After – Recovery

The book I chose this time is “Community Livability” by Fritz Wagner and Roger Caves, simple because the title sparks my curiosity. What exactly is a  “livable community”? The first line I read from the book is a quote from Robert K.Whelan, a clinical professor of Public Affairs from the University of Texas, Dallas: “Community livability is like Mr. Justice Stewart’s definition of pornography in the early 1960s: he did not know exactly what it was, but he knew it when he saw it”. Indeed, most of us do not make the decision to live in an area unless we see it first with our own eyes. Physical aspects are certainly important regarding this. Transportation systems, physical environment, public space, building designs…all come with the term “livability”. How about social characteristics? We cannot disregard factors like population diversity, economic opportunity, safety of neighborhood, or the sense of identity or belonging associated with every community.

The book examines all these aspects through case studies in selected cities throughout the United States, England and Brazil, demonstrating how cities in these countries have embraced the idea of “livable community” in order to develop sustainable policies. There are 3 sections in the book: Policy and Governance, Experiences in Community, and Specific Interventions. One particular chapter that I find interesting is Chapter 8 about Post-Katrina New Orleans, which demonstrates how the cultural components can be the central aspects of urban livability. When the New Orleans community had to face rebuilding after the Katrina Hurricane, they found that physical recovery was not the only priority. Instead, members of New Orleans community also pointed to a great need for cultural recovery. Cultural components of New Orleans; identity such as the Mardi Gras tradition in Mid-city, musical trends like blues, jazz, hip-hop, or even the food tradition were greatly missed. Therefore, this sense of common culture and public spirit to recover the tradition is one of the most vital elements of the recovery effort, and also one of the most visible signs of progress. The case study was very helpful for officials and community leaders to better understand how best to turn their communities into livable places, as it provides lots of insights into which aspects that need to be considered with regards to rebuilding a sustainable community.

Even though we’re not all Lewisburg residents, but I bet we all feel a sense of belonging towards the Bucknell campus and community. Which characteristics would be considered the defining factors of the Bucknell community? Greek life, sports or academics? Or simply everything? Either way, with the existing problems on campus, I do think that Bucknell administratives must take into account the importance all these factors, in making decisions to build a better and more engaging community for students.


11 responses »

  1. Sarah says:

    It is interesting to consider all the factors that go into how one assesses the liveability of an area. Having traveled a fair bit I have seen cities that, if I had the chance, I would want to live in if given the chance, as well as places that I would never want to go back to, let alone live. Some of the factors such as safety, transportation and activities to do in and around the city are pretty general ways of evaluating one city to the next. However there are also some intrinsic factors that you just sense when you are visiting a city. Perhaps there is something with the culture or lifestyle of the people in that city that intrigues you or perhaps your perception of the city is based on a meaningful memory. Although stats about the most liveable cities in the world are helpful, in the end no matter how liveable a city might be on paper, it still may not be liveable for you.

  2. Jordi says:

    Can you get a better picture? Maybe here? Ruin and Revival in New Orleans.

  3. Jordi says:

    That book costs $150 on Amazon! Good lord… and what a boring cover (all blue?)

  4. Jordi says:

    I care a lot about the livability of Lewisburg. Here are two efforts to build and enhance it.
    Improve Rte 15 corridor and Union county compreshensive plan..

  5. Claire McCardell says:

    I completely agree that there are certain characteristics each of us looks for in a specific area before we commit to living there, but I’d never really thought about the intangible/culture criteria that also goes into that decision. Obviously, most of us look at the aesthetics, crime rate, school systems, public transportation, cost of living, etc., but the new location also has to “feel right.” I think that’s what the author was getting at in terms of these cultural aspects that determine a location’s “livability”, however, I’m curious if he evaluated the case study locations from an objective standpoint. I think deciding livability is very much subjective, as different people desire different things from their home/location (i.e., a family with young children would have different preferences than a young, working, recent graduate). If he did evaluate them on an objective scale, what cities did he conclude had were the most “livable”? And the least livable?

  6. Lindsay S. says:

    Wow I think it’s so interesting that the New Orleans community focused so much on cultural recovery in addition to physical recovery. That never really would have crossed my mind with so many peoples’ homes completely destroyed, but that definitely makes a lot of sense. Especially after going through such a traumatic experience as Hurricane Katrina, I’m sure even after receiving new housing many of the New Orleans residents still felt their home was gone if they no longer felt the culture of their home city, which is of course a huge defining aspect.

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