So the second most exciting thing of the week before last, after finally getting this project launched, was the SXSWEco meeting here in Austin, which Dan Moutal and I attended in between hacking and slashing at WordPress. Probably the high point for me was the keynote, which Alex Steffen delivered brilliantly.And I got to exchange a few words with him afterward as well.
Alex’s point is that carbon consumption and conversely its conservation is essentially a design aspect of the urban fabric. That in the process of designing our way to a cleaner life, we can also design our way to a better one. I don’t know if his SXSWEco talk is up, but this shorter TED talk delivers the gist.
My friend Jon Lebkowsky was also there (he introduced me to Alex) and tweeting up a storm. And he captured Alex’s point about timing.
When should we start doing this? Ideally, by about 1980. But the second best time is “now”.
The best line was to forget about dream homes and start thinking about dream neighborhoods.
I think there is no shortage of anything except sanity. These are not hard times. These are good times with bad distribution mechanisms. So cities replace stuff with access. I may have a modest kitchen but I have easy access to some of the finest kitchens in the world.
If I have any criticism, it is about what Alex did not say. Yes, density and brilliant design are the best of possible environments for some people, but others hate crowds and cities. And somebody actually has to keep the great spaces between cities reasonably healthy. So the biggest problem is in pretending that this is the whole solution.
But it is a part of the solution. I am convinced of that. Part of our job is to start conveying the beauty of the potential urban future so people can understand it and want it.