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2009 Resolution: We All Must Work for Positive Change

It's a new year. For many that means change. Some change you choose, such as making resolutions; some change is thrust upon you. My change came in the form of my work moving from a downtown office tower to a converted warehouse in the suburbs. This was done as a consolidation and cost saving measure. Now my coworkers and I wonder where the savings really are.

The square foot cost is lower, but what other savings are there? What about environmental, energy and time savings? What about retaining and attracting the best and the brightest workers? Surely those were taken into account.

When urban sprawl took hold in the 1950s environmental concerns were nil, energy was expected to become virtually free and work schedules were closer to the 40 hour week than the 80. Environmental, energy and time savings just weren't considered. Our new office is almost as inefficient as anything built with that mindset. Sprawl led to collapsing urban areas, increased pollution and now has helped lead to our collapsing economy and energy resources.

My generation is left dealing with the wreckage of this movement. In response we want urbanism; thriving cities that provide those environmental, energy and time savings. Our best and brightest want access to each other and the opportunities that come from urban density.

Prior to the move I rode my bike to work almost daily. Other days I used public transit. Like most workers these days my work and personal life is blurred. Easy access to services and people is important to keeping my whole life on track. Being free from the burden of a car made my life better. Working downtown provided all of this.

Now my organization, like many others, has isolated itself in a decaying industrial area. My only option to get to work is to drive. If I need to leave the building for anything I have to drive. If I want to meet with anyone I have to drive. To accomplish anything I must spend time and money that could otherwise go toward more productive uses; instead I'm isolating myself and negatively impacting the environment.

Sitting in my inefficient new office I am comforted that I still have a job. Unfortunately I'm just as likely to consider how many other people might have jobs if we stopped spending money on unsustainable infrastructure instead of socially progressive designs. This responsibility falls as much on our government as it does business and individuals.

Facing a crippled economy and an energy crisis the Obama administration is looking to reinvigorate the nation through public works; particularly infrastructure. This is their New Year's resolution; investing in positive change.

With that in mind I hope that we resolve to look to the past, pre-urban sprawl, and re-learn what it means to develop socially responsible communities of people; people who live and work together instead of apart. Because sometimes positive change for the future means returning to our past.

Andrew Miller hosts the blog Elephants on Bicycles