The challenges we face as a society have been illustrated in two public meetings I went to this week. The state of urban planning is constantly in motion. SFU had its second part of Actively Learning from Copenhagen’s Transport Successes and Metro Vancouver hosted Building Community – Social Connections Matter.
In many meetings such as the two above, questions from the audience imply a sense of urgency. Yes, we are here to discuss issues and hear opinions. But when we seem to agree on the core elements of the debate, the urge to take action is almost tangible. Three human needs are the same everywhere you go: Shelter (or habitat), Socializing (or interaction) and Sustenance.
In the biking lecture, Mikael Colville-Andersen (MCA) enthusiastically talked about his desire to market the down-to-earth, mundane context of biking. Just like using of a vacuum cleaner doesn’t turn you into an avid duster, MCA wants biking to be perceived as a basic routine that is part of anyone’s life. Our current conditioning towards car oriented transportation turns advocating for bikes into the challenge we are facing in urban planning.
At the community-building discussion the panel mostly agreed that bringing people closer together facilitates interaction. Governments and social agencies are operated by people who take their roles seriously. Many of these roles entail a degree of responsibility. One of the concerns expressed in the Metro Vancouver discussions is the disconnect people experience as reflected in the 2012 Vancouver Foundation Survey. Responsible people are seriously concerned with how to make things better.
The third component of human needs, sustenance, presents itself as probably the toughest to discuss. The public meeting is where people of experience can share their thoughts and connections. This is true whether you are a member of the panel or one from the audience. In the shaky economic times we currently live, many in the audience are on the look for income. You either try to join a workforce or recruit clients to your services. The meeting itself will not always attach you directly to a job. However, it certainly brings you closer to an opportunity.
Public meetings are therefore a valuable venue of exploration. I use them as a launch pad on my way to engaging in the balanced development of urban life.