaviors which restore human-scale arrangements in our own community? Or will we continue to "be" automobiles every time we go somewhere? The former demands that we relinquish our seemingly-limitless sense of entitlements to material comforts and luxuries.

Speaking of wishful thinking, we must not expect or wait for our government to lead us to sustainable behaviors. Note well, my friends, that ever since we-the-people kicked Jimmy Carter from the Oval Office for having urged us to put on our sweaters, both of our political parties have been all too eager to indulge the consumerist/entitlement mentality that is now bankrupting Amerka. Transformation is not a job for people who sit in the bleachers and observe and pass judgment. It is a job for players.

Citizen HanZiBoi

Sunday, May 18, 2008

The Surge

18 May 2008 Madison, Wisconsin – Delphic Newswire

The US Commerce Department reported today that production of lame excuses surged to an all-time high in April as millions of Americans manufactured billions of reasons to do absolutely nothing themselves to avert global warming, stop wars for oil, or prevent sprawl, obesity, isolation, and physical atrophia. Surprisingly, even places like Wisconsin’s Dane County – known for its self-righteous proclamations of progressive leadership – rank well above average in per-capita output of pathetic evasions.

“Soccer mom” Sue Viego from the Ravenoaks country estate subdivision ten miles south of Madison offered a typical justification. “Hey, get off my case! My little Justin needs to play soccer just like all the other normal kids. I need to drive him to practice and games, and it takes a big vehicle like my Ford Excursion to keep him safe from all the idiot drivers out there.”

Gwen Emitmoore of Verona noted that she bought a “whole bunch” of compact fluorescent light bulbs when they were on sale more than a year ago, but hasn’t had the time to install them yet. “It’s dark and depressing with the curtains and shades drawn; I like to leave the lights and TV on to cheer me up. Anyway, why should I be forced to conserve? There are plenty of people who use more than me!”

Joe Sechsgepaecken from the Town of Burke on Madison's north side was surprised to hear that his family wasn’t making progress. “Mildred wanted a new fridge, so we got one of them energy efficient models. Naturally I moved the old fridge to the shop – I keep beer in it now. What do you mean our electric went UP? Ain’t I done everything I’m supposed to?”

William Heifen-Aetname from Monroe Street in Madison represents one of the few people who are choosing to act. “I put a big ‘No War/No Warming’ bumper sticker on my Subaru, right next the “Coexist” sticker, and I’m driving all over to make sure people see it. I park at the front door everywhere I go – then everybody has to walk by and read it when they come in from the parking lot.”