Loneliness and the city

As the great poet Michelle Branch once said, “so busy out there/so lonely in there/ and all you wanted was somebody who cared.” To be lonely in a crowd of people is almost a cliche of the city. Similarly, to be lonely on the internet is to somehow miss the internet. After all, the internet is at once both the great divider and uniter of us all. This feeling of loneliness goes against our intuition of what a city is. Cities in our minds are bustling places. While people talk about the isolating feeling about being in crowd, there is also something to be said about the built environment that can either heighten or tamper down on feelings of loneliness.

To start with, I want define loneliness. Loneliness is a feeling of isolation that can exist with or without people. This loneliness therefore is not entirely based on spatial relations, rather a perception of your space. For example, people who are thinking of traveling alone often worry about feeling lonely, despite the fact that these cities have huge populations.Loneliness is much more of concern when you have time as well. If you’re busy, whether with work, family, or simply living it’s difficult to actually have to reflect on your loneliness.

That being said, a city’s built environment affects your perception of loneliness. For example, a financial area that closes by 4 pm. Even though cities are supposedly neutral, it’s easy to see how they can effect our behavior. The simple act of putting up a fence sends the message of community to people inside the boundary and exclusion to people outside the boundary. Cities that have public transportation that close at 6 pm or zoning laws that restrict shops past opening for reasonable hours, all of these effect the way in which people interact with cities. Perhaps nothing is more lonely that walking through a city without people. Cities, therefore, without being a person, dictate our relationships with people. The city strengthens or hinders our relationships and therefore our own sense of loneliness.


Sunday Media List

Habitat for Humanity – they came, they saw, they destroyed?

When people gather in coffee shops,  it’s community building. When people gather in McDonald’s – it can still be community building. 

Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach from The Hamilition Project speaks with Brookings, about the importance of investing in children.

Books – making your commute better. 

The smallest parts of a legacy can ripple further and further into history. 

Post Pineapple

I was recently reading Central Oahu Sustainable Communities Plan and at first, I thought it was funny how often the plan used the word “pineapple.” The plan, which is  a continually work of progress, crosses out but leaves in previous editions of the plan. In 2006, Del Monte left central Oahu, due high land and labor costs. Today, perhaps the most iconic food of Hawai’i is no longer grown commercially. Pineapples are not native to Hawai’i, but much like sugar served a vital role in the development of Hawai’i. Both pineapple and sugar interests played out sized roles that ultimately led to the annexation of Hawai’i.

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Sunday Media List



Health crises will come and go, let’s start doing lead tests before another Flint happens

Members of the  Weeds Podcast talking about lead poisioning (it’s already cued to the relevant segment) Listen for Ezra Klein’s point for behavioral issues and lead poisoning- drop the mic good

The future is electric (maybe- insert 40 caveats)

Some cities will grow smaller, let’s do it gracefully

Ever notice how hipster coffee shops all look the same?

This website is so fun – please check it out. Seriously, so fun

Can we use past tools of destruction for good?

Elections are Beginnings Not Endings

If you are thinking of voting for a third party candidate, there is nothing that I can do, say, or write that has already been written. Maybe, you want to blow the system up – so I guess Trump is a good fit? Or maybe you don’t think Clinton will be far enough to the left- might as well go to a third party. One may live in a noncompetitive state and think, “What’s the point- they’re going to win anyway. What does my vote matter?” All of these are fair questions. People have literally died expanding voting rights in this country, millions of dollars have spent both expanding and suppressing the vote, and approximately $5 billion dollars will be spent this election. You can vote for who you want. You should be informed about your choices, but it’s your choice. That being said, it will do a lot more good for your issues and your beliefs if you stay involved. Continue reading

Public Works Disasters and What We Can Learn

Government-run public works have always been under (rightfully) an added layer of scrutiny. After all, these are supposedly for the public good and certainly use tax payers dollars to get done. In order to pay for projects that go over budget, cities can go into debt, cut services, or roll back other plans. However, arguably the most important aspect of a public work failure is the resulting loss of trust, furthering both a lack of confidence in government and a reluctance to take on new major public works projects.

pruitt-igoe-collapses Continue reading