Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Results are In: Follow Up on "Words Have Meaning"

The Readers' Poll has ended. The poll asked readers to rank certain definitions associated with "sustainability." These definitions were borrowed from a recent study by Eric Zeemering in the "Urban Affairs Review," which investigated what "sustainability" means to local officials throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.

Here is how our readers ranked those definitions in order of importance:
  1. Mixed use near transit hubs
  2. Green building standards
  3. Pedestrian and bike routes
  4. Neighborhood revitalization
  5. Human capital development
  6. Retaining current businesses
  7. Resident participation
I received a few E-mail from readers who said that the list of definitions did not capture the meaning of sustainability. These E-mail emphasized the problem with using catchphrases and rhetoric in popular discourse. In this case, Mr. Zeemering observed, "the term sustainability lacks conceptual clarity."

One conclusion that could be drawn is that before decision-makers are tasked with crafting effective policy, they and the public should first define the goal and objectives. Seems like commonsense, and yet, here we are. 

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