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Chicago, IL

The solution is not to find more oil, more energy sources, more stuff.  The solution is to use less.

And the way to do that is to allow people to be happy with their community rather than obsessed with trying to find happiness through consumption.

The notion that the solution to so many of our problems can be found by learning to do more with less scares the hell out of some people because they can’t see how to make a buck out of consuming less, and in their minds, that’s what it’s all about.  They believe that if we’re not consuming more, and finding new things to consume, we are on a path toward our demise.  And they are wrong.

More is not always better.  Quality is not measured by quantity.  Bigger is not always better.

Better is better.

We need to look at our communities and think about what can be done to make people happier.  Not necessarily richer but truly happier.  And don’t try to measure it with a dollar because that’s where it all starts to go to hell.  Yes, we need to think about how to get jobs for people.  And we need to think about how they can be productive and raise a family if they want to.  We need to think about money.  But we cannot use it as a metric for quality.

What is the metric?  There isn’t one, and that’s difficult for people to come to terms with.  Their not sure what tools to use if it’s not something they can quantify.

Well, aesthetics and logic would be a good start.  That’s intimidating because it seems so subjective, which is why those things are so often ignored, I guess.  But when you do that, you lose the whole fight.

Now, getting to happiness ain’t easy.  And anyone who has even heard about a charrette (a sort of community planning session) will tell you that to talk about happiness is naive, because you’ll never make everyone happy and it’s all so much more complex than that.

But here’s the thing.  Happiness, for our communities, needs to be the golden ring.  The thing to shoot for.  It should be the everything for planning and designing our communities.

I’m not talking hedonism.  Or a a quick-fix happiness.  And sure as hell not that happiness that for some reason requires you to tell every poor bastard you see how goddamn happy you are.  That’s all bullshit.  I’m talking about happiness with legs.  I’m talking about the happiness that makes people be better to each other not worse.

And yes, that can come from how our communities work because that dictates how we are able to live our lives.

Without having other people’s happiness in mind, planning communities loses its soul.  And then you get a community that has no soul.  And you get frustrated planners who forget why they went into those jobs in the first place, or they remember and are miserable because that vision of happiness is suffocating beneath the bureaucracy, complacency, and mendacity of others.

So, I’m going write about that a little tomorrow.  And maybe the next day.  Because it’s a pretty important thing this planning for happiness.