By Dom Nozzi
May 24, 2009
Wouldn’t it make sense that town planners employed by local government were the leading advocates for quality of life improvements in communities?
I believed that when I first entered the public sector planning profession (and explains why I chose the public versus private sector).
But I came to realize in my 21.5 years in public sector planning that public planning, ironically, is one of the biggest obstacles to what needs to be done. Nearly all planners, citizens and elected officials either don’t get it at all, or have become totally jaded and cynical. What I’ve therefore concluded is a few things:
- In a doomed society with a near consensus that effectively beneficial tactics must be vigorously opposed, the only safe havens (or places where I can find a satisfying town planning job) seem to be working for one of the few admired consulting firms that “get it,” lecturing to college students, or making “controversial” presentations in various communities. But I’ve not figured out a way to make a living with any of these three options.
- As a philosophical materialist, I’m thankful that I don’t find myself perplexed and beating my head against the wall over this gloomy state of affairs, because I know that the price signals we get in our society, and the communities we have built, make it certain that almost all of us will be aggressive promoters of happy cars and sprawl lifestyles (and Kunstler’s fat, lazy clowns). Bankrupting ourselves to save a few seconds while driving our speeding cars inattentively is EXACTLY what we should expect 99 percent of citizens to fight for, given the world they live in.
I feel very little anger or frustration because our dysfunctional world is entirely predictable — given the conditions. Of course, I regret not living in an age when conditions shape people and their communities to voluntarily seek a sustainable, high quality of life.
I’m therefore dedicated to working to change the price signals and how our communities are built. Short of that, I am resigned to bide my time until, say, high energy costs bring enlightenment. In the meantime, I do what I’m told and don’t feel much passion in my town planning work (unless I’m giving a speech).
Quite often, I am flattered to hear friends and family tell me that my ideas are good and that I should get hired by a community to “fix” things. Given the above, though, I’m typically left with responding by saying “If I were in charge, things would be different.” But would they really be different? Given the fact that our world compels nearly all of us want to use dysfunctional tactics (single-mindedly making cars happy, for example), there would probably be little I could do, even as a mayor or governor.
Much of my life satisfaction, then, comes from planning and engaging in travel and adventures, and giving presentations. My big question has become how to make enough money (in a tolerable job in a tolerable location) to do those things.
Not what I expected in grad school.