Monday, June 6, 2011

Planning for a Future That Will Not Exist


I was flipping through my journal earlier, and came across the following entry from January 4, 2007:
My critique of planning is this: it is no good at preparing for the uncertain future. It takes current events and extrapolates. And extrapolation is taking the crazy-curved line of our past reality and making it seem straight — then projecting that false history into the future. The problem with planning is that it doesn't plan for anything interesting! At best it assumes that the next 30 years will be like the past 30 — only better. Who's planning for global eco-collapse? Global warming? The collapse of national and global economic systems, global and national food networks? Who's planning for peak oil? Who's planning for our transition into an entirely new Earth? Who is planning for a graceful exit for us?
For those that don't know, I am employed as a professional planner for local government. I wrote this during winter break before my final semester at grad school. I earned my Master of Science in Urban & Regional Planning in August 2007. Four years later, this critique still holds. Most planners have no idea what's actually happening in the world. They have no clue of the gravity of our collective situation. They still plan by projecting the past into the future. Worse, they assume the past few years are but a blip, an outlier that will be quickly forgotten once "the recovery" takes hold. If they had a longer perspective, they might realize that it's not just the past four years, but actually the past 60 (post-war) or past 150 (since the first oil well was drilled) years that are the true outliers.

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