What can advocates do?
I had the pleasure to join a call last week for Sierra Club advocates nationwide, thanks to one of my old Knight Fellowship associates Ken Hughes. Ken asked me to talk about what advocates for more sustainable living and lifestyles do today? What should people be focusing on for a healthier and better world? My top 3+1 are below. What do you think?
- Create great public spaces. Public spaces are the lifeblood of cities, and the informal social world we crave as humans. Revisit William Whyte's Social Life of Small Urban Spaces and create/recreate those in your own city.
- Be a supporter of biking. Even better, get on a bike yourself more often. I've come around the last decade or so on my thinking (it's evolved as they say) in regards to the importance of biking. In fact, it's the cheapest, easiest way to break the current paradigm that favors car-oriented cities. More biking = more walking, and more walking = happier people and a happier planet.
- Fix your codes. Now that the economy is heating back up in most places, developers are once again proposing projects. But now, they're even more focused on the reality that people like walkable places. If you don't have a form-based code or good regulations in place, you'll get poorly-designed projects. Perhaps even terrible ones, that just happen to be in an urban location. Don't go there. Be proactive - get your regulations in shape today.
- +1: Focus on leadership in addition to grass roots. We need grass roots advocates to push our leaders to do the right thing, but we also need to nurture great leaders. Our cities need people willing to make the tough, unpopular choices still that go against the grain of the car culture. Most cities have a long, long ways to go to break the grip of the 20th century mentality, and it will take leaders to get there more quickly.