Imagining Sustainable Places

James A. Throgmorton. 2003. In Barbara Eckstein and James A. Throgmorton. Story and Sustainability. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, pp. 39-61.

This essay begins with a toxic dream and suggests that a claim is embedded within the dream: the way of life which dominates my hometown (Iowa City, Iowa) cannot be sustained. But it also implies a hope: that my hometown can become a more sustainable place. The essay proceeds to explore the complexities associated with envisioning and creating sustainable places. After exploring those complexities, I conclude that to care skillfully for our shared world in a context of tenticular radiations, unpriced costs, remoteness, and environmental unconscious, we have to make space for stories which draw attention to the region’s ecological footprint, to increasing the efficiency of the value chains that produce that footprint, and to developing a shared sense of moral purpose in a Regional City. Making space for such stories will require both inclusive spaces (processes) and inclusive places, for, in the end, the content of the story (and the planning that contributes to it) depends on who authors it. Lacking such stories, people might live in “a great place,” but it would be a place which stands in the “shadow of death” and gives kids who live in impoverished parts of American cities little “reason to value life.”

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