Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Priorities: War and Urban Planning

Aftermath of the Bombing of Baghdad by the U.S. (2003)

Urban planners don't usually talk about war, at least, not openly. Maybe we've been a little too cowardly to rock the boat. Also, it's an international issue, and so much of planning happens at the local level. However, war is a big deal. After all, we are all human beings first, and the loss of human life should always, at the very least, shock and sadden us on some level.

Since the U.S. started its wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, hundreds of thousands of people in the Middle East and over 5,000 Americans have died. More than $915 billion has been spent directly on the two wars so far. Veterans who come home from war are more likely to suffer from mental illness and homelessness than the rest of the population. The war racks up debt and long-term health care obligations that have to be dealt with at a high financial cost over time. Also, the wars stir up resentment, increasing the risk of terrorist incidents in the future.

In short, these wars are a disaster.

The website of the National Priorities Project allows people to say where they live and see how much their area has spent on the wars so far, and how much that spending could have achieved if it were directed towards something more constructive.

I looked up Los Angeles County. We've spent $28.9 billion on these wars so far. That's enough money to build all the subways and bike lanes we would need for a long time. It's enough money to build 86,628 affordable housing units or supply 51.6 million homes with renewable electricity for one year!

I hope you'll write your members of Congress and President Obama and tell them that we've got better priorities than war.

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