Dear 2015: A Letter to the Past
Dear people of 2015,
I can’t do real justice to any conversation about how your world of 2015 influenced my world of 2050. Just as you may have learned by looking back to 1980 from your vantage point, I have discovered that it was not the grand ‘megatrends’ that changed the paradigm, instead, it was the convergence of countless ‘micro-trends’ riding the magic carpet that you once called ‘the internet’.
In an effort to acquaint myself with your time, I referenced your period from my information source….our 2050 version of your ‘I-pads and tablets’. We don’t use devices like that anymore because we receive our communications and information through systems and technologies that you could not have imagined. The network is always there and I connect with it at will. I cannot image how life could possibly work without ‘the network’.
Through my study of your time, I have learned that you were faced with numerous challenges and uncertainties, an extended drought threatened water supplies in California and your scientists were warning of sea level rise. Wealth and class stratification were rapidly eroding opportunity and much of the infrastructure that supported establishment of the North American economy was descending into ruin.
In reading your media, I was amazed to learn that your national debate focused on non-essential ideological issues that should have been left to personal choice, while very little appeared on gun regulation, planning for a borderless multicultural economy or building an education system that could have prepared your children for new possibilities. I am amazed and thankful that you began to realize the need to change and did so before it was too late.
Advances in Technology continue:
I read that in 2015 you were testing driverless automobiles and debating the pros and cons of ‘ride sharing’. You would be pleased to learn that these ideas took root and changed the landscape of our cities by ending the tyranny of the automobile. Today there are a lot fewer personal cars. Electric driverless shuttles take us everywhere. Personal vehicles remain popular in the distant suburban areas, however; even there, driverless technology allows seniors to age in place because driverless vehicles provide safe mobility that was not possible in earlier times. Today, I can connect with the transportation system whenever I need it and the self-guided and remotely piloted vehicles are always available. The end of automobile dominance freed thousands of acres of valuable urban land that had been dedicated to “parking”. Old parking lots have been replaced with orchards, vineyards, gardens, plazas and apartments.
You will also be pleased to know that the wheel chair is gone. Robotics and exoskeleton technology liberated countless numbers of people by giving them independent mobility. Thank you for enthusiastically funding and supporting the development of this technology.
We continue to reap the benefits of your early commitment to the expansion of solar energy. This technology is now used to power desalinization plants that are providing fresh water using our vast ocean resources. Solar has allowed the dismantling of many dams and restoration of river eco systems. We are less dependent on the “oil shortage business” that bled so much wealth during your era. The air is cleaner and the rate of global warming has slowed because so much of our energy is coming from the sun.
We applaud your early commitment to the concepts of livability and sustainability, and your recognition of the need to design and build complete communities that accommodate people at all stages of life. We realize how difficult it was to achieve this, given the antiquated system of financing that consistently under produced housing. It took a great deal of determination and creatively to restructure the financing system to help build affordable, human scaled communities that serve multiple generations.
Just as you pondered the future in 2015, I ponder the future in 2050. I know that some conditions will continue to improve and others will continue to threaten our existence. Because we are so focused on determining where we are going, we often forget to acknowledge how far we have come. I hope that my descendants will make better decisions and continue the assent to a better human condition. Thank you for your struggle and contribution. I will do my best to “pay it forward”.
Leave your comment below, or reply to others.
Please note that this comment section is for thoughtful, on-topic discussions. Admin approval is required for all comments. Your comment may be edited if it contains grammatical errors. Low effort, self-promotional, or impolite comments will be deleted.
Read more from MeetingoftheMinds.org
Spotlighting innovations in urban sustainability and connected technology
Since historically marginalized communities are already being disproportionally impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, I am frustrated to see these communities also negatively impacted by the lack of on-the-ground public engagement. While I realize the threat of COVID-19 and the associated restrictions make conducting on-the-ground public engagement challenging, I want to encourage fellow planners to think more creatively. I will admit that I struggled to think creatively when I first heard that Clackamas Community College (CCC) would continue having mostly online classes in Spring Term 2021. CCC has had mostly online classes since the end of Winter Term 2020 when COVID-19 first started impacting Oregon. CCC’s decision about Spring Term 2021 became more stressful when Clackamas County staff told me that public outreach for their new shuttles could not be delayed until next summer.
A new toolkit has been developed to help businesses think through strategies to decrease mobility barriers to the workplace, which reduces turnover. When workers can reliably get to work regardless of their personal circumstances, it provides employment stability and the opportunity to build wealth. It’s a win-win. Developed through a partnership between Metropolitan Planning Council and a pro bono Boston Consulting Group team, the toolkit includes slide decks, an overview report, customizable templates, a cost calculator, and instructional videos walking a company through the thought process of establishing a baseline situation, evaluating and selecting a solution, and standing up a program.
Depending on the employer’s location and employees’ needs, solutions may range from helping with last-mile transportation to the transit system, to developing on-demand vanpools, to establishing in-house carpool matching systems. The ROI calculator gives employers the ability to determine the break-even cost—the subsidy amount a company can manage without hurting the bottom line.
Housing that is affordable to low-income residents is often substandard and suffering from deferred maintenance, exposing residents to poor air quality and high energy bills. This situation can exacerbate asthma and other respiratory health issues, and siphon scarce dollars from higher value items like more nutritious food, health care, or education. Providing safe, decent, affordable, and healthy housing is one way to address historic inequities in community investment. Engaging with affordable housing and other types of community benefit projects is an important first step toward fully integrating equity into the green building process. In creating a framework for going deeper on equity, our new book, the Blueprint for Affordable Housing (Island Press 2020), starts with the Convention on Human Rights and the fundamental right to housing.