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Paradox of Self-Centered Development

A recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, America’s Health Threat: Poor Urban Design,” looks at the research of Dr. Richard Jackson and his work on public health and the effect of our built environment on our well-being. What he has found emerges as something of a paradox:

“The fundamental paradigm that nobody else matters but me is making us fundamentally unhealthy and unhappy,” he says. “This is a myth that has been foisted upon us by those that profit from this belief system.”

Our society that promotes self-satisfaction, personal comfort and fulfillment is making us ill and uneasy. Contrast the findings of Dr. Jackson with a recent article on the German economy in the Los Angeles Times. While the German economy is healthy, middle class families enjoy a high standard of living with much lower income levels than those we see in the US. While Germany looks like a country and a society making responsible choices, the author points to critics who say “the country’s lack of consumption causes unhealthy imbalances for the regional and global economies.” For some, it seems, the health of the economy is more important that the health of the culture, the health of the community and the health of the individual.

What good is a robust economy if the people within it are miserable? Why must we be expected to consume industry out of a hole dug with outdated assumptions? Where is out new paradigm? The one where our fundamental values lead to people who are healthy and happy?

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  1. Grier Raggio Tuesday - 24 / 01 / 2012
    Thanks - a good post getting at the heart of what we're fighting for from a positive viewpoint. Higher consumption does not necessarily produce more happiness, and I assume that happiness is the core object of most people's lives. Therefore lower consumption does not necessarily mean less happiness. Grier

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