In Defense Of Dirt

I don’t mean gourmet gardener’s soil, or smut.

I mean the idea of  decay as it relates to community.

The minute you finish building a house it starts to fall apart.

Actually even as you build it.

And the minute a car comes off the assembly line, the clock starts ticking.

And our  own bio structures  start to decay all too soon.

But in my city, the civic planners seem to want to create a sterile, socially engineered  place.

They like to plan these huge developments that are whole neighborhoods.

And remove the existing “blight” because there is ” nothing there”.

And to cut off the past because for planners there is only the present.

You know, people don’t come to my city because it’s clean and safe.

They left places like that because they are boring.

Innovation doesn’t come from homogeneity.

Switzerland is hyper clean and  is  highly controlled.

When was the last time the world’s necks were craned in their direction?

Just as a healthy planet needs biodiversity, a city or bioregion needs to have a mix.

And it needs dirt.

It needs some funky run down areas to act as incubators.

To give room to breath and allow people to try new things.

To allow failure because we learn from failure.

And to not be planned, but to just happen and evolve organically.

Our planners are in love with planning.

They have a god complex.

But by the time the plan has been implemented it is obsolete.

If anything, local government should stay out of the way and  limit itself to small nudges here and there.

All the new job and idea  creation is in micro sized businesses.

You know we used to see tidal wetlands as  wasted , useless areas.

Now we are starting to understand the important functions they perform.

Just to be clear i’m not romanticizing poverty.

But these huge “office parks” and  contrived  ” tech zones” have a way of turning into ghost towns.

They don’t have the agility to adapt.

When i walk down most streets in my town, i see buildings on every block from different decades going back over 100 years.

All different colors and styles.

And they just happened this way over a period of time, the way a tree grows.

I love this.

I see this as a metaphor for diversity.

When you live in a development where every apartment looks the same,

what is that a metaphor for?

The big developments are like economic, cultural, and architectural strip mining.

Let’s leave a little room for dirt, and rust, and the unexpected.

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