Friday, May 18, 2012


By Sergio J. Fernandez, May 18, 2012

The urban planning and development of most modern cities in the US, as we know them today, was made for and sponsored by the automobile industry and the oil companies. For obvious business reasons, the automobile industry was very interested in designing cities where people feel motivated to have at least one automobile per household. Another way to motivate modern society to own automobiles was to create public roads and highways for people to move fast and comfortable between states, cities and towns. On the other hand, the oil companies recognized the fact that the growth of the automobile industry represented a great demand of fuel and consequently an economic bonanza for them as well. That is why both, the automobile industry and the oil companies started first; to “lobby” with the politicians and government representatives, and second; to sponsor in different ways the development of automotive oriented cities.

To date, the automobile industry and the oil companies still benefit, not to mention “depend”, in great scale, on the consumption and use of automobiles, in the US and abroad. Therefore, it is not an easy task to change all of the sudden the mentality of automobile oriented cities and towns. There is too much money at risk for those two “economic colossus”.

The sustainability concept for the design of future cities and the retrofitting (as possible) of existing cities is an effort not only environmentally correct, but imminently necessary for the preservation of the planet as we know it, hospitable to human life. Unfortunately, seeing government as the main source, some times the only source, for the implementation of sustainable (read necessary) urban designs, is a contradiction in essence with the concept of sustainability. Any form of monopoly, even if the monopoly is the government itself, defeats the purpose of sustainability, because diversification is the key element in any sustainable effort. To implement sustainability it is necessary to “think outside the box”. We cannot resolve existing problems based on the same ideas and concepts that created them. Besides, the government does not have the financial means to implement sustainable designs. Using the more and more scarce public funds to finance sustainability put the effort in a vicious cycle where the taxpayers will pay the consequences making the end result anything but a sustainable one.

Sustainability is about using the existing resources wisely, not abusing them. Instead of imposing more taxes to the hardworking class (blue and white collar equally) and trying to demand also more taxes from the private industry, the government should invite the private industry to participate in the development of sustainable urbanizations. In other words; reverse the process, what the automobile industry and the oil companies did to implement the cities we have today, the government should do it now to them. Motivate the private sector to participate in this effort by showing to them there is a potential source of revenue in it, a revenue that is more secured because it will last for as long as the planet last.

Let’s tell the automotive industry that if they want to sell more buses, it will be good for them to help create the conditions to motivate society to use them. Let’s put the mass transportation in the hands of private companies (plural) and regulate them for the benefit of the public, same as it is done with the airlines. By doing so, we do not have to worry any more about fair prices because competition between different companies will take care of that.

What make the US a great nation is that its democratic capitalism is completely different to the brutal capitalism of other countries. We must be careful at the time of using other capitalist societies as a role model to rebuild our. The US has always been a role model to other societies, let’s continue being so. Let’s seat down with our private enterprises and negotiate with them the preservation and the future well being of our home, the planet earth.