Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights 60th Anniversery

If you have never read the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, today is your opportunity to view a document that addresses equality for each member of the human family. On December 10, 1948 the United Nations adopted this historic text.

The core social and political components within society are illuminated. It is interesting to note that the word "everyone" appears twenty-eight times.
Article 25 proclaims that "everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family..." The family is described in the document as the "natural and fundamental group unit of society" with a right to protection.

The content remains relevant today, with many of the statements yet to be fully realized. What areas outlined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights do you believe are most in need of future attention?

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Aligning Green Perspective with Relationships

There was a recent article on the top ten green tips for Thanksgiving. The first tip recommended staying home. While this may save on energy, there are times when travel is part of reuniting with loved ones. Relationships should take precedence, especially during major holidays. While recycling and reusing material items can be seamlessly integrated into gathers, it is the people that make the gathering memorable. Enjoy this time of year to celebrate with family and friends whether staying at your own home or traveling across the country.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

New Human Life Project Website

Look for the new Human Life Project website coming next month at The content provides readers with a concise overview and more specifics on the Human Life Project. There are pages dedicated to sustainability, nature, family, community, and life diagrams. Thank you for all your comments, photos, and continued support.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Life Diagram Summer Workshop Update

Over the summer, fourteen children ranging in age from four to thirteen years old participated in the first series of life diagram workshops. A few adults also made life diagrams and contributed to the initial feedback.

The Human Life Project defines a life diagram as a graphic snapshot of the most significant days and events in each person’s life. There are patterns beginning to develop with the children’s life diagrams. The boys share an elevated interest in outdoor activities including sports, camping, and encounters with wildlife like snakes. Girls frequently mention the birth of siblings, social events with family and friends, and school. Birthdays are popular among the young children. Faith events are also sometimes mentioned. Most of the significant events are clustered within the last few years.

Part of the life diagram exercise is to recall emotion felt for each event, either happy or sad. The children’s experiences typically fall into the happy category with the passing of a grandparent as the most common sad event. Certain experiences within the same family sometimes show mixed emotions. An example is a brother that mentions moving as a happy event with his older sister feeling very sad because of missing neighborhood friends.

Parents are particularly interested in the events that each child found important. One mother made a suggestion to possibly dedicate a wall in a library to display life diagrams. This would be helpful to parents and other children to understand changing perspective by age and see the patterns unfolding.

The individual life diagrams can expand to a family life diagram. Three young married couples made their family life diagram, starting when they first met. This recent idea of family life diagrams opens many new possibilities.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Life Diagrams

We are each a unique human life project.

A life diagram is a graphic snapshot of the most significant days and events of your life. Each person’s diagram has some commonalities as well as richness in diversity.

Children and adults are encouraged to make a life diagram and revisit every few years. For parents, this could be an instrumental tool to understand your child’s current perspective. It's also a great activity for school age children home for the summer. Adults and teens should gain a greater awareness of important relationships/experiences and their impact over time.

Example life diagrams are shown below as well as a web link to download diagram templates. Young children draw pictures of significant events. Older children/teens list experiences and arrange color coded dots. Adults use a simple Excel format that automatically generates a graphic diagram. A goal for the Human Life Project is to collect the first 50 life diagrams over the summer.

What can we learn from our own life diagram as well as studing other children and adults? What improvements could be made to the current life diagram format?

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Healthy Sustainable Patterns

Recent bloggers are requesting more background information on the Human Life Project. The human life project links the natural/built environment with the family.

The image at the top right corner is from Bryce Canyon National Park. If you look closer, the rock formation reveals the profile of a face with a family walking through the narrow slot canyon. Environmental groups focus on ensuring our natural surroundings remain intact for future generations. The Human Life Project connects the health of the earth with the level of commitment in human relationships. With the state of our natural surroundings and families rapidly declining, combining the two unites an expansive network of people towards a common goal of sustaining all life.

As an architect and mother, it occurred that we build larger homes for fewer people and more possessions. A cultural shift is taking place by a drop in birth rates across almost every nation in the world. Europe is experiencing the most dramatic population decline. Some environmental groups today view the family as working against living in harmony with nature, as the dedicated unit within society that increases population and rapidly consumes resources. However, the spotlight is now on the family in determining which nations and cities will sustain over time by ensuring the continuation of human life.

Content of the Human Life Project explores sustainable/healthy patterns in three categories: nature, family, and community. Within each category, blog postings focus on a variety of topic areas listed below. Any supporting articles or web links would greatly be appreciated for future discussion. The goal is to identify and implement healthy living patterns both in our families and communities.

Nature: Renewable energy, recycling, natural resources, organic/local food, green products, outdoor living, and recreation

Family: Relationships, human life development, marriage, parenthood, children, fertility, demographics, and population.

Community: Quality of life, sustainable/green communities, green building design, urban planning, transportation, housing, culture, social interaction, and technology.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Family Gateway

In older European cities, the gateway clearly defined the entrance and doubled as a security checkpoint. Every person passed through the prominent stone structure, articulated with a grand arch flanked by pillars.

The family is the living gateway to our communities. Children enter through parent’s arching arms flanked by relatives, friends, and neighbors. Whether a child is biologically born into a family or adopted, parents contribute to the continuation of human life by opening their door to welcome our newest residents.

A key component of the Human Life Project is exploring community initiatives that reinforce the family support structure. Programs such as First Things First, started by the City of Chattanooga, provide free seminars on marriage and parenthood. New developments in the city, such as Stapleton in Denver, address family-oriented/green neighborhoods by offering mix of housing options with ability to walk/bike to schools and parks. Stapleton development also encourages working/shopping close to home, saving gas and spending more time with family. What are programs in your community that support the family?

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Ecocity World Summit 2008 Highlights

The 7th International Ecocity Conference, located in San Francisco, warmly welcomed over 1,200 attendees from 73 countries. Presentations focused on urban planning for “smart” growth, green architecture, public transportation, renewable energy, climate change, and local food. City leaders also shared importance of social diversity, culture, spirituality, physical health, and family-oriented developments.

Curitiba, Brazil

Keynote address by Jaime Lerner, Former Mayor of Curitiba and architect, shares success stories implementing creative solutions to common city problems. Lerner’s characteristics of a sustainable city include less car use, garbage separation for recycling, living closer to work or working closer to home, and social diversity.

Lerner firmly believes that “innovation is starting.” Without money for subway infrastructure, the idea of “bringing the subway above ground” is realized by inserting boarding tubes at street level for articulated buses traveling in dedicated lanes. Rapid Bus Transit is responsible for 60% of city population using public transportation.

The city-wide recycling program originates in educating the children to separate garbage with instruction by the “family leaves”. Twenty-four hour streets respond to underutilized city areas by opening night markets for families. Curitiba celebrates ethnic diversity by dedicating parks and buildings to each ethnic group. Lerner’s family portrait analogy sums up his leadership philosophy. “You don’t rip your family portrait. Your city is like your family portrait.”

Vancouver, Canada

Brent Toderian, Director of Planning in Vancouver, preaches “livability” and “ecodensity.” Toderian defines livability as density done well. Vancouver’s transportation strategy defies common logic with no highways and no car oriented building of infrastructure in the last twenty years. Yet, it is the only city in North America to reduce commute time. Priority of transportation in the city begins with walking and cycling followed by public transit and movement of goods. Surprising, the single occupant vehicle falls last in transportation hierarchy.

The city has also found space to add 45,000 residents, including 2,700 new children. While many established cities face urban plight of families to suburbs, Toderain boasts that children are back by design and even building a new school to accommodate increase in students. Ecodensity encourages more people to live downtown and walk/cycle frequently. Vancouver’s success has earned a third place ranking in Best Cities in the World, featured article in City Mayors Environment.

Yoff, Africa

The City of Yoff is a growing farming and fishing village near Dakar and host of the 3rd International Ecocity Conference. Village Leader, Serigne Mbaye Dine, outlines their EcoCommunity Program for EcoYoff. Dine speaks of Yoff like a father referring to his family, with sincerity and genuine love.

The first focus area for Yoff’s long-term sustainability plan is culture/spirituality, illuminating the importance of community gatherings and roots that shape their identity. Second is education/training, followed by economy and food security. Population, health, and nutrition addresses physical condition of citizens. Finally, environment and infrastructure as well as habitat offers ways to conserve natural resources and respond to housing needs.

Freiburg, Germany

Wulf Daseking, Director of Planning in Freiburg, begins his presentation by acknowledging the dramatic population decline in Germany and Europe. Daseking refers to the people as the “dinky generation” and “double-income no kids.” Germany has a current population of 82 million, projecting in 25 years only 68 million citizens.
The City of Freiburg is a university town with 205,000 residents surrounded by natural beauty with mountains as a backdrop.

Rieselfeld, a new development within city limits, is designed specially for young families. Residences face open space with car free zones for children to play. Structures are not higher than five stories and use 40-60% less energy. The new development also reduces reliance on the car dramatically.

Following the lecture, I spoke with Daseking about whether the child population is growing in his city. He replied, there is “too much green and not enough children.” Dasking did mention the child population is greater than surrounding areas, partially due to the new Rieselfeld development. Planning for families raising children in the city and saving energy should position Freiburg to sustain beyond current momentum of green initiatives.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Nature + Family + Urban Surroundings

There are groups that offer a valuable template for green cities or strong families, yet few communities succeed in both. Collectively, the three cities featured below offer a plan to transform the natural and urban surroundings as well as improve marriages/family life. The goal of building sustainable communities is elevated by including family relationships and care for all citizens.

Denver, Colorado – Greenprint Denver

The sustainable development plan for the City of Denver focuses on renewable energy, recycling, public transit, parks and planting trees, green buildings, air and water quality, alternative fuel vehicles, urban gardens, landuse and pedestrian-friendly urban centers. Greenprint Denver is an action agenda with set goals such as increasing material recycled in Denver by 50% for 2007, mobilizing a free curbside pick-up program in residential neighborhoods without requiring the sorting of recyclables. As part of FasTracks, a 12-year transit plan, 119 miles of new light rail and commuter rail plus 18 miles of bus rapid transit will connect the Denver Metropolitan area. Denver is listed in the Top Ten Green Cities by The Green Guide and Top Ten Sustainable Cities in the United States by SustainLane.

Chattanooga, Tennessee – First Things First

In 1997, a group of business leaders gathered to talk about the direction of their city. "We wanted to know how we could really make a difference in Chattanooga," says Hugh O. Maclellan Jr., chairman of the board of the Maclellan Foundation. "We realized that the city's biggest problem was the breakdown of families, and that every part of Chattanooga was being affected by it.” The civic leaders founded First Things First, a community-wide initiative to revitalize the city, beginning with the family.

First Things First (FTF) has three goals: “reduce the number of divorces filed in Hamilton County, reduce out of wedlock pregnancies in the county, and increase sufficient father involvement.” Free weekly classes are offered to singles, engaged couples, married couples, unmarried expectant mothers, and fathers. The FTF Marriage and Family Resource Center is located in the City of Chattanooga, providing books and videos to the public. First Things First equips families with practical skills to have healthy marriages and raise children.

Curitiba, Brazil – Urban Acupuncture

Jaime Lerner, three-time former mayor of Curitiba and architect, has an innovative approach to urban planning. He uses the term “urban acupuncture” to revitalize “pressure points” within the city. The response produces “positive ripple effects” throughout the community. Lerner is well-known for developing the “bus rapid transit”, a system that transports a similar number of passengers as a subway with far less cost in infrastructure. The system is so successful that bus transit represents 60% of overall travel in Curitiba.

Each person, from the smallest citizen on up, has a role in caring for the city. The recycling program began by educating the children to sort trash at home. Since 1989, the city boasts of 70% voluntary participation. In the poorer areas near the edge of the city, people exchange a bag of trash for a bag of food. The “positive ripple effect” is the health of the people improved with adequate nourishment and cleaner surroundings.

Lerner offers a very real picture of the importance in loving all the children. “When you start to love the children, you have to love all of the children because if the city can't love those children too, then those children will grow to hate the city. And if they hate the city, they will destroy the city.” The feeling of belonging and acceptance is essential in the way children and adults relate to their surroundings. Curitiba is unique compared to other top sustainable cities by embracing the care for all its citizens in conjunction with the natural/urban surroundings.