When populations became less concentrated in a central, “urban core” location (28, Gottlieb) in the early 20th century, and people shifted their homes to the outer rungs of suburbia, the obsession with property ownership became more apparent as people began to purchase automobiles for use as a primary instrument of transportation. Having this entitled attitude that manifests itself into excessive expenditures is one theme that has been prevalent throughout this course, beginning with the colonists annexing North America for their personal and agricultural use. The sense of personal property ownership seems to be innate in the modern human psyche, which is strange because with the knowledge of life, there is the knowledge of death, and thusly nothing material is permanent on this earth. This raises the question of why are educated people who are living in this “modern world” still succumbing to the temptations of material wealth and gain, when it is destroying our natural world?
Though I cannot think of a reason that explains the latter phenomenon, one solution that is found within a city is discussed in Chapter 2 of Reinventing LA, when Gottlieb describes the community found within LA, which is exemplified by the RIP story. When people are able to come together for a common cause, and in this case a common good, it breaks down social barriers and people are just people. Gottlieb mentioning mayor Villaraigosa’s campaign to establish “community based on differences” is one example of that effort. In a perfect community, human interactions would resemble the symbiotic relationships within an “outdoor” ecosystem, with different people with different ideas each “bringing something to the table”. One message in the book is that community is the human version of an ecosystem that would be found within the wild rainforest or tundra. Having community is like the light at the end of the tunnel filled with ravaged landscapes and extinct populations. It allows for people to come together in a safe, open environment and work towards the common good, whether that good is a bike path or a local garden. It shatters the suburban desire of having a picket fence surrounding a manicured lawn and rose garden, because those are two symbols of erroneous expenditure on material show that bring nothing to the virtual table of the common good.
On a different note, despite the social, economic, and environmental problems that abound within a city, it eases the mind when the good within the ugly can be found. In the case of an urban landscape, having a birds eye view helps in not seeing skyscrapers, apartments, and townhouse buildings as eyesores and creators of waste. Rather, they can be viewed as integral in a new, modern-style landscape that almost mimics Woodward’s verse about the Alpine mountains. “The immeasurable height of woods decaying, never to be decayed…black drizzling clouds that spake by the wayside, as if a voice were in them”, though it sounds bleak, it inspires images of awesome mountains that take one’s breath away with their age and size. When someone walks through a city like New York for the first time, the same sense of awe is resurrected inside, however it is a different type of reverence because the mountainous buildings are all man-made. Keeping young imagination and thoughts alive within the adult brain is something that allows for people to work together, much like children at a playground who could care less about the brand of their best friend’s t shirt.