Monday, February 25, 2008


Don't ask yourself what the world needs, ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go do that. Because what the world needs are people who have come alive.

Harold Whitman

I recently attended a presentation by a fairly well known city planner (ironically, I don't remember his name). After he was formally presented by the host, he came to the 'stage' and introduced himself as a homemaker. No, he did not stay at home with his family every day, but his home is the earth and his ultimate goals in life revolve around maintaining and the earth so that we can live on it.

I really liked his perspective. I want to take a step back and define what a 'homemaker' is. By traditional definition, my wife is a homemaker. She stays home and tends to the children, keeps the house and does the laundry, etc. Unfortunately, homemaking is often looked up on as "not doing anything" or "not living up to your potential". I couldn't disagree more. I think one of the most important tasks on this earth is to raise the next generation and prepare them for the world they will eventually run. Don't get me wrong, I do really important things all day, like telling people to be more active and eat better, but it when it comes right down to it, my career has little lasting power. The work my wife does at home raising our children has effects that will last many generations. My job makes money, hers doesn't, but I would say that my wife is of far greater value to our household than am I.

So what does my wife do in keeping our home? She spends a lot of time tending to children. Sure, she could put them in front of the television (if we had one) and let the programming slowly suck the knowledge right out of them while she got more housework done. She doesn't. She interacts with our children at the expense of a pristinely clean home. I would have it no other way. Don't get me wrong, our home is presentable. Our things are generally where they belong and you can easily walk from room to room. Is the floor scrubbed daily? no. Is the dusting done weekly? Lets just say the dusting is done weakly. Could we be making more money and be able to give our kids more 'stuff' if my wife were to go get a job? Absolutely. I think the focus of our efforts to live simply revolve around our effort to increase interaction in the home and demonstrate that happiness comes from relationships and not stuff.

That is what I want to do as a profession as well, just on a different level. I want to be a 'homemaker' for the earth. My niche is in city design and active modes of transportation. I want to help design cities that promote walking. While I'm certainly interested in improving the health of people, more importantly I'm interested in increasing opportunities of people to talk with one another and interact. Does it take 'stuff' to interact? No. On the contrary, as people acquire more stuff, it seems to draw them apart into little cliques that limit interaction. Do I think that the earth is suffering from the amount of 'stuff' people have? Yes I do. While I have some very strong environmental views, I think the greatest benefits that will be seen from living a more deliberate and purposeful life is that we can lose the dependence on stuff and increase or improve our relationships.

You may note that there is a lot of room for compromise and I think that some 'stuff' is OK. Here is the key to my environmental views, as well as what I think will improve social interactions and society as a whole... Our current rate of consumption is going to destroy the earth. That doesn't mean we should all be aesthetics living with nothing, but living to build relationships rather than accumulations of stuff will greatly improve the earth and the fabric of society.

Thanks to all who commented on my son's blog, he was really excited about it.

1 comment:

Emily Allan Wood said...

I would LOVE to live in a community where things are shared and everything you need is within walking distance. I think it is possible to create mini communities like this and make it be a huge success. I think a lot of people would be willing to do this. As an example..look at the success of the shared car business. If people are willing to share a car, then why not other things they need to use on occasion?