It’s pretty common knowledge that having green space, places to exercise, to get away from the hustle and bustle of life, places to reflect and relax, increases happiness and health in cities. Today for the first time I read about blue space, that having lakes, ponds, or rivers in a city can also increase health and happiness. This seems like common sense and appears totally logical. However, I had never read this before or heard the term blue space. I want to see if I can find any statistics and further information on this. I’m interested in city planning and how the space around us can change our state of mind. I know one of the reasons that I picked the city of Austin to move to was that it had a lot of green space in and surrounding it. There are, as long as we are not in a drought, plenty of great streams and swimming holes. Anyway, If you know anything about this I’d love to learn about it. Please shoot me an email or leave a comment. In the meantime I will be digging up what I can.
One of my favorite towns on earth is Bend, Oregon. I almost don’t want to admit this, because I am greedy and don’t want too many people to discover this place. The way it is right now is perfect. Not only is it stunningly beautiful, but it is exactly the right size for a town. It is big enough that things go on here, but small enough that it is built on a human scale. You can walk to most places. I have been here on tour about six times, give or take. I have spent many hours walking the town and the trails just outside of it. It never ceases to captivate me.
In Europe there are many cities that seem to be designed for actual people. Even larger cities have adequate public transportation. A city as large as Rome or Berlin can be crossed with ease, without even speaking the language.
I have an affinity for the people of Houston, Texas, but I doubt anyone from that town would say it is built on a livable scale. Often you will see a fururistic skyscraper next to a taco shack. There are no zoning laws. There are great neighborhoods and great people, but without a car there, you would be doomed.
I wish we would spend more time in this country contemplating our communities and how they are designed. I wish we would not be so attached to our cars. Until you have spent time in a beautiful walkable town, or a city that has great public transportation, you really have no idea what you are missing. Our quality of life could be so much higher.
When I worked my last day job in Austin I lived 12 miles from work. It would take me an hour or more somedays to get home in rush hour traffic. You would begin by taking the Lord’s name in vain. Slowly but surely you would curse other lesser deities as well. Eventually you would find swear words for the gods all the way back to antiquity. No matter how easy your day was, you would get home broken and defeated after a commute like that. A shell of a man. As one of my friends stated, “How inefficient is that shit?!!!”
As I have stated before, the free market is great for many things. It is just not good at doing things that are part of the common good. Parks and other public spaces, good transportation, these things can make a community and not just a city. Hopefully at some point we can have a smarter national conversation about these things. If not, please forgive me in advance, if my middle finger makes itself known next time we are in rush hour. I might be more animal than man by then. My patience gone and out of gods to curse.