Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Growth and Institutional Ghange Addressed by Dr. Davenport in his Greenways Class at Centenary College

Dr. John Davenport lectured today on “Society and Nature: Understanding the Human Landscape”

Here are the notes:

Population growth in the U.S. Was depicted; southwest, southeast, northeast showed high growth; counties in the panhandle of florida are among the fastest growing in the country.

Examining the Phoenix ares, Sun City and Mesa are “galactic commuter zones” and how growth changed the area. Pumping water out of the Colorado River into the suburbs led to great growth, particularly for Mesa.

Quoting and paraphrasing from the NPR story done on the area's growth:

90% of Phoenix has been built since 1950. The expansion leapfrogged into agricultural lands. Developers sold image of outdoor living with patios and warm weather. Air conditioning made it livable in the summer. “The goal was to get as many people as possible to live there.” Mesa is as big as Pittsburgh, and Tempe as big as Kansas City. A consequence has been that the average temperature has gone up 11 degrees in the last ten years. “Soon there'll be a day when it doesn't go below 100 for 24 hours.”

The story raised the question, though, of whether the city needs a dense center, or whether sprawl is what people actually want. It gives them a yard and space. And that's a culturally valued lifestyle.

Gentrification is often tied to mixed outcomes; therefore, provisions needed for maintaining certain portion of mixed housing.

North Little Rock has attempted to bring in money through conferences, pro baseball and basketball.

Homeowners in Argenta AR, formed together to change the neighborhood. NeighborWorks is a homeowner program. Argenta Community Development Corporation has been sucessful 'cuz it's “never taken it's eye off the ball”.

Dr. John then shifted to to talk about the social processes that influence change.

Institutions make it happen, by giving resources and constancy.

But two misconceptions:

  1. Ideas and values are unchanging
  2. Education is key to changing behavior

But that's not the only way to create change; Institutions can change behavior by changing the landscape, rules, events, etc.

Prior to the industrial revolution, “nature” was seen as daily, immediate basis of agricultural production and lievelihoods.

America's twin inventions—rapid urbanization and rapid movility—opened up new conceptions of nature during late-19th and 20th Centuries. More downtime, leisure time and disposable income, wealthy and middle-class citizens turned outward from industrial city, in hope of witnessing a new aesthetic of the sublime—a wild, rugged landscape.

An alternative approach stresses our connection to nature in the places where we live and work.

Refashioning home landscapes is necessary component of preserving far away wilderness settings.

Institutions involved the norms, rules, and routine behaviors that guide human activity.

Changing human behavior, then, is a matter of both education and understanding how institutions work, change, and/or don't change.

So, e.g., having a land trust is an institutional structure that makes greenways and routines possible, as is blogs, meetup.org, etc.

Behaviors become institutionalized or taken for granted as the way things are done. But those patterns can be broken or changed by other institutional actions.

Attempts to change institutions often encounter resistance because change affects the interests of many different actors. Power, or the ability of individuals and groups to influence others, is an important aspect to institutional change.

But change is necessary, since institutions often don't allign harmoniously with biophysical and social realities. Also, many institutions may not be sufficiently flexible and adaptable to function for the community as conditions as change.

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