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Pearl Street, Boulder, CO

The first thing you need to do when solving a problem is identify the problem.

With a community that can be a tricky business because sometimes people aren’t able or willing to see the root cause of a problem.

Take daily drive time for example.  Let’s say someone, after all is said and done—going to work and back, picking up the dry cleaning, picking up the kids, etc.—on average spends two hours per day driving.  Now, there are some people who don’t really think anything of that.  Maybe they even like it.  But they also always feel like they are too busy, can’t spend enough time with their kids, like something’s missing in their lives.  So, they think about things like volunteering for a couple hours week, or creating something—painting or writing or somedamnthing.  But how are they supposed to do that?  There doesn’t seem to be enough time in the day.

See, that’s not the thing that’s really going to come through in a community planning event because it seems so personal.  People don’t necessarily equate the fact that the time and money they are spending on getting from one place to another can be translated into time and money that can be used for other things that would make their lives better because they just assume that driving is just the way it is.  That’s just how the world works.  You drive around to get things done.

Of course that translates to health problems too.  “I’m so tired all the time.  I wish I could lose some weight, but I just don’t have the time to get in shape.”

But let’s say someone actually does point out what the problem is and offers an actual solution:  a community that is more complete, offering the amenities that small businesses can provide, like hardware, a pharmacy, a deli, a coffee shop, etc.

And still they’re not seeing it because the response they give back is:  “Are you saying I’d have to walk?  That seems so inconvenient.”

And how the hell do you get around that?  It’s a perception issue that’s embedded in our culture.  The great whitewashing tells us that driving means independence and convenience, which is a sad irony because living in a car-dependent community means you are dependent on a car to get anything done, and the wasted time getting to destinations hardly can be called a convenience.

If you warn someone about the poison and present something good, healthy and filled with potential for happiness, and yet still that person wants the poison, that means they are living in denial, and eventually, sadly and tragically, denial will always catch up to you, and when it does, it ain’t pretty.