Green Cities: Breathe deeply and walk freely

As much as I love my winter city, when spring rolls around life brightens up. The onslaught of studies from Friday’s Earth Day imply that our feel-good response to the fresh lime green of spring does much more than pump endorphins. How we green our cities may be a life and death issue. People with greenery close to home have significantly lower mortality rates, according to new analysis of the extensive Nurses’ Health Study.

Continue Reading

Benchmarks: Places on the move measure up

As spring tempts us to pick up the pace of our outdoor activities, it’s clear that not all places have equal footing. Those well-positioned to draw us out into health-boosting active transportation are enjoying all sorts of benefits. City planners across North America are trying hard to even the playing field. The 2016 Benchmarking Report for Bicycling and Walking in the United States came out earlier this month, and if you haven’t taken the time to read it yet, here are some of the important highlights in this biennial review published by the Alliance for Biking & Walking.

Continue Reading

Making Sense of Community

Let’s start at the beginning. Sense of community is a legitimate thing. Or at least it was, until people like me got ahold of it.

To explain: In 1986, social psychologists David W. McMillan and David M. Chavis published their theory on what they termed “sense of community” — the feeling we experience when engaged in the meaningful pursuit of connection with others.

Continue Reading

Makers Gonna Make: makerspace v2

Do you have the hands-on gene? If not, the hottest new topic in neurology – epigenetics – suggests that your environment may tweak your genetic tendencies. If you find yourself in a place conducive to creative experimentation, you may just have to put your hands on something. The burgeoning makerspace movement is all about imagination plus engineering.

Continue Reading

Take These Jobs and…
(You know the rest)

Cheerleaders for American business used to get peeved when cynics contorted a quote by General Motors CEO Charles Erwin Wilson in 1953. The popular, misinterpreted version: “What’s good for General Motors is good for the country.” What Wilson actually said: “I thought what was good for our country was good for General Motors, and vice versa.”

Continue Reading

Community Ties in the Era of Isolation

Looking back over my years of writing for Placeshakers, I notice two themes that keep surfacing: First, we’re better off taking an active role in shaping the forces of community change than we are pretending that immunity to change is a legitimate or viable option; and second, connected communities are far better positioned to weather change, mitigate negative impacts, and seize opportunity than factionalized ones. Such connections, taken collectively, form the bedrock of what we call “resilience.”

Basically, working towards something beats working against something and communities where people know, trust and rely upon one another are far more effective at getting it done.

Continue Reading

Heart of the Arctic: Reflections

Being back in the south for a couple weeks has given me a chance to reflect on the Adventure Canada Heart of the Arctic expedition. The biggest imprints are three things: the inclusivity of the people, the vastness of the land, and the need to continue to do all we can to develop in compact settlement patterns as one of the many things that can help keep us from further damaging earth’s cooling system. The images on my mind for today happen to be from the one day of our expedition that did not upload successfully, due to intermittent internet access.

Continue Reading

Remember that Katrina Cottages thing? Whatever happened to that?

This is the second of two parts addressing Hurricane Katrina 10 years after the storm. The first looked at issues in New Orleans. This one focuses on one hoped-for innovation in the storm’s wake in Coastal Mississippi.

Right about now, a couple and their two children are getting much-needed affordable housing help via a move into one side of a cool-looking modular duplex in Mobile, Alabama.

Continue Reading