George Hunt spent more than fifty years as a community planner and landscape architect. This included hands-on work in impoverished and low-income areas which helped him understand the dynamics that hold us back from achieving self-sufficiency. In this book, he outlines a sustainable community project that seeks to solve social problems that most community planners overlook. The pilot project includes numerous ways to make communities self-sufficient, and while it’s geared for those in middle- and lower-income brackets, anyone can use its concepts. He explains how multiple-purpose buildings can be used to house a diversity of people, ways to launch a business within the community by collaborating and sharing with others, how to obtain a vocational work/study program offered on site, and more. The book is also a reference manual on transition community design, creating a purpose, the meaning of happiness, sustainable agricultural practices, how to live without stuff, and how to reduce anxiety and depression.
Social values are established early in life and I was fortunate to be able to grow up in an environment that fostered ideals for loving nature and the people around me. I lived in Skaneateles a small rural town in upstate New York on one of the finger lakes and it was like living in a historical setting. I had a loving family which included my grandparents who had a small farm next to us. I could walk to the lake and several small creeks which provided an abundance of trout and other associations with nature. In the teens I worked on the farm and at a florist which grew its own flowers. These activities encouraged me to enroll in a landscape architectural program at Cornell University where I graduated in 1956 after serving in the U.S. Navy. I immediately moved to Dallas, which provided year long landscape employment in a new dynamic setting. There I married and had two children. My experiences from this point is noted in my book and these experiences defined my reasons for writing my book.
The inspiration behind my book was to provide unique solutions to some of the political and social problems that are existing at this time. The format for the book was to encourage people to read and understand what is happening around them rather than just relying on unreliable sound clips. In addition to this the structure of the proposed “Pilot Demonstration Project” would be a living example of an alternative collaborative and sharing lifestyle. It is based on the principals of social design.
The messages I hope to provide to readers is that there are other alternatives to our present reliance on growth besides just consumerism and greedy capitalism. This is expressed best by reviewing studies of using ecological economics or at least reforming capitalism by reducing inequities and enforcing environmental regulations so that corporations pay for the use of natural systems. Other messages in the book are the exposure of corruption and the misuse of political power as well as identifying the need for revising our present agricultural system of production. There is also a need for the establishment of social movements to put pressure on the politicians to change many “elite” practices including political gerrymandering and lack of campaign funding restrictions. This book shows some ways to do this.
The authors or experts in city planning, the environment and agriculture are too many to mention individually here for they all represent viewpoints subject for consideration. The important ones are those that inspire innovation. I would say that the most important experts that I have met were the people from all walks of life. One has to have empathy with who they are working with because only they can express needs and solutions. This is explained further in the book.
I feel that the biggest obstacle facing communities is the lack of understanding of history and what is happening to our earth in terms of climate change and potential disasters. Another problem is not letting the people being served having the primary input for the design of projects, The government itself cannot evaluate what they are doing, since there is not enough long term planning in their decision making. Running a government with band-aids is not that reliable. Many people are not able to answer many simple civic questions and rely too much on false information. There is a need to revise many aspects of our university teaching systems because most information is pigeon holed and not used by the total university systems. The people in the field are not aware of most of the studies or how to interpret them. This in turn causes universities to provide research that is not utilized by many organizations and government agencies that are trying to help people.
Our present political climate of the reliance on the loyalty for the party system has impacted not only city planning but our social fabric as well. For example, the internet can be a blessing or a curse depending how it is used. We still do not have any control how it affects our privacy or misuse. Total systems can be interrupted by hacking or use by foreign governments. City and government planning for the sake of growth for the elite is causing anxieties. Many pension funds are in trouble financially and some banks are corrupt so that savings are not feasible, money is not secure and most of society cannot obtain money to start businesses. The rise in depression, anxiety and opioid drug use is causing medical problems and higher medical costs that are out of reach of the majority of the population. If the exponential increases between the rich and the poor are not reduced than there is little that city planning can do to become effective for solving problems over the long term. Planning has to include every segment of the population and all people have to be involved in decision making.
An interesting approach to social media at this time is discussed in the following books:
New Power: How Power Works in Our Hyperconnected World – and How to Make It Work for You, by Jeremy Heimans and Henry Timms
The Intergalactic Design Guide: Harnessing the Creative Potential of Social Design, by Cheryl Heller
The first book emphases crowd-sourcing and collaboration as methods of gaining new power and the second book is defined as offering a new kind of leadership. It has innovative approaches for increasing creativity, strengthening relationships, and developing our capacity to collaborate – with the potential to transform everything; from corporate culture to cities. (Cover)
The emphasis in both books is the development of innovative thinking.
I was asked what are my future plans? At age, almost 87, the discussion of the future is very tentative. The most I can say now is that I am fortunate to have published this book and it gives me a feeling of accomplishment that I can leave for the readers to discuss. At least I can say that the opinions are my own whether for good or for worse. My main objective is to show people avenues to understand what is happening in our society and in the environment. I would also like to obtain funding for the Pilot Demonstration Project so everyone involved in the project can make additional adjustments to make it successful. We have to restore the form of democracy as envisioned by our founding fathers. What is happening now in our political system is not a viable option.
January 1, 2019