[BLUE BEECH: Inspired from the common name of the American Hornbeam tree (“Blue Beech”) the juxtaposition the of color not typically associated with a living organism. Blue Beech…The nurturer of things necessary and finder of things lost for healthy human living.]
The world of the 21st century, while offering technological advances and social liberties never experienced or imagined, is dictating the need to reestablish our responsibilities as stewards of Human Environment. As mentioned previously, human beings are part of the natural environment; consequently, they maintain a place in the realm of planetary species with no greater guarantees over life and death than any other. The modern world offers so many choices that “needs” are often eclipsed by “convenience.” We have sacrificed so much for convenience at the expense of the “American Dream” (or aspiration for the western luxuries) which has permeated throughout the world and, to a large degree, translated into a tangled mix of confused identities and weak priorities. As such, both our natural and built environments have suffered greatly and, in many places, have been decimated beyond repair.
The 21st century human is less occupied with self-improvement and long-term preservation and more often consumed by immediate desire. The allure of so many wonderful, exciting and, in many instances, cheap, things, gadgets and physical gratuities has been galvanized through our pop-culture and through the inescapable forms of mass communication. No one who walks the earth today can claim to be exempt from this influence.
Of course, the technological breakthroughs which are feeding the new media are also feeding tremendous breakthroughs in many areas that benefit us greatly. Less wasteful and dangerous sources of power; Medical breakthroughs on an exponential basis, healthier foods, softer pillows, more music and books to more people, etc., preclude our organization from taking a cynical stance on the world of the 21st century; however, without adequate care, mainstream access to these same tools, and the inability to avoid the endless chatter that permeates almost every moment of our day (from Fox news and CNN, to MTV, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) it is becoming more and more necessary to preserve our the link to the sacred principles of our natural and built environments that which have not wavered since the pre-history.
The advent of social media as a means of communication delivers a hitherto unknown, yet very powerful, conduit to multidimensional and instantaneous communication that can transform the collective unconsciousness in a very strong and beneficial way. Misused, or impregnated with the wrong virus, it could create mass-hysteria or sway opinion on community changing (and even world changing) issues, thus overriding the individual’s need, and obligation, to understand something for themselves. From the individual’s perspective, or from the perspective of an coordinated community organization, these tools offer a tremendous advantage with regard to: monitoring public opinion, identifying influential persons, organizations or businesses which can benefit or improve your community (from the perspective of networking, sales, visioning, finance, administration, promotion, etc.), communicating with key members instantaneously, utilizing platforms that cost nothing.
People in western society (and growingly, the rest of the planet) are more often than not locked in the present ,with little or any connection to the past or vision for the future. This results in a disregard for the places and events that memorialize our past, form our present environment; and little concern for the long term consequences of our life choices. We are consumed by pop-icons and superstar athletes, the newest greatest gadget and automobile that we have lost the art of ordinary accomplishment. The intuitive satisfaction of family dinner around the table it eclipsed by TV trays or the “Happy Meal” toy du jour, all of which is a product of the consumer driven world that we blindly accept. Choices as consumers, whether impulse buys at the counter; plastic water bottles that don’t decompose (because we think we are buying something “healthy”); pre-packaged snacks with “green” oriented labels and no redeeming nutritional value, the combination of which deliver nothing to sustain our health; fruits and vegetables grown in separate hemispheres, requiring millions of gallons of jet fuel (and jet fuel emissions) to deliver water melons and tomatoes to Wisconsin January; homes and neighborhoods in virtually every American City located so far away from our city centers that the sustainability of these places alone represents the largest depletion of fossil fuels in the world as people commute to and from; American schools which require virtually every student and family to own an automobile, because our hyper sensitive cultural laws still bus kids across town in the interest of “diversity;” Dedicated television channels for our children which gratuitously seek laughs with words like “fart” and “piss” in an effort to compete (what happened to our ability to generate creative humor like Andy Griffith and the Honey Mooners without offending).
At this point of the blog, we find ourselves falling in the direction of cynicism; but the point is not to complain about these many challenges, but to point out that despite them (or more likely, because of them) people are choosing to live in different ways,. Improvements are being made to preserve our critical natural environment and places are being preserved and built that inspire the mission of Blue Beech.
The unsustainability of our 20th century built environment is being proven daily as local and state governments clamor for means to maintain and support existing infrastructure, much less fund new roads. Shrinking tax bases are making this issue more poignant in every community in America. Non-inspiring generic subdivisions lie half built and non-adaptable trip centers that are either vacant or occupied by third generation retail businesses that act as cancers on surrounding neighborhoods are finally being recognized as problems in America. With the retail crash still ahead, we are only beginning to scratch the surface of this issue.
Our building and development industry has been funded by a commodity oriented business model which has totally eclipsed that fact that the underlying intent of development is to provide places for living, service and recreation. This model is substantiated by government zoning regulations that (while stride have been made for improvement through Smart Codes, et al) are categorically driven by priorities of government traffic engineers with no recognition of the long term impact to the social environment that is so critical for healthy human interaction.
We have always sought special places where we can experience the nostalgia of ordinary life, for special occasions or vacation, but somehow have forfeited the idea that human beings require this experience on a regular basis. Many great new examples of development exist in the United States and abroad which address the human environment. Gratefully, many wonderful places started surviving the recking ball in the latter half of the 20th century, but only with extraordinary public outrage and painfully expensive efforts that run counter to governmental policy.
What do our success stories have in common? How can the essence of these projects be repeated ? What is the current environmental baseline of the places where each of us live and to what realistic ecological standards should we aspire? What ingredients to I have in my market to create or restore places that improve the human environment? How does a healthy human environment affect my market? What are the regulatory hurdles in my market to create a healthy place to live? How to I find reasonable people (elected and government employees) who are willing to take on the task of changing these draconian regulations? What consultants should I work with in order to design appropriately? What engineering firms should I work with to promote sustainable infrastructure design and what do I ask for? How do I understand the historic and cultural values of my region? How should the patterns of my region appropriately be appropriately represented and sustained in design? Can my community provide for communal gardens or an organized urban farming operation? What grants and programs are available to start such a venture? What degree of historic exactness (fully replicating historic design patterns) is appropriate and should my market tolerated? What businesses and retailers should represent my community? How do I attract them while avoiding others? How do I inspire the arts and music communities in my area to underscore these cultural values? How do we provide for sustainable funding mechanisms these important disciplines? How do I document this process, for the purpose of leaving an adequate roadmap for future generations? How will my efforts inspire others? How will we collectively establish a responsible yet practical plan for dealing with sprawl?
The new paradigm in development must address our whims and nourish our needs. A balanced human environment accommodates our lifestyle choices (where we live, conveniences, etc.) with social, cultural and ecological imperatives. Any built environment must accommodates the these imperatives.
People want to live among people who inspire them. People are inspired by great places. The union of place with inspiration and healthy, productive people is a goal that all cities, neighborhoods and institutions should aspire. Reeducating ourselves about the Human Environment and
Blue Beech offers a unique blend of talents to address the myriad issues associated with the Human Environment. The members of the Blue Beech team demonstrate an amazing track record of responsible development and nationally respected development and design services that are rarely found within a single team. New Urbanist development, conservation development, town planning, civil engineering, traditional architecture, environmental design , mitigation and restoration services, conservation easement consulting, project business modeling, new home sales and marketing, retail, non-profit organization and management are all disciples represented within the Blue Beech team of professionals.