Monday, October 29, 2007

City Planning and Ethics

I have to give a talk today to the Pennsylvania Planners Association which is meeting in Gettysburg this year. They have an annual gathering, and there is a code of ethics that gets a panel discussion each session. They like to bring in a philosopher to these things and I got the invitation this time around.

So, it has had me thinking about the relation of our human designed spaces to human flourishing. I grew up in an apartment in the suburbs, but I now live on a farm. I grew up with the advantages of having kids everywhere, touch football games in the grassy area right out back, a playground that you could walk to. My kids, on the other hand, have the advantages of wide open space -- a treehouse was not an option for me. They can walk out their door and pick apples, see deer, herons, geese, fox, skunk, raccoon, animals I knew only from picture books. They have a lived connection with nature.

The area around us is being developed at a frightening pace, McMansions sprouting up like dandelions on a lawn that is not part of the chemically treated three square inches between McMansions. Not too far away we see some of the "town center" type development where homes are being built around fabricated shopping areas with restaurants that sport lots of cafe style outdoor seating. The notion of community being designed back into suburban living, albeit based on a model of community as consumers.

How does the area you live in resemble and differ from where you grew up and what are the advantages and disadvantages for living a good life?