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.
- Post-Katrina, New Orleans Rises Up With A Sustainable, Entrepreneurial Culture (fastcoexist.com)
- Maximum livability in a compact design (mysanantonio.com)
- Mutual Aid and Learning: Joplin and New Orleans – update (recoverydiva.com)