September 08, 2003

Losing your Place

These folks writing in Common Ground from Britain are on the right track, and I think there is something in their words we can use here in the fast-growing urban-homogenising towns of southwest Virginia, as you may find some usefulness in identifying and preserving your own place's "local distinctiveness" while there is still time to do so.

"Local distinctiveness can encompass so many things and affects everyone. In exploring the idea Common Ground has found it useful to work around key words, which allow reinterpretation for every different circumstance: detail, particularity, patina, authenticity. We are talking of quality in the everyday. Because these things are not straightforward or easy to pigeonhole, often involve emotional attachment and are hard to communicate they are treated as 'soft' by the media. Because they are impossible to put a money value on or to explain through equations, these unquantifiable 'intangibles' are likely to be marginalised by the professionals. Debate rages, and decisions arc taken which often leave out the very things that make life worth living."

... and they conclude:

The forces of homogenisation rob us of visible and invisible things which have meaning to us, they devalue our longitudinal wisdom and erase the fragments from which to piece together the stories of nature and history through which our humanity is fed. They stunt our sensibilities and starve our imagination.

And as Bachelard has said 'imagination separates us from the past as well as reality, it faces the future. If we cannot imagine, we cannot foresee'. Our interest in local distinctiveness is a profound concern for our common future.

Be sure and take a look at their "Rules for Local Distinctiveness" and consider if there are ways to incorporate these simple ideas in the changes happening in your own neighborhoods.

Posted by fred1st at September 8, 2003 08:20 AM | TrackBack

Fred & Ann,
I'm so glad that we took an unexpected trip with Vic to your place!
--Rich & Faythe

Posted by: Rich at September 8, 2003 10:26 PM

I live in a neighborhood that has no "place" other than in infamy. you see, it was the eye of the '91 Oakland Hills Firestorm.

It's rather odd not having trees of varying age and height, girth and habit...much like a rocky, windswept bluff on the sea where vegetation is sparse and wind blown. Nothing is old here...has genuine patina or's all planned and orderly. Safe.

In fire prone California "safe" may be a distinction as valued as a picket fence, ancient stone walls or the patina of weathered barnwood.

Another thoughful link...thanks Fred.

Posted by: feste at September 9, 2003 01:32 AM

Will send the list to our local government officers.

Posted by: Jenny at September 9, 2003 05:04 AM

I'm glad you have found Common Ground, not least because you reminded me of their existence and prompted me to post on the same topic at
You might want to look at their associated sites too.

Posted by: Ian at September 9, 2003 08:49 AM

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