February 10, 2008

Social Design Problems

One acute design problem I face in the Twin Cities is the lack of all types of clothing designed for tall, thin, beautiful women like myself. There are plenty of plus size stores for women of opposite proportions, so why are there no plus size stores that offer longer sleeves and inseams without widening the clothes enough that I drown in them. I want clothes that fit-- without having to pay ungodly prices for specially made items! C'mon now.
I suppose though, that my design problem is not a common social problem...
A more widespread problem, one that affects all people in the Twin Cities, is the lack of proper public transportation and pedestrian-friendly walkways. Transportation in the Twin Cities and surrounding suburbs is designed for cars and trucks, not people.

This is where I believe people are thinking backwards. Cars and trucks were made for the convenience of the people, but now they have become a hindrance. It is assumed that all people now own at least one vehicle, and all transportation is designed for cars and cars alone. For those people who cannot afford a vehicle of their own or simply choose not to have one for other reasons, they are very much out of luck.
Besides convenience, the overuse of cars and trucks versus leg power is incredibly bad for the environment. Duh, everybody knows that already, but what are we to do if our car is or only feasible mode of transportation. In the city, people have it a little easier, with the buses and the light rail. In the suburbs, people are pretty much married to their cars. They cannot get anywhere without them. Everything is so spread out. Even when a destination is within walking distance, there are no sidewalks to accommodate the pedestrian.
Before we can even think about getting rid of cars and trucks (and their subsequent harmfulness to the environment) we need to redesign our transportation system. The focus should return to the pedestrian, with sidewalks, buses, light rail lines, etc, and eventually the car will no longer be a necessity.
The shift from single occupant vehicles to public transportation has more benefits than just environmental sustainability. Instead of having their money guzzled by their gas guzzlers, people can spend it more wisely and will end up with a higher standard of living, and probably much less debt. When the demand for cars and trucks decreases, so will the demand (and use) of nonrenewable resources. Thirdly, once people are not so starkly separated by glass and metal, they may come to realize the benefits of social interaction. Hopefully, people will become more akin to their neighbors and also they will become closer to the earth, since they will have more direct contact with it.
None of this can be accomplished without the redesign of the transportation system. But once it happens, the changes will be great. It is amazing what other aspects of life can change and be redesigned if one has already done so. Everything is connected. Let’s have it moving in the right direction.

February 7, 2008

Energy, Flow, and Transformation in the City

There have been the stirrings of a great transformation in our city as of late. Where once there were multitudes of mindless drones blindly following their mindless leader, now there is a new energy. People have woken from their trance and realized what the hypnotist has set them doing. “How did we get here?? they ask. “Where are we going?? The people realize that they do not like the way things are going, and they know that something needs to change. And this change cannot be put off or made gradually. It must happen now and with full force. Now is the time to do it because there is the energy, finally, to push for something that has been needed for quite some time.
For those of us that have already been awake, this new surge of energy is exciting. Now our long hours of work are beginning to pay off. We have been ringing the morning bell for so long that we thought everyone else had died. "Will we always be stuck going nowhere?" we asked. "When will our efforts make a visible difference?" On the edge of despair, the few who still worked for change did not give up, but kept plugging along. Hope kept them pressing on. And now, finally, we as a whole people are on the verge of a great transformation.