Livable Cities is Gaining Momentum

We have reached a major turning point in city-making! It has now become clear to everyone that the old practices of sprawling development have helped bring about not only an ecological crisis, but a health crisis as well. Our auto-oriented planning has promoted an epidemic of obesity, with its attendant chronic illnesses—and disintegration of community, accompanied by increased personal stress.

If our cities are unhealthy or lack livability, children are the first to suffer—and they suffer more deeply. 16% of children in the US and Canada are now obese—in large part because they cannot walk to school of play outside. Obesity leads to chronic diseases—high cholesterol and blood pressure, type-2 diabetes, sleep apnea, asthma and liver disease—diseases never before associated with childhood.

The lifestyle created by sprawling suburbs and dangerous streets means that there is little sense of community. This affects children more than adults. Children spend more time alone than ever before, more time alone than with family or friends. This lack of social interaction in a viable community limits their development of social skills, affects their emotional development, prepares them poorly to deal with stress, and leads them in some cases to attempt to resolve problems through violence to themselves and to others.

The ill health and developmental challenges that children face today will shape their health, their careers, and quality of life for the rest of their lives—and may shorten their lives.

The good news is that the country has finally woken up and begun to take steps in the right direction. We even have a White House with an Urban Policy Agenda on Livability of Cities that states: "Foster Healthy Communities: How a community is designed—including the layout of its roads, buildings and parkshas a huge impact on the health of its residents. For instance, nearly one-third of Americans live in neighborhoods without sidewalks and less than half of our country's children have a playground within walking distance of their homes."

But we need a holistic, systemic strategy, otherwise we will again wholeheartedly apply “the fix” and leave another trail of problems behind in our wake.

IMCL proposes a radically different approach. Since children are the first to suffer from un-ecological, and socially unsustainable planning, we propose to take children as the golden rule by which we measure appropriate planning solutions.

If we consider how all our city-making decisions affect the lives of children, we shall find that it leads to a walkable, human-scale, ecologically sustainable urban fabric that respects nature and encourages community to flourish. This will be healthy and livable for ALL.

Join us at the forthcoming IMCL Conference to learn how we can do this together!