Sustainable Planning: Planning vs Action


Progress and Perspective

We began by discussing the static nature of the “sustainability” definition as “development that meets the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (according to the WCED).  Shouldn’t the definition have morphed to reflect or progress in sustainable development? To answer this question, the idea of perspective arose; who is guiding the discussion? Do you think a more narrow/refined definition of sustainability would be helpful in practice or would be too limiting in bringing more stakeholders to the discussion?


The question of perspective was then furthered in discussing the use of “code words” as a metric in evaluating plans. These code words can be fairly nuanced and have different connotations for various stakeholders (ie. A community organizer will have a different definition of “livable” will be very different from an architect). As a class we discussed the possibilities for these ‘code words’ to be manipulated, however it at least brings discussion of sustainability to the table. Do we think there is a need to have a more concrete definition of these “code words”? Would should define these code words?


The Gap: Theory and Action

While we have the tools to now measure our consumption, does that translate into action? Berke and Conroy use the term “innovative land use” which is problematic. It implies that a new and drastic shift has occurred in land use planning. Have we come far enough? How do we make the problems more tangible and prompt people to take action to be more sustainable? Two examples were given as possible models to spur action – Green Business Challenge ( and Greenovate Boston (  Do we think the scale of these innovations are situated to spur change?


Footprint Quiz

As a class we took the footprint quiz and realized many of the individual choices we make don’t actually effect our consumption as much as larger institutional factors. While we all knew that living the US inherently means we consume more (ie. Military, infrastructure, ect) regardless of our individual choices, taking the quiz made it more apparent.  This again brings up the question of scale which has been a reoccurring theme in our discussions.  Did taking the footprint quiz spur anyone to make any active changes in their daily lives? If we as people very aware of sustainability’s importance don’t take action, who should expect will?