Posted by: chrismaser | September 24, 2009

SOCIAL-ENVIRONMENTAL PLANNING

SOCIAL-ENVIRONMENTAL PLANNING

The Design Interface Between Everyforest and Everycity.

by

Chris Maser

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Wherever I have been, from Oregon to Alaska and Canada, from Egypt to Nepal, Japan, Eastern Europe, Malaysia, Chile, and so on, I have seen the similarities of Nature. And yet, as a scientist, I was trained to focus on Nature’s differences, which I suppose should come as no surprise, since our American culture is primarily a divisive one that tends to focus on our differences as a collective people rather than on our similarities. In some respects, we are still a nation of “settlers” from many different cultures, staking our own claims, and competing for resources through the “money chase.”

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A simple way to envision the idea of commonalties might be a Shakespearean play. While the play is the same over and over and over, the stage, props, and actors are changeable and can be different each time the play is enacted, but without altering the theme or the language the play expresses. As Shakespeare’s English is the language of the play, regardless of when, where, or by whom it is performed, so Nature’s biophysical principles embodied in cause and effect are the language of all viable elements of design, be it Nature’s or humanity’s. To make this thought more concrete, I offer a personal experience. Although I have used this analogy elsewhere, I know of none more dramatic in the clarity of its of the interface between design and systems function.

Clearly, each part of a system has a corresponding relationship with every other part, and they provide stability only by working in concert within the limits of their designed purpose. Ultimately, the elements of design are basically the same in both a city envisioned by humans and a landscape created by Nature. That is, all of the design elements humanity incorporates into the building and maintenance of a human community of any size are inexorably based on the design elements found in Nature

While the design elements humanity has appropriated from Nature for its own purposes seem infinite at first glance, they are surprisingly repetitive when considered within the biophysical constraints that govern our home planet and its place in the universe. In this book, I present some of the myriad commonalties of design between a human community and Nature and provide examples of actual design interfaces from a community perspective. Of necessity, I must deal first and foremost with the geographical area and ecosystems wherein I have done the most research and thus understand the best. Nevertheless, while some of the plants and animals I cite as examples are from my geographical area of expertise, the principles and processes described within these covers are global.

The use of “Everyforest” and “Everycity” in the title and text of this book is patterned after the short, 900-line, Flemish play first printed in 1495. The play depicts a complacent “Everyman” informed by Death of his impending demise. Everyman dramatizes the universal struggle of every individual. In essence, the play is a reminder that we can take with us into death only what we have given, such as “Good Deeds,” but nothing of a material nature.

I dare to undertake this book fully acknowledging the compounding uncertainties humanity is facing, a few of which are:  a soaring human population; continual loss of biological, genetic, and functional diversity; growing pollution of air, water, and soil; depletion of the ozone layer; a changing global climate; crumbling families; and the loss of trust among community members. I’m also aware that humanity’s general response to these challenges is symptomatic as opposed to systemic, a mindset that is like visiting a doctor to cure a symptom, but refusing to change one’s lifestyle—the cause of the symptom.

With the above in mind, I see two simultaneous approaches humanity must take if social-environmental sustainability has any chance of becoming a legacy we adults can bequeath the children of any generation, let alone all generations. These approaches are: (1) learn to adapt to the circumstances of global climate change as they already are and (2) determine what we can do to stabilize the climate as effectively and quickly as possible. There is a necessary caveat here; namely, change is a constant process, wherein eternal novelty and everlasting irreversibility are duel characteristics of the biophysical principle of cause and effect, a principle that governs our lives first and foremost.

Therefore, our willingness to alter our behavior in response to inevitable change will indeed determine how long today’s communities—and society itself—can survive. None of these problems can be mended with the current scientific Band-Aids, technological quick fixes, or political rhetoric—no matter how good it sounds or comforting it might be. Nevertheless, out of the current social chaos can arise a society better balanced among the scientific and the social, the materialistic and the spiritual, the masculine and the feminine, the intellectual and the intuitive, the present and the future, and the local and the global. To achieve this better balance, necessitates that we each find the personal courage and political will to take responsibility for our own behavior and thereby elevate our consciousness of cause and effect to view the world and society with a more holistic frame of reference.

EDITOR’S NOTE FOR THE “CRC PRESS” BOOK SERIES ON SOCIAL-ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY—OF WHICH THIS IS THE FIRST BOOK

If we want a world of true social-environmental quality to live in, we must change our materialistic values and habits-and be persistent in that change. We must reach beyond where we feel safe and dare to move ahead, despite the fact that perfect knowledge will always elude us.

There are no biological short cuts, technological quick fixes, or political hype embodied in our current symptomatic thinking that can mend what is broken. Dramatic, fundamental change in the form of systemic thinking is necessary if we are really concerned with bettering our quality of life-even that of next year.

Social-Environmental Sustainability is a series of books designed to examine our human-caused, global problems in terms of nature’s biophysical support systems and to propose sustainable solutions that will move society toward an ecologically sound environment and a socially just culture. As such, each book in this series will be thoughtfully selected because it must add a new dimension to the resolution of our problems-not just repackage old ideas.

My purpose in writing this book is to help people comprehend the commonalities and reciprocities among the biophysical patterns and functions that activate and maintain Everyforest and Everycity. With this understanding, people can determine what they can do to personally leave this magnificent planet a little better for subsequent generations, while simultaneously improving conditions for themselves. After all, Earth is a biological living trust, of which we, the adults, are the immediate trustees. In turn, the children of today, tomorrow, and beyond are the beneficiaries of our decisions and actions, which become the circumstances of their lives-and we allow them no voice in the decision-making process.

Chris Maser, Series Editor

ENDORSEMENT

“The book provides an important and unique perspective on the strong relationships and parallels between human-made systems and structures and other natural systems and structures. The convergence of the social and physical sciences; of science and spirituality; of art and science and of other previously isolated fields of endeavor and belief will be, I believe, the hallmark of this century. Chris’s book elegantly weaves together two such realms of thought and understanding. I have been an urban planner since 1971 and have read many books relative to planning and development. I have not yet read a book or article, which provides this much-needed framework for planners, public officials engaged in community development, and systems thinkers. I believe this book will make a significant contribution to the existing conceptual frameworks used by urban, regional, and natural resource/environmental planners while laying the groundwork for an emerging multi-dimensional, multi-disciplinary, highly integrative thought system.”—Jane Silberstein, Bainbridge Island, Washington.

“I’ve been assigned to index your new book for Taylor and Francis. I just wanted to let you know what a great pleasure it has been to READ your book as well as index it. I truly appreciate how you bring together insights from philosophy and literature to bear on the ecological worldview. Now, if only we could get policymakers in Washington to have the same profundity of insight!!!”— Sybil Ihrig , L.Ac., HMA, San Marcos, CA.


Social-Environmental Planning: The Design Interface Between Everyforest and Everycity. 2009. CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL. 320 pp.

If you want more information about this book or want to purchase it, visit “BOOKS” on my website.

If you want to contact me, you can visit my website. If you wish, you can also read an article about what is important to me and/or you can listen to me give a presentation.



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