Quality of Life in Austin

Last week, I participated in a focus group exploring the option of using more rain water harvesting systems.  Everyone was in agreement that we need to use more rain water to offset the demands we place on our surface water reservoirs.  Easy solution, end of story, move on, nothing to see here. Hold on.  That’s not what this blog is about.

At the focus group, one of the exercises we were asked to perform was to close our eyes and picture driving out Hwy. 290 to Dripping Springs.  What do you see?  Remember what was along the road?  The businesses?  The housing?  Now envision driving down that same road ten years from now and think about what will you see?  The businesses?  The housing?

So try this with me.  Everyone thinks the best time in Austin was when they first moved here.  So think for a moment.  Why did you move here?  What was Austin like?  What attracted you to move to Austin?  What was the quality of life?  The businesses?  The entertainment?  The political climate?  What was the environment like?  What did Austin look like?  What are your memories, good and bad?  Would you move here again at that time?

Now think about where Austin is today, right now.  What is Austin like?  What is the quality of life?  The businesses, entertainment, and political climate?  What is the environment like?  What has changed?  What has stayed the same?  What does Austin look like?  Would you move here right now?

Now you know where this is going, so let’s look at Austin twenty years from now.  Why twenty? Because ten is too easy.  What is the quality of life going to be then?  What will Austin be like?  What will the business, entertainment, political and environmental climate be like?  What will change?  What will stay the same?  What will Austin look and smell like?  Would you move here then?

The Austin Business Journal says we are gaining 151 people every day.  That is over 4,500 a month, or 55,000 a year.  They must be coming or we wouldn’t see apartments slamming up as fast as they are.  Where will we put everyone?   I’m sure a few of you are thinking they should have just closed the gates right after you got here and not let anyone else in.  Yeah, well guess what, too late.  They are already here and more are coming.  Growth is a foregone conclusion, and it’s not about whether you like or dislike it.

Here’s the thing:  I think the main reason most of us moved here was for the quality of life.  You get to define whatever that quality of life might be for you, but let’s all agree on one thing:  We all need to work toward increasing that quality of life.  However you define it should be the way you get out and do something about it.  If it’s the home you live in, build the right home that doesn’t use more energy than it really needs.  If it’s eating organic food, shop at the farmers market or work with a community garden.  If it’s supporting local businesses, then stay the hell out of chain stores.  If it’s doing something about the traffic congestion, then ride a bike or walk.  If it’s keeping our rivers and streams clean, then give a hoot, don’t pollute.  Maybe it’s reducing you water usage, then put in a rain barrel to water your plants.

A while back, a client gave me a wonderful book titled All That We Share, A Field Guide to the Commons by Jay Walljasper.  A very interesting read that enlightened me about more of the items we share than I had ever considered.  It really helped me to understand that the attitude of “I got mine, good luck getting yours” won’t work anymore.  This is not about politics.  This is about the quality of life we all share here in Austin.  Don’t we still want that in the future?  Don’t we really want the people moving here to have it also?  I’m pretty sure we want our kids and grandkids to enjoy it also.

Me, I’m going to keep building homes that don’t use more energy than they really need.  What are you going to do?