A Story Behind Every Street

Question: What are your favorite streets or public spaces in your city?

Behind every street and public space there is a story. A long story. How was the zoning approved? Which developer won the contract? What are the health and safety implications? How has the history and heritage of the space been preserved, modified, erased, or retold over time? How has the built environment affected the surrounding ecology? What mode of transportation is most favored by the design of the street — and who, as a consequence, does the street ultimately serve and prioritize first?

Does the street ‘fit’ into the kind of city where people would want to move?

And this is only the beginning… how do internal city politics between the Planning, Development Services, and Engineering departments work? How informed and involved are elected officials in the outcome of the street project?

Everything about every street is the result of human decisions. Who makes these decisions? Who holds these people accountable? How can we be a city with an urban design that works for everyone — both today and into the future?

The Panel

Shawn Adamsson (@late2game) is a local force of nature when it comes to civic engagement. He was a principle architect of the Pints & Politics series run by the Urban League.

Sara Bellaire is a Professor in the Bachelor of Environmental Design & Planning and Landscape Design programs at Fanshawe College. Her projects focus on blending the ecological and cultural attributes for creating sustainable design solutions.

John Fleming (@jmfplan) is the Managing Director of Planning and City Planner for London, Canada.

A Minimalist Income

Human consciousness seems to bequeath unto us a timeless curse: we can always imagine a point in the future when we will not have enough. This threat — the prospect of being in need one day — seems to induce us to constantly pursue more. More, indefinitely. No matter how much we possess, it is as if we are predisposed to stockpile more than we need. Even in abundance, we are wired for scarcity.

Suppose that we managed to circumvent our compulsion for more?

Imagine that your New Years resolution is to make less money this year than you did last year.

Instead of working harder to make more, what if you sat down and figured out how little you need?

How would you even go about determining the minimal amount of an income you need to sustain a meaningful life?

These are some of the ideas my friend Adam Fearnall and I recently discussed — an idea encapsulated in the notion of a ‘minimalist income.’ (This conversation serves as the basis for this week’s podcast.)

Instead of asking how much more income do we need to be content, we ask: how little money do we need to be content? This thought project leads to wondering how we can determine a figure or metric for the least amount of money we actually need to live the kind of lives we really want to live.

Suppose we abandon the construct of time as money. If all time is free, is the time we spend making more money than we actually need not a waste of our lives? What if money — more ‘security’ — actually exacerbates our chronic fear of scarcity?

If, indeed, all time is free time, then perhaps, as Clytemnestra laments, we are “buying what we most detest with what we hold most dear.” (Euripides, Iphigenia in Aulis 1170)

Enough

The following quote is from my Foreword for Patrick Rhone’s most recent book, Enough:

Some folks decry the collateral damage wrought by progress. They pronounce a return to the earth, free of modernity’s inventions and values. They urge us to disconnect and unplug from the apparatus of technology. They say the only way forward is to go back.

On the opposite end of the spectrum you will find people who want to push the throttle of progress ahead to its logical extreme. They preach salvation through invention and technology. Consumption drives innovation, they tell us, and to embrace our human destiny as manufacturers and miners is proclaimed as a moral ideal.

Enough is another addition to a growing call for a sustainable-yet-progressive middle ground. Not only in terms of resource consumption, but all the more so in terms of our own attitudes, workloads, desires, and expectations.

You can learn more about the book at Patrick’s website. And…a big thanks to Patrick for the opportunity to write the foreword!