Josh Bolinger: Building a Healthy Society
As Americans, we’ve developed some pretty unhealthy habits, and the digital world of the new century doesn’t help.
We watch too much television, park too close to the store, use the drive throughs, take the elevator instead of the stairs, and spend too much time interacting with devices and computers. We’re turning into a nation of sitters and riders, and the rise in obesity and related problems like diabetes are big flashing red signposts telling us we need to take some serious steps in a healthier direction.
For me, it was finding exercise that is fun for me, like mountain biking and kayaking. I put in my time in the weight room, too, but it can be a real chore, whereas getting out on a fun trail or rolling down a great river are more like playing.
And this is where I think city planning can have a great impact on people’s lives. If you’ve looked elsewhere on this site, you may have read my post about the way Boulder, CO. is set up, and what a fantastic job they’ve done creating a city that is very supportive of its citizens good health: great parks, lots of paths for biking and walking, a bike-borrowing program, and a general culture of mixing the business of a city with the kind of urban design that promotes exercise and outdoor activity.
Culture grows out from a center. Often, that center is the personality of the city we live in. Think about the cities in China that have air pollution so thick, you can’t see a block down the street. Obviously, this is the kind of environment that pushes people to stay inside as much as possible. Now, that’s an extreme example, obviously, but it’s just to make a point.
It is possible for the leadership in a city to operate from a perspective of good health, and make planning decisions based on that goal, and work outward from there. But leadership has to be operating from that perspective to begin with, that has to be the goal. Once you are moving in that direction, planning decisions are guided along that path, and outcomes are a natural result of the guiding principal.
How were the pyramids built? One brick at a time.