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Your article “Parasites Lost” (9/11) has a sad list of urban problems, and it touches on the larger issue of the decline of urban communities. Lack of attention to community planning in development has led to suburban flight, allowing: sprawl and highway construction to pollute the skies and destroy natural habitat; money to leave the cities so parks and all community services are neglected; and high inner-city unemployment with the corresponding rampant crime. These problems, which the City Paper vigilantly reports about all the time, are, in turn, symptoms of the industrialization and corporatization of our lives.
Corporations, through pursuit of the dollar too often without examining the effects, have dumped toxic loads of pollution into our surroundings for decades. Media and advertising campaigns attempt to brainwash the public to migrate to shopping and entertainment “playgrounds” far from their homes instead of having get-togethers in the local park and creating a sense of comfort and community in their area. What we desperately need for all businesses to do is analyze the impacts their choices will have. Virtually always, businesses that have done so find they can make a profit by working for the social good, through consumer loyalty and better production/operation processes, which decrease the costs of input resources and pollution disposal, to name a few.
A promising development over the last decade that helps businesses and individuals move toward better ways of life is the creation of simplicity circles, where those interested meet regularly to examine their lives and the impacts of all their choices. Another is the Natural Step movement, which examines social and environmental problems and the ways to move beyond them. The Natural Step is based on four simple yet profound principles, from which come four conditions that society and organizations must strive to meet if we are to avoid urban and general social decline: 1) Materials from the Earth’s crust must not systematically accumulate in the environment; 2) manmade materials must also not systematically accumulate; 3) the ability of the environment to restore itself must not be degraded; and 4) members of society must have equal access to resources. The Natural Step has already made a great deal of progress overseas, and hopefully it or something similar will do so in the U.S. Until then, I’ll look forward to the City Paper keeping vigilant about these problemsa needed service.
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