During a week when I thought that Richard Florida’s new book would give me some insight into the urban condition, it turns out to be a book on food that sent my mind to thinking. My wife had been trying to get me to read “In Defense of Food” for months and this week I finally acquiesced. She had read so much of it to me aloud, had paraphrased other parts, and had talked to me about so much of the rest that it felt very familiar to me as I began to read it. One connection I hadn’t expected however, was with urbanism and infrastructure.
As I paused for a bit after a handful of chapters I realized that what I was reading was The Suburban Growth Ponzi Scheme and The Curbside Chat by Chuck Marohn but with a topic shift from infrastructure to food.
They both explain how the most basic elements of our civilization, having been formulated over millennia by trial and error have been seized upon in the twentieth century using, yes, the scientific method and data, but without any humility as to the limits of our broader systemic understanding. The alterations to tradition which the people of the United States and, to a lesser degree, other parts of the Western world have been subjected have not only led to seriously negative consequences, but have created enormous constituencies lobbying for the maintenance of a flawed system.
If you were to take as a “word bank” terms like: engineers, planners, infrastructure, suburbanization, automobiles in the statements of Chuck Marohn and use them as replacements for scientists, nutritionists, diet, industrialization in the writings of Michael Pollan and vice versa you could see how either could quickly present “In Defense of Traditional Development” or “The Table-side Chat”:
It does seem to me a symptom of our present confusion about __________ that people would feel the need to consult ___________________ about so basic a question in our everyday lives as humans. I mean, what other animal needs professional help in deciding___________?
For most of human history, humans have navigated the question without expert advice. To guide us instead we had Culture.
What drove such relentless change in the American _______________? One force is the _____________ billion dollar a year _____________ industry.
Another is the _____________ that, depending on your point of view is either steadily advancing or is changing its mind a lot because it is a flawed science.
The underpinnings of the ____________ crisis lie in a ________________the American ___________ — that does not _________________.
We often forget that the American ____________________ is an experiment, one that has never been tried anywhere before.
Across cultures, over thousands of years, people have traditionally ___________________. It is only in the last two generations that we have ___________________.
We need to end our _____________ in the ________________ of _____________, along with the multitude of direct and indirect subsidies that make it all possible.
Further, we need to intentionally return to our traditional ________________, one based on __________________. When we do this, we will inevitably rediscover our traditional values.
There is a tremendous problem we’ve identified, it has dramatic consequences that we are largely unaware of as a culture.
Everything we’ve been told about the links between _______________ and _________________ get blown away in the gust of the most recent study.
The story of how the most basic questions about _____________________ reveals a great deal of the institutional imperatives of the ______________ industry, _______________ and journalism, three parties who stand to gain much from widespread confusion regarding __________________.
My aim is to help us reclaim____________________.
We find ourselves increasingly in the grip of a ______________Industrial Complex comprised of _______________ and _____________. Together, with some crucial help from the government, they have constructed and ideology of ____________________ that has convinced us of certain pernicious things.
America is ________________. Lots of people are being hurt by it, some very badly.
Now ask yourself how this existed in the first place. How did we _______________such an amazing _____________ before the_______________?
Today we have largely relegated this art to _____________and isolated parts of the _________________.
That will require a completely different approach to ______________along with a completely different understanding of _________________.
If such an approach to ____________ doesn’t strike you as a bit strange! that is because ___________thinking has become so pervasive as to be invisible.
Even after adjusting for age, many of the so-called diseases of civilization were far less common a century ago-and they remain rare in places where people don’t ________the way we do.
Here, then, is a simple crucial fact about ________________, yet, curiously, it is a fact that ____________cannot see, probably because it developed in tandem with the _______________ of our _____________ . _______________ prefers to tinker with __________________.
We redirected our county’s extensive resources into a _______________unseen at any point in human history.
We abandoned thousands of years of history, knowledge and tradition in _______________ in order to try this new — and completely untested — approach.
So, Chuck or Mike? Whether it’s what we eat, or how we live, it seems that both of these men have arrived at similar conclusions: We’ve more than tinkered with a system that took thousands of years to develop, and in our hubris we’ve made some significant mistakes which are having grave consequences for us as individuals and as a society.