Lately I’ve been thinking about spaces and how certain meaning and financial & emotional value can be placed on certain otherwise arbitrary locations. San Francisco for example, is a small place, and yet it has been deemed extremely valuable by people (especially in the last decade) and is seen as a very desirable place to live. It’s almost ironic since there are acres and acres of open land that Californians could theoretically live in.

California has 163,695 square miles (including water) and 38.04 million people living in it in 2012. This means if we were all spread out evenly – there would be about 232 people per square mile.

According to population density statistics, this is not very dense when compared with notoriously over-crowded countries like Bangladesh which has 2,200 people per square mile. However, when you look at the reality of how people are distributed in California – the numbers are a bit jarring: “Los Angeles is the nation’s most densely urbanized area, with a population of nearly 7,000 people per square mile. The 3.28 million people living in and around San Francisco and Oakland are runners-up, with a density of 6,266 people per square mile. San Jose places third, with a density of 5,820 people per square mile and a population within its urbanized area of 1.66 million.” These statistics are a little terrifying.

Native Americans in particular hold a special value on land, and the majestic and omnipotent nature of land is entrenched in many Native American cultures. As Keith Basso describes,

“Wisdom sits in places. It’s like water that never dries up. You need to drink water to stay alive, don’t you? Well, you also need to drink from places. You must remember everything about them. You must learn their names. You must remember what happened at them long ago. You must think about it and keep on thinking about it. Then your mind will become smoother and smoother. Then you will see danger before it happens. You will walk a long way and live a long time. You will be wise.”

Is it possible for all 6,266 people in the San Francisco Bay Area to collectively drink from this land? Will the land run dry? How can we plan & create sustainable cities and communities?


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