Place Matters #1 – Planning to make a difference

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I recently wrote about how frustrated I felt with the way many of us – politicians and everyday people alike – jump  from topic to topic, getting worked up but not for long and not really making changes. I wrote about it in the context of the upcoming federal election, but I became aware that it’s true for me at a personal level too.

We are told we can do anything if we put our minds and energy towards it – and it’s true that we can do many things. But we can’t do everything, and the more we press ourselves, the more likely that we will only be shallow in our approach. Change and impact take focus and they usually take persistence. I realised that’s true for my writing as well. And I need to change that, and bring it back to its original purpose.

I set up this blog intending to write about two things –

  1. Exploring how to become the best person I could be (which draws in parenting, friendship group and partnering, and my interests, as well as personal improvements). The aim is that in doing do, I’d also share ideas that are useful to others (not just self indulgent).
  2. Exploring our place in the world, most specifically, in the physical world. The world of places, of landscapes, of areas remote from people but, often, filled with other life, the world of cities and suburbs, of the importance of connections to neighbourhoods. And so much more more. After all, the world is our home – and home to so many.

Although I’ve written sporadically on the second, I’ve tended to focus on the first. I shy away from writing as much around people and places. Why is this?

After all, I work in this field as an urban planner. Someone who deals with strategies to manage the places in which we live, and how we balance the competing demands we have for places.

I am a generalist, who brings the strands of specialised studies and strategies into overarching plans, actions and policies to do with the use of land and space. I do this in for various purposes, such as addressing inequity, building and diversifying employment options, improving the state of our environment now and into the future while still providing some freedoms for individuals to make their mark, create, thrive and be at home in their parts of this world.

I attempt to involve those who are would be impacted by these strategies along, to involve them in working out what is most important, to map out where we could be and should be heading, what the costs and implications of these strategies might be, and therefore how to prioritise. And I try to work through the political systems to present, explain and demonstrate the value of our recommended approaches to the decision makers  – those voted in to make decisions, those granted an influencing role due to their status as public authorities (in public transport protection, environmental protection and the like), plus those in the community to whom the politicians give more weight.

So why don’t I write much about it? After all, I know that place matters. And it’s fundamentally important to everyone – people, animals and the plant world alike. Surely that’s enough reason?

Well, no. Because of the way we – including myself – often talk about it. It often seems so, I don’t know – dry or boring, maybe – about to mention urban planning. It’s an area that can seem too academic, bureaucratic, irrelevant when we are already feeling busy. So many of us don’t prioritise finding the time to comment, to become involved, to find out more about the issues we might notice fleetingly. There are usually only two exceptions:

  1. If we’re angry about a particular proposal – be it large scale changes such as impacts to valued ares like the Great Barrier Reef, proposed road or rail projects near our home, in new housing close by. Often, though, the orojects have a certain momentum behind them, and it is difficult to change courses at this stage.
  2. When we are retired. There seems to be something – maybe a combination of a bit more time (or at least, thinking space, and the realisation that life has an endpoint) that motivates more people to take an more active role in public discourses. Which is great – but we are not hearing from everyone affected.

I think it’s time to change this. To do my bit to make more people excited and interested in what’s going on around them. And when I sat down and thought more about it, I realised, or remembered, that it can be really interesting.

I read some fascinating articles, and I’m super keen to share some of the insights from these.

The challenge will be to keep these insights and thoughts to relatable, relevant and interesting. To spark curiosity. To draw in the connection that we often forget about. But I think I’m up for the challenge. After all, it’s a big and interesting world out there – let’s do our best to make it the best it can be.

I hope you’ll join me on this new series – Place Matters.

 

I’m going to be posting a list soon on some ideas to write about, but in the meantime –

I’d love to know from you – are there any topics you are particularly interested in? 

 

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7 thoughts on “Place Matters #1 – Planning to make a difference

  1. We are about to have our second election for the year and my husband and I were talking about who we’re going to vote for. It just feels like every political party promises things that will make the most voters happy but doesn’t end up delivering any of those things, or if they do it’s a half-baked attempt that costs twice as much. With an 18 year old now starting to vote, we tend to have lots of conversations about the different political parties come polling day. I definitely think the time is ripe for people to more actively influence so many parts of life. I think if the recent milk campaign, and to some extent the growing backlash to Australia’s treatment of refugees. But I think people need to see some success from their small steps of action. That probably doesn’t answer any of your questions, but you definitely got me thinking Helen!

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    1. I think there are lot of opportunities to influence outcomes, as you say – sometimes we just become overwhelmed by the issues. Hopefully I’ll be able to write on some of the opportunities – and we probably all just need to focus a bit more (if we all do a little, we’ll create some changes, I know – but we can’t all do it all!)

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  2. Yes planning does matter Helen. I agree. In a previous life I used to spend a lot of my time dealing with these issues as part of my work. I must admit that I take less of an interest now days and one of the reasons for that you’ve stated – so many other things competing for my time. But it certainly is important. I look forward to reading more as your series unfolds. 🙂

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