photo: mother nature’s roof, iceland architecture, our cities could be healthier

grass roof houses Iceland 1280×1024 

If as legends would have us believe that nature is our mother then it is appropo that she would provide us a blanket. Mother nature,

 Mother Nature is a personification of nature. Images of women representing “mother” earth, and mother nature, are timeless. Long before history was recorded, goddesses were worshipped for their association with fertility, fecundity, and agricultural bounty. Priestesses held dominion over Incan, Assyrian, Babylonian, Slavonic, Roman, Greek, Proto-Indo-European, and Iroquoian fertility religions in the millennia prior to the inception of patriarchial religions.

Algonquin legend says that “[b]eneath the clouds [lives] the Earth-Mother from whom is derived the Water of Life, who at her bosom feeds plants, animals and men” (Larousse 428). (8) She is known as Nakomis, the Grandmother.

The photo is of some houses in Iceland. I found some more photos here, mostly of Reykjavik. The colors are great and the designs are generally kind of Scandinavian minimalist. To their credit it is reminiscent of a small new England town rather then a typical big city.

Public-health advocate Richard Jackson argues that the way we build cities and neighborhoods is the source of many chronic diseases. 

Let me start with a quote from your book. You say, “The modern America of obesity, inactivity, depression, and loss of community has not ‘happened’ to us. We legislated, subsidized, and planned it this way.” When did you first start to make the connection between the design of our national landscape and the health of our citizens?
In July 1999 the head of the CDC invited his dozen directors to the central office to work on a paper about the ten leading diseases of the twenty-first century. I’m driving over there, and as always I’m thinking about pesticides, herbicides, cancer, and birth-defect clusters—you name it. I’m late, stuck in traffic on Buford Highway, voted one of the ten worst streets in North America. It’s a seven-lane road surrounded by garden apartments, mainly for poor immigrants, with no sidewalks and two miles between traffic lights. It’s 95 degrees out, 95 percent humidity. I see a woman on the right shoulder, struggling along, and she reminds me of my mother. She’s in her seventies, with reddish hair and bent over with osteoporosis. She has a shopping bag in each hand and is really struggling.

The guy is not being shrill, he is just passionate about how we’ve screwed up. Contrary to some popular sentiments, people in the suburbs are relatively happy, yet that so many of us are so spread out and spend so much money, effort, and time simply getting from homes to work in the city is part of the reason for our fossil fuel dependency, which in turn has had  terrible global consequences. Since the end of WW II we’ve been sold a bill of goods by the chamber of commerce mentality that has dictated that we must grow outwards to make progress, when all we’ve done is create a rat race where many of us spend too much time behind the wheel. There have been some ethical consequences too as the suburban population votes for people and policies that keep telling us in effect that all we need is little band-aid solutions instead of a Manhattan-project like shift in policy to make the kind of great cities that futurists from two generations ago envisioned.

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