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

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