When someone has been working for nearly 50 years to answer a set of questions it is splendid to come across another person who has arrived at many of the same answers to those questions via a much different route.

In 1961 while standing in what we now call a Cluster (Lewisburg Square) in a place of the scale we now call a Village (Beacon Hill) in the Boston New Urban Region we were finally able to articulate questions that had bounced around in our head while growing up on a farm, in the desert and in what we now call the Northern Rocky Mountain Urban Support Region.

The complexity of the questions was magnified by studying forestry, physics, mathematics, architecture and philosophy in Montana and Hawaii and by military service and travel in most of states of the US of A.

It took until 2000, aided by more studies, teaching at three universities, extensive travel in Europe, the Carribean and North America as well as working for some very smart clients to be in a position to set down a comprehensive Conceptual Framework and the Vocabulary necessary to address these questions in The Shape of the Future.

Imagine our delight at encountering the work of Richard Register! We have not met Register and do not agree with everything he writes but we do agree on a lot. The areas of agreement range from the problems with settlement patterns that require extensive or exclusive use of Autonomobiles, to the level of energy and resource efficiency one can expect from functional human settlement patterns, to what is happening to put citizens back in jeopardy in the New Orleans New Urban Region, to what Bill Gates and Warren Buffett could better be doing with their money.

Register’s base of operation and his current hands-on projects are focused in the Community and Subregion where we went to law school so we have an appreciation for the places he is trying to make better. His work takes him around the world and his observations about the places we have also experienced are on target. His insights into those we have not yet seen are enlightening.

Where does serendipity come in? We found out about Register when we contacted a college roommate to congratulate him on being named a Professor Emeritus at the University of Montana. His daughter, Kristin Miller, works with Register in Oakland, a Zentrum in the San Francisco Bay New Urban Region. We quoted Kristin in PART I of THE PROBLEM WITH CARS. We have not met Kristin either but heard about her years ago when her father was a struggling grad student at the University of Texas. Miller and Register are hard at work getting ready to host the seventh International Ecocity Conference (www.ecocityworldsummit.org )

We will be quoting Register in PART IV of THE PROBLEM WITH CARS and will be reviewing his book “Ecocities: Rebuilding Cities in Balance with Nature.” in Chapter 16 of TRILO-G. (Back in 1973 we started planning, building and managing what became the Village scale enclave of Burke Centre with the logo “Community in Harmony with Nature.” Burke Centre is home to around 20,000 citizens living in as much harmony with nature as is possible in National Capital Subregion and stay within the regulations of Fairfax County, VDOT, et. al.)

Register’s main web site is www.ecocitybuilder.org He maintains a Blog on that site where he post his current thinking. You can learn about the Denis Hayes Paradox – “Why are environmental Organizations winning so many battles and losing the war?” and the Richard Register Pledge: “This is the last new car I will every buy.”

Ecocity Builders publishes an enewsletter. It was a “perspective” in the March – April 2008 edition titled “Enduring Civilization” that cemented my respect for Register’s thinking. He outlines four parameters and two guidelines for future action. They have the heft of Fundamental Change.

Unfortunately the enewsletter is not accessible from the web site. If you would like a copy, send me an email and I will forward it.

We are calling attention to Registers work not so much for the Denizens who post comments on Bacons Rebellion Blog but for those who follow our columns and posts and communicate with us directly. We are chagrined to say some who find our work useful refuse to post or comment on a web site that is listed in some sources as being a “right” site and has contributors who are identified as being “right of center,” libertarian or conservative.

Our view is that if those who believe that it is imperative that civilization achieve a sustainable trajectory do not stop tossing rocks at one another then an evolution toward sustainability will never happen. See “Good News: Bad Reporting” 5 March 2008.

Alas, we will probably never be friends with Register because he has centered his work around developing “Ecocities.” We have found that the word “city” is a Core Confusing Word. But then he is working on “urban Villages” so there may be hope.
OK, we will not mention Core Confusing Words when we meet Richard Register.


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  1. Darrell -- Chesapeake Avatar
    Darrell — Chesapeake

    Just curious, when I look at a satellite photo of this Community in Harmony, why do I see thousands of cars? In fact, it looks more congested than most neighborhoods.

    I thought this whole premise was to be free of the cursed automobile. You know, eat bark and ride the rails.

  2. Anonymous Avatar

    Also just curious,
    You refer to yourself as “we” (first person, plural) in your interesting recollection. But who, exactly, are “we?” Is it you and someone else, or just you?

    Peter Galuszka

  3. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    ….”eat bark and ride the rails”


  4. Anonymous Avatar

    Mr Bacon please come back. These guest columnists pale in comparison!

