Thursday, August 21, 2008

What's next or what first?

Looking back at the posts I've done for the past two years almost (has it been that long?) I realize that I'm treading over the same ground. We know that we should drive less, buy things that aren't meant to be disposed of, get CFLs, etc. But once we've done all that. what next? You've made them habits, you can continue to improve but that's not the point? I'm thinking about ways to make bicycling more tenable to the average person. There's been a lot of chatter about folding bicycles, which interest me considerably, but at the end of the day it's another bicycle and I have three here that I've acquired over the span of 20 years. I have all the good intentions of reconstructing my old college bike and making it useful again.

The truth is that most of the actions we focus on operate in the realm of our current societal architecture, and the structure of how our world is today shapes what changes we can make. The question is what can we do to change the architecture of the future? What does it mean?

One thing that I think it means is that notions of private space and public space are going to change. Yesterday I quoted a factoid that cars are not used 95% of the time. Sadly, the same can be said about most of the things that we own. I think my bed is the most used item that I own. Today in the NY Times there is an article about a couple who wanted their own competitive swimming pool. As an active swimmer, I can appreciate the convenience and niceness of the thought of having my own pool. But today, I went to a happy hour of my swim club and I realized that it's not just the ownership of the pool that matters, but the people in the pool at regular times makes you better. For some reason, we are competitive species. I know that when someone is close to me in another lane, I crank it up a notch.

Our stuff works great in isolation, but when enjoyed with others it gets better. And this is coming from someone who is a hermit. For instance, I saw a fantastic movie called "Man on Wire' this past weekend. As good as it was, it was better being able to talk about it right afterward with my friend who offers frighteningly deep insights that I miss completely. Goods become more interesting when they have a history, despite our penchant for newness.

One of my favorite traditions is at Bryn Mawr College in Bryn Mawr, PA. Yes, I am completely aware that it is a women's college and I know it from my many friends who attended there and my almost going to it's partner school Haverford. In the dorm rooms, you can put a small inscription plate that marks your time there. Seeing all the names, some famous in the rooms gives you the sense of adding to a story, or partaking in someone else's.

Imagine a documentary of your car, pretty boring. Same routes mostly. But imagine a documentary of a car share car, who knows what different places it goes, and what different purposes it was used for. That diversity of experience reflects itself back onto our stories is were merely ask.

So first there is a story, and the consequences of that story and whether it's one of liveliness or just sitting around makes me wonder what should our world look like if we had different constraints.


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