Urban Mindfulness

Future Urban Living needs more Mindfulness

The summer is over. The hot days of hard glittering sunlight, bringing every Ray Ban to the edge of efficiency, give way to the mild October sun. We spend the Sundays in nature, stroll the fields, walk along lake shore drives and above all rediscover the golden autumn forests. Mindfulness is required, especially when walking through nature. Take your time along the way, smell the flowers (there are no roses) and taste the mushrooms. Play with the kids.

Many people in Germany spoke of a “summer of the century”, the drought periods have brought whole agricultural existences to the brink of despair. There was talk of the tropical climate, but anyone who has spent many summers in South-East Asia, like myself, knows that “tropical” ususally does not mean “drought”. Rather the opposite, but many people do not want to know the details, as it requires reflection and an understanding of complex systems.

Cut. Monday morning, 7:43 a.m., platform 2, waiting for the suburban train to the Metroplex. The thoughts are at work, with colleagues and busy schedules. Then the announcement of a five minute delay of the train: The mindfulness of the weekend quickly gives way to a radical carelessness of the causes for the delay. For some people, a four minute delay means Apocalypse Now. It’s the system, the people, incompetent managers and employees, the weather. It’s never us.

Apart from an unsusual drought this summer, we experienced increasingly collapsing traffic systems. Congestion on highways, flight cancellations and train delays have reached an unprecedented level. The Mobility Infrastructure simply can’t cope with our increasing demand for moving around anymore. Here again, it’s not always the others to blame, it is also us. Going anywehere, anytime, cheap and on time starts to be considered liek a new Human Right.

Investments in urban mobility are arguably not at the level where they need to be to offer quality of living to citizens, but increasing investments in infrastructure can’t be the only solution. We as Citizens also have to critically reflect on our own behavior, how and when we commute or move in our free time. Employers have to be creative in work schedules to allow for a more flexible starting time of the work day. But all this will not happen over night.

In the short term, to increase the quality of life, it would help to transfer some of the mindfulness attitude from weekends to weekdays. Take a little more time for traveling, assume that trains or flights might get cancelled, use travel the time for reading or relaxing. Of course, it does not always work that way, but more often than one might think. The masses of people in urban spaces is here to stay and will not disappear. To survive and still enjoy living in a city, it will require a new mindfulness of people in urban spaces and longer term a shift in behavior. It’s about us. Unfortunately.

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