Lovable Community Gardens

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Habersham, South Carolina community garden is the least lovely part of the neighborhood

Habersham’s community garden; everything else at Habersham is just gorgeous

   Community gardens today are far too often the rattiest and most unkempt places in a neighborhood; anything worse would get cited by the city as a public nuisance. Part of the problem is the fact that vegetable gardens have long been considered utilitarian, something worthy of similar aesthetic attention as a laundry room or broom closet.

   I don’t have images to show of what this post is promoting, because lovable community gardens have never been proposed before in the US that I’m aware of. But there’s no reason a community garden can’t be as beautiful as an ornamental garden; it’s just different plant materials. But in any case, this post looks at both garden design and garden culture to find ways that community gardens will be more broadly welcomed into the neighborhood, and treasured there. One more thing… if you’re on Twitter and like the thought in italics, click on the bird to tweet it… thanks, and enjoy!

Why This Now?

social distancing

   In last week’s post I said I’d soon be laying out strategies for community recovery from the economic wreckage of the pandemic and propose patterns for post-pandemic architecture and urbanism. So what’s up with this post? How does it fit in?
   It’s not yet clear how many Americans will migrate from larger places to smaller ones in the wake of the pandemic, but steep declines in Manhattan rental rates indicate it’s likely to be a substantial number. And those who are either moving from larger to smaller places, or who are staying where they are and making their bedroom community their day-and-night community by working from home longterm are likely to discover that their opportunities for social interaction are more limited there. And with traditional hangouts like bars being really risky now to the point that many places have shut them down, smaller communities hoping to attract and retain people need to find social interaction alternatives which are much safer. Community gardens may be one of the best alternatives, and for several reasons:

   1. Gardeners love to talk about their gardens. Few things other than puppies are more reliable conversation-starters than gardens, especially when you’re in the garden.

   2. Gardening happens outdoors, where you’re close to 20 times less likely to get infected with the coronavirus than indoors. And because most people don’t garden in the rain, sunshine on the biggest gardening days is a virus-killing bonus.

   3. Raising food yourself means you need that much less food from the grocery store. And while groceries tend to be doing a mostly good job with shopper safety, it’s safer yet to raise your own produce. 

Getting Started


The biggest community garden challenge is coordinating all of the gardeners. But if you help them understand that they’re on a mission to do something never done before, but which could spread broadly and for which they may be remembered someday as pioneers, that may help. The first thing to remember in creating a community garden is the community. The ultimate goal is for the garden to pull the community together. At every step along the way, consider how the garden can bring the gardeners together, and also how it can help bring the neighbors who don’t plant and harvest there together as well.

Garden Layout


   Design the garden as if it were an ornamental garden, then assign the allotments, which must not be all rectangular. It doesn’t have to look like a Renaissance garden; it might be inspired by an Art Nouveau pattern, for example. Just not a rectangular grid. No ornamental garden I’ve ever seen was laid out in a rectangular grid. That’s just boring. The very fact that most allotments aren’t rectangular helps the gardeners understand from the beginning that they’re embarking on something special and it calls for them to take more care with what they’re doing. With that foundation, follow these steps:

   1. Lay out the primary network of places and paths. Some of these will be gathering places; others will be places flanked by utility structures like tool sheds, well houses, etc. The primary paths and places should be paved in brick or concrete pavers, set in sand.

   2. Lay out the secondary network of paths, which are earthen foot paths between raised beds. Lay out paths and beds so that there are three sizes of beds: small, medium, and large.

   3. Calibrate these sizes to what you think neighbors will be willing to tackle. The worst thing would be to make the beds too large, where they don’t properly maintain them. Have a common bed edge material.

Plant Materials


   It’s not entirely necessary, but it’s best if each bed in the community garden has one vegetable. This will make the appearance of the garden visually striking. Combine this with the fact that many if not most bed shapes may be unique means the combination of shape & species will definitely be unique. And just because someone has a green thumb with okra doesn’t mean they know how to grow great jalapeños. The fact that every bed will have one vegetable means that your gardeners will need (with your help) to revive that age-old gardeners’ tradition of swapping. “Wanna swap some green beans for some of my kale?” An early step toward creating community.



   Many outdoor elements can serve as garden edges, including fences, hedges, walls, arbors, porches, and building walls. And you can use different edges on different sides of the garden according to what is beyond the garden on that side. Incidentally, because some of these edges (like hedges) are more easily adaptable for width, it’s simpler to make each of your garden rooms well-proportioned than it is indoors because standard building materials tend to have a narrow choice of widths.

Plantings Near the Edge


   If the garden’s edge is something solid (hedge or wall) put the shorter vegetable beds toward the center and the taller ones next to the wall. If the garden’s edge is open, (picket or wrought iron) do the opposite so the small material is at the edge. And no, there’s nothing edible in this image, but the main point of this post is to make community gardens that are lovable, so feel free to employ any principle of ornamental gardens to edible gardens. 

Upper Levels


   Be sure to include at least some second-level (arbor) gardens, if not even some third-level (fruit trees). Intensive gardening practices take into account the fact that not all light gets absorbed by the top plants, so more produce can be grown below. And in the case of an intensive arbor like this one, the complete shade makes a great place to sit and rest from your labors in the garden.

Wall Gardens


   If you do build a garden wall, be sure that you train or espalier a wall garden upon it. If it faces the sun through enough of the day, why should it not be fruitful?

A Shady Place to Sit


   European gardens frequently have two or three levels, with arbors and maybe trees. At the very least, have arbors on each end of your garden. Furnish arbors with seats so you can sit and enjoy the garden (more on this later).

A Sunny Place to Sit


   Depending on the time of year, you might prefer to sit in the sun instead of the shade. Because the first word in “community garden” is “community,” it’s important to design the garden in such a way that they gardeners can get acquainted if they want to. And gardeners often want to. In this era of the pandemic, social interaction can be risky in many settings, but look how easy it is to maintain social distance between family groupings in a garden.

Garden Structures


   The next step is to place your buildings, both utilitarian ones like tool sheds, potting sheds, and well houses plus sitting structures like the arbors just mentioned plus roofed sitting pavilions.

A Place for Solitude


   Be sure to include a number of arbors and sitting pavilions for one person, and maybe a few for small groups, where people can sit and contemplate, looking out over this beautiful garden. Include “morning pavilions” and “evening pavilions” on each side, where one person can sit on the east side with the sunrise streaming over their shoulder as the mist rises off the garden, or on the west side at sunset, admiring the work of the day.

Water Channels


   Do you need to channel rainwater to a rain pond? Water channels can run wherever in the garden they need to, but can be especially interesting along your garden paths where the running water is easiest to see. Water is always welcome in a garden design, and you might create a small fountain or two somewhere along the way.

Frog Pond


   Consider designing your rain pond as a frog pond because frogs are excellent insect-fighters. Frog ponds have edges low enough a frog can leap out, have some plant cover, and footing like lily pads on which the frogs can sit.



   The portals into your garden are important. People should feel they are entering into a special place. "Kiss of the sun for pardon. Song of the birds for mirth. You’re closer to God’s heart in a garden than any place else on the earth.” ~ Dorothy Frances Gurney Not everyone feels so strongly about gardens as Ms. Gurney, but make your portals important anyway.

Evening Light


   Might you light your garden, or at least part of it, for small evening events? Remember, this will be one of the most beautiful places in the neighborhood and if everyone does their jobs right, a wonderful place to gather.



   How about outdoor showers? And a changing pavilion? Someone could bring clean clothes with them, then shower and change before going home so they come in fresh and depart clean, not stinky and dirty. And properly screened outdoor showers are delightful.

An Agricultural Aesthetic


   Consider how to use the small elements of the garden artfully to create an “agricultural aesthetic.” These elements may include: sticks and twine, terra cotta pots, stones, gourds, vines, and branches. You might even have design competitions.

Agrarian Community Festivals


   Much like ancient cultures, organize a series of seed-time and harvest celebrations. Make these on Saturdays, timed according to planting and harvest best practices, and organize them in such a way that they become a neighborhood cultural event. At the end of the day, a community garden isn’t just a garden for members of your community with green thumbs. Instead, it’s also a setting for creating culture and community among all your neighbors, whether or not they are gardeners themselves.

   Wanda and I really hope this is useful, but what have we missed? What other things should community gardens cultivate? 

   ~Steve Mouzon


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How Communities Can Recover & Grow Post-Pandemic

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   Cities and towns across the US and abroad are in financial crisis due to the pandemic, and some of the income generators on which they depended in recent decades may be permanently broken, but there are certain fundamentals of community survival and growth which are likely to continue long past these years, as they have track records proven over centuries. This post lays out the basics of community solvency & growth, and several posts looking at post-pandemic urbanism will be based on these fundamental. Get these things right, and the recovery of your place will stand on proven foundations. These are the basic elements:



   A community is a hamlet, village, town, or city standing free in the landscape or with suburbs (the fifth community type) at the perimeter. A metropolis is made up of many communities contiguous with each other. A community is made up of neighborhoods, large civic spaces, and special districts.



   A neighborhood is the elemental building-block of urbanism. A neighborhood is a part of a community, but with the exception of the hamlet, a neighborhood does not make up the entire community. The majority of a city should be made up of neighborhoods, with special districts making up the remainder of the land area. A neighborhood contains at least three Transect zones, so there is a range of intensity in every neighborhood. A neighborhood also contains a mix of uses and is built compactly enough that neighbors can walk or bike to many if not most of their daily needs.

Large Civic Space


   Most civic spaces are located within a neighborhood or special district, but civic spaces can occasionally be large enough that they form borders to the neighborhoods and districts around them. The Mall in Washington, DC is an unusually large example of a large civic space.



   A district is a contiguous area within a town or more often a city that, by its intrinsic function, disposition, or configuration, cannot conform to one of the normative Transect zones or community types. Districts can be either warranted or unwarranted. Unwarranted districts are usually sprawl land uses such as shopping malls or office parks, and contain components that should instead be incorporated into neighborhoods. Warranted districts include universities, airports, hospitals, rail yards, cemeteries, industrial districts, etc.



   A hamlet is a community composed of one neighborhood standing free in the landscape. To be truly sustainable, hamlets should have a “raison d’être,” or “reason for being” tied to the land or water around them: most commonly, they were farm hamlets, but might also be built for fishing or other resource-based activities like (occasionally) hunting. Today, the term is most often used as a romantic description of sprawl, but that’s not what I mean by the use of the term. Because of its size, the hamlet cannot support any businesses supported only by its residents, but it can support limited commercial if it’s good enough to draw people in from other hamlets and villages nearby.

   Serenbe, in Georgia’s Chattahoochee Hills, has grown to four hamlets separated by nature preserve, but even when it was still a single hamlet, its foodie culture was already so strong that it drew people in from 10 miles around almost every day and all the way from Atlanta on the weekends to eat and shop there. The four hamlets today each have a specific focus: agriculture, the arts, health & wellness, and education. This highlights another necessity of sustainable hamlets: each should focus on one thing and invite people in from other hamlets to enjoy what you do well. Serenbe is arguably the best study of modern-day hamlets anywhere in America; it’s well worth your while to visit. As a matter of fact, Wanda and I would be happy to join you on the tour.



   A village is a community composed of more than one neighborhood, but with a clear primary economy focus, such as a fishing village. Whereas residents of a hamlet usually take their products to market elsewhere, the village develops a nascent market where people can come from elsewhere to purchase products derived from the economic focus of the village. The village also has enough residents to support a range of businesses supplying daily needs to residents, and also to those outside the village when the services are good enough, as in the Serenbe example. Hamlets can grow into villages by adding neighborhoods.

   Today, a multitude of people who can work remotely are considering relocating from more urban places to villages, towns, and smaller cities, with their perceived safety of smaller circles of contacts. But by doing so, they will be moving from places of greater cultural opportunties to quieter places, so these communities will have to deal with the balance between retaining their small-town character and becoming more interesting places. At the scale of a village, attracting a cohort which works remotely inherently creates a second economic focus of the village: one served not by natural resources like their first focus, but by high-speed connectivity which lets this second focus of remote work thrive.



   A town is a community composed of several neighborhoods, and which is large enough to have developed more than one economic focus, although it still may be identified by its original focus, such as a textile town. The market of the town may have grown robust enough that it is now known as a market town instead, and its economic reach can pull in customers both from surrounding hamlets and villages. Or because a town is large enough to develop special districts, it may be known by the function of one of those districts, such as a university town. Villages grow into towns by adding neighborhoods, at least one additional economic focus and possibly a special district.
   Towns should be able to add the economic focus of remote work more easily than villages, because towns have already diversified their economic bases. Because towns are naturally somewhat more diverse than villages, they may more easily welcome new arrivals than smaller communities.



   A city is a community composed of many neighborhoods and several special districts, and which is large enough to have developed enough economic foci that it is no longer identified by any of them except in the most general terms, such as an industrial city or an economic center. Towns grow into cities by adding neighborhoods, special districts, and several new economic foci.
   Cities have the greatest range of sizes, and small cities have special advantages when welcoming new arrivals from elsewhere within their region on two primary counts: they know how to do most of the things larger cities do, and they will feel most like home to those leaving larger cities. It is especially important to note that some of the most important urban thinkers (chiefly Leon Krier) have long made the case that cities can grow so large that they become fragile to many black swan events such as the pandemic. So if this indeed turns into a great migration, it could actually end up being healthy for some of the largest cities once the initial pain is over.



   A suburb is a community at the edge of a city. A suburb founded once the urb to which it is the sub-urb has become a city begins at least at the scale of a village because of the strength of the economic engine of the city. Hamlets around a village or town that grows into a city can either grow into village- or town-scale suburbs, or can be absorbed into the city. The motivation for suburb-founding can be varied, but is usually based on a desire to be different from the city in some way, while still maintaining strong economic ties to the city. Those differences may be differences in management, economic foci, or a range of other motivations. Suburbs can be sustainable if composed of true neighborhoods as defined above and if connected to the city by a range of transportation choices primarily including various forms of transit.

   In this election year, “suburb” is being used loosely and with no precision. Traditional suburbs can be some of the best places in the region to live and raise a family, with close-knit communities and thriving community institutions. Suburban sprawl, on the other hand, is a very different pattern of development and shares little with traditional suburbs other than the fact that both are outside the central city.

Suburban Sprawl


   Suburbs built according to the patterns of sprawl and connected to the city primarily by automobiles are highly unsustainable and have arguably become America’s greatest challenge to economic health, environmental health, and public health. Suburban sprawl has the worst negative ROI of any settlement pattern in the history of the world. Charles Marohn of Strong Towns and Joe Minicozzi of Urban 3 have been exposing the broken economic foundations of sprawl for over a decade. Transforming suburban sprawl to sustainable suburbs through extreme makeovers will be America’s most pressing place-making mission of the upcoming decades. Several colleagues have brilliant proposals for how to fix the insolvent patterns of sprawl, and Wanda and I are working on a version we call Sprawl Recovery.  Whatever it’s called, it begins with a commitment to building no more suburban sprawl.

   Post-pandemic, sprawling places have the worst prognosis for being able to host remote workers longterm. Many in the new remote work multitude commuted into the city from sprawling bedroom communities before the pandemic struck. They had many cultural opportunities after work before heading home for the night. But exiled day and night at the end of a cul-de-sac is a very different proposition that most will likely find intolerable long-term. These are the people most likely to be shopping for real estate in a traditional suburb nearby. For these sprawling places, an extreme makeover may take on urgency years ahead of when it would have without the pandemic. Fortunately, there is a path from sprawl to sustainable traditional suburbs.

   ~Steve Mouzon

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The Powerful Virtuous Cycles of Street Trees

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   There are several powerful virtuous cycles of street trees that benefit so many parts of the built environment and the people who inhabit it in ways we may not have thought about until now. This post hopes to bring this multitude of benefits (some of which are life-changing) out into the daylight. And from 2020 onward, as we look for the healthy benefits of spending more time outdoors, no single element will play a larger role in helping us to do just that than street trees.

Direct Effects of Street Trees

   Street trees affect us directly in several ways. These effects are arranged from the most local to the global.

Thermal Effects

   Properly placed street trees shade the sidewalk. This can result in a reduction of 20° - 45° (all temperatures Fahrenheit  in sidewalk temperature, according to Lance Hosey. Sidewalks store a lot of heat due to their mass and then radiate that heat to everything around them, especially including the people walking on them.

   Street trees also shade the people walking on the sidewalk. Walking in the shade versus walking in the sun can easily make a perceived difference of 20° due to solar radiation on your skin.

   Street trees transpire, meaning that they give off water vapor through evaporation of moisture from their leaves. The misting fans often found in warm climates like South Beach where we lived for 16 years cool people sitting at sidewalk cafes have a similar and more visible effect because you can see the mist whereas you can’t see the water vapor from the trees, even though it cools you almost as well. Evapotranspiration from trees can reduce temperatures around the trees by 2° - 9°, again according to Hosey. This compounds the cooling effect of shading.



   Street trees are usually considered beautiful by most people in town. And street trees are the only things we install on a streetscape that get bigger and more beautiful over time all on their own. But beauty isn’t the only way they appeal to our senses. “Street trees help you know when you are because of how they behave across the seasons.” ~ Victor Dover


   Properly placed street trees (between sidewalk & travel lanes) physically protect people walking on the sidewalk because a car is likely to strike a tree before getting to someone walking. Trees near the street also encourage drivers to slow down because no sane driver wants to wrap their car around a tree, as the tree almost always wins. Street trees have been shown to be as effective against speeding as speed cameras, according to The Telegraph.

Increased Real Estate Value


   Because street trees are beautiful, they raise the value of the real estate around them if properly selected. On mostly residential streets, their lowest limbs should be above head height; on mostly commercial streets, their lowest limbs should be above the sign band of the adjacent businesses. As to the value, one street tree on a block raises the value of every house on the block by $2,000 except the house where the street tree is located, the value of which is raised $7,000. If the street is lined with trees, the value of every house is raised by $22,000. This data is from Doug Kelbaugh. Dan Burden says that while the planting & 3-year maintenance cost of a relatively large-caliper street tree is probably $250 - $600, the lifetime benefits of that tree will be around $90,000. This means that street tree programs can be largely self-financing in all except poor neighborhoods because once people understand this, many will plant their own street trees to jump-start their home appreciation. Beyond the street, studies show home buyers & real estate agents assign 10%-23% of lot value to trees on the lot, according to Kaid Benfield.

Indicator of Places People Love

   Because street trees are beautiful, they are good indicators of the most-loved parts of town, increasing not only the real estate value, but also the stature of the neighborhood. Recovery of a seriously disinvested place should begin early on with a street tree program because street trees change the perception of the place from a place where nothing is possible to a place where “you never know what good might happen here.” When I’m scouting a town I’m not familiar with for possibly shooting a volume for the Catalog of the Most-Loved Places, I drive a major street and look down the side streets looking for street trees. Almost without exception, places with lots of street trees are the most-loved neighborhoods in town. No other sign of a vibrant, lovable place can be seen from further away than a line of street trees. Test this yourself.

Crime Reduction


   Street trees reduce crime. A recent Baltimore study showed that 10% more street trees = 12% less crime. Why this is so is no mystery. More street trees = stronger Walk Appeal = more people walking = more eyes on the street = less crime, as Jane Jacobs said 60 years ago.

Business Improvement

   Street trees are good for business. Lining streets with street trees leading to a neighborhood center draws customers in to neighborhood businesses from surrounding neighborhoods by elevating Walk Appeal. Jeff Tumlin says that street trees are a critical economic development and sustainability investment. And they’re good for the economy of a neighborhood in general. According to Patrick Kennedy, Every street tree absorbs the first inch of stormwater. They can save billions in stormwater infrastructure across the city, allowing that money to be spent on things that benefit businesses. Or the money can be saved so that taxes can be reduced.

Global Effects


   Trees are carbon champions. They continually inhale carbon dioxide and exhale oxygen, while humans and other animals do the opposite. They also sequester carbon within the tree as the tree grows. Plant enough trees, and they will actually absorb all carbon emitted by humans today. That number is currently 1.2 trillion trees. Unfortunately, humans are going the wrong direction by burning the Amazon and deforesting places around the world for more cattle farming. But planting street trees would at least be a start in the right direction. If there are 4 million miles of streets and roads in the US today (not counting Interstates) and street trees were planted 25 feet on center on either side of all of them, that would total almost 1.7 billion trees. That’s only a fraction of 1.2 trillion, but definitely a step in the right direction. Just. Quit. Destroying. What’s. Already. Growing!

Secondary Effects of Virtuous Cycles Induced by Street Trees

This is without doubt a partial list, and might even be just the tip of the iceberg.

Walk Appeal Superfood


   The combined effect of shading the sidewalk, shading the humans, and evapotranspiration can transform a walk in hot weather (wearing anything other than beach attire) from something 10% of the people can tolerate to something 90% can tolerate, making street trees a Walk Appeal superfood. One young healthy street tree = the cooling power of 10 room-size air conditioners running 20 hours/day, according to Kaid Benfield. And Doug Kelbaugh says street trees have close to 16 times the cooling effect on the human environment as trees in a forest.

Urban Heat Island Reduction

   For all the reasons already listed and because street trees also shade a lot of paving on the streets themselves, they are major contributors to reductions in urban heat islands. For anyone who might not know the term, “urban heat islands” describes the heating of air within cities to several degrees above that of the surrounding countryside. And according to Ed Mazria, each 10% increase in tree coverage in an urban context can reduce mid-day temp by 1.8°.

Sidewalk Cafe Enrichment


   Street trees at sidewalk cafes make them more comfortable, thereby attracting more customers, which in turn increases the cafes’ chances of success which in turn builds the financial strength of their suppliers and provides a livelihood for their employees.

Adjacent Building Conditioning Reduction

   Deciduous street trees on narrow streets shade windows of adjacent buildings, reducing cooling loads. And by being deciduous, they drop their leaves in autumn, allowing solar gain into the buildings during the colder months of the year.

Improved Perception of Surrounding Environment


   Because street trees are beautiful, they improve the environment around them in many ways. For example, almost everyone loathes parking lots, but Victor Dover says that the greatest parking lot in the world is the Champs Élysées in Paris. And it works because of the street trees.

Increased Perception of Safety

   Perception of safety is a strong component of Walk Appeal. The perception of protection from traffic afforded by street trees (see Safety above) combined with the perception of the neighborhood as a most-loved place due to the street trees has strong compounding effects in elevating Walk Appeal.

Improved Performance of Surrounding Environment

   Street trees improve the local environment in several ways due to combinations of several of the direct effects noted above. Doug Kelbaugh says that street trees are like little urban hospitals. They beautify their surroundings, freshen and oxygenate the air, reduce aerial pollutants, provide cooling shade, retain soil, and detain & retain stormwater, among other benefits.

Improved Wellness of Body, Mind & Spirit


   All these things raise a sense of wellness and wholeness in those who are there, which have beneficial side-effects on our wellness of body, wellness of mind and wellness of spirit. And there’s one very direct result of Walk Appeal that benefits all three types of wellness: Both folk wisdom and scientific studies have shown that there is a direct relationship between walking and both clarity of thought and peacefulness of mind, which also contributes to wellness of body by reducing blood pressure and pulse rate, and improving many other bodily metrics. But long before the studies, folk wisdom set a high value on “thinking on your feet.” Many agree. Steve Jobs famously developed some of his best ideas on long walks.

Improvement of Disinvested Places

   Increases in real estate value as a result of street trees have beneficial side-effects across the board, but nowhere are these benefits more pronounced than in seriously disinvested places because greater value opens the doors for banks to provide the resources necessary for further improvements. But increases in value have a dark underbelly, which is gentrification with displacement. The old aphorism says “a rising tide lifts all boats,” but most of the time, a rising tide creates enough draft for the cruise ships, so the little boats have to leave. Increased value could be handled this way (and usually is) but doesn’t have to be. If the goal is changing lives rather than just changing structures & infrastructure, then transforming a barren street to a tree-lined street should be one of the first steps in turning a neighborhood around because they can lift the spirits of those who live there, helping things seem possible which seemed impossible on the barren street nobody cared for.

   Reduction in crime due to more street trees has many benefits to any neighborhood, especially the most disinvested neighborhoods. Crime stifles normal social interactions, which are the seedbeds of community bonds, and saps the economic strength of a place, both due to fear of the public realm. Reduction in crime makes many things possible that seemed impossible beforehand.

Street Trees, Walk Appeal & Single-Crew Workplaces


   Street trees set the stage for thriving single-crew workplaces because the workplaces are too small to survive without healthy foot traffic. Single-crew workplaces are rarely destination retailers. Walk Appeal and single-crew workplaces such as food carts have a strong symbiotic relationship. Few things feed Walk Appeal more than the combination of quick changes in view and other humans, and a line of food carts or shop sheds provides this in spades. And nothing feeds single-crew workplaces better than many people walking by.

Tertiary Effects & Beyond of Virtuous Cycles Induced by Street Trees

   The tertiary effects of street trees might even be even more the tip of the iceberg than the secondary effects. I have for years been trying to figure out something Orjan Lindroth and I call the “unified field theory of sustainable community,” We’re no Einsteins, but similar to how Einstein’s unified field theory of natural forces (that he worked to discover to the end of his life) would have been able to express every force in terms of every other force, our hope is to be able to express every part of the built environment and the societies that inhabit it in terms of every other part. We were finally able to tell a lot of the story in the new edition of A Living Tradition [Architecture of The Bahamas] a couple years ago once we finally figured out that the operating system is composed of nature’s ways rather than industrial rules. But these virtuous cycles (especially the tertiary effects and beyond) do the best job of laying out the story of how it works that I’ve ever been able to tell. Or at least I think so. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Living In Season


   Walk Appeal entices people to spend time outdoors, either attending to their daily needs or just for the pure joy of walking in a place with great appeal. In either case, time spent outdoors helps acclimate us to the local environment so that on all but the most extreme days of the year, it may be possible to throw the windows open instead of turning on the equipment, and there is no equipment so efficient as that which is off.  This is a condition I call Living In Season. Wanda and I have proven this personally. Because we arrived in Miami in the fall of 2003, we spent our first months there in the “winter,” such as it is, and got acclimated to warmer weather slowly in the springtime. As a result, I can accurately say that in all of my 16 years living on Miami Beach, I have never been in the shade, in a breeze, and uncomfortable. Not once. But when people came to visit who lived in a perpetually refrigerated existence, they really suffered. Waves of sweat rolling off them. Meanwhile, I have many times worked in my studio on Miami Beach in July, with the windows open, the ceiling fan on, and the AC off. In the town where the basketball team is named “the Heat.” This isn’t theory; for us, it is practice.

Fine-Grained Web of Daily Needs

   Single-crew workplaces fueled by street trees and their resultant Walk Appeal are the best tools for meeting a full range of daily needs in a neighborhood, especially a seriously disinvested one. There’s no need for a 40,000 square foot grocery; I have photos of a 16’ x 36’ single-crew grocery (one grocer) in Beaufort, South Carolina that opened in 1919 and has been in the family ever since. Without it, that neighborhood would have been a food desert. Put another way, if the smallest viable grocery is 40,000 square feet, everyone has to drive so all the neighbors in that neighborhood would be burdened with the cost of owning a car. Single-crew workplaces are a strong answer to the specter of automotive impoverishment.

Building Dreams Early


   Single-crew workplaces have another remarkable property: they make it possible for people of more limited resources like women, the young, immigrants, and minorities (groups Lean Urbanism is working to benefit) to begin realizing their dreams years or decades before they could afford to go in business in a conventional ULI-approved brick-and-mortar location. If they ever could at any time in their lifetime. The self-determination of pursuing one’s dream was always the real American Dream, right up until it got hijacked by the real estate industry and rebranded as owning a house. Single-crew workplaces can set that straight again.

Obesity Reduction

   Street trees reduce obesity by elevating Walk Appeal so people are enticed outdoors to walk instead of drive. Doug Kelbaugh puts it directly: “the more trees there are on a block, the less likely people living there are to be obese.” Walk Appeal has three prime benefits: elevating the environmental health, the economic health, and the public health of a place. While the first two benefit greatly from Walk Appeal, arguably the greatest beneficiary is public health, as Walk Appeal can add meaningful years to our lives. But we’ve known this dating back to Dr. Richard Jackson’s pioneering work over a decade ago.

Parking Reduction


   When street-tree-fueled Walk Appeal is stronger, there is less need for parking at single-crew workplaces because they can be more finely distributed around the city and the neighborhood so that more people can walk to their daily needs. Reducing parking, especially off-street parking lots, has many benefits. A parking lot paved in asphalt is a huge heat sink, elevating the temperature of the microclimate around it. Parking lots located at the street frontage nearly kill Walk Appeal for two reasons: they are really boring and they are also repulsive. How many people do you know who say “I love parking lots?” They also prevent proper street enclosure on their side of the street. And whereas the travel lanes of streets with on-street parking double as parking aisles but parking lots must provide their own aisle, the asphalt required per car is essentially doubled once you count access drives, doubling the harmful heat island effects per car. Actually, I could go on for quite some time on the harmful effects of surface parking lots, but then I wouldn’t finish this post this evening.

Driving & Heat Island Reduction

   More walking to daily needs means less driving, and there are more benefits to driving less to daily needs than just needing less parking. The heat of combustion from automobile engines exacerbates urban heat islands. Cities & towns where people drive more get hotter; cities & towns where people drive less stay cooler.

Air Conditioning & Heat Island Reduction


   More severe heat islands raise the cooling load on buildings because the air around them is hotter. Unfortunately, air conditioning operates by expelling indoor heat to the outdoors. Stand next to a condensing unit to feel the effects. This is a clearly vicious cycle, because as the urban heat island gets more severe and necessitates more indoor cooling, the heat that is expelled makes outdoor air even hotter, requiring even more cooling. The net effect of the supercharged urban heat island is that people who could otherwise walk to their daily needs drive instead, because it’s just too hot to walk, and that additional auto exhaust further heats the air, reinforcing the vicious cycle. Under these conditions, Living in Season eventually becomes impossible. The first step in unwrapping this vicious spiral is more street trees, which with the many intertwined effects noted so far, can cool the city enough to restart the virtuous cycles.

The Enticement of Other Humans


   I mentioned sidewalk cafes earlier. Nothing is more interesting to humans than other humans. That’s why it’s so interesting walking on a busy sidewalk. There is one thing more interesting than walking humans, and that’s humans sitting still in one place for some time. You might see a person walking by for a few seconds, whereas they might sit at a sidewalk cafe for hours. Sidewalk cafes are one of the silver bullets of urbanism, with too many befits that ripple out from them to describe here. Suffice it to say that if there is a thriving cafe scene in a neighborhood, many other good things are probably happening there as well.

Porches, Galleries, Balconies & Neighborliness

   The second most interesting place for humans to sit is on porches, galleries, or balconies located in such a way that they can strike up a conversation with someone walking by who was theretofore a stranger. And as hokey as it sounds, it’s also true that those conversations can lead to relationships, which can then lead to people acting like neighbors again, rather than as the more common status as anonymous co-habitators of nearby real estate. But that only works if there are people walking by, which is highly dependent on Walk Appeal and the street trees that boost it so.

Local to Global Benefits


   Let’s get back out here at the end to the global scale: Street trees elevate Walk Appeal which in turn reduces urban heat islands. All this conspires to make a community a more pleasant place to live where you can walk to your daily needs, become more fit and reach greater clarity of mind and peacefulness of spirit. And you can meet more neighbors and become as deeply invested in your community as you like, while seeing your neighbors pursue their dreams that would have been impossible elsewhere because of their single-crew workplaces in your neighborhood which by the way gives you more choices of services within walking distance. Or maybe you become one of them, pursuing your dreams as well.

   But there’s more. All of these things conspire to help mitigate climate change, which millions view as civilization’s greatest threat. But maybe you don’t; there are millions from the US to Australia who share that view. If you share that view, just focus on the local things you enjoy about living this way in your neighborhood and your town. If living this way has global benefits far beyond your neighborhood or your town, we all win. All you have to do is start planting street trees and enjoy them and the many powerful virtuous cycles that spin out from them. 

   ~Steve Mouzon

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What's Coming Back & What's Not

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NYC blackout 2019 4824

   After 9/11, Katrina, and the Great Recession, there were many proclamations of “never again;” I made some of them myself. As Laura Clemons has said repeatedly on her quest to get towns to rebuild better after a disaster “there are very few human urges stronger than the need to put things back the way they were.” What does everyone think are the top three most likely and top three least likely things to come back essentially the way they were once the pandemic is over? My top 3s:

Most Likely

   The human urge to socialize is strong, so the things most likely to come back relatively unchanged all have something to do with our need for contact with other humans.

1. Third Places


   Look what happened in Wisconsin after the state supreme court killed the safer at home order: everyone streamed to the bars with no social distancing, including at least one nurse who should have known better. The most important thing here is scale. I believe there will be a lot of people uncomfortable with being in a restaurant that seats 300 people, but feel much better in places with a couple dozen neighbors. This favors neighborhood Third Places over large chain restaurants. Establishments that pull in large numbers from a distance have a greater risk of seeding the crowd with someone from a hot zone.

2. Religious Gatherings


   The only reason religious gatherings aren’t in the #1 position on this list is because not everyone attends them. But the passion here is probably higher than any of the others because when you combine the need to socialize with high stakes (heaven vs. hell, for example) religion in all its forms will be back almost exactly the way it was. I do wonder if one difference might be a new preference for worship in smaller groups? Even meeting in homes?

3. Fitness & Sports


   Both ends of the athletic spectrum will come back largely unchanged both because of the social need to work out with others if you're one of the athletes, and also the social need to cheer on the home team if you're not. Spectator sports in large venues may well be one of the very few exceptions most people make in the year or two after the pandemic is over to stay away from large crowds, and that’s because of their love of the home team. After the Spanish Flue of 1918, many people stayed away from very large gatherings for the next few years.

Least Likely

   To be clear, I’m not saying these things are unlikely to come back, but rather unlikely to come back as they were before. In other words, most likely to come back with big changes.

1. Offices


   Offices won’t disappear, but we’re in a massive test run on why many companies don’t need nearly the space they have. There's no doubt many are already doing the math & figuring out this new way. And the ability of millions to work from home at least most of the time could be a huge impetus to jump-start Sprawl Recovery when those who once worked in the city every day begin to really suffer from Social Deficit Disorder in the blandness of sprawl. I’ll blog more about this soon, and link to it from here. Office landlords should be nervous.

2. Transit


   Urbanists won’t be making this decision; millions of commuters will. There’s a chance the coming carpocalypse may push some back onto transit, but the percentage is uncertain. One big winner here is cycling and cycling facilities; one big loser is living a long distance from work because in some places, there’s a very real chance that if you leave at your normal departure time, you might not arrive until lunch at offices in cities heavily dependent upon transit. This is an existential time for transit, as much as it pains me to say that. I’ll blog more on some heretofore-unthinkable implications of this shortly.

3. Retail


   Look for a dumbbell migration to both the super-big and online like Amazon & Apple & to the super-small single-crew workplaces where people from failed mid-sized companies will set up shop again doing what they already know how to do, but smaller. Most won’t want to go to work for the companies that killed their businesses and are much more likely to try to reconstitute at the smallest possible size and give it another go. And many existing single-crew workplaces that already put out great products are doing great now. Our son Sam runs Dinner Bell Barbeque, a food cart in Portland, so he’s by definition a carry-out establishment and has been doing great since the lockdown, after a very dark and rainy winter.

What Else?

   As we navigate the new normal, what else do you see as most likely and least likely to come back the way it was? Help me out here, and I’ll post an updated list later with your items included… thanks in advance!

   ~Steve Mouzon

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The Original Green at 10

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Original Green cover front for post

   Ten years ago today, the Original Green went on sale for the first time after a launch party at Books & Books on Lincoln Road in South Beach the night before. I’m not sure what it has meant to anyone else, but it changed so many things for Wanda and I. So much useful stuff has resulted from this one little book in the decade that followed, including most of the ideas on this site, which would never have gotten worked out otherwise. For anyone who has found Original Green ideas useful, we’d really love to hear from you!

If you prefer buying from an independent bookstore, my favorite bookstore in the world is Sundog Books in Seaside, Florida, and they have them in stock.

   ~Steve Mouzon

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The COVID Collapse of the Office Park

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Sprawl Huntsville, AL 07MAR22 3347 modified

   Office parks are toast; if you’re a partner, director, investor, or trustee of one, start thinking now about how to redevelop your asset before it becomes a liability in the near future. Google “office park failing” and you’ll get million of results. The demise of the office park has been increasingly apparent for years, hastened by the Millennials’ distaste for boring suburban office parks; COVID19 is merely the coup de grâce. Here’s why:

The Brain-Dead Cool Factor

Glenwood Park 10MAY22 8956

the new reality: Cool Factor or Bust

   Millennials are legendary for picking a cool city, then finding a cool neighborhood in that city, then finding a job they can walk or bike to from where they live. Almost every office park fails every test for Cool Factor ever invented. If you want young talent, you absolutely cannot be in an office park less cool than the Apple Ring. Just forget about it. So how do you achieve a reasonable Cool Factor? Think back to when the Millennials were teens. Where did they go in your town? Almost everywhere, they congregated where there was some shred of urbanism; where the uses were mixed and the building types varied. Office parks are the antithesis on every count.

Efficiency Deficit Disorder

research park existing

a bit of building, lots more parking
& lots of wasted space

   Le Corbusier, dead for over a half-century, still haunts the American landscape with his “drive 30 miles to work” edict, and also haunts the architecture academy as their long-dead god. Corbusier famously called for the destruction of the best of Paris to be replaced with his trademark “towers in the park” in his wretched Plan Voisin. In American office parks, his towers in the park have become “mid-rises in the parking lot.” And they’re hideously inefficient. Take this example from a place I know well. This is a 100,000 square foot building filled with people doing meaningful biotech work. It sits on 18 acres of land. But look at how much more they could accomplish using just basic urbanism like the 50 foot “green depth” and interior parking courts!

research park transformed

the same land, reconfigured as city blocks

   They would get their 100,000 square feet on the first floor, plus an additional 80,000 square feet of stuff like coffee shops, neighborhood groceries, pharmacies, and the basic necessities of life… all on the first floor! Then the two floors above that could be 360 1,000 square foot units, 720  500 square foot units, or whatever mix worked for the local market. Or they could get the entire 100,000 square feet on just a couple of the blocks using all three stories and have that much more mixed use on the street level. Either way, you’d be able to live, work, shop, eat, and walk home… all on the space currently wasted on today’s office park! Corbusier’s Curse on America is felt nowhere worse than the doomed office park. Let’s get to work fixing this mess! Why waste so much profit potential any longer? Make places that pay their own bills and keep on profiting!

The Infrastructure Burden

Sprawl Huntsville, AL 07MAR22 3349-1

parking area exceeds building area
in sprawl because you must drive
everywhere for everything

   Sprawling districts like office parks are not only inefficient in themselves, but impose a great infrastructure burden on the municipalities where they’re located roughly proportional to the inefficient land use within their borders. Charles Marohn of Strong Towns and Joe Minicozzi of Urban3 have been exposing the Ponzi scheme of sprawl for over a decade, showing how every city pre-COVID had a date at which it would go bankrupt due to its inability to continue to maintain the infrastructure in sprawl, which can easily have as much as 3-4 times the infrastructure per property as traditional urbanism. The pandemic may have compressed the bankruptcy timeframe for cities from decades or years to months or even weeks. This will be a question of survival for municipalities all over, and let’s be clear: office parks may have a lot of high-income white-collar occupants with political influence, but the development form puts them close to last in terms of tax revenue vs. infrastructure maintenance burden. In business terms, they’re “alligators,” and they will eat you.

Home Officing


working at home isn’t limited to indoors

   The previous three problems are long-standing; this one is newer. Yes, New Urbanists have been advocating for live/work units and other forms of working from home for decades, and some of us have tried it, but it was not so pervasive a practice in the pre-quarantine days. Now, however, the millions lucky enough to still be employed and able to work from home are giving it a massive test run. And no, not everyone loves it. Those with small children are finding it especially challenging. But these are enormously eye-opening days for many companies, as they ask “what if we don’t really need this huge space with its huge rent?” Expect many of those companies to downscale post-COVID to varying degrees. Others will follow the PlaceMakers example, which has since the beginning operated with everyone in different cities. I look for those companies to provide stipends for the cost of the home office and childcare for those who need it. If these things happen, then office rents will soon be far more affordable. Couple that with the fact that lease delinquency is massive, and it’s obviously high time for all office building owners, whether in an office park or somewhere else, to start getting creative on what to do now.

Real Solutions

Sprawl Repair Manual cover

Galina Tachieva’s excellent book

   Fifteen years ago, the common solution in most places to a failed land use type like office parks was decline and eventual abandonment. Fortunately, much work has been done in the intervening years on what is now known as Suburban Retrofit, Sprawl Repair, or Sprawl Recovery. There are now reams of techniques out there such as those found in the Sprawl Repair Manual and Retrofitting Suburbia. Other resources include Build a Better Burb, hosted by the Congress for the New Urbanism. And you can (and should) start small instead of huge demolish-and-rebuild plans. Begin the very first things tactically, then build in small increments because not many want to spend huge chunks of money at the moment.

Dinosaur or Chrysalis?

   Dinosaurs are… well, you know, dead. Will the office park be remembered as a dinosaur or a chrysalis? The chrysalis is the intermediate form between a caterpillar and a butterfly. The dinosaur ran out of chances to transform, but it’s in the blood of the chrysalis. What is the office park? It depends on the leadership in each one. If they’re willing to transform on the scale of an extreme makeover, then it’s not actually that hard to do since office parks are made up of big chunks of mostly-empty land, meaning that many things are possible. And it has already been done; check out the Township at Colony Park, which began 20 years ago to build a robust mixed-use community in a couple pods of an office park. Mike Thompson can tell you more about it. So it comes down to this for the leadership: are you willing to grow up and become a city so you can pay your own way and attract young talent, or will you get stuck and die? It’s your choice.

   ~Steve Mouzon


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Earth Day at 50

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Earth Day at 50

   Never before in our lifetimes has the daily flood of urgent things been so firmly dammed up. Treasure these most surreal of days for their greatest gift: revealing the most important things that in the endless stream of everydays get obscured in the fog and the flow.

   If these days do not change me, then the only thing I’ll carry forward is a lot of economic pain. But if they help me see more clearly the things that are most important and act upon them, the benefits that flow from that awakening can last a lifetime... and beyond.

   This pandemic has caused too much death and pain not to cause good change. The worst thing we could do now is get back to normal. Let’s get to work soon building a new normal based on the important things revealed in these awe-full days. The worst thing to do now is shut my eyes.

   And let’s face facts: what’s happening now is just nature being nature. We have built an industrial illusion that we have overcome nature, but nature tests every construct. And in this test, our financialized industrial system has been found wanting. In the words of the President of the United States on March 23 “Our country wasn’t built to be shut down. This is not a country that was built for this.”

   No kidding. Since the Sustaining Economy this county and every nation before it was founded on was discarded and replaced with the Consuming Economy a century ago, the lifeblood of the country was ever-increasing consumption, as measured each quarter by Wall Street. The Consuming Economy values things by how quickly they’re used up; the Sustaining Economy values things by how far they’re handed down. I’ve written about this in detail in the new edition of A Living Tradition [Architecture of The Bahamas].

   But this Great Pause hasn’t been just unmitigated disaster for those of us still alive; it has also opened a window into a view of earth almost as profound as Earthrise, the first view of our home from space a half-century ago. Today it’s a view, however fleeting, of what earth would be like in just a few weeks if we quit spoiling it! Blue skies over Los Angeles, Beijing, and cities everywhere in between. Nature returning to places from which it had been exiled all over the world. Families spending time with each other, going for long walks or bike rides. People finally having time to think about the things that matter most.

   Obviously, this all can’t last. The financialized industrial system is raring to come roaring back as soon as possible, hoping to get things back to normal. But can we make at least some of it last?

   Think about what we’ve seen: cleaner skies and waters than we thought we’d ever see in our lifetimes even if all nations complied fully with all the agreements. They haven’t, and not by a long shot. So this is little short of a miracle that we’re seeing what we’re seeing now. What might we do to preserve some of this without completely wrecking economies around the world?

   The next posts over the coming weeks will look at several aspects of how we build our homes, workplaces, towns, cities, and lives to consume a lot less but live a lot better.  Better rather than more. Quality of life over standard of living. But for this one day, just cherish this miraculous view of something we never imagined we’d see, especially since it has come at such a great price to so many, almost 180,000 of whom have paid the ultimate price.

   ~Steve Mouzon

The COVID Collapse of the Office Park


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What Tuscaloosa Just Did

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what tuscaloosa just did

   The City of Tuscaloosa just pulled off something brilliant that every city should know about in states that aren’t already protecting their people with Shelter In Place orders. Alabama is a Dillon’s Rule state as established in the 1901 state constitution. This means that counties and cities are limited to powers expressly granted them by the Legislature. Shelter In Place orders are not one of those powers. Here’s Mayor Walt Maddox’s more detailed explanation.

   So did the city idly sit by waiting for the Governor to do the right thing? Not a chance. The Mayor was early in his first term when the catastrophic 2011 tornado hit, and so he and his team quickly learned how to get stuff done in a disaster. Last night, they pulled it off again.

   One of the powers expressly granted by the Legislature to cities is the ability to set a curfew. So the city established a 24-hour curfew beginning this weekend with all the conditions of a Shelter-In-Place order. Genius move! What a hack of the system! But in full respect of the rule of law, which is so very important to maintain in a crisis.

   If you’re in a state where the cities are similarly limited but your city or town wants to protect its people, please share this with them. Or just share broadly on social media and the cities that need the Tuscaloosa Hack will find it. As they say in these parts, Roll Tide!!

   ~Steve Mouzon

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Hope for Italy?

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Roma 11OCT23 6440

   I was beginning to have hope for Italy. Saturday through Tuesday they had about 3,500 new Coronavirus cases each day, which was a promising sign that their lockdown might be finally bearing fruit. But Wednesday it jumped off that plateau to 4,207 new cases, Thursday it was at 5,322,  and yesterday (Friday) it was 5,986. Granted, from the time they started the lockdown you should allow 5-12 days (the range I’ve seen) for people already infected to start showing symptoms. In other words, there would have been a bunch of cases baked in. The full lockdown began March 9, which was 12 days ago. So the real key is what happens over the next few days. If the lockdown has the intended effect, today should be the last day at which the baked-in infections should manifest, and the plateau really should begin to form tomorrow. But it’ll be another week before you can authoritatively say that the exponent has dropped below 1, and the curve definitely turns downward. There are several problems with lockdowns comparable to Italy’s in the US: 

The Denier Problem

   There is a segment of the US population that was quite large just a couple weeks ago that deny the novel coronavirus is much different from the flu. Some even say it’s just the common cold. Here’s what the World Health Organization says: Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV). Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is a new strain that was discovered in 2019 and has not been previously identified in humans. Conflating COVID-19 with the common cold is akin to conflating a tiger and a house cat by saying “they’re both cats.” True. But one can kill you. I hope and believe that this segment is dropping in number as more people are turning to the stern reality of the situation. But those who are still Deniers to some degree are less likely to heed the warnings and may become carriers.

The Denouncer Problem

   There is a counter-segment of the US population who oppose the Deniers and denounce them vigorously, early, and often. The debates that rage in person and online suck massive energies away from doing things that actually give us a better chance of flattening the curve. This wasted time and energy is almost as damaging as the denials. If you’re a Denouncer and the facts emerging now highlight how wrong your opponents have been, the worst thing you could do is rub their noses in it because doing so prolongs their harmful denials. So just shut up, already! We need all hands on deck; both Deniers and Denouncers should become Doers. It is especially unfortunate that this pandemic is occurring in an election year in the US. But put that aside for now; if we flatten the curve, you can pick the campaign back up later in the year.

The Young Don't-Care Problem

   The #BoomerRemover hastag that sprang up a few days ago highlights the fact that there is a segment of younger people in the US who believe “we  should just party on and let the old folks die.” Here’s one example:

   Wednesday morning I posted this on Facebook: Why the Young Should Care - The news has been filled with stories of revelry over the weekend by those who regard #COVID19 as the #BoomerRemover and think it won’t hurt them. If you’re one of them, consider this: The more irresponsible your behavior, the more draconian the authorities will be in their responses. And the combination of wider spread & tougher response will do more damage to the economy. So in a worst-case world with few Boomers left, it’ll be you guys left to deal with wreckages of world economies for a long time to come. The bottom line is this: we’re all in this together. Let’s all be responsible.

   To which a young guy from Colorado who I don’t know commented: Did you know our planet is dieing because of your generations inability to change so here food for thought if you want someone to care about your future you have to do the same .. but you didnt so we wont either an eye for an eye makes the world go round thats the truth of life.

The Old Don't-Care Problem

   There’s an even more inexplicable subsegment of the “don’t care” group, and that’s the older people who are gravitating to bars and restaurants operating in defiance of the closing orders. I really don’t understand why those of an age known to be more likely to die from this stuff knowingly put themselves at risk like this. I haven’t spoken to anyone in this segment to find out why they’re behaving this way, but can only speculate that it has something to do with fierce independence and the thought that “nobody’s gonna tell me what to do.” Or maybe they’re thinking “we’re gonna die anyway; might as well live it up so long as we’re alive.”

   Both Don’t-Care sub-segments present big problems because of the virulence of the exponential spread of this disease. Little numbers are becoming big numbers very quickly with this thing. Look at how much of the history of AIDS was driven by that one Canadian flight attendant. And then imagine hundreds of thousands or maybe even a few million Don’t-Care carriers of COVID-19. Do I think this will run on until it kills us all someday? Emphatically no. There are a number of dampening factors that will kick in at some point, even though there are indicators that getting it once doesn’t confer longterm immunity. So someone could keep getting it until it weakens and kills them. But humanity will survive… the real question is what will society look like on the other side?

The Delay Problem

   But back to Italy. Let’s say that the Italian lockdown doesn’t produce results beginning tomorrow. Nations, states, and cities now considering lockdowns as robust as Italy’s could be swayed to say “if the lockdown doesn’t do the job in Italy, why do it here?” We’ve all seen the Italians singing, but we’ve also seen stories of the hardships of a real lockdown. This is a very real danger.

   It’s likely the Italian lockdown eventually will succeed, let’s say in another two weeks. We don’t know this virus very well yet, and it may not play according to our playbook. If people see a failure to plateau beginning tomorrow and steer away from more robust measures, they’re not only delaying starting them for two weeks (or however long it takes) but before that even happens, they have to start up the conversation again. Like an ocean tanker, you can’t turn this stuff on a dime. So let’s say the conversation restarts in two weeks and the measures that could be taken now are taken in three weeks. Three weeks ago yesterday, the global death toll outside of China was 107. Yesterday that number was 8,132. Seventy-six times larger! 282 have died so far in the US from COVID-19. 282 x 76 = 21,432 people dead. See how quickly this blows up?

   So Italy really is key. Everyone should watch closely what happens there beginning tomorrow. Will the plateau start to form? America should certainly hope so, in order that we make the best choices. And all other affected nations that are wavering as well.

   ~Steve Mouzon

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PandemicPost Masks

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image via Wikimedia Commons

<This later turned out to be true. The authorities were lying to us about the effectiveness of masks to keep non-medical people from making a run on them. I’m fine with the medical people having priority; it spurs creativity in the rest of us, like Christal (below)! ~Steve>

   Everyone says masks are ineffective at stopping the spread of COVID-19. But they also say the main means of spread is tiny virus-laden droplets when someone sneezes, coughs, or speaks. And then someone touches a surface the droplets landed on. The main point of entry mouth or nose, but sometimes the eyes. People have long said that the point of a mask is to remind you not to touch your face. Why doesn’t that work with COVID19?

   ~Steve Mouzon

Laura Hamilton The gist of this is that any mask, even a homemade mask, will provide better protection than no mask. You are being told not to wear masks because of hoarding and scarcity issues, and that's the only reason. Scarf tied around your face, dust mask, old surgical mask, particle mask leftover from wildfires, they are all better than nothing. 

This study also indicates that masks in general do a better job of protecting you from others than they do at protecting others from you. Mostly because when you exhale, the force of the air coming out can break your mask seal. Still, it's better to wear a mask than not. 

If you have to go out, wear a mask. If you don't have one, make one.


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Professional and Home-Made Face Masks Reduce Exposure to Respiratory…

Professional and Home-Made Face Masks Reduce Exposure to Respiratory Infections among the General Population

Steve Mouzon Wow thanks Laura Hamilton! Good stuff.

Steven Schloeder I don’t see how wearing a mask cannot be better than not wearing a mask.

Michael Stayman This is an important time to listen to authority and heed the warnings, but this is why people don't trust the government. They speak out of both sides of their mouth.

Nancy Bruning Michael Stayman or they speak prematurely when they don’t have sufficient science.

Brian Vinson I understand that wearing a mask actually causes you to touch your face more often. You're not used to wearing one, and you tend to adjust it repeatedly. Yeah it might prevent you from spreading your germs, but it seems you're more likely to pick up others.

Andrew Laska Brian Vinson while others say it makes you conscious of your face and therefore not touch it.

Tom Richerson Masks work- but mostly to stop the spread from people who already have it to those who don't. It doesn't work so much to prevent one from getting it because it can still come through your eyes, ears, nose and even through the sides of the mask.

Laura Hamilton It actually works the opposite way according to the studies. Better at protecting you from others than protecting them from you. This is why we all need to be wearing masks.

Becky Tiffany There is significant discrepancy between American and Asian experts on this. It's more than cultural. Also prior to this many publications noted that masks protected individuals from viruses when worn correctly.

David Moye Masks make contagious people less contagious

Veronika Eagleson It's all about the hoarding and the fact that medical personnel need them. We have a big stack of old work masks for drywall etc and are not afraid to use them.

Pamela Asher I would love to be able to get masks, all out!

Christal Deeter Hudson Pamela Asher ... make one out of an old bra... that’s what I’m doing... lol
cut the bra in half... cut off straps & back...cut straps into skinny strips... sew strips for the ears onto the single bra cup.

<Now thats what I mean by creative thanks, Christal! Wanda is making our masks now! ~Steve>

Norma Whitehead Most people wear them wrong and studies show that the average person winds up touching their face more often when wearing one than when they aren't wearing one. So they do the opposite of what is intended to happen

Chris Kochtitzky Surgical masks are designed to keep the doctors and other healthcare professionals from infecting patients. They are open to incoming airflow on the sides. They also often cause you to touch your face more rather than less. Only n95 masks professionally fitted for each person’s face can prevent others from infecting the wearer.

Megan Marie They absolutely do protect the wearer . That’s the reason for the PPE taught in the very first few nursing classes in college . People not wearing them correctly can provide false security and they need to be paired with common sense and remember not to touch surfaces and then your face, etc. The shortage is the reason the govt is telling us not to wear them in my opinion. Also they have to go for “herd mentality” and tailor their advice for the largest survival %. They are advising what will save the highest % of people, not what is best for each individual.

Kitty Klitzke I read that the masks go on the sick people. Not so great at protecting those who don’t have it.

John Czarnecki clear plastic cones keep Fido from scratching. ;- }

Rick Geller There’s a shortage of masks for medical workers.

Kira Gould Yes: That, I thought, was the main reason not to have all sorts of random healthy people using them up (to shop) ... so that health workers and first responders have the supply that they need.

Sandy Sorlien Breathing into a scarf or mask all the time will build up moisture. Keep a lookout for fungal infections on chin etc., air it out frequently (which means you are touching your face a lot) Seriously. The mask is more for people who are sneezing and coughing, to protect others.

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© Stephen A. Mouzon 2020