It’s been almost three weeks since Pope Francis released Laudato Si’, the groundbreaking encyclical on the environment and the role that humanity plays in its ongoing degradation on a global scale. As the dust settles after the initial media blitz, it’s worth considering that a document that speaks broadly on the spiritual dimension of the interconnection of the crises in climate change, global poverty, and increasing inequality also sees the condition of our social interactions and the fabric of our urban places as critically worthy of examination and direction. An excerpt (emphasis added):
There is… a need to protect those common areas, visual landmarks and urban landscapes which increase our sense of belonging, of rootedness, of “feeling at home” within a city which includes us and brings us together. It is important that the different parts of a city be well integrated and that those who live there have a sense of the whole, rather than being confined to one neighbourhood and failing to see the larger city as space which they share with others. Interventions which affect the urban or rural landscape should take into account how various elements combine to form a whole which is perceived by its inhabitants as a coherent and meaningful framework for their lives. Others will then no longer be seen as strangers, but as part of a “we” which all of us are working to create…
Lynn Richards, who currently leads the Congress for the New Urbanism, has boiled it down in a piece entitled The Encyclical of the New Urbansim over at Better Cities & Towns. Lynn’s whole piece is worth reading, as is the encyclical itself, but Lynn seems to sum it up best here (emphasis, once again, added):
In his approach to urbanization and climate change, Pope Francis gave a global platform to the idea that the health of our natural environment is dictated by the shape and quality of our human communities—both our social connections and the physical places we inhabit.
Where and how we design, preserve, and build our streets, neighborhoods, towns, cities, and regions matter. Placemakers of all types, including New Urbanists, share with Pope Francis a conviction that our physical environment has a direct impact on our chances for happy, prosperous lives. Well-designed public places, neighborhoods, Main Streets, and rural villages help create community: healthy ways for people to live and socialize. These places also help reduce our impact on natural systems and can mitigate climate impacts.
The imperative at the local level is for walkable, well-designed development in neighborhoods connected by multiple, interlinked, and convenient networks (pedestrian, bicycle, transit, and auto) providing access to the broader city and region. Every neighborhood in Boston can achieve this vision. WalkUP Roslindale is dedicated to helping it happen right here in Roslindale.