Saturday, January 2, 2010

High Five-ing the Next New Career Thing? Planning's 2010-2019 Future

Two chunks of synopsis writing from Planetizen, and PacifiCAD and the Autodesk software and training tie into the general field of planning, land use, architecture. Planning and urban development are key in our next decade -- for population increases, shifting economics, climate change, energy availability, higher energy costs, and just redesigning cities and the suburbs.

So, go to the year in review and see the planners' web site's top planning news stories of the year. It's a review from a very rarefied field, but one that if practiced right, is holistic, far-ranging and tied into everything that makes culture and society function at the community level and town and city space.

From Planetizen --


Over the course of the year, the editors of Planetizen review and post summaries of hundreds of articles, reports, books, studies, and editorials related to planning and urban development. Now, we take a look back at 2009 and the trends and issues that defined the year in urban planning.
The economic recession infiltrated nearly every news story this year, especially in terms of urban planning and development. From the economic stimulus package to the projects it funded, the nation and the rest of the world seemed to spend all of 2009 in recession-reaction mode. And while many of the problems the recession brought are not solved yet, 2009 was a year of adaptation, fresh ideas and some bad old habits. Read the full summaries below to see how these stories played out in 2009.

  • The Great Recession
  • The Shrinking City

  • The "Shovel-Ready" Conundrum

  • High Speed Rail
Now, let's see how the planning profession fairs in a recent US News and World Report, "top careers of 2010" article. There is a big lack of deep thinking with these articles, and so read the report (and see the other top professions listed) and then eschew the comment response below that I was asked to write.


U.S. News and World Report has named urban planning one of its 50 top careers for 2010. Growth in population is cited as a reason for growth in the demand for urban planners.

"An expanding population has created the need for additional transportation systems, affordable housing, and schools in many parts of the country. The urban and regional planning field is expected to grow 19 percent from 38,400 jobs in 2008 to 45,700 jobs by 2018. Most of the new jobs will be with state and local governments."

Read that piece, and read the comments as they keep coming in. USNWR predicted the same thing for urban planning as a career LAST year. Read those comments left by students, for the end of 2008 article, and see how graduates and those who have been chronically unemployed in the field reacted.

Below is a commentary I was asked to write for the planning profession. I've cut it back some:

Let's Do Paradigm Shift in the Planning Field --

By Paul Haeder

[all but thesis for masters in Urban and Regional Planning, Eastern WA University]

I can't believe the level of myopia in some of these responses to the Top 50 Careers for 2010, and looking at the ultra-conservative US News and World Report's latest "Urban planner, career of the next year" story is deja vu. Read USNWR's 2008 piece -- same myopia. Then read the responses from the disenfranchised folk with masters degrees and plenty of experience who have hit the proverbial wall. Those people's narratives are a million times more important than anything coming from USNWR and the planning "profession."

The planning field and professions are peopled by business as usual folk, and most planners are happy to be pencil pushers once they get a job. Sure, the pencils are being replaced by GIS and more software tools and a social networking mentality. But remember history -- Trains went 100 miles an hour and were on time in this country in the 1930s. Gosh, now with the complexity of systems and all that planning techno stuff, we have what kind of train system in 2010? And that system that is non-existent? Maybe students need to start protesting, demanding at all levels of society, the so-called market society, that you get those things built. Pry the narrative away from tea baggers, Hollywood, those running Wall Street.

Planners in the field, the so-called movers and shakers, they have failed to come together in their respective communities to pull together other professionals and thinkers and neighborhood leaders to assail the broken governing concept we are stuck in. We need self governance, and planning students need to probably learn how to develop their own community/-ities and coalesce and try and come up with a business plan and open up a community development, community organizing, green think tank, planning consortium. Demand that from your professors, and the overpaid administrators. Stop the pecking order mentality and build community. Stop the top down thinking.

Quit being so conservative. Find an old building somewhere, pool resources, build bunk beds, habitation pods, a community kitchen, pool all those consumer things that make living, recreating and working possible, two hybrid cars for workers and inhabitants, live there, and open up shop. Put your foots down and stop these silly projects the planning and landscape architecture and geography disciplines make you do. Make sure you know how to research, write, access the power brokers, articulate your needs and our great-great-great grandchildren's needs when they are 70 years old, and go to county and city government meetings, rabble rouse, and “out” the planning profession for what it is – sometimes staid, unimaginative, old-school white male/female dominated. The planning leaders need career development specialists, and the field should be expanded in every sector of society. That's their job, not to just get development and land use misuse facilitated by graduates to perpetuate their field.

DO not give up your ideals tied to the huge shifts we will be experiencing in the next 20 years. Population growth, shifting population demographics (how terrible is it that white people in California are calling it Mexi-fornia -- learn the roots of this mind set -- these are lawyers and planning people saying this, and use it an opportunity for community change and building a new California, then); peaking water, perpetual droughts in the SW USA, climate change, more economic hits on the middle class, and a completely dysfunctional two-party system; systemic under and unemployment, more of the kind of He-cession (chronically unemployed young men) we've just gone through; and the huge gutting of the educational system through more crappy privatization --------- OH, these are just a few challenges recent graduates and upcoming planning students face.

More than 29,000 reporting jobs and newspapers were lost or shuttered last year, yet we have more journalism students at colleges and universities than ever -- a 35 percent increase the past ten years. That's one graduate for more than 600 jobs. There are lots of theories about this in the Chronicle of Higher Education, by the professors and professionals into he field, but in one way, this is delusional, showing us how truly dysfunctional our society has become. Denial, delaying and downright stuck in a psychology of pre-investment. And maybe a society that is undergoing ten or twenty years of abused person syndrome.

Start supporting collective bargaining. Unions. Demand livable wages. Demand real housing choices -- beyond anyone's current boxed up dreams. Stop supporting bad development, bad politicians, bad members of your chamber of commerce, the building and cement industries. Speak out and show them you know something, even if you are unemployed or employed outside the planning profession. Protest not just at anti-war demonstrations (though, planning for airports, huge transportation projects, and empire building vis-à-vis military bases and snooping, torture and occupation training camps, those jobs are growing -- so join up and be part of the great green-blue-white DoD machine if you want a planning job), but protest your planning organizations, the schools. Demand planning - community development and organizing -- in all fields. Be careful of those planners out there who actually have very little real college planning background -- they are MBA's, architects, government majors, the business-as-usual folk. Get on the schedules of school activities groups, city councils, and give Power Point process oriented talks on your vision of your community through the eyes of your narratives and planning background.

All those conferences, all those endlessly repetitious seminars (how many sustainability-green-new urbanism conferences have I declined because of carbon footprint issues? Tons, and the profession laughs at that mentality), all the self-congratulating cliques, all of that good old boys and girls networking, for us as planning students and graduates, learn how to derail it, stop it. Why not have committees populated by non-practicing planners, and unemployed students? You think those perspectives are needed?

We are in a huge paradigm shift, not just in planning, but in all levels of civil and market society, and the economic nazis and all those mainstream idiots with WSJ or Newsweek and CNN, FOX, etc., you will fail to anticipate the approaching out of control Hummer bearing down on your bike-loving tail. Many states (My state, Washington) now will feel the trillion dollar heist created by planners, financial ones, and those with Ivy-League educations. The next three years we will have state shortfalls beyond imagination. We can't even get old, experienced senators to introduce a state income tax -- where is their great education foundations, their focus? You have to hit those politicos too in you under- or unemployment. Tuition is rising to the point of only rich kids attending higher education. Additionally, population shifts will spell the demise of schools in the next 20 years. Cities retracting, others growing. These are the issues you need to research and demand to be put through the planning process at school, in market society.

The planning profession and the field as a study need complete overhaul. When I brought the 2009 Urban Planner of the Year article to my graduate planning instructors' attention, they were blasé. Those comments are telling. And maybe the professors just can't deal with real news -- there are more and more unhappy people coming out of planning fields, especially many of those who already have had some slice of the American Dream (pipe dream) and actually wanted to be agents of change and reform in their communities by going back to college and changing professions. Those folk should never be shunted because of the profession's myopia and shortcomings.

1 comment:

  1. These talks are great and fine but america is like a dying horse. You can lead it to water but you can't make it drink. It would be easy to look at these type of articles and see them as a rant between intelligent people, but bottom line is this. America has to hit rock bottom. It has to "reboot" so to speak. Our future isn't just in the hands of the intelligent, its in the hands of the average person. The proverbial dying horse. The ones that get up everyday to support their families. The middle class. Society needs a rude awakening and start listening to intelligent idea's from all sources, instead of looking at someone's education and turning away because they hate politics. The time for brainstorming is almost over and when it is we'd better be ready for the change that is coming.

    ~English 99 student~


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