Thursday, October 06, 2005

Me and Homo Economicus

I do not think that I am a classic Homo economicus. I certainly do have feelings for others, I enjoy giving gifts and receiving gifts. I love being apart of my community, active in clubs and bible studies. I do care what people think of me and I want to be seen as a noble upstanding person in society. I think that I seek a higher quality of life, which is why I’m at A&M, but I am not endlessly seeking commodities and pleasure. Like the example of the rats, just because something causes pleasure, it does not mean that it’s good for you. Greed is one of the seven deadly sins, which can be seen through the rat’s actions.

Homo Economicus

Homo economicus is very self interested. It involves the idea that I will never be satisfied by my wants or that I’m continually seeking more wants, endlessly greedy. It also points out that once someone has a commodity the value they will want it again diminishes. This is not necessarily true of things that I need, like toilet paper, which has the same value to me, and it is not true of the giving of gifts, just because I buy one gift for someone does not mean that it will diminish for someone else.


Sustainability can be applied to almost anything: is a company sustainable, is the environment sustainable, is the lottery sustainable, is my body sustainable, and the list goes on. When we talk about sustainability in the design or urban planning profession, what exactly kind of sustainability are we talking about. Yes, something that lasts, and is adaptable and flexible and all the other things on that sustainability list, but it doesn’t mention environmental aspects. I thought the sustainability that designers focused on was environmental sustainability.


As humans and especially as Americans I don’t think we treat our bodies in a sustainable way. We do not treat our body with respect. We put things into our bodies that do promote health and well-being but deter it. Our bodies adapt to these negative behaviors and accept its neglect. It is not an efficient way to live. It is not close to a survival mind set. We also do not hold ourselves responsible for these negative actions and definitely do not look toward the future. Our bodies will not last if we continue to abuse them through obesity. It is not sustainable, it is not even natural.

Misplaced Concreteness

Misplaced concreteness basically suggests that the ‘science’ of economics is based on, successfully determined, and with conclusions drawn by use of varying abstractions, which therefore points out the fallacy in the economics as a science. This relates to sustainability because the economy is a market driven economy suggesting that all people gain from this, which is of course an abstraction. If everyone is gaining or making profit that does not necessarily mean that the environment is gaining or the idea of a sustainable environment.


I think Christianity as a religion is sustainable. It is something that has lasted and been a successful religion over time. The church works together in community and also independently for a higher goal. You are accountable and responsible for your actions and you are encouraged to learn and educate yourself on the beliefs and Word of God. Everyone has an equal opportunity and ability to know and seek God and of course it takes a great deal of risk just to believe.


The traditional formal garden is western in origin and lacking in sustainability. It strives for symmetry through geometry. This is interesting because nature is very ordered, mathematical and symmetric in its individual parts, but not as a whole. The growth of all vegetation is natural, almost chaotic seeming, and certainly not perfectly geometric. The idea of formal gardens is almost silly, constantly trimming and shaping nature into something that it is not, something almost man-made. You can not contain nature.

Monday, September 26, 2005

the naked truth

Is laundry a sustainable thing to do? We buy clothes, which are heavily overpriced, then the time and effort we put into these valuable garments is endless. Our society pressures us to buy certain items, because it is important to be fashionable. We wash them, but not only wash them but read the tiny label to see specifically how they need to be cared for, because each piece is different, separate, individual. We dry them, using the same care as when we washed them. Certain colors and fabrics can not go together and some need to be hand washed, hung up, or God forbid, dry cleaned. Yes we are reusing these bits of resources, but sometimes the time, effort and money and overall energy put in to each piece of clothing greatly outweighs its energy return. Not that I want to be a nudist or anything.

our schools

Is our educational system sustainable? We teach our children sometimes the curriculum given to us by means that the government finds appropriate. Then we test these children through a standard test. The test is supposed to allow us to see how well our teachers are teaching and how well our children are learning. Instead it seems that our teachers are teaching our children just the knowledge they will need for that specific standardized test. I know that when I was in school, my goal even as a small child was to memorize, regurgitate it, and then let is pass so I could learn other things. I never applied my knowledge or understood the importance of learning it until just recently, a strange concept for a sustainable world.

I believe that penguins are one of the most fascinating creatures on this earth. I recently saw the movie March of the Penguins and I believe that penguins have a sustainable way of life. I don’t think it is the most efficient though they have made it work. Because they have adapted to the harsh climate of Antarctica they are able to be alive and thrive. They have the ability to store food in a way that allows them to fast for months on end and also allows the mother to regurgitate for her young, because the mating spot is 70 miles away. It is a sustainable community because they last, use the resources they have, are definitely a team work society (huddling to keep warm), yet independent, who take risks and are successful. I find penguins to be incredibly sustainable with the means they have been given.

sustainability doesnt matter?

Today in class you mentioned that sustainability doesn’t matter. I found that to be very interesting because I have been struggling to know if sustainability really can exist. You mentioned that it can not exist and that it is about how we perceive sustainability that is important. Does this mean that we will never reach a perfectly sustainable environment and society, but that it is important to continue to strive toward that higher quality of life? How can I, as a designer, actually design something that I am confident is sustainable if there is no such thing?


If there was such a place as a sustainable community, what would it look like? Would the waste of humans and animals not be pumped far away to be buried but used in fertilizers and for crops? The idea of that sounds disgusting I’m sure to most Americans, so could it be possible to get over our prejudices and misconceptions. If America wants to continue to grow and stay strong it will need to strictly evaluate itself and the way it conducts its environmental subjects. Sustainability is survival for our future generations and the continuation of our life.

This summer I took the intro class of urban planning and learnt there about other cities all over the world and how they deal with transportation and compactness, high population densities. Taiwan, with a gas price of $10 per gallon has a thought out mass transportation system, with other means to get around besides a car. At what price will Americans stop driving there vehicles? Using up our resources at such a fast pace makes me think we should increase the price in order for future generations.

plants as sustainable

I have grown plants before and enjoy seeing God’s creation fill with life and eager to survive. I think it is the most inherently natural instinct of all beings to survive. A plant is sustainable as it uses the resources that it can get to and uses that energy for growth and through that emits resources for the environment to use productively. Can man create something as sustainable as a plant and the complex ecosystem that God has created? It doesn’t hurt to try.

Monday, September 19, 2005


Is it actually possible for a society to be sustainable? Has there been a sustainable society yet in the history of this world? The Fertile Crescent I don’t believe was. Venice certainly is not. I society that only survived by bartering and trading. There was no agriculture there and virtually plagued with the negative aspects of the water which completely surrounds every structure. Is it even possible for a city to be sustainable?


It is strange to think that I never once thought it was weird or stupid to live and be inhabited in the desert. I grew with the knowledge that the west was an arid place, desert terrain, no water, but I also grew up with the notion that the Great Plains was a fertile land. Little did I know that most of it is irrigated…strange that I never made the connection of the Dust Bowl. I’ve never traveled about the west of our country. I’ve been to San Diego, which was an oasis I remember when flying overhead. New Mexico, Arizona, was definitely the desert…and then San Diego. How glorious, the humidity was nonexistent the sun was shining overhead, people there weren’t used to thunderstorms…which I thought was strange, because in Houston the summer afternoons are cooled by the thunderstorms. I now realize no rain is not normal or a sustainable society.

first thoughts of katrina

Looking at the destruction of hurricane Katrina, it is hard to imagine why anyone would have built there in the first place. A port city, yes, at the mouth of the Mississippi River does make sense economically in terms of trade and the advancement of our society, but geographically it does not make sense. A marshland below sea level with levies built to fold back the water. The environment is very powerful, and the laws of science of this world can overcome even human greed.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Sustainability and Cut

So far my thoughts on sustainability are fairly simple. It seems to me to be a way of using the resources we have and keeping them intact and available for future generations. For example, tree cut and replant. It would not be sustainable to cut down all the trees without replanting for future cuts. But it would still not be sustainable to cut and replant, but do in a manner where soil erosion was a problem and not considered. Sustainability is complex, as I’m assuming I will find.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Urban Planning Journals

For my urban planning class i have been assigned to write daily journals about sustainablility and ive decided to post them online. these thoughts are about a week late from my head to you.

here's who i am...i think

I’m a fourth year Landscape Architecture major from Sugar Land, TX. I’m a fourth generation aggie and both my parents graduated with a Bachelor of Environmental Design. My father works for UT Systems as a project manager for facilities planning and my mother has her own interior design business. I chose this class because it is required but more specifically diving into the importance of sustainability and the environment. I chose Landscape Architecture because nothing else really sounded interesting to me. I have always been more inclined to the artsy side of things and the environmentalist side of things. At heart I’m a hippie liberal, tree hugger, social advocate, lover of people, and lover of God. I love the idea of reading and learning and taking in intellectual thoughts, but I have not developed a liking for the actually act of reading, probably because I learn visually. I love to swim, and swam competitively in high school, and find water to be the most pure, relaxing, and spiritual elements on this earth. I love the land and the idea that it can change the health and well-being of a person. I love helping people. This is who I am.