I'm toying around with a new Masters thesis idea - just thought I'd talk about it briefly and see what the masses seem to think.
"You're a fat, lazy [person]. Stop blaming planners for your problems."
It comes as a result of reading countless articles suggesting that planners are to blame for a number of problems, ranging from racial problems in Britain, crime, house prices, global economic crisis and obesity. I would highlight obesity due to the increasing poularity of New Urbanism, which obviously highlights the compact, walkable city, thus promoting 'incidental' exercise (where people 'accidentally' get exercise by walking to work instead of driving).
I'd start by examing the quote "the roots of the planning profession have always been in public health". This may have been true in the days of seeking clean water and sanitation, but when the major killers in society today are cancers and heart disease from poor diet, it's hardly fair to blame the planning industry for this.
As a case study, I'd look at 4 sets of squash courts near me in the middle of residential areas which have been converted in recent years (one set demolished for shops, two sets converted to shops/retail, and one set converted to luxury apartments). This would help demonstrate that it is not the fault of zoning - but due to market forces. I'd also list stats such as the number of planning applications dealt with by Shires which are proposing an exercise-related industry - presumably very few. Again, this is due to market forces, not planning.
I'd then go on to the 'myth' of the walkable city and public transport. The more efficient the public transport is, the fewer health benefits can be had from it. If I catch the bus to work instead of drive, I only walk an extra 310 metres per day - hardly enough to fix an obesity epidemic. It does, however, take another 80 minutes out of my day, during which time I'd rather be driving my dog to the dog beach, or doing some other form of exercise.
Other stats I would look at is that nearly every article blames obesity in Mexico on 'American-style fast food', and not a mention of planning-related issues, however in our society, it seems to be becoming the fault of the planners. This is strange, given that in Mexico, there's 1 McDonalds for every 300,000 people, whereas in Australia and the US, it's one for every 29,000 and 23,000 people respectively. Why is it solely the fault of fast food in Mexico, but mostly the fault of planning in US and Australia, when the stats simply don't support this.
In short, I think it's unfair or simplistic to point at the inability of planners to provide walkable cities as the cause of society's obeisty problems. Also, it's market forces which dictate that a major shopping chain will build a massive supermarket to supply 10 suburbs rather than 1 for each suburb, in a more 'walkable' manner (I realise some chains in the US are starting to try these smaller shops, but they have not been proven successful as yet).
I just thought I'd put my ideas out there to see if anyone had any suggestions or comments which would help me shape the topic a bit more. I realise that it's a bit biased right from the title, but sometimes I think that sort of writing is needed to get a valid opinion out!
Any help would be appreciated!
I edited out the word that is not appropriate for posts/threads in this subforum - you know which word. I replaced it with "[person]". Important that we keep the professional subforums....professional, so use of medium swear words is not appropriate.