Sunday, April 22, 2012


Much to my surprise, I just realized this SafeGrowth blog is now three years old. I have spent little time on philosophy. But If I did, this is how it would go…

Some tell me homelessness has no place in CPTED. Some say you can design out crime and ignore politics, policing, or broken communities. Others want details on CCTV, graffiti-removal and lighting but nothing on privacy, street art and a beautiful starry night.

 I disagree.

I just watched Tom Shadyac's documentary, I AM. It's a personal story about the science of connection and unity. Shadyac is the most unlikely storyteller having directed The Nutty Professor and Ace Ventura. Then a bike crash left him for dead. He didn't die. Instead he had one of those awakening moments and I AM was born.

I AM's mission is a global trek to discover what is wrong in the world and what we can do about it. It is named after philosopher G.K. Chesterton's idea. When asked to write an essay to summarize what was wrong with the world, Chesterton wrote: I am.

Other films of this ilk turn flakey and saccharine. Not Shadyac. He interviews luminaries like business guru Margaret Wheatley, archbishop Desmond Tutu, philosopher Noam Chomsky, environmentalist David Suzuki, historian Howard Zinn.

With game-changing elections now underway in the US, France, and Mexico, I AM is timely. As Zinn says, in times of rapid change, homelessness, environmental crisis and violence you cannot stay neutral on a moving train.


I AM shone brightest in the science on connection and unity, particularly how the new biology reveals collaboration as the rule of nature. Nature, it was once thought, is a process of competition and conflict. The early ecology of crime theories suggested that too (gangs fighting for turf). But modern ecology has moved beyond. I AM shows while competition happens, it isn't inevitable and it certainly isn't natural.

Connection and collaboration is in our DNA. Mixed land uses and social spaces do that. Well designed communal places like Portland's Intersection Repair does that too. Gated communities and target hardening does not.

Even if we must occasionally put up a fence or camera, I AM reminds us...starry nights matter.

Leave a comment

Please add comments to SafeGrowth. I will post everyone except posts with abusive, off-topic, or offensive language; any discriminatory, racist, sexist or homophopic slurs; thread spamming; or ad hominem attacks. If your comment does not appear in a day due to blogspot problems send it to and I'll post direct.