  5. Not Ed Risse Avatar
    Not Ed Risse

    EMR just wrote this baloney to which I must respond:

    “(Back in 1973 we started planning, building and managing what became the Village scale enclave of Burke Centre with the logo “Community in Harmony with Nature.” Burke Centre is home to around 20,000 citizens living in as much harmony with nature as is possible…”

    Burke Centre isn’t a balanced community with jobs for its 20,000 citizens.

    Burke Centre provides more commuters who clog our roads at rush hour, and who drive to Big Box stores and malls the rest of the time.

    Taxpayers had to ante up to widen Route 123 and build the Fairfax County Parkway to begin to accommodate the Burke Centre traffic.

    Hazel got richer and I am sure Risse was well compensated for being his cheerleader.

    Ed, atonement comes too late for your dysfunctional development history.

  6. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    geeze… the site looks like a spambot site… and they don’t even identify who they are….

  7. E M Risse Avatar
    E M Risse


    Thank you for the correction. I have a disability that makes it hard for me to spell and to identify errors in letter and number sequences like URLs.

    I appreciate your taking the time to correct the post.

    Darrell — Chesapeake said…

    “Just curious, when I look at a satellite photo of this Community in Harmony, why do I see thousands of cars? In fact, it looks more congested than most neighborhoods.”

    The differences are hard to spot from an air photo but what we and others have said about Burke Centre being more in harmony with nature and with the market is supported by the market data in the 70s, in the 90s and today.

    “I thought this whole premise was to be free of the cursed automobile.”

    You did not read with care. See note re regulations.

    There is a bigger stroy too. We had just come off a job in North Carolina where Ford Motor Company pulled the plug on an Alpha Community (26,000 acres) scale project with alternative mobility and alternative energy compnents on land owned by Wehyerhauser (sp?).

    To his credit the late Jack Herrity who was Chairman of the Board of Supervisors at the time wanted to see more jobs in Burke Centre.

    There is a much greater Balance of housing types, income levels and services than in most Village scale projects outside of a handfull of major Planned New Communities.

    We (the developement team) held out for more jobs as long as we could but given recent experience felt that with METRO bus service to job centers (we worked hard to get that) and giving away a commuter rail station plus working for the next decade to finally get commuter rail (VRE) up and running that we had done as much as we could at the Apha Village scale.

    “But having You know, eat bark and ride the rails.”

    You are right on. Our staff naturalist taught residents to identify trees and shrubs that grew on the 400 + / – of common open space in winter by the taste of the bark.

    Also, as noted we succeded in getting a communter rail station open on site so folks could, and do, ride the rails.

    We stand by our (it was a team effort) statement about being the best that could be done in the 70s in Fairfax County, VA.


  8. Anonymous Avatar

    I notice the title of your column is “Serenedipity.” Shouldn’t that be “Serendipity?” Or are you expanding the vocabularly again? Should I look in GLOSSARY?

    Peter Galuszka

  9. Not Ed Risse Avatar
    Not Ed Risse


    Has any analysis been done in the TRILO-G about the annual taxpayer subsidy required to pay for VRE and Metro bus service for Burke Centre?

    How does that continuing annual location variable cost paid for by compulsory taxes compare to the fees you were paid by Hazel?

  10. Darrell -- Chesapeake Avatar
    Darrell — Chesapeake

    “We stand by our (it was a team effort) statement about being the best that could be done in the 70s in Fairfax County, VA.”

    Well heck, that explains everything. Serendipity is nothing more than an urbanists idea of my hillbilly hometown. We had apartments, SFH, mobile homes, AND hitched rides on coal trains and drank sassafras tea. More importantly, just like Burke Center, our jobs were somewhere else.

  11. E M Risse Avatar
    E M Risse

    I note that on the Ecocity Blog the comments contain useful information.

    It is clear I should have warned Register, Miller and others at Ecocity Builders that by posting something favorable about their work I was opening them to transferred / reflected harassment by 12 ½ Percenters.

    The e-mail responses to this post with complementary notes and requests to forward the enewsletter outnumber the demeaning posts on this Blog.

    As noted in a recent post we have stopped responding to posts that intentionally use Core Confusing Words and hereby add to that posts that are mean-spirited and derogatory.

    So that no one will need to ask, I stopped beating my dog several years ago.


  12. Anonymous Avatar

    You hitched rides on coal trains and drank sassafras tea?

    I didn’t know there were many of us still alive.

    I had close friends that lived in mobile homes, and worse. Somehow, we never considered ourselves “dysfunctional”.


  13. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    well I never hitched rides on coal trains but as a kid.. many a penny was expanded to twice it’s size via rail..”means”…..

    and as a young adult.. among my first “affordable” homes were:

    a converted cinder block garage with the toilet right next to the kitchen sink…separated by a truly cursory partition…

    a converted slave house complete with the household wiring tacked up on the baseboards.

    My first “real” house was number 7 in the succession… after many, many years of saving up for it…

  14. Darrell -- Chesapeake Avatar
    Darrell — Chesapeake

    “Somehow, we never considered ourselves “dysfunctional”.

    Except on Monday mornings. 🙂

    We had three houses. One on the farm that was built by a g-g-grandfather around 1860, another in town so I could walk to school, and a riverside camp.

    I preferred the farmhouse even though there was no running water or electric. The only difference between that house and my country friends was they had dogs and cats lounging around, while I had copperheads. Even a trip to the outhouse could be a memorable event.

    Funny thing tho.. Here I am working my rear off with a fancy house and all, but I find myself sitting on the back porch in the evening remembering the calls of bob whites and whip-o-wills. Must be one of them country things. Then again, my family line is very old (1610, 1750), so maybe it’s the ancestors telling me that towns ain’t it.

  15. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Stays with my Grandparents in the Sparta part of Caroline County were VERY memorable.

    No electricity. The ice box WAS literally a box with ice – a side-benefit treat from occasional forays into Bowling Green.

    The dairy products were kept in the spring… which is also where we got water when the (hand dug) well got too low .. in some summers.

    Getting water from the Spring consisted of looking both ways and running like Hell. to escape the Mules.. who delighted in scaring the bejesus out of kids…

    Shad/herring were kept in salt barrels in the same building where hams and bacon hung from the ceiling.

    The front porch at dusk.. was never dull.. as critters from the surrounding woods would venture forth…into the fields…

    The Outhouse AND the chicken house were formidable challenges after dark…

    ..and YES.. we DID use Prince Edward .. each room upstairs had a can outside it’s door and someone got the job of gathering them up every morning..

    I remember once that an aunt returned to the front porch out of breath.. saying that she narrowly avoided being bitten by a huge snake that she stepped on in the dark….on the way back from closing up the chicken house…

    the next morn.. there was on the path.. an enormous cow pie with the most perfect footprint right in the middle… 🙂

  16. Anonymous Avatar

    Great stories.

    How do we ensure that others can share them in the future?

    Oh, that’s right. We force everyone to live in condo’s.

    Bob whites and whip poor wills. I usd to have them on the farm, but no loner. I don’t know what has changed. I plant feed for them and all.

    Strangely, the last time I heard a whip poor will was right after I landed an airplane – in the middle of the county airport.

    Go figure. Yo’d think he would be happier here.

    Frankly, I chalk it up to hawks being protected. With a free supply of road kill to feed on, they have multiplied, and the balance is all out of whack.

    (Just my theory, no data available.)


  17. E M Risse Avatar
    E M Risse

    Really Great stories.

    We have some too. We grew up in the Northern Rocky Mountain Urban Support Region. Bears to pika to …

    Darrell says:

    “Then again, my family line is very old (1610, 1750), so maybe it’s the ancestors telling me that towns ain’t it.”

    We all have old families.

    Like 4.5 million years old.

    For the last 10,000 years when humans have had a choice they have choosen urban over nonurban. Just as you have the vast majority have choosen urban.

    Some have relyed on others to subsidze “sub-urban” patterns and densities of settlement that turn out to kill off the whip poor wills and burn up the natural capital.

    The time for change is at hand. If humans are smart they can create functional urban places and places for whip poor wills and pika. One of Richard Register’s key goals is species diversity.

    If they are not smart…


  18. Anonymous Avatar

    Google “Whip-poor-will decline” to find out what is happening the the Whip-poor-will” and what you can do about it.

    Clue: It is not building more 1, 5, 10 or 20 acre lots.

  19. Anonymous Avatar

    “Some have relyed on others to subsidze “sub-urban” patterns and densities of settlement that turn out to kill off the whip poor wills and burn up the natural capital.”

    Give me a break. It is the urban areas that are burning up natural capital and paying nothing for the privilege. You need to get your facts in order.

    I know what to do for quail and whip-poor-will.

    I do what I can, but I need a lot more help than I’m getting. My interest is somewhat proportional to the incentives I’m provided.

    At present, thanks to the clowns that run this county, the incentives pretty much amount to “The punishment will continue until morale improves.”

    We are not talking handouts, here. just something that halfway looks like a square deal more than it looks like serfdom.

    Ray Hyde
    Ashby Glen Farm

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