Home > Appreciated Quotes, Crank, Cultural Movement, Editorial > A Morning Ramble On Embracing Change

A Morning Ramble On Embracing Change

UPDATE: 10:05 Cleaned up some typos…

Well Put

Because much recent change has been unhealthy and change is rabid, seemingly beyond our control, we want to freeze our communities as they are. We do this to protect our psyches and our investments. Unable to distinguish between healthy and unhealthy change, we simplistically conclude that all change is bad, trapping us in already unfulfilling habitation. Resilience empowers us to change in ecologically healthy ways.

~ Randolph Hester, Design for Ecological Democracy

Resistance to change is strong in Traverse City. In some cases, for good reason. In others, and perhaps more often, quite questionable reasons. We won’t get into the details on any specifics today, but when I hear the phrase “you/we need to protect the character of our neighborhoods” I fear the NIMBY has been released. I simply don’t know what that phrase means; we all have different perspectives on our neighborhoods and I don’t think anyone is out to destroy them.

In fairness, I try to be aware of my own negative and quite predictable reactions to change when it surfaces. I ask myself, “why am I resisting this?” “What’s another way to look at this?” “I’m a blinded by something?”

I’m of a generation raised on change. We see a need for it in almost every corner. Ecologically, we’ve inherited a system that is only beginning to value, and really understand, the significance of protecting our land and water. Economically, we’ve inherited a system built on inequality and wastefulness. Socially, we came after the civil rights movement; treating everyone fairly is the norm and that goes beyond simple skin color differences. Yet, we still see people who can’t stand that someone else is different from themselves. That needs to change.

I think Hester’s approach is helpful to find balance. He writes about three principles to community development: the resilient form, the enabling form and the impelling form. 

  • The resilient form is the goal for ecologically resilience and, for me, is the primary step to becoming economically, socially and culturally resilient. It is unique from sustainability in that it embraces the intentional change required to move forward. *
  • The enabling form is the premise that the design of cities/projects need to bring us together and connect us; this is both in terms of process and outcome. A project that creates a community divide must be healed or it will haunt a community into the future. Better yet, create a process based on collaboration and broad benefit.
  • The impelling form is about designing, and managing, places that inspire people to live motivated by joy rather than “insecurity, fear and force.” The impelling form brings us together in mutual confidence and engagement.

In short, and all I really wanted to say today, in order to for Traverse City to protect anything, we are going to need to accept some change and embrace our inner YIMBYs.

What are your thoughts on change?

Do we resist it too fiercely?

Or, do you feel we embrace it too freely? 


* Locally, Dave Barrons explores community resilience in a myriad of ways on his show Investigating Resilience. Recent shows have discussed the role of placemaking in resilient communities, and previous shows have explored education, providing for people with disabilities, birding, economics, public health, the local food movement, water issues…

  1. July 25, 2011 at 10:01 am

    Wow, what a great post this morning, Gary. I like that you didn’t apply it to anything specific and left it open for us readers to plug in what we will. But then, change applies to everything, doesn’t it?

    I think there is a certain comfort in routine and same-ness. People will tend to cling to traditions because change, no matter how good it may be, always produces anxiety to some degree. Different people have different tolerance levels for anxiety.

    I think it’s interesting that you mentioned generations. I think every generation alive today has experienced tremendous change in some form or other, and to be honest I think younger people (no matter the generation) tend to embrace change and are more resilient to the anxiety it produces.

    I’m not sure why that is, but my life experiences have taught me that change is really the only constant in life. Even if you sit back and do nothing, change will come to you anyway. I’ve learned to accept that the future is uncertain and that things will change and that in some (maybe many) cases I will probably have a negative reaction at first. It’s unnerving, but I accept it, and even embrace it. I mean, hopes, dreams and success would be impossible without change.

    Thanks for the opportunity to throw out some philosophical thoughts this morning. I love it 😉

  2. Brian Upton
    July 28, 2011 at 1:14 am

    I met you last month and you gave me your card with this website info. I’ve visited your site a few times and have been really impressed with it. I really appreciate your gathering of roundabout information – looks like a planner’s dream for getting good info disseminated to the public (as evidenced by the comment from the Oakland County Planner’s office). Missoula just put in its first roundabout at a relatively high-traffic intersection (probably comparable to the 8th & Woodmere intersection in terms of traffic load) about a year ago, and it’s been a huge success. Not the most aesthetically pleasing roundabout I’ve seen but, hey, Montana’s a poor state. I’ve always viewed roundabouts as a great and natural place for good public art, great landscaping, or good community meeting spaces. Unfortunately, Missoula’s roundabout doesn’t have any of those things. Yet.

    While I’ve been impressed with a number of your postings, your ‘morning ramble’ on the Randolph Hester quote is what really spurred me to post this comment. I’m a semi-Luddite and not much of a blog-surfer, so repeatedly viewing your website and now commenting is a real anomaly for me. But I really liked the Hester quote you pulled, was intrigued by the book you cited it from (Design for Ecological Democracy), and couldn’t agree more with your comments on change in TC, the generational differences in approaching change, and the current system of inequality/wastefulness.

    While I was disappointed to see your post about not running for the city commission, it was obvious from the post (and from my discussion with you last month at Right Brain) that you’d given it a lot of consideration and just decided it wasn’t the best decision right now. I can totally respect and appreciate that. I’ve long been of the opinion that change requires good players in both the arenas of government (including elected officials) and the general public (including activists and educators). You strike me as being a great asset in either of those arenas. It is still my impression that you are one of the rare people that could do both simultaneously in a highly effective manner, so I’m glad to see you’re not shutting the door on future elected public service.

    I’m glad I got a chance to meet you, if briefly, while I was back in TC last month. Keep up the great work on all fronts.

